Sandstorm Blog

Laura
Digital Marketing Mashups: Run DMC - Walk This Way

I am a Gen-Xer in a Gen-Y world. This has me constantly reflecting on the importance of mashups. I am not talking typical mashups like Reggaeton music or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. No, I’m really talking about mashing up old school business concepts (and etiquette and manners) with new school digital experiences.

This kind of mashup reminds me of a very famous music collaboration: Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. (Yes, I can connect anything with the 80s). Their mashup of “Walk This Way” was a huge hit with a combination of classic (rock) and brand new (rap) . By crossing the boundaries into the unexpected, interest in Aerosmith was reinvigorated and Run-D.M.C. gained exposure and mainstream radio play (which practically no rappers had); a brilliant collaboration that leveraged something existing and created a new and unexpected product.

This was exactly like  Bill Bernbach’s genius of pairing copywriters and art directors for more effective advertising. Another classic I am also constantly recommending is Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, because it has fantastic fundamental knowledge for business that isn’t taught in business school anymore.

Where’s the mashup you ask? Well, it’s in creating engaging digital experiences that tap into our fundamental humanity, which really is consistent across cultures and generations. This humanity is just accelerated by the use of digital tools and platforms. These classic practices like courtesy and respect are more critical today than ever. Do not spam someone’s Facebook page with an obtrusive sales message; this is like showing up uninvited to someone’s wedding with three extra guests of your own.

With the speed of business today, we tend to increase complexity by adding digital tools, language and processes, none of which add to effectiveness. How many clients have a marketing automation system that is not used because it did not take the end user into account, but just had a lot of features and functionality? (See my previous post about empathy.) I need more than two hands to count them.

Instead of continuing to create more promotional material, overly complex segmentation schemes, and deploying a myriad of analytics tools; why not use a simple construct like the classic 4Ps to start to tease out where the opportunity is with your digital experience? (Please read John Maeda’s The Laws of Simplicity for additional inspiration.) Oh, the 4Ps, remember back to  Marketing 101: price, product, place and promotion. Promotion, by the way, gets used as a blunt instrument for every marketing problem, but that’s a different post.

So, mashups from my perspective are taking tried and true classic constructs and applying them to today’s challenges. These classics will provide you with a much more solid structure from which to analyze and solve your marketing challenge.

[editor's note: Since it's already in your head: Walk This Way]

 
This blog was posted by Laura on September 19, 2013.
Laura Luckman Kelber

About the Author

Laura Luckman Kelber

Chief Strategy Officer, Laura Luckman Kelber leads Sandstorm's team of strategists with wisdom from her 20 years of marketing experience. Combining seemingly disparate ideas to solve a problem, Laura unearths unexpected insights to help clients’ fuel their success.

Kellye
Sandstorm and Discover Help Emerging Leaders

Sandstorm’s Strategy Director, Laura Luckman Kelber, and Creative Director, Janna Fiester, were delighted to speak at Discover Card’s YPOD lunch event. They presented alongside Roger Horchschild, Discover’s President and COO, and Mark Graf, EVP and CFO, to address the theme Dealing with Ambiguity: How to Manage Uncertainty in an Ever Changing Environment.

While an ambiguous request can often trigger fear, Laura and Janna shared some great techniques for overcoming your fears to accomplish the task at hand. The Sandstormers pulled from their marketing strategy expertise to share examples of managing ambiguity in the brand experience and user experience landscape. Applying their UX process, they taught the emerging leaders to take actionable steps to define goals and tasks, and to ultimately transform uncertainty into success!

Interested in learning more? Check out Sandstorm’s Ambiguity Road Map!

This blog was posted by Kellye on August 30, 2013.
Kellye Blosser

About the Author

Kellye Blosser

Kellye’s unique approach involves a delicate balance of left and right-brained thinking. She most recently hailed from the corporate video world. Here at Sandstorm, she’s excited to bring strategic, innovative thinking to every project.

THIS FILE WAS POSTED UNDER: 
this file was posted under: 
Will
Brand strategy - voice and tone

What sets authors apart? Subject matter? Historical context? It really boils down to their words. Read these three literary excerpts.

  1. The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper.
  2. When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.
  3. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

These are clearly from different authors. One is a British master (Charles Dickens), an American man’s man (Ernest Hemingway), and an Edinburgh single mother with a love of magic (J.K. Rowling). Without knowing who was who, you could tell simply from the test that every passage was at least from a different person (yet alone a different time period).

How does your business communication relate to this? Is your company’s voice recognizable?

Could you look at 4 different company whitepapers or pages of your website and feel like they are written by different people?

It’s often overlooked, but the voice and tone of a company is as important as color palette, iconography, and photographic style. Below are four reasons why you need to put more emphasis on your company’s voice and tone.

 1. Consistency

It adds to the consistency of your brand. What kinds of words you use, sentence length/complexity, use of descriptors are all things to consider. It’s just like visual brand consistency. Consistent voice and tone makes it easy for new team members to integrate and start communicating for the company. It creates a regular expected voice for your company that is almost as recognizable as your logo and tagline.

2. Identity and Culture

Who you are as a business and as a brand is important. You know how MailChimp, Chase, McDonald’s, UPS, and many well known brands sound. Hospitals speak differently than banks. Mountain Dew speaks differently than Diet Coke. Your brand has a personality and you should be reflecting that in your words on the web, in print and in all communications.

 3. Customer Relationship

Are you talking in their vernacular? Are you talking up to them? Down at them? Are you trying to educate them? Do you just want to sell to them? Your content and how you deliver it engages your customer is different ways.

  • Come to the zoo.
  • You really should go to the zoo.
  • Go to the zoo!
  • The zoo is great. It would be a shame if you missed out.
  • You’re fun (so is the zoo).

These all say the same thing, but all sound very different. Do you want to be more imperative? Do you want to have a sense of humor about your brand? Do you want to be seen as a trusted friend?

This post is full of questions that are meant to help you and your organization create a voice and tone that conveys your brand across every communication vehicle. Voice and tone are part of who you are as a company and who you are as a group of people working toward a goal.

The old aphorism remains true: “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”

How do YOU want to say it?

This blog was posted by Will on August 30, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Amanda
Sandstorm Design Named Top Interactive Agency in B to B

Digital marketing and UX agency, Sandstorm Design is honored to be named one of the Top Interactive Agencies of 2013 by BtoB Magazine. Receiving this recognition for the third year in a row, Sandstorm is continuing to grow by nurturing talent and building creative solutions and intuitive user experiences for new and existing clients.

BtoB's Top Agencies List is a comprehensive compilation of the top 150 agencies in the United States. BtoB Magazine's Kate Maddox said, “Many of the top b-to-b agencies registered double-digit growth last year though new clients and organic growth.” Sandstorm is poised to continue the momentum built in 2012 by partnering with clients such as CIC Plus, MathWorks, and CareerBuilder for a successful 2013.

BtoB Magazine is a Crain's Communications Inc. publication and is a trusted source and platform for top marketing professionals to grow and learn in the b-to-b space.

This blog was posted by Amanda on May 7, 2013.
Amanda Elliott

About the Author

Amanda Elliott

Amanda Elliott is the Marketing Coordinator at Sandstorm Design. She absorbs the creative energy from our leadership team and facilitates the team so they can focus entirely on solving client challenges. She is passionate about anticipating needs, solving problems, and making projects fun.

Sharonda
Sandstorm Welcomes Senior Digital Strategist, Emily Kodner

A new addition to our growing team, Emily Kodner, a Kansas City native and self-proclaimed BBQ snob, has adopted Chicago, but not its BBQ. In her position as Senior Digital Strategist, she consults with clients, leading projects and working alongside our team of creatives and developers to provide solutions to complex business challenges.

Having a Bachelor's in Sociology and International Studies, a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution, and a decade shy of experience as a project manager and content strategist, Emily is exceptionally talented at getting to the bottom of an issue. She makes the complex simple and creates the plan to make it all happen. Specializing in content, Drupal site architecture and CMS strategy, Emily’s ability to develop innovative solutions is crucial when determining the needs of our clients and their target audiences.

On top of making it all happen on the job, she also herds the team out of the office once in a while for chips, guac, and margaritas.

This blog was posted by Sharonda on April 1, 2013.
Sharonda Thomas

About the Author

Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

Sharonda
Chicago Marketing Strategy Director - Laura Luckman Kelber

Chicago native Laura Luckman Kelber has joined the Sandstorm executive leadership team as our Strategy Director. Demonstrating our commitment to growth and providing more thought leadership to our clients, Sandstorm hired Laura to fill a new role at Sandstorm—a role that is solely focused on solving clients’ marketing problems by bridging the gap between what is and what could be.

After many years of working for large agencies, Laura wanted more time to practice her craft. With both a B.S. in Political Science and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Illinois, and 20 years of marketing experience, Laura borrows from a variety of intellectual constructs to solve clients’ problems. Combining seemingly disparate ideas to solve a problem, Laura unearths unexpected insights to help clients’ fuel their success. Having led digital strategies for top brands such as Sprint, Victoria’s Secret and State Farm in her previous positions, Laura has a variety of vertical experience. Sandstorm provides Laura with the perfect environment to foster thoughtful creativity and apply it to our clients’ businesses.

A unique individual from the (sometimes pink, sometimes purple) tips of her hair to her warm smile, Laura’s charismatic personality is magnetic. A passionate vegetarian, Laura has recently delved into the macro and micro impacts of nutrition on society. As her favorite author, Dorothy Parker, would say, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

This blog was posted by Sharonda on March 27, 2013.
Sharonda Thomas

About the Author

Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

THIS FILE WAS POSTED UNDER: 
this file was posted under: 
Matt
Here are 3 ways to improve your corporate blog

Let's face it, some blogs are just boring. Blogs aren't white papers. They are stories written by people. Opinions, levity, original ideas, relevant humor, these are things that all humans have, and corporate blogs should be no different. That doesn't mean that it can't be “professional.” None of those attributes disqualify anyone from being seen as an expert; it just means that it should have some life! But how?

Tune Your Tone

Tone is tricky, and corporate blogs have a history of tonal shortcomings. Finding your tone will come from your culture:

  • the attitudes of your employees
  • the environment of your office
  • the creativity of your work

Don't stifle these things. Each of them goes into what makes your company unique and can drive your content strategy. One of the best ways to share that uniqueness is with a company blog.

Craft Your Conversation

In The Corporate Blogging Book, Debbie Weil says there are three Cs of blogging, "be conversational, cogent, and compelling." Blogs should start dialogues with your audience, not force rhetoric down their throats. Caterpillar regularly uses their blog to engage in relevant discussions with their audience. Maintaining a conversational tone is key to avoiding a boring blog. Have some fun — you can have an expert voice and still have a heart. It can be a fancy three-piece suit with a silly tie. Also, don't forget to follow up with audience comments to keep the conversation going. Check out web app company 37 Signals blog.

Be, Befriend, or Buy a Blogger

You have established a tone and crafted the conversation you want to have with your audience, but there is still one more big hurdle. You may be the foremost thinker in the area of international toothpaste distribution, but that doesn't necessarily make you a blogger. If you look to your innerself and don't find a blogger, chances are there is someone capable within your office. It is easier, and smarter, to dictate your ideas to someone who already has a grasp on tone, than to try to "discover" it yourself. If all else fails, hire someone. Finding someone who can succinctly capture the voice of your company, while still being entertaining and conversational is essential to beating the boredom! Are you ready to breathe life into your corporate blog?

This blog was posted by Matt on January 15, 2013.
Matt Chiaromonte

About the Author

Matt Chiaromonte

Matt is a copywriter and social media guru in Sandstorm’s Internship Program. With a background in marketing, journalism, and improv comedy, Matt brings equal parts knowledge and entertainment to our little corner of the Internet. When he isn’t generating social media content, Matt can be found enjoying pizza, podcasts, and many other things that begin with the letter “p”.

Karen

We're excited to welcome Carley Marcelle as Sandstorm's very first intern. She is working hands-on with sales and marketing to implement and manage critical duties that support Sandstorm’s aggressive business development strategy. These tasks include: marketing research, media channel strategy, media planning and negotiating, presentation development, and proposal writing/proofing. Carley already feels like part of the family. “Sandstorm has been a blessing. Not only is the industry and learning experience incredible, but it embodies a work philosophy and environment that most organizations today can only dream of.”

She'll also be helping develop a full-fledged internship program (details to come!). Fun fact: Carley is also an actor with video producing chops – and has a contagious enthusiasm that fills a room.

Welcome to Sandstorm, Carley!

This blog was posted by Karen on November 28, 2012.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Karen
Sandstorm Staff celebrating Top Inner City Company Award

Some of the staff at Sandstorm, literally showing upward growth!

2012 is proving to be yet another award-winning year for Sandstorm Design! In March we were named as a Top B2B Interactive Agency by Crain's BtoB Magazine. And this week, our Principal Sandy Marsico traveled to Boston to attend the awards ceremony for the Top 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Companies in America. We are so honored and humbled to have landed at the #43 spot, with a 33% 5-year annual growth.

With our Chicago marketing firm's move to a larger space last year and hiring a number of new employees, we've been steadily and strategically growing. We couldn't be more excited about this achievement, and we thank Fortune, Harvard, ICIC and all of our amazing partners who've worked with us to create impactful work!

This blog was posted by Karen on May 11, 2012.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

THIS FILE WAS POSTED UNDER: 
this file was posted under: 
Karen
Chicago marketing firm Sandstorm Design featured in 2011 Inc. 500|5000 Fastest Growing Companies

Hooray! We are in the top 350 for companies in marketing and interactive on the 2011 Inc. 500|5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country! “It’s a really exciting time for Sandstorm,” said Sandy Marsico, our marketing firm's Principal, as I snapped a photo of her with the package Inc. Magazine sent us. “I am so proud of our team’s relentless dedication to our clients and the exceptional work they produce.” Inc. Magazine releases the 500|5000 list each year to celebrate the companies who are thriving in their industries. The Inc. 500|5000 site has the full list, along with features, graphics and multimedia.

Be sure to check out the Sandstorm Design Inc. 500|5000 profile. “We’re honored to be a part of such an inspiring and aspiring group of companies,” said Marsico. Everyone at Sandstorm is enthusiastically looking forward to continued growth. Learn more about Sandstorm Design and our unique blend of marketing strategy, web design and usability services.

This blog was posted by Karen on August 23, 2011.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

Pages