From the top

The only constant is change, as the saying goes, and we’ve certainly experienced our fair share of it over the past several years. Through refined and evolving service lines, serving new clients and industries, and more than doubling our staff, Ferguson has become one of the largest full-service agencies in Indiana.

Throughout this time of growth and change, we’ve worked hard to not lose sight of what got us here – our people and our relentless commitment to our clients. That starts at the top, and we’re fortunate to have an executive team that is as focused on maintaining our culture as they are on growing our agency. With that in mind, we’re sharing some exciting updates – changes we believe help us remain mindful of our past, invested in our present, and focused on our future.

First, Kyle Martin has joined Nancy Wright and John Ferguson as a partner in the business, effective immediately. Kyle has been integral to the growth and success of our agency since he joined us nine years ago, so this was a natural next step. In addition to Kyle joining Nancy and John in our ownership team, we’re happy to share the following additional changes as well:

  • John moves into the role of CEO. While John will continue to be involved in the day-to-day details of running our business, this move will also allow him to spend more time on the things he loves – helping the agency grow, serving as a mentor and resource for staff, and giving back to our community. He’ll also continue to work with clients at a strategic level.
  • Nancy moves into the new role of Chief Employee Experience Officer. Nancy has played an incredibly important role in the development of our agency’s unique culture and identity over the past 40-plus years, so it’s hard to think of anyone better suited to be the chief advocate for our  agency culture and employees than her. While she continues to work with clients, she’ll now serve as a direct outlet and resource for all employees to ensure they’re supported and valued in our growth; in addition, she’ll work with team leaders to address any issues and ensure they have what they need for our continued success.
  • Lastly, Kyle moves into the role of President. Kyle loves what he does, so it’s important to note right away what won’t change – he’ll still work closely with clients and our account team to ensure the level and quality of our service remains unique and unparalleled. At the same time, he’ll engage with agency department directors on respective growth and resource strategies while also putting his experience and expertise behind ongoing operations and growth strategies.

We wouldn’t be where we are – or who we are – without the continued support of valued partners like you, which is why we wanted to share these changes with you directly. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about these updates – and we’re excited to begin this new phase in our agency’s present – and future.

Project highlight: Benchmark Human Services wall mural

Check out this recent project we completed for our friends at Benchmark Human Services…

CHALLENGE: The team at Benchmark wanted to liven up the main conference room at their Fort Wayne headquarters. And they wanted something more than just your standard corporate artwork – they wanted something that demonstrated in a unique and creative way their growth and evolution over the past half-century. They reached out to us for help.

SOLUTION: Our design team devised this colorful, creative approach based on a grid design. The grid design provided the perfect platform to highlight key milestones and moments in the company’s history in an engaging, highly visual way. We also designed a separate, smaller mural for another space in the same room to visually depict the company’s geographic reach and impact.

RESULT: Just look at it! It’s beautiful!

 

Building a greater Fort Wayne

We just love it when worlds collide. (Figuratively, of course.) Take Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Electric Works, for example.

We’ve had the honor of working with both over the past several years. We worked with the development team behind Electric Works to create the project’s name and identity, and have helped them share their ambitious and inspiring vision for the redevelopment of the former General Electric campus locally, regionally and across the country.

We’ve also been fortunate to work with the awesome team at GFW Inc. on several initiatives, including recent upgrades to their website, as well as updates to the “Vision to Vibrant” video we originally developed for them in 2016.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. has been a strong and enthusiastic supporter of Electric Works, so it makes sense that these worlds would collide – which they did last year when we worked with GFW Inc. on a regional and national advocacy campaign on behalf of Electric Works. In particular, we supported the campaign through a video and Electric Works-dedicated video brochure.

Which ALL brings us to earlier this month, when the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) bestowed three national awards on GFW Inc., including a Best in Show and Grand Award for its 2018 Electric Works campaign. In addition, GFW Inc. VP of Economic Development Ellen Cutter was named to ACCE’s 40 Under 40 list for 2019 – congrats, Ellen!

We’re thrilled for GFW Inc. We’re thrilled for Electric Works. We’re pretty proud of ourselves – and we’re so honored we get to work with both of these amazing teams and support their work on behalf of our hometown.

Let’s talk about that…Superb Owl

(Yes…Superb Owl.)

Before one Super Bowl is over, brands are already busy planning, plotting and preparing for the next. But plan they must, as creating a memorable, relatable, engaging 30-second message – as well as navigating the thin line of product pitches, brand standards, celebrity endorsements and current issues – remains one of their most formidable challenges. Though this year’s big game was…underwhelming, it was clear the advertisers came to compete. After all, there are only over 100 million watching – and waiting to see which spots are worthy of the worldwide stage.

Here are the true winners of the day – according to the experts (that’s us).

Washington Post “Democracy Dies in Darkness”
As an agency of many journalists, the Post’s inaugural Super Bowl ad spot truly resonated. Featuring imagery from WWII’s D-Day and the first landing on the moon – all narrated by Tom Hanks – the ad honors journalists and reporters, their role and the freedom of the press. The message really brought it all home — “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.”

NFL’s “100 Years of Football”
We love this for two reasons: the legends and the grand silliness of men becoming boys (in a ballroom, might we add). There are obvious illusions to the old, star-studded Miller Lite ads, but it reminds us of one of our all-time favorites – Nike’s “Keep the Ball Alive” campaign, which features a battalion of world-class rugby players running wild through a city.

Bud Light’s “Jousting Match”
Promoting the upcoming and final season of Game of Thrones, the commercial – very much like the series itself – is a helluva twist. At 1:35, the commercial entertains with everything from a lucky loincloth to a deadly plague. The ad set fire to social media, amassing more than 183 million social impressions, according to iSpot.tv. Or, perhaps it was the dragons? We could almost hear the joyous cheers and applause of GoT superfans everywhere when they made their appearance…

Pepsi’s “More Than OK”
The #PepsiMoreThanOK hashtag received more than 65.2 million impressions (Brandwatch) and nearly 18,000 mentions on Twitter (Salesforce). Featuring Lil Jon, Steve Carell and Cardi B, Pepsi successfully reached their target audiences, but was charming enough for all viewers to enjoy. It had us practicing Cardi’s famous “okuuurt” much longer than we’d like to admit.

M&Ms “Bad Passenger”
Christina Appelgate plays the suburban mom – van and all – who’s trying to settle the feud in the backseat to no avail. (Ah, parenthood.) Finally, she slams the brakes, turns and yells a form of what us parents have threatening since the days of mules and carriages: “OK, that’s it! If you don’t stop, I will eat all of you alive right now!” The camera pans to the back seat where we’re able to place the distinctive voices to the three M&M’s we’ve come to know and love, but in a very different form. This time, they’re embedded into one giant chocolate bar and reply, “I prefer the ‘break-us-apart option.’” Simple. Effective. Delicious. Three ingredients to successfully – and memorably – introducing a new product.

Skittle’s “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical”
Weeks before the big game, the company dropped a teaser of Michael C. Hall (Dexter) clarifying that Skittle’s Super Bowl commercial would not be a commercial at all. Instead, the company put up an entire Broadway musical in NYC – complete with a Pulitzer finalist playwright, director and choreography. The 30-minute long play, attended by 1,500+, was a self-deprecatingly funny take on advertising itself that felt like a true Broadway production (Business Insider). All proceeds went to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Google’s “Job Search for Veterans”
The company was once again successful in tugging at the heartstrings and shining light on an oft-overlooked issue. Focusing on the 7% of our society that have served in the military, the ad humbly reminds us of all they’ve sacrificed and endured before it unveils their latest, progressive feature. Using their specific military job codes, veterans can find civilian jobs that require skills similar to those used in the service – reminding them: “No simple code can define who you are. But now, it can help you search for whatever’s next.”

Browser window shopping

Just about everyone who uses the internet with any regularity is familiar with those ubiquitous search ads. But did you know Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines offer a separate, more visual search-based ad tool that offers a number of distinct advantages for certain brands? You didn’t? Well, it’s your lucky day – our digital media team just so happened to put together a handy rundown of this tool – and how it may be able to impact your digital marketing plan.

Many business owners are familiar with these search ads (text results signified by the “AD” badge), yet many are unfamiliar with shopping ads. Shopping ads are specialized ads for retailers who would like to promote their online and local inventory on Google, Bing and Yahoo – as well as their partner sites like YouTube, Maps or the image search tab.

Shopping Ads offer some unique advantage over text ads. The biggest? Web users get to see how the product looks. It is important to showcase what makes your products better and different than your competitors – and Shopping Ads do just that, allowing you to promote your products with detailed photos, pricing and your store name (as well as additional information). Giving customers this valuable information means that they are well informed before they click the ad. Well-informed customers are significantly further along in the purchase funnel – and ultimately more valuable than your average web user.

Shopping Ads appear at the top of the search results page and take up a large portion of the space, especially on mobile devices. Mobile shopping continues to rise year-over-year – making it more important to be in front of your customers on the right device with the right offer. According to Google, shopping ads have, in some cases, earned advertisers up to two or three times higher click-through rates in comparison to text ads.

Similar to Search Ads, Shopping Ads are only triggered when a web user searches for your product or a similar product. More than one of your products may appear in the Shopping Ad results and, if relevant, your Shopping Ad may appear next to a text ad at the same time. This is an excellent opportunity to increase your brand’s awareness on Google’s most valuable real estate.

So who do Shopping Ads work best for? As you can probably guess, Shopping Ads are best for retailers or manufacturers who have an online catalog. (Keep in mind, however, that several products are not eligible, such as ticket sales, motor vehicles, stocks or bonds, cryptocurrencies, services, real estate or land plots, lottery tickets, alcohol, illicit drugs and many more.) Unsure if your product can be advertised on shopping ads? You know who to ask. (It’s us.)

Run an online store? Here are four reasons why you should be running Shopping Ads…

  1. Increase product awareness – Show more than one product alongside text ads.
  2. Drive qualified traffic – Provide customers with valuable information before they click to your site.
  3. Reach more shoppers – Show up in searches for your product and relevant products.
  4. Standout – Detailed images, pricing and store name, give you a competitive edge.

“There’s just not a better guy around.”

This summer, our very own Rich Ferguson celebrated a couple major professional milestones:

  • 60 years in the advertising industry
  • 50 years in the ad-agency business

He’s spent the past 43 of those years, as you may know, as our founder and friend – helping to build one of the largest and fastest-growing agencies in the state. Beyond all of that, of course, is the fact that Rich is an all-around amazing guy – kind, funny, honest, caring and committed to his community.

We were thrilled to see the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette share all of the qualities that make Rich who he is – and, by extension, who we are as a team and a family. You can read their recent profile of Rich here.

Eight for 18

It’s 2018! If it seems like you haven’t heard from us since last year, well…that’s because you haven’t. But we’re here now! And we’re here with some trends and shifts in social media we think are worth preparing for in 2018…and beyond.

End-of-year trend lists aren’t hard to find for just about any industry, and digital marketing and social media are no exceptions. Worry not, of course, we combed through some from our favorite resources to identify the trends we see as most important in the coming year.

Without further ado:

  • Video…again. If this seems like the fourth or fifth straight year where video has been predicted to be a big trend, you’re not alone. Video still provides its challenges, but what makes it a more compelling and accessible platform is its increasing variety, as you’ll see below.
  • What’s your story? Take Instagram Stories, for example. While most still think of Instagram as a photo-driven social network, Stories saw explosive growth in 2017. That growth is expected to continue this year, making it easy for brands to bring unique, quick video content to audiences they’ve already developed and nurtured.
  • We’ll do it live. Same goes for “livestreaming” via Facebook Live, Periscope and others. Trade shows and similar events in particular lend themselves well to Facebook Live – another easy way for brands to bring quick video content to built-in audiences.
  • Diving deep on data. It can get noisy and crowded for consumers online. As the analytics from brands’ social media continues to get more robust and detailed, the value of that data becomes more important than ever. Such data enables brands to continue personalizing content, engagement and experience as much as possible – which helps cut through the noise and the traffic.
  • Listen up. Some of that data comes from social listening. Brands that have a clear understanding of their core audience can better listen to what they’re saying and the conversations they find engaging and energizing – and continue to personalize their content to align with that qualitative data.
  • Less is more. Audiences continue to have more options and choices when it comes to where they spend their time on social media, meaning it can be tempting for brands to try to be everywhere for everyone. Instead, it’s now more important than ever to understand your core audience deeply; doing so enables you to know which social platforms they prefer and frequent – and focus your finite resources accordingly. Keep it simple.
  • Organic on the outs. Friendly reminder that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. aren’t charities. As they continuously “tweak” the algorithms that decide what you see in your feed, the most common victim of those tweaks is organic content from brands. As such, brands should be prepared to invest in supporting and expanding their organic content with smart digital buys and promotions when appropriate. There’s not much worse than quality content falling on deaf ears – or no ears at all.

Exciting stuff in the year ahead! If it can seem overwhelming, it’s always important to remember that a clear-eyed, comprehensive understanding of core audience and customer simplifies the strategic-planning process as much as anything. And if it still seems overwhelming, well…better call Saul.

Signs of intelligent life

Artificial intelligence is a major disruptive force across a number of industries right now, and marketing is no different. A recent Salesforce study, for example, took the pulse of marketing leaders worldwide to see if – and, just as importantly, how – they see AI impacting their work over the next few years. And while some insights from the survey seem pretty straightforward, a few thoughts about how AI may impact marketing were a bit more surprising.

First, the straightforward parts – as you’d expect, the areas where AI is seen as having the biggest impact center on “big data,” campaign analytics and operational efficiency. Upwards of 60 percent of respondents envision leveraging AI to enhance predictive customer journeys, programmatic ad buying, lead scoring and digital asset management. Nothing too surprising there, as AI’s ability to crunch massive amounts of data and “learn” from it over time and through repetition.

Now, on to the more surprising parts: Marketers also see AI helping them make the customer experience more personal and more personalized. This speaks to one of the most interesting and lesser known aspects of AI. Sure, its impact can be huge across huge audiences, but its impact can be just as huge in enabling marketers to enhance their one-on-one engagement with customers – providing more personalized content as part of a more tailored experience and at ever-growing economies of scale. There’s power in personalization, and making it easier for marketers to personalize their customer experience may turn out being one of AI’s most profound impacts in our industry.

Simply put, AI will certainly help marketers think big – and think small.

Are you experienced?

It’s easy to think of a marketing budget as a pie, with each piece representing a particular platform or tactic. As customers and media change and evolve, some pieces get smaller, while others get bigger. Digital and mobile, in particular, are pieces that have gotten bigger over the past couple of years. A recent survey of marketing chiefs, however, reminded us that there’s another, slightly more analog piece that is also expected to grow in the coming years.

A recent survey showed that more than half of brand marketers from across the U.S., Europe and Asia expect to spend at least 20 percent of their budget on experiential marketing over the next three to five years – up from barely 30 percent of marketers who do so currently.

First off: What is experiential marketing? Also known as engagement marketing or event marketing, experiential is a marketing strategy that aims to directly engage consumers through primarily in-person experiences and, as a result, transition them from passive observers to active influencers on behalf of a brand.

Secondly: Why is it growing? Well, as our world grows more digital and mobile – and as our media consumption becomes more fractured and customized – it can become increasingly difficult for traditional marketing to reach and engage with large numbers of consumers. In addition, experiential provides a high-contact, three-dimensional, immersive brand experience that other platforms often cannot. (Like dropping bags of chips from a helicopter, for example.)

While popular for B2C, of course, experiential offers plenty of possibilities for B2B as well. Trade shows and other industry events are perfect examples of times where B2B brands have a captive audience and a branded space; why just hand out brochures and free branded pens? How can you make your booth experience at the next big trade show more experiential?

From a VR headset providing an immersive experience of your product or service to an augmented reality display bridging the digital and physical worlds – and through many other experiences in between – B2B brands can use experiential to as great an effect as B2C brands. (Even if you can’t drop your products from a helicopter.)

Build your tribe

“Marketers aren’t the owners of their brands. They’re merely the stewards of it.” It’s a saying fairly well known in the marketing world, but one that can still be fairly hard to come to terms with for some companies. Of course we own our brand. If not us, then who?

Well, here’s who.

Broadly speaking, a company’s brand belongs to an imprecise and constantly evolving cross-section of its customers, prospects, employees, suppliers, influencers, partners, etc. They “own” the brand because they are the ones who, by and large, determine its success and/or failure. The more connected they feel to a brand, the more likely they are to support it. The broader and deeper the support a brand has, the stronger its sense of ownership feels. In this approach, as a recent article helpfully explains, the brand’s heavy lifting is done by its community.

As the article also suggests, perhaps the easiest and most effective ways to create a clearer and better defined sense of a brand is to think of it less as a community and more as a tribe. The examples of brand tribes within the B2C world are virtually innumerable, of course – sports teams, food brands, music acts, clothing labels, etc. Generally speaking, we’re more predisposed to join a tribe that impacts or connects to our personal lives.

This doesn’t mean, however, that B2B companies can’t – and don’t – successfully build and grow their own tribes. After all, whether it’s B2C or B2B, it’s really about B2H – business to human. Companies need to build and grow an emotional, personal connection with consumers, no matter what they’re selling. Because at the end of the day, a purchase decision is still an emotional one, no matter what they’re buying. It’s also important to remember that the purchase is just the beginning of that relationship, not the end; companies that commit to providing a positive, engaging customer experience throughout the product life cycle are the ones that most often build tribes of loyal, emotionally connected customers.

All this being said, it can still be hard for companies to see themselves not as the owners of their brands but as their stewards. The sooner they do, however, the sooner they begin understanding who the owners truly are – and how to build a growing tribe full of them.

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