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What are the Benefits to Companies Using Social Media?

Today, social media acts as one of the most important tools in a company’s arsenal. With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube sporting their user-friendly interfaces, companies now have the ability to continuously manage and sculpt their “public profile” at their fingertips. All of this while instantly and conveniently being able to connect with hundreds of thousands of potential customers in their community.

Companies large and small are realizing how powerful and effective these free (!) tools truly are. In terms of the immediate (and obvious) benefits alone, social media marketing has become a staple in assisting companies to stay relevant and attract new customers. Because of this, the ever-increasing popularity of social media continues to skyrocket and help drive new communication trends, especially upon those mobile consumers.

Social media is no longer an option for companies; it is a necessity for survival and growth. With that statement being made, here is a list of key benefits for companies using social media:

Brand Awareness
It’s no secret that social media has enabled companies to increase their “footprint” and reach new sets of eyes and ears. With one simple click, your message is delivered to a sea of social media-savvy readers that fall within your target audience, exposing your company’s profile, content, and contact information all for the better.

Brand Voice
Your company has a voice; let it be heard. Social media is an incredible tool for highlighting who your company is, what it’s about and how it operates on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, introduce yourself.

Engagement and Communication
Provide a rich customer experience using social media acting as your driving force. Post, tweet, like, follow, comment – these forms of social engagement will help you establish and build relationships with your friends and followers. Sure, content is king, but communication is what allows your company to flourish. From a customer service standpoint, the fact that your company can deliver quick responses by utilizing social media through open forms of communication could just be the ticket that separates you from your competition.

Valuable Insights
Campaign performance and being able to understand who is engaging with your brand is vital to your company’s success. From an analytical perspective, paid social media efforts (like Facebook ads) have allowed companies to easily track, measure, and understand the effectiveness of their marketing/advertising efforts. What about real-time results? Yep, social media platforms can handle that too.

Increase Web Traffic
Direct existing and potential customers to your website and/or blog to further connect with them. Social media is a great driving force for all website traffic. Again, paid social media ads for your company can pay off big here. Location, demographics, interests, behaviors, etc. can all be specifically selected to make sure that you’re targeting, reaching and guiding your audience back to your website.

Easily showcase your company’s products, services, news, awards, volunteering/non-profit efforts and more. Content sharing is the name of the game when it comes to social media. Don’t be afraid to display company achievements and recognitions. Recognition and reputability are major factors when it comes to a lot of decision-makers actions.

From a discoverability aspect alone, social media should be on your company’s forefront when making its next marketing, advertising and/or branding decision.

Marketing Trends – How do you keep up?

The only thing that is constant is change” – Greek philosopher, Heraclitus

Is it worth keeping up with marketing trends? Three words come to mind: Innovate or die. In today’s hyper connected world of online reviews and social media, consumers hold more power over your brand than ever before. It’s crucial that brands remain vigilant for emerging trends. We recommend a combination of traditional and digital strategies to stay competitive and relevant.

Associations, Conferences and Trade Shows
Assessing how your competition goes to market is vital. The ability to walk a trade show and interact personally with competition is invaluable. To remain incognito, turn your trade show badge around or simply register as an independent attendee. Industry and marketing-specific conferences are an inspiring source for keeping current on emerging trends. Typically, the leading association in your field offers the highest educational value conference. For ongoing professional development and networking, consider joining marketing and trade associations.

Following competition on LinkedIn and Twitter is a stealthy way to keep on top of trends and new developments in your competitive set. Joining industry and marketing LinkedIn groups allows you to interface with your peers, gain knowledge and ask for advice and feedback.

Google Alerts
An excellent way to remain aware of your competition and trends is to set up Google Alerts. This cost-free tool sends email notifications whenever your competition shares content. There’s a good chance your competition is following you!

Marketing Trend Blogs
To keep up with trends and marketing best practices, it’s vital to read trade blogs. In addition to your industry, consider marketing content near and outside of your space. All too often, we as marketers suffer from industry tunnel vision. Gaining outside perspective often gives new inspiration to apply to your marketing challenges.

If you want to learn more about how Channel can help give you the competitive edge, please contact

Recharging Your Battery

Sometimes, all we seem to do is work. We work at the office. We work at home. Now that summer is upon us, many of us are looking forward to the true meaning of summer -vacation. Vacations allow each of us time to unplug and forget about the day-to-day challenges. We are allowed to escape the stresses of everyday life and float away for a bit of “rest and relaxation”.

Are vacations necessary? You bet they are. 

Vacations are a great way to clear your mind, get re-energized and hopefully be inspired again. If you don’t totally escape and commit to it, have you missed out? Perhaps. To help prepare for a proper getaway, below are a few simple tips to help become stress free.

Prepare to be away

Preparing your work family for your departure is key. Vacation cannot be thoroughly enjoyed if your thoughts are consumed with the pile of stuff you left on your desk.

Weeks before you leave, start making a list of tasks that need to be done before you escape. As you check things off your list, you get a feeling of confidence that you are not leaving any loose ends for others to deal with. Do things come up when you are away? Yes, but there is nothing you can do to stop that.

Cut the cord (i.e. stay away from your electronics)

Let’s see a show of hands… How many of us check our work email while we are out of the office? I’ll wait. Don’t be ashamed – an overwhelming number of us do. If you are one of many who check their email during vacation, you need to stop or at least minimize. It can be stressful.

To take advantage of your time away, you need to log out and stop thinking about work. Checking your email becomes a habit, not a necessity. Take a step away from the screen and enjoy your time. Giving yourself a break from electronics may make your vacation better than ever. Hey, your kids might even want to spend a little more time with you.

Have fun

Vacation is the perfect time to sneak away and spend time doing what you love. Whether it’s spending a week at Disney World, waterskiing on a beautiful lake, playing a round of golf at a PGA rated course or sitting on a beach chair staring down the shoreline, just relax and have fun. Do something that makes you happy. It’ll not only make your vacation that much better, but it will ensure that you return home with a fresh outlook.

Don’t be a cheapskate

Splurge a little. Do things you would not normally do. Enjoy a steak like the one you see the guy at the next table eating. Spend the money and charter a sailboat. Be a daredevil and try parasailing. Vacations are meant to enjoy. Let loose of the purse strings and splurge. You work hard and deserve something special. Doing new things and clearing your mind can be inspirational. To quote Nike, “just do it”!

Taking a staycation?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a “staycation”. A staycation can be the perfect opportunity to take time and recharge your batteries. It only works if you make a true effort to relax. Sit on your deck and watch the birds, but don’t think about work. Staycations can be great ways to reconnect with your family in a really meaningful way.

Enjoy yourself

Taking a break from work is necessary. Wherever you go or whatever you do, do it right. Sometimes all you just need a brief change of pace. Enjoy yourself and recharge those batteries. Remember, you really deserve it!

Inspirational Independence

“Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”  These are the famous words of Thomas Jefferson, our third President of the United States, who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson’s predecessor, John Adams, had the same forward thinking that helped lead our great country to its independence. In fact, Adams assisted Jefferson in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. 241 years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

These two great men, arguably two of the greatest that this nation has had the honor of calling “President”, will forever be woven into the fibers of the flag of the United States of America. It comes as no surprise that both Adams and Jefferson were brilliant men that acted on their thoughts, were true trailblazers, and used the spark of inspiration to help ignite a fire in those thirteen original colonies, which now is a nation of 50-states strong.

So, what exactly is inspiration and why does it seem to drive many to success? In my own terms, inspiration is a deep passion, something that truly piques our interest, that drives us to great lengths, makes us chase our creativity, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In the world of marketing and advertising, inspiration is a “mechanism” for everything.

Here are five helpful ways to help channel your inspiration:

Forward thinking – be a leader and dig deep to find industry gaps. Find success through innovation and achieve growth (personal and professional).

Learn from your mistakes – mistakes are inevitable - we all make them - however, not all of us view our mistakes as a true way to learning experience and a way to grow.

Take pride – whether it’s your personal life, your work, your company or your character, put forth your best effort and strive to be the best version. Master this step and success will find its way.

Adapt – the world around us is constantly evolving. Technology, media, and market trends consistently shape our form of daily communications. Dive into these trends and new forms of technology to remain current and competitive in your line of work and industry.

Don’t lose sight of your goals – goals are what drive us. They lead us to a personal sense of “victory” (or defeat for that matter). Regardless, setting goals and chasing those goals are what turns a doer into an achiever.

Although John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – they are a constant reminder of how truly inspirational we, as human beings, can become.

Summer Media Tweaks

Is your media plan working as hard and smart as it could this summer?  While your 2017 media plan is likely well-mapped out, here are a few summertime considerations to potentially take advantage of:

Outdoor - Your customers are taking more time off and spending more time outside in the summer than in colder weather months. In addition to regular commuting, people are on the road more often, taking kids to camp and driving to their beach vacations. Summer is an ideal time to consider additional investments in outdoor advertising.

Radio - Whether terrestrial or streaming formats like Pandora and Spotify, radio usage typically experiences an uptick over the Summer months. If you’re looking to increase your frequency this summer, radio may be worth another look.

Cable - Of special importance to community-based institutions, a cross-channel cable buy can be an effective asset to build awareness and drive new customer traffic. With avails for cross-channel typically lower during summer months, now may be an ideal time to consider adding more cable inventory to your mix.

Mobile - According to Google, consumers are most likely to search online with their mobile devices in summer than in any other season. Depending on your marketing goals, summer may be the time to test and measure a location-based geo-fencing campaign. For community based organizations, new branch openings are excellent opportunities to employ this extension. Additionally, by ensuring your website and content assets are responsively designed and mobile-friendly, you’ll receive the most interaction and ROI from your online summer plan.

If you have any questions or would like more advice on making the most of your summer, call Channel Communications at 410-296-0697 or email

Summer Reset

Summer is a time to recharge, reset and find inspiration. As marketers, many of us have been head down and laser-focused on executing our Q1 and Q2 initiatives. With the first half of the year nearly behind us, summer presents an opportunity to reflect on progress against plan and consider seasonal adjustments and extensions. With a potentially lighter summer workload, now is an ideal time to strengthen your team and seek out opportunities to build your brand.

Here are a few tips to help you and your team find inspiration and increase your momentum into the second half of the year:

Team building and Development

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to” – Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group.

Marketing is rarely a 9 to 5 occupation. Your team has been committed to achieving their goals and continually goes the extra mile. Appreciated, engaged and inspired employees are more productive and easier to manage. In addition to the company-wide summer picnic or party you may have planned, why not consider a more intimate and valuable experience with your marketing team?  Here are a few ideas:

Get out of the office and get inspired 

Take advantage of the warmer weather and schedule a summer retreat day or half day. Opportunities for team building range from highly structured corporate team building companies to more informal options like obstacle courses, rafting trips, and volunteering to name a few. Pro Tip: focus on enjoying the day and connecting with your team. Discourage excessive “shop talk”.

Professional development

Employees increasingly rank professional development as an important factor in workplace satisfaction. Are there certain skills your team would like to master individually or as a group? With a potentially lighter workload, summer may be an ideal time to invest in your team and have them attend industry educational sessions, marketing specific workshops or even bring in a professional trainer to deep-dive on specific skills. Take care of your team and they will take care of you!

Community Involvement

Many of our Cause Marketing, Education, Financial Services and Healthcare clients are deeply committed to their communities. Being actively involved in your community deepens awareness, increases positive perception and allows your current and future consumers to become more personally engaged with your brand. If not in your strategic plan already, summer is a great time to sponsor and volunteer at community events. Arts festivals, cause-driven concerts and running races are all strong options to consider. In addition to at-event awareness, the opportunity to share your involvement across your content channels will exponentially deepen your community ties and build your brand this summer.

Craft Beer, Crafting Creative

Plato, the Classical Greek Philosopher, once said, “He was a wise man who invented beer.” It seems that Americans wholeheartedly agree. Today, in the U.S., there are more than 5000 small breweries and, according to some industry leaders, this is the greatest time in history to be a beer drinker in America.

Open your mind (and your wallet) to the world of craft brewing. It’s hard not to take notice of the brewing “boom” in recent years. Local breweries seem to be sprouting up on every street corner at an increasing rate. Although the trend has been booming since roughly 2010, it doesn’t appear to be slowing either, with nearly 900 new breweries established in 2016. With this rapid growth, one thing has become very apparent to me: marketing matters.

As the macro beer companies (think Budweiser, Miller, Coors, etc.) know all too well, marketing influences consumers. Well, as you can imagine, it greatly matters in the craft beer business as well. There are several reasons why people choose to drink craft beer over macro beer. For some, it’s solely about the quality, for others it’s their taste buds chasing new flavors or new trends of beer types/styles. Whatever your reason is, the craft beer consumer has made a conscious choice to care about what they pour into their pint glass.

On that note, here are five tips that can help separate your brand from the rest:

1. Local Love

It should come as no surprise that every brewery (craft or macro) should be trying to prove that they are the right choice for consumers. Local consumers can make or break your business. The fact that they can most likely walk or drive to your location, see your production first-hand, feel the products in-house, taste the freshest beer you have to offer, and interact with your staff, means that you should give it your best effort to please and connect with them. After all, they are your “foot soldiers” in a way; they will spread the news and rate your business faster than you can say “beer”.

2. Innovate

Your backstory could be great, but craft beer drinkers, like most consumers, also want to know what you’re adding to the pot. What makes your brand unique? Do you locally source all your ingredients? Is your equipment special or does it have a unique history, which creates a better product? Or, do you have a specific reward program for brand enthusiasts? Innovation can lead to profitability.

3. Your Recipe

This tip is straightforward. Like the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If you skimp on quality, effort, and/or do not make it a priority to connect with your fans, you are headed towards the end of the road.

4. Compelling Narrative

You and your friend founding a brewery because you didn’t want to work at a desk anymore isn’t exactly a unique fable. The history of craft beer is speckled with brewers who set up their logo, pint glasses, tap handles and fonts. This tip links with #2: revolutionize. What are you all about? What does your brand stand for? What makes you different than the business in the same industry down the street?

5. Create the Buzz

  • Return phone calls and emails (communicate!)
  • Create news and share
  • Focus on growing your social media base through consistent and compelling content
  • Collaborate with like-minded companies so you can cross-promote your business, products and/or services

Whether the craft beer industry is here to stay or fizzles out years from now (all signs, or pints, point towards the industry staying), influencing consumers through ways of marketing, advertising, and branding has never been more important than it is today.

Here’s a brilliant new spot by Heineken (yes, a macro beer company):

Despite what you may have thought, marketing and advertising in major beer commercials does not always have to be focused around a party, beach, bonfire, etc. This ad makes you think – it’s refreshing, it’s impactful, and it’s memorable.

Become a leader, be an innovator, create that next big market trend, start the conversation, and, perhaps most importantly, stay true to your roots.

Your Last Day on Earth

It’s a phrase we’re all familiar with: “Life is full of surprises.” No matter how much we plan for our future, life has a way of surprising us. So, why not live every day like it’s your last -- with a sense of pride, joy, inspiration, and, ultimately, accomplishment? Or with a peaceful feeling that, no matter how small or large, you’ve already achieved something great with your life? 

It’s natural for us, as human beings, to lose sight of what truly inspires and brings us a sense of accomplishment daily. What inspires you? Is it your family? Your career? Your hopes and dreams? Perhaps a better question is: What’s holding you back in life?

I strongly believe that the answer often is fear of failure. Until you realize that even the worst scenario you can conjure up is rarely as bad or as tough as you fear, you are limiting your true potential. Remember: Failures come and go in life; it’s how you handle them that defines you.

In fact, setbacks often are the sparks that ignite your fire, giving you a drive and pride that lead to inspiration. Training your mind to understand and respond to this can have a positive effect in both your personal and professional life.

Personally, I’ve been working for and with marketing, advertising, media and print-related companies for many years now. I continue to seek work in these industries because, to put it simply, they fascinate me. The sheer detail from a design perspective, the re-energizing of brands, the creativity that sparks the next “big idea,” and the interactive phases between the client and agency that helps bring a vision to life are what motivate me.

Believe in yourself. Perseverance, a positive attitude, commitment and passion will take you to great heights. Do your dreaming in the present, act now and feel like you have truly lived throughout your journey in life.

Anything Is Possible

The Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon: a mission that’s been held annually since 1978 and requires athletes to test their mind, body, and soul against a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run without a break. Now also held throughout the world, most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race, making the grueling test that much more difficult.

What sets these athletes apart from you and me? Are they born with this determination or do they teach themselves to be strong-willed? I’ve been an athlete my entire life and I’ve had my fair share of challenges, battles, wins and defeats, but the thought of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, followed by running 26.2 miles … well, I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced a test of this stature (yet).

You see, I have always been involved in team sports, so I fully understand what it means to be a teammate: to pull your own weight but also to work as part of a unit, to put your trust in your teammates, and to represent the name displayed across your chest to achieve a common goal.

Ironman triathletes come from a variety of athletic backgrounds, typically train with a coach/coaches, but, at the end of the day, rely on one person to achieve greatness: themselves. These athletes have no one else to pick up the slack if they fall behind and there are no substitutions. They put their trust in their mind, body, soul, and training to conquer the elements and cross that finish line.

When you take a step back and analyze what it takes to be an athlete, no matter what the sport, you start to recognize a lot of similarities to the world of marketing.  Whether you’re a triathlete, a teammate, or an employee, you’re representing a brand: your name, a color, a logo, a city. The effort you put into your work or craft is the stamp that is left on that entity.

Branding is crucial across all facets of both the sports and marketing worlds because it’s what we, as fans or consumers, associate with, gravitate towards, and, ultimately, spend our time and money on. It takes commitment, passion, sacrifice, and striving for excellence to maintain a strong brand image.

This understanding can inspire us to reimagine our limits and to set our sights higher to achieve our goals.

New Year, New You?

You’ve made it; it’s 2017!

As I’m sure you know, along with the new year comes new goals, a new hope, and, perhaps, a new you - a rejuvenation if you will.

For many of us (myself included), we typically decide on a New Year’s resolution because we feel that: “I should be making this change in my life.” I always find myself wondering: is this really something that I can stick to? Am I committing to this resolution because I’m trying to better myself/those around me? Or do I feel the need to choose a New Year’s resolution because I should?

Let’s set aside the reasoning and focus on our daily lives for a moment. Our lives are hectic. Most of us wake up, hit the ground running, and have a daily agenda that overwhelms us to the point of questioning ourselves: “how can I possibly fit another task in today’s schedule?” The thought of cramming in another “chore” (ahem, all you gym-goers out there) is the root of what causes a lot of our New Year’s resolutions to fall to the wayside come spring.

What if we change our way of thinking and look at our New Year’s resolution as a way to “reconfigure” our lives? This idea could help assess exactly what is truly valuable in our daily schedule.

Whether your choice is aimed toward self-improvement, breathing new life into your brand, strengthening workplace relationships, reanalyzing your spending habits and savings strategy, or, simply, making better decisions with your time throughout the day, we look at the new year as an opportunity for a new chapter in our lives.

Here are a few tips to help you set yourself up for success:

  • Be Patient. I’m starting with this one because, although it may seem obvious, it’s the easiest to let slip away, which can lead to procrastination and, ultimately, your resolution coming unraveled.
  • Schedule It. There are so many tools out there today to help you stay on track and achieve your goals. Friends/family members, calendar alerts, alarms, smartphone apps, etc. are all fantastic (free) tools to help you stick to your resolutions.
  • Stay Positive. A positive outlook goes a long way, which can lead to a total change on your outlook on life. Positivity can lead to you remaining focused and obtaining your goal(s).
  • Track Your Efforts. This is an easy and effective strategy. Without knowing your starting point, how will you ever know if any progress has been made? This simple step provides tangible (or visible) proof that you’re achieving what you set out to do. No matter how big or small, progress is progress.

Try to think of yourself as a brand, an image, and a marketing tool. You wouldn’t want to think of yourself as someone who drags their feet, doesn’t commit, has trouble with reaching goals, and lacks organization would you? People depend on you. You depend on you.

A New Year’s resolution is a way to revitalize your brand (yourself) and apply your greatest effort toward improving your life or area that needs some extra attention and “polishing”. So, choose something and start doing. You’ll be surprised over what a simple resolution will do for your life.

Channel Communications, located in Towson, Maryland, enjoys solving marketing problems.  We can do it all – print advertising, branding and identify programs, direct response, marketing communications, websites, and online and digital marketing.

Call us for more information or with any questions you may have at 410-296-0697.

Why Does a (Retired) Creative Director Make a Good Santa?

Most creative directors never really retire, they just move into jobs that interest them more. As a creative director, I spent over four decades in marketing and advertising. I designed, wrote and presented marketing concepts that are being used to this day by Fortune 500 companies. I never thought I would find a job more creative. But I have as a Real Bearded Santa.

A couple of years ago I started letting my natural, very white beard grow longer. In October of that year, while waiting on a repair at a local Warehouse Store tire center, a 3-year-old girl entered the reception area with her mother, who was pushing a very full shopping cart. The child’s eyes grew wide as she grabbed a large package of cookies from her mother’s cart (as we all know, those places sell everything), opened them while racing over to where I was sitting, and jumped into my lap. She looked into my eyes and said, “I know you love chocolate-chip.” Laughing, the mother retrieved her daughter and said, “Catherine knows a real Santa when she sees him.”  She was the first to “recognize” the Santa I was about to become. You see, it is children that decide you are a “real Santa.”

Over time I have discovered being a Real Bearded Santa requires many of the same abilities that I used in my long career.

1) Knowledge Is Golden

As a Santa, you have to know answers to just about everything. Not only the names of all eight reindeer, but tricky questions like “What do reindeer eat to make them fly?,” “Who is your favorite elf?,” “How fast do you go on Christmas Eve?,” and “What exactly does ho-ho-ho mean?” This requires continual immersion in knowledge of all things Santa and oftentimes improvisational skills. Just as a creative director should know all aspects of the brands he or she is selling, Santa has to know the expectations of his customers: kids of all ages. And so much more. So you learn all you can from history, your peers in the industry, Santa University, and you watch lots of children’s television programs so you can name all of the pups on Paw Patrol. Needless to say, you never stop studying.

2) “On the Fly” People Management Skills 

When we say “on the fly” we are not really talking about the sleigh or reindeer.

Creative directors are uniquely qualified for a Santa role because they work with other creative individuals -- writers, art directors, designers, photographers and producers -- to create a finished product in an environment of rapidly changing conditions and emotions. Being Santa puts you in just about the same pressure cooker. Conditions and emotions do not change more rapidly than when you are reading a book or handing out presents to a dozen -- or a hundred -- children with short attention spans. (Just like working with writers and artists.) You have to keep everyone on task, settle differences, provide counseling, make judgments and decide what is best for the brand.

3) Presentation Is Everything

Just like being a creative director, when you are a “real Santa,” you are the brand. Every detail of your “campaign" counts, and you must make sure that not one has been overlooked. You must be the person -- and the brand -- that your “customers” have had fixed in their minds by books, photos, movies and more. From the tone of your voice and your demeanor to your messages, your suit, and your complexion, it all must match up.

4) Making People Believe

Just as a creative director must build a program to help people believe that a product or service is worth a try or becoming one of choice, your job is to keep alive the belief and enthusiasm that children of all ages have for the “Santa brand.” Santa is the embodiment of a folkloric character popularized by a literary scholar in the 1820s, and you have to use every resource you have to keep everyone believing in that idea.

There is a lot of negativity in the world today. As a creative director turned year-round Santa, I know I represent the spirit of Saint Nicholas and the joy that secret giving can bring. Through the brand of Santa, I have the privilege of spreading that joy every day of the holiday season and throughout the year!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!


George Campbell is North Texas Santa, a former executive creative director with some of the world’s largest ad agencies, who now brings joy to thousands of children across Texas. He is a graduate of International Santa University, a member of the International Society of Real Bearded Santas and a board member of Lone Star Santas, an organization that brings toys and joy to children who have been the victims of natural disasters.

Follow him on Facebook at North Texas Santa.

Pride Can Inspire a City

Do you bleed purple?  With a 3-0 start to the season, The Baltimore Ravens can reignite a fan base that was left down and out at the end of last year’s disastrous season.

Meanwhile, across the street, the Orioles are fighting hard to be a Wild Card contender after one of their best seasons in a long while.

And you don’t have to be a fan in the stands, to feel the boost one gets from living in a city with two professional sports teams competitively striving to be champions.

When all eyes are on your town, it brings out the pride and unites a city that is in need of a little (okay, a lot of) unity. It demonstrates, even if for a brief duration, how players from all backgrounds can work and collaborate together as a team. While it may sound a little corny, it’s a message that clearly still needs to be broadcast above and taught down on the ground – from the youngest on up.

Pride lifts. It can inspire a city, a school and an individual to achieve things they never thought possible.  Until they saw that great accomplishment, they didn’t think it could be done. Now they know. And now they are out to prove they can do it too.

Whether or not there’s a Super Bowl in the Ravens future and even if the Orioles wind up out of the playoffs, they’re fighting hard.

It’s no different for businesses that have to compete in the rough and tumble every day. You keep your eye on the year-end tally, but you also have to roll your sleeves up each and every day and battle through whatever challenges you’re hit with.  How are you going to get through to the end of the quarter?  What’s the year going to look like? That question, that quest is what keeps you going.

So while you’re watching the games, take a look at Buck Showalter and John Harbaugh’s faces. Try to imagine the end-of-year image they’re aiming for in their minds. See it? It’s there. Sure it might not come to pass. It may just be a dream. But if you and your business don’t imagine it, will it ever be a reality? So watch, get inspired and make it happen.

Get the Juices Flowing

travelling inspires

If you have to think for a living, being inspired can be a problem.  Ad agency executives, creative people, writers, business owners, architects, cyber-security experts – anyone dealing with information needs to be inspired to succeed, to innovate, to come up with compelling ideas and solve problems in order to get better at their profession and as a human being.

Over the years, I’ve tried to take on challenges and find things that inspire me or push me forward, ways to get my creative juices flowing again and get my motivation back. I try to take on challenges that are sometimes daunting. For me, there is nothing like the possibility of failure to produce motivation and inspiration. Will that work for you? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: Nothing will be gained if you don’t try new things.

Here are a few other tips:

Write it down. If I have a good idea, I like to write it down or, better yet, send myself a text.  The ideas may not always be good ones or even feasible, but I park them in my idea bin and review them from time to time.  You never know when putting those ideas into practice will come to pass. But sometimes those ideas can blossom into something bigger and more meaningful – they turn into dreams.

Take inventory. Unplug from the world.  Sit down and contemplate all you have accomplished.  It feels good to know that you have come a long way.  Look back on yourself not just professionally but personally; consider your family and friends.  As you take inventory, be thankful, and be humble.

Just get started.  This one is tough sometimes.  But taking on new challenges, pushing    yourself forward and trying new things, and exercising the body and brain are all good for you.  My father used to always say that “getting started is the tough part,” and he was right. But once you are past that, whether you’re painting a bench or starting a new company, good things can finally happen.

Exercise.  For me, nothing is better to clear the mind then exercise.  The problem is I don’t do it as much as I should.  But exercising needs be the most important thing on your to-do list.  It preserves your mind, strengthens the body, makes you look better and propels you forward.  It works on so many levels. Just Do It!

Take a trip.  Every year I take a short boys trip with old friends.  It’s the best therapy one can have. Five guys who know each other very well from a different time in our lives.  We have all moved on and live in different parts of the county now, but once a year we get together and just have a lot of fun. We have nothing to prove to each other, no agendas to keep, no children, wives or co-workers to worry about.  I always come home re-energized.

Above all, get to know yourself and be good to yourself. If you do, you’ll never hold yourself back or be your own worst enemy.  Sounds simple, but it’s so hard to do. Just get started!

Sporting Events Inspire

Three-pointers, home runs, goals all bring a crowd to their feet because inspiration finds a natural home at sporting events. Athleticism stretches the bounds of the ordinary to become extraordinary, and it’s in those moments when humans can seem to attain Olympian status.

We saw this idea play out at the actual Olympics this summer in Rio with the performance of the women’s gymnastics team, including an amazing series of gold medal wins by Simone Biles. And building on his already astounding success was our hometown hero Michael Phelps, who extended his Olympics record by winning six more medals.  Making her own mark was fellow swimmer Katie Ledecky with five.  And when it comes to speed, Team USA’s Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin set fire to the track, earning all three medals in the 100-meter hurdles.

But while the Americans won more medals than any other country (121), watching other nation’s athletes — like Jamaica’s Usain Bolt — bolt ahead of any rival was inspiring in the purest sense of the word.

Getting a company’s brand to attain that level of inspiration may seem to require, well, an Olympian effort. But like any great athlete, a brand needs to have a dream, and then it needs practice – lots of work and practice – to get it into shape. It has to have the drive to be the best, and with focus it can soar.

Here’s a great example of just that kind of commercial that ran during the winter Olympics from P&G.

As you can see, to ultimately get to that higher place, the ad can’t only reach for the heads of its consumers, it also has to hit their hearts. And it can’t do that only with words (in fact, this spot barely has any); rather, the achievement is in the music and imagery.

And if you’re looking for a little inspiration to set you up for the 2016 Rio Paralympics, how about a mountain climber (ascending through ice and snow) who has no arms or legs? Nike found a unique, inspiring story and made it work for them.  Have a look.

Now you may not have a story as amazing as this one, but notice that the ad is not really about the Nike product so much as it is about the attitude.  Nike’s not selling sneakers; it’s inspiring each of us to find that “Just Do It” quality in ourselves.  So go on, climb your mountain!

4 Ways to Keep Your Employees Inspired

There are managers out there who truly believe employees just love coming to work. Are they right? Yes and no. According to a 2013 Gallup study, only about 30% of American workers are engaged and inspired with their careers and places of employment. Do they “love” coming to work? Well, the jury is still out on that. The bottom line, however, is that inspired people get more done. All employees want to be inspired and want to grow with great teams and organizations. Here are a few ways to keep your staff motivated and on the road to success.

1. Inspire everyone to be part of the company vision.

Communicating your company’s vision internally is crucial. If no one believes it inside your doors, communicating it outside your doors is hard. Great managers help their staff understand the vision and explain the roles that everyone plays in making it a success. People all want to help make a difference. From the junior staffer in accounting to the director of sales and all the way up to the chairman of the board, everyone plays a part. When people understand how they contribute to the company’s success, they feel a sense of encouragement, pride and ownership. It's your job to communicate the vision and show everyone how they fit into the plan.

2. Create a culture that encourages.

People are not infallible and yes, we all make mistakes. Sadly, when people are afraid to challenge the norm, they often avoid taking chances altogether. This thinking can stymie creativity and growth. Being aware of risk is good. However, when staffers are afraid to step up and make a recommendation, this can result in a company unable to innovate and respond to changes. Good organizations remove the barriers of fear and encourage people to speak up. Instead of discouraging risk-taking, encourage new approaches and fresh thinking.

 3. If necessary, get into the trenches.

Employees admire bosses who aren’t afraid to share in the dirty work. If you are elbow-to-elbow with your staff, they will view you as a true leader instead of an “empty suit.” This can go a long way. If your staff is in the late-night throes of a difficult project, consider staying late to pitch in. This little gesture can really pay off.

 4. Everyone wants a little reward.

Employees who are inspired and excited are more prone to strive. As your staff flourishes, remember to say thank you.  This simple gesture can make them even happier at work. As a good manager, you should to do everything in your power to keep them inspired. Little notes, a small gift or even a sincere “thanks” can go a long way. Employee of the month awards might seem dated, but they show that you see good works and stand with your people. Regardless of the incentive, take time to inspire your employees by showing them that when credit is due, credit is given.

Small Agency, Big Thinkers

If you’re reading this blog post, you might be a lone entrepreneur, a start-up, a go-getter or a small business. And you’re probably trying to figure out how you can round the first half of the year, then sprint into the second —  and into the black, culminating in an inspirational, year-end holiday bash.

If so, you’ve probably been looking at spreadsheets and projections for too many days and weeks, so I suggest you take a break and rent last year’s blockbuster “Ant-Man.” (You can also catch the title character in the newly released “Captain America: Civil War.”) The flick may give your business the super jolt it needs.

To miniaturize the storyline: Scott Lang is a burglar and an ex-con who gets lured in by Dr. Hank Pym to first steal and then don the shrinking Ant-Man suit, providing him tiny size but extraordinary strength so he can save the world.

I know what you’re thinking. How is this important to me and how does it affect my bottom line? Well, try this analysis on for size.

Do you face an army of much larger competitors? Is your small size and modest ad budget keeping you from using all the potential marketing strength at your disposal? Well, here are a few tips derived from the flick.

Tips from Ant-Man for your Small Business

  • In order to stand out among a sea of competitors, you need to use all of your undersized strength and aim it at the most vital target market that you know you can move.
  • Find a narrow area, a niche that your bigger competitors don’t even see, can’t bother with or choose to ignore — and stick to it.
  • Create, brand and promote one simple message that will motivate your customers, and focus your energy on them.
  • Then narrow your sights even further and ask yourself how can I micro-pinpoint them by income or occupation.
  • Zero in on when your audience is most motivated to act on your message and when you can dominate.

In “Ant-Man,” Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) also has many allies. In fact, they’re actual ants – an army of them that he calls forth when he’s in need or in trouble.

Who are your allies? How many do you have? In today’s world, even if you’re a small company or a start-up, there’s little excuse not to have unlimited access to an army of like-minded team members via LinkedIn.

But even with those allies in place, remember your strength lies in keeping your message tight and aimed like a laser on the consumer.   You may be small, but that size can be an advantage, as you’ll seem even bigger because your power has been magnified exponentially.

8 Strategies for Local Banks to Beat the Big Boys

Big banks have a major trust gap with the average consumer, according to a study. And that gap has created a marketing opportunity for credit unions and small banks.

Years after the Great Recession ended, Americans still blamed the big banks for the financial crisis, according to a study released in 2014 (see infographic below: Consumer Banking Insights Study).

Seventy-one percent of responding consumers believe those banks haven’t been held accountable for their risky behavior. Sixty-six percent are still angry and 47 percent of them prefer to bank at a local institution. These sentiments came to light in Harris Poll conducted in late 2013.

Marketing opportunities

Consumer angst over the big banks’ behavior is an opportunity for credit unions and smaller financial institutions, which can compete against the Goliaths with strong branding and marketing. And they will succeed — if they make every effort to win and keep consumers’ trust.

8 basic strategies to beat the big banks:

  1. Management should develop objectives and a complete, action-oriented strategic plan covering all goals, from deposits to loans. Profitability should not heavily depend on interest rates and fees.

  2. Value propositions should be easy to communicate and understand.

  3. Using digital and traditional media, the marketing plan should create a dominant top-of-mind awareness and include cross-promotion strategies with benchmarks to obtain the desired return on investment.

  4. For long-term growth and sustainability, the focus should include mobile marketing and strategies to attract and retain young people.

  5. It’s necessary to develop a consistent branding strategy for positive consumer experiences, from tellers to loan officers.

  6. Credit-union member or bank-customer experience policies must be published in a formal manual.

  7. Employees must be fully trained to understand how to build trust, the meaning of exemplary customer service and the importance of cross-promotion of products and services in synchronization with the branding.

  8. Marketing should have a seat at the senior-management conference-room table along with human resources, lending, business development, finance, compliance and information technology.

 inforgraphic bank

Super Heroes Inspire Us. So Do Great Brands.


Every year around this time, a legion of super heroes lands on movie screens around the world. Ever more extravagantly, they generate hype, break box-office records and gain greater and greater popularity. “Indeed, ever since the Superman and Batman films took America by storm in the last century, and Spidey spun a lucrative web with “Spider-man” in 2002, supers have been a money-making mainstay.”

This month marks the start of the latest blockbuster season with “Batman-Superman: Dawn of Justice” joining the ranks.

The supers are heroes because they rescue the world. They are the strong that save the weak. They defend the helpless, inspire little kids and, like a Bat Locater, find the little kid in adults too. They also reach us by being more than just cartoon cutouts.  Each one has a story. And in that way, every one is their very own unique brand (with a logo) unto themselves.

Back in 1939, Batman’s parents were killed right in front of him by a petty thief attempting to steal his mother’s necklace and inspiring young Bruce Wayne to spend the rest of his life fighting criminals. He does this not only by becoming physically strong, but also by using his intellect to become a master scientist. Likewise, a young Kal-El (known to us earthlings as Superman) is sent off on a rocket ship from the planet Krypton bound for Earth where he will become a savior to humanity.

Indeed, almost every super overcomes incredible adversity to become a hero.

So what does this have to do with brands that inspire? Well, just as those super heroes spark something in all of us, so too should your brand.  It should address a difficult problem through the strategic thinking and innovative ideas that went into its birth.  Then, it needs to rescue consumers by solving a difficult problem for them -- from the simplest and most everyday kinds, as Bounty “the quicker picker-upper” does, to making this a better-functioning world (IBM, “Let’s Build a Smarter Planet).

In each instance, brands become the needed link to help you – the consumer – reign over your world.

Still more aspirational are two brands that truly focus on the heroic—Nike and Under Armour.  Each in its own way positions itself as helping the consumer (athletes, in this case) overcome tough obstacles in order to achieve fulfillment.

Of course, they are both massive, multibillion-dollar giants.  Yet, you don’t have to be a giant  to be a hero. You can also be an Ant-Man. Do you face an army of much larger competitors? Is your modest marketing budget keeping you from using all the strength at your disposal?

There are innovative and ingenious ways to have your small size inspire a large crowd.

Need a Little Inspiration?

quit your job

Who hasn’t thought about quitting their job, selling the house and moving to a tropical island?   Why is this such a compelling concept for so many of us?  Do we really think that by dropping out of everything, we will somehow achieve true happiness and become inspired to achieve our goals?  I don’t think so.

Inspiration can be a funny thing.  There is no real formula for it.  If you work in an ad agency, inspiration is supposed to be part of the job.  Clients come to agencies for inspiration in developing campaigns, commercials and building their brand...right?  But, no one really tells them how to do it.  Designers, writers, producers and, yes, even account people are always looking for ways to inspire themselves (or at least they should be).  They read books, stay up on current events, Google different topics, listen to music, go to concerts, talk to different people, visit zoos, attend art fairs, go on exotic vacations…or just take long walks in the park, along a beach, or in the woods.  Inspired people need to recharge their minds. You need to intertwine your dream job and dream life to produce fresh thinking and new possibilities.

So How Do I Get a Little Inspiration? 

One way is to listen to or watch inspiring speeches. There are many out there. I always take away something from each one of them.  One that I go back to from time to time is the Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford University commencement address.  One quote (among many) that sticks with me is “Stay hungry.  Stay foolish.”   My takeaway is that you simply need to first trust in yourself.  This is how Steve Jobs became one of the most influential men of our times. Below is a short passage:

    “Sometimes when you’re trying to reach a goal, it’s impossible to connect the dots where you currently are. Somehow you just have to trust in yourself, and have faith that you will reach your dreams, despite not having the slightest clue or perfectly laid-out road to where you are going. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future; you have to trust in something, whether it’s karma or destiny, but trusting yourself is the first step towards feeling inspired and having the motivation to move forward.”

Many years ago, a friend of mine worked with a slightly aging, award-winning creative director. Each day around lunchtime, this guy would head out to the local watering hole for a sandwich, maybe a beer and a few games of pinball. He would sometimes spend hours there. While playing pinball, he could come up with some amazing ideas.  Was it the sandwich? The beer? He always said that pinball helped him stretch his mind and get creative.  Not all of us like playing pinball. What helps inspire you?

Why Are We More Creative in the Shower?

inspiration in the shower

It sometimes seems as though, for a brief moment, all stresses of life are being washed away while you stand in your shower. With the bathroom door locked, it’s your safe place: a place to think about nothing and everything at the same time. Your mind is at ease as your body feels the warm water cascading over it. Your thoughts start to wander aimlessly as the day ahead draws nearer, but you hold onto the warmth and solitude for just a bit longer. That may be when you have your “aha” moment. Racing out of the shower, you grab a towel, dry your hands, reach for your smartphone on the counter, and prepare an email that starts, “I have this idea for our campaign…”

A study done by Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist and author, has shown that 72% of people around the world get their best ideas in the shower. Why is this? Well, when you are unfocused but still attentive to thoughts, your brain processes irrelevant information more easily. These random thoughts include loosely related concepts that can turn into creative ideas. Fertile ground for a flood of sensory information is right under your showerhead. You’re not controlling what you’re thinking about – similar to how your brain functions right before you fall asleep. You’re letting it ebb and flow like water washing over you in the bathtub.

Brainstorming ideas at work with a team is a good process, but it can also get manipulated by groupthink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility [Google]). Have you ever become shy or felt discouraged by a group’s response to your ideas? This happens to everyone. A shower is a safe place where no idea is a bad idea. In the study done by Kaufman, more people reported feeling inspired in the shower than at work. How we find creativity and where we go for inspiration is really a tell-tale feature in that report.

As you slouch under the hot stream of water, your mind bounces from thought to thought without doubt or criticism. If you’ve been thinking about a problem for a while, table it for a day. Your mind will subconsciously prepare itself to bring the problem to the forefront of your brain for solving once you allow for relaxation. "You need to create that space in your life, and that's often what happens when we go into the shower," says Ron Friedman, psychologist and founder of Ignite80. "It's one of those few moments when we're not tied to our devices, so we have that extra space to find connections between ideas. If we're not allowing that to happen in our lives, it's just never going to work."

If you aren’t a highly creative person, but a great marketer who needs inspiration, just hop in the shower! Well, don’t hop. We don’t want you to break a bone. That’s happened to us before. Maybe delicately step over the threshold and safely plant your feet on the other side. Yes, there you go. Now, turn on the faucet and start channeling your inspiration.


Koutstaal, Wilma, and Binks, Jonathan T. Innovating Minds: Rethinking Creativity to Inspire Change. Published by Oxford Press.

Smith, Jacquelyn. "72% of People Get Their Best Ideas in the Shower - Here's Why." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc., 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Why We Get Our Most Creative Ideas in the Shower." The Huffington Post, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. <