Industry Commentary, Agency Initiatives and Inspiration

Social Media is a Tactic Not a Tool

Advertising, Branding, Online Marketing, Social Media Jan 29, 2017 No Comments

Where the Heck Does This Social Media Thing Fit In?

Social media activities should be viewed as tactics that enhance a brand’s overall marketing efforts, not as a new tool replacing traditional methods of promotion. While social media has forever changed the landscape of marketing, beware the thousands of self-proclaimed social media experts, gurus, and authorities offering up opinion on using social media as a substitute for traditional marketing tools.

Has Social Media Replaced Advertising?

The short answer is no. Shouting advertisements at your customer base on social media platforms just doesn’t work. No one in the Twitterverse or on Facebook wants to be bombarded by direct advertising messages couched in 140 character tweets or wall-clogging updates.

For most businesses large or small, advertising continues to be the primary method to effectively generate awareness for your brand. This is not going to change. Social media hasn’t, nor will it, replace traditional advertising, whether your “tradition” is print or digital.

However It Has Made It Better

To be fair, social media platforms have fundamentally changed the way that brands advertise. Social media has made advertising more effective by providing better audience targeting, increasing overall advertising impressions and ad effectiveness. Social media platforms integrate analytics and measurement tools that help marketers adjust campaigns based on the message that works best. As a tactic, social media will not replace advertising, so next year’s budgets should still include marketing dollars for traditional advertising as well as social. Where the ad dollars are spent — outdoor, print, digital, etc. – will depend more on the nature of your business, not on your social media activities.

Social Media Has Forever Changed Public Relations

Back when Edward Bernays started the Public Relations industry, industry professionals carefully crafted and controlled messages in an effort to influence consumer perception, generally via unpaid methods like media placements. PR spinmakers of the past could maintain a stranglehold grip on a message, but in the social media enabled world PR is a new beast altogether.

PR firms have had to refine their efforts, accepting that brand messages are no longer controlled by agents of the brand, but rather are heavily influenced by consumers using platforms like Yelp!, Google Places, and Facebook. As a result, social media tactics are crucial to the tool of public relations. In order to control the message, PR mavens and social community managers must build relationships with a brand’s consumer base where that base congregates on the web, in order to have an impact on how a brand is perceived.

Social Media is Great for Sales Incentives

After Public Relations, offering sales incentives is likely the next best fit for your social media activities. There are social media venues where sales promotions are effective, including both Facebook and Foursquare. Facebook is rife with examples of B2C brand marketing that develops and nurtures a brand-loyal following open to receiving special promos. Coupon sharing and product deals remain some of the most prolific Facebook updates, and have proven success to quickly and efficiently grow a qualified consumer fanbase.

The Power of Social Proofing and Foursquare

And since everyone wants to be the mayor of something or other on Foursquare, the platform offers a unique way to connect with your customers. Relying heavily on the concept of Social Proofing, Foursquare works on a very basic premise — that people are more inclined to support one product or business over another when that product or business is supported by the masses.

By using geolocation tools, Foursquare allows users to scan nearby businesses, viewing exactly how many others (both friends and strangers) have “checked-in” to each business, thus psychologically influencing their choice to patronize one business over another based on sheer numbers of supporters — social proofing. When faced with the option, wouldn’t you choose the full restaurant over the empty one next door? We are creatures of habit, easily influenced by the habits of others. And, Foursquare brilliantly makes use of this phenomenon.

The Bad Marriage of Social Media and Personal Selling

Social media platforms have not historically been good venues for direct or personal selling. However, social media tactics are quite effective when developing general brand awareness, extending customer service activities and overall networking; ideally leading to direct sales. Of course, depending on your business, some social media platforms are more effective than others for such activities. B2C businesses will likely find a better fit with Facebook and Twitter over LinkedIn. Whereas LinkedIn is the #1 tool for B2B networking activities.

Whatever the platform, your activities should focus on developing community. To decide which is best for your particular business, you should probably find an integrated agency that understands that social media activities are tactics, and not tools, that can help you connect with your audience wherever they may be on the web.

Social Media is a Tactic, Not a Tool

We view social media activities as extremely effective tactics that must be part of your arsenal in order for your marketing efforts to be successful. This view won’t make us popular with social media-only agencies, but we strongly believe that social media tactics should be utilized to connect with your audience and reinforce your brand’s promotional elements across your marketing mix. Social media is not meant as a replacement for other activities, but rather a necessary and valuable enhancement to those activities.

After the Social Media Honeymoon

As we move beyond the honeymoon phase with social media, agencies and professional marketers who rely solely on social media as a tool will either cease to exist or will find it necessary to adjust their focus. If you’re working with a strictly social media agency, you’ll likely be looking for a new agency next year.

Top 3 Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Blogging, Branding, Interactive, Online Marketing Jan 24, 2017 No Comments

Small Biz Marketing Learning Curve Still Too High

As an agency hired to provide professional marketing counsel to our clients, we work with businesses large and small. As expected, the big guys have a much better handle on the concepts of brand management and marketing. But the learning curve for small businesses still seems to be a bit high.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that many small business owners don’t understand the basics of marketing in today’s digital age. Here’s our all-time top 3 things that most small business owners fail to understand when building their brand.

1. Thinking That a Logo is a Brand

Creating a professional looking logo is probably one of the first steps that small business owners undertake when developing their brand. And then they stop.

While it’s true your logo will be your unique visual identifier, developing your brand properly goes way beyond an icon and typography. To develop your brand the right way you must identify your unique offering, create a brand story around your offering, deliver on your promise to your customers and always practice what your brand message preaches. And you need to do this consistently, over and over and over.

If all your brand development effort includes is installing a nice logo above your door and printing the same on business cards and sales brochures, you need to take a longer look at the story your business tells — which is the essence of your brand.

2. Developing a Static Website

Static websites, sometimes called Brochureware, were common in the days of Internet 1.0 when businesses everywhere re-purposed existing printed sales materials, reconfigured them in some digital format, placed them online and voilà a website was born. This type of website no longer makes the cut.

Every website developed today for any business large or small needs to be a content-rich publishing hub that serves as the central point from which to push your marketing initiatives from and direct all inbound activities to. Without a modern, social media enabled, search engine optimized website that’s updated frequently your business will not be found through organic search. Proper site management and SEO activities are long-term, ongoing activities whose value cannot be overstated. The best way to develop a content rich business hub is to include a blog on your site, encourage social media sharing of your content and stimulate open, uncensored feedback.

If you want to drive your customers to your competition, then by all means rely on the old stand-by and build a static website.

3. Ignoring Social Media

Considered the least expensive method of marketing, social media sharing on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are essential for any brand large or small operating in the modern digital age.

If your business isn’t actively using social media, you’re going to miss the boat on the best method to communicate your brand messages to your audiences. But don’t be fooled into thinking that social media activities are going to be easy. This type of marketing takes lots of time and effort.

The primary barriers for small business owners breaking into social media are 1.) lack of understanding and 2.) lack of available internal resources. The web is awash with information about social media. Search Google for information about Inbound Marketing. Create a LinkedIn account and join any one of a number of social media networking groups. There are plenty of resources at your fingertips to learn what you need to know to succeed. If you don’t have the resources to handle the level of work social media requires, partner with an external vendor that understands your business and gets your brand. Such a group will be able to get your up and running and help with ongoing community management.

If you want to make sure you’re business is a failure, ignore social media.

Artspiration: Wonder Brother Mike Esparza and His Impressionist World of Superhero Mayhem and Madness

Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Oct 14, 2016 No Comments

There’s No Need to Fear. Wonder Bro’ is Here!

Self-proclaimed ‘ninja, underwear model and Navy Seal,’ Mike Esparza — member of the Wonder Brothers trio — claims to have decided on a new calling, that of painter. Now, we don’t know how much truth there is to Esparza’s claim of bopping around for photogs in the near-nude; but it does say that on on his website, so it must be true. And if it’s any consolation, we’re happy he put his clothes back on, decided to embrace his love of pigment and set brush to canvas, or the world would never have seen what may be some of the most awesometastic superhero art ever created.

No Indiana Jones Here, Just Artwork to ‘Melt Your Face Off’

Noting pop icon Andy Warhol, comics genius Alex Ross, talented sister Rachel Esparza and Spanish expat Pablo Picasso among his many influences, it’s very apparent where Esparza’s inspiration for the following series comes. The website says his Picasso-ized portraits of famous superheroes (and a few famous super villains) are said to have the capability to “melt your face off.” Just take a look for yourself, if you dare.

The Brotherhood of Art

Mike, along with siblings Matt and Eric, together make up the Wonder Brothers of artistic endeavors and maintain a website chocked full of fantastic dreams, screams and new art memes. Their unique collection of pieces are drawn from Hollywood celluloid, popular culture and perhaps even the flash-dimmed and demented mind of a modeling industry escapee. Included are works of fine art, graphic design, illustration and photography, that make the Wonder Brothers a ‘can’t miss’ the next time they come to a gallery near you. But if you can’t wait that long, visit them at Etsy and buy something from them. Art is a sometimes thankless industry, and Mike and his brothers deserve a round of applause for adding so much to our lives. In the meantime, have fun looking at the images below.

All images Copyright © Mike Esparza, Wonder Brothers.


Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Spiderman

The Flash

Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - The Flash

Iron Man

Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Iron Man


Mike Esparza, Wonder Brother - Venom

How a Doberman Helps Me Champion the Cause of U.N. Refugees and the Blue Key Campaign

Agency Initiatives, Blue Key Campaign, Cause Marketing, Social Action, Things That Inspire Us Oct 12, 2016 2 Comments

They Say That ‘Dog’ is ‘Man’s’ Best Friend

Like most dogs, mine’s an uber-loyal companion. He’s the best four-legged pal I’ve ever had; and I’ve had many. I jokingly tell my human friends that my dog is treated better than a whole lot of people. And sadly, I’ve realized that’s no joke…

My dog is a 120-pound Doberman Pinscher named Oberon. Some people, mostly other dog owners from the neighborhood, believe he’s named after a character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I don’t have the nerve to admit that rather than taking my dog-naming cues from literary icons, I’ve instead taken them from a craft beer brewed by Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. Oberon Ale is a really outstanding beer. And Oberon Dog is a really outstanding dog. So, I guess the name fits…

The Charmed Life of an American Doberman in Chicago

Oberon came into our lives when he was only 12 weeks old. A quick six years later, I’m told he’s now considered a “senior” for his breed — something I find hard to accept, since he suffers from a chronic case of arrested development. Standing 28” tall at the withers, he’s still more puppy than old man. And that’s how I’d like to keep it…for a while anyway.

Oberon leads a very charmed life. In the summer when I’m hard at work, Oberon hangs out on the balcony of our 38th floor condo located in what some may consider a “fancy” high rise on Chicago’s lakefront. He despises the constant buzz from the engines of small planes dragging advertising banners that encourage beachgoers to buy coconut rum or find love online. And, he shares his displeasure for these intrusions every chance he gets. Something my neighbors really appreciate…

Oberon eats some of the healthiest dog food money can buy. He drinks only filtered water, mainly because that’s how it comes out of the dispenser on the refrigerator door. And, he’s got a whole hoard of organic treats and indestructible toys stashed away in his own oversized ‘goodie’ chest – or what we call the hall closet.

He enjoys being chauffeured around in our late model, gas-guzzling SUV and often drools down the passenger door or sneezes as the wind blows up his nostrils. And when he’s not strapped in for a cruise to the local Forest Preserve, he can be found stretched out in a comfy king-sized bed, head firmly planted on pillow.

When I think about it, it’s all kind of ridiculous, actually.

A Lifetime of Meals, Balls and Scalpels

Over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on food, healthcare, toys and various dog-related accessories, even one that lets me to sling a tennis ball farther than I normally could otherwise. As a puppy, he had a habit of eating things that he shouldn’t, mainly because I’d left them laying around the house rather than putting them away where they belong. As a result, I’ve paid too many surgeons too much money to remove items from places they were never meant to go.

Yes, Oberon really has it great. But, like many of us, I don’t think he’s aware of it.

Blissful Ignorance with Eyes Wide Shut

Most Americans take a whole lot of things for granted; especially those of us lucky enough to have jobs that afford us a relatively comfortable lifestyle. And like most Americans, my American dog is oblivious to how his life could be so different in so many ways.

If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to the news, you’ll notice that things are pretty awful in a lot of places around the world. There’s an ever-increasing number of people who aren’t remotely fortunate enough to live a life approaching that of my privileged American dog.

It’s probably fair to say that some might be envious of Oberon if only they knew how he lived. They may even be downright angry. I know I would be if I hadn’t been living right there in blissful ignorance with him…

Refugees and the Blue Key Campaign
Image by: homeros /

Our Global Village is Crying Out for Help

When she was still only a first lady, Hilary Clinton explained that “it takes a village” to raise a child and elevate a civilization to the level you want it to reach. I didn’t fully comprehended how prescient she was when she first turned this phrase into a bestseller. But now, my eyes have opened wider and the picture I’m seeing of our village isn’t very pretty.

As I type this post in the air-conditioned office of my home, my privileged dog is sleeping soundly — belly full of food — on our comfortable sofa. At this same time, there are 43,700,000 people from our global village who’ve been forcibly displaced from their own homes due to war, political unrest, threats of personal violence and ongoing persecution for such basic concepts as their opinions, lifestyles or religious beliefs.

43,700.000 people who can’t eat fancy organic food, don’t drink filtered water, and have no option to sleep in comfortable beds or complain about the roar of single-engine planes disturbing their lazy sun-bathing. 43,700.000. That’s a VERY big number. One that should make us all open our eyes to the reality of suffering and brutality taking place in our village, and one that very seldom makes it to our television screens.

Champion For a Cause

Over the years, I’ve gone to great lengths to take care of Oberon. And it goes without saying that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But unlike Oberon, the world’s refugees haven’t had me around for the last six years to help them out. That all changed recently when I decided to take Shonali Burke (@shonali) up on her offer to join the Blue Key Campaign as, what she calls, a “Blue Key Champion” – folks who are active online and want to help change the lives of some very needy people.

I first became aware of The Blue Key Campaign after noticing little images of blue keys popping up on Twitter as people began modifying their profile photos in support. Then there was the first Blue Key Tweet-a-thon that I watched on my computer screen one night. It was this Tweet-a-thon that woke me up from my own life of blissful ignorance.

The Blue Key Campaign

If you’re not familiar, The Blue Key Campaign is an initiative of the USA for UNHCR, to generate donations for UNHCR, teh UN Refugee Agency. The UNHCR has more than 6,000 staffers and volunteers working in 140 countries around the world to provide protection, shelter, emergency food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to millions of refugees.

I now find myself one of UNHCR’s Champions for the Blue Key cause, assisting Shonali and a host of important people from the business and humanitarian world who, I believe, have way more chops than me and whose skills and online networks are far more impressive than mine.

I wonder if I’m not a little over my head here, as I’m not sure how much of a Champion I’ll be. To be honest, I’m not really sure what I can do to help so many people who need so much. But, my guess is that if I can offer one petulant Doberman a better life than many people can ever imagine, I should be able to do something for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

A Life of Nothing is No Life at All

It’s not my intention to diminish the severe plight of refugees by comparing them to a spoiled American dog. But by introducing you to Oberon and to his privileged lifestyle, I hope to open your eyes to the many things that each of us take for granted every day.

Refugees receiving aid from UNHCR have lost everything. It’s not a stretch to suggest that, without help, they won’t have a chance at a life remotely approaching the level of comfort that we often provide our own pets. And I think that’s just plain wrong. I’m with Hilary. The way we as a civilization continue to treat the rest of our global village must change. And I’ve decided it’s way past time that I start doing something about it myself.

Refugees and the Blue Key Campaign
Image by: homeros /

43,700,000 Reasons to Help. Or, Lattes, Leftovers and Little Blue Keys

You can help me help the world’s 43,700,000 refugees right now. And you don’t even need to become a Blue Key Champion. However if you’d like to throw your hat in the ring, I’m sure UNHCR wouldn’t mind. But if you do nothing else, please visit The Blue Key Campaign website and open your eyes to what’s happening in our world. For just $5, you’ll get your own Blue Key and will become part of a growing community of Americans committed to opening the door to a safe and secure village for millions.

There’s a Blue Key With Your Name On It\

In the weeks to come, I plan to keep you updated on my efforts to live up to my new title. And in order to do it right, I need you to help me. If you’d like to support my efforts to change the lives of so many people who have so little through no fault of their own, please think about simply agreeing to do without just once a week. Do without your morning latte today. Take leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Carpool to work another day. And, put those few dollars you otherwise would’ve spent towards The Blue Key Campaign. Doing without and giving will not only open your eyes to the many things you take for granted, but also help open the door to a new life for some very needy person whose life will forever be changed by your choices.

Please get your own Blue Key now. Even Oberon has one. And he’s likely to have a few more by the time we’re through, as I’ve decided he’s going to be doing a little “doing without” himself. Unless he’s smarter than I think, it’s my guess he won’t even notice. But I guarantee you some very deserving person somewhere in the world will as a result.

Artspiration: Stunning and Spooky, Massive Miniatures Built from Lego Blocks

Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Oct 05, 2016 No Comments

Lego Brand Building Block Models by Artist Mike Doyle

Mike Doyle is an accomplished artist whose chosen medium of Lego brand building blocks provides an interesting application for miniature modeling. Doyle’s models are not exactly ‘miniature’ in the proper sense of the word, but instead stand several feet tall. And while not created specifically for Halloween, we thought these images of Doyle’s sometimes spooky, always awesome work would be a perfect kick-off to the month of October.

Doyle, who has devoted his creative pursuits to building things out of Lego blocks, humbly talks about his talents:

“Some ask if Lego brick building is Art. To me, that is like asking is sculpting with clay, Art. Well… it could potentially be. Anything, absolutely anything can be made into Art in the right hands, even the ‘child’s toy’ Lego. In the end, bricks are a medium, like oil paint or clay or pixels on a screen. It’s what you do with them that matters.”

More than 130,000 individual plastic blocks went into the construction of “Victorian on Mud Heap.” This model alone took more than 600 hours to complete. “Victorian on a Mud Heap” is an intensely intricate replica of a once-beautiful, but now decaying home left unattended. Also included are two other models — “Three Story Victorian with Tree” and “Two Story Victorian with Basement.”

Learn more about Doyle’s process and detailed explanations of his methodology at Snap blog or follow the individual “The Making Of…” links included below. You can see more images of Doyle’s work on Flickr.

All images copyright Mike Doyle.

Victorian on Mud HeapThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Victorian on Mud Heap, Snap Blog

Three Story Victorian with TreeThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Three Story Victorian with Tree - Snap Blog

Two Story with BasementThe Making Of…

Mike Doyle's Two Story with Basement - Snap Blog