Tag Archive: marketing advice

  1. Best-Kept Secret: How Kadence Leverages the Power of a Secret for Brands


    Spoiler alert! It’s the call of the millennial TV and movie watcher, the warning cry of secret holders or defeated wail of those prematurely and unwittingly exposed to plot-ruining details.The buzz behind today’s narrative-driven entertainment, from Game of Thrones to the Serial podcast, seems to be as much about the secrets of a story as the overall story being told. But who can blame us? From whispers in the schoolyard to rumors at the water cooler, having a secret, especially a juicy one, is tantamount to having a hidden superpower that you only unveil to carefully chosen confidants.

    Though secrets are powerful when they entail the latest fatality in Game of Thrones or the big twist at the end of Fight Club, but when leveraged for businesses they can create a buzz that gets the whole town talking. Take, for example, a hidden pizzeria in Las Vegas. Though Vegas is known for its neon-clad casinos, lounge singers and a less-than-squeaky-clean history, you can add the ‘za to that list thanks to a literal hole in the wall.

    Featured in Marketing Tip Monday, this pizza place, known fittingly as “Secret Pizza,” has no sign, no listing in the building directory and can’t even be seen from the main floor of the Cosmopolitan hotel where it resides. This is a marketing nightmare, no? Businesses pour millions into marketing their brand, increasing their social media presence and producing high-end commercials just to get the word out, after all. Yet, against all odds, this hidden pizza joint boasts five-star reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor and has become something of a local legend.


    Image courtesy of Tripadvisor

    For a local example in a similar vein, we need only cruise down to the Audubon Park Garden District, home to what appears to be a big matte-black box. This box’s name is Kadence, and it is home to a truly unique dining experience in Central Florida.

    The idea of a limited-seating, reservation-required nine-seat sushi bar specializing in a highly personalized, chef-picked multi-course tasting menu is wholly unique to the sprawl of Central Florida’s sprinkling of Asian fusion and street taco purveyors. Though the Kadence’s concept is simple, you get little-to-no hint of it being a sushi bar by looking at the almost comically nondescript façade. Instead, we are forced to stare in wonder and, short of walking in to inspect for yourself, find someone to share what they’ve heard around town.


    Kadence’s unassuming exterior leaves no hint of the culinary treasures hidden within.

    The marketing heavy lifting for Kadence isn’t achieved by radio ads or tacky banners that proclaim, “GREAT SUSHI–OPEN NOW!!!” Kadence takes a much more subtle approach: an approach largely afforded to them thanks to the quality of their product. The secret hiding within that box is, from all signs, well worth the buzz. If they were serving up mediocre-at-best airport sushi on styrofoam plates, the word of mouth may fall flat on its face. But instead, these chefs who cut their teeth at Michelin Star-rated restaurants provide a unique, truly high-end dining experience. With each satisfied customer, Kadence builds onto its mythos as the best-kept culinary secret in Orlando.

    That’s great for them, but you’re probably wondering what your brand can learn from Secret Pizza and Kadence. These success stories are proof that the power of secrets isn’t reserved to your favorite TV show, movie or podcast. This implicit power can be leveraged in any business willing to keep a secret from the masses. In doing so, a brand is able to inspire a small, in-the-know fanbase who will spread the word like wildfire: from an über-exclusive sushi bar, a secret-but-sublime pizza joint, a secret menu only regulars are privy to or a special cocktail that’s only sold after midnight.

    Don’t mistake this blog post as an admission that traditional advertising and social media marketing is all a sham–far from it. However, sometimes a little mystery goes a long way in creating underground chatter that can penetrate far deeper than more blatant advertising. The traditional marketing tactics could, and often should, work in tandem with the myth building of your brand. Also, never lose sight of the fact that Secret Pizza and Kadence both succeed because their secrets are worth uncovering. The disappointment would be hard for these restaurants to shake if their product was anything but exceptional.

    In reflection, much of the appeal of a secret is the feeling of being an insider. It’s completely human to want to belong to a community and an exclusive club. There’s a definite cool factor to being the guy or gal who knows all the speakeasy passwords, where to find the most authentic (insert ethnic food of choice here) in town and which hallway leads to the best pizza in the city.

    Brands bend over backward to make meaningful, emotional connections with their audiences but many fail to capitalize on the allure of being an “insider.” Spoiler warning: whispering into your customers’ ears (or inspiring their friends to do so on your behalf) can be a truly powerful tactic to add to your more traditional marketing methods.

  2. Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Irma Prep Tips for Your Brand

    Hurricane Irma


    Hurricane Irma is set to come knocking on our front doors in the coming days. Though you may have already prepared your home, you must also make sure your brand is set to weather the oncoming storm.

    By following these simple tips, your organization can keep team members and clients informed before and after this emergency situation while sending messaging that avoids some common PR and social media faux pas:


    • Prepare for PR Delays: While the news is dominated by updates on Hurricane Irma as she approaches, your company’s PR efforts are likely to be lost in the shuffle. Expect to delay that big PR push until after the storm and subsequent recovery.
    • Double Check Your Social Media Schedule: As many of us often schedule our social media posts weeks in advance, it’s a good idea to revisit these planned features to ensure they aren’t insensitive or in bad taste within the context of the incoming storm and the days (perhaps weeks) of recovery to follow. Consider sharing a safety-conscious post that details how your clients or customers can prepare for Hurricane Irma.
    • Create an External and Internal Communication Plan: In these emergency situations, communication is key. With the possibility of losing power and internet access, you should outline and share a detailed emergency external and internal communication plan. Collect and physically write down contact information of team members and clients in order to lessen downtime and provide updates on recovery. Also, ensure that each team member knows who to report to and how to do so once the storm has passed.
    • Announce Your Hours of Operation: Make your planned hours of operation known to both your team and customers/clients. Your team should know in advance how much time they will have to prepare for Hurricane Irma, as well as when they will be expected to report back to work. The same consideration goes for your clients and customers, who you want to keep informed at every step.
    • Minimize Your Email Marketing: Much like your social media and PR efforts, it is best to put a hold on your email marketing, unless it has to do with sharing pertinent information, such as your hours of operation or other need-to-know news about your business.
    • Hold Your Website Launch: If your new website has the unfortunate luck of launching near the forecasted arrival of Hurricane Irma, you may want to hold off until we are able to return to our normal lives. Most will be more concerned with storm updates than checking out your new site in the coming days.


    Let us be clear, your organization is (and should always be) put after your life and the lives of your team. Make your people the priority by giving them, and yourself, ample time to prepare and hunker down before Hurricane Irma strikes. Once personal safety is secured, you can focus on keeping your brand safe from inappropriate messaging or a lack of communication with both internal teams and those your organization serves.

    We may not know the full extent of what Hurricane Irma has in store for us but through a bit of preparation now, we can lay the groundwork for an easier recovery and, ultimately, getting back to work. Stay safe out there, Orlando.

  3. How Clear Marketing Helped the Nintendo Switch Avoid a Game Over

    Nintendo: As far as industry-defining brands go, they’ve easily earned their place among instantly recognizable names like Kleenex and Xerox. The company, founded in 1889 as a playing card manufacturer, has delivered some of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time. Even with its undeniable successes, such as the GameBoy and Wii, Nintendo hasn’t escaped without a fair share of failures that have provided a few important lessons in branding and marketing.

    Nintendo Mario

    As it stands today, Nintendo is attempting to re-stack its deck after the Wii U (its latest console) was widely regarded as a commercial flop. What can the brand do to come back in a big way? Well, like any business worth its salt–with clear, effective marketing for its upcoming video game console, the Nintendo Switch.

    Let’s briefly trace Nintendo’s rise and fall, which led the prestigious company to employ a key marketing tactic from which any brand can benefit.

    Picking Up Coins

    If you remember, the Nintendo Wii was an utter phenomenon when it was released back in 2006. Featuring innovative-yet-simple motion controls and a slew of family-friendly games (who doesn’t love bowling in Wii Sports?), the Wii quickly rose to become the third-highest-sold console in the history of home consoles.

    Nintendo Wii

    Years later, Nintendo hit the drawing boards again and what emerged was a console that, though competent, was a financial disappointment for Nintendo. That console was the Wii U, and if we take a good look at its middling branding, the issues become obvious.

    A Branding Blue Shell

    As of late last year, the Wii U has shipped less than 14 million units. To contrast, the original Wii shipped 101.63 million by the end of its lifecycle. How did this system go from frontrunner to last place in just one console cycle? Well, it has a lot to do with the system’s introduction.

    Looking at the Wii U objectively, it was a marked improvement in nearly every way from the original Wii. 1080p HD resolution, added horsepower for graphical output and a few other nerdy tidbits that you probably don’t care about. However, it failed to do one thing: succinctly explain its key benefits to the general public.

    Though the most hardcore of gaming enthusiasts soon drilled down and “got” what the Wii U was all about, those parents, kids and virtual bowling meemaws that the original Wii attracted were left scratching their heads and muttering a collective, “Huh?”

    • Is it an add-on to my Wii?
    • Do I have to own a Wii to get this one?
    • What’s up with the touchscreen controller?
    • Can I take the controller on my morning commute?
    • Do I have to buy new Wiimotes (controllers)?
    • Can I play my old Wii games on this?

    The story of the Wii U became a muddled mess, which was partially responsible for bungling its chance to catch lightning in the bottle for a second time. Even the name, Wii U, makes it sound more like an extension to the Wii than a wholly new console. Yikes.

    Extra Life

    As the Wii U continued to limp through its lifecycle with weak console sales numbers, rumors began to circulate that Nintendo was developing something truly unique for its next generation of console–something that would bridge the gap between home console gaming and handheld gaming.

    In October of 2016, the Nintendo Switch was announced and promised to do just that.

    By sharing the singular message that this console is not only an at-home system, but a portable handheld device a la the Nintendo 3DS (or GameBoy of past), it conveys one point well as opposed to multiple points poorly.

    Storytelling and messaging are hugely important for shaping the first impressions of a product and as methods of crafting the public perception for an overall brand. As our very own founder, Matt Certo, recently asserted in Formulaic, “…in order to connect, build goodwill, and foster memorability, (brands) should figure out what (their stories) are and tell them.” The Wii U’s storytelling was unfocused at best, showing the device as a karaoke machine, Amazon Prime streaming device, party game console and more–and that’s on top of trying to explain the system’s new quirks and functionality. Instead of wowing us with the console’s versatility, we were left with more questions than answers–a marketing mortal sin.

    To contrast, the Nintendo Switch’s initial storytelling sets the scene with simplicity. It is positioned as a home console that you can take with you to the airport, dog park, basketball court (OK, that one’s a little dumb), or super-trendy rooftop party with all of your super-trendy friends. This focus is much more effective than attempting to throw everything and the kitchen sink into one message, as its predecessor did.

    To put it simply, good product (and brand) storytelling requires pointed focus and adherence to a main idea at all times. In TV and film, it is a common practice to examine each line of a script’s dialogue to determine if it directly moves the plot forward; if not, it is deleted. The same should go for your brand’s marketing strategy. If your messaging gets bogged down in superfluous ideas and information outside of the scope of your current campaign, put it aside for next time and focus on the challenge and solution at hand.

    In Focus

    There’s more to the Wii U’s commercial failure than poor storytelling, of course. Besides the marketing, the fact that the Wii U was a continuation of the Wii brand did the console no favors. This, combined with other limitations left the console stranded with neither the families who were attracted to the simplicity of the Wii nor the hardcore gamers looking for the strongest graphical powerhouse on the market. Essentially, the Wii U lost its audience before it even came out. Much like losing the forest for the trees in storytelling, successful marketing in any industry is only possible if one truly understands its audience. Without this understanding, even the most clever of messages will essentially be delivered to an auditorium of empty seats.

    Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch has (at least so far) seemed to learn from its marketing and communication mistakes, and enjoyed some well-earned enthusiasm that was never there for the Wii U.


    It’s far too early to tell if the Nintendo Switch will be a success, but its first ad shows major promise for the nearly 130-year-old company. The console hits shelves on Friday, so we’ll soon see if it lands with a splash or more collective indifference. All signs point to the former, however.

    Even if you’re not head of marketing for a video game behemoth, clarity is key for any company’s advertising strategy. Whether crafting an email newsletter or strategizing for a new social media campaign, ensure that your messaging is both clearly defined and executed without straying too far from the point. As they say in journalism school, never bury the lead.

    And remember, it’s all fun and games until unfocused marketing causes your company to face a “game over” screen.

  4. 8 Football Tips That Inspire Marketing Touchdowns

    For some, the fall season means changing leaves, a cool kiss of autumn air and a warm #PSL by your side. However, for others (like me), it signifies the time to agonize over fierce rivalries, colorful face paint and tasty tailgating. There is nothing quite like football, is there?

    Regardless of whether or not you personally care for football, there is no denying the war-like tactics at play here. These men, many of which could probably pull a family-sized sedan (with the family along for the ride, no less), push their bodies to incredible extremes, but all of their literal blood, sweat and tears would be for naught if there was not a tactician on the sidelines holding the playbook.

    As each team’s personal Patton, a coach can be a father figure, a boss, a commander and a friend, but above all else, a coach must be a leader. Strategic thinking, problem solving and a can’t-quit attitude are common among many championship-winning coaches — which left me thinking. What can some of the winningest, most respected football coaches of all time teach us about marketing?

    Placing my buffalo-sauce-glazed chicken wing safely back in the basket and turning down the volume on this week’s game, I decided to share a few choice quotes that can score your brand a marketing touchdown.

    Marketing Tips Gleaned From The Gridiron

    Quote 1
    Though it may be a hard fact to swallow for us perfectionists, every marketing effort can always be better. What you should take away from Coach Lombardi’s quote is to always strive for perfection, yet accept that not everything in your marketing plan will go as planned. Instead of getting discouraged, use a steady stream of results and data to uncover ways you can to improve your plan.

    Quote 2
    The bottom line is, though standout talent can be a significant asset, teamwork trumps a single genius nearly every time. Marketing and brand management are team sports. Social media interfaces with blogs, which interface with overall branding, which interfaces with your website. In an agency, our work is only as good as our willingness to collaborate under the singular goal of our clients’ success.

    Quote 3
    With this quote, Coach Noll provides us quite a lot to incorporate into our marketing efforts. Firstly, consistency is key — keep up on both blog post and social media schedules, posting on a regular basis. Maintaining brand standards is also a fundamental part of quality branding.

    Beyond consistency, attention to detail cannot be encouraged enough. From the spelling and grammar of an eblast to tagging the correct Facebook page in a promotional post, taking the extra five minutes to double and triple check marketing work is a smart and worthwhile habit.


    Quote 5
    Coach Allen and Coach Lombardi both point toward the same lesson here: always keep your eye on the prize. Goal setting is vital to measuring success in marketing efforts. In marketing (and in life), if you don’t know where your endzone is, you run the risk of wasting a lot of time and effort running in circles. Set specific goals for each of your marketing efforts and ensure that every following step is taken in service of that goal.

    Quote 6

    Quote 7
    To boil down the wise words of Coach Phillips and Coach Edwards, you must learn from your marketing mistakes. There is nothing worse than a company that continuously makes the same mistakes (such as allowing interns to have full control of social media, or promoting content on the wrong platform for their audience) even though they should know better.

    Additionally, when analyzing your marketing efforts, be sure that your solutions truly solve the problem at hand instead of “blaming someone else.” Take a deep dive into your brand’s analytics platforms and build a strategy for improvement based on hard data and proven marketing strategy.

    Quote 8
    Not only wise words for the rest of your life, Coach Halas’s quote can be adapted into one simple statement for your brand: marketing matters. From SEO to social media strategy, it all counts and is well worth giving your best to find and win new customers for your business.

    The Huddle

    Whose marketing couldn’t use a bit of tough talk from some of football’s finest? With football season now fired up, it may be the perfect time to get inspired by these coaches in order to create marketing strategies that constantly improve, are consistent in quality, and take all marketing channels into consideration. Just remember, football season may be here for a few months a year, but it’s always game day for effective marketing.

  5. How the Summer Olympics Can Teach Gold-Medal Marketing

    Summer Olympics

    Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics is finally underway and the energy is palpable. It’s amazing to think about the level of talent from across the world coming together, putting aside politics and cultural differences to compete in something as pure as sport. Surely, there are Olympic-sized swimming pools of emotional inspiration to be had and lessons to be learned from the Summer Olympics, but as a marketer at heart, I have also found inspiration that directly correlates with my profession. Though onlookers can glean a few tips from watching the exhaustive efforts put into branding and marketing the games, I have a bit of a unique point of view on this subject.

    Working as part of the 1996 Summer Olympics’ sales and client services team, I had a front-row seat to witness greatness achieved both on and off the fields.

    Summer Olympics5 Marketing Lessons Learned from Working the Summer Olympics


    • Training isn’t just for the athletes: Good marketing doesn’t just happen. No, it takes the mentorship of skilled experts, daily preparation, continued study and detailed observations to get it right. There is something to be said about resilience in this industry, and the Olympics are an excellent metaphor for the years of hard work that go into being the best.
    • Even tried and true products can use innovation: The 1996 Summer Olympics marked the first time that skyboxes and suite-style seating were utilized to generate revenue. If the Olympics can embrace new ideas and reap the success of such innovation, your brand should be willing to do the same. Even though things had been running smoothly for (thousands) of years, they still sought out opportunities to take the product offering to another level.
    • Messaging moves the needle: The innovation mentioned above demonstrates more than the benefits of trying new tactics — it also shows the importance of messaging. One of my tasks at the Olympics was to fill seats at the less popular events (everyone wanted to attend the gold medal gymnastics event, but fewer people were buying judo tickets). Strategically positioning and pairing the lesser attended events with the more popular ones led to successful ticket sales and attendance rates.
    • Marketing and sales play for the same team: Whether marketing for something as tangible as tickets or as intangible as general brand awareness, in my opinion, you cannot effectively market something until you learn how to sell it. I was responsible for selling packages for a combination of sporting events and learned many marketing (and sales) lessons through this experience that I still utilize to this day.
    • Winning matters: We all know that winning an Olympics competition is a HUGE deal, and the truth is, it can be a major public relations win and morale booster for an entire country. The same can be said for winning awards for your company. Applying for awards and seeking accolades for your products and services helps demonstrate expertise and ultimately assist in generating new business.
    Summer Olympics

    By Photo: Niteshift36; plaque: International Olympic Committee – I (Niteshift36 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47303233

    Admittedly, a lot has changed since 1996.  However, the marketing lessons are still relevant and viable in 2016.  Taking cues from a marketing and sales powerhouse like the Olympics can help garner your brand a few gold medals of its own. Just remember to train hard, stay open to innovation, be observant and keep your eye on the prize. We’ll see you on the podium.