GreenRubino’s “Brandidextrous” Promise

GreenRubino is an integrated marketing and communications firm—offering a comprehensive range of in-house services. In case you’re wondering about the term, “brandidextrous,” let’s be clear that I am not savvy enough to have made it up for my humble blog entry. It comes from the About GreenRubino page on the firm’s website. If you’re a brand-essence minimalist, you should be brandtoxicated by the thought of capturing it in one word.

I talked to the firm’s president, John Rubino, to ask what makes them special. John explained, they’re the only firm around that is actually delivering on the integrated marketing promise with all competencies in-house. Over a decade ago, they made a deliberate move to become more integrated, and they have been organically growing the practice since then. John noted that it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in the marketing industry and understand the landscape. Change is constant, and they are continuously adapting to deliver a comprehensive range of solutions to clients. When new channels and tools begin to show promise, in terms of added value for clients, they will look for opportunities to incorporate them into the business.

How does the marketer do marketing? GreenRubino has a solid reputation, which is one factor that drives new business. They actively use several channels to get the word out including social, print ads, sponsorships, and of course their website. Like many leading edge businesses, they’re striving to produce rich content that can be discovered. When talking about channels, John highlighted the Puget Sound Business Journal, noting that it has been a great resource for reaching business decision-makers. GreenRubino holds positions on a few categories in the PSBJ Book of Lists.

When I asked who is GreenRubino’s ideal client, John said they don’t try to focus on specific industries or segments, which he noted is a little unusual. Instead they look for a certain type of client who wants a partnership and wants to be challenged, rather than calling all of the shots. More fundamentally, the right client is someone who connects with GreenRubino’s work. Now I see a new angle on what it means when they say, “the work works.” An honest, authentic connection to the client is like a conduit for the brand message—at least that’s my take on it. I’m a believer: followers + 1.

Company Profile: onehub

In perusing the Geekwire 200, I recently noticed a company in the 157 slot that I had not noticed before. Still small, Onehub boasts 664 Twitter followers, 2K Facebook followers, under 50 employees and 1K external links. Compare this to the first entry on the list, BigFish, with twenty times the external links and 150K times the Facebook attraction and it seems like Onehub has a ways to go before they really get noticed. Upon closer inspection though, Onehub has developed an interesting cloud application with a simple proposition of holistic business focused document management that seems to address some significant pain points for many different businesses looking to collaborate seamlessly in the cloud.

 

At the top of its homepage, Onehub boasts “Simple, secure sharing with unlimited storage and sharing for all of your business files. Share, manage, and access from anywhere”. Onehub goes onto say that users can:

 

  • Share files with confidence: Role-based permissions give you easy, granular control over what users have access to in your Workspace
  • Access your content anywhere: Mobile and desktop applications allow you to access, organize, and share your content from multiple devices.
  • Make it your own: Upload your logo and use custom colors to create a truly branded experience.

 

Onehub’s target focus is on businesses who need formalized document sharing and collaboration internally and externally. Through role based permissions, a business manager can set up document sharing for an internal project team to collaborate and edit seamlessly and in real-time using Google Documents editing system. Onehub extends its solution beyond internal walls by giving a business manager the ability to rebrand the customer facing portal using branding uploads and custom coloring. Onehub then overlays secure access on your desktop and mobile using password based permissions and secure links.

 

My initial reaction was that Onehub would be targeted at smaller businesses for internal collaboration and could function as an external document sharing hack with customers for bigger businesses with full-time IT departments. The solution feels like a slightly more sophisticated Dropbox with Google Doc’s word processing features but as I dug deeper, it seems that the company has built deeper security than it would initially convey. As a result, they have attracted larger partners like Aflac, Whole Foods, AARP, and the NHL to their service, providing convincing evidence that even larger firms can utilize the collaboration, storage, and customer facing tools without concern for scaling and security. This is surprising because I would have expected internal IT departments for larger companies to be using tools like Microsoft Sharepoint or internal homegrown collaboration tools but my expectation is that there are certain user focused tools, such as real-time editing, that are lacking in these enterprise focused solutions and drive end users to hack their way towards effectiveness using collaborative but unsecure tools like Google Docs and Dropbox. As a result, some enterprise IT functions might be seeking out secure external solutions like Onehub to build the collaborative tools that their users crave while maximizing their control on security and minimizing their budgetary spend.

 

I suspect Onehub had this all in mind when they designed their initial solution as the concept focus for both small and large companies quickly comes through on their website. What an effective approach for an up and coming firm!

– John Downey

Get Your Message Rolling with Biking Billboards

I recently sat down with Andrea Lieberman (CEO and co-founder) and Alyssa Norwood (VP of Operations) at Biking Billboards, a Seattle-based startup that offers a smart and personable alternative to traditional advertising. Using bike-trailing billboard advertising, Biking Billboards takes their clients’ messages “on the road” – literally! With targeted, high-visibility routes, and capitalizing on local events where people congregate, Biking Billboards ensures optimal exposure of its clients’ messages to their potential customers. On the route, Brand Ambassadors directly engage with people-distributing samples, flyers, coupons and communicating brand messages.

Biking Billboard is a cost-effective, eco-friendly, and memorable mobile advertising billboard that delivers brand messaging to various outdoor venues.  Similar to Pedi cabs, their bicycle-drawn billboards follow high-visibility routes and customized schedules through outdoor spaces with heavy foot traffic, such as sporting events, festivals, and downtown streets to ensure optimal exposure of its clients’ messages to their potential customers.  Their mobile billboards are an excellent fit for brands desiring an engagement-based, active, and environmentally friendly advertising presence in outdoor venues throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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Biking Billboards’ success can be largely attributed to its riders, referred to as Brand Ambassadors. Working in teams of two to four, and outfitted in custom cycling shirts and gear designed to complement each ad campaign, Brand Ambassadors ride company-supplied bicycles towing advertising billboards.  On the route, Brand Ambassadors directly engage with people-distributing samples, flyers, coupons and communicating brand messages on behalf of clients.

I hesitate to classify Biking Billboards as a market disrupter; rather it seems that they offer their clients a smart and personable compliment to their existing PR programs and traditional “transit” advertising.  They have taken a very simple, yet revolutionary approach to the Out-Of-Home advertising industry, which includes transit, billboards, and posters.  Whereas static Out-Of-Home ads offer one size fits all messages, Biking Billboards’ Brand Ambassadors offer a human extension to their clients.  Through friendly and informed interaction, they are able to customize the intended message to meet individual consumers and to maximize its impact, and take the idea of  social media to a whole new level.

Biking Billboards is positioned as a relationship-based engagement marketing company.  Face-to-face and personal interaction is a foundation pillar for the business and is the basis of its future success.  In the process of connecting with consumers on behalf the current campaign, the Brand Ambassadors themselves are Biking Billboards’ ultimate outgoing market tool.  They have also worked to create strong bonds with like-minded organizations, such as the Cascade Bicycle Club and they offer discounts for cycling-related advertisers. Further, they continue to build their online presence through frequent traditional media attention and a blossoming social media presence.  They have fully levered Seattle’s high environmental awareness and bike friendliness in order to make good use of inbound traffic to drive continued growth.  Three years removed from a single homemade bike trailer mounted billboard, Biking Billboards is clearly on a roll.

Looking for something different to serve at your next party? Try Simple & Crisp

Simple & Crisp is an accurate description of the gourmet food accessory created by Jane Yuan in 2012. While technically not a cracker and well beyond the realm of typical dried fruit, Simple & Crisp is a crispy, tasty, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing food that is the “perfect pairing” with cheese, wine, chocolate, or anything else you might serve as a hors d’oeuvre or dessert. The thinly sliced dried fruit wafers, made in a tidy SoDo factory, come in four varieties: apple, pear, orange, and blood orange (seasonal). Simple & Crisp can be purchased direct from the company’s website and is also available for sale at several fine food outlets including Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Dean & Deluca, and Whole Foods Market.

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As a complement to gourmet food and wine, it is important for Simple & Crisp to be positioned as a premium product. They are targeting consumers who enjoy entertaining friends at home and desire a healthy and visually stunning platform to pair with fine foods. Although Simple & Crisp is dried fruit and can be used like a cracker, its product attributes set it apart from those commonplace foods. This is why Simple & Crisp is displayed near gourmet cheeses and wine, not next to generic cracker boxes and bags of dried fruit. The idea being that while consumers are picking up their premium cheese and wine for the evening, Simple & Crisp will be within arm’s reach, making pairing quick and easy.

Simple & Crisp is disrupting the market for homemade gourmet appetizers, particularly cheese & crackers. While ubiquitous at wine and cheese parties, crackers are bland, too filling, dull colored, uniform in shape/size and a borderline unhealthy food (most are high in carbs, fat and sodium). Also, people suffering from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can’t eat traditional crackers. Simple & Crisp gives the entertainer a chance to break away from ordinary crackers and offer their guests a delicious, light, attractive, and healthy alternative in the form of thinly sliced, bright, and crisp dried fruit wafers.

Gourmet food retailers are the primary channel used by Simple & Crisp to bring the product to market. These retailers attract the type of customer Simple & Crisp is targeting; people who entertain at home and serve gourmet appetizers to their guests. They are positioned as a premium product and do not want to be viewed as a snack food, like most crackers and dried fruit. This is why within the retail channels, Simple & Crisp is displayed near complementary foods like cheese, not in an endless row of cracker boxes. In addition to food stores, Simple & Crisp can be purchased directly from the company’s website. This channel provides an easy way to reach customers who discover the product through social media and do not have a local gourmet food shop that carries it.

Through its gourmet food retail channels, website, and social media presence, Simple & Crisp is establishing itself as the brand for entertainers who want to break free of the norm and offer their guests a bold alternative to traditional appetizers. If you’re looking to have your holiday party stand out this year, I recommend picking up a few packs of Simple & Crisp and discover your perfect pairing.

MKTG 555- Reflection & Thoughts

To be upfront, I was a social medial doubter before I enrolled to this course, which might be attributed to my scientific/engineering background. During this past winter quarter-2013-, I had the great opportunity to learn what real marketing is from one of most enthusiastic, savvy, and well-connected lectures from the UW-Foster Business School as well as the Seattle area.

It is extremely challenging to summarized everything that we discussed and learned during my time at MKTG555, but some of the key point that I, personally, take home are: know your customer, size your market, and most important have a strategy. Also, we covered in depth the enormous power of social media, which to my understanding now to me more than a channel of communication-it is a community. With this said, I realized with this course that social media can be successfully leverage to build and market any product (nowadays, having a company’s facebook page will not cut it). You need to create an ecosystem in where you engage your community a.k.a. future and current customers as well as your industry peers.  Moreover, it is essential to highlight that each social media setting is unique; customers will use twitter, pinterest, facebook, and many other to communicate, socialized, understand, and most important share your product-free marketing-.  Understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses of these channels, grand portion covered in this class, will help companies to develop a campaign that not only just reach people, but also connect with your target consumers.  Currently, to the best of my knowledge, the best social media campaigns had been directed to interpersonal interactions that are linked to social interaction of brands and expand beyond company’s products.

Throughout this class also we had the opportunity to put in practice a real marketing campaign, which is different from fancy strategies from the book, for our final class project. As well as we had the chance to meet some of the most recognized entrepreneurs in the Puget sound area- great experience!

Overall, this class was extremely informative and useful. I will definitely continue reading Geekwire, startup Seattle, marketing 555 blog as well as have better understanding of SEO now after looking into SEOMoz.  I additionally will keep follow Steve Blank’s blog, since the information there has been helpful.

OneBusAway uses maps to hit a perceptual map bullseye

Although the popular app OneBusAway (OBA) does not quite fit the “entrepreneurial venture” mold, it offers a dynamic,  widely-accessible, and functional solution to a pain point that affects thousands of King County residents. I use OBA on a near-daily basis- largely because its positioning delivers what it promises: straightforward and reliable transit information in real-time.

OBA was developed by two graduate engineering students at the University of Washington in 2008 because, in the words of co-founder Brain Ferris, “waiting for buses in Seattle isn’t pleasant.” Brian worked with fellow student Kari Watkins to develop an open-source information system that improves transit’s overall usability. It now services over 50,000 users per week.

Before adopting OBA, my transit experiences in Seattle were fraught with frustration. Whether on its app, website, or printed marketing collateral, OBA’s positioning addresses this sentiment head-on by sending the exact opposite message. Its content emphasizes transparency, its graphics are crisp and clear, and its interface is explicit and intuitive.

OBA’s positioning states: “Where is your bus? Let’s find out.” Fortunately for me and countless other transit riders, it maps it out for us, literally and figuratively.

Focusing on Retention and Referral through Buzz Marketing

Our most recent guest speaker panel focused on buzz marketing and how customer retention and referrals develop from successful buzz marketing campaigns. The guest speakers consisted of accomplished marketing professionals Jason Reid, Jen Nausin, and Adam Tratt. Jason is an Emmy-winning Seattle filmmaker and owner of 2R Productions, a Seattle-based production company with clients such as Microsoft, Google, and Nordstrom. Jen is the Director of Marketing at Cheezburger, Inc., a collection of websites with the goal of making each visitor happy for five minutes of the day. Adam Tratt is the CEO and Founder of Giant Thinkwell, providing an online video platform that is consistent across all platforms. This exceptional panel provided the audience real life examples from their varied marketing backgrounds

There were many common threads throughout the night, primarily; a great product is necessary to long-term success in marketing, the concept of maintaining a “scrappy” mentality, specialization builds efficiencies and expertise, and a passionate consumer base cultivates effective buzz marketing. First and foremost, each panel member agreed that the product is the driving factor to any marketing campaign. A great product generates word-of-mouth, giving weight to the marketing side of the equation. While a concrete definition of scrappiness was never stated, Jen may have said it best that flexing your creative muscle while on a strict budget fosters a sense of scrappiness. From my perspective, scrappiness is an ideal combination of efficiency and effectiveness. As a marketer, specialization allows you to become an expert in a given study. Expertise leads to the appearance that you (or your firm) are large in stature, regardless of the size of your portfolio. Finally, a passionate consumer base will provide useful feedback and cultivate any marketing efforts. Jason referenced the fact that it is significantly easier to tap into an existing passionate fan base than to create new fans. Buzz marketing is the process of cultivating the passion in your consumer base. As Jason puts it, a good marketing campaign evolves the consumer’s passion into a movement.

Maintaining a customer-centric focus is key to customer retention and referral. Adam provided a great example of Pagliacci Pizza surprising and delighting customers through such strategies as offering 1984 pricing on Leap Day and seemingly random free pizzas presented to loyal customers. Furthermore, Adam advocates that many tactics can be used in optimizing a marketing strategy but the strategy itself has a singular objective: get people to love you. You, as a marketer, must promote a core belief that resonates with your target market. Adam’s core believes may boil down to: 1) Make a great, consistent product; 2) Surprise and delight customers (don’t be afraid to give it away); 3) Amplify this effect through social media. Each of these objectives is reliant upon customer relations.

The notion of putting the customer at the center of product development was brought up throughout the night. This product development feedback loop builds a relationship with the customer that not only improves the product but provides invaluable data points for future buzz marketing campaigns. Maintaining customer relationships is a long-term process, not a chore that you accomplish on an annual basis.

Another hot topic on the night was that of relevancy. In order to retain your customer base, you must remain relevant to the customers. For the Cheezburger Network, this means constantly scouring the internet for the next meme and staying on top of what the internet as a whole is discussing. For Jason at 2R Productions, relevancy is releasing follow-up films to Sonicsgate at opportune times, such as releasing a video of Shawn Kemp discussing Blake Griffin’s dunking during the NBA’s dunk contest. Relevancy keeps your customers from switching to the newest and brightest competitor.

Finally, the panel discussed how the measure success in their marketing campaigns. Adam feels too many marketing professionals view marketing as an art and fail to practice the science of marketing. Being systematic about measuring results and taking on only ROI positive projects are disciplines that too few marketers adhere to (a phenomenon that is especially true in larger companies). Jen takes an opposite view and believes there is definitely an art to having a goal in mind for your marketing efforts while focusing on maintaining relevancy. When viewed objectively, this is an argument between analytic marketing and fundamental marketing – a tangent that could quickly derail a discussion about buzz marketing. In short, as long as you spend less on marketing than the revenues derived from your marketing efforts (time value of money aside); your marketing efforts could be viewed as successful.

Ubermind Goes to Deloitte

Ubermind is a Fremont-based mobile development firm that has built mobile applications for companies such as Target, REI, Amtrak, TrueTV and others. In addition to mobile development, Ubermind also offers strategy, creative, ecommerce, and content management services. As a result of their solid work and their quickly expanding client base, Ubermind was recently purchased by Deloitte to become Deloitte | Ubermind, with offices located in Seattle and Denver. Still providing many of the same services as before, Ubermind now has the additional resources of a major consulting firm to help scale its efforts.

According to a January 5, 2012 post on Ubermind’s blog:

“Why Deloitte? Answer: The mobile revolution is here—it’s time to ready your organization. Deloitte Consulting has well-established technology services across capabilities such as systems integration, enterprise solutions, information management, and emerging technologies. As part of their tech practice, we will lead in strategy, creative, mobile apps, and web.”

Based on this primary source, it looks like Deloitte was looking to quickly build its presence in the mobile enterprise space and saw Ubermind as a turnkey solution to market entry. Having worked with Ubermind on the original iteration of Flash Volunteer’s iPhone app, I can say that their attention to detail and tech know-how are both second to none. It seems like Deloitte saw a great opportunity and pursued an acquisition-based strategy to catapult themselves into a stronger market position via Ubermind’s existing expertise.

Over the course of the next year, I imagine that Ubermind will go on a hiring spree to keep pace with the large amount of new work that will certainly be coming their way. As for their working relationship with Deloitte, I could see Deloitte definitely benefiting from Ubermind’s tech savvy, while Ubermind, which began as a small start-up, learning a lot about the operational side of running a large, international business. In fact, the tag line on Ubermind’s website states “Left brain meets right.” This direct reference to the nature of their future working relationship says a lot about how the next twelve months might unfold. Often, to achieve scale, it seems that scrappy start-ups must forge strategic partnerships with unlikely allies (some of the comments on Ubermind’s blog speak directly to the this point) in order to achieve the sort of impact they would like to see. While this alliance offers many positive outcomes, Ubermind must also be careful to maintain its own identity within the larger ecosystem of Deloitte so it does not become just another cog in a giant wheel.

Children and Carpets

The two just don’t mix. We moved in to a new home a little over a year ago. Since then, our off-white walls and carpets have been “TKO’d” by our two boys on a daily basis. Milk, juice, diapers, potty training accidents, food, spit-up…basically everything we vowed to keep off the carpet of our new home.

Recently, we finally had a milk spill bad enough that we had to look for some outside help. Traditional cleaning products were not cutting it, soap and water was not enough, and the industrial strength carpet cleaner that I had used in our condo had been off-loaded as another casualty in the great war against organization.

So I took to the internet, navigated to everyone’s favorite search engine (Bing of course – love the pictures, animations now too for those of you still stuck Googling or whatever people were doing ten years ago). My search results got me on the phone with Pure Clean Carpet Cleaning, located in Seattle and covering the Eastside.

What struck me at first with them on the phone was that they seemed authentic in their messaging and service. They are not your standard run of the mill carpet cleaning company. They focus on technology, are green certified, use baby and pet safe products, use their own water and promise to have your carpets dry in one hour. Their site is full of happy customers and you can add us to the list.

This enthralling story doesn’t really end here. See – we didn’t even need a service as thorough as the one they provided, in fact, we really only had one small area that really needed some help. I explained this to him and instead of overselling me on their products and service, the representative informed me that just one small bottle of their cleaning agent would easily get the job done. Not only that, they delivered it to me at work the next day, all for less than $20. The stain(s) never stood a chance. I might just be a repeat customer for life with that combination of product and service.

I covered most of the positioning here already, Pure Clean Carpet Cleaning offers a product and service that is positioned at a premium to most store-bought carpet cleaning products, but is absolutely price competitive with any major carpet cleaning services. Not only that, but they stress the importance of caring for the environment, caring for your property and time, focusing on technology as a differentiator, and quality service. The cleaning of the carpet and the focus on using greener products that are safe for babies and children would be considered safety needs on Maslow’s chart. Without meeting these fundamental needs, the product would have been worthless to us. Some components of their product and service may be seen as more social needs, such as items stressing environmental safety, but one’s distinction between safety and social needs would be dependent on each unique situation.

In terms of pricing, we paid around $15. I can’t even find the pricing for the cleaner on their site any longer as they are a service company first and foremost and really only offer the product directly to customers who communicate that specific need. Professional cleaners such as Resolve, are currently priced in the $10 to $20 range based on some quick searches. These require a professional carpet vacuum though. Woolite spray takes care of stains at a reasonable $5 to $10, but do so without any promise of meeting your specific health standards or any regard for the environment. All of these alternatives required my time to find, research and review and would have required a trip to the store if I would have went with one of them. For the Pure Clean pricing product itself, the price is set a premium for the value it delivers. It’s a better product than the competition has to offer and the service and delivery straight to my work really put this product a head above the rest.