IBM Watson and the Not-So-Distant Future of AI in Digital Marketing

There’s a great deal of mystery around the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will shape the workforce. But we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

The term AI conjures up a range of images for people, most of which might center around sinister robots taking over the world. But more often, today’s AI is specific, rather than generalized, learning how to undertake a specific task through a combination of self-learning and human input.

Within the last few years, basic AI has become part of our daily lives, in the form of Facebook news feeds, Siri and Alexa. It has also begun entering various workplaces and industries, including marketing.

IBM’s openly available Watson AI tools are already being leveraged by companies to build cognitive marketing tools that have the power to change marketers’ day-to-day tasks. Hubspot recently hosted a webinar to discuss how AI is shaping the near future of marketing by both augmenting our capabilities as marketers and changing the nature of our jobs.

IBM Watson’s Alyssa Simpson and Equals 3’s Scott Lipman shared insights on the state of AI in marketing today and predictions on how it will continue to evolve in the coming years. They also tackled a few common questions surrounding both the excitement and fear this technology is inspiring, namely: Will humans even have marketing jobs in the future?

Here are a few takeaways from the panel on the state of AI and marketing.

It’s already available for certain use cases.

No, the panelists said, you don’t need to worry about a computer stealing your job any time soon. Today’s AI is focused on automating repetitive tasks and making data easier to search and apply. AI is being implemented to support marketers in many ways, including the following:

Research and database queries

Lucy, the brainchild of Lipman and his team at Equals 3, is a research assistant built on IBM Watson’s machine learning technology. Lucy utilizes AI to search many different data sources within a company’s network and the Internet all from one window, saving time for marketers and their co-workers on tracking down files and information.

“Lucy is the cognitive companion to the marketing professional, built for the Fortune 1000 and the agencies that serve them,” Lipman said. “The problem we set out to solve working with Watson is the idea that marketers have so much content in so many different systems: their own databases, marketing analytics, website analytics, media data, third-party data, and their own documents like powerpoints and PDFs. Lucy is a SaaS that lives in IBM’s Blue Mix environment that has three major components: research, audience and persona modeling, and helping with media planning.”

Lipman demoed the power of Lucy by examining some timely, real-life examples. When asked “What is the latest information on self-driving cars?” Lucy provided a list of responses relying on natural language processing built in by Watson, as well as Equals 3’s training and feedback. With a 94% level of confidence, Lucy compiled information on levels of audience interest, attitudes and opinions about self-driving cars. Then, Lipman was able to mark the best responses as relevant, giving Lucy the feedback she needed to provide even better responses for the next search.

Lucy can also get granular within documents. Lipman asked Lucy to find a detailed SWOT analysis for Tesla. Not only was Lucy able to quickly pull it up and link Lipman to the source, she was also able to scan the entire document and answer specific questions about it, saving Lipman from having to read the entire document.

It was pointed out that Lucy could have aided marketing teams with the recent United Airlines debacles. After getting into hot water for dragging a passenger off a flight, United Airlines likely tried to quantify just how negatively the viral incident affected their brand.

In this example, Lucy was able to scan research from a variety of news and social media sources to provide marketing insights, relaying that 74% of current online mentions of United Airlines were negative. Further, she provided sources, the volume of mentions, tonality per article, hashtag and image associations, and more. This data could be used in a range of situations, but most notably to provide a baseline to help track whether United is rebounding from the incident in the coming months.

Tonal understanding

As humans, we know that it isn’t just what you say — it’s how you say it. Oftentimes, when things get lost in translation, especially online or through text messages, it is due to a lack of tonal understanding.

IBM’s Watson team has recognized the pressing need for computers and humans alike to be able to decipher a person’s tone along with the content of their communication. They’ve been working on a tonality tool to help companies better understand how to approach customer service calls.

“Watson is like a well-funded startup within IBM,” Simpson said. “We’re creating technologies that are, at the platform level, a series of APIs that each do discrete functions. Our tone analyzer takes text and analyzes the tone of that conversation. For example, if you’re interacting with a customer service agent and you are frustrated, we can understand that you’re frustrated and help escalate that call faster or direct you to the right place. Emotion is interesting because reasonable humans can disagree around what emotion is included in a phrase. Emotion is a multi-faceted way of expressing yourself, including facial expression, tone of voice, actual words and context of situation. It’s a very tricky space, but very exciting.”

At least in the near future, AI will be a competitive advantage for marketers — not a job killer.

Today’s AI is designed to help you and your customers solve real problems. Rather than replacing marketers, current AI tools are more like personal assistants that help you be a more effective employee, save time, better understand and serve customers, and make decisions based off sound data.

“I think the businesses that complement the talented individual with an AI companion will outperform those who don’t adopt or embrace AI at all or those who rely too heavily on AI to do the job itself,” Lipman said. “This is all about supplementing and enhancing the individual. We’re going to see more expected of marketing departments and agencies, and they’ll keep up with AI. More will be expected, but more will be achievable.”

“That’s 100% how IBM talks about this,” Simpson added. “We see this as man plus machine; it’s about the partnership between humans and cognitive technologies. We talk about AI as “augmented intelligence,” augmenting what humans are already doing and extending that to help them do things they couldn’t do before.”

The water is warm for entrepreneurs looking to create solutions that solve marketing problems.

Now is the time to start thinking about how AI could be molded to create change in the industry — or at least for your own company. By entering the space now, you’ll be ahead of the curve and will face less competition for your idea or product.

Lipman is a prime example of an innovator who didn’t know much about AI, but immediately recognized the potential it had for his company.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the AI space,” Lipman said. “Two years ago it became clear that IBM was making available the Watson platform to developers, so I sat down with my team and asked what we could do with it. We thought about all the marketing technology platforms we’ve stood up over the years, and thought what if we could bring the power of Watson to bring all of that data together?”

Thus, Lucy was born. However, it is important to note that most of the marketing departments you’d be selling your solutions to don’t have a line item in their budget for AI products or may not know what to do with it. It’s up to you to help them overcome prior notions of what AI is, and guide them to see how AI can solve their problems.

“I think one of the challenges that AI has is it’s been a promise for the last 50 or 60 years,” Simpson said. “Hollywood has promised this ‘magic future world,’ so there’s a lot of pre-existing ideas around what this will be and should be. We’re just starting to see in the last five years this being used by businesses at scale to solve real problems. So people are having to learn what’s ‘magic’ and what’s [really available] ‘now.’ The other side is figuring out what problems to apply this to; it’s just a tool. For example, I can sell you a knife but the magic happens when you as a chef have to apply it to build a masterful dinner.

“It’s up to our customers and the users to make that magic happen and apply it to particular industries and business problems. You have to understand how the tool works and what you can do with it, and to understand the limitations. Then, you must decide how you want to take the tool and apply it to a problem you care about.”

It’s not just for coders or computer scientists.

In fact, IBM has designed Watson so specifically to help businesspeople and marketers (rather than replace them) that it enables non-technical folks to create AI software.

Anyone can begin playing around with the Watson technology for free by going to the IBM Watson site and creating a Blue Mix account. IBM’s Learning Lab contains a bevy of resources to help you understand a few use cases and get started, even if you’re not a programmer. In fact Simpson, who is IBM’s director of product management, doesn’t come from a tech background.

“There’s an idea that this is hard, but I have a Liberal Arts degree,” Simpson said. “I don’t code on a regular basis, but I use AI and can use these developer tools.

“As an example, I got tired of people asking me the same question over and over so I built a chatbot. An hour later, I was done. I want to dispel the myth that this is hard or expensive. These APIs are inexpensive and can scale as you grow.”

Regardless of your role as a marketer, you’re likely going to come across AI in more than one way in the next couple of years. You can either be an adopter and adapt to these changes as they become the norm; or, if you’re an entrepreneur interested in leveraging the next wave of opportunity, it may be time to put on your developer hat.

Your roadmap to success: How to set attainable business goals for your B2B marketing department

Whether you’re a pirate circling in on the ultimate treasure or an astronaut taking a voyage to Mars, you won’t get there unless you’ve clearly mapped out your route. OK, maybe your business journey takes place at a desk instead of the high sea or deep space, but the same applies. It’s easier to achieve your goals once you’ve got a solid plan for getting from point A to point B.

Of course, the first step is figuring out where point B actually is — and understanding that not all goals are created equal.

What makes a good goal?

A good goal contains elements that make it possible to achieve and prove success. To use a common example, let’s say you want to lose weight by the end of 2017. While your instinct may be to simply state, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year,” it’s unlikely you’ll actually make that happen without a more detailed strategy. Think about the impact of instead setting the following goal: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by December 31 by cutting out 500 calories a week, removing sugar from my diet, going to the gym three times a week and measuring my progress at the end of each month to reevaluate my strategy.”

Setting goals for your B2B marketing department should follow the same principles. One tactic often used in setting and measuring attainable goals is called the S.M.A.R.T. method, which can help you ensure the goals you are setting are tangible, realistic and accessible:

Specific

The more specific your goal is, the easier it is to know what steps to take to achieve it. For example, “earning more revenue” may be a goal, but it’s too vague to act upon. “Growing my email list by 200 percent every three months” is a better goal because it gives you a deadline and specific actions to take.

Measurable

Make sure your goal is measurable. You not only want to have a measurable endpoint, so you will know when you’ve completed your goal; you’ll also want smaller measurable points along the way to track your progress and make sure you’re staying on track to reach your goal in time.

Aim to check in on how you’re doing at least every three months. If you’re not living up to expectations, that’s okay too — the reason you check in with yourself is so you can modify your actions and predictions accordingly.

Attainable

Figuring out whether your goal is attainable can be the most difficult part. Think about all of the factors it will take for you to reach your goal, such as time, energy, money, manpower and talent.

For example, if you want to create more ebooks to use as valuable content for leads but you only have one person on your marketing team, it may not be feasible for you to set a goal of writing and promoting three ebooks each month. A more attainable goal for you may be to hire two trusty new employees or interns who can help you create and promote more content strategically. Be honest with yourself on whether your goal is truly attainable; if not, start with something smaller and build up to your larger goal over time.

Relevant

Make sure the goal you’re setting is good for your business both in the short and long term. Perhaps one of your products or solutions is failing to sell. Would it be a better use of your time and energy to create a goal around boosting sales of that product or solution? Or would it be more strategic to focus on improving that product or solution or replacing it with something that may sell better?

Think about the direction you want to take your business and make sure the goals you set align with that direction.

Timely

Bring all of the elements together with a timeline to keep yourself on track. Create a deadline to work toward. Having a deadline and check-in points, even if they’re flexible, will motivate you to keep working toward your goal.

Now that you know where point B is and have a S.M.A.R.T. strategy for getting there, you can set out on your journey confidently, knowing you have the tools you need to navigate the high seas, overcome choppy waters  — and take a detour if you need to.

Let Your Work Speak for Itself: The Undeniable Value of Case Studies as Business Tools

In today’s oversaturated market, how do you make your company stand out from the crowd? Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers currently focus on content marketing as a way to drive business. But all content is not created equal.

While social media, advertising, infographics, videos and blog posts are all written from the perspective of your business, case studies establish legitimacy by relying on the perspective of your customers. Case studies take more time and work than the average blog post, but the potential benefits can be much greater.

The 2016 B2B Content Report from the Content Marketing Institute ranks case studies as the third most effective type of content marketing, falling only behind in-person events and webinars. Case studies, when leveraged properly, are an especially effective tool for B2B tech startups.

Clients face high stakes when it comes to finding and purchasing tech solutions for their business, as tech products are often expensive and time-consuming to implement and manage. Additionally, because clients are often seeking out tech solutions to solve problems regarding highly sensitive data, choosing an effective solution the first time around is paramount.

Here are a few reasons why case studies can be one of your strongest marketing tools as a B2B tech provider and how to leverage them to their fullest potential.

Case studies tell stories about your brand

While your website and other marketing collateral may tell potential customers what you do, case studies tell them how and why your business can benefit them. They’re more effective in creating conversions than statistics or product details alone for a few reasons.

Case studies employ real customer experiences to explain how your product or service can be implemented. They paint a visual story that makes your business easier to remember. Once potential customers can visualize exactly how your product has solved real problems for a real company, they can more easily begin to envision how your business could tangibly help them solve their own problems.

Decision makers rely on examples

Well-written case studies draw readers into a narrative, and the supporting statistics you use to make your case can be the turning point for decision-makers in giving you their business. According to a study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, nearly two out of three B2B buyers (62%) search for content to learn about new market developments, and 60% search for content to find new solutions to address specific business needs.

Any tech startup can claim to have the most innovative product on the market or be the “number one choice” when it comes to a service. When you can provide palpable and specific details of how your service positively impacted a client, you are providing indisputable, real-world, and both qualitative and quantitative evidence that your business is legitimate and effective.

Social proof is powerful

When was the last time you bought something online without at least glancing at the overall customer rating score? You’re not alone in wanting a bit of third-party authentication — 78% of Americans say online product reviews help them decide whether they should make a purchase.

Think of case studies as well-structured, pre-approved customer reviews. Potential clients expect to hear you boasting about your own business; it’s much more persuasive to hear positive reviews and quotes from real clients, even if in truth you wrote the case study yourself.

At Dreamtown Creative, we often write case studies for clients of all sizes but notice they sometimes go underutilized. Don’t just stick case studies on your resources page and forget about them; maximize their power by referencing them across various mediums online and offline.

1. Pull powerful quotes to use in print and online collateral. A good case study includes at least a few illustrative and supportive quotes from your customer. These quotes can be repurposed for use on your website, email drip campaigns or ads. You could also create a video version of the case study.

2. Include them on relevant product pages. As stated earlier, case studies provide value in a similar manner to customer reviews. By placing case studies on relevant product pages, you may find potential customers refer to these as they would customer reviews and receive that extra final push to convert.

3. Use them to engage your audience on social media, or in webinars or newsletters. Like customer quotes, stats and stories from case studies make for great content that can be shared with your audience in multiple situations. Newsletters and social media are great places to share narratives in order to engage online audiences. Case studies also are great backbones to webinars, in which you can use them as support in how to solve or achieve certain business goals.

4. Incorporate them into your sales strategy. Too often, there is a lack of cohesion between a company’s marketing and sales strategies. Creating a unified strategy is especially important for less-established startups in order to appear trustworthy and legitimate. Train your sales team on properly utilizing the information in your case studies to make a strong pitch to future clients.

Kickstart Your Startup By Taking Marketing Notes from Crowdfunding Successes

I was wasting valuable time on Facebook yesterday when I noticed an acquaintance promoting her Kickstarter campaign. I’m all about supporting small business ventures and clicked the link, only to realize she was requesting donations to “better herself through an educational trip to Paris.” In between heavy cringing and judgmental thoughts, I did have to admit to myself it was bold and somewhat innovative — and began thinking about how crowdfunding platforms have evolved into quite powerful and accessible marketing tools for all types of ventures.

Kickstarter has become the de facto crowdfunding platform for launching successful businesses, new products and, apparently, even vacations. In 2015, Pebble Time set the record for the most money raised in its Kickstarter campaign for smartwatches, coming in at just over $20 million. Even a less technically innovative project, such as the Exploding Kittens card game “for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” cracked the top ten most successful Kickstarters list, raising nearly 88,000% of its initial goal.

How does this relate to you and your startup? Because regardless of whether you’ve got a great idea for an innovative tech product or an innovative card game, your marketing strategy can play a key role in making, breaking or surpassing your business goals. While crowdfunding to create a toy isn’t exactly the same as looking for backers to launch your own business, there are quite a few strategic marketing lessons startups can glean from the most successful Kickstarter projects.

Video is worth…well, more words than anyone is willing to read these days

Recent studies say humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish…but then again, I only paid attention long enough to read the headline. This means you’ve got a limited amount of time to capture potential customers’ attention to get them interested and invested in your brand. The most popular Kickstarters of the past show your best bet to accomplish this is by creating a video.

Kickstarter projects that include a video have a much higher success rate than those that do not (50% vs. 30%), and also tend to raise more money. The same is true of businesses, as seen by video conversion rates whether they’re utilized on social media, emails or on your website. One-third of all online activity is spent watching videos, and putting a video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80%.

Kickstarter suggests following three simple guidelines to film a quality video: clear audio, ample lighting, and footage of you and what you’re making (your story). Incorporating these three elements are that basis of creating any great video, regardless of budget or experience.

That third element is something startups sometimes struggle with. It’s not enough to tell the “what” of your business; you have to tell the “why” behind the brand to get viewers to care. Kickstarter recommends asking yourself these six questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you planning to make?
  • Where did this project come from?
  • What’s your plan and schedule?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Why do you care?

By incorporating these elements into your video, you can show the personality and passion behind your efforts, which is what gets viewers invested. Enjoyment of video ads increases purchase intent by 97% and brand recognition by 139%. And if you still need to further quantify it, note this: the latest research estimates a one-minute video is worth about 1.8 million words.

Here’s an example of a well-done video for the record-setting Pebble Time campaign that incorporates the suggested elements.

Take your startup’s supporters behind the scenes

There is a reason Kickstarter recommends you start your video by answering who you are. When you are asking people to invest in a young, unestablished idea, you are really asking them to invest in you. Make your early backers feel they are responsible for and part of your business’s success in a few ways:

  • Show the product or service in action through video or photos on your website.
  • Update your blog regularly with insight on production and progress from your perspective.
  • Give followers sneak peeks of upcoming product launches or news on social media.
  • You can even throw an event or walkthrough at your startup for your first customers / investors or followers to thank them for their early investment.

For a great example of the “behind the curtain” technique, take a look at this Kickstarter for a short film called “Wonder.” The filmmakers of “Wonder” took backers behind the scenes by introducing the cast and crew, explaining the passion behind the script and laying out the budget. They even included a section on the risks and challenges they faced filming a movie on a tight budget for complete transparency, which created empathy and trust with supporters.

Make like Oprah and give something away

Give away content like you're Oprah.

Take it from the piles of free branded t-shirts I received in college that are still hanging proudly in my closet — people love giveaways and it hardly matters what the piece actually is. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a physical piece of swag, such as a button or poster. My personal favorite part of checking out Kickstarters is what they offer supporters, and I’ve seen creative giveaways range from credits on a movie to a band’s hand-painted old Volvo for the highest backer.

From a business standpoint, content can be one of a startup’s most effective giveaways. Free educational content that’s relevant to your industry is a great giveaway for a few reasons: it creates a relationship with a potential customer, builds recognition and respect for your brand, and grows your email list all at the same time. Think about what type of content your brand could offer that would be valuable but also leave the customer wanting more. This could range from an eBook to an email series that teaches them something new or a webinar that presents you as an industry thought leader.

Talk to your startup’s customers early and often

Let’s say you’ve followed the steps above and have already made a sale. Congrats! Now, don’t spend too long celebrating before reengaging with this customer. One of the reasons Kickstarter campaigns are so successful is because they constantly update supporters on the project’s progress, successes and even failures.

Create a marketing strategy focused on keeping customers engaged once they have made a purchase from you. This should involve engaging your customers soon after they first make contact with you and on a recurring basis. One proven way of doing that is to send out a drip campaign to customers after they make a purchase or sign up for your service. This content can be a combination of promotions and personalized interaction.

For example, ask your customers to take a survey of their experience working with you to improve upon pain points in the checkout or customer service process. If your business depends on a one-time sale, you can send your customers a thank you note for their support and a discount code to encourage them to return to your business. If your startup is a SaaS, you can send customers information on getting the most out of your offering along with recommendations for related services. You’re not only educating the customer, you’re learning what elements of your business might be most valuable to their broader needs.

On average, repeat customers make up 40% of a business’s total revenue. Not only are they valuable in terms of revenue; it take less time and marketing effort to sell to someone already in your funnel than to find and convert new customers. By following up with customers and keeping them in the loop regarding updates on your startup, your brand will stay top of mind and also appears transparent, building trust and respect.

Deliver on your promises

How often have you backed a Kickstarter project only to find yourself receiving it a year or more after it was promised (or not receiving it at all)? Sadly, a lot of well-intentioned startups end up with similar reputations.

Don’t be that startup. Don’t get so caught up in creating an out-of-the-box marketing strategy that you deliver a substandard product or fail to deliver your product on time. Make your business and project timelines transparent from the get go, and continue to update customers on progress in the ways suggested throughout this post. The underlying motive behind all of these tips is to build your customers’ trust in a yet-to-be-proved idea. Once you break that trust, there’s no gaining those jaded customers back. It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.”

Check out Kickstarter’s Creator Handbook for more tips you can leverage into your startup’s marketing plan. And if you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, contact Dreamtown Creative and let us help you kickstart your business.

How a South African Safari Prepared Me for the Austin Tech World

There are few experiences in life quite as humbling as accidentally making eye contact with a hungry lion. I was spending the final day on my two-week trip to the South African bush with my best friend, Zac, and our trusty guide, Darlington. Our guide taught us how to track lions, and I had found this one on my own — a new skill that is definitely going in a prime location on my resume.

Prior to my trip, I was having one of those big life moments that everyone experiences occasionally, in which all of the facets of your life seem to intersect and you’re wondering what exactly you should do next. I have always had a passion for writing, but wasn’t feeling too inspired by many topics lately. When you’re not sure what to do, sometimes you just need to fly halfway across the world. I chose South Africa.

What South Africa taught me about Austin tech marketing

I had just left my position in digital marketing for a local nonprofit, moved into my boyfriend’s and my first “real” house, and was running all of the marketing and PR for an upcoming music festival. I will profess my love for Austin on any given day, but the long, humid summer and full plate of work had taken its toll. I was feeling tired, sweaty, tired of being sweaty, and uninspired.

Darlington took us out on sunrise and sunset safaris every day, and I had never been (and probably never will be again) so excited for my alarm to go off at 4:45 a.m. He held a wealth of knowledge on everything living in the bush, and we were eager to soak up as much knowledge as we could from him. He knew 139 birds by their calls and features. He could drive an enormous 4×4, spot animals and tracks from seemingly 360 degrees, listen for any hint of nearby rustling, and gleefully point out fresh rhino dung all at the same time. He taught me the bush is just as complex as human cities, complete with its own highways and little homes in a row.

It was refreshing to temporarily forget about anything related to WiFi, Florida man, or Kim Kardashian for the first time in years. For a while, I could pretend my real life was 50 shades of khaki, learning about the medicinal effects of various thorny bushes, and tracking black rhinos in the mountains.

Each new fact Darlington excitedly rattled off was as astonishing as the last. When lions were first introduced to the park, every other species began rapidly having babies to combat the increased death toll they knew would follow. Female elephants traditionally had tusks. But because elephant moms and daughters stay together in a pack for life while males are independent, poachers frequently targeted the females; so the women stopped having tusks as an evolutionary defense mechanism. Zebra stripes are vertical on most of their body because flies cannot see vertical lines, and therefore cannot see them to bite them; the stripes also act as a natural A/C unit.

IRL elephants, not CG

How amazing that each species was continuing to evolve and find new ways to better their lives and their world — just as humans do through research, education, and developing new technologies. Even in the bush, technology was everywhere, playing a behind-the-scenes role.

Around and beneath every short, thorny shrub hid some of the latest technologies available in the conservation world. Small hidden thermal cameras monitor watering holes to keep an eye on elusive lionesses and their cubs; other cameras track highly-endangered black rhinos’ bathroom breaks to collect fecal samples for pregnancy tests. Guides speak to each other throughout the day via the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), a combination of best practices and open-source software that streamlines efficiency and utilizes data to improve conservation approaches.

Electric fencing around the edges of the park monitor to keep poachers out and at-risk animals in. Modern pasture management practices and renewable energy efforts help manage the damage of overgrazing by large mammals in the area to ensure there is food for all species in the years to come. Beyond the bush, my iPhone made it possible for a lodge worker, Luyinda, and I to share music from our respective homes and photos from our cultures. Email and social media meant Zac and I could keep in touch with our new friend Darlington and work together to find a way to get him a U.S. visa.

Like travel, tech plays a key role in opening our minds to new ideas, innovation, and new ways to collaborate, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to Austin to share what I had learned. I came back home to an offer to join the Dreamtown Creative team as a copywriter, and it finally felt as if the next steps I needed to take had been laid out in front of me.

While I am not an inventor or startup business owner, I found myself being called to observe, learn and passionately share information about a fascinating microcosm shaping my own backyard. In that way, Darlington and I are similar. Whether the topic is elephant conservation or combatting Austin traffic, tech is the key to changing our world for the better.

I am so excited to begin working with Dreamtown Creative’s clients, the minds behind Austin’s booming tech sector who bring new ideas and inspiration to life every day. I am eager to learn from you and utilize my seven years of journalism, writing, editing, social media, and storytelling experience to help you achieve your goals and make a positive impact on our community.

My name is Sarah Karney, and I look forward to getting creative together. Let’s talk about traveling, tech, the social structure of elephants or anything else that inspires you: sarah@dreamtowncreative.com.

Sarah Karney, Dreamtown Creative

Grass Man – 48-Hour Film Project (Camp) – 2015 Audience Award Winner

Amanda and I have wanted to try a kids film camp sort of deal where we could teach some ‘yoots’ the different aspects of filmmaking, from concept, writing, planning, costumes, acting, editing, all the way to premiering in a theater. When our friend Josh’s son Connor turned 13, we decided it would be a great opportunity to teach him film (he’s in theater and is just about the coolest, funniest, most mature kid we’ve met) via a 48-hour film project. After making the promise back in January of this year, we patiently waited for the 48-Hour Film event in Austin, TX—not to compete, but to teach.

Soon after making our birthday promise to Connor, we learned that there was another yoot in the family who was getting into film: Amanda’s cousin Carter. Carter had just signed up for a semester of film club at his school and he brought along his film fanatic friend John, who spent the weekend making the other boys watch the classics, like Forrest Gump and Tucker and Dale vs Evil.

So that was it, that was the plan, get some family/friend’s yoots, throw them into a 48hr, but help them with every aspect as a guide.

The teens drew their genre: Romance. But after making ‘ick’ noises and groaning, they pretty much immediately opted for a wildcard draw for a new genre. They then drew ‘Mockumentary,’ to which one of them replied, “What’s mockumentary?” Oh boy, this should be interesting, we thought… After a moment, Carter says, “Is it like SpinalTap?” Oh yes, this yoot wearing a Mumford and Sons shirt has seen SpinalTap… We’re good.

On the way home to plan and write the script, we began asking them what they’d want to do a mockumentary on. We pointed out to them that sometimes the most mundane things in life, when fully inspected, are the most funny. John blurted out grass… Grass? Okay, pretty mundane. That could work. Any other ideas? And so it went. We spent Friday night teaching/coaching them on what makes a story funny and complete, while getting them to whiteboard out as many different ideas as they could. Then they conversed with each other on why they liked one idea over another and combined ideas and tweaked things and then made a final whiteboard list and voted. Three kids, three votes. Grass Man, the idea that grew from the word blurted in the car, had grown into a mockumentary about an obsessed old man who steals people’s grass… and it won by a landslide. (2 to 1)

We had our concept, so we spent the rest of Friday night working with the boys on scripting out the story and the scenes, guiding them to keep in mind the resources we had (three yoots, one house, one neighborhood). We settled on a simple story about Hubert (played by Connor) an old man who quit his job due to health issues, who lost his meaning in life, and had become obsessed with grass. He is supported by two neighborhood kids (Carter and John), a neighbor (John dressed differently), and a locksmith named Walter Buckley (Carter dressed differently). The locksmith was a requirement of the 48-Hour Fest, along with the use of medicine as a prop and the line of dialogue “Where did you put it?”

On Saturday we took the boys to Party City and Goodwill so they could design/pick out their costumes. They then spent Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning acting, adlibbing some of the best lines, and spent Saturday night watching movies (as listed above). Sunday afternoon we had all the footage we needed and they then sat down and helped out with editing.

The next week they got to see their film on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar and enjoyed some pretty heart-felt laughs from the audience. In fact, the audience loved it so much, they voted it their favorite film of the night! (And the boys got quite a bit of interest from the other directors in the crowd.)

We’re super proud of the work the teens did, especially considering they had never done anything like this before. They each jumped right in and worked well with one another and stayed through to the end, not a simple feat for a yoot these days I’d guess.

Amanda and I have been so lucky in so many ways in our own lives, it’s nice to share our gifts and experience with the next generation.

Enjoy the film courtesy of Connor, Carter, and John!

2015 Austin Silver Addy award!

We’re happy to share that this week, we were informed that TheGrommet.com’s 30-second spot we directed and produced won a Silver Addy award here in dreamy-ol’ Austin Texas.

AddySilverAward

Watch it here if you haven’t seen it yet.

We’d like to thank Job Propulsion Labs for submitting the work. JPL is a well-known advertising training program started by Bart Cleveland in Austin, Texas. They offer a great mentorship program for young creatives working toward success within the ad industry. We directed and produced this 30-second broadcast commercial for some of JPL’s students to help them build their portfolio and find positions within the industry. We’re pretty sure producing a Silver-winning spot ought to help. 🙂

If you’re thinking about broadcast or even online commercial video production, contact us today to see how we can help with your advertising video strategy, writing, and production.

Read Our Guest Column for Kapost

By Amanda Farmer, Dreamtown Strategic Director

Dreamtown-guest-blog-for-Kapost

If you’ve ever turned to our benevolent overlord the Internet for marketing advice, chances are you’ve landed on a Kapost article. As a platform for content marketers, Kapost really practices what it preaches, running a highly strategic, consistent, quality content program that gives it excellent pagerank for most content-related searches.

Being a content writer and strategist myself, I was certainly aware enough of Kapost to feel flattered when its editorial team asked me to become a guest contributor to their blog, The Marketeer.

We started with a series of posts centered around frequently searched content marketing definitions and will be tackling some more in-depth issues in the coming weeks, including how B2B tech marketers can more effectively market to IT teams.

Until then, take a look at some of my recent contributions. Enjoy!

 

On content marketing:

The Content Audit: What Horrors Await?

Ask someone to perform a content audit, and it sounds pretty straightforward. Sit down to actually perform a content audit, and you’ll find yourself in a circle of hell that Dante dared not speak of. I exaggerate. But barely. You’ll be challenged by a number of beasts during your journey through Content Audit Hell, which always begins in the Valley of Inventory. The first beast you’ll meet, fittingly, has no specific name. We’ll call him “Ambiguity.” Read more

 

Content marketing definitions:

Content Strategy

You may think that writing a blog post on the definition of a self-explanatory term like “content strategy” is just an SEO ploy. Well… ok, you’re partly right. But before you get all smarty-pants smug, let me ask you a question. Does your company have a documented content strategy? Not an editorial calendar—a content strategy. Read more

Content Marketing Workflow

Are you one of those people who loves making lists? As a child, did you buy fresh notebooks and flip through the pages, inhaling the scent, before finally committing that first, perfect stroke in glossy ink, tingling in anticipation over the moment you’d later cross through it with a single, straight line? You sound like kind of a weird kid. Were your parents worried? Read more

Editorial Calendars for Brand Publishers

For centuries before the idea of “brands as publishers” came along and gave a generation of marketing writers renewed job security, traditional publishers used editorial calendars, or ed cals, to plan upcoming stories and help advertisers choose their insertion schedules. That hasn’t changed, but today, brands have co-opted the editorial calendar, in name and essence, as a way to plan and manage their content marketing programs. Read more

Content Production

Because the vast majority of any content marketing program relates to research, strategy, and analysis, some might call content production the “fun” part. It is, after all, the point in the process when your uptight, left-brained strategists finally unleash a horde of neurotic, right-brained creatives to turn your plan into reality. (Sometimes the same person is responsible for both strategy and production—take it from me, you don’t want to hear the conversations going on in that head.) Read more

Production Analytics

I’ve always loved mindless tasks. I remember the day a supervisor at my first job decided she’d reward me for good creative work by taking away all the mindless, entry-level tasks I’d been responsible for—reports, restocking paper, you name it. It was hard to hide my disappointment. Read more

Dessert Content

Content masters create campaigns the same way master chefs create multi-course meals. They think of each course as part of a journey through distinctive but thematically unified experiences. (Now re-read that in Anthony Bourdain’s voice. Much cooler, right? Feel free to have him narrate the rest of this post.) Read more

Content Pillar

You might have never heard the term before, but if you’re running a content marketing program, chances are you’ve worked with content pillars in the past. A content pillar is simply an in-depth piece of content, such as an eBook, whitepaper, video, or research report, that can be broken out into many smaller assets, such as blog posts, infographics, and emails. Read more

Microblog

If this is your first time hearing the word “microblog,” I know exactly what you’re thinking. [meme: What is this? A blog for ANTS?!] Common misconception. Read more

 

Client: RealMassive chooses Dreamtown as Creative Agency

RealMassive

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that Austin-based tech startup RealMassive has officially selected Dreamtown Creative as its agency of record for local and national creative marketing.

RealMassive is one of those rare companies that’s equal parts brilliant ideas and amazing people. Founder & CEO Joshua McClure started RealMassive when he recognized the need for a completely open, real-time commercial real estate (CRE) hub. Up to that point, the only online CRE listing services that existed were full of inaccurate, outdated, and missing listings, and worse still, people usually had to pay a small fortune to access them.

RealMassive’s free, accurate search and CRE management hub was so fresh and so desperately needed by the industry that the company was quickly able to raise funding from private investors, many of whom were CRE property owners and professionals themselves. In a matter of months, the company grew from a two-person startup to a team of more than 25 employees.

Notably, RealMassive was also chosen as one of Austin’s “Best Places to Work” for 2014 (because, again, brilliant ideas + amazing people), receiving an average of 14 employment applications every hour. Wow.

In the coming months, RealMassive will expand outside the Austin market to Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and New York, with Dreamtown building out the corporate branding strategy and supporting launch efforts.

Among other duties, Dreamtown will handle the following for RealMassive:

  • Branding strategy and development
  • Video marketing strategy and production
  • Writing of site content and incremental customer communications
  • Strategy, creation, and production of printed marketing materials
  • Strategy, research, and writing of thought leadership articles
  • Graphic design support

Dreamtown will also have the pleasure of working alongside Blast PR, who has been handling public relations.

The official relationship was won after the completion of several successful projects, including the creation of RealMassive’s FAQ knowledge base and the company’s introductory explainer video.

As you know we’re a small shop and we’re very proud to call Josh and his RealMassive team a part of our creative family! We look forward to all that we’ll accomplish in the future!

 

The Different Styles of Corporate Branding Video

Remember the old adage “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? When it comes to video marketing, a lot of business owners know what they want to say but aren’t sure which video style will help them say it best.

To help you sort through the options, here’s a list of the most popular styles of corporate branding videos, along with some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Animated Explainer

    • Good for complex, or new, services and technology
    • Relatively low cost
    • Ability to keep consistent style with website or service branding
    • Best for brands who want to portray energy and excitement, youth

Live/Graphical Instructional

    • Can be more personal/friendly that animation
    • On-screen personality holds attention longer for dull or complex learning objectives
    • Provides value beyond the brand/service for shareability
    • Best for brands who need an extra jolt of friendly/conversational tone

Slice-of-life/Branding

    • Highest production quality
    • Most similar to traditional branding
    • Better at getting attention for initial launch of new products/services
    • Best for consumer-facing brands selling a life improving or time-saving product

Many brands decide to combine live-acting to “host” the video and move the target audience through the different topics their brand story requires, while dipping into shorter animations and graphical explanations for individual elements, like showing how a product is different from the competition.

Would your brand be best suited by a friendly host sharing the value of your brand in a conversational tone? Maybe your product needs a visual explanation or breakdown? These are all aspects that need to be determined and developed during your concept and scripting phase. It takes a lot of work to develop a strong branding campaign, especially one that hits on all cylinders with the words it speaks and the images it shows. It’s worth spending the extra time in the beginning to hone and focus your strategy.

Dreamtown Creative offers all of the support you’ll need to accomplish this lofty goal. We work with startups and businesses in Austin, Texas to ensure that the time and energy they spend toward their visual branding and marketing campaigns bring the largest return on investment. How valuable is a strong branding campaign? You could ask Apple, Google, BMW, or any of the market leaders throughout the world.

No matter how big or small you think your business is, if you rely on clients, you rely on how they interact with your brand. Don’t let the marketplace define you. Use branding to define yourself.