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Nostalgic Marketing Millennials

“Wonder Woman” just dominated screen ratings, the Nintendo NES Classic Edition is sold out and Atari just announced a new hardware system. You’re not mistaken if you think I’m talking about the late 70s or early 80s. However, I’m actually talking about right now. It seems as though the past keeps weaving into the future through nostalgic marketing, and for good reason too.

Companies ranging from tech to film are harnessing nostalgic marketing in their products and campaigns. Why is nostalgic marketing such a hit? One reason is that many people love being reminded of the good old days before responsibilities: childhood. With limitless impersonal marketing today, creating an emotional connection in marketing leaves a lasting impression.

Discover how some of our favorite brands are tapping into their millennial demographics with nostalgic marketing.


Atari, the preferred retro game maker of the 70s, has revived itself from the bankruptcy graveyard and announced a new hardware called Atari Box. Other than utilizing PC technology, not much else is known about the console. What we do know, however, is that the hardware will probably fly off the shelves.


Nostalgic Marketing and Nokia

Remember your friend’s trusty Nokia that was sturdier than a brick? Nokia sure seems to, as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. Nokia recently relaunched its 3310 model and sold out online within the first week. The phone boasts an impressive 22 hours of talk time or month-long battery-life on standby. The best part? The cult-classic game Snake comes pre-loaded.


Before “Pokemon Go” and the Switch, Nintendo was facing a sales slump that was easy to see from a mile away. The Wii U’s expected sales in its first fiscal year were only one third of what the company expected. While Nintendo started to look like a sinking ship, it rebooted its NES with a nostalgic marketing campaign that garnered millions of views. If you’ve tried to get your hand on an NES, you know how difficult it is. I’m talking standing in line at Best Buy for hours after tracking shipments difficult. Now that the company has stopped producing one of the greatest consoles of all time? Almost impossible.


Nostalgic Marketing and Netflix

If you weren’t hiding under a rock this past Halloween, you know that Eleven from Stranger Things was the costume of the year. “Stranger Things’” subtle nod to 80s pop-culture phenomenon’s such as “Alien” and “ET” was an instant hit. In a more obvious note, Netflix brought back a “Full House” remake as well as “Gilmore Girls.” While Netflix doesn’t share ratings information, it’s safe to assume millennials binged both shows. I know I sure did.

Here at Penna Powers, we’re no strangers to nostalgia. Nerf Gun fights are a regular occurrence in the office. The Underground (the name of our creative/development team)—I’m looking at you Thor—can’t stop talking about the “Godzilla” remake. We know firsthand the effect of nostalgic marketing and aren’t afraid to utilize it. Appeal to something that millennials already love and you’re almost guaranteed to create an emotional connection—or at least tap into their social media base.

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One of the most difficult aspects of advertising can be trying to communicate a simple idea. Lucky for us, the language of love is universally understood. Powered by such a strong motivation, this means that Valentine’s Day is the perfect set up for clever and endearing advertisements. Here are our top ten favorite Valentine’s Day ads from the last 10 years.

1. Deadpool – True Love Never Dies

Just before last Valentine’s Day, Deadpool hit theaters. While Deadpool is actually a highly explicit, R-rated, 4th-wall-breaking comedy disguised as a superhero movie, it featured many prominent Valentine’s Day promotions that might have confused some potential moviegoers into thinking it was a Rom-Com. You never can trust advertisers, can you?


2. Durex – Happy Father’s Day

This ad doesn’t hold anything back when it proclaims, in perfect tongue-and-cheek, that other brands simply don’t offer the same protection as Durex.

3. Carphone Warehouse – Why Spend More?

Carphone Warehouse is a British mobile phone retailer who offers quick comparisons on phone prices, so you can get the most bang for your buck. In fact, they’re so affordable that they can even save you money on flowers for Valentine’s Day.

1-creative-valentine-ads4. HelpAge India – The Elderly Need Our Love Too

HelpAge India is non-profit dedicated to showing some respect to those who came before us. This clever ad reminds us that love isn’t just meant for the young.


5. McDonald’s – The Proposal

McDonald’s might not be your first choice for a romantic dinner with your special someone, but honestly, it’d probably make for a more memorable Valentine’s Day. Kudos to McDonald’s for trying.


6. Anthon Berg – The Love Experiment

Anthon Berg reminds us in this online video that telling those we care about that we care is good for our own health and happiness. And what better way to say it than with Anthon Berg chocolate (and some kind words of course)?

7. BMW – Motorbike Lovers

There’s definitely something romantic about riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle. I think this ad captures that feeling, don’t you?


8. Wilkinson – Smooth Valentine’s Day

Wilkinson Sword is a British company that offers precision shaving instruments. This creative outdoor execution shows that they believe a smooth shave is paramount to a smooth Valentine’s Day.

9. Hovis Bread – Valentine’s Day

Hovis Bread is the third British company to make the list. I don’t know if it’s the incredible food photography or just the simplicity of this ad, but I truly would kill for some toast right now.


10. Google – Love in Paris

Okay, technically this isn’t a Valentine’s Day ad, but when it comes to advertisements that make you feel the love, this commercial is one of the best.


Thanks for checking out our list of top ten Valentine’s Day ads over the last 10 years. Let us know which ad was your favorite in the comments below, or tell us if we missed an obvious winner.

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Free. Everyone’s favorite word. A word that connects us all and draws in our attention. Sure, maybe you don’t REALLY need a lanyard with a company logo you’ve never heard of. Or a pencil or drawstring bag or an individually wrapped Starburst. But at the whopping price of FREE, who could resist? On the surface, giveaways can look like money pits. But in the grand scheme of things, nearly all companies who participate will ultimately boost sales in some way or another. Getting something for nothing will usually make the consumer unconsciously feel obligated to buy more. On Free Slurpee Day in 2010, USA Today says that even with 4.5 MILLION free slurpees given away, they still increased sales by 38% that day.

Below are some examples of some of the best freebie advertising in the game.

Free Slurpee Day at 7-11


My personal favorite, Free Slurpee Day, falls on my birthday every year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I got you a birthday present! You can pick it up at the Sev!” But this day has become iconic, and is always top of mind.

Free Donuts on National Donut Day


Every year, companies like Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme draw in consumers with the allure of a free donut. But you can’t have a donut without coffee, right?

Free Pancakes on National Pancake Day


Come on, who doesn’t like a free short stack?

Do you see a theme here? But just because I’m hungry doesn’t mean that food freebies are the only thing that works! Companies have instituted a free comic book giveaway and logo swag giveaways at trade shows, just to skim the top. Has your company done a freebie giveaway? Let us know in the comments!

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Brand Hijacking

Brand hijacking could be one of the most effective ways to get your brand noticed. In the example to your left, a boutique kitchen supply company named Gygi in Salt Lake City designed its billboards to match that of Cavalia, arguably the largest billboard advertiser Salt Lake City has ever seen. This year, there was a Cavalia billboard on nearly every mile of the freeway and dotting every neighborhood.

This marketing tactic, brand hijacking, works because of the media phenomenon of frequency. When one sees an ad, one does not actually “see” it the first time. Your eyes looked, but the connection to your brain about the message just isn’t usually made in the first impression. In the case of billboards, it usually takes up to 10 ad impressions (times seeing the billboard) to actually recognize it. Between 10-20 impressions in a month is the sweet spot, because when one sees the billboard one understands the message.

Now here’s where brand hijacking comes in.

A brand, such as Cavalia, has spent a lot of money to get its audience up to a 10 frequency to really start understanding their message. Now when Gygi, runs it doesn’t need to spend the money to get up to a 10 frequency, the audience has already seen it. But with the subtle differences the audience recognizes it immediately. Their brains start comparing it to the boards they’re familiar with. And all of a sudden, when it’s time to buy kitchen supplies, they find themselves at Gygi.

Brand hijacking is used in every media channel. Probably one of the most common examples is where a commercial is shot with the same look and feel of the television show it’s running on. For example, you’re watching The Walking Dead and fast-forwarding through the commercials, when all of a sudden you see zombies so you unpause. You then realize it’s not The Walking Dead at all, but just an Audi commercial. Clever, huh?

Hopefully the next time you see a familiar ad you’ll think twice.

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unnamedWhen you hear the term Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a good employee isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind… In fact, it probably isn’t even in the top 10 things that come to mind. 

When it comes to D&D, I’d wager that most people out there think the players are overweight nerds smelling up a room while systematically ensuring the safety of their own virginity. Others still imagine fantasy clad introverts eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew. Or maybe they associate Dungeon & Dragons with the Occult, luring unlucky kids into the demonic trap of unreality. I mean, look what a failed will save” did to poor Tom Hanks in “Mazes and Monsters”.

But I am here to tell you, that isn’t always the case. Imagine a world where students are leaving college, entering the real working world with no honest idea of what lies ahead: The drudgery of adulthood, the isolation of being the new guy (or gal) in the workplace, the ever-crushing weight of responsibility… Terrifying, right? That’s where Dungeons & Dragons comes in and saves the day. Let me tell you how D&D made me a better employee (at least I think it did, *rolls a D20, result: 17*, yup it did).


In D&D, you are usually part of a group or party. You go on quests and save the realms together. The key factor in making it through an entire campaign is working as a team. I mean, if you don’t work together, then there is no way in the Abyss you’re going to defeat that Legendary Colossal Red Dragon, am I right? Work is much the same way: We function in departments and teams consisting of individuals in all areas here at Penna Powers. The Developers (Mages/Wizards), the Media Team (Paladins), Creatives (Fighters/Barbarians) and the Account Managers (Bards/Clerics) all work together to make the quest go as smoothly as possible while we fight to achieve the ever-elusive treasure of client approval. Without working as a team, that goal is never going to become a reality.

Tyranny of Dragons - Campaign Art - Tiamat

Planning ahead

In life, both D&D and reality, there are so many paths we can go down each day. Knowing your endgame can really help along the way. Are you looking to become a lvl 15 Shadow Dancer? Or do you want to save the princess? Maybe you’re even trying to launch a multifaceted digital marketing campaign for a client. All of these goals have checkpoints along the way, and knowing those checkpoints while having plans laid out ahead of time will keep you, your co-workers and your companions on track to success!


Yes, that is Vin Diesel running a group. A critical is the best roll you can get.

Go with the flow

In Dungeons & Dragons, you’re always rolling dice to see if your desired actions are successful, and from time to time you’re going to roll a 1 (which is an automatic fail). It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing “boots of fleeing” or if you’re following a website blueprint perfectly… the DM (also known as “life”) is going throw a kobold in your path and your plans are going to change. When those guards catch you after stealing the Pearls of Argomon, rolling a 1 is going to put a kink in your escape. But, being able to stay cool and improvise is the difference between spending the next three game nights trying to pick the jail cell lock and celebrating in the Prancing Pony Tavern with the rest of the adventurers—sipping mead, listening to the pipes and planning your next sojourn—but I digress. The point is, things go wrong and plans change. Don’t let the dice (or the job) get you down.   

Keep an adventure log

Somewhere along the way on a project (or delving a dungeon), you’re going to get lost. It’s inevitable. It will be months, perhaps years, from the starting point and you aren’t going to remember who that farmer was who sent you to find their kidnapped daughter, or why you wanted to use a certain programing language on one page but not the others. Thank the old gods and the new you kept copious notes in your Adventurer’s Log (otherwise known as detailed project notes). These notes aren’t only a fun map of the journey you’ve been on, but they are also a fantastic resource to get you back on track when you’ve wandered too deeply into Fangorn Forest. An added benefit of Adventure Logs: Trustworthiness. DM’s (Dungeon Masters) aren’t infallible, having notes to prove him/her/she/he/it wrong is a great way to cover your tzarreth (“Butt.” Correct me if I’m wrong here, my Draconic is a bit rusty)!  

role playing game set up on table isolated on white background - stock photo

Roleplay, or how I learned to thrive outside my comfort zone

Not that kind of roleplay, sickos… But seriously, thinking and acting outside of your comfort zone is a great way to grow in all areas of life. I’m not really a suave pirate named Mortaemer Darratris, nor am I the stalwart Dwarven cleric Koth-Modan, nor even the Tree Frog archer Seronius Blek whose trusty companion is an oversize killer wasp… surprising right? But when I first left college, I wasn’t a working class professional either. I quickly learned that staying in my comfort zone wasn’t going to help my career at all. Reach out, take chances, and don’t be afraid to sound like an idiot when you join the party as a 3-foot-tall Tree Frog riding a giant wasp and saying “Hidee-Ho there.”

Office camaraderie

This goes beyond working together and helping the team/party succeed. Develop friendships with the people you work with. Spending eight hours a day with friends is much more enjoyable than eight hours with enemies. You’re going to be with these people more than your family in most cases, might as well enjoy the time. Remember, by the end of the journey, even the shady thief may shed a tear when the high-horsed Paladin dies in combat…


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At Penna Powers, we have a somewhat unconventional workplace. Just saying, “We don’t work in silos” is a bit of an understatement. We pride ourselves on the fact that it’s not uncommon to hear the whirr of a nerf dart flying overhead, or that no one will bat an eye if you wear slippers to work.

Red checkered slippers beside sofa. Pair of slippers near bed. They greet you every morning. Warmth of home.

Slippers at work? Yes please!

Here’s the thing, if you work in an office setting, you don’t really need shoes. I mean, what are shoes for? Their original purpose was to simply protect your feet. Sure, you could argue that over thousands of years style and comfort have become equal partners in that purpose, but ultimately the true design of a shoe is to prevent tiny, pointy objects from stabbing your foot. Slippers, on the other hand, were explicitly created to be comfortable. That’s their entire goal, purpose and reason for existence. So, with that in mind, riddle me this: How much protection do you really need for your feet? If your answer is anything less than “about 32.33% (repeating of course),” then here are three reasons it’s time for you to ditch the shoes.

1. Did I mention slippers were literally created to be comfortable?

First and foremost, slippers are relaxing, and relaxed workers are more productive. While I suspect most people have experienced slippers at some point in their life, just in case you haven’t, here’s how it works. Essentially, you take two tiny pillows of pure heaven and strap them to your feet in a way similar to sandals, only slippers look normal when worn with socks.

man in slippers

Nothing about this man looks normal.

Slippers not only help your feet feel better, they also help keep your feet warm, which can be a legitimate concern at least a few months out of the year.

2. Most people won’t notice, and the ones that do, will be envious.

If your job is anything like mine, a good portion of your day is spent working at a computer desk, and computer desks are excellent at hiding feet. In fact, taking a quick survey of all of my neighboring coworkers, I can’t see any of their feet without significant effort. If your coworkers aren’t likely to see your feet, you might as well be donning slippers.

But don’t worry, even after Jerry notices that your feet look at least ten times happier than his, he won’t be mad… he’ll be envious. And that’s because people who wear slippers to work have completely given up are super cool and everyone likes them. Poor Jerry, he could never pull off slippers like you can.

3. They slip on and off (I mean, it’s in the name).

Finally, slippers are extremely convenient and adaptable. Have a meeting mid-day? No problem. Just slip those slippers right off, throw some shoes on and no one will be the wiser. Going to be parked at your computer for a while? No biggie. Slip those slippers right on and give your feet a well-deserved break from the confines of shoes. Wore sandals to work but then realized that sandals are lame? No worries. Slip those nasty sandals right off and enjoy all the benefits of a regular slipper-user (even without socks).


Please note: While this man’s slippers are on point, I can’t condone the use of his sweats or a soul patch.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself some slippers today, and experience comfort on the job like never before.

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If you didn’t know, May the Fourth is officially Star Wars Day (as in, ‘May the Fourth be with you’). While Star Wars fans, robots and even a few aliens typically celebrate the occasion with parties, binge watching the entire cinematic series and arguing over the validity of midichlorians in the prequels, many advertisers spend their time coming up with clever ways to tie their brands to Star Wars. Here are some of my favorite ads released on Star Wars Day over the last year. Make sure to keep your eyes open this year for all of the new, fun ads that are sure to be created.


This clever USDA Food Safety ad makes me really hungry for some TaunTaun. I just hope they smell good on the inside.

Pillsbury ad for Princess Leia Cinnamon Buns.

Pillsbury ad for Princess Leia Cinnamon Buns.

Jolly Rancher ad - Which side will you choose?

Jolly Rancher ad – Which side will you choose?

This General Mills ad highlights the Fruit Roll Up as a tasty snack, or a nifty way to take out AT-ATs.

This General Mills ad highlights the Fruit Roll Up as a tasty snack, or a nifty way to take out AT-ATs.

I can't quite place it, but something is different about Yoda in this Long John Silver's ad.

I can’t quite place it, but something is different about Yoda in this Long John Silver’s ad.

Even Darth Vader uses Phillips bulbs for his light sabers. (Bonus points if you can tell me whose light saber Vader is using in this shot. Hint: It's not his own!).

Even Darth Vader uses Phillips bulbs for his light sabers. (Bonus points if you can tell me whose light saber Vader is using in this shot. Hint: It’s not his own!).

Yoda has never looked 'fresher' in this Subway ad.

Yoda has never looked ‘fresher’ in this Subway ad.

I'd be much more excited to fly if United gave their grounds crew real lightsabers.

I’d be much more excited to fly if United gave their grounds crew real lightsabers.

A delicious combination of Princess Leia, Oreo and milk.

A delicious combination of Princess Leia, Oreo and milk.

A very clever play on one of the franchise's most famous quotes.

A very clever play on one of the franchise’s most famous quotes.

Yoda's wisdom forever immortalized in the fortune cookie at Pei Wei.

Yoda’s wisdom forever immortalized in the fortune cookie at Pei Wei.

Don’t worry if you miss all the May the Fourth advertising this year… There’s always Revenge of the Fifth!

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Writing a request for proposal (RFP) for your company’s marketing needs can be daunting. You want the best firms to respond, and you want to really get a sample of what their work is like. But having to summarize the entirety of your organizational goals, target audience, invoicing process and a million other considerations into a succinct document is nearly impossible. Here are some tips when writing your next RFP:

  1. State your expected budget. Too often, RFPs leave off a budget, usually on purpose to see what the agency proposes. But, there is a big difference between a $100,000 marketing budget and $1,000,000 marketing budget. If you want to see what the agency proposes at different cost levels, then tell them the different cost levels. The best RFPs say “for the sake of this RFP, our expected marketing budget next year is ____.” Personally, I review a lot of RFP submissions for digital media, and it’s impossible to compare them if they’re all different budget amounts.
  1. Only include references if you’ll use them. Obviously, the references a marketing firm will give will all be positive and won’t really help you in the evaluation process. Consider alternate ways to get references – ask around, have them list a client they no longer do business with, or just consider having specific letters of recommendation in the proposal (e.g. how often do they provide proactive recommendations?). Just like when you’re interviewing someone for a job, you need to be able to get useful information from the references.
  1. Don’t ask “yes” and “no” questions. If you’re asking the question, it must be important. Instead of asking “Does your agency use do video in-house?” you could ask “Please describe your video capabilities and the expected cost of a 30-second spot.” This will yield superior answers and help you to better compare the submissions .
  1. Steps to writing a marketing RFPInclude target audience information. If your target audience is residents who live five miles from your store, then say it! Too often, RFPs keep this hidden or say they want submitters to define the target audience. Wouldn’t you rather have proposals that outline what media channels your target audience uses, what drives them and what messaging would resonate better with them?
  1. Proof your RFP. We’ve all seen a Powerpoint presentation that was obviously put together by more than one person. It has different font sizes, a different layout and just doesn’t look professional. It reflects poorly on those presenters. The same goes for a marketing RFP – even though it’s easy to change your fonts, is the message consistent? As a firm that submits many marketing proposals, usually the questions we ask after reading it have to do with this: Do you want the target audience as you stated in the background section or the scope of work section? You’ll get better proposals if your RFP is consistent and error-free.

A good way to gauge how well-written your RFP is would be to see how many questions you get. If there’s few questions from submitting firms then it was a success, but if you get lots of questions then you missed some crucial pieces. Oftentimes good firms will read over an RFP and choose not to submit based on the quality of it. You don’t want that to happen to you.

As a bonus, most marketing RFPs follow this format.

Marketing RFP Format

Purpose of RFP – Why it’s being issued (usually contract expiring).

Background – What your company or organization does and the challenge or opportunity faced.

Question & Answer Period – Details how to ask questions and the deadline to submit questions.

Restrictions on Communications – Don’t allow firms to communicate or wine and dine your employees.

Submitting a Proposal – How to submit a proposal with the deadline.

Length of Contract & Terms & Conditions – All the legalities.

Interviews – If you want to interview the top submitting companies, this is where you put that.

Qualifications – Ask for proposals to include related work, business license and bios of employees.

Scope of Work – This is the most important part. It outlines what you want done (e.g. PR, media buying, a website, etc.) and gives details about your target audience and your goals for each.

Technical Response – Details how you’ll evaluate the response. Most firms use a point value, for example: references are worth 100 points.

Proposal Format – Outlines exactly how you want proposals laid out (e.g. page 1 is the title page, page 2 is the executive summary, etc.).

Proposal Evaluation – Shows who will evaluate the proposal and the expected timeline.

Obviously, this format would change based on the scope of the RFP, but these items are typically included. We hope you will consider these guidelines for your next marketing RFP to get the best responses. Now that we’ve helped you make your next RFP easier, please make sure to invite us.

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Digital analytics is booming, but it’s still so new and everchanging that there aren’t any textbooks yet. Sure, there are online certifications like Google Analytics, but those are really specific to a channel. And those keep changing too! After teaching a course on digital analytics and interacting with students every day, here’s what I have learned:

You don’t need to have technical skills to be an excellent analyst. You need to be curious. Ask questions. Be unafraid to shake the boat. Oftentimes, the big insight isn’t in the raw data – it’s in the patterns.

I’ll walk you through an example.

After running a digital campaign with interactive banner ads (the user could draw on them), we had a standard summary report which included impressions, placements, clicks, actions, interactivity with the units, time of day, and all the normal stats that come with a summary report. But then we were curious – did the interactive units really move the needle? Would it have been better to have just run static ads with more impressions? Here’s the data:

Type Impressions Clicks CTR Submissions Submission Rate
Rich Media 5,135,652 1,326 0.03% 121 0.00236%
Static Images 477,143 1,110 0.23% 11 0.00231%
Total 5,612,795 2,436 0.04% 132 0.00235%

Rich Media additional stats:

  • Display time – 322,395,407 seconds (613.39 years)
  • Interaction time – 970,907 seconds (1.75 years)
  • Average interaction time – 5.0 seconds
  • Interaction rate – 3.6%
  • Total interactions – 184,702


If we would have just looked at CTR, then the static images were far better (0.23% compared to .03%). If we were to just look at the submission rate, then the rich media units barely beat out the static ones (.236% compared to .231%). But then we started to weigh interactions. On a static banner, one can just see it and click. On a rich media unit, one can interact with it. The rich media units had a 3.6% interaction rate, with each user spending five seconds in the unit, spending a cumulative time of 920,907 seconds (1.75 years) interacting with the units.

So to take it the next step further, does 1.75 years of interactivity outweigh a lower click through rate? Does it justify a higher ad serving cost? We did the math and found the cost-per-click to be 9x higher with the rich media units. However, if you looked at cost-per-action (interaction or click) the cost was actually 2x lower with the rich media units. The end goal was awareness and submissions, and the rich media units played a vital part in the success of the campaign.

Lastly, if you’re asking yourself why the conversion rate was so low – first please apply for a job at Penna Powers, but then rest assured that we dove into this as well. We looked at the conversion funnel and identified an area where most users were dropping off and were able to correct it.

Obviously every campaign is different. If one learned to always look at CTR, then one would miss the impact of the rich media units.

Curiosity helps in the approach. None of these calculations required more math than division or multiplication.

When teaching my students how to approach problems analytically, we start with creativity exercises, such as writing down 20 uses for a thumbtack. We then do a mountain of case studies. Even though every problem is different in the real world, the case studies help students become familiar looking at patterns. Lastly, we just do a lot of analysis on real companies. Again, every analytical problem is a little different, but for example it helps to see a few ecommerce problems along the way.

Teaching students entering the workforce has so many parallels to our self-learning at work. I’m amazed at how few professionals develop the analytical skills necessary to excel in their jobs. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “not a numbers person” I just think to myself that few people are. We’re humans and all like pretty pictures over an Excel spreadsheet. But we all are curious. So take an hour out of your day and go hunting for some patterns. You might be surprised what insights you find.

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What does “Digital” even mean?

That’s a question that industry trade publisher, Advertising Age asked itself when planning for its annual Digital Conference held last week. They toyed with the idea of removing the word “digital”, but ultimately kept it because otherwise “no one would come”, said editor Ken Wheaton, only half-jokingly.

Yet, this semantic confusion over “digital” has most marketers shrugging their shoulders. It’s now a post-digital world, where a 728×90 “digital” banner ad is as traditional, if not more so, than the ancient 30-second spot. Penna Powers was at the conference and came away with these top insights from the proceedings:

  1. Traditional Digital is Dead – Marketers need to move beyond the traditional online elements of banner ads and other push methods. If you’re just going to do that, you might as well tell a story on television. A digital presence has less to do with the “ad unit”. It has more to do with what kind of experiences you’re allowing your customers to have and what kind of relationships you’re building with them. The traditional elements still have their place, but they cannot take center stage.
  2. The Power of Place – Twitter co-founder and Medium CEO, Evan Williams, discussed how the dramatic increase of migration to cities is similar to how people behave online. Traffic to the top 10 websites makes up 75% of all online traffic. While the average person visits 25 apps per month, 80% of the time is spent on his or her top 3 apps. People plug themselves into established communities on the web and stay there. Just as people need city life for better networking, so too do brands need to establish a community for their customers. And Evan Williams’s solution, of course, is his online publishing platform, Medium. Check it out.
  3. Popular Culture is the New Competition – Think about it. Your marketing is competing for the attention of the customer. What else is competing for that attention? Everything else the customer consumes, from the latest cat video to the newest Netflix or Hulu series. We’re now in the Age of the Customer and the customer is very much in control of what he or she chooses to watch.  Will they choose you?
  4. Stop Being a Perfectionist – Advertisers are used to being in control of everything that happens within that 30-second spot, which can take many weeks and months to get right and presentable for the masses. But that’s too long, and by the time you’ve created your awesome piece of marketing, it may no longer be relevant to the world the customer is now living in. According to Frank Cooper, CMO of BuzzFeed, “content needs to match the rate at which pop culture changes”. This requires us to trade long-gestating perfection for speedy, and sometimes raw, relevancy. It also requires much patience and courage to do.
  5. Try it, Nail it, Scale it – Change doesn’t happen all at once, it occurs in bite-sized chunks. That was the message from AT&T’s Valerie Vargas, who showcased the brand’s foray into original content series like Summer Break and Snapper Hero. Ms. Vargas’s bosses weren’t going to sign off on a huge investment in something so unproven, so she needed to take baby steps in setting aside some budget for experimenting and incubating new platforms. Once she saw success in something small, she could justify larger investments and scaling those small successes to larger ones.
  6. Digital and Traditional Work Together – Cruise ship brand Royal Caribbean and its shop MullenLowe set out to convince jaded New Yorkers that going on a cruise could be exciting and unique. So they streamed the Periscope feeds of over twenty key social influencers having Royal Carribean vacations into out-of-home bus shelters and kiosks all across the city to prove that cruises weren’t touristy and boring. They also re-purposed much of the footage and incorporated it into TV campaigns.
  7. Using Influencers? Let Them Do What They Do – As more brands and agencies use social media influencers to be more relevant to consumers, they often try to dictate the terms of how the brands will be showcased. For example, a sunglass brand wanted Snapchat celebrity, Julz Goddard, to take pictures of herself donning the shades poolside. “Boring”, she said. When the brand allowed her to use the brand more naturally within her Miami partying lifestyle, it scored more authenticity points with her audience.
  8. Use Data to Create More Shareable Content – When we think of using data, we often think in terms of optimizing a digital campaign for better performance. That’s all well and good, but we’re missing a major opportunity to use data to craft better brand storytelling. Using the Facebook Audience Interest Index, Shareablee CEO, Tania Yuki, showed that factors like “usefulness”, “happiness” and “emotion” engaged more women than men and that men were more likely to share content that was “funny” and “exciting”.  For 18-24 year-olds, content that enabled them to be “in the know” was the most likely to be shared.

So will next year’s conference just be titled “Advertising Age’s 2017 Conference”? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? But what’s true is that buzzword value of the word “digital” will continue to diminish as we brands and agencies drop the semantics and just do what works.

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