The Eight Benefits of Leveraging an Experiential Marketing Execution in Your Strategy

It’s no surprise that we, as marketers, are always looking for new ways to disrupt the market and landscape to better reach our audiences. Many of my closest peers and professional connections know that I have a special interest in experiential marketing (in a basic sense, immersing your audience in your brand). Heck; I’ve written about it in our blog once before, here.

My previous post was one focused on educating and sharing a new perspective of learning about a newer strategy that’s on the rise in the world of marketing. Outside of the “experience,” however, what really are the benefits and selling points of this strategy and why even consider it? This time around, I explore some of the most notable benefits and why you should give it more thought in the future.

Experiential Marketing Benefits:

  1. Truly convey messaging and tone: Instead of saying it, showcase and deliver it. In this case, don’t just say it, but spray it.
  2. Show brand in a new light: If people end up expecting the same thing from your brand, new and bold tactics can surprise your audience… for the better.
  3. Make your brand human and relatable: Show that your company isn’t only in it for the money. You’re invested in your audience and can connect with them on a personal and informal way.
  4. Taking creativity to the next level: Guaranteed that you will stand out from competitors with new and exciting tactics.
  5. Tap into growing technologies & news: Location-based apps and advertising is constantly evolving. Leverage that for a more personal touch and show that your brand is on the forefront of emerging technologies and in tune with industry developments.
  6. Expand portfolio of marketing tactics and mediums: break out of the same old direct mailers and e-mail marketing to increase the breadth of your company’s marketing portfolio
  7. Establish and build brand loyalty: I’ve seen lifelong brand loyalists switch brands because of experiential marketing tactics. Show the unparalleled benefit and people will follow.
  8. Brand recall/unaided awareness: “remember that time that company did that really cool thing that one time?” Yeah, people will talk about your brand without overt advertisements or prompts.

When it comes to event marketing, some of the results are staggering. In regards to sampling, grassroots activations and large-scale mobile tours, consumer participants react positively to a brand in such a way that they want to stay involved with the brand. Just take a look at some of these numbers:

  • 98% of consumers exposed to a product or service at a brand event will positively mention it later, with two-thirds specifically mentioning the brand.
  • 93% of participants allow brands to stay in touch with them via promotions, email and other advertising.
  • Almost 50% of participants end up purchasing sponsored products.

Whether you’re looking to gain a firm grasp of market share, refresh your brand, or even better connect with your audience, this avenue of marketing can open up new doors that will excite your marketing team and leave a lasting impression on your audience.



Working with Real Mad Men

Oh, I tried. I really did. But I only watched the first season and a half of “Mad Men.” It was interesting to me because of its place in the history of advertising. My grandfather owned Moore & Hamm, an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the 1930’s and 40’s. They had Four Roses Whiskey, The Stork Club, and some iconic New York brands. And I got into the business in 1989, so the Mad Men era was cool to me because it landed between my grandfather and I, between the U.S. advertising industry’s earliest days and my earliest days in the business.

The real ad references in Mad Men were fun to watch, like the episode with the Kodak Carousel pitch, and at the very end of the season finale, where they suggest Don created the Coke “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” ad. But I didn’t I like how the show made creativity look instantaneous. In thirty seconds, Don Draper could solve massive problems. It’s never been like that.

I should know because I worked with one of the real mad men who really created that Coke ad for McCann-Erickson in 1971.

Harvey Gabor was my Creative Director (CD) when I worked in Detroit. He was the real deal, and a big inspiration for my creative career. So here is just a little taste of a young guy’s experiences with Harvey and a few of the real mad men who TV recently popularized.

I got lucky very early in my career. A few months after I started, one of my first campaigns wound up on the cover of AdWeek. It was for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, featuring a rad 80’s teen dude explaining Wisconsin’s “not a drop” underage drinking law to the hip-impaired (parents). The publicity resulted in a phone call from a headhunter asking if I wanted to interview for a couple of jobs in Detroit. I had no idea what a headhunter was and thought it was one of my friends pulling a prank. Soon, I was on a plane, in a suit, amazed, and on the way to interview for a job in Detroit at Simons, Michelson, Zieve (SMZ).

They offered me the job despite the fact that I wore a suit, (lesson number one: creatives don’t wear suits, the account service “suits” wore suits) and I had a very stupid portfolio.

The Detroit experience was fantastic. About 80 people worked there, compared to 10 at the Madison agency where my career began. Our bread-and-butter anchor account was Big Boy, which was a lot of fun work. I also wrote for Detroit Edison, AAA and Ziebart. It felt like a big deal ad agency. A few folks smoked in the shop, we had big budgets, and people across the large office really knew advertising.

My first day was thrilling. The creative department had a little welcome meeting where I met my co-workers and got a taste of our clients and work. At the end, they insisted that I do an impersonation of Mort Zieve, the CEO. He made the rounds through the shop every day, and they said he’d be in the creative department soon. They coached me on his accent and mannerisms, and told they me that if I said, “Hello, hello, hello Zieve, how are you?” when Mort walked in the room, I’d be forever in his good graces. I couldn’t tell if they were setting me up and this would be my last day or if this would really be a cool thing to do. A minute later Mort was on the way down the hall, and I was ready to impersonate the big cheese. Mort walked into my boss Larry’s huge office, and I said “Hello, hello, hello Zieve, how are you?” He burst out laughing, knowing that the others put me up to it. I was in.

Shortly after I started, the search began for a new CD, which was very exciting. The creative department got to watch the reels of TV commercials from the CD finalists.

We popped one of the enormous 3/4” tapes into the U-Matic player and watched a reel from a guy named Harvey Gabor. Word had it that he was a big deal, but we didn’t know why. He had a couple older ads and the new Converse ad with a little toddler tromping in a meadow wearing Chuck Taylor’s. Then our jaws hit the floor. The last spot on his reel was that Coke ad, “Hilltop.”

We had all remembered that ad and that song from our childhood. It was legendary! The song was on the radio! Holy crap! I was very green, but I knew that THIS guy was the really real deal.

Harvey took the job and made an instant impact on the whole company. He was a character, frequently in a suit with suspenders. He knew our creative wasn’t spectacular and immediately took steps to fix it. He called a meeting of the creative department in our stately dark conference room. He drew some rectangles and squiggles on two pieces of paper. He said, “I think we’re trying too hard on our print ads, and we need to make them simpler. So from now on, I only want to see two kinds of print ads here – a big picture with a little headline or a big headline with a little picture.” I thought it was a great meeting. The art directors hated it. But he was right.

Harvey and I concepted together on one of his first days. We were the incumbent on the Ziebart and were under pressure to win it. Management announced, “If we don’t win, there will be layoffs.” Gulp.

So there I am, a newbie, with one of the legends in advertising creating TV commercial ideas. Harvey was at his desk, and I was seated on the other side. He had a ball point pen, and a pad of onion paper, really thin stuff. (For those of you not in the business, a ball point pen is not the best tool for sketching out ideas on onion paper.) The guy was intense when concepting. Very likeably intense, with a driven, manic focus on coming up with idea after idea after idea. I loved concepting, tossing out option after option. To be doing it with a legend was blowing my tiny little mind.

A few minutes in, Harvey started drawing a rectangle on the onion paper, didn’t like it after about one inch, and tore three pages off the pad, crumpled it all up, and tossed it on the floor. This happened a few times. He went through a lot of paper. He was so intense, he would push through five sheets of paper while sketching stuff out.

More ideas came. One was a bunch of kids with ice cream and dogs and bubbles and messy stuff, coming out of a car like the clown car gag at the circus. Harvey called this a “torture test” ad. Then he was staring at the white pad of paper, and picking a hangnail on this thumb. Picking and flicking at it with his index finger, like a guy who needed an idea NOW. Then, splat. A burst of bloodly little dots shot across the page. Harvey tore three pages off the pad, crumpled it all up, and tossed it on the floor. He bled for his work! He tossed paper wads on the floor, like in the movies! I thought that was so cool.

The best compliment you could get from Harvey, in his heavy New York accent was, “That’s, that’s, that’s…pretty good.” I don’t think he had a word for “great.”

I wish I would have been able to work with Harvey longer, but eventually my wife and I decided to move back to Wisconsin. At the going-away party, Harvey gave a nice toast to “the kid from Indiana.” I had told him several times that I was from Wisconsin, but whatever, it was okay coming from Harvey.

Thanks to some luck and the internet, I got to see Harvey again in the form of Google’s wonderful 2011 campaign called Project Re:Brief. They brought back famous ad folks and their ads, and teamed the old timers up with Google employees to reimagine their classic ad for today’s banner ad world. Harvey was one of the classic mad men, and “Hilltop” was one of the ads they “recreated.”

It was really nice to see Harvey again. He was greyer, but still quite sharp. In the first couple of seconds, you clearly saw the twinkle and spark that made being around him so special. I laughed out loud at his line, “I took the temerity of doin’ a scribble.” That’s Harvey, the completely brilliant yet completely humble everyman.

Over the years in Madison, I got to work with a couple of other guys from the end of the Mad Men era, Dick Kallstrom (who did the famous Sears Die Hard car battery on a frozen Minnesota lake) and Mike Kelly (creator of the Golden Grahams jingle). Dick was an art director out of Chicago, and Mike was a writer from Minneapolis.

Their stories of the Mad Men era of advertising were frequently steeped in alcohol. He said the Chicago mad men would take the train to work, arrive around 9:00 a.m. to create for two or three hours, have a two hour lunch, then work another two hours back at the office, then head out to a bar. Every. Day. Five hours of work and four hours of drinking? No wonder Draper was such a mess.

But somehow, despite the martinis and abbreviated work days, the 60’s and 70’s ad guys I worked with knew their craft incredibly well, perhaps because the sandbox was smaller back then. Digital communications have exploded the size of the sandbox and seemingly created more creative generalists. But man, they all had great passion, great experience, and great wisdom.

Working with mad men taught me a valuable life lesson: listen to those who came before you because they know the stuff that you do not. Take what they know, add it to what you know, and make yourself better.

Thanks, Harvey, Dick and Mike for helping me try to do just that.


For more stories from Harvey, including his take on the Coke and Google ads, check out his two short e-books, Confessions of a Prehistoric Adman: From the Bronx to Madison Avenue and Lots in Between and Peeing with David Olgivy: Short Stories from my “Mad Men” Years.



Tips for an Unskippable Pre-roll Commercial

More than ever, the onus is on advertisers to prove their commercial is worth watching. According to YouTube, 70% of audiences skip pre-roll advertising after 5 seconds. Could this be because too many TV ads are simply repurposed for digital media? TubeMogul’s 2014 Video Advertising Playbook reveals that custom web creative has an edge when it comes to influencing purchasing intent (1.4% vs. .8% of repurposed TV ads). So, how do you prove your commercial is worth watching? Consider the following examples and tips to make your pre-roll commercial unskippable:

1: Put the customer first

Recognize that you are interrupting your customer’s focused search with an unsolicited message. Online viewers are in a control mindset with their mouse in hand. They have a negative perception about the interruption before they even know the brand. So, how do you turn that around for your audience? See how Burger King connected with young men by relating to their pre-roll pain:

2: Make the first 5 seconds count

Remember the days when 30 seconds seemed like a short time to get message across? Now, we have 5 seconds to do something that connects with the viewer. Whatever you do in the first 5 seconds of your message, it must answer the question: “What will make this ad unskippable?” See how Madagascar 3 hit home with young children, front loading their spot with a winning combination: address the audience + ask a question + several fast cuts:

3: Do something worth sharing

Sharing your brand message with video is easier than ever via digital and social connections. All you have to do is give your audience something worth sharing. Give the audience a slice of entertainment that relates to your message. See how Kmart connected with their conservative shoppers and managed to stay on brand with an unexpected and sharable pre-roll ad laugh:

4: Ask for engagement

It should come as no surprise that viewers “skip this ad” with a ticker and button appearing right before their eyes. See how this job search website from the UK reaches into the psychology of their viewer with this over the top ad that asks for engagement:

I challenge you to assess your pre-roll creative differently than traditional commercials. Put your customer first, demand their attention in the first 5 seconds, do something worth sharing and consider asking for interaction. Following this new formula for digital commercials may force your brand into unexplored territory. Find a way to incorporate these ideas, while still being true to your brand.

I leave you with one final pre-roll commercial attempts to be the most unskippable to raise money for the ASPCA. Did they go too far? You be the judge. . .


Desktop to mobile responsive design illustration

Mobile Website Traffic Makes the Case for Responsive Design

The need for your website to display responsively to smartphone and tablet traffic is increasing month over month and the trend isn’t going away anytime soon, or dare I say, ever. So, how do you respond to responsive? When it comes time to redesign or start your new website, what steps do you take to assess whether or not you should design responsively? Here at KW2, we assume responsive design on most projects but we’ll also do a more detailed business needs analysis during our Discovery phase to determine whether we should plan and design a responsive website.

First, we establish the need, if your analytics hasn’t done the job for you. According to the quarterly mobile traffic report from Walker Sands Communications, almost a third of global internet traffic – 31.3% – to North American sites in Q4 2013 came from smartphones and tablets. That’s up 34% from the Q4 2012 report. These numbers will only continue to increase over time.

Your analytics is telling you to pay attention to mobile traffic.
Your customers are accessing your site more and more through mobile devices.
So, how do you tackle this responsive design need? Here are a few steps to get you headed in the right direction.

During the Discovery phase, it’s crucial to make sure all key stakeholders understand what responsive design is and the impact it will have on the design of your website. Sometimes, our clients ask about responsive design without understanding what it means and the implications responsive design can have on process, timing and budget. A thorough Discovery process will give you clear documentation on how the site will be built – responsive or otherwise.

Planning and Concepting Process
Responsive design projects tend to take on more of an agile workflow as opposed to a traditional waterfall process. Collaboration amongst the UX designer, art director, strategist, marketing and technical folks is essential to making this work efficiently and effectively. At KW2, we like to establish a conceptual design framework for the website before delving too deeply into the responsive menu and display structures. Once we have client approval on a concept, we can quickly create the mobile display menus and designs to move onto programmers.

QA Testing Time
Testing time will increase a bit when putting a website through its paces on not only the browsers and OS desktop platforms but the mobile devices as well. It’s key to identify and agree on the devices you will use in testing your website. Neither you nor your agency can test on all devices – it’s just not possible. Agree on the most important ones. Your analytics can tell you what devices access your site most frequently. Obviously, test on the devices you and your marketing team use as well. You will be spending a lot of time on your own site during the process so make sure it’s looking good on your own device. Oh, and don’t forget your boss. Make sure the site looks good on his or her device because that’s probably the only device they will view it on. Gotta make sure it looks good for them!

Device Testing
One piece of advice having been through many QA testing projects here: test on real devices. While some websites and services can help you get a topline look at how your site looks when accessed by the most popular devices on the market, the rubber meets the road when you actually access the site using the device and its native OS platform.

Put your site to the responsive test right now
If you’d like to see how your site looks when being accessed by many of the top mobile devices on the market, you might find the following tools handy – Responsive Design Checker, Responsinator. Just punch in your site URL and the results will show you how you look to multiple devices without having to actually hold those devices in your hands. This internet thing is pretty neat, right?

Here’s a topline summary to get you up and running on responsive design for your site:

Do your homework to determine the need for responsive design – data, analytics
Create planning documents with the mobile experience in the forefront
Appropriately plan time for QA testing

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Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection Announcement

KW2 Adds Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection to Client Roster

Today we announce an addition to our client roster: Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP). Our strategy, planning, digital and creative teams aided the new brand, BHTP, in the launch of their revolutionary travel insurance product line with a comprehensive, strategic marketing and advertising rollout. The campaign launched on June 1.

“KW2 demonstrated exceptional experience and pulled together a dynamic team to help us launch our new brand,” said Brad Rutta, Director of Marketing for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “There was great chemistry between the two organizations from the beginning, and KW2 has managed to work under the difficult timelines necessary to execute our campaign.”

This is a revolutionary travel insurance offering. Consumer research confirms that there is confusion and distrust around travel insurance. People often indicate the insurance is too expensive for common trips, and that making claims is a complicated process. BHTP launched their entire campaign around one basic requirement: simplicity. The AirCare product costs only $25 and can be purchased up to one hour before a flight. The benefits are aimed entirely at flight protection and include: paying travelers $1,000 when they encounter travel problems like tarmac delays and lost baggage, $500 for missed connections and baggage delays, and $50 for a two-hour flight delay. Real-time trip tracking allows BHTP to see travel issues before they occur, and they can process payments directly to the traveler’s account.

KW2 assisted with the brand development, product naming, and website design (www.bhtp.com), and we created all creative assets for the digital campaign including online banner ads, mobile ads, digital audio, video and pre-roll commercials. The advertising campaign launched in conjunction with Hayworth Marketing and Media, targeted at consumers and travel professionals.

Andy Wallman, President of KW2, said, “We couldn’t be more excited to add BHTP to our client roster. We’re thrilled to help them revolutionize travel insurance with the innovative ways they’re putting the customer first. Berkshire Hathaway is one of the premier financial brands in the world, and we’re committed to helping them grow their brand in the specialty travel insurance business. Every member of the team here at KW2 is 100% committed to their success.”

For more information, go to kw2ideas.com and check out our Featured Work.



Why We Love Handmade Things.

We’re living in an era of bright, new and shiny. The technology we each carry around in our pockets and bags, whether it’s an iPad, iPhone or laptop, gives us the ability to create at a moment’s notice anywhere we like, and we do. We spend countless hours on these machines creating things. The tech in these machines gives us the ability to create flawlessly designed images and typography. Yet, also on these machines we find apps such as Instagram, Hipstagram and Camera Awesome that allow us to created images in the likeness of something we’d find in an attic. The app Lettrs allows you to use your phone to type or dictate a letter which will be converted into a “hand” written letter which can be delivered digitally, or as an actual letter in the post. So why in this golden age of technological precision do we still have that guilty, undying craving for old and grungy? What is it about the wonderful imperfection of handmade that make us so frigging giddy? Why, from letterpress to hand drawn typography, do we love to get our hands dirty?

For one, handmade is human. No matter what your ma tells you, not a single one of us came into this world perfect. You know from every time you’ve looked in the mirror, one eye might be a little bigger, or an ear may be slightly higher than the other. Something made by hand will always have a bit of what the makers, hand added to it. It’s in the character of the work. Handmade is inherently more authentic, and sometime it’s a little wonky, but it’s that little bit of wonk that makes handmade more approachable, friendlier, more real and likable.

Handmade needs hands, and usually, along with those hands, comes a maker. We like makers. We like makers because they’re passionate people that can get really geeky about what they’re doing. Makers pour time, energy, and sometimes their life savings into what they’re doing because they can’t imagine doing anything else. We like that kind of passion.

People are nostalgic. We like stuff that reminds us of where we’ve come from and where we’ve been. We like to be reminded of our past, and not just our personal past, but our cultural past as well. The accomplishments we can all be proud of, the folks who we may not see as often as we would like. A saved handbill, or a box of letters carefully preserved in a shoe box under your bed. The stuff of sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach.

It seems in this era of bright, new and shiny, handmade is an antidote to digital ephemera, texts, emails, and voicemails, which unlike ephemera of the past, are truly here in the now, gone in the next. As we continue forward into an increasingly digital world, the stuff you can actually hold onto is going to become increasingly valuable to us.


On Cheerios, racism and the rewards of taking risks

On Cheerios, racism and the rewards of taking a risk

A lot has already been said about people’s reactions to that new television ad from Cheerios, the one featuring an interracial couple and their painfully cute little girl. Most of it can be summed up as follows:

One: Emboldened by the delicious anonymity of comment sections everywhere, the world’s racists and the web’s trolls seem determined to ruin the post-racial America we’ve all been finger-crossing for since Grey’s Anatomy first aired and that nice young couple moved into the White House. It’s annoying, disheartening, gross.

Two: Rather than tempt fate—a word which here means the fast-typing fingers of a vocal and (can we just say it?) vile minority—most advertisers, even the progressive and fair-minded ones, will continue to make ads that aren’t quite what you’d call culturally au courant. And in the age of the socially conscious consumer, where being nicely neutral isn’t good enough anymore and apps like Buycott make it easier than ever to ensure what what we buy lines up with what we believe, that’s not just a shame. It’s short-sighted.

And three: Seriously, that girl is dangerously cute.

So, since so much has already been said—on AdWeek and Slate, HuffPo, Jezebel, The Today Show and, heaven help me, The View—I’m just going to say this:

Last year, Pew Research Center calculated that 15% of all new marriages in the U.S. are between people of different ethnicities. That’s more than double the number in 1980. But in thirty-some years of flipping channels and watching ads, I’ve only ever seen two commercials featuring a family who looked anything like mine. Two.

The first one made me a unrepentant Comcast cable apologist, doggedly loyal despite the Facebook pages, yelps, posts and the considered opinion of almost everyone everywhere.

The second one had me buying a box of Cheerios.


A cute sheep

What one man’s forbidden love for a sheep taught me about being a good creative.

A couple of months ago, Gene Wilder taught me about love. It happened somewhere between midnight and 2 am.

To be clear, I’m not a huge Gene Wilder fan. His Richard Pryor/Blazing Saddles/Willy Wonka peak coincided with my domination of the Weisser Park Elementary spelling bee, grades K through 4. So let’s just say I was busy and leave it at that. But in theory, I’ve always liked the funny man with the melancholy face, which is why I watched his biopic instead of going to sleep.

And that’s when he blew my mind.

If you’ve seen Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (thank you, Internet), you know where I’m headed. In the film, Gene Wilder becomes infatuated with a very pretty sheep. And this is where things get interesting. Because Wilder knew making their romance funny meant taking their romance seriously. So he set about getting lovesick. For livestock. For real.

He spent his time off-camera with the two animals who played his love interest, until he could differentiate between the actor sheep, Daisy, and her stunt double. Daisy, he saw, had the prettier eyes. Her lashes were longer and swept over her fuzzy cheek just so. He noticed the sweetness of her temper and the fineness of her coat – so much softer than that other sheep’s. In short, he found concrete reasons to be unreasonably in love.

Which is basically what I try to do for clients and consumers every day.

The thing about working in an ad agency – the thing people who don’t work in an ad agency don’t see – is that it’s not all cars and beer and mobile phones. Sexy products with sexy budgets sold by sexy, sexy people. Boring things need ad agencies too. Like mutual funds. Cotton swabs. And that stuff they put in cereal to give it more fiber.

Fiber is not sexy. But you can love it a little bit. And if you’re a creative, you have to.

As that other great barnyardian, the chicken, has shown us, love trumps every rational argument. And it’s the first step to having a great idea, a solid campaign, a compelling message, a memorable ad, and just maybe, a loyal customer. Because I have absolutely no hope of making perfect strangers feel something real about where they buy their shoes, or download their music, or caramel machiatto their latte if I don’t feel something myself.

And that makes falling a little bit in love an essential part of a creative’s – wait, scratch that—an agency’s process. Call it good messaging strategy if you like. But commit to finding what’s loveable about a brand (not hard to do when you’re working with a company for good), and consumers will feel it too.

By the time that movie wrapped, I bet Gene Wilder would have leapt up in defense of Daisy’s honor. With the same fervency shown by iPhone devotees today, when confronted by a shiny new Galaxy S4.

That’s love for you. It’s irrational. But it’s real.


Putting customers first in a small Irish Wisconsin pub with free beer.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 7.26.00 AM

Putting customers first, 16 ounces at a time.

So there’s this small tavern in the small town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin a few miles from my home. It’s called Paddy Caughlin’s Irish Pub. It’s wonderful.

Alas, I didn’t celebrate my Irish brethren there this year. (This photo was taken last summer.) But the photo shows an incredible idea for how you can put your customers first – let other customers buy them something. In this case, it’s a beer.

This simple “pay it forward” chart shows who bought a beer for a pal, and who has a free beer coming their way. This idea plays into the neighborhood hangout brand that they’re trying to carve out. It encourages word of mouth. And it means instant revenue for the bar; with 15 to 20 percent of gift cards going completely unused, it’s likely that this is a pretty profitable tactic.

Free beer? Great idea, Paddy.