Category: Collaboration Methods
January 4th, 2018

Why you f**king need emotion in your Aha moment.

Even Oprah enjoys a good A-ha moment.

Looking to make a great new year’s resolution? Here’s one we can all get our heads around: promise yourself you will spend more time contemplating your customers’ Aha moment.

That moment your prospects see the power of your idea.

Focus your marketing on that instant and you will not go far wrong.

You see the great irony of marketing and advertising in 2017 was how hard it is to answer that fundamental question: what is your Aha moment? What is it about what you do that makes people gasp with surprise. To giggle. To nudge a neighbor and share. To say to themselves: wow, I never realized I could to that.

Look, too much money and time is spent elsewhere in the marketing development funnel.

Consider how much energy it takes to align your team with the desires of your executive staff. To figure out what you are selling and when it will be ready. And then get your partners to deliver communications that drive those ideas home.

No wonder we spend so little time testing ideas in the wild with live actual prospects.

At Mortar, we are not immune to the mistake of driving ideas forward without customer feedback.

There was a time, not so long ago, when we attempted to market a new water-generating technology without ever tasing a single drop of the water our clients’ machine produced.

One small focus group corrected that problem.

We soon found ourselves back at the drawing board, our ears ringing from “the water tastes like ass doesn’t it?” rebuke. In that case a modicum of customer testing early in the process would have saved thousands and months of hard work.

But this post isn’t just about the importance of identifying the Aha moment.

I’d like to share a favorite marketing hack. Turns out that a well placed expletive can really help nail  the A-ha moment. 

One of the BIG surprises for Mortar in 2017 was the discovery that swearing can actually improve the process of briefing creative teams.

Turns out that “amazing storage” leaves one wanting. But that “f**king awesome storage” gets giggles. Elicits reaction. Reveals emotions. 

Adding a simple, primitive swear word to your brief sparks creativity

In 2017 we told the creative team a home security device could stop creeps f**king spying on their kids.

That a part-time business degree was exactly the f**king same as the full-time equivalent. And that people really needed to f**king know that.

That people wanted to f**king hear what their families were f**king saying (advanced hearing aids).

And that the network was really f**king important. (That realization was shared by four different customers in 2017).

F**king robots will not take our f**king jobs (hmm, still not sure about that–but we told them that anyway).

Running your business with more online meetings can be vastly f**king better than relying on face-to-face.

And that f**king software was fucking hard. And more to the point, that making compromises really f**king sucked.

Try it. In 2018, resolve to put a nice big juicy swear word into your Aha moment.

It’s the quickest way to make sure there is an emotional trigger in your brief.

April 30th, 2017

The new face of RingCentral: Call-een (geddit?)

Mortar helped RingCentral showcase a new look for collaboration and demonstrated the power of everything coming together.

“A-ha Moment: “A-ha! It all this work stuff works together now. Even on my phone.”

April 4th, 2017

This is a completely appropriate response.

 

Look. We know you get a ton of emails telling you to Download The Free White Paper That Will Boost Your Business, Slim Your Waistline or Enlarge Your Junk. Don’t flush this one. This is the one that will lead you to The Big Book of Thinking Small—the express train to discovering your A-ha Moment. The thing that makes you, you. The Big Book of Thinking Small not only gives you insight into finding your A-ha Moment, it will help you learn to share your amazingness with the world.

Go ahead. Pull the trigger. Do it.

July 30th, 2016

A Manifesto for the Mortar community: let’s change the way we think of customers.

Isn’t it time we stopped thinking about people as consumers, customers, clients or, heaven forbid, a target audience.

And started thinking about them as a community.

A group of like-minded souls with the power to engage with your organization, your products and with each other?

By helping our clients tap community, we’ve helped create over $14 billion in market value.

From software to security; self-improvement to longevity; destinations and experiences; Mortar has focused on tapping the power and potential of our client’s and their communities.

Think about it. If we are aiming our messages at a community we need to think of our audience in that way. As people who talk to one another. About us.

And we are all talking to communities. Sure, each of us is interested in a different sub-set of humanity.

Whether we divvy up our customers by job title, culture, affinity, identity, location or some other factual or emotional profile, our customers are best thought of as a group.  Community members chatter with one another about what they see and experience in text, Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter, Tumbler and at the coffee shop.

Which means that we marketers should think of ourselves as community managers and leaders. As Mayors. Senators. Congressmen. PTA stewards. Chefs. Generals. Mothers. Fathers. Leaders. Educators.

If we miss this essential step we fail to understand who we are talking to and, it follows, what really matters to them. Which is why so much of what marketers say—either directly or through their agents—falls flat and fails to inspire.

Communities are shaped by common beliefs, a level of affinity and similarity. Every community has a special kind of connective bond. The links we share, the invisible dark matter that cements one human to another, is the raw material of great marketing.

Mortar is an advertising agency. Yes, an advertising agency. We don’t apologize for being what we are. And neither do we let it keep us up at night. Our job is to persuade, cajole, brighten or otherwise compel communities to buy what our clients are selling.

What sets us truly apart is in our name: Mortar. We are all about the glue that binds groups to action, thought to outcome, products to change.

We believe every single marketing assignment needs to start with deciding what unites the community we care about. Then we can make Strategic Marketing Decisions about how we will approach the group: what has the capacity to drive them wild with desire.

We enshrine this strategic decision in writing. And we match it with a sudden gasp of surprise—a A-ha moment. You will understand it as the moment a promise connects with an individual and fuels a conversation.

These three elements: a belief that connective tissue is the key to understanding today’s customer, that a decision must be made about which way to go, and that everything needs to ladder up to a single a-ha moment, differentiate our work.

None of it makes sense without a solid, unyielding, firm grasp of what unites—and separates.

July 30th, 2016

Decisions, decisions. What Marketers can learn from Pokemon Go, Katie Couric, and the bacon-cheese log of vacations.

mortar_ahamoment

Since 2002 Mortar has been a big idea agency. But no more. We have decided to change.

Read on for why you might want to join us.

Until this year we believed the essential elements of a project should be condensed onto a single page. Each of the briefs we developed were organized around a bold and inspiring big idea.

The big idea was Mortar’s launching pad for iteration and creative thinking.  (Read more here).

In 2016, we replaced the big idea with two steps: a strategic marketing decision (SMD) and an A-ha moment. This article deals with the SMD, I’ll publish on the A-ha soon.

Instead of arguing to a big idea we make a big decision about how to market. To decide what we will do differently this time. To articulate how the message should change because the way we see the world—and the client’s customer community—has also shifted.

Introducing Strategic Marketing Decisions

We call them strategic marketing decisions (SMD). Making one can be a lot harder than it sounds.

For example, let’s take the problem that plagues Yahoo: is the massive internet property a media or a software company?

If it is a media company, then content production and delivery should be its priority. Hiring Katie Couric, buying Tumblr, paying big money to stream the NFL, these are all moves in the right direction. And they contribute to Yahoo’s unique value.

But what about engineering new forms of engagement?

Take say, Pokemon Go’s innovative use of augmented reality (AR). Pokemon Go is a game. It is an app. But it is also an engineering marvel. By smart use of AR, geolocation, and a sprinkling of inspired game theory, Go’s engineering team created a new form of participatory entertainment.

You just don’t get that type of engineering from a media company, you have to be all in on being a software company.

To walk through one door is to decide not to walk through another. In marketing it is never wise to be all things to all people. Effective marketing requires focus. Focus requires choices and decisions. Many argue that Yahoo failed to prosper because it failed to decide one way or another: and the lack of clarity sapped the company of vital energy, spurring multiple failed investments and inexplicable changes in direction.

What makes a decision a Strategic Marketing Decision?

The BBC defines strategic decisions as “long term, complex decisions made by senior management. These decisions will affect the entire direction of the firm”.

At Mortar, Strategic Marketing Decisions, are decisions that impact the direction of, well, marketing.  But they need not be long-term. Just clear and wide-ranging. Like deciding to act like a leader. Or to line up behind a new vision. Or to take a position quite unlike a rival. SMDs are decisions, about marketing, that have important implications.

Writing for the Harvard Business Review Phil Rosenzweig in “What makes strategic decisions different?” describes the basic types of decision. Here’s how they apply to the SMD:

strategic marekting decision

1. Choice

Making a choice can be a strategic move. Many an organization is plagued by its inability to choose—and thus find its focus. Just by clarifying the need for a decision we can often find a new way forward.

Take Vancouver-based Westport Innovations as a example. When Westport came to Mortar they described themselves as “a Canadian IP company”. We very nearly hung up. But after visiting them we realized Westport was, more than anything else, a natural gas engine company. Oh sure they did a host of other things—like make small engine parts and work with other forms of fuel like Hydrogen—but the heart of engine maker thumped at Westport’s core. By making the strategic marketing choice to focus messaging around natural gas engines they could turbocharge the way they talked about themselves and their mission.

2. Inspirational Vision.

“In so much of life, we use our energy and talents to make things happen. Imagine that the task at hand is to determine how long we will need to complete a project. That’s a judgment we can control; indeed, it’s up to us to get the project done. Here, positive thinking matters. By believing we can do well, perhaps even holding a level of confidence that is by some definitions a bit excessive, we can often improve performance.” (Rosenzweig).

In marketing, a decision to make something happen can also be strategic.

By suggesting that a trip to the city of Reno is actually a visit to the Reno/Tahoe area, we remind travelers to the big blue lake that the joys of the bacon-wrapped cheese log of vacations is just minutes away. An example of positive thinking influencing outcomes if ever there was one.

Planting a flag on the hill as a symbol for all to follow can be an inspiring move, and work to spur creativity.

3. Betting.

“The best decisions must anticipate the moves of rivals. That’s the essence of strategic thinking, which [we can] define as “the art of outdoing an adversary, knowing that the adversary is trying to do the same to you.” (Rosenzweig).

Deciding which way the game will go can also be a candidate for a strategic decision about marketing.

A lot of what we decide is based on what we think a rival will do. Strategic decisions based on reading a rival’s tea leaves are wonderful raw material for marketing.

In marketing, deciding to decide can make the difference between success and failure. Watch for my next post: the A-ha moment that follows from the SMD.