In the Office

Week In Marketing For Week Of August 14, 2017

With content marketing comes the curse of ‘too much knowledge.’ This article explains how often we, as writers, get caught up in the “trust me because…” logical  argument that we forget the “this will add value to you because…” emotional appeal. When you think, ‘What transformation does your product or service empower?’ or  ‘What does it allow the customer to become that she isn’t today?’  that is usually the type of question your product is answering for a consumer. After that emotional appeal is made, the logical one comes in to justify the purchase. This step is what allows content marketers to boost their appeal and content relevance. 

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Facebook Prioritizing Faster Loading Websites on its News Feed

Facebook is changing their algorithm, again. They recently announced that its newsfeed will now favor fast-loading sites. Slow-loading pages probably mean lower referral traffic numbers from the platform, but that remains to be seen. We are unsure of how significant the change will be, but for PR or marketing teams, it might be good to check on those load times.

Is Data-Driven Creative More than a Trend?

Smartphones and multitasking means ‘data driven’ creative is needed now more than ever to reach distracted consumers. Alan Schulman, managing director of brand creative and content marketing at Deloitte Digital, has talked about the insights data can provide creatives, allowing them to “validate campaign resonance before launch.” To do this, a fundamental change in the process of creative development, and in the way media and creative agencies collaborate, is required. It has become the essential foundation for influencing today’s distracted consumer.

Social Media Sweet Spot: When to Post and Why

Finding the sweet spot for when to post on social seems like a never ending stream of contradictory recommendations. A new study, a new ‘best-practice’, comes out and somehow you have to find the meaning between all of them. Well, no more. CoSchedule, a marketing calendar company, has collected and condensed multiple reports about the best times to post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ into one helpful infographic. The infographic also provides tips for each of the social media platforms, as well as tips on how to apply all the findings. Highlights include: B2B Twitter accounts perform 16% better during business hours, and B2C accounts perform 17% better on weekends and that posting on Facebook at 3 PM will get you the most clicks, but a 1 PM post will get you the most shares.

Concert FOMO? Snapchat is Fixing That

Snapchat just released a feature to help with FOMO and it is called Crowd Surf. It connects snapchats based on their audio and places them together to give a near-seamless look at a live event from multiple perspectives. The audio connection uses machine learning technology built in-house by Snap’s Research team. Lorde’s recent performance the prime examples floating around the internet. Users can also see perspectives of the same footage by clicking a button in the right corner of their screen. While users might not get the full perforce yet, they can see multiple perspectives from live events.


Week in Marketing for Week of July 9, 2017

Uber Earns Forgiveness from Millennials Despite Their Year of PR Mishaps

Convenience and affordability reign over ethical considerations when it comes to breaking down Millennials perception of brands. Uber, after a series of seemingly unforgivable PR mistakes, has been named the #1 Most Improved Brand according to YouGov BrandIndex. Are millennials too disconnected from their moral compasses for the sake of convenience?


Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Others Get Political in Light of #NetNeutrality

Whether a promoted hashtag or a banner above your Netflix show, it is likely that you have seen digital brands advocating for Net Neutrality. Companies that exist and have thrived thanks to free, unrestricted access to the Internet are ensuring that their voices are being heard.

How Much Unicorn is Too Much Unicorn?

The internet practically broke this Spring when Starbucks introduced their Unicorn Frappuccino. According to Google Trends, April 2017 marked the all-time high of Google searches for the mythical creature. Companies across the country latched on to America’s unicorn infatuation, plastering their stores, ads, and social media with new unicorn-themed products.

Facebook Starts Placing Ads in Messenger App

Facebook has exhausted all possible ad spots in their main application, so they have moved on to planting advertisements amongst user’s lists of conversations. Will users find this too invasive, or will they appreciate seeing relevant ads in a unique place?

B2B Marketers Should Be Taking Notes From Netflix and Disney

Netflix and Disney have proven successful over the years by focusing on a few important aspects of their work: do fewer things better, harp on familiarity not originality, extend the money-making ideas as long as possible. If marketers took these concepts and applied them to their campaigns, the ROI could be exponential.

Making A Worthwhile Presentation

Time to make an important presentation? Make sure it is effective.

Ideally after a presentation, the audience takes away some key points and feels it was worth their time.


The question is, what is the best way to accomplish this?

Following are tips to help you develop and deliver a successful presentation:

What is the goal of the presentation? Just like any piece of communication, be sure you know what you want to accomplish and focus your piece on achieving that goal(s).

Analyze your audience. Who are they? How much do they already know about the subject of your presentation? Know your audience so you can develop a presentation that is most appropriate for them.

Don’t overwhelm your audience with a hefty amount of facts and statistics, industry jargon or long sentences. Make your presentation straightforward and to the point. Simple is better. This will help keep your audience engaged.

Key Points.
Narrow your presentation down to no more than three main points and keep your presentation focused on those points. Introduce the points in the beginning, support your points in the presentation, reiterate your points at your closing.

Talk, Don’t Read.
Don’t read your slides. This is a presentation, not a written document. Develop slides that represent what you want to say. Then stress each slide’s main points during the presentation.

Watching slide after slide of words/sentences can be boring. Keep your presentation interesting with pictures, animations, charts and/or graphs. Words and visuals a slide, or a visual that speaks for itself is a great way to get your point across. Perhaps use props – real-life objects to emphasize and illustrate your point.

Be conversational, confident and interesting. Give your audience a reason to listen to you. Share stories and/or real-life examples to allow your audience to make a connection and become more engaged in the presentation.

Work the room/stage. Walk around. Look people in the eye. Use your hands. Get out from behind the lectern to bring vibrancy to your presentation.

Get your audience engaged. Ask questions. Call on certain individuals. Use examples that the audience can relate to in one way or another. Grab an audience member to participate in a demonstration.

Even the most seasoned speakers rehearse before every presentation. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Practice your presentation in front of co-workers or friends. Videotape your presentation, and review it with or without someone else who will critique it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take a course in public speaking. Hire a vocal coach or presentation trainer. Work with someone who can help put your slides together, and help develop key touch points for each slide.

And, don’t forget to breathe.

High School for Advertising, Going Viral 101, iPhone Turns 10, Fighting Sexism in Ads, and LGBTQ Support from Brands

This New York High School Prepares Students for Careers in the Advertising and Media Industry

The High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media equips its students with the tools they need to pursue a career in advertising, marketing, or some other facet of the creative world through specialized classes, in addition to their core subjects. Not only is their graduation rate higher than NYC public school’s average, but these students have an opportunity to explore a career path that they typically would not be exposed to. The industry gains creative young minds, and these students find a passion for the creative: everybody wins.


Going Viral 101: Try, and Try Again

There’s no way to guarantee that content will end up going viral, but by upping the amount of content you put out there in a small amount of time, the odds are much stronger. Tim Ferriss gives the advice of conducting short-term experiments, rather than long term projects; they are low-risk and foster innovative creativity. This advice calls for a re-directing of attention…what short-term experiment would you conduct first?

Ten Years Ago We Met the iPhone, and Marketing Changed Forever

The introduction of the iPhone, and eventually the Smartphone revolution, changed the game for marketers everywhere. Advertisements shifted into mobile platforms, allowing marketers to be more innovative, creative, and target audiences like never before. “Mobile-first” marketing has not only become popular, but necessary—thanks to the iPhone.

Fighting Sexism One Ad at a Time

After research by Unilever revealed that barely 3% of advertisements featured women in a leadership role, big name brands are making a point to implement an initiative called Unstereotype. Those committed to the initiative will aim to break down the ever-present gender in-equality by being more authentic in their portrayal of the sexes in various roles. In addition, past campaigns have proved that an honest representation of gender roles pays off financially, too.

Safe to Say That Supporting LGBTQ Rights Will Not Hurt Brands

A Twitter thread went viral after proving the number of mainstream brands that openly support LGBTQ rights today. The user behind the series of tweets highlights just how difficult it would be to boycott any business that has expressed support in one way of another, due to popularity of brands that have pledged support. The progress that has been made between the LGBTQ community and brands just within the past ten years has been monumental.

Showing Me What a Classroom Can’t

As I sit here at my own desk at Howard/Merrell, I begin to think about my perception of agency life before I set foot into this office. I pictured important-looking people in suits walking the halls, day-long formal meetings, and maybe even a little last-minute creative pitch to a client — Mad Men style.

I can tell you now that all my preconceived notions were incorrect, at least, they are at Howard/Merrell.

howard/merrell intern

Here, people wear jeans. Sometimes, Hawaiian shirts. They laugh … a lot. They take walks together on lunch breaks. They don’t call someone else in the office on the phone, instead they just yell their name over a divider wall in a playful way to get their attention.

They ask, “how are you?” and mean it. There are no day-long meetings, and every single piece of work that comes out of this office has had countless hours poured into it … nothing is last minute. Everyone is on the same page, and no one is left out of the loop. They work hard. This industry is a process, and every step—every person—is crucial to producing the very best work there can be.

Being able to sit right here, in the middle of the action, is an experience that no classroom could ever provide to me. It is one thing to be a fly on the wall, but being able to contribute to the process as an intern, makes it even more worthwhile.

My time here has just begun, but I can already feel the impact that this place will have on my understanding and growth into the advertising industry … and I get to wear jeans.

Liz Pope is interning with the Account Management team at Howard/Merrell. A rising senior, Liz is majoring in advertising at Appalachian State. This is her first summer internship. During the school year, Liz interns with University Communications in their Media Production department.

Are You Ready to for your next Media Interview?

Many find it difficult, challenging or even daunting to speak with the media. What should I say? Nothing is off the record. What if they twist my words?

The key is to be prepared. The more comfortable you are with the subject matter, the better your interview will be. This is especially true when the questions are about a topic is complex or sensitive.


Being prepared and staying focused will allow you to keep your answers clear and concise, and your demeanor calm and confident.

Here are a few tips:

Pre-Interview Preparation
Ask yourself the following questions so that you can think through the focus of your interview.
• Who is your audience?
• What is your objective?
• Who is your interviewer? What topics does he/she enjoy writing/talking about?
• What is newsworthy about your topic and what do you want your audience to understand?
• What questions are you likely to be asked?

During the Interview
• Be direct and concise – support with easy to understand facts and details
• Keep it simple (imagine explaining technical concepts in a non-technical manner to your grandmother)
• Avoid the use of jargon and industry lingo
• Listen carefully to questions/comments from the interviewer
• Never say “no comment” but rather say you are unable to discuss that topic. Or, bridge to another topic
• If you don’t know, say so! (It’s ok to not know everything! Your PR person can always get back to them)
• Don’t bad mouth competition – if asked to comment on competition, tell the reporter that you aren’t informed enough to comment, but speak positively
• Sit up straight
• Maintain eye contact with the interviewer
• Be aware of your body language
• Use gestures naturally and when not gesturing, relax hands on the table or in your lap
• Take your time, and pause often to collect your thoughts
• Use vocal variety to convey enthusiasm
• If you have humor, that relates to your story or your experience, use it in a positive way to keep the reporter interested (short stories or examples to make it interesting)

Handling Difficult Questions
• Stay calm, listen carefully
• Answer questions positively, don’t restate the negative
• If a reporter tries to put words in your mouth, clearly re-state your point. Maintain control of the answers
• If reporter introduces a false fact, graciously correct it and move on
• If interviewer uses a “pregnant pause” don’t be tempted to fill the silence!

If you are a spokesperson who will need to address crisis situations, consider bringing in an expert and getting media trained. This will help you be prepared and best represent your organization.

Week in Marketing: Siding Politically with Brands, Death to #ad, HS Seniors Purge their Social

Consumers to Boycott Politically Outspoken Brands

Research conducted by Ipsos reveals that a quarter of Americans are allowing politics to influence their buying habits. Certain companies, such as Uber and Nordstrom, have been under scrutiny for their respective right- and left-leaning viewpoints following the most recent election. HowardMerrell politics Is it worth asserting opinions on behalf of a brand to make a positive impact on those who agree, while driving away those who do not, or is it best to simply remain neutral?

Instagram Increasing Transparency
After struggling with enforcing Instagram influencers to hashtag their sponsored posts, Instagram has developed a tool that would act as a public agreement between influencer and brand. The “Paid Partnership” tag would inform viewers that the content in the post is in fact paid, sponsored content. The tag is being tested currently, and if proven successful, it will be available to all brands and influencers.

Today’s Marketers and Albert Einstein
Experimenting, thinking way out of the box, transparency between teams, learning from miscalculations, and always searching a better way to accomplish a goal: These are all ways in which both scientists, and marketers should approach their jobs. The data-driven world we live in today has pushed the marketing industry into a borderline scientific category, but is this causing marketers to lose sight of their main objectives?

HS Seniors Purge Their Social Media Accounts as Their Self-Marketing Strategy
Those looking forward to graduating high school, and moving long to higher education, know all too well the importance of a clean, online presence. Some tactics include changing their Facebook names completely, posting more private Instagrams to “finsta” accounts, or utilizing services that will automatically eliminate any posts on social media that paints the student in a bad light. This generation is quickly learning the importance of marketing yourself, not only by the words they speak, but by the tweets they tweet.

Facebook Gives Advertisers Some Say
For the first time ever, Facebook is letting advertisers preview where their specific ads will be placed, as well as giving them an opportunity to veto certain ad placements. This change will allow specific ads to be placed in more relevant places, as well as ensuring that distasteful content will be nowhere near the ads. Facebook plans to roll out even more features to increase transparency with advertisers down the road.

Getting to Know Our Client – Urban Food Group

We pride ourselves in truly understanding our clients’ business inside and out. It allows us to write in their “voice,” speak to their target audiences and use imagery that best represents them. In order to gain that understanding, we start by reading everything we can about the company and their competitors – websites, social channels, articles, online reviews and commentary, blog posts, internal documents, etc. motto howard/merrell

In addition, we tour the client facility(s), attend tradeshows and participate in events so we can become entrenched in the industry. If we can, we also test out the product(s) or service(s) they offer, to obtain the true customer experience.

Understanding new clients is time consuming, but it is very important. And, we have to admit, sometimes it’s a lot of fun.

In the case of Urban Food Group, a restaurant group with establishments in North Carolina and Denver, the task of truly understanding our client’s business has not only been fun, but very delicious!

We are proud to be named the Agency of Record for Urban Food Group. Urban Food Group selected Howard/Merrell to promote its restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham area: Chow in North Raleigh, Vivace and Coquette in North Hills, and Motto in downtown Durham.

Calamari howard merrell

As the Agency of Record, we are responsible for Urban Food Group’s media and blogger outreach, press material development, event planning, travel and destination marketing, as well as support for content development and management of social media.

Each location has its own personality and unique menu — from Tuscan-inspired trattoria and a true French brasserie, to eclectic Roman inspired dishes and the best pizza, burgers and wings in town.

We’ve been to all the restaurants and tried different dishes: pizza howard/merrell

• Crispy brussels sprouts with garum honey, chili and lemon
• Very spicy rigatoni all arrabiata, chilies, pecorino
• Pizza with peso, roasted garlic, smoked mushrooms, pecorino and yolks
• Calamari Fritti
• Piedmont burger with fried green tomato, pimento cheese and bbq sauce
• Marinated portabella mushroom sandwich with red pepper marmalade, spinach and ricotta
• Zeppoli (zabaglione, chocolate fudge, butterscotch) for dessert

Not only is the food incredible, but the presentation is great and the service is fantastic.
We enjoyed visiting each restaurant, meeting the chefs and managers, and promoting the unique qualities of all of them.

It’s exciting to tell everyone about Urban Food Group and encourage them to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants.

Week in Marketing: Product Updates, Millenial Women, Fred, YouTube Banner, Delta Launchpad

What do Millennial Women Value?
The Answer: family and culture. But they manage to save more and do more with less money! A recent survey of more than 400 millennial females about their jobs, finances and social habits, revealed this. One of the study’s biggest take-aways was the fact that 83 percent of women said they want to own their own businesses.


Hi My Name is Fred
‘Fred’ is the named that has been coined for all of Google’s updates within their algorithms for the past couple of months. Recently though, it appears that the Fred update is now specifically talking about a number of updates that took place in early March. These caused a downturn in traffic for “ad-focused content that prioritize revenue above helping the users”.

How a Youtube Banner Campaign revealed the Truth
Amnesty International used Banners on Youtube to rewrite subtitles for some of the World’s biggest authoritarian leaders. They used those Banners to reveal information about human rights infringements going on within those countries. The Banner provided a link to each page specific to the cause it was making its audience aware of. In one week, its campaign attracted 370,000 views and 40,760 signatures for the concerning petitions.

Is VW’s Comedic Product Video Okay After an Emissions Scandal?
After positive results with an automotive pre-test that benchmarked its ad against other automotive ads, the answer was overwhelming yes. The ad was released on and eventually, TV. Two Bronze pencils and several prizes at New York Festivals later, the spot, shows the Trailer Assist product feature for Volkswagen in a memorable way. This is not the first time Volkswagen has made a memorable ad for its Trailer Assist product feature, and it probably will not be the last.

Music, Food, Film, and Delta Launchpad
Younger business travelers with smaller companies – this is the demographic Delta is trying to win over with its new indie inspired screenings, food gatherings, and music. They created the Delta Launchpad, which is a series of free public events that is entrepreneur-geared in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

An Intern’s First Day

Sharing the day with the veteran athletes as they competed in adaptive sporting events made this year’s Valor Games SE an amazing experience for Sarah Keener, a NC State senior, member of the Wolfpack and an intern at Howard/Merrell. Sarah said she had a blast at her first Valor Games.

“This was exactly the type of hands-on experience that inspires my pursuit for a future career in public relations.”


On my first day as an intern for the Howard/Merrell team, I drove to Chapel Hill, NC in the rain — not yet aware of what a great day was in store. Responsible for the public relations for the Valor Games Southeast, the Howard/Merrell team had to man the media center, speak with the athletes and create opportunities for media interviews with them.

I enjoyed working both the media check-in table and the competition floor inside the Dean E. Smith Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. These responsibilities allowed me the opportunity to familiarize myself with event procedures and ensure athletes were respected by visiting media.

One athlete in particular, Derrick, expressed great enthusiasm to be at the Valor Games SE and spoke with me about the impact of adaptive sports.

“A lot of veterans don’t know that adaptive sports are just as athletic as other sports,” he said.


Derrick specialized in the air rifle and archery events, but also enjoyed other sports like seated volleyball.

“This is a great event and I look forward to it every year. You get to see your friends—and a lot of us were all different people before we went into the service and got injured,” Derrick said. “This is my third year at the Valor Games and I’m definitely going to keep going and going to future games.”

For someone who had never been involved with the games, working on the public relations team for the event was a great way to familiarize myself with media relations. It was rewarding to facilitate interviews and ensure athletes—like Derrick — had the chance to share their Valor Games experience.

This was the fifth year Bridge II Sports put on the Valor Games SE and included over 120 veteran athletes. The Valor Games bring together veterans for three days of adaptive sports and friendly competition.