Social Experiment or Great Marketing?

It is not unusual to hear about a social experiment as it rapidly becomes a popular trend, fueled by advancements in technology and distributed widely through social media.

Panera Bread Company has followed suit by launching the Pay-what-you-can cafe.  The company converted a handful of locations into non-profit restaurants that encourage donations in lieu of charging for food and beverages. To date, the concept has been a moderate success, with the nonprofit stores managing to cover costs and donating profits to local initiatives. The new model not only garners visibility at the local level but also provides a substantial brand boost. Panera’s stock has been the best performing in the restaurant sector over the past decade.

Newman’s Own, founded by late actor Paul Newman, has been donating 100% of its post-tax profits and royalties to charities since its establishment in 1982. Originating as an experiment involving Newman selling homemade salad dressing, the food company adopted the philanthropic values of its namesake and to date has donated over 300 million dollars. The charitable effort, paired with Newman’s own branding as a celebrity, has afforded the company a steady brand image that sees its products amongst the best sellers in supermarkets across the country.

Ventures such as these require a great deal of both reputation and capital to start and operate, but as evidenced by the responses to both, can be worthwhile in terms of return in brand value.  In the case of the Panera experiment, the ‘pay-what-you-want’ business model illustrates how placing costs in the hands of customers can lead to profitable and charitable success.

Whether a social experiment or a marketing strategy, the experience transcends merely buying food; it becomes an investment in one’s community. One of the converted Panera cafés is located in a St. Louis suburb, in Missouri, recently devastated by tornadoes. How much would you pay for a sandwich if it could help rebuild your neighbor’s house?

Does Your Brand Have Staying Power?

It was hard to miss the 4-page spread in The New York Times celebrating IBM’s 100th anniversary.  Ranked by Forbes as the 31st largest company in the world, IBM proves its staying power despite the loss of its founder, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. The company operates on  the principle that a business’ long term success hinges not on its current products or offerings, but its institutions of culture and values.  Watson and his successors encouraged embracing innovation in order to understand why the organization does what it does rather than simply how it does it.

For IBM, inventing the UPC bar code and developing a computer that understands language well enough to win Jeopardy! were processes motivated by the company’s drive to constantly innovate to improve how technology serves the world.  Watson’s legacy continues.

As of May 2011, with 35 years in business, Apple Inc. has become one of the largest and the most valuable technologies companies in the world surpassing Microsoft.   A long-time competitor to IBM, Apple differentiated its brand, greatly influenced by its founder, Steve Jobs.  The company believes in fostering individuality and excellence in order to be best in breed.

Powerhouse players like Apple will have to face the same inevitable challenge. When a figure such as Steve Jobs comes to the end of his career as its unequivocal head, will Apple preserve the momentum and maintain its lead in the industry?

As valuable a concept as this is for a large scale international corporation, so too is it for the entrepreneur or small business owner.  Understanding how a business delivers on its purpose is a key to finding success that goes beyond a clever idea or a sensational product.   Businesses must be able to react and adapt to changing climates, leaders, and innovations in the marketplace.

Although most companies will never attain the heights of IBM or Apple Inc., it’s important to identify the values needed to create the ultimate staying power in an ever-evolving business world.

Are Marketers Ready to Augment Reality?

With the advent of powerful mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, consumers are interacting with media far more frequently and across a wider variety of platforms than ever before. Augmented reality applications offer an entirely new yet totally organic format for interacting with media.

At The Gramercy Institute’s Journal of Financial Advertising & Marketing (JFAM) Forum in New York City on June 3rd, Anthony Vitalone, Head of Interactive Marketing, Internet, & Digital Media for Deutsche Bank, touted the potential of “augmented reality” (“AR”) as the “next big thing” in digital marketing.

AR applications integrate camera and gyroscope functionalities within devices to provide a digital user experience based on what is happening in real time and space. For example, a customer in a retail store can point their camera at items on a shelf, and the device will display details, pricing, or even advertisements for the products they see. Likewise, a traveler can point a camera down a street and overlaid on the display screen will be a digital map with information on local places of interest.

Both the iPhone and Android app marketplaces are beginning to see an influx of augmented reality apps. While impressive in concept, the cost of developing the applications, inconsistencies in user experience, and inaccuracies with execution have decreased user downloads.

Marketers have taken to AR, promoting products via interactive applications. In 2009, Best Buy began incorporating AR into weekly circular ads, offering consumers 3D representations of featured new wares. Companies such as Burger King and Ralph Lauren are also taking advantage of new technologies to incorporate AR experiences into marketing campaigns. With an increasingly social consumer base, AR is proving to be a fast moving revolution in marketing.

Augmented reality apps face the major hurdle of the technology learning curve both for the developer and the user. High costs and limited quality of functionality will be the primary challenges to AR’s takeover of consumer media consumption. Will augmented reality rule the future of digital marketing?

What Financial Marketers Want from Digital Marketing

On June 3rd, 2011, Junction attended The Gramercy Institute’s Journal of Financial Advertising & Marketing (JFAM) Forum held at the New York Stock Exchange. Bill Wreaks, Chief Analyst, JFAM, assembled seven powerful groups of panelists in a fast paced, 30 minute per panel discussion of “What Financial Marketers Want from their Digital Marketing.”

Bill gave an overview of a study co-commissioned by Metlife, Prudential, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and UBS on “The New Financial Customer.” The study provided insights into trends and the growth of digital marketing by financial advertisers. Highlights of the study included statistics such as an increase in spend that now sees digital media compose 50% of total financial advertising budget, and a near unanimous polling of firms believing digital marketing spend will only increase. Ultimately, the market will likely see increases of 20% or more in social media, blogging, mobile, and viral marketing in the immediate future.

Other speakers included executives from Bankrate.com, BNY Mellon, Ameriprise Financial, TD Ameritrade, CFO Publishing, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, TIAA-CREF, AIG Bank, Oppenheimer Funds, NYSE Euronext, Metlife, Prudential Financial, Bank of America, E*TRADE, and Deutsche Bank, among others.

The participants shared insights and perspectives on the financial environment, strategic media and digital marketing, brand reputation, accountability, and social media.
“The panels were packed with insight and useful information,” said Dick Eydt, Executive Director, Business Development & Partnerships, Junction. “Even for a half day conference, it was well worth the trip from Atlanta!”

Junction congratulates Bill Wreaks and his team on a fantastic event!

Junction Creative Solutions Adds Russell Cherami to the Strategy Team

June 7, 2011– ATLANTA, GA:  Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), an Atlanta-based strategy firm, expands its team to include Russell (Russ) Cherami, Director of Strategy, Sales Development. Russ, a seasoned advertising executive and sales strategist, is a key member of Junction’s strategy team where he is focused creating highly customized and detailed sales strategies for its clients.

“Russ is an incredible asset for Junction’s strategy team.  His expertise is instrumental in developing sales strategies for clients looking to increase revenue, increase market share, and break into new markets,” comment Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction.  “Our firm is dedicated to delivering strategies that hold strong value for our clients.   Russ applies effective sales practices that contribute to and improve the quality of the services we deliver throughout the phases of our engagements.”

With more than 35 years of experience as a Senior Advertising Executive, Russ managed global sales organizations responsible for driving consistent and dynamic growth for some of the most respected brands in the publishing business.  Most notably, as the VP of Advertising for Forbes Magazine, the #1 business magazine, Russ successfully led sales efforts reaching more than $100 million in advertising revenue.  He has impacted companies including Forbes, Saveur Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and Glamour Magazine.

“Junction is a remarkable company that leads by example. The intellectual knowledge of the team provides entrepreneurs and businesses alike with powerful strategies,” says Russ Cherami, Director of Strategy, Sales Development. “I look forward to driving strategic sales development plans for Junction’s clients to create consistent and measurable growth.”

Junction Supports Local Organization Raising Funds to Support Youth Programs

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) was proud to sponsor The Optimist Club of Gettysburg’s First Annual Golf Tournament held at The Links at Gettysburg, with proceeds supporting 17 Gettysburg area youth programs.  Junction joined 30 local and regional businesses in sponsoring the successful event and community organization.

The Links at Gettysburg

“The Optimist Club of Gettysburg has long since been an organization that is committed to its youth and the greater community,” comments Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction.  “We believe in extending our support as we strive to build better businesses in the region.”

A few local businessmen posed at the 14th Hole.

Mark Cropp, Executive Director, Business Development & Partnerships, hit the course as part of a foursome among more than 40 groups of prominent local figures. “It was a beautiful day for a golf outing, with more than 160 golfers on the greens,” said Mark.  “It was a great way to network and connect with other leaders in the business community.”

About The Optimist Club

The Optimist Club of Gettysburg continues to aid and encourage the development of youth impacting individuals and the community. Each year, Optimists conduct 65,000 community service projects, contributing $78 million to communities, directly impacting more than 6 million kids internationally.

Avoid Losing an Edge…

Professional sports franchises are, at the core, businesses that are typically characterized as well-run, immensely profitable, and inextricably rooted in a community. The Atlanta Thrashers, now the second NHL franchise to depart Atlanta for a Canadian city in 21 years, lacked all of these traits with an uncommitted ownership that never bought-in to achieve success.

After 11 seasons with only one playoff appearance and exactly zero postseason victories, the Thrashers are no longer part of Atlanta.  Having been sold to True North Sports & Entertainment, a Canadian ownership group, the team will be relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is the same city that just 15 years ago suffered as the last North American city to lose its own NHL franchise when the Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes.

It is no secret that Atlanta Spirit, LLC, owners of the Thrashers since 2004, never truly committed to the on-ice product. Even before the Spirit took the reins, the franchise’s short history was marked by poor operations decisions and struggling efforts at marketing hockey in the American south. The Spirit focused a majority of the effort to finances on legal battles with one another, which resulted in the roster operating at league minimum and a plethora of empty seats in Philips Arena.

The team floundered, and never garnered a positive reputation within the National Hockey League. The sale of the team was imminent as news of the deal was popularized in the last few months. However, it was widely known that the Spirit had been soliciting the sale for several years, despite repeated false public statements from the group claiming otherwise.

The success of the Thrashers franchise hinged upon tapping into the hearts of the city’s people and the wallets of the corporate community of Atlanta. Just as a coach needs his players to buy-in to a system in order to win, a franchise needs the city to rally behind it in order to find lasting success.  Unfortunately, with ownership’s lackluster support for the team, who could blame the sponsors and the fans for abandoning ship, or perhaps never boarding the ship at all?

The demise of the Thrashers should be a cautionary tale for businesses everywhere. Confidence and belief in the potential of a business’s offerings are pivotal. Businesses must believe in the value of their brand for others to stand behind them in order to build success.