Europe’s GDPR Changes Internet Privacy in the U.S.

Toward the end of 2017 and the outset of 2018, lots of major digital U.S. companies updated their privacy policies and sent out notifications to their millions of customers. What did all those companies have in common? They were all doing business in the European Union (EU).

Businesses in the EU had to adopt new privacy policies to comply with April 2016’s update to consumer-protection regulations, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Policies regarding internet user privacy hadn’t been updated since 1995, and privacy concerns and practices have changed profoundly since then.

GDPR brings privacy practices into the 21st century with a surprisingly high standard that will require major investments for large, multinational companies. Those businesses that do business in both the EU and the U.S. are changing standards company-wide to comply, which means users in the U.S. will also likely benefit from those changes.

But exactly how will privacy change, and are all those changes positive? We’ll explore deeper what GDPR means for U.S. citizens.

GDPR’s Most Significant Regulations

A large-scale view of the most pertinent regulations will help internet users in the U.S. discover how the changes will affect them.

european union flag waving

Information Protection

Companies are now responsible for carrying out steps that keep consumers well-informed of information-use when attempting to take action with a user’s personal information, including:

  • Consent – Requests for consent must be written in an easily accessible form that eliminates legal jargon, and they are now required to make consent withdrawal as easy as accepting terms for consent.
  • Breach Notification – Consumers must be notified of data breaches within 72 hours when such a breach risks rights and freedoms of users.
  • Right to be Forgotten – Users will have the right to Data Erasure, which allows them to have data controllers erase personal data and cease dissemination of that data.
  • Right to Access – Internet users will also have access to whether their information is under process, where it is being process, and for what purpose.

Accountability

Businesses under GDPR will also have to remain accountable for their actions regarding user information, including:

  • Penalties – Fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or 20 million euro may be imposed if flagrant violations of GDPR policy are made.
  • Privacy by Design – Privacy protection for users’ personal information must now be built into the design of internal systems.
  • Territorial Scope – Any company that does business and collects personal information in the European Union must comply with GDPR regulations.

Rules apply to business that perform transactions with users as well that those that simply collect personal data, also called personally identifiable information (PII) in the U.S.

How U.S. Internet Users Will Be Affected

There is no shortage of internationally-operating companies that are based in the U.S., and some of America’s favorite social media and shopping sites meet the criteria for switching to GDPR. However, even multinational companies aren’t required by U.S. law to comply with European regulations in the U.S. Luckily, it’s in the best interest of those companies to make universal changes to policy that fit into both GDPR and domestic standards, especially since it could cost anywhere from $1 million to $10 million depending on the size of the company.

That’s why so many companies preemptively updated their privacy policies and notified U.S. users at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. With a firm due date of May 25, 2018 for implementing changes according to GDPR, most data subjects in the U.S. should know (in easy-to-read terms) how the new privacy policies will change their rights and access to their personal information as well as how those businesses will be handling it.

Keep a look out in your email, and if you’re reading this well ahead of implementation, know that you have a right to review your privacy policy at any time and that most of them are easy to access. Take the time post-GDPR to find out how your information is being used, and stay up-to-date on changes made by companies with whom you do business.

Leverage Marketing respects and protects private information, and we also help companies reach the next level in their business. Ask us how.

Intelligent Personal Voice Assistants in Business and Marketing

You’ll find, all around you, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant suite, and Amazon Alexa climbing the staircase of intelligent personal voice assistant potential. These software and hardware combinations use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to carry out commands from human voices.

clone of amazon echo with alexa technology

What’s remarkable is that the major personal assistants are learning, through a combination of artificial intelligence and programmer input, how to parse and interpret language used in everyday life. They then take that input and generate a response that has the potential to decrease or eliminate human effort for ordinary tasks.

One of the goals in marketing is to mitigate the effort to which consumers have to go to purchase a product or service. Intelligent personal assistants, while not fully developed, have presented the possibility of streamlining orders of products and services through automation. Automation through artificial intelligence could be a potent way for business owners to ensure that customers not only try out and buy their products, but that those customers continue to come back for more.

Businesses Are Already Using Intelligent Voice Assistants

Of course, some of the leading enterprises of modern business have started experimenting with personal AI assistants to ease the burden of the purchase process on their customers. Some, like Amazon, have even created their own assistants complete with custom skills and software.

The functions of intelligent personal assistants for businesses split effectively into two categories: products and services.

For Products

Consumer products, under which we will include fast food, have certainly enjoyed improvements in their purchase processes with such milestones as online ordering, free shipping, and single day delivery. Often, consumers can save money and effort by ordering products they find at storefronts from online retailers.

mystery package with leverage marketing logo

The next milestone appears to be voice ordering with intelligent personal assistants like Alexa and Google Now. The flexibility of their skills systems, through which businesses can create custom voice commands, allows for robust ordering functions that don’t require customers to scroll through product lists.

Large-scale examples for both products and fast food include:

  • Amazon – Amazon’s Alexa performs many of the functions of other assistants like Cortana and Siri. But since Alexa is Amazon’s creation, she specializes in providing product recommendations and placing orders for customers using natural language processing.
  • Dominos & Pizza Hut – Through artificial intelligence platforms that learn, Dominos and Pizza Hut have made it possible for frequent customers to quickly order their favorite pizzas and have them delivered. The assistant stores order and payment information and recalls it by voice commands such as, “Alexa, ask Pizza Hut to reorder.”

Though it may seem like a novelty, voice ordering has the potential to save vast amounts of time and effort as NLP improves. Even more exciting is the fact that designers of personal AI assistants are improving their custom command creation kits, as well. That means that, eventually, even small businesses may be able to enter their products into the voice ordering realm.

For Services

Similarly, service-based businesses have found clever ways to circumvent repetitive or tedious tasks that are required by customers when using their services. Doing so automatically gives these companies a competitive edge by providing dominant solutions to consumers who have purchased an intelligent personal assistant.

leverage purple musical note

Major service-based businesses that have taken advantage of voice-activated functionality include:

  • Uber & Lyft – Ride share services allow you to find prices for rides to and from recognizable locations, then request those rides without ever having to open your app.
  • Kayak – Kayak’s extensive travel database is searchable through voice for tracking flights, checking prices, and discovering flights under a budget designated by you.
  • Slack – Slack integration takes dictation a step further by allowing users to post dictated messages to a specified channel.
  • Spotify – Spotify and similar music streaming services have enabled users to play music by category, playlist, artist, or song, as well as upvote and downvote songs in compatible apps.

There is potential for other service-based businesses, especially those on subscription, to enhance customer retention and increase service upgrades through intelligent personal assistants. Common services, including local ones such as plumbing and electrical work, may be able to take advantage of the ease of use of voice command technology.

How Can Intelligent Personal Assistants Help Market Your Business?

grocery bag with leverage colored ball

Working your product or service into ordinary interactions with voice-operated personal assistants will be the number one skill essential to using assistants for marketing. Because the potential is so enormous, it will be more effective to share some examples of how marketing can fit into those interactions.

You can use intelligent personal assistants to integrate your business with consumer home life in such ways as:

  • Connecting your food-delivery service to consumer grocery lists and offering instant ordering for items you can sell and ship.
  • Creating voice commands for your smart-home enabled furnishings such as lights, appliances, and electronics that consumers can intuitively use.
  • Enable your educational tools to work with children’s voice commands to enhance their ability to learn and interact with your software for school.
  • Teach voice-operated personal assistants about customer needs for booking hotel rentals, which enables them to name a place and date for immediate booking.
  • Tie reservations to an online system that is voice-ready to allow restaurant guests to make their reservations through their devices.

Think first about how your customers ordinarily interact with your staff, storefront, or online business. Look for shortcuts within those interactions where customers could use natural language to shorten the funnel from awareness to conversion. Get your products and services to customers faster than they ever thought possible; once you do, they won’t be able to live without them.

Our Leverage Marketing experts can help you figure out how your product or service integrates with intelligent personal assistants. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

Why Losing Net Neutrality Could Harm Digital Marketing

Net neutrality has been a buzzword for the last several months as the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has sought public opinion and voted to repeal the Obama-era regulations. But what is net neutrality? How are this debate and legislation even relevant to digital marketing?

In December 2017, the FCC voted (3-2) to dismantle a previous ruling that recognized broadband Internet as a public Title II utility, like electricity or water. For the past few years, all Internet traffic has been treated identically, with no one website or provider getting higher priority for their traffic.

net neutrality pai

Ajit Pai, Current Chairman of FCC (credit USDA)

The FCC’s vote to deregulate broadband Internet could have far-reaching effects on digital marketing, disrupting advertising prices, viewability standards, and creating unfair competition. If a powerful company like Amazon can prioritize their own ad traffic through their servers, customers are more likely to click on their ad copy, giving them a competitive advantage in the marketplace that heretofore didn’t exist. The impact of repealing net neutrality is damaging not only to consumers but also to brands and agencies.

What is Net Neutrality?

 Simply put, net neutrality is the fundamental principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, no matter where it comes from, or where it’s being sent. Net neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t decide to discriminate against or charge differently based on user type, content, platform, application, method of communication, website, or other factors. The definition of net neutrality is Internet equality.

There have been many attempts over the last two decades to infringe upon these basic precepts, such as Comcast throttling peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing companies like The Pirate Bay, AT&T limiting FaceTime on the iPhone to users with certain data plans, and companies like Verizon Wireless slowing down video services on their network. Despite the evidence that ISPs will violate net neutrality for their bottom line, the FCC repealed its Open Internet Order on the basis that the market could self-regulate. The loss of net neutrality’s effects will be extensive across the consumer and business sectors.

How Does Net Neutrality Impact Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is currently an $80 billion annual industry. While there are many large players in the sector—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft– it’s the many small marketing agencies and ad networks that drive competition and innovation in the space. Without a free and open Internet that creates competition for organic traffic and the best paid search, larger companies will begin to gain a clear advantage in the space over a short period. Why should an ad network like Google prioritize your ad if they can prioritize one from a corporate sponsor?

Digital marketing, including SEO, content marketing, paid search, and even social media marketing, could lose previously level competition from non-net neutrality rules. Small- and medium-sized businesses could lose out, have their traffic and revenue drop, and watch as the larger players take a bigger slice of the pie.

What is the Future of Net Neutrality and Digital Marketing?

 

net neutrality rally

Net Neutrality Rally in San Francisco (credit Wikimedia)

Despite the potential gains for many large technology companies, Reddit, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and others are standing up against these anti-net neutrality rules. Many members of the Senate are trying to overrule the FCC and reinstate the Open Internet Order. It’s unclear what the future of the Internet will look like under the new guidance (or lack thereof) of the current FCC. In the short time it was in effect, net neutrality helped to create a more open and fair Internet.

Digital marketing has flourished and grown in the last decade and hopefully, the repeal of net neutrality will only be a blip in the innovative new ways it grows in the next. Agencies and ad companies must adapt to the new rules, advocate for the return of net neutrality, and work toward a future with Open Internet.


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Leverage Gets Tangled in EAST Austin Studio Tour

One of the best parts about the Leverage office’s location in East Austin is its proximity to some great spaces for creativity. Within a two-block radius we have dance studios, co-working spaces, artist collectives, and a bakery whose cupcakes, some of us would argue, are works of art. We’re also in a part of town that sees a lot of participation during the annual EAST Austin Studio Tour, and we’re happy to announce that this year, we’re getting involved.

From 11am-6pm on November 11-12 and 18-19, Leverage will host a temporary exhibition featuring the works of Nicole Anderson and Polina Novozhenets. The two local artists have very different styles, but they’ve chosen the theme Tanglescapes to tie together their collections of abstract paintings, drawings, and mixed media art.

Nicole explained that she came up with the theme Tanglescapes because she and Polina share a meditative, reflective relationship with their art practice. “Because thought patterns can often be dense, complex, and ultimately, tangled, both our works had this same visual element in common,” she told us. Polina agreed that both their works have a meditative quality, and added that their art shares a sense of inviting the viewer to get lost inside it.

The Water Buffalo by Nicole Anderson

Green on Linen by Polina Novozhenets

What is the EAST Austin Studio Tour?

EAST Austin Studio Tour is a self-guided art event that takes place every year across two weekends in November. It’s free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to walk or bike to any of the 450+ participating venues that interest them. Tour stops include permanent galleries, temporary exhibitions, private artists’ studios, and even local library branches. You can check out a map and online catalog with all the tour stops here. The Leverage Marketing office is #441!

Why Should You Go?

If you live in the Austin area and have never checked out the EAST Austin Studio Tour, it’s about time you change that. This massive event gives you a chance to view the work of hundreds of local artists working in mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, collage, and more. Some tour stops offer a rare glimpse into an artist’s home workspace, while others give you the opportunity to step through the doors of local galleries and businesses you might not have discovered otherwise.

Nicole described the EAST Austin Studio Tour, which she’s attended every year since she’s lived in Austin, as having a warm, friendly atmosphere and representing artful Southern hospitality at its best. Polina told us that EAST is a true hub of artist activity in Austin, and it’s a great way for artists and non-artists alike to plug into what’s happening in the area.

Many of the tour stops include artwork and handmade gifts for sale, and there are also lots of stops hosting special live events during the tour. Our two visiting artists will be creating new paintings at our office from 2-3pm each Saturday and raffling the finished pieces off to attendees. We’ll also have snacks and wine available throughout the event, and Nicole and Polina’s artwork will be displayed throughout our office. Some of their pieces will be for sale.

We hope to see you during the tour—stop in, chat with us, and enjoy the work of our guest artists.

Check out some of Polina’s art here.

And check out Nicole’s portfolio here.

Mobile Shopping: The New Norm

We originally published this post back in 2016. Since a lot can change in the online marketing landscape in a year, we’ve updated it for 2017.

Throughout the last decade, mobile and online shopping has been on the rise, pushing brick-and-mortar businesses to compete harder for their share of consumers’ dollars. During the 2017 holiday season, eMarketer expects ecommerce sales to grow 15.8%, with total retail growth limited to 2%. The National Retail Federation (NRF) believes overall retail growth will be around 3.7-4.2% in 2017, while online retail will grow 8-12% alone. It’s clear that mobile shopping on smartphones and tablets, rather than brick and mortar shopping, is the new norm.

In the United States, consumers are increasingly using their smartphones more hours during the day for shopping, social media, and other activities. Mobile ad spending is on the rise, as marketers realize they need to target mobile consumers even more than through traditional advertising avenues. As mobile data and the online shopping industry grow, vendors and retailers will need to come up with innovative ways to target consumers.

As fewer consumers purchase laptops or rely on them as a primary device, tablets and smartphones will increasingly become the primary devices for purchasing, with 31 million US Internet users only using a mobile device to go online in 2016.

mobile online shopping

Amazon and Walmart

Comparing two retail giants—Amazon and Walmart—shows the chasm widening between online and brick-and-mortar sales. Amazon posted $82.7 billion in sales for the last 12 months, while Walmart, with its massive physical presence, only posted $12.5 billion. With ecommerce juggernauts like Amazon driving more sales through programs like Amazon Prime, online sales will continue to eclipse traditional brick-and-mortar options, and the online shopping industry will grow.

Both these companies are working hard to break into each other’s markets, with Walmart strengthening its ecommerce skills and Amazon its brick-and-mortar abilities. Walmart has purchased Amazon, however, announced its intention to purchase organic food giant Whole Foods and has been opening up retail bookstores in NYC and other locations. These two massive companies make it clear that ecommerce is the future, but brick-and-mortar isn’t dead either.

Demographics: Who Shops Mobile?

New data shows that younger buyers, especially those with smartphones, are more likely to use mobile devices for shopping compared to older consumers. In a 2016 Bronto survey of over 1000 people, 65% of adults ages 18-24 say they use their smartphones for shopping, as do 63% of those ages 25-34, and 58% of those aged 35-44, with the numbers dropping significantly as age increases. 35-44-year-old people are more likely to purchase on tablets, with younger consumers not using those devices as frequently. As age increases over 44, these numbers decline.

What these statistics suggest is that most mobile commerce growth is driven by the 18-34-year-old segment of the population, with less push from older American adults. As an increasing number of millennials accrue wealth and enter the workforce, mobile sales will continue to grow and overtake online sales from computers and eventually brick-and-mortar entirely.

Online shopping growth, especially on mobile, is a force that will only increase as the conveniences of shopping from your home and online-only deals eclipse any advantages brick-and-mortar stores retain. Millennial shoppers are pushing this evolution, and the next generation will only further it.smartphone graph new

Conclusion

Consumer trends suggest that mobile sales are the new norm. Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are convenient to use and able to fit in your pocket, and retailers are providing seamless app experiences for purchasing on their platforms. Tablets are also a significant part of this growth, to a lesser extent, among adults in the 35-44-year old range.

Mobile commerce growth is inevitable, and it will overtake brick-and-mortar. The only question is when. With giants like Amazon reporting close to $100 billion in annual sales and growing, retailers and advertisers must pursue solutions to engage with mobile consumers in innovative ways. While brick and mortar stores are still relevant for the foreseeable future, Walmart and similar large retailers must continue to adapt to stay in business.

At Leverage Marketing, we employ pioneering techniques to further your company’s digital marketing efforts We can help your ecommerce business create a mobile-friendly design that adapts to smartphone and tablet design. Learn more about our web design services and contact us today.

Use Online Advertising Analysis Tool RightWord to Beat Your Competition

Are you sick of doing constant A/B testing of your ads and still not winning with Google AdWords? RightWord is Leverage Marketing’s advanced online ad copy analysis tool, which takes a closer look at words in paid search ads. You will discover which words you use to speak to your customers and lead more frequently to conversions.

RightWord is a powerful new lexical analysis tool that can improve your pay-per-click (PPC) ad copy and give you new insights into your ads. Leverage Marketing’s software uses data from tests of thousands of ads and scores individual words in those ads based on their performance. Our experienced paid search team analyzes this data to provide you with information about language that always works, words that sometimes work, and words that turn off your customers. RightWord helps you write ad copy that succeeds—and leads to more conversions.

How is This Different from A/B Testing?

RightWord goes beyond A/B testing of ads by taking the data from thousands of A/B tests already performed and analyzing them in a way other companies don’t. While split testing one ad versus another can determine which is better, RightWord will tell you which words perform better across all your ads. You’ll learn that some words are universally successful, while some language works better in certain circumstances.

Can RightWord Save Time for Me?

After an in-depth RightWord online ad copy analysis from our team, you’ll understand which words hurt your ads—and which help. You can save time by doing more impactful A/B testing and more improvement of your existing ad copy. The insights you learn from RightWord will help you enhance your AdWords account and create more successful ad campaigns.

How Will RightWord Help Defeat the Competition?

Winning ad space on Google’s AdWords platform is dependent on having the most optimized message, which RightWord can help you achieve. Leverage’s RightWord tool offers you an advantage no one else does—knowing what language performs best. You’ll be able to optimize your ad copy and beat your competition by winning ad space more easily.

Will a RightWord Online Ad Copy Analysis Help in the Future?

Even after the Leverage team analyzes your data and provides recommendations, that won’t be the end of our help. We’ll provide you with an actionable three-month ad-testing plan that you can start implementing tomorrow. Our comprehensive strategy will enable you to run better ads and save time on your A/B testing.

Why Should I Choose RightWord?

If you want an advantage against your competitors in your ads, RightWord is the tool for you. Leverage paid search analyst Michael Holeman explains, “We knew we could help clients gain a competitive edge if we had a complete way of testing ads, but there simply wasn’t any tool available that could accomplish what we needed. So, we built our own. RightWord allows us to test all of a client’s ads against each other and see, down to the single word, what made some ads outperform other ads.” Implementing RightWord strategies will enable you to write more effective ad copy and gain insights into how your language performs.

Choose RightWord to get the only in-depth online advertising analysis of A/B testing on the market. You’ll get a deep dive from an expert data analyst to give you the recommendations you need. You’ll also receive an easy-to-read report with personalized ad copy advice and a three-month ad-testing plan to improve your performance, which could lead to more conversions and beating your competitors.


Learn more about RightWord today by talking to a Leverage Marketing Analyst. Fill out our contact form today, and we’ll help you learn priceless ad copy secrets with RightWord.

 

Leverage Makes Clutch List of Leading Austin SEO Firms

Clutch badge for Top Austin SEO Firms in 2017

Here at Leverage, we think our SEO team is pretty great—and so does Clutch. Clutch.co, a Washington DC research firm that reviews and rates marketing, development, and design firms, named Leverage Marketing to its 2017 list of outstanding Austin SEO firms.

Clutch evaluates firms using both qualitative and quantitative factors, including experience level, technical certifications, and market presence in the SEO industry. Clutch also conducts interviews of existing clients to understand how each marketing agency develops strategies, addresses challenges, and manages SEO campaigns.

We’re thrilled that Clutch has recognized Leverage not just for our technical experience but for our level of client satisfaction.  We also appreciate our clients who took the time to provide their feedback to Clutch. And, of course, we have to give a shout-out to our SEO team for their hard work and search engine savvy!

9 Free SXSW 2017 Interactive & Networking Events

2017 is a unique year for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Fresh visual technology and virtual reality will play a larger role than ever in the interactive sections of the event, and emerging mobile app capabilities are likely to dominate the floor. The ever-revolving marketing sphere turns on the axis of new technology, so wise marketers are already looking for free events that will upgrade their digital marketing game for the rest of 2017.

Enjoy these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events and share the info with your fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and friends. These events are accessible at no charge with a free guest pass unless otherwise noted.

Treehouse Old School Happy Hour

DateTimeRSVP
March 86:00 PM – 9:00 PMYes

Treehouse is not only hosting a happy hour with free drinks, food, and music at Old School in Austin, they’re also giving away free one-month memberships to Treehouse for Business. The happy hour will unfold crawl-style, and you’ll get the chance to experience both Austin’s most unforgettable food and drinks as well as some of the most influential speakers of SXSW.

treehouse old school happy hour shot of crowd enjoying drinks

Austin Tech Happy Hour

(Note: This event allows entry by ticket. Free tickets are likely to run out fast, so reserve your tickets right away, or you may have to pay for tickets or cash at the door.)

DateTimeRSVP
March 95:30 PM – 7:30 PMYes

The Austin Tech Happy Hour has been running for ten years, and it’s stronger than ever in 2017. Admission gets you two free drink tickets so you can loosen up with Austin’s tech crowd before the SXSW truly kicks off. The emerging technology community will be there ready to make friends online and offline.

austin tech happy hour logo

SX Create

DateTimeRSVP
March 1011:00 AM – 6:00 PMNo

SX Create dives into the world of emerging technologies and the ways they can be customized and manipulated. Kids and adults alike can take in the wonder of 3D printing, drones, robots, biohacking, and whatever other secret projects with which inquisitive minds have been tinkering.

sx create r2d2 droid

Decoded Fashion: Content Is Still King

DateTimeRSVP
March 123:30 PM – 4:30 PMYes

Decoded Fashion wants to explore new and exciting ways to bring original content to fashion-hungry audiences. Even if you aren’t in the fashion industry, you’ll have the chance to learn a thing or two about PR, influencer marketing, and the very personal journeys that lead customers to relevant content.

decoded fashion house logo

Amazon Web Services ATX Startup Crawl

DateTimeRSVP
March 135:00 PM – ?Yes

Amazon Web Services is pulling together Austin’s hottest startup businesses for a bar crawl that entrepreneurs and job-seekers alike won’t forget. The crawl is offering free drinks and pulled in a whopping 12,000 registrants last year. Guests can enjoy free drinks, check out local office spaces, share résumés, and talk with ambitious startup owners and employees.

atx startup crawl logo

Digital Media Women: Burgers & Bubbles

DateTimeRSVP
March 133:00 PM – 7:00 PMYes

Women are a powerful force in digital media, and the leaders of Digital Media Women want everyone to know about it. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with existing and upcoming digital media leaders as well as find out the secrets of women who are innovating at the forefront of technology. Plus, there’s food and tasty beverages.

digital media women sxsw 2017

Women in Digital Meetup

(Note: This event is already waitlisted, and the event coordinators are attempting to reserve an additional tent for those who want to attend. If you’re interested, register right away.

DateTimeRSVP
March 134:00 PM – 7:00 PMYes

It’s no secret that women are playing incredible roles in digital media and marketing, and this SXSW Meetup is set to celebrate the success of Women in Digital as it exceeds 450 members. This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most astounding minds in digital marketing and media and join a powerful network of hard-working women.

women in digital homepage screen grab

Pet Rescue Lounge

DateTimeRSVP
March 135:00 PM – 1:00 AMYes

Pets are near and dear to the dog and cat lovers of Leverage Marketing, a sentiment shared by nearly all of Austin. Meet like-minded individuals that can’t get away from their preoccupation with pets, and help find homes for deserving dogs and cats while enjoying unique entertainment from famous pets and free pet swag!

pet rescue lounge event logo

Local and Vocal

DateTimeRSVP
March 154:00 PM – 11:00 PMYes

Local and Vocal is an event that focuses on local Austin talent in entertainment. If you’re a marketer, you’ll have a rare opportunity to find talent to which you can offer your unique services. This event includes free drinks for those who are over 21 years old – which, of course, lends itself to some serious networking.

local and vocal sxsw 2017

Even though the events are free, we welcome you to support the event coordinators, participants, and local businesses by enjoying an extra drink or dish. Network, learn about new technology, and hone your marketing skills at these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events coming your way very, very soon.

 

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Brand Marketing at SXSW: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media and music conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. With increasing attendance and new attention-grabbing tech displays each year, brands struggle to get noticed at SXSW. How can your brand bring a unique experience to SXSW that translates into something unforgettable? It’s increasingly difficult to get noticed when every consumer-facing company gives out free swag, throws parties with free beer, and shows off the latest technology.

SXSW is known for helping to launch Foursquare and Twitter, and the conference regularly screens excellent films and television shows, many of which go on to great acclaim. Marketing at SXSW is an increasingly complicated endeavor, as getting noticed above all the buzz is difficult enough. Brands struggle to tie in product releases, navigate consumer trends, and figure out how to draw attendees to their events.

While every SXSW is different, last year some successful brand activations made their mark on attendees and marketers. Creating SXSW marketing that stands out sometimes means doing something a little different than what everyone else is doing (or what you think they’re going to do).

Each of these SXSW brand activations highlights a unique aspect of their product and communicates that to the audience—something every brand needs to do. While you may be successful by just following the current marketing trends– whether that’s virtual reality, make-your-own soda, or just giving out free stuff—doing something that conveys your signature SXSW brand image will likely be more successful.

American Greetings

american greeting sxsw branding

credit: @mullenloweus

It might seem odd for a greeting card company to even come to SXSW, let alone do a brand activation. But American Greetings wanted to disrupt the mold of disruptive digital technology by bringing in the analog. Their three-day 2016 promotion was entitled #Analog and allowed festivalgoers to do DIY printmaking and pop-up cards. They could learn letter-making techniques from an American Greetings artist, fill in a coloring book mural, and even get a selfie stitched with thread. American Greetings’ message is not to say that digital communication is not important or analog can replace digital communication, but rather that they’re complementary. Many people don’t slow down to send paper cards, and American Greetings’ SXSW marketing message is that analog still matters, and we should slow down to appreciate it.

Suicide Squad

Another unique brand activation at SXSW 2016 was Suicide Squad’s tattoo salon. Although the movie didn’t come out until Summer 2016, Warner Brothers started promoted it early through this special Harley Quinn-inspired experiential marketing. Instead of just doing a sneak peek of the film, Warner Bros transformed Affinity Tattoo and Body Piercing into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor—and offered free real (and temporary) tattoos. This brand activation got people excited about the film, created a unique SXSW marketing angle, and involved artists and fans in an innovative way, without using virtual reality or alternate reality to do so.

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot, a techie show that launched at the 2015 SXSW festival and won the SXSW Audience Award, wanted to come back in 2016 and make a splash. The show’s marketing team figured there was no better way to do way to do that than to bring their iconic “Wonder Wheel” Ferris wheel to Austin. In one of the largest SXSW brand activations to date, USA Network designed the Ferris wheel to look like the Coney Island Wheel in the show, complete with nearby carnival games. The Mr. Robot cast and crew even visited SXSW to pay homage to the success the festival helped them garner—and of course, see the Wonder Wheel in real life. By creating SXSW branding that directly references the television show and allows the audience to experience a piece of their world—Mr. Robot succeeded in their SXSW marketing.

Mophie

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Mophie. They make external batteries and cases to charge your favorite devices. As you can imagine, at SXSW, battery life gets eaten up pretty quickly. Between all the tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and interactive brand activations and events, your smartphone may be dead before the day is half over. But Mophie is here to rescue you—with adorable St. Bernards. At 2016’s SXSW, Mophie partnered with the National St. Bernard Foundation, Glympse, and a motorcycle company to bring you a fresh phone battery when festivalgoers needed it. If someone tweeted using the hashtag #mophieRescue, the company would send one of its fleet of St. Bernards straight to them with a Mophie battery pack to charge up. This cute SXSW brand marketing makes Mophie look good, helps people out, and helps a good cause—dog rescues.

The Takeaway

SXSW is a brand marketing war. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different companies competing for attention from festivalgoers and consumers. Many companies try using the tried and true techniques of giving out free swag, throwing parties, and utilizing the latest technology trends. But these aren’t enough to truly make your product or company memorable. Take note of the uniqueness of the SXSW branding campaigns mentioned in this article—they all did something that was integral to their brand identity and helped their core audience in some way. If you can harness this mentality for your SXSW marketing, you can succeed in the crowded marketplace.


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Valentine’s Day Campaigns You’ll Love—and What You Can Learn from Them

Valentine’s Day marketing can be difficult for content creators and marketing companies alike. How can you tap your marketing arsenal into a holiday where the message is all about love? The most successful Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns utilize the “human factor,” connecting with their audience and establishing trust. Building a relationship with potential customers is the best way to go about Valentine’s Day marketing.

However, it’s easy to strike a false note when attempting to create efficacious Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How do marketers seem genuine when creating their marketing campaigns? We’re going to look at several Valentine’s day marketing campaigns that hit the mark and analyze why they worked for their respective companies.

With an average spend of $142.31 per person, and nine out of 10 people buying a gift for their partner, Valentine’s Day is a big retail holiday. While certainly not in the same league as the winter retail season, over $18.9 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day, more money than Easter or the Super Bowl, and in the same league as Mother’s Day. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can capture a share of that spend with a successful Valentine’ Day marketing campaign.

WestJet Proposal Campaign

The #WestJetLove Valentine’s Day commercial was an exceedingly popular campaign in 2015 with over 1.2 million views, detailing two couples’ surprise proposals on Barbados. Canadian airline WestJet flew two couples out to Barbados with the catch that the men had to propose when WestJet asked them. This situation results in a tear-jerking, beautiful video of two couples’ love stories, watching love come to life on screen. With just the right degree of awkwardness, the video strikes a personal tone, brings the love element of Valentine’s Day, and gives you access into the couples’ lives.

As a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, #WestJetLove succeeds because it focuses on building a relationship with its customers. The ad isn’t describing how wonderful WestJet’s services are, but rather is a funny and sincere love story—a unique take on proposals that succeeds in showing the quirkiness of the company. Both JP and Stephanie’s and Mike and Heather’s love stories are relatable to the audience, but it’s the fun tone of the videos, complete with anticipatory music each time the host shows up—that push this campaign over the top.

The Takeaway

Try using personal techniques in crafting your own Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How does your company or product appeal to your customers? Your Valentine’s Day advertising doesn’t have to correlate to your business—as long you’re connecting with your clients and driving traffic (and positive reception) to your site.

Cartier- The Proposal

Cartier’s “The Proposal” advertisement from 2015 is in some ways more insidious than WestJet’s—but tells a beautiful story in the process. Cartier lures you in with a touching three-part love story, telling simultaneous tales of Valentine’s romance (and struggle) between couples. The three couples in Paris are all slightly different ages, but the men’s aims are similar—to proclaim their love for the women in their lives.

The first, set in the Rodin Museum, tells a story of a man sending his wife on a scavenger hunt to find him until she finds the jewelry box (from Cartier) and he proposes. The second is set in the airport, as the wife is going away on a trip for six months. Her husband deftly removes her passport and re-proposes to her with a new ring (from Cartier). The last is set as a man and woman are separated by an elevator, and he desperately runs up the stairs, catching her as the doors open each time, making pleas that he cares for her. Eventually, he proposes—while she’s still stuck in the elevator.

The Takeaway

These intertwining stories of love in the City of Lights follow established rules of a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign. While enhanced by fantastic acting and a great storyline, the primary aim and focus of the advertisement are the Cartier rings. These gorgeous, diamond-studded rings make the audience want Cartier, associating love with the Cartier brand. That red box is instantly associated with love. Cartier has set up a world through these three stories, and at least eight million people have watched. Creating a successful Valentine’s day marketing campaign means associating your product with love, romance, and engagement. Cartier has done this—and you can do it too.

Netflix Binge for Love

Netflix’s 500 Hours Binge for Love video from 2016’s Valentine’s Day campaign capitalizes on Netflix’s successes in reaching out to its customers. The idea of “bingeing” a television show—watching a whole series quickly and viewing many episodes back-to-back– has grown familiar with the streaming service’s growing triumphs in the video space. This advertisement takes that concept and connects it to a blossoming love connection.

The man in the ad, after falling for the young woman shown at the beginning of the commercial, immediately watches all the available series of the Netflix original Orange is the New Black. It takes over his life for the span of the advertisement—he wants to impress the young woman. He is “bingeing for love.” The commercial cuts the tension when she hasn’t watched the season three finale with a singing group reprising the modified I Would Watch 500 Hours to them.

This advertisement succeeds on multiple levels. It capitalizes on Netflix’s new cultural cache and the concept of bingeing television shows. It also modifies an existing popular song for its purposes—successfully (unlike many commercial jingles), and it leaves the audience hanging. We don’t know if this couple will succeed, but the man has gone to absurd lengths to like her interests—and many in the audience can relate. We’ve all be in the situation where we’ve pretending to have an interest or like something as a conversational piece—and it works well here.

The Takeaway

What are your company’s strengths? Netflix has unique advantages in the cultural cache that they can incorporate into a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, but it’s about founding your company or product’s individual assets—and utilizing them. Use popular culture to your advantage—tap into ideas and concepts that appeal to your target audience (your buyer personas)—and you’ll come up with great Valentine’s Day marketing ideas.


If you need some help creating Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns that will hit the mark, talk to the marketing experts at Leverage Marketing. Contact us today, and we’ll assist you in crafting a Valentine’s Day campaign of your dreams. Our team can help you understand the sophisticated new marketing technologies on the market and how they can work for your business.

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