Category: Advertising San Francisco
March 15th, 2018

Get your marketing priorities straight

Pisa’s famous tower started leaning only five years after construction began in 1173. Erected on unstable soil with a foundation too shallow to support the structure’s weight, the building quickly started to shift. After 800 years of renovation the problem has been fixed and the tower finally stopped listing any further.

Before setting out to make marketing history, it’s always a good idea to survey the decisions you are making about your business foundation. Take care to verify you are standing on solid ground, and you’ll avoid unexpected A-ha Moments.

Looking to build concrete confidence in your marketing efforts? Drop us an email at: heythere@mortaragency.com and we’ll angle you in the right direction.

February 26th, 2018

Marketers who take a stand: what’s the downside of declaring a clear point of view?

Days after another school shooting, the Daily Caller attacks U.C. Hastings for raising universal questions of justice and the need for strengthened gun control laws.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law’s “For Justice” advertising campaign took center stage last week in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The conservative Daily Caller claimed Hastings is violating its charter by asking “political” questions in its advertising. 

Looking for a moment beyond the incredibly insensitive timing of the article—published within days of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we question the Daily Caller’s central premise – that questions about “justice” are an unacceptable topic to raise…at a law school.

Amber Athey’s article “California Law School Promotes Pro-Abortion Messages” offers this critique:

The University of California, Hastings College of the Law is promoting left-wing political messages in a year-long campaign that may violate its own policies as a state institution… The law school’s campaign, which began in July of 2017 and is titled “This Is Why We Work For Justice… address[es] that core principle of ‘doing justice’ with questions generated through conversations with our students, faculty, staff & alumni.”

For one portion of the campaign, UC Hastings posted blatantly political statements about abortion, gun rights, immigration and taxes on street poles throughout the city of San Francisco. One such banner claims, “A uterus is more heavily regulated than an assault rifle”

Athey goes on to quote Joseph Shashaty, the student president of Hastings Republicans as:

“Advertising clearly partisan views tells conservatives that Hastings only welcomes those views,” Shashaty explained. “Why else would they commit to paying for those advertisements if counter viewpoints were embraced?” “The so-called ‘For Justice’ campaign sent a clear message: UC Hastings is more interested in controlling the narrative than encouraging dialogue on campus,” he said. “These advertisements are 100% political. They are not based in fact, but they were produced to induce a political reaction.”

From a communications perspective, the Daily Caller’s article does raise an interesting question: When are the merits of a controversial point of view worth a potential backlash?

At Mortar we never stop urging marketers to make smart decisions about their product, and to focus their communications on the “A-ha Moment” their decision provokes.

So, we thought you might be interested in our decision-making process in this particular case.

 

Hastings is in a tough neighborhood when it comes to competition. U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall to the east, Stanford Law to the south. We weren’t going to coast on our reputation, or outspend either of those Goliaths. So, we studied our client. We worked to understand what, specifically, was different about a Hastings degree. What it was about Hastings that set them apart. What we found was this: Hastings is the oldest law school in the University of California system, with a history of working for justice that goes back 140 years. Most recently it was Hastings lawyers who rushed to SFO to help immigrants navigate the White House’s 2017 travel ban. Hastings grads have always been first on the scene – literally standing up for justice.

If ever there were an A-ha Moment, that’s one.

A program that is forthright in its mission of educating others so they can go on to tackle the most contentious issues of our time attracts a special kind of student. Students who are more likely to be motivated by a social conscience and perhaps just a little less interested in a huge paycheck. Such students will lean towards public practice and the bench—an area of strength for Hastings graduates.

Now that’s not to say Hastings does not graduate attorneys with interests elsewhere. Or indeed, that Hastings is not interested in alternative views or those with challenging opinions. On the contrary, Hastings would be one of the first to declare its interest in students of all viewpoints.

Neither does it imply that students’ views might not change after graduation.

But it does carve out a strong point of view for Hastings the educator: because Hastings is more than just a place to get a law degree. Hastings is bold about its educational mission. And Hastings is not shy about inviting controversy and passion into the classroom.

And that’s an idea worth raising a little hell about. That kind of shoe-leather-on-the-streets approach to justice is an idea worth talking about—in bold, possibly controversial terms.

Did we think it would please everyone? Of course not. Is it proving to be worth it? Absolutely.

Hastings’ tiny, no-budget campaign — executed on their website and supported by a relatively small number of street banners with limited distribution in the city of San Francisco — has generated a massive amount of attention. Posts about the campaign on various social media outlets have generated engagement from nearly 40,000 individuals.

Now, we could easily stop there. We could say “We got our client attention, our work is done,” and pat ourselves on the back. After all, we’re marketers, not policy-makers. But we think the Daily Caller misses the mark philosophically as well as factually.

The campaign does not violate the University’s charter.

It does not misrepresent the truth.

And it is in no way inappropriate for a law school to advertise the fact that it fights for justice – particularly when that law school’s 100+ year-old motto is “Fiat Justitia”  – “Let Justice Be Done.”

Some students see “For Justice” and feel connected to an institution that is sympathetic to their desire to change society. Others will be passionate about a particular issue (we heard a lot about women rights from the Hastings’ students we interviewed).

Some are drawn to the possibility of active, passionate debate and a classroom experience that is invigorating and insightful—mimicking the experience of pleading your case in court.

And yes, some are turned off by a tone that might be seen to imply there is a lot wrong about how we sell guns, treat the unborn, what we do with immigrants, or care for our environment. The campaign forces viewers to face uncomfortable truths, and implies that Hastings may force them to defend their views in front of uncomfortable people.

Isn’t that what law school is for?

Our point is this: A-Ha Moments are not without risk.

This one made us all take a deep breath. But in the end, we knew we’d brought the right kind of attention to a client with zero budget and massive competition. We did it honestly. And we did it by bringing our client’s true strengths to the fore. Did the work please everyone? Obviously not. Is that scary? Definitely. Was it worth it? Absolutely. We’re grateful for a client willing to take risks. For an opportunity to stand up for the idea of justice. And for the chance to prove that great ideas don’t need a huge budget to have a huge impact. That’s what A-Ha Moments can do.

See the entire campaign here.

The views expressed here are my own (Mark Williams, the CEO and Founder of Mortar). They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.C. Hastings or the Mortar team.

January 10th, 2018

2017 was the year of Aha Moments at Mortar: Five things we learned

We started 2017 by promising we would deliver on a new idea: that marketing thrives when it is focused on creating emotional impact. And that point of focus crystallizes in our intended prospects’ reaction. Aha Moments would be our new area of specialty. (More on that decision here).

To maximize focus we have to make a decision to be different

These two elements: the decision to be different (the Strategic Marketing Decision) combined with the resulting, emotional reaction, the Aha Moment, are the twin pillars of Mortar’s approach to Marketing. They come together best in this definition:

An Aha Moment is the desired reaction to a decision to be different.

Let’s break that down:A-ha's are an expression of insight or discovery

We say “Aha!” when we encounter something new, surprising, or as Collin’s Dictionary says, “an instant at which the solution to a problem becomes clear.” Webster’s puts it this way, “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension … The aha moment you experience when you’ve been trying to remember the name of a song and three hours later it hits you.” When we say “Aha Moment” we are seeking a positive reaction to our message.

A-ha moments are a reaction to a decision to be different.

Decision-making can be tough, especially among marketers. But without clearly identifying some unique area of differentiation marketers fail to lay claim to something people can prefer, an idea customers can choose, remember or tell their friends about. The quickest way to leverage any position is to claim novelty—and put everything you can behind communicating the benefits of choosing an option that is quite unlike everything else. 

a-a moments can be tested (and yes, that is Paula).

Deciding to be different is a testable proposition. So too is the Aha. It is not too much to ask that prospects use the words we expect and indicate the Aha we promise is motivating and clear. (Testing need not break the bank or slow the process unduly. On several occasions in 2017 we found quick, 45-minute one-on-one phone calls with a small group of prospects (four to six) to be a cost effective and relatively painless method of gauging impact).

a-ha moments are many, but they should all liberate and inspire

Crafting any communication requires a solid grasp of the product or service, the target, the opportunity and a myriad of other factors. By selecting an Aha Moment we seek to inspire our teams to be more creative—and explore the possibilities of delivering a focused message. Boring or mundane Aha’s don’t cut it. Neither do Aha’s that rely too heavily on logic or sound like a line from a press release. Strong Aha’s sound authentic and spark response. In many ways the Aha Moment is similar to the the notion of a Big Idea or Unique Selling Point, but with two major differences: 1. Aha Moments often travel in groups—there can be many. One person’s moment of clarity can be another’s ho-hum moment. 2. Aha’s can only be expressed in words the target might actually say. People only say, “Wow, because my network infrastructure is now fluid and adaptable, I can drive home strategic value and orient my stack to open protocols” in our minds. What they actually say is more along the lines of: “F**k me, flexibility like this rocks.” The Aha discipline reminds us to focus on genuine expressions of discovery. (BTW, we have written elsewhere on how a juicy swear word can enhance the impact of a well-chosen Aha.)

aha moments are personal and heartfelt

At the core of our approach is a questioning of Big Idea thinking and the requirement that what we are selling is merely a new way to think about an issue. Aha Moments are experienced by prospects encountering products or services for the first time, or looking at an existing product in a new way. Aha is what prospects say when confronted with our message. By attempting to shape the intended reaction, we leapfrog the necessity of providing logical reasons to believe to attack the amygdala—the part of the brain devoted to emotion and arousal—head on. Because if we don’t, our marketing will fall short of its intended purpose: to move people along the funnel to buy, recommend or just like. 

In any creative solution, smart, reasoned decision-making and the promise of discovering something new go hand-in-hand. To divorce one from the other is to miss an opportunity to deliver marketing that makes a lasting impact.

December 2nd, 2017

Mortar gets (this) close to GOT

Look what Ogilvy did with the work we did on Cisco’s new network launch: which they christened as The Network. Intuitive.

November 2nd, 2017

New Varian Brand Campaign

Oh, and this happened in 2017… we helped launch the new Varian brand campaign on the Internets.. (see the landing page here).