Category: Web/Tech
May 12th, 2014

The Never-Ending Importance of Strategy, Now Applied to Cleantech.

The clean technology industry is worth $170 billion and counting. But spend that money the wrong way, and it all goes down the low-flow drain. When Mortar started working with Westport, they told us they were a Canadian IP company, citing Dolby as an analogy. In the same way Dolby develops technologies for speaker systems, they said, Westport built the technology behind natural-gas-powered trucks.


But when we took a tour of their Vancouver facilities, we saw this.

That’s a natural gas engine designed for a long-haul truck. Oh, and it’s about the size of a smart car. Imagine this bad boy dangling from a factory ceiling on a thick metal chain, connected by giant wires to giant computers, whirring and humming as engineers test its power and agility. It was like the truck equivalent of a disembodied brain-in-a-jar, hooked up to a life support system.


Eets aliiiiive!!


Westport sure didn’t look like an IP company to us. From our initial observations, it seemed like they needed to focus less on their technology, and more on the human impact their technology drives. It’s a common situation we find our tech clients in, ingredient brands in particular – and cleantech is no different.

And so the Mortar360 process began. Our conversations with customers, partners, prospects, and industry analysts confirmed our suspicions. The same way that Intel was a computer processor company, Westport was absolutely an engine company. And these were no ordinary engines. They were more efficient (read: cheaper), better for the planet, and powered by domestic-fuel – which happened to be exactly what Westport’s early adopter audience was looking for.

Our research also revealed an important market perception. In 2013, Westport’s natural gas engines were already being used in long haul trucks. Yet most of the world was still talking about industrial natural gas vehicles as “the next big thing.” Why? Well, when your friend starts wearing mesh shirts to work, that’s an obvious change. When trucks start running on new engines? Much harder to see. And having an unclear brand message certainly doesn’t help.

Guided by these insights, we crafted a positioning that celebrated the powerful advantages of Westport engines and declared natural gas a thing of the present. The tagline, “Here and Now,” said it all. Add a custom photo shoot, and a stunning brand book and print campaign were born.





And some snazzy print ads, too.




The white balloons are a quiet nod to clean fuel. They represent purity, clarity, and the wonder of discovery. They represent possibilities and potential. They signify how Westport is changing transportation in cities and industries everywhere, helping make the world a cleaner place. We also brought those ideals to life in a brand video that’s been used at events, trade shows, and online.


Visit our case study page to see the brand identity, website, and manifesto ad we also created. We enjoyed helping Westport find its place in the clean transportation world. And now we’re doing the same for CALSTART, a nonprofit that knocks down the political and financial barriers standing in the way of clean transportation. That’s all we can divulge about our adventures in cleantech for now. ‘Til next time.

April 17th, 2014

“C.” It’s Not Just for Cookie Anymore.

It’s conference season, and Mortar is all. Up. In it. Coupa, our new favorite client, is currently hosting their Inspire conference at the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco. Why are they our new favorite client? Because they let us play with syringes, frozen rats, and whisky all day long. We were even discussing nipple pipes with them at one point.

























Technically, Coupa is a B2B procurement software platform. We prefer to think of them as software for corporate shopping. It’s like Amazon for businesses. When employees need to buy massive amounts of any item, Coupa’s software makes it simpler, faster, and easier to track. (Guess you can’t get away with expensing iPhone 5’s for your friends anymore. Damn.) Coupa’s philosophy is simple: If you design software that the end user wants to use, they’ll use it. And a high adoption rate translates to massive – we’re talking billions with a capital B – company savings.

And when we say any item, we mean it. Name something, and you can probably buy it on Coupa. Rocket engine parts. Boneless Boston butt. Adult film editing services. (No joke.) Which is why, in developing a theme for their conference, we couldn’t restrict ourselves to just a handful of words. We had to go A to Z. May we present: the New Language of Success.











December 2nd, 2013

Aliens! Ninjas! Pterodactyls! GGU?

Don’t you hate it when you start something, but everything gets in the way of you finishing it? Like when you’re one bite into a mind-blowing panini, and someone yanks you into a meeting about timesheets. Or when you’re trying to write a blogpost, and people keep sending you amazing internetz finds like this. Or this.

Or when you’re on your way to a bachelor’s degree. You commit yourself to earning that all-important piece of paper with Latin scribbles on it. But sometimes, unexpected things derail your quest. There’s no need to get into the details of those things, in the same way we won’t discuss what kept you from attending Sally Jenkins’ slumber party in first grade. All we know is, stuff gets in the way.

Since 2002, Mortar has handled the advertising work for Golden Gate University, a school primarily known for its graduate programs. But this summer, GGU wanted to promote its undergraduate program, which deals with a much more specific audience. These are people who have been out of the college game so long they’ve forgotten how insipid college food can be, not to mention what the word “insipid” means. They’re also blasted with continuing education ads left and right – none of which have been effective. Continue reading

October 25th, 2013

Another Website, Another Excuse to Look at Chest Models.

If someone asked you to wear a heavy, clunky necklace attached to wires that connect to electrodes all over your chest, we doubt your answer would be “Sure!” Same goes for every heart patient whose doctor prescribes them a Holter monitor. The device looks like something out of a bad sci-fi movie. It’s no shocker it was invented in 1949.

Problem is, too many medical devices are designed purely from a physician or engineer’s point of view, which blindly brushes aside the most important audience of all: the patient. Like any sensible group of human beings, Corventis had an inkling there was a smarter way to monitor heart conditions besides a big bulky mess of wires. Continue reading

August 29th, 2013

Measuring the Man in Manvertising.

Have y’all seen these recent ads for Sauza? Hmm. Hunky guy with muscles narrating against a kitschy backdrop. Wait, I’ve seen this before! It’s gotta be good, right?

Sauza Tequila, “The Refreshing Lifeguard” (2013) – 670,000 views

Hey! That wasn’t the least bit entertaining. Thanks for making my minute of procrastination totally not worth it.

Sorry – we’re making a point. Ever since W+K’s Old Spice campaign broke the YouTubes with 46 million views, it seems like everyone in the hemisphere has tried to replicate its success. Of course, male ad icons are nothing new, having been a marketing staple since the days of the Marlboro Man and the Brawny lumberjack. (Btw, have you seen Brawny boy’s 21st century makeover? Eesh. Someone should let him know mustaches are in again.)

Continue reading