8 Tips For Leaders Looking To Future-proof Their Experiential Marketing Techniques

Experiential marketing has changed how companies interact with their customers. Instead of just directly selling, companies are instead directly interacting with their customers, creating memorable immersive experiences their audiences will love. This inclusion makes it more likely that customers will view the company in a more positive light than if their relationship with the company had simply been transactional in nature.

AdAge 8 Tips Experiential

Even so, it’s necessary for experiential marketing to evolve. For marketers that are interested in future-proofing their strategies, they need to take into account the impact of current events. With the latest crisis changing consumer habits and behaviors, experiential marketing will require a bit of an adjustment to succeed now and in the future.

These professionals from Ad Age Collective are skilled in the development of innovative experiential marketing tactics. Here, they weigh in on how modern businesses can adapt their experiential marketing campaigns to cope with a post-crisis world.

1. Blend the digital and physical worlds.
Marketing to large physical crowds or encouraging them to gather is on pause. Use digital strategies to create crowd-based energy asynchronously and/or with geographic diversity. Insert your brand into watch parties, esports, food/supply delivery, online education, etc. Connect to new heroes — frontline workers and first responders. Address new issues and behaviors like loneliness and family walks. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

2. Consider safety as part of your experience.
Safety has always been important to customers, but safety now has a new public health dimension beyond physical security measures implemented before. As you craft new in-person experiences, you will have to support and illustrate — before and during events — how you satisfy attendee safety while making the experience both frictionless and fun. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

3. Get inspired and extend the reach of your content.
Get inspired! The beauty of translating the best of physical experiences into digital ones is that it can extend the reach of potent content. Obama’s favorite DJ, DJ Mel (and his dog), is now spinning records for thousands from his house via Facebook Live. And, not-for-profit USAFacts is connecting Americans with hard-to-get virus-spread data, facts and maps across connected screens. – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

4. Identify what will define your experience.
Experience will always separate utility brands from brands we connect with. But this extended staying at home may impact the relative importance of experiential attributes. People may be more OK to wait a little longer, but will always need to be assured of environmental safety. Identifying what attributes will define your experience will be key to experiential marketing. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

5. Look to augmented and virtual reality.
Experiential marketing may mean less in-person or large group events, but emerging technologies on the augmented reality and virtual reality side may see a rise as people are looking inward and at new ways of engaging with personalized content. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Diversify across digital and nondigital channels.
If this crisis proves one thing, it’s that industries that rely on one or two methods to market themselves are at great risk from changes in the world. Diversification is key across digital and nondigital marketing channels in order to protect their organizations from suffering. The litmus test is simple — look at your channels and evaluate if your business could survive if one disappeared. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

7. Determine what is situationally appropriate.
Marketing leaders need to understand quickly what is situationally appropriate for the moment and not be tone-deaf. You need to be anchored with an authentic voice and a mission to drive purpose, otherwise your efforts can come across as shallow. At the same time, you have to quickly get a sense of how the situation could evolve, so that you can navigate through the crisis in the appropriate manner. – Rich Honiball, Navy Exchange Service Command

8. Make sure every brand experience has a virtual version.
Companies need to make sure every brand experience they create can be translatable to a remote or virtual version (if not being formerly virtual). However, not just marketing leaders should pay attention to that transformation. Those who have kids at home right now are witnessing how schools, banks, clinics and a myriad of public services are having to learn and transform while in flight. – Marcello Magalhaes, Speakeasy – Knowledge Brokers

7 Smart Uses Of Influencer Marketing And Why They’re Effective

With the rise of social media influencers affecting marketing techniques, businesses are embracing this new facet of online business sales. Many modern-day businesses have simply evolved their marketing tactics from traditional to digital with ease. However, the introduction of influencer-based marketing introduces a very new technique to the discipline of getting an audience to purchase a product.


However, one of the most egregious missteps that companies make when dealing with influencer marketing is not using it to its fullest potential. For influencer marketing, the keywords should be fun, organic and engaging. As such, a brand’s use of influencer marketing should focus on being memorable and unique without sacrificing the influencer’s genuine appeal. But how does a company achieve this while trying to market its brand?

These business leaders from Ad Age Collective understand all the nuances of influencer marketing for promoting a brand’s image. We consulted them about some of the most unique and effective uses of influencer marketing they’ve seen and what made them memorable. Here’s what they told us.

1. Connecting with subscribers in organic, fun ways.

In a crowded subscription box marketplace, FabFitFun stands out. The brand focuses its marketing budget on influencers, connecting these advocates with potential subscribers in organic, fun ways. As a result, it’s driven a 300 percent sales growth annually. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

2. Finding micro niche areas and owning them.

Influencer marketing has entered its next phase where brands must go beyond pay-to-play influences. Instead, brands like Buick went after “Pinfluencers.” Pinterest influencers were asked to create boards expressing their personality and lifestyle. One winner’s work would be used to design the next Encore model. The high-level connection with influencers resulted in a strong end-user connection. -Arjun Sen, ZenMango

3. Appearing out of context for a good reason.

The Foodgod’s Instagram account claims the influencer eats out 365 days a year! Not surprisingly, when he introduced fans to his new venture OceanBox — sustainable, restaurant-quality seafood to your door — it was a surprise to see him in his kitchen. The video, titled “Stay Home 20,” was both an introduction to OceanBox and a way to publicly encourage people to stay home to help flatten the curve. -Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

4. Winning hearts by being self-deprecating and self-referential.

Influencer endorsements have become par for the course for marketers. With distrust of messaging directly distributed from brands, it makes sense to turn to trusted sources. Enter Aviation Gin. Ryan Reynolds’s parody of the concept of endorsement-based advertising ironically makes it a very effective piece of influencer marketing. It’s ridiculous and we enjoy a brand that can recognize that. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Showing 100% commitment to breed unique competence.

Caulipower built a $100 million+ brand almost overnight using only influencer marketing and social media. Gail Becker, Caulipower’s founder, used many influencer marketing tactics, but what was unique was the total commitment to influencer marketing as the marketing strategy. Kylie Cosmetics is a similar story, though built off an existing brand. Commitment breeds unique competence. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

6. Enabling earned authenticity.

Budweiser’s TagWords video is a fantastic example of influencer marketing — it’s less of a $ponsor$hip (hijack) of opinion, and more of an attempt to capture an authentic choice by incredible music artists! Bravo Budweiser and bravo Africa (the agency) — you’ve earned it. – Marcello Magalhaes, Speakeasy – Knowledge Brokers

7. Creating genuine connection and trust.

Finding an influencer who is already a consumer and advocate of the product is key. Nick Offerman is a great example with being a fan of J-B Weld before he started working with the brand. The audience genuinely connects with Nick and his love of J-B Weld because it’s authentic. He’s a professional craftsman and woodworker, so the trust is there. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

COVID-19’s Impact on Millennial and Gen Z Media Habits — And How Marketers Should Pivot

Depending on their age and stage of life, the nation’s two youngest generations are getting a first taste of what it’s like to be a remote worker, home-schooling parent, or web-only shopper. Within a very short period, the way Millennials and Gen Zs buy products and consume media also has changed dramatically. And while many of these shifts — such as the changes to their media habits — can be attributed to the global pandemic, some of them may be here to stay.

COVID 19 Millennial Phone

“When U.S. advertisers pulled back spending dramatically in March, one of the earliest noticeable effects on the display ad market was falling CPMs (the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on a single webpage),” eMarketer reports. Concurrently, marketers were lowering their demand for ads and consumers were spending more time on social and traditional media properties, thus increasing the supply of impressions.

“Where we’re getting the demand right now is from people who are driving sort of more online conversions, direct response, so it’s not like we’re seeing a shift of reach and frequency dollars to us,” Facebook’s Dave Wehner said in an April earnings call. “I think what we’re seeing is people who are driving the kind of direct response actions taking advantage of low prices.”

Feeling the Impact

With COVID-19 affecting all facets of everyday life, it’s no surprise that marketing is also seeing the dramatic impacts of the pandemic. And while some of the changes simply solidify what was already happening in the market, COVID is definitely adding more fuel to the fire. For example, TikTok has become a household term in a world where just a few months ago the typical parent was unfamiliar with the short-form mobile video platform — a platform that  has become a viable channel for reaching younger consumers. The youngest Gen Zs are likely getting as much socialization as possible on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, all while binging on Netflix as they wait out the COVID-19 threat and state shutdowns.

The crisis is going to change consumers across all age groups, and no one knows for certain what the total impact will be. What we do know is that the shifts are already starting to happen, as evidenced by the TikTok videos featuring parents and their children dancing together, and the fact that Instagram Stories usage is up 15% since the outbreak. These and other platforms are keeping people connected, and they’re also presenting new opportunities for marketers that need ways to reach their youngest consumers.

TikTok added over 12 million U.S. unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million, according to eMarketer. “TikTok has been on a growth spurt for several months, even before the pandemic,” the firm points out, adding that as of October 2019, TikTok’s app and websites had 27 million unique visitors, with the app alone accounting for 18.6 million. “But the month-to-month growth between February and March was particularly notable in comparison with previous monthly gains.”

What Are Gen Z and Millennials Up To?

In surveying Gen Z about its routines, media habits, and lives during the viral outbreak, Brainly found that most are turning to social media to pass the time and stay connected, with Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook getting the highest marks from this generation.

Here are other important, COVID-related trends that Hawthorne Advertising has been tracking internally:

  • In terms of social media, Millennials are gravitating toward Instagram and Reddit.
  • There’s also been a big uptick in Twitch usage over the last two months, with live performers among the most active participants on that platform.
  • More Millennials are using YouTube as an information source during the pandemic.
  • Zoom has emerged as the videoconferencing platform of choice for Millennials.
  • Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are popular “binge” targets for both Gen Zs and Millennials.
  • Fans of Instagram, TikTok, Hulu, and the Amazon Firestick, Gen Zs are receptive to pre-roll ads and other targeted advertising approaches on these platforms.
  • Gen Zs are also using GoToMeeting, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime to stay in touch with friends and family during this period.

In assessing Gen Z and Millennials’ post-quarantine media habits and content consumption, YPulse says Netflix will be their must-watch TV platform of choice, but notes that social media content could begin cannibalizing the time these younger generations spend on streaming services.

“While streaming services are reporting massive numbers of new subscribers, our data indicates that the real winner of quarantine viewing is social media,” YPulse reports, noting that a recent survey found that 48% of 13 to 39-year-olds are watching more videos on social media during quarantine, and 40% are now watching videos weekly or more on Instagram (compared to 34% in November 2019).

Get Ready to Turn on the Dime

For marketers who are trying to wrap their arms around these shifts, the best strategy is to embrace the changes and take careful note of their pace of acceleration.

Understand that when we emerge from this crisis — whenever that occurs — you’re not going to be operating in the same world that was put on pause in early-2020. Marketers also need to consider more targeted and customized messaging, as well as dynamic creative optimization, to maximize the engagement with Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

Consider this: In a recent DoSomething survey, 75% of Gen Zs said the top action they wanted to see from brands was ensuring employee and consumer safety, with 73% wanting brands to protect their employees financially. Brands that share positive messages on social media while failing to support their staff are being noticed, Vogue Business reports. “If you’re not authentic, Gen Zs will be the first to raise a red flag. If you are trying to take advantage of the moment, you will lose them so fast.”

Educate yourself on these changes, test out some new strategies, and strap yourself in. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride filled with both challenges and opportunities, the latter of which will be most available to the companies that stay flexible and fluid enough to turn on a dime right along with their target audiences.

9 Proven Strategies To Make Operations More Efficient While Understaffed

In an adequately staffed agency, getting everyone working together on creative problems is a little more straightforward. Everyone already knows their responsibilities. Writers do copy, designers work on art and they get together and build an excellent product that the client will love. When an agency is understaffed, however, what would typically be a simple project or two can turn into several nightmares happening at the same time.


9 Strategies to make operations more efficient

In an understaffed organization, even everyday occurrences can be difficult to deal with. Responsibilities have to be reassigned as workers get drained mentally and physically, trying to meet the demand for work. For management, this can be frustrating as there isn’t any new talent coming in the door, and the existing resources the business has are already stretched thin. With enough pressure, it could even lead to higher employee turnover.

Having an efficient workplace helps both employees and management streamline processes and improve their mental health. These nine experts from Ad Age Collective know how to make the best of limited resources and so share their insights into how an agency can streamline its operations, even when it’s suffering from being understaffed.

1. Offer work-from-home options.
Your staff will do better when they have the ability to work remotely. They can manage time and recharge whenever needed. This makes for a happier and more efficient team that will be able to manage even when you’re understaffed. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

2. Create a culture of action.
It’s tempting to stay with the same processes for a larger team, especially when generating content — strategize, write, review, approve, publish. Use the opportunity of understaffing to instead give your team the autonomy to run with ideas without the need for approval. It might be scary, but if you’ve hired well, they will relish the new responsibility and create better content than before. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

3. Let technology do the heavy lifting.
The right technology can take off some of the burden. To make operations more efficient, sales and marketing teams have ditched their 40 to 50 siloed point solutions in favor of an all-encompassing platform armed with AI and big data. By adopting a platform to do the heavy lifting, sales and marketing teams can get back to what they do best: creating valuable prospect experiences that convert. – Latane Conant, 6sense

4. Focus on time management.
We’ve taught the team how to use the urgent-important matrix to help empower them to prioritize activities and make the distinction between what’s important and not important and what’s urgent and not urgent. When we have faced an understaffed team, distinguishing between what’s urgent and what’s truly important is key to running more efficiently, while giving valuable time back to our teams. – Warren Jolly, adQuadrant

5. Enable dedicated uninterrupted time.
Help your team plan their day by focusing a portion of their time on emails and daily operations. But then help them block out quiet time for work in an undistracted environment so they can get through creative work without interruption and let the creativity and productivity flow. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Turn off electronics and spend time together.
We get way more done more quickly when we meet in person at the start of a project instead of shooting each other emails about what’s required, what the objectives are and passing works-in-progress back and forth and waiting for responses. I’m not advocating for more useless meetings, but getting together briefly at the onset of a new project can radically improve efficiency and clarity. – Todd Morgano, Falls

7. Take 15 minutes off each meeting.
I would suggest taking 15 minutes off each meeting you have and giving that time back to your teams to spend using their alpha thinking over beta. Make these breaks a time to meditate, read, brainstorm, stretch, go for a walk, etc. Activating both sides of the brain will help with creativity and also efficiency. Fifteen minutes can add up to a lot better work. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

8. Learn to say ‘not now.’
An agency’s best friend is the expression: “Instead of ‘no,’ learn to say ‘not now.'” This allows for better pipeline management and ample creative time for every assignment, hence reducing the classic dilemma of being understaffed. Creativity should never be stunted. It’s not about getting more raw time to think, but more quality time by minimizing distractions and allowing focused creativity. – Marc Landsberg, SOCIALDEVIANT

9. Bring in people from other departments.
Bring in folks from other departments to help with the creative process. We just did this to help produce marketing and training content for a new product and got a lot of new material, but the best part was the amount of learning the other functions got from trying to address issues that they do not normally consider. Those learnings made them much better and more empathetic in their own roles. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

The Imprint of Brand Diversity in Marketing

How brands can embrace and be inspired by diverse sub-cultural demographics  

The elements of building a brand and the role it plays in creating brand affinity across the broad spectrum of consumers has become increasingly important over the last few decades. As products in general become increasingly commoditized and indistinguishable in their features, the luminescence of the brand itself is what ultimately attracts consumers. When reflecting the meaning of (and our affinity for) a brand back on ourselves – there’s a fascinating, complex framework in how we choose to identify power, status, and most importantly, ourselves and our identity, through our adherence to brands, labels, and titles.  

As a society, people have historically been lumped into stereotypes. You must be either this or that, with no in-between option. Who are we all if not just ethnicities, social rankings, or gender-identity roles? How can we be understood if not generally categorized? How can a deeper, more nuanced understanding of diversity and identity be adopted by marketing strategies to propel an even deeper and broader acceptance of audiences that don’t fit neatly into this or that category? 

Quite often, we begin our life’s journey with simplistic and overly broad labels affixed to us by others, often unjustlyAs we mature and gain life experience, it becomes easier to see how we exist today as a collective culture of sub-cultural trends, ideas, and conditional imprinting from generational labels. Having facts and ideologies regurgitated from generation to generation has created a lack of questioning. People in today’s world are rethinking and disrupting stereotypes and long-held myopic beliefs. It is incumbent upon marketers to embrace this change and be inclusive when creating campaigns and messaging for their brands.  

Bridging cultural, generational, and socio-economic gaps of understanding is crucial to crafting marketing messages that resonate across perceived divides. Trends will always come from the demographics of youth, the streets, and the people who are envisioning a new way of being. Brands will continue to gear their marketing efforts towards these popular trends as they come. Morals will continue to be attributed to the movements of the brands with which we support, respect, and represent. This is how empathy and brand loyalty are attained: through trust. 

Brands who embrace diversity will gain clarity to the individual and still see the “I” within the group identities they are targeting. By viewing status as a tool, we can utilize innovative marketing methods to educate ourselves on the future of economics from subcultural demographics, which we already invest capital into daily. Companies, brands, and marketers are now identifying the individual within the self, not only on tangible imprints but also the intangible desires, recognizing the unknowns of where some dare not go but appreciating the gift of giving through expression.  

When brands can genuinely understand how people want to be heard—not for validation, but for exposing our hearts’ true passions and interests correlated to something meaningful—they will finally begin to identify deeply with different cultures and identities. As consumers, we welcome new generations of facilitators who bring love to their careers, stability to their communities, and value to the products in which they choose to invest. Whatever we choose to represent now, it is critical that we feel inspired to care enough to embrace the beauty in all diversity we represent.  

A conversation with With Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is CEO of Hawthorne. Jessica has strategically positioned the agency to be at the forefront of advertising, where art meets science. She is committed to providing data-driven solutions and proprietary tools to help clients maximize their advertising investment dollars. From creative and production to strategy, media and analytics, Jessica ensures quality and innovation […]

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is CEO of Hawthorne. Jessica has strategically positioned the agency to be at the forefront of advertising, where art meets science. She is committed to providing data-driven solutions and proprietary tools to help clients maximize their advertising investment dollars. From creative and production to strategy, media and analytics, Jessica ensures quality and innovation throughout all disciplines of the agency. As CEO of Hawthorne, Jessica has prioritized company culture and corporate social responsibility and is a Climate Change Reality Ambassador. Today, Hawthorne is a certified woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a Great Place to Work®, and on the Inc. 5000 list. She is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and Ad Age’s Agency Collective, invitation-only organizations for senior-level executives in public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. She is the incoming Chair of the Board for the ANA ECHO Board of Governors, the elite group behind one of the most coveted prizes in marketing as well as a participant in TED International, TED Women communities and Vistage International. She is also a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), the global organization empowering more than 28,000 members in more than 130 countries and is the Chapter Chair for YPO Los Angeles and on the YPO Pacific U.S Regional Executive Board. When Jessica isn’t busy with the company, culture, and board participation, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and traveling the world (over 50 countries so far!). She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son and daughter.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Starting out as a television literary agent in Hollywood, the transition over to the advertising industry was actually a natural fit as I had experience managing clients which were individual writers, directors and producers. Client management is key but instead of individuals, in advertising, it’s managing an entire brand, their team and campaigns. It is very fulfilling to work with such smart clients and brand managers to help them grow their companies and brands. In addition to the clients, I also feel it was another seamless, natural transition to operations/managing the company, where employees were also my clients and I worked on behalf of their best interests. Whatever I have done or worked on, whether it was for clients or my employees, it has always been to better their lives and careers.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A funny marketing fumble I experienced early in my career is when I got a client a commercial shoot and they wanted to re-write the script on the shoot day — something that can be a costly endeavor both for time spent and valuable shoot hours spent re-writing. We work very hard in the weeks and days approaching the pre-production and shoot to make sure the client’s team members have signed off on the script so that there aren’t any members of their team who could possibly derail it on shoot day. This was a huge learning opportunity for how to navigate tough and unexpected client situations!

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I find that a major tipping point in my career is when I clearly found a mentor who recognized my hard work. They helped accelerate my career and pushed me through promotions upon deserving it with merit. Finding a mentor who could teach me aspects of the business I’ve never experienced, while making it clear I was interested in having them champion me was key to my career success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Hawthorne Advertising is a founder of the performance marketing space nearly 35 years ago, and I truly feel our commitment to ROI and accelerated growth for our client’s businesses and brands runs deep and is embedded in every employee’s DNA. You can’t manufacture that passion, it’s innate in every team member and is our culture — we thrive in helping our client’s businesses grow and thrive.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I actually have a long-awaited book that will be published soon which is a follow up to one of the original performance marketing books our company has published. Stay tuned . . .

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Work hard but have fun — always have fun. Enjoy your team members and remember to laugh with them even in challenging situations. Always remember that as long everyone has the brand and campaigns’ best interest at heart, all viewpoints are valuable, and you are all trying to reach the same united successful goal for the campaign.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It’s again identifying a mentor early on in any career and position. Spend time shadowing that person, taking their advice and working harder than anyone else while you are doing it, and they will take you on the ride with them.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?

Nike is still a huge success story with their original “Just Do It” campaign but also because it aligned with their clear mission to be #1 in the category and surpass the incumbent at the time. It is still their core goal to be #1 and all campaigns drive that creative strategy in the marketplace.

If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Start out with the core goals of the blueprint and put it into architecture terms.
If you wanted to build a house in the dessert that would withstand 110 degree heat, stand for over a 100 years, be architecturally timeless in look and feel, and house multiple generations, then you would start out with those key KPIs and then design the house from there. Choose the location, size, building elements and design templates. The overarching campaign goals or KPIs are key and then you build the rest of the campaign to achieve your unique goals.

Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?

Authenticity is key for any brand. A consumer must have a need in their life and the brand should be able to fulfill a unique need for the consumer and how it will make their life better. It’s all about being able to tell that story in a beautiful, eye catching but succinct way which clearly and quickly communicates how a brand will make the consumer’s life better while also meeting the consumer on the platform they prefer and making sure the content is uniquely targeted to them.

Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Work hard and be humble
  • Work smart as your time is valuable
  • Work with good people and quickly move on from those who don’t have the greater good in their hearts
  • Make a positive impact on the world and environment
  • Always have fun

Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?

Visual dashboards that connect all marketing activities, website, and sales data via APIs are key to a business having a snapshot at any point in time of their overall efforts. They’re able to make a quick change and pivot in strategy to always be maximizing their marketing investment.

What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

How I Built This podcast on NPR shows great stories of inspiring CEOs and entrepreneurs that defied the odds and built great companies.

Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?

Al Gore. Even though he didn’t become president, he pivoted his career by focusing on the environment and bringing reality to the delicate balance of our Earth’s ecosystem. I’m all for going to Mars but if we have the opportunity to fix our beautiful blue planet, let’s focus on our backyard first.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am surrounded by CEOs of huge caliber and I endeavor to continue to be a positive influence on how all these mammoth CEOs who, as a group, collectively represent GDPs larger than many countries. We can positively impact the world through corporate social responsibility, sustainability and building great companies that are positive work environments for employees, which in turn betters the lives of all those employees and their families.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on twitter @hawthornecastro and on LinkedIn

7 Ways To Market Your Green Products And Practices (Without ‘Greenwashing’)

The eco-friendly movement has continued to accelerate, and so has consumer interest in green products. But customers are also growing suspicious of companies “greenwashing” their products — using deceptive marketing techniques to falsely convey an environmentally-responsible image.

7 Ways to Market your Green Products

Many companies with legitimately eco-friendly products and practices want to advertise them, but they’re not sure how to do it in a way that appears genuine to consumers. Don’t let the fear of negative perception keep you from implementing eco-friendly practices. If you’re looking to take part in the green movement without being accused of greenwashing, try these marketing tips recommended by Ad Age Collective experts.

1. Showcase the research you’ve done.
There’s no stronger argument in your favor than clear facts and research. It’s helpful to create a dedicated page informing your audience about how your business is being part of the green movement in an authentic way. Create links on the front page or from relevant posts to the research page to help users find it and learn more. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

2. Make it a part of your purpose.
To engender trust with consumers, brands in the “green” space must look at their business holistically. If you are providing organic, sustainable food, but using plastic packaging from a decade ago, you are doing more harm than good. And “being green” needs to be a part of your purpose and who the company is, not just what you market. Think about the message, your consumer and customer and your employees. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

3. Support big, hard policy change.
We have been culpable in shifting blame from corporate polluters to individuals’ actions since 1971’s “Crying Indian” anti-litter spot. We often still simply make folks feel better about their role in the cycle of consumption that drives profit. But soon, brands will need us to demonstrate the need for big, hard policy change with that same emotional punch. Life, and profits, will depend on it. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

4. Be honest about how your products are created.
With the environment and sustainability trending in the global spotlight, companies are partaking in “greenwashing,” making false claims to appear eco-friendly and strike a chord with consumers. Companies must remain honest when articulating how their products are created and their environmental impact. Don’t trend-hunt. A false attempt to highlight a commitment to a trend can quickly become a PR nightmare. – Kristen Anna Roeckle, Concentric Health Experience

5. Educate your greenwashing competitors.
Since we are all in this together and fakers hurt us all, it is now the responsibility of leaders — particularly those with resources — to not only lift green standards, but also treat it not as a competitive advantage, but as a team effort. Rather than accuse, leaders can offer their hand to educate and rehabilitate even competitors who are trying to “greenwash” so there is no longer an excuse. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

6. Balance eco-friendliness and consumer value.
There needs to be a balance between green, eco-friendly products and those that truly provide value to consumers. If a green product is too expensive and not truly green, it devalues the entire market. The winning brand will be a truly green product that’s both good for the environment and more valuable to the consumer. Word-of-mouth and marketing will show this, as product is always king. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. If it isn’t tied to your product or service, don’t do it.
Consumers are skeptical of “greenwashing,” and with good reason. Companies are desperate to prove they are eco-friendly, but it often rings hollow to consumers. People are looking for brands they can trust, so make sure that your efforts are physically tied to the product you are selling. When you change your model entirely to become greener, that will earn consumer trust on a far deeper level. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

Is That New Marketing Trend Right For Your Business? 9 Ways To Decide

Marketing is an ever-changing industry. With new trends constantly on the horizon, it’s difficult to tell which to adopt and which to ignore. Often, it simply comes down to using your best judgment about what will help you achieve your overall business goals.

To help you make this choice, we asked a panel of Ad Age Collective members what strategies they use to decide when to pursue a marketing trend or let it pass by. Their best answers are below.

Marketing Trands

1. Determine if it’s customer-centric.
An important aspect of any marketing trend is, “Does it keep my customer at the center of my strategy?” If it does, then it’s a trend worth watching. Identity resolution is a priority, and one that will continue to be so. The more you understand about your customers, the more relevant messages you can deliver. And a good starting point is using advanced analytics, such as machine learning. – Kevin Dean, Experian

2. Conduct a stress test on the trends.
Hopping on a marketing trend can do a brand more harm than good if it’s not authentic to that brand or its audiences. So conduct a stress test on each new trend against the core beliefs of the company and against the day-to-day interactions of the target audience. If your target audience is not engaging with the new platform, new idea, etc., it will come off as inauthentic. Look carefully before you leap. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

3. Understand whether your audience has ‘gotten wise’ to the trend.
It’s vitally important to be a trend connoisseur — to recognize when something has become a trend, and when your audiences’ culture begins to recognize that trend as a “tactic“ and resist it. Be early to know when your audience has gotten wise to it, then consider how to go against the grain of a trend at the right moment to help create surprise, delight, wit, freshness and shareability. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

4. Be clear on what you stand for.
If brands are clear on what they’re about, then as trends come and go, marketers know whether or not the trend makes sense for them. There is no silver bullet for building and cultivating a brand, but brands should always have a perspective about the world they live in. So, when a new trend arises, a brand with a point of view can weigh in on it, and sometimes weighing in means staying away. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

5. Start with your strategy.
When you’re approached with a new-fangled marketing trend, the key is to evaluate it against your pre-defined marketing strategy. Of course, that presumes that you’ve defined a marketing strategy and KPIs. Then it’s just a matter of assessing if the new trend can deliver against your KPIs more efficiently than your current plans. If you think so, then “test and learn” is a safe approach. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

6. Don’t chase shiny new objects for the sake of it.
Never chase a fad just because it’s the shiny new object. Always start with the basics: who is the audience, what need or problem are we solving for them, what’s the best way to communicate this message — then determine if there’s relevance. Also see what others are doing. Fast following is a proven strategy, and in many cases, there’s little benefit to being first! – Marc Landsberg, SOCIALDEVIANT

7. Stick to the tried-and-true.
When planning a cross-channel attribution plan, be sure to stick with tried-and-true core verticals. Leave a portion for testing, which can be either untested media or new emerging platforms. If it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to report on it, remove it from the plan and move on to other emerging trends. Stick with the tried-and-true, but keep a portion of your budget for testing. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

8. Be where your consumers are.
You need to understand who your consumers are, where they are and what is relevant to them. Be careful not to chase trends just because of marketing hype or competition focus. If a channel, platform or marketing trend fits in your overall vision and strategy, build it in there! In rare cases, specific marketing trends (e.g. TikTok) require you to divert your strategy and execution. – Oz Etzioni, Clinch

9. Base your decisions on audience data.
It all comes back to who your audience is and what channels they are using to get information, to communicate on and transact with. Also, how many of them are spending with each channel is important, as that will help inform how many resources the marketer needs to spend on building experiences for each of these channels. These experiences are built to reach the majority. – Raashee Gupta Erry, UPLEVEL – Digital Media Consulting

Tailoring Your Marketing Messages to Gen Y and Gen Z Consumers

Generation Y, or better known as Millennials, has been the apple of every marketer’s eye with 73 million strong, and spend a collective of $600 billion annually in the U.S. Now this group who is 24 to 39 years in age and a formidable force across all consumer markets, has another generation at their heels, Generation Z. And it is crucial for marketers to hone their strategy for communication with both Gen Y and Gen Z consumers.

Gen Z

As marketers continue developing and refining their Millennial-targeting strategies, they are now shifting their focus to Gen Z. This group of anyone 23 and younger is now coming to financial maturity, and consists of a massive and influential cohort made up of 65 million individuals. According to Gen Z Insights, as of 2020, this generation makes up 40% of all consumers in the U.S.

This youngest generation will soon outnumber the Millennials, and graduate from allowance-based buying power, bringing their own likes, dislikes, and opinions with them. But if there’s one thing that marketers should know about both Gen Y and Gen Z, it’s this: Don’t assume these are just huge, homogeneous groups who will respond to generic marketing messages.

The Millennial who turns 40 next year, for example, will have decidedly different media consumption and buying habits than, say, a 25-year-old who is just beginning to sort out life’s intricacies. Geography, gender, education level, income, and other individual attributes all have to be factored into the equation when targeting these broad, generational segments. Skip this step and you could find yourself wasting money, time, and energy chasing down way too large of a potential customer segment.

Apple, Xerox, and Nike have all found innovative ways to carve out specific niches within the larger context of both Gen Y and Gen Z. According to YPulse’s latest “youth brand tracker,” for example, YouTube, Nike, and Snapchat are the top three “top cool brands” for Gen Z, while Nike, Netflix, and Savage x Fenty claim the top spots for Gen Y.

Let’s dive into exploring generational segments, identifying some incorrect assumptions marketers make when tailoring their messages to Gen Y and Z, and highlighting some of the most effective platforms for getting messaging across to the nation’s two youngest generations.

Effective Platforms for Messaging Gen Y and Gen Z

Here are the main platforms that marketers use to deliver very targeted messages to Gen Y and Gen Z:

Connected TVs and Devices. This includes any TV or device that’s connected to the Internet and allows users to access content beyond what’s being shown on screen at the time. Connected advertising is an extension of the traditional TV buy that complements a brand’s existing presence on a specific platform. The connected nature of this medium allows companies to measure their reach and frequency across all devices, drill down into specific audience segments (i.e., iPhone users between a certain age range) and gain insights across the full customer journey.

Instagram. Not limited to celebrities who upload their well-posed vacation photos to the platform, Instagram’s photo-and video-sharing social network is actively used by nearly three-quarters (73%) of Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 23 years old). This presents a major opportunity for marketers who want to get their products in front of these young consumers, and who start forming bonds and creating brand awareness with these young adults early in their lives.

TikTok. A social media app where Gen Z vies for 15 seconds of fame on the small screen, TikTok is the fastest-growing social media app, with about 500 million regular users. Users post 15-second videos on the app, which is estimated to have been downloaded more than a billion times on app stores. Marketers can use TikTok to create a channel for their brands and then use it to upload relevant, engaging videos. They can also tap into the platform’s large “influencer” base and leverage it to expose their content to a broad, yet well-targeted, audience of Gen Z consumers.

YouTube. This well-established video-sharing platform has 2 billion users who log in on a monthly basis, including the 81% of American 15 to 25 years old. Among 18 to 34 year-olds, the platform is the second most-preferred platform for watching video on TV screens. With people uploading 500 hours of video every minute, the platform is pretty cluttered. Standing out and growing a YouTube channel requires a targeted approach that includes a unique channel name, a good viewing experience across all devices, calls to action (i.e., to subscribe, share videos, etc.), and incorporating the channel into emails, blog posts, and other social media posts to improve its ability to be discovered.

SnapChat. With 51% of Gen Zers viewing their generation as more creative than any of its predecessors, social apps like SnapChat give them the space they need to be creative in the digital world. They use it to create videos, share images, communicate with friends, and share moments throughout their days. Marketers can harness this platform to post their stories, push out user-generated content, and connect with influencers. For example, Taco Bell was an early SnapChat user that leveraged the platform’s storytelling capabilities to spread the word about new products.

Additional Social Media Channels. As a whole, social media has opened the doors for marketers who can creatively use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to connect with their audiences, build their brands, drive website traffic, and grow their sales. Because each platform has its own mission, goals, and user base, the companies experiencing the most success on social media are the ones that take the time to segment their audiences and use very specific targeting strategies for those consumers.

The Power of TV and Mail

In the rush to select platforms that they think Gen Y and Z naturally gravitate toward, marketers often overlook the power of TV, direct mail, and other mainstays. They wrongly assume that these channels don’t work with younger audiences, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.

In a world where Nielsen says U.S. consumers spend nearly 12 hours daily across TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones, and tablets, the opportunity to engage the younger generations from different angles definitely exists.

Americans aged 18 to 34 watch a daily average of just under two hours of traditional TV and spend an additional hour per day using apps and the web. Consumers aged 12 to 17 watch about an hour and a half of TV daily. Craving personalized, non-digital experiences, younger generations spend about 9.7 minutes reading mail daily (versus about 8 minutes for both Gen X baby boomers).

These numbers translate into real opportunities for marketers that take the time to segment their audiences versus just lumping them into different generational groups. Where you still need a presence on mass platforms like TikTok and Instagram, for example, the messaging itself must be customized, targeted, and experiential.

Not Just Another Number
Marketers who overlook traditional platforms just because they assume Gen Z or Gen Y can only be reached on pure digital platforms are setting themselves up for failure. That’s because both generations are obviously still digesting video content, movies, and TV series via cable, a connected TV device, or on a platform like YouTube.

Target your audience properly, customize it for that consumer group, sell that group an experience (not the product itself), and you’ll come out a winner.

Regardless of which platforms you’re using, remember that Gen Z and Gen Y aren’t cohesive, homogeneous groups. As you use geotargeting and other strategies to segment your audience, be sure to personalize your messages in a way that makes your customer feel like a VIP — and not just another number.

Podcast: A People-First Agency Transformation Strategy

Transforming your agency from a long format agency to one focused on data analytics is a long, involved process.

It takes about 15 years, to be exact.

In this episode, I interview Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne, a national agency based in Los Angeles.

What we talked about:

– Your employees are your customers, too

– Why agency transformation takes 15 years

– Challenges to transformation

– How to be strategic when implementing change