Category: San Francisco Ad Agencies
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.

January 17th, 2017

A-ha Moments: What They Are and Why They Matter Now. Our New Website is Here.

Advertising Agency offers A-ha

Careful Mortar watchers (that’d be both of you, so listen up) will have caught the stealthy launch of the new Mortar website on the very last day of 2016.

Now I realize this will come as a shock to the rest of you, but THERE IS A NEW MORTAR WEBSITE! THE BACON IS GONE.

We’ve replaced the pile of pork with a simple insight: most of the time small ideas beat big. And marketers still don’t spend enough time aiming at the emotional impact they want to have on their customers.

Now why would this be?

  1. We forget our job is to amaze and delight. There’s a lot to say about our companies, our products, our vision, and our contribution to the planet. So much that we forget we actually want people to buy our thing. And for that to happen we must first get their attention. The simple pressure of communicating what’s important to us overwhelms our need to prick the needle of delight.
  2. People don’t actually buy ideas until late in the funnel. At first they buy delight. Joy. Fun. Awesome. A client of ours spent hundreds of thousands and months researching why people came to her organization only to find that her customers were looking for fun. Fun? Not an educational experience? Or a new perspective? Or to be a better citizen. Just a plain old great way to kill a few hours and giggle. You see, great marketing promises a result. If you haven’t defined how you want people to react when they hear of you then you are not ready to go to market. (Doubt me? Dig out a recent agency brief and scour it for something resembling the A-ha Moment you want your customers to experience).
  3. Small is easier and simpler than Big. Big is bold. Big is dramatic. Big costs money and time. Big requires hard thinking, consensus, commitment and a willingness to change. Big is thus hard. For most, Big is simply too hard. Small? Small is easy to find. Easy to execute. Easy to change. Easy to replicate. Easy to test and adjust. And Small is not hard on a CEO who changes his mind, like, well, every week. (Which BTW is most of us now.) Nevertheless the right small idea can have immense power (hello Uber, who spun a small app into a revolution in global transportation).

For many of us, the future is about finding and exploiting A-ha Moments. We’ve gathered some of our best A-ha Moments on our new site. Take a look and see if you might benefit from thinking smaller in 2017.

September 22nd, 2015

All the awkwardness of a first date, three times as much booze.

Some geniuses at Ad 2 Denver and Denver Egotist thought it would be funny to put a handful of agencies in a room together, give them beer, and see what happens.

Apparently it’s become something of a hit.

Since comfort zones are places we frequently depart, come get awkward with us as we mill about chatting politely about the weather…. until the third keg.



Kegs With Legs @ Mortar
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Mortar – 2 Bryant St #210 San Francisco, CA 94105
Register here

November 3rd, 2014

Mortar + Tyra Banks: What Happens When Two Badasses Collide.

Tyra Banks is a whole lot more than just the creator of the Smize. She’s the world’s most influential supermodel and super-businesswoman. And when it comes to social media, Tyra is the boss. From fierce-faced selfies to clever quips, Tyra shares with her fans nonstop, and they love every second of it. If you need proof, just scan the daily comments from her 31 million plus followers.

Mortar recently partnered with the superwoman to bring her new cosmetics brand, TYRA beauty, to life. Because one of her core messages is to give people the power to be the CEO of their lives, Tyra developed her business as a direct selling model where the products are sold by independent contractors that she calls ‘Beautytainers.’ And when it came to brand personality, ordinary wouldn’t cut it: she wanted to zag where the beauty industry would zig. If there’s one thing to know about Mortar, it’s that we love to turn ideas on their heads—which made us and Tyra the perfect partners in crime.

Our task was to turn this layered narrative into a cohesive strategy that would captivate the world. Challenge accepted. Turning complex messages into a compelling story is, like, totes our thing. We began by developing a brand mantra that would serve as the TYRA beauty rallying cry:

Beauty. Business. Badassery.

We knew the TYRA beauty brand needed to be as loud and fierce as Tyra herself. And “badassery” was a word that Tyra could truly own—it gave her the power to carve out and own a space in the crowded world of cosmetics. From there, we crafted a crisp positioning statement and a smart, confident tone of voice that would inform every facet of the TYRA beauty brand.

Our work for Tyra sparked a social media shockwave: 292,165 likes, 15,040 comments, and 3,831 shares, for total engagement of 843,164. It even got the attention of major celebs: Alicia Keys, Russell Simmons, Ivanka Trump, and Karlie Kloss, just to name a few. (Yo, Russ, let us know where we should send our hip hop demo tape. We’re basically the next Jay-Z.)

And not surprisingly, we got plenty o’ love from TyTy herself.

Tyra came to us looking for badass, and we brought it. Though we’re still looking to her to help us finesse our booty tooch.

May 13th, 2013

A Whiff of Something Strong.

Have you seen those giant baby fists towering over Highway 101? Who did those billboards, you ask? And where did they find a baby the size of Bigfoot?

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