Category: Mortar’s Work
March 5th, 2017

Dojo: The Mark of a Smart Home

With the smart home market exploding, it was time for Dojo to leave it’s mark as the ONLY device that could protect all of your smart devices.  Leveraging our strategic decision – Dojo was a need, not a want and our A-ha moment “I don’t want my wi-fi devices to put me at risk”, we developed a new brand identity for Dojo. 

We started with this: an existing product logo (Dojo) and the parent company mark (the Bulldog):

With BullGuard’s acquisition of Dojo Labs in 2016, two very different companies and consequently, two very different brand identities were merged together. Both elements became part of the consideration set when developing the new identity for Dojo.

Dojo’s product design also brought a unique opportunity into the equation. Dojo was unlike any other Smart Home Security device, combining functionality with artistic decor.

Mortar leveraged the unique design of the Dojo pebble and brought the two brands together in the new logo. Color pallets, fonts and photography followed.

Dojo made their debut in Best Buy and Amazon in 2016. In fact you can  buy one here.

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.

July 12th, 2016

Hello VMware. Welcome to our community.

What follows is an open invitation to the good people of VMware to change the way they market, from their new advertising agency partner, San Francisco-based Mortar.

After two years of intensive work with the Corporate Marketing and Communications team, we’re convinced the key to helping VMware stand out is to add a lot more community.

If you want to skip ahead, click here to see our website and some recent VMware work here and here.

So, why is community important to VMware?

Let’s start with what keeps VMware marketers up at night: You can no longer be defined as just an infrastructure company. Or the pioneers of virtualization. You play a big role in mobile. You have a lot to offer the end user. And you are essential if customers are to cavort across the gap between on-prem and cloud.

But all that is technospeak. It’s geek talking to geek. VMware is much more than a company of nerds. VMware provides essential fabric for global enterprise – and thus touches millions, even billions of lives. People. Society. Teachers. Kids. Farmers. Non-engineers. Astronauts. Cows. We help them all.

We think it’s about time the company acknowledged that you are helping our software-obsessed planet became a kinder, gentler, creative and yes, more efficient version of ourselves.

We CAN say bigger things to humanity. Which is important as we seek to drive beyond IT and into the C suite and on to connect with the teams building and publishing apps.

How can VMware use community to connect with its audience on an emotional level?

We have heard it said that VMware does not actually touch end customers, what with your vast network of partners. Trust us. You do. And you need to start telling those stories. 

Anyone visiting VMworld can’t help but take away the stirring sense of fervent community in your backpack-sporting brethren.

Engineers are amazingly creative and innovative. But for some reason many abhor marketing—and this unseen force can suppress creativity and the ability to market with power.

We’re on a mission to let loose your creativity and your community, while keeping you connected to your core.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve had some success extracting your human side.

Our work on What will you leave ahead? * revealed an enormous opportunity to talk about the impact of VMware on kids in Africa, dairies in India and schools on the Amazon river. “What will you leave ahead?” also fed the desire of VMware’s marketing team to illuminate your customers’ work and tell more human stories—clearly we are not the only ones thinking this element of VMware is a neglected area of marketing opportunity.

And Pat made big use of our “Innovate like a Start-up, Deliver like an Enterprise” theme in his VMworld 2015 keynote.

Ok, so what does Mortar offer VMware?

We chose “mortar” as a name because it means glue. Building connections. Between people and organizations. 

Every line of code started with a person. The decision to install VMware and buy even more VMware? That too is a decision by people, influenced by the opinions, experiences and feelings of other people.

VMware has a massive global fan base. So let’s start thinking of your customers that way, and ask ourselves what we can do to heighten their anticipation? Incite action? And stoke the fires of fanaticism for the next gen of VMware?

Or we could just continue to address the market through a complex morass of acronyms and language that only makes sense inside-the-data center. But that doesn’t build community. There’s a place and time for all that, but it’s not the kind of marketing you’ll do with Mortar.

Give us a buzz if you want to have a collaborative conversation about communicating VMware as the head and heart of an amazingly innovative, ridiculously effective, and emotionally-connected global community. We are chomping at the bit to get into it with you right now. mark@mortaragency.com. www.mortaragency.com.

* Mortar developed the WWYLA theme. Other VMware partners  produced the work on Radius.
February 24th, 2016

An A-ha Moment in Storage: Simple is Smart

We’ve been having all sorts of discussions about simplicity recently. So we thought we’d briefly revisit our simplest campaign, which also happened to be one of our most successful.

Isilon’s Simple is Smart:

Mortar Isilon 3

Mortar Isilon 4

Mortar Isilon 5 Mortar Isilon 6Mortar Isilon 2

Mortar Isilon 7

Mortar Isilon 1

Simple right?