February 22, 2018 - Comments Off on LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

It’s a fascinating time to be alive. As a society, our connected experience is no longer straddling the line between “the real-world” and online — it’s distributed through both and fully interwoven.

Anchoring this point, a new alliance has caught our eye. Linked In x WeWork x J Crew have joined together in a very interesting partnership. Each partner has a different reason for existing, but all three merge elements of the other’s primary customer experience.

The fashion brand J Crew, is searching for a radical shift in strategy to succeed in modern retail world. Partnering with LinkedIn and WeWork, they benefit from direct access to entrepreneurial customers who already understand the value of looking clean and stylish.

WeWork and LinkedIn view this opportunity as another way for their brand to serve their customer’s professional image and meet the needs of their mutual audience segment.

Whether this experiment takes off or not, we expect to see more of this kind of corporate teamwork, as brands strive to unlock their experiential potential.

More on the story over at Retail Dive.


Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 13, 2018 - Comments Off on 3000 Years of Valentine’s Day History

3000 Years of Valentine’s Day History

“Valentine’s Day is a marketing holiday manufactured by the gift card industry.”

We've all heard that position stated before. Okay. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at this anti-sentimental view of an otherwise tender holiday.

Is Valentine’s day a consumer holiday? Was it invented by greeting card companies? Where did it come from? And how did it become what we know it to be today?

According to history.com, 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year worldwide. This makes the holiday the single most popular greeting card holiday and the second most popular greeting card giving occasion behind birthdays.

The average person spends $146.84 on the holiday, according to Time Money. Between these two facts the consumer marketing angle seems well reasoned. So people are definitely buying cards, flowers and candy. Where did all of this start? Let’s take it back to the beginning.

V-Day is named after St. Valentine, a third century Roman saint. But the holiday is believed to have origins in traditions that pre-date St. Valentine himself. Hmm, let’s go all the way back...

February finds its meaning — 800 BCE
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia is a pagan celebration anchored to February 15th. It was a holiday of health and fertility, alternatively called “Dies Februatus” or “purified day” and gave the month it’s name.

Valentine’s day gets its name — 250 AD
Next on the calendar we have the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th in the third century AD. Legend has it that the saint wrote a letter to the daughter of his jailer the night before he died and it was signed “from your Valentine.”

A couple centuries later the church named St. Valentine’s Day a holiday to memorialize the saint and further subdue the pagan traditions of courtship and matchmaking from Lupercalia.

Flowers take on symbolic meaning in the West — 1714
The modern tradition of flowers as messages is credited to King Charles XIII of Sweden in the early 18th century. He learned of flower arranging in Persia and identified the various meanings of different flowers when presented as gifts.

Manufactured cards and candy take off! — 1800s
The tradtion of St. Valentine’s day remains largely focused on romance and hand-written notes until the 1800s when the industrial revolution hits and “fancy” cards manufactured in Europe are newly in vogue.

This is also around the time that Cadbury Chocolates was founded in England and chocolates were introduced on a large scale as a quintessential gift for sweethearts.

Conversation hearts were introduced in 1866 and were not heart shaped until almost 40 years later. This is when the full-on marketing hit, the early twentieth century.

Hallmark is born — 1900s
In 1910 Hallmark was founded and they produced their first Valentine’s Day card shortly after. 1910 is the same year that “Florists Telegraph Delivery" was founded, still around today as FTD, Florist’s Transworld Delivery.

A look back through ancient history to the 20th century confirms that Valentine’s Day, as we know it, truly came together in the first decades of the last century. So what we view as a traditional approach to Valentine’s Day, flowers, chocolates and cards is really only the last 100 years of a 3000 year old tradition.

In the 21st Century consumer audiences are participatory, not passive, and marketing of all kinds has become very self aware as social attitudes evolve. Will this post-modern progression take Valentine’s Day somewhere it’s never been? Only time will tell.

However, maybe it’s already gone irreversibly into a bizarro future.


Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

February 6, 2018 - Comments Off on Which Ads Won The Super Bowl?

Which Ads Won The Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl ads this year were up to par with the previous years. They were clever, real-time relevant, funny and featured a ton of our favorite celebrities.

But let’s talk about what was new and different.

The spots that grabbed my eyes were the ones that spoke directly to the customer. And not figuratively as used in the common marketing saying, but they actually addressed the audience as viewers of an advertisement.

Advertising during the Super Bowl has come a long way over the years. What started as a break for the sponsors, has grown into a supporting act of the game itself — a highly anticipated component of the entertainment. In these hours, marketers are putting forth their very best content to appear in front of the largest audiences. But let’s just say,  by this point people are 100% aware of they are being marketed to, no matter how creative these ads have become.

The brands this year that decided to own up and acknowledge, “yes, we are marketing to you right now,” were the ones that made me appreciate them and their transparency. It was nice to have a good laugh knowing that they understand, and give them a nod of approval. Here are some favorites:

Tide: Did a comical mash-up spoof of familiar Super Bowl commercials from other industries. Mimicking the vibe of each commercial, Tide would stop and reminded the customer that every ad with clean clothes is a Tide ad.

Jeep: Decided to expose the marketer’s thoughts behind the average car commercial. They stated that they don’t need some “overarching human truth” to sell their vehicle, and they don't need a manifesto, all they need is for the customer to see what the Jeep itself can do.  

Skittles: Decided to take an unconventional route and go live on Facebook during the Superbowl. The idea was to create a story leading up to Sunday explaining that Skittles would only be advertising to one single boy during the Superbowl.

Michelob Ultra: In this hilarious spot, Chris Pratt gets the part to “star” in a Michelob Ultra commercial but later finds out what that really means in a second Michelob Ultra commercial.

Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

February 1, 2018 - Comments Off on The Big Game — Super Bowl LII Ads

The Big Game — Super Bowl LII Ads

AdWeek's Super Bowl Ad Tracker received a fresh round of updates this week giving the world an early glimpse of what will likely be some of the most talked about brands of the year.

Personally, I try not to do too much "teaser" viewing before the event because I still like to experience the ads in the traditional environment and evaluate the impact with other folks, who don't work in advertising.

It's fun to see which spots demand attention and what may get missed in real time.

Also, there's no way I won't see every spot by early next week so I try pretty hard not to get too far in front of game-time unveiling. However, the Avocados from Mexico spot got me curious. It's arguably the most relevant product for the experience. They've done some pretty absurd and inventive things in the past, so I just had to check it out.

The spot is pretty clever and goes a long way to make a really simple point. But what really got me was the peculiar Chris Elliott cameo. I'm a big fan (See Get a Life and Handsome Boy Modeling School). His absurd presence in the ad forced me to YouTube which paid off with another Chris Elliott spot that sets up the first one.

Bizarre, entertaining, and well received with this focus group of one. This foray into Super Bowl sneak peeks should whet the appetite and keep me satisfied enough to wait for the full course on Sunday.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

January 26, 2018 - Comments Off on What, exactly, is the media value of Snapchat?

What, exactly, is the media value of Snapchat?

We can go ahead and just air that question out loud. It’s okay to ask.

By now most folks are aware that Snapchat is a bit of a wildcard in the arena of media. Five years ago it was the up and comer. Two years ago it was threatening to be the future of social media. One year ago it was the Facebook Ad killer — and none of that has actually panned out. But the platform continues to hold solid ground while anyone that isn’t a daily user continues to scratch their head.

Snapchat has 170 million daily users at last count. That’s their flagship statistic. By comparison using late 2017's figures, Facebook has 1.3 billion, Instagram has 500 million, and Twitter has 330 million. And when you know that Snapchat’s audience of daily users is almost entirely between the ages of 13 and 30  you have an audience platform that can't be ignored. And now we can begin to understand the hype.

However, what is the platform doing to deliver on that value and monetize that opportunity? We aren’t sure. The data on how users are using Snapchat is extremely limited as of now, but in the meantime, Snapchat can tout the daily users and the valuable makeup of that audience to advertisers.

Putting the advertising value in perspective, Instagram’s Story feature alone has more users than Snapchat has total users, that’s 180 million. The makeup of that audience leans older but the volume and behaviors of Insta’s audience makes it more practical as a “planned, bought and measured” ad platform. The ad units available through Facebook and Instagram are more versatile and more adaptable to different objectives as well.

We call it a social media community. And social advertising is a commodity, but Snapchat is  really more of a messaging application. First and foremost it's a space for young people to send video and images to each other in privacy. But are these young people interacting with the publisher content in the Discover section of the app? Are they engaging with the ads in a meaningful way? According to a recent article on The Daily Beast, the data is not made available by Snapchat, but the simplest answer is “not much.”

So what exactly is the value of Snapchat? It’s what the kids are doing. And that’s cool. It’s setting new trends and inventing new rules. It was the first to favor vertical video and gave the world face filters. If a brand can do something organic and innovative and it gets noticed, then it can help your brand gain some favorable press, and it’s definitely fertile territory for cool points in the industry.

The data is still out on whether the ad product matters with the audience and whether the audience is who they say they are.

At this point, among a variety of very effective pay-and-measure ad channels, it’s still a variable. We believe it’s absolutely a worthwhile experiment for brands that are committed to the channel and able to optimize on performance. It’s definitely a testable variable that’s well positioned to generate word of mouth (and industry PR) for a brand that’s authentically participating in the culture of the community.


Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media


December 26, 2017 - Comments Off on Out With The Old. In With The True.

Out With The Old. In With The True.

As many of you know, we recently moved from an outmoded office park to a trendy and modish neighborhood.

Excitement and anticipation lingered as we packed up and prepared to move into a wide-open, newly renovated warehouse with soaring ceilings. Knowing my space would be smaller in the new digs, the daunting task of editing the flotsam I had collected over the years was upon me. I could no longer ignore the need to part with decades of stuff. The “stuff” that had just gotten boxed up and unloaded down the hall in another office now had to be addressed. And boy, I felt a purge coming on. This was my chance, (cue Lynard Skynard Free Bird). Though as I began the process some questions emerged.

  1. How do I distinguish what I need and let go of the rest?
  2. How do I make the old and the new compliment each other?
  3. How do I keep the authentic self, shaped through the years, but meld it with the need to embrace ever constant change?

These same points should be considered when reviewing your marketing. Are you hanging on to your “stuff” because you don’t know what to keep or toss? Afraid to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak? To that I'd say, don’t automatically continue every past campaign that you’ve done over the years simply because you’ve “always done it.” Truth is, some of the things we do in marketing and in life are predicated by our comfort level.  Don’t box up your stuff and move it. Weed it out.

I’m not suggesting that every program, sponsorship and campaign you’ve ever done be scraped. I am suggesting you embrace change! First, separate the bath water and save the baby. As you move forward, identify the “baby;” your goals, culture, or mission statement and get rid of everything that doesn’t align with or support them.

  1. Make your public image work for you while staying true to the goals you’ve outlined in  your short and long term plan.
  2. Decide which of your past efforts should be combined into a new direction and which ones need to be abandoned or at the very less updated.
  3. What “stuff” do you need to let go of? Are you hanging on to old marketing points? Strip it down.

You may have to dig deep to find the best avenue to market your business. And recognize that it’s going to be a process. Change is gonna’ come. But with diligence and a fearless attitude, you can meet it head on.

Shelley Sergent
Senior Media Buyer & Planner

December 21, 2017 - Comments Off on The Holidays are About Connection. Right?

The Holidays are About Connection. Right?

KFC and their agency got a lot of press this Thanksgiving when they announced a new product for the holiday season — The Internet Escape Pod. Which is basically a Faraday cage wrapped in a hug from Colonel Sanders.

The stunt of actually offering this item for sale on KFClimited.com garnered a lot of attention from a range of sources including AdWeekFox NewsFortune and Forbes as well as various tech and family blogs.

The internet itself applauded the joke and the over the top execution. At the time of this post, the limited-edition-of-one is still available for a reduced price of $5000 after hitting the market at an already affordable $10,000. 😉

As a PR stunt it’s obviously brilliant, but what has me thinking today just a few days before Christmas is the increasing relevance of the commentary. As a piece of satire the point it makes continues to grow.

Over the next couple of weeks families will come together to step away from busy lives and connect. They'll be stepping into a relatively new kind of holiday experience where increasingly everyone has a device (or nine) and seamless data connections are a given and no longer optional.

Happy Holidays! Let’s go camping in the New Year! 😉

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

December 12, 2017 - Comments Off on Five Key Lessons Shared Between Non-Profits and Franchise Businesses

Five Key Lessons Shared Between Non-Profits and Franchise Businesses

Recently, I’ve had some very honest and candid chats with some national non-profit leaders about the future of fundraising. Simultaneously, I’ve been talking with local franchise owners about the greatest challenges they face — regarding everything from communications to operations.

As it turns out, their challenges and struggles echoed each other. Be it easing cultural tensions, improving communication, encouraging mission alignment, or fostering consistency, many of the same issues keep them up at night. Between the two segments, I’ve distilled some parallels and will outline here five key lessons that local franchise owners can learn from national non-profit leaders.

1. Everyone can fund raise, but not everyone is a fundraiser.
To be a skilled fundraiser takes training and practice. Just because someone has the desire to go out and raise money, does not ensure they will be successful. Even if they are successful, it doesn’t guarantee that the success will be sustainable. Instead, train your people for the skills you need. Training should happen every time someone joins, but should also be on-going. Teaching the skills needed enables both success and sustainability.

2. It’s critical to connect people to your mission.
For non-profits, connecting people to their mission is the key to keeping the lights on. When individuals and corporations believe what you’re doing matters, then they show their support through donations and gifts. However, as more and more non-profits develop and ask for donations, the mission becomes a critical differentiator between them and their competition. Likewise, as the number of businesses increase and therefor competition, why you do what you do becomes as important as how you do it or what you offer. Know your mission, live your mission, and clearly communicate your mission so others can align with you.

3. Plan on people making it personal.
The more people invest in something, the more it matters to them. This investment could be time, money or both. Whether it’s the woman who dedicates hours volunteering for a cause because she or a family member is affected by a disease, or the husband and wife team who poured their retirement savings into buying into a franchise store. When it matters, it becomes personal. Channeling this passion can be an organization’s greatest challenge. To do so, give people a chance to express themselves. Listen as they express their concerns or share their ideas. Empower people to use their passions and motivations in creative ways. Give them a platform and the support needed to plan their Do-It-Yourself fundraiser, or design their own local marketing outreach. Yet, be clear and direct in policies and procedures so they know where the boundaries are.

4. Think global, act local.
The best executives always remember that for both non-profits and franchises, many of the most critical decisions happen quickly and at the local level. It’s easy to fall back on the national name recognition and forget about how stressful the small business environment can be. It’s tough! But, always remember to prioritize your goals, and work toward reaching one goal before moving on to the rest.

5. Incentivize initiative and show your appreciation.
Above all else, remember to say thank you. Be it volunteers or franchisees, expressing your gratitude matters. And it’s usually the little things that mean the most. A coffee mug filled with chocolates, a t-shirt with a note, these small things let the individual know that their hard work is noticed and appreciated. You can even set incentive levels to reward good work along the way. However, be weary of saying thanks with things. If you go too far and give someone too nice of a gift, it makes the whole experience transactional, cheapens it, and demotivates. Instead to motivate employees, thank then sincerely and frequently with small, appropriately sized gifts.

Though I never recognized it, the similarities between the national non-profit and the franchise business models are striking. Both have a national brand supported by local factions, yet, though connected by name, these chapters or stores often operate independently. So, it makes sense that they share similar struggles. All of these listed takeaways represent real organizational challenges for both non-profits and franchise businesses. They are all primarily people concerns and every organization will benefit from realizing it’s living, breathing, human value.

Jane Broadbent
Senior Strategist

December 7, 2017 - Comments Off on Great Style is a Gift and Cato Wants You to Treat Yourself

Great Style is a Gift and Cato Wants You to Treat Yourself

THE BRIEF: Create a broadcast and social campaign for Cato Fashions that improves awareness and trial by attracting the occasional Cato shopper and connecting with the core Cato customer. Communicate that Cato has on-trend Holiday styles at affordable prices.



  1. Between the push for fashion-focused gifts, holiday party trends, and cold weather apparel, there are a whole lot of clothing promotions going on during the holidays. How can we cut through all the holiday clutter in the women’s fashion arena?
  2. Cato doesn’t do sales. Their prices stay low 365 days a year, which is great for shoppers! But it means in the world of Black Friday Blowouts and December Door-Busters, Cato does have a sale message to enter the conversation with. How can we get the attention of our audience and move them from awareness to trial without the attraction of a sale?


THE CREATIVE: The idea behind our “Imagine the Holidays” campaign, comprised of one 30-second television spot and corresponding social posts, was to remind women (namely the busy Cato customer) to “treat themselves” this holiday season.

We worked with Richmond-based VFX house, Hue & Cry to incorporate playful, animated illustrations into the live action footage. Throughout the television spot we see our model in charming scenes with moving, swirling and twinkling animations that enhance the spot’s holiday feel. An accompanying voiceover prompts customers to take a break from the busy holiday season and treat themselves by shopping at Cato.

Social posts took on the same visual technique. Working with our in-house motion content studio, Quick Brown Fox, we created illustrated live action videos tailored to fit on social platforms. The short clips show our model posing in her Cato outfits while playful illustrations animate around her.

With “Imagine the Holidays” we were able to accentuate the personality of the Cato brand, relate to the Cato customer, and most importantly, headline Cato’s 2017 holiday outfits. We imagine it’ll be a good holiday season for Cato.

See the work here! 


December 7, 2017 - Comments Off on A New Generation of Makers

A New Generation of Makers

We are fully ready for the Christmas season here at BMA.

And as part of the team behind the homemade wreaths and lit garland with glued ornaments and wrapped ribbon, I can say that decorating the new office was a project. It was a lot of hands-on work but I’m glad we chose the DIY route. It was cheaper and we are super pleased with how everything turned out, and have gotten so many compliments! In fact, while decorating we had a running joke that we should open a BMA Etsy account (stay tuned).

During my hours spent decking the office halls, I couldn’t help but ponder my personal love for crafting, art, and projects. So I decided to revisit this topic and take a deeper look what is happening in the growing industry of DIY (that has gone from a 30 to 44 billion dollar industry in the past 5 years (Craft Industry Alliance).

How many others truly share my maker spirit?

Turns out a lot do. 55% of older millennials used online videos in the past year to learn an art/craft skill or technique compared to 33% of Americans overall (Mintel). That's more than I expected! Online platforms such as Pinterest and Youtube have created an awesome space for people to learn, develop and share their own DIY talents. And some eventually continue on to sell their products online.

Not only are more people creating, but more people are selling their creations. Mintel states, “45 percent of older millennials (age 30-39) sold an art/craft project they made through an online shop in the past year, compared to 18 percent of consumers overall.” It just makes sense! Millennials are digitally native and known for being savvy entrepreneurs, so what better generation to conduct mini businesses and navigate through these online resources?

Buyers are also realizing that these online platforms such as Etsy and ArtFire are teeming with unique creations. According to Statista, the number of Etsy buyers from 2015-2016 increased by 4 million. And interestingly enough, 60% of visitor traffic was generated through mobile devices. Instead of driving around to every little boutique in town to shop for something unconventional, buyers are whipping out their phones and getting items delivered right to their front door.

The passion for crafting and art has always been there. But people now have more and more digital resources at their disposal, which has encouraged a new generation of makers. But furthermore, a healthy exchange between sellers and people looking for homemade, personalized items. It’s just easier and more efficient now.

Just think of it as your modern day Sunday afternoon market.

Emily Mondloch
Research and Insights