It all starts with a big idea.

In the advertising business, we all rack our brains to come up with the big idea. It’s the ticket to success.

Not to be confused with a creative execution that generates “likes” on social media, which—heck, yeah—isn’t a bad thing.

No, the big idea is bigger.

It’s not the execution itself; it’s the thinking that drives the execution. Contrary to the popular notion, the big idea is not grandiose or impractical. Rather, it’s usually a simple idea that has significant impact.

To be sure, the big idea is not the sole domain of the ad world. If it were, we wouldn’t have heart catheterization, the Internet, or unmanned spacecraft.

Close to home, let’s look at some uniquely Cleveland big ideas.

The Geis Companies E. 9th Street corridor project

The project encompasses four buildings of an entire block along E. 9th, wrapping around the corner of Euclid Avenue: The newly unveiled eight-story Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters building, the renovated Marcel Breuer Ameritrust Tower transformation into the Marriott Metropolitan Hotel and The 9 luxury apartment complex, the landmark Cleveland Trust rotunda to house upscale grocer Heinen’s first downtown store, and the interconnected Swetland Building at 1010 Euclid.

The stated intention of the Geis project, especially a project of this scale and scope, is to transform an urban district in decline.

To do so, the Geis concept goes beyond redevelopment of vacant landmark buildings—and the usual hype of blending commercial, retail, and residential space.

The Geis development team understood that upscale properties with upscale amenities aren’t solely dependent on upscale people. A broader community base is required to make such a project work.

That’s where Geis planners had a big idea: Bring a pivotal demographic on-site.

People are needed to work in the Marriott hotel. People to provide services for concierge living for residents of The 9 tower. People to staff the Heinen’s store.

To that end, they’re including apartments that will offer subsidized rents to attract residents who, in turn, will provide the manpower for the hotel, the apartments, and the grocery complex.

Housing for workers on site instills a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and a more convenient lifestyle for workers. They can avoid the time and cost of commuting. Their workplace is connected to their home.

And it infuses cultural and economic diversity into the district. That’s a big idea.

It’s self-serving to be sure. But the sheer fact of including a more diverse target audience in the planning is unique. It’s forward-thinking, not just to project completion but also to project sustainability: an organic approach to project development.

If all goes as planned and the concept succeeds, it’s a potential first for the city.

The Positively Cleveland rebranding campaign

The Positively Cleveland group has launched a campaign to attract Millennials to experience Cleveland and all it has to offer, as a destination to visit as well as a career/lifestyle choice.

They conducted research to determine direction. Then commissioned an edgy campaign that expresses the true character of Cleveland and Clevelanders.

The launch relies on social media to perk the conversation. It’s part of a larger multimedia communications platform and a broad-based community-engagement effort aimed at changing attitudes and reshaping lingering impressions of our city as “the mistake on the lake” and “the burning river”.

The big idea: Engage locals. Get residents involved. Tap the mindset of the faithful of all ages. Define who we really are. Ultimately, present a composite personality that sets us apart. To attract the non-us.

As you would expect from a travel and tourism group, the campaign consists of an external component, the outreach to out-of-town Millennials. It also includes an internal push to energize the Cleveland base.

All designed to get Clevelanders talking about themselves. To get Clevelanders talking to each other. To give Clevelanders an open mike to share the love.

In short, defining our character by showcasing our characters.

The Scranton Peninsula trail

On December 12, 1974, President Gerald Ford signed the bill that released the funding to establish what would become the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area along the Cuyahoga River and the historic Ohio & Erie Canal.

Constructed by manual labor in the 1820s and made obsolete in 1861 by the expansion of the railroads, the 308-mile canal linked Lake Erie to the Ohio River, establishing a commerce route that ultimately linked New York City on the Hudson River to New Orleans on the Mississippi.

Winding through that vast tract, the engine that made the canal run was the canal towpath, where mules towed the canal boats delivering goods and materials from Cleveland to Portsmouth.

Then in 2000, the classification was upgraded from National Recreation Area and officially designated the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, making it eligible for increased funding and improvement.

In the ensuing years, the U.S. Park Service acquired land from private owners until they had created a continuous 33,000-acre tract through the Cuyahoga Valley. Along the way, the park service made infrastructure improvements, opened museums and visitor centers, and constructed trailside historical exhibits.

The principal attraction? The restored historic canal towpath, an uninterrupted 110-mile hard-packed trail that runs beyond the park from Cleveland-Akron to New Philadelphia.

More than any other amenity the park has to offer, the towpath is why the Cuyahoga National Park is the sixth most visited in the United States.

The big idea? Actually, two. First, of course, the preservation of a vast natural space within an urban area, offering access from surrounding communities without traveling a great distance.

Second, easy access for local residents without the use of a vehicle. Creating a system of feeder trails connecting neighboring communities through connected green space areas effectively brings the park to the people. And more of them.

The recent dedication of the one-mile Scranton Flats towpath park and trail along the Scranton Road peninsula, a multimillion-dollar project completed by multiple area partners, further extends that vision of access to the inner city, transforming a barren wasteland into an urban oasis.

Yes, God is in the details. But it’s the bigness of the idea that has real impact. And can change the path of progress.

E. 9th Street Corridor Project 

Positively Cleveland Campaign

Scranton Flats Trail Dedication

When the night belonged to Michelob.

We all know how bloated the ’80s were. “Greed is good,” sneered Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street. Excess became fashionable during the ’80s, and advertising picked up on the trend.

If excess wasn’t glamorized in the commercials, it sure was obvious in the production budgets.

Case in point: I remember first seeing a trio of Michelob commercials during a Saturday Night Live episode, around 1987, that blew my preteen mind.

The seduction was themed, “The night belongs to Michelob.”

The setting was any large American City—late night—real late night. Very cool people decked out in high-end ’80s fashion exploring the mysteries of after hours in the city. Who knows who or what they’ll run in to.

Naturally, as each spot ends and the theme comes up, every one of those beautiful people has a Michelob in one hand and an arm around a newfound significant other.

Each spot was set to a soundtrack by the biggest rock artists at the time, all enjoying the monster success of a recent album release.

I watched these spots obsessively as my brother and I would stay up late and record episodes of SNL on our super-high-tech VCR (that probably cost my dad a gazillion dollars at the time). Every day after school, we’d kick back to these tapes.

No wonder these Michelob spots have been tattooed in my head. A little now-that-I’m-in-advertising post-analysis gives me some insights why.

For starters, sheer repetition. Not only did Michelob spend big on airtime, I went on extended play on my time. Creative ploys completed the seduction:

1. The concept was set at nighttime. The mysterious, sleazy, dark part of nighttime, just before closing time—and after—when night people glide down shadowy rain-soaked streets illuminated only by a neon MICHELOB sign. Next stop: Who knows?

2. The epic-ness of big-city nightlife. The scenes didn’t identify New York City, to make it seem like Any Big City, but we know it’s New York. The interior shots made me want to hang out and have a beer at every one of those chic watering holes. Or even just walk those streets. And not leave.

3. The soundtracks were legendary. No jingles or stock, they were the real thing. Winwood, Genesis, Clapton. Gritty, driving, the pulse of the time. Tracks from names at the top of the charts then that still resonate today.

4. Finally, the spots exuded cool. They didn’t hammer us over the head with it. They didn’t have to. You could see it. You could feel it. They had entertainment value. More music video than commercial. Total cool.

I have to admit, this wonderfully strange campaign of fantasy-reality made me want to get into the TV and advertising business.

They made me want to be part of the magic. To someday get into people’s heads and influence them to buy a product from a company that I represent.

No question, Michelob spent a ton of dough on this campaign. Not only on the no-doubt megabuck rights to the songs, but also on production. All the footage was shot on location in a major market with talent. I can only imagine the production costs—which were probably over “way up there,” because, hey, it was the ’80s.

And, some of the spots were full :60s. Brands just don’t do 60-second spots anymore! Not to mention the client entertainment. “Bring in the boys from St. Louis—we’ll show ’em a good time!” Just like in the spots.

Thanks Michelob. I love looking back on this campaign today—a great snapshot from the decade of decadence, the ’80s. It’s still cool.

And, yes—I’ve been on plenty of TV shoots. Both in New York City and Los Angeles. Still looking to capture the magic of these spots.

Campaign ad agency—DDB Needham Worldwide

Mobile Best Practices: How Dunkin’ Donuts is Staying Relevant

John Costello, President of Global Marketing and Innovations at Dunkin’, spoke in New York today. As this recap from MediaPost describes in detail, Mr. Costello is striking the right balance of risk and realism in mobile.

He commented during his speech that “tactics and technologies change, but principles don’t,” alluding to the fact that marketing’s job is to drive sales and brand engagement. There’s little value to launching an app or running ads on mobile simply because “everyone’s doing it.”

Instead, focus on the facts and the insights that the data leads you to. And remember that, as marketers, our job is to drive brand engagement and sales. By any means – and media – necessary.

To read MediaPost’s full recap, click here: Dunkin’ Donuts is Staying Relevant with Mobile

To read about #AmazonCart and digital marketing strategy, click here: Amazon and Twitter Team Up for eCommerce

To learn more about Wyse, visit our website.

The essence of branding: Naming.

What’s in a name? Everything.

Virtually every product, service, ingredient, fabric, component, feature of everything you consume, wear, live with, work with, depend on — everything — has a name.

Think cars, packaged goods, clothes, craft beers. Think of everything you can think of. The list is endless. So are the possibilities.

{Thinsulate. Microsoft. Febreze. Gore-Tex. Vibram. Intel.}

Arguably the most important single component in marketing, the name captures the essence of a brand and expresses its image in a single word. Powerful stuff.

To become a household name, riveted in our collective consciousness, takes more than savvy marketing, advertising, packaging, labeling, and endless repetition.

It takes sticking power. As in how well the name sticks to what it’s attached to and with its audience. Stickiness spells success.

{Google. Yahoo. Patagonia. MasterCard. Groupon. Nike. Netflix.}

Names become brands themselves, are copyrighted, and aggressively defended by stables of attorneys charged with protecting their sovereignty and economic franchise. Woe to those who infringe on another name’s territory.

No one has a monopoly on the process. Good names can come from anywhere and do.

{SkyJack, motorized aerial work platform. WhatsApp, mobile messaging. Alibaba, named after Ali Baba.}

It’s a discipline all its own and a lot of resources are brought into play—creative think tanks, market research, competitive analysis, money. Factor all that together, and it might lead to a great name. Or not.

{Erehwon Outdoor Stores, “nowhere” spelled backwards. Bug Off and No Fly Zone insect-repellent fabrics.}

Chances are just as good that a great name will come from out of the blue, by luck or by accident. Maybe an internal code name or nickname becomes the public name. And, of course, function often defines name.

{PODS, Personal On Demand Storage. Big Ass Fans. Hunker Down, jacket from Mountain Hardwear.}

Esoteric influences come into play as well. A passing comment in a meeting. Extreme sports slang. Sound, color, other sensual experiences. How the product makes you feel. Ah, never underestimate the power of feelings.

And some names are just plain made up. Words are sliced and diced and recombined to create something that just plain works.

{Arc’teryx, derived from the Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird.}

And as they age, names continue to evolve, capitalizing on their familiarity. They condense, abbreviate, even become acronyms of their former selves.

{Federal Express to FedEx. International House of Pancakes to IHOP. Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC.}

Don’t get me wrong: Naming is no easy task. It’s a challenge made no less daunting by the simple fact that so many names are already taken.

Will we ever run out of names or the desire to create them? Not likely.

One thing’s for sure. As the military-industrial-consumer complex continues to crank out new technologies and new products and new features, creative minds will be challenged to name them.

What’s just short of amazing is how infinite the English language is and how elastic our cultural perceptions are.

What are some of your favorite names? Why do you like them? What makes them work for you?

Oh, and here’s a good name to remember when you need one they won’t forget. Wyse.

More on naming:

Risque Names Reap Rewards

The Name Game

 

SEM Strategy: What’s a Good Conversion Rate?

Coming off a metrics meeting with a pretty sophisticated client just last week, conversation rates and cost per acquisition are phrases that we’ve been throwing around a lot lately. But given the ambiguous benchmarks for conversion rates, can you really claim that your conversion rate is higher-than-average, let alone optimized?

The short answer: No.

To better navigate these waters, check out this post from  The Wordstream Blog for simple steps and guidelines to optimizing conversions. The post is somewhat lengthy, but worth reading:

Conversion Rate Optimization

One additional piece of free advice based on our expertise: Always optimize to conversions or leads, rather than cost per click or click-thru rate. As the Wordstream Blog points out, it’s important to keep you eye on the prize.

 

To read more about e-commerce, click here: 4 Data Points to Drive e-Commerce

To talk with us about optimizing your digital spend, visit our website.

 

New Data on Marketing to Women

I saw this Ladies’ Home Journal research study on Twitter this morning. It’s worth a quick read as you hone your marketing strategies:

  • 79% of women have made a purchase decision based on the experience of someone they know
  • 82% of women surveyed said the often share their product experiences with peers
  • Almost 1 in 5 women purchased or considered purchasing something for their home after a conversation with a friend

Read the full report here:

Adweek: Women Trust Friends’ Opinions Above All Else

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For additional reading about marketing and women, check out the following or visit our website.

Social Media Marketing and Moms

3 Tips for Marketing to Women in the Auto Aftermarket

 

Amazon + Twitter = Compelling Digital Marketing Strategy

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While this partnership was met with some skepticism, it sure is compelling. As you’ll see in the video below, you can now add items to your Amazon.com card simply by replying to a tweet. Given that more than 50% of … Continue reading

Make Sure Your Customers Think & Drive.

I’ve known for some time that the number of vehicle maintenance services that are unperformed in America has grown significantly over the past few years. And I clearly understand, given the relatively stagnant state of the economy over the years, how this could happen. However, as a public service, I’d like to share these human statistics with everyone.

 

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 13,000 Americans are killed between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. And a portion of these deaths can be directly attributed to unperformed vehicle maintenance – as each year neglected maintenance leads to over 2,600 deaths, nearly 100,000 disabling injuries and more than $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses and property damage.

If you’re in the auto service or repair business, perhaps you’ll share these facts with customers who are considering foregoing needed services on their vehicles. Those of us who share the nation’s highways count on you to help keep everyone safe. Starting with your customers.

Stealing a Page from Starbucks Playbook.

Are the people out front in your auto parts or service stores – your Baristas – delivering a customer “experience” that clearly differentiates you from others in the business? One that keeps customers coming back again, and again, and again?

At Starbucks, being a Barista is said to be “different from any other job”. Every Starbucks Barista is challenged to “create genuine moments of connection with their customers, making a difference in their day”. The job is not just about handcrafting delicious beverages, but building relationships with the customer, and with their fellow partners.

Just take a look at the company’s stated employee “Key Responsibilities”. The first SIX are about honesty, responsibility, dedication, demeanor, and commitment ALWAYS to the customer AND ones fellow partners – before they ever get to rules related to procedure, safety, health and sanitation, etc.

  • Acts with integrity, honesty and knowledge that promote the culture, values and mission of Starbucks.
  • Maintains a calm demeanor during periods of high volume or unusual events to keep store operating to standard and to set a positive example for the shift team.
  • Anticipates customer and store needs by constantly evaluating environment and customers for cues. Communicates information to manager so that the team can respond as necessary to create the Third Place environment during each shift.
  • Assists with new partner training by positively reinforcing successful performance and giving respectful and encouraging coaching as needed.
  • Contributes to positive team environment by recognizing alarms or changes in partner morale and performance and communicating them to the store manager.
  • Delivers legendary customer service to all customers by acting with a customer comes first attitude and connecting with the customer. Discovers and responds to customer needs.

So, I ask you… how do your shops’ “Baristas” stack up?

Do you have a playbook that defines how your service managers and/or counterpeople are expected to act? Or what the customer experience in your shop/store should be? And do you have incentives in place to reinforce that behavior with your staff? Want help? Contact me – David Courtney, Director Auto-Transport Group – @ 216-696-2424.

Aftermarket Marketing: 4 Key Data Points to Drive eCommerce

A UPS-conducted study, “UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper for Automotive Parts & Accessories Buyers” reveals findings about online consumers that have awesome implications for marketing strategy. Here are my top 4:

1. Although price is a major factor in the online purchasing process, respondents said non-price features, including the seller’s return policy, product selection and shipping options make up 60 percent of all comparison-shopping considerations.

2. E-tailers who can best meet and manage their online customers’ expectations may have a more meaningful advantage over their competition, according to recent comScore research.

3. 75% of survey responders reported that they have added additional items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping.

4. Online shoppers are willing to wait up to 7 days to receive their shipment in exchange for no additional fees.

 

Just as the in-store experience is critical for success at retail, the on-site experience is critical for online sellers. Perhaps it’s even more critical, given that the interaction isn’t person-to-person, and consumers can “walk out of the store” with one click of their mouse.

To request a complimentary website audit, visit our website.

Additional reading about marketing in the auto/transport category:
Driving sales with weather-triggered advertising: Be a Rainmaker
Tips for marketing to women: 3 Tips for Marketing to Women