Looking Towards the Stars

Picture this: a group of eccentric billionaires and former NASA scientists are gathered around a conference table, discussing plans to significantly shape the world economy. Their plan is to mine asteroids hurling through space for rare metals like gold and platinum and bring the resources back onto earth. Does this sound like some type of diabolical scheme hatched by villains in a sci-fi movie?

The fact of the matter is that these roundtable discussions are happening today and are very real. “Space mining” is absolutely normal conversation in the boardrooms of Planetary Resources, a collaborative effort between prominent entrepreneurs, aerospace engineers, and futurist philanthropists that plans to begin harnessing resources from asteroids to add trillions of dollars to the world GDP within the next 2 years.

It is an initiative that seems to push against every boundary of the imagination when it comes to creating a business model. The co-founders and backers of Planetary Resources are about as qualified as any group could possibly be to run a company whose mission is to realize the wild dreams of science fiction authors of the past 50 years. Figures like Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, and Film Director and James Cameron all exhibit passion and relentless drive towards innovation and exploration. Their commitment to innovation is one thing, but how far can ambition carry an entrepreneur or a company?

Every business, regardless of size, is at its core fueled by the ambitions of both the leadership and the individual members of the organization. In the digital age, with powerful technology at our disposal, it is crucial to design strategies and initiatives that help a company work towards attaining its goals. It is the push that defines success.

For some, Planetary Resources may arguably be called the single most ambitious private venture in the history of mankind. Still, there seems little reason to doubt that the goals and objectives that have been laid out by the company given the capability and unparalleled determination of its personnel. If the organization manages to ultimately fulfill the vision, it will be resounding and historic proof that just about anything is possible.

Retweet to Eat

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

Scrolling through my Twitter timeline, one particular tweet caught my eye. “Want to dine with us on our opening weekend? RT this w/ your email addy.”

Within the rise of the ‘new’ food industry, restaurant openings from locally or nationally famous chefs are highly anticipated. The phone lines become jammed with foodies and socialistas seeking reservations for the hottest new table in town. As is often the case, the new hotspot was to open for Saturday and Sunday evening for a select group of diners prior to the reservation system opening the restaurant to the hungry public on Monday. However, the lucky few were not food critics or pro athletes, not even friends or family to the chef or management; they were simply Twitter followers.

Originally planning to wait until the hordes died down and initial reviews came back positive, I found myself suddenly compelled to participate in the experiment when the tweet showed up in my feed. I followed the directions, retweeting and providing an email address for contact. Two days later, nearly having forgotten about the whole thing, I received an email from the sommelier with good news.

Working through the kinks of this highly unusual process, we sent 5 emails in total back and forth – hardly efficient – but I was ultimately rewarded with a phone call from the front desk confirming my reservation.

After a spectacular and innovative meal with a true VIP experience, I sat at my table incredulous at the realization that I had booked the exciting dinner directly through a social media outlet. I had been rewarded dearly for being a loyal follower. Instantly, I was galvanized as a dedicated customer by the thought.

Of course, the ‘Twitter Reservation System’ isn’t en route to overtake the likes of OpenTable or old fashioned phone calls for reservations any time soon, but this particular experiment hooked me in and ultimately electrified me, proving the power of social media done right.

Junction Earns Dual Honors in Horizon Digital Interactive Awards

Atlanta-based Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) was recognized as the recipient of two 2011 Horizon Interactive Awards for its work in two different categories: Consumer Information Websites and Integrated Marketing Campaigns.

The Horizon Interactive Awards are an international awards competition acknowledging outstanding achievement among interactive media producers. The 2011 installment drew thousands of entries from top developers, designers, and online advertisers from all over the world, including 20 countries and more than 40 states. This marked the first year Junction had submitted entries representing its work for evaluation in the prestigious annual tradition.

Junction’s submission included a sophisticated consumer web application with a custom advertising platform and an integrated online/offline marketing campaign.  Judged by a panel composed of industry peers and end users, Junction was honored for solution creativity and originality, technical merit, communication effectiveness, and overall design and user experience.

“These awards are a testament to the dedication of our team and our commitment to providing our clients with world-class solutions,” commented Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction. “We are extremely proud of the quality of our work, and it is rewarding to receive this distinction as a leader in the interactive space. The awards validate our emphasis on how solid strategy informs impactful solutions for our clients.”

For more information about Junction and its award-winning portfolio, visit www.junction-creative.com.

Optimist Club of Gettysburg Increases Web Presence with Launch of New Website

The Optimist Club of Gettysburg, an affiliate of Optimist International, announces the launch of its new website. Designed and implemented in the interest of enhancing the quality and availability of information to members, the new site will provide up to date details about upcoming events and activities while facilitating better communications between the organization and the community.

“The launch of the new website is part of a coordinated effort across multiple outlets to increase the Club’s presence and visibility to its members and the greater community which it serves,” comments Marci Cropp, Publicity Chair, Optimist Club of Gettysburg. “Because we are a volunteer organization, it was important to build a website that is dynamic but easy to maintain. Junction worked with us to create a site that best fit the needs of our organization.”

Chartered in 1958, the Club serves the Gettysburg community, raising tens of thousands of dollars annually for local youth organizations that are dedicated to bringing out the best in children. Volunteer leaders of the Club hope the site will serve as a medium for managing ongoing efforts in the area as well as engaging and recruiting new members.

“Junction has long since been a supporter of Optimist of Gettysburg. This organization continues to positively impact children in the community,” said Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. “We wanted to provide the group with a solution that was flexible and easy to maintain long-term. With an effective communication channel, the organization can focus on reaching more people and raising more money for its initiatives.”

To learn more about the organization, visit the new website at www.gettysburgoptimist.com.

The Social Clearinghouse

Infographics have become an increasingly prevalent trend, offering a snapshot of data relevant to consumer behaviors and consumption patterns. As social media platforms begin to peak with record breaking valuations, infographics help illustrate the data in way that marketers can digest. Marketers who have traditionally used gut instinct to determine marketing spend are now relying on data largely driven by technology and social oriented platforms.

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, SocialCam, You Tube, and even dating sites like Match.com or eHarmony have become a clearinghouse for big data encompassing demographics, preferences, consumption behaviors, etc. Marketers can leverage this user intelligence to hone strategies and develop future approaches. Data illustrating the wants, needs, and expectations of users/consumers enable marketers to create purposeful, impactful, and even contextual messaging to inform purchase decisions.

The potential pitfall associated with so-called “big data,” for marketers, is assuming that the collection platform is the right marketing vehicle to reach those same consumers. Consumer preferences, behaviors, or demographic information collected from one social platform may not be the best mode for reaching the consumer base. Facebook, with over 900 million users, is one of the largest data collection platforms in the marketplace, but as exemplified by GM’s recent announcement of its withdrawal from the social network , it isn’t always the best platform for advertising.

As technology continues to revolutionize how data is collected and presented, marketers must remember that the real value lies in how information can be digested within context to better target a consumer base. When trends change and social is gone, marketers who understand the value of data will be in the driver’s seat.

Smoke Screen: Company Culture or Policy?

Two prominent current topics in the newsmedia have sparked debate, raising questions about the nature and extent of rights of employers and employees in the workplace. In a rapidly changing world, the blurred line these topics tread must be more clearly defined before ‘company policy’ becomes becomes an invasion of rights. Employees are asking themselves where company culture ends and infringement begins.

Recently there has been a resurgence in conversation about employers demanding access to employee social media pages on the premise of maintaining company integrity. The debate quickly escalates into a discussion of the personal rights of employees as pertaining to the content and publicity of their Facebook page. Employees are almost uniformly against the practice, but even combined with the efforts of privacy advocates such as the ACLU, the practice has not yet been made illegal. Advocates for monitoring or restricting social networking are quick to bring up the “nothing-to-hide” argument, but digital privacy is still a crucial right in the modern world.

Businesses are also becoming the latest frontier to latch on to the increasingly prevalent trend of bans on smoking. Some employers, such as health insurance giant Humana, have begun to tighten policies related to employee smoking habits, going beyond simply prohibiting smoking during work hours to completely disqualifying smokers from employment. Of course, for Humana, operating in the healthcare industry, the ban on smokers is an obvious measure in line with the company’s mission. For other employers however, a tobacco-free policy can help boost productivity (less employee ‘smoke breaks’) and help to reduce health insurance premiums.

Like keeping close tabs on employee Facebook profiles, these policies get tricky when considering that smoking is, regardless of company views, a completely lawful activity. With the aid of the ACLU, 29 states implemented laws to protect “smokers’ rights,” but federal law permits an employer the right to flat out refuse to hire a nicotine user, because smokers are not recognized as a protected class. Rumors suggest that a number of companies in the Fortune 500 are considering adopting similar bans on smoking, suggesting Humana’s actions may be a sort of glimpse into the future.

Acquiring and retaining productive employees and promoting a better workplace is the obvious desired outcome of hiring strategy for companies in any industry. Before practices like banning smoking or monitoring social network profiles become the norm, however, further scrutiny is necessary to clarify some significant questions about whether employers have the right to independently regulate otherwise lawful behavior.

Buckhead Specialty Retailer Lucy’s Market Announces Launch of New Website

Lucy’s Market, a year-round farmer’s market and specialty goods retailer located in the Buckhead district of Atlanta, GA, announces the live launch of its redesigned website. Designed and developed by Junction Creative Solutions, the new site was created to engage existing and prospective customers with a detailed informational resource, a point of contact for customer service, and online ordering functionality.
“We began very humbly, operating a little vegetable stand at an old gas station, and never turned back, growing into what we are today” said Lucy’s Market founder Kim Wilson. “We are very pleased that our new website is more representative of the high standard of quality and service we want to offer both our longtime and new customers.”
Popular for its specialty foods and gift baskets, Lucy’s Market has integrated an eCommerce platform into the new website to help meet increased demand. Visitors to the site are now able to browse and order the baskets, which make an excellent personal or professional gift, containing fresh produce, artisan breads, pastries, prepared foods, seasonal plants, and more, for pick-up or delivery.
“The new website reflects with the impeccable quality that loyal customers have come to associate with Lucy’s Market,” commented Julie Cropp Gareleck, managing partner, Junction Creative Solutions. “We are proud to have been a part of this project, and wish them continued success.”
Visit the new site at www.lucysmarket.com.

BranchOut: When Business Gets Personal

The excitement of logging on to Facebook to find new notifications has been marred recently with the rise in popularity of BranchOut the “#1 professional network on Facebook.” The company’s founders believe that the vast size of the social network’s userbase, including a large percentage of members under the age of 40, primes their application for success. The similarities in functionality with the net’s most prolific professional network, LinkedIn are obvious, but there are several reasons why Branchout may be destined for failure, the less desirable choice for job providers and job seekers alike.

LinkedIn is not at all worried about BranchOut’s growing influence. A recent Neilsen social media survey shows that people with advanced degrees are more than three times more likely to use LinkedIn. BranchOut thus far seems to lack appeal for such desirable users. LinkedIn’s distinct advantage is the comfort felt by its more than 70 million registered users revealing business affiliations and posting and responding to jobs. Facebook has garnered a reputation for sharing private information, which may be a strong deterrent to potential users.

Struggling to attract these influencers, the most difficult hurdle facing BranchOut is the quality of the prospective user base. For most users, relationships with Facebook ‘friends’ have little or nothing to do with a career field, nor do a significant number of relationships within that network have anything of value to offer. The Neilsen research also shows LinkedIn’s userbase as comprised largely of more seasoned professionals, aged 40 and up with 20+ years of experience. When it comes to introductions, networking, and ultimately job offers, these individuals, not the teenagers perusing menial status updates, are the real target.

While the immense power of Facebook, evidenced by widespread speculation about a forthcoming IPO, is largely undisputed, there is no precedent indicating how a network of this scale will behave. The going approaching this milestone will be rocky for BranchOut in terms of adoption and effectiveness. For LinkedIn users, the multiple daily requests popping up urging them to join the growing masses will continue to be politely declined.

JXN Executive Roundtable Attracts Central PA Business Owners to Discuss Sustainability and Growth

On Tuesday, May 1st, 2012, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) welcomed guests for its JXN Executive Roundtable event, a forum for entrepreneurs and business owners to share insights and perspectives in an intimate environment. Cosponsored by Raffensperger, Martin, and Finkenbiner LLC and Patrono & Associates, the event included 27 area business owners who participated in a dialogue, promoting collaboration by discussing best practices to facilitate and sustain growth.

“For our first roundtable discussion in the Gettysburg area, we were encouraged by the number of area business owners who elected to attend this event,” comments Mark Cropp, Executive Director of Business Development & Partnerships, Junction.  “Combining the thought leadership of this group can facilitate growth within each business and in the greater community.”

A panel discussion focused on the impact that significant shifts in the economic climate have had on growth, and the importance of diversifying business to adapt to changes in the marketplace.  Panelists encouraged attendees to invest in good people, seek help and expertise from partnerships to drive maximum value, and create a strategic roadmap and consistently execute. “Diversification is quintessential, particularly so in a bad market. Adapting products or services is considerably less risky than pursuing a new customer base,” said John Murphy III, Patrono & Associates. “Adaptability has become the key to building long term success, protecting a business from a great deal of uncertainty under difficult circumstances.”

Attendees found the discussion thorough and useful.  “The panelists were able to not only answer the questions posed, but were able to take and build on each other’s comments,” commented Katherine Powley, Vice President, Susquehanna Bank. “They all agreed that diversification has been the key to their success these past few years. In thinking about my own clients, I think that would be true for those that have weathered this economic downturn as well.”

Since its inception in 2008, Junction has extended its influence into the Northeast, further developing relationships with companies in the Central Pennsylvania region with a presence in Gettysburg. Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction, is hopeful that the Roundtable will help foster a better business environment not only in Pennsylvania, but nationwide. “Sound strategy drives successful and sustainable business, and exchanging knowledge and experience with our peers helps create strategy that is better informed,” said Gareleck. “Events like the Roundtable bring the thought leadership of these owners and executives together to promote a more positive environment for business development. We look forward to future events and continuing to support growth for businesses of all sizes.”

Junction is actively preparing for its next event to be held in the region. To get involved in future events in Gettysburg, please contact mark@junction-creative.com.