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  • feedwordpress 00:19:11 on 2016/09/22 Permalink
    Tags: AARON RENN, , , , , , , , , environment, , innovation comes from the edges, james clear, John Carpenter, john hagel, Katy Lynch, metaphors, pearls of wisdom, peter thiel, , Roosevelt University, Scott Kleinberg, Shia Kapos, silicon valley, , stategy, strategy, , texas, the edge of innovation, thiel   

    Dear Chicago: Embrace the Edge 

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    Dear Chicago: Embrace the Edge

    Last week, Peter Thiel casually and brazenly denigrated Chicago, hyping Silicon Valley while speaking at a Roosevelt University Chicago event:

    In Thiel’s own words: “If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley.”

    Chicago has reacted with numerous self-depricating or defensive articles.

    Buck up, Chicago.

    According to the IRS, Five MILLION people have left California in the past decade. The exodus equates to a whopping net loss of $26 billion in annual income for the state. The majority headed to one of five states: Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Washington.

    The reason for the California exodus is no secret: exorbitant housing costs, a housing shortage, the second lowest home ownership rates in the country, high taxes, statewide unemployment higher than the national average, low wages, fiscal instability, systemic gender/race discrimination, increasing business regulation, not to mention a dearth of companies solving *actual* problems, severe droughts, a water shortage, earthquakes, dry lightning, and accelerating ozone pollution levels (also among the highest in the country).

    Peter Thiel paints a rosy picture of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile Silicon Valley’s restaurant industry is literally starving.

    Location is everything. Research has proven that environment has a surprisingly strong influence on success. Unless you fit the Silicon Valley’s very narrow niche “mold for success” (read: white, educated, technology-savvy males under age 40 — age 50 if you are lucky enough to be a VC — with money and family connections), look elsewhere for opportunity. The folks in Silicon Valley are not more talented; they’re merely more insular, provincial, protectionist, and elitist with regard to membership in their private club.

    Remember folks: DIVERSITY DRIVES INNOVATION and INNOVATION COMES FROM THE EDGES. In the words of brainy entrepreneur James Clear: “Life is a game; if you want better results over a sustained period of time, play the game in an environment that favors you.” James also wisely once advised: “worry not — aim for the subtle art of not giving a f*ck.”

    Embrace the edge, Chicago. Don’t kow-tow to Silicon Valley pundits and bullies. You’re better than that.

  • feedwordpress 23:08:04 on 2016/05/11 Permalink  

    Disrupt culture. Break through. 

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    It's no secret that advertising is getting harder. There's been an explosion in the number of touch points, and the cost and complexity of achieving scale has ballooned accordingly. At the same time consumers are becoming more empowered to avoid ads, more distrustful of brands, and have more messages vying for their attention than ever before.

    A recent global study by CEB of over 250 marketing initiatives across more than 60 brands and 20 industries found that the only factor that statistically differentiated good performance from great performance in campaigns was when a marketing idea was culturally disruptive.

    Brands were categorized in several buckets, and researchers found that product-focused messaging, emotional or entertaining creative, and affirming a strong, shared belief with customers were all techniques that were NOT predictive of breakout performance. Culturally disruptive campaigns, however, were 32% more likely to achieve breakout success.

    Good news. There is a formula to cultural disruption. It starts with identifying a shared value or belief that brands have with their customers. It then becomes disruptive by advancing the debate about that shared belief. This is in contrast to an affirming approach where the brand simply supports the shared value.

    The idea is to go beyond a "That's SO me!" reaction to a "Hey, I hadn't thought of that," one. Components of a highly successful culturally disruptive idea are when it challenges a cultural norm, is surprising or provocative for influencers, advances a societal debate, and links to a key brand differentiator.

    Why does this work? First, by attaching to a pre-existing construct in your target's mind, your campaign is doing less heavy lifting. Rather than attempting to construct a notion in your customer's mind, you are addressing one that already exists.

    Second, a disruptive idea challenges that existing notion, which requires a higher level of active mental processing. This is much more likely to inspire social participation and sharing. This allows the brand’s message to spread, reaching a greater audience for a low cost.

    If you'd like to discuss the opportunity for a culturally disruptive idea to create breakthrough impact for your business, send me an email: and let's arrange a time to talk.

  • feedwordpress 19:43:43 on 2016/05/09 Permalink  

    Traction’s a Winner…Again! 

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    Traction has won not only 1, not 2, but 3 Communicator Awards! This year, we’ve won Award of Excellence: Marketing Effectiveness, Content Marketing, Award of Distinction: B2B Branded Content and finally Award of Distinction: B2B Integrated Campaign. 

    All awards fall back on our successful, "Lenovo: Users Happen” Campaign, where you can view a brief video our work here. We are honored to receive these awards after learning over 6,000 entries were submitted. Thank you to all for your support, and congrats to all other winners of the 2016 Communicator Awards. 

  • feedwordpress 17:21:37 on 2016/05/09 Permalink  

    Traction up for BMA Agency of the Year! 

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    Traction has been named a finalist for the BMA Awards in the Agency of the Year (under $25M) category! Congrats to the other two finalists, Stein IAS and Quarry. Best of luck to those great shops. The BMA (Business Marketing Association) will announce the winner at a gala event in Chicago on June 1!

    In addition to that, they have already named winners in two other categories and Traction picked up the gold for our "Lenovo: Users Happen" campaign for Best Integrated Communications Program and Best Video Production!

    Congratulations to our awesome clients at Lenovo and to the team at Traction. Also, big shoutouts to our media partner on this account, Levelwing, and production partner, Criminal. Couldn't have done it without such a great team!

  • feedwordpress 19:51:43 on 2016/04/25 Permalink  

    Theo named BIG Star of the Year 

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    Traction’s very own Creative Director, Theo Fanning was honored last Thursday at sfBIG’s Big Star 2016 Awards as Creative BIG Star of the Year. sfBIG is the Bay Area’s largest digital marketing networking organization and the BIG Star Awards recognize the achievements of the best agencies, work and talent San Francisco has to offer. Congrats to Theo and all other winners from last week's event!

  • feedwordpress 05:13:14 on 2016/04/16 Permalink  

    Traction up for 3 sfBIG Awards! 

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    The sfBIG& BIG Star Awards are coming to town and Traction is a finalist in three categories. sfBIG (San Francisco Bay Area Innovation Group) is the Bay Area's largest digital marketing industry organization, so we're thrilled to be recognized among the best in SF!

    The three categories are (drumroll, please):

    Best Video Campaign: Lenovo

    Best use of streaming or video-based advertising including branded integration, short-form, or long form in 2015.

    Best Boutique Agency

    Recognizes an agency with fewer than 50 people that has made its mark on the San Francisco market in 2015 through excellence in their work, their dedication to the community, and contribution to advancing innovation in the industry

    Creative BIG Star of the Year: Theo Fanning

    An individual working in the creative department of an agency who has displayed outstanding skills and enthusiasm in bringing to life the story of his/her clients' businesses.

  • feedwordpress 22:56:39 on 2016/03/22 Permalink
    Tags: , competitive advantage, competitive benchmarking, competitors, decision making, , disruption innovation, , , hybrid electric vehicle market, , , innovation exercisees, innovation labs, McDonald's, non-competitors, , reverse reasoning, reverse thinking, Toyota, wining   

    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win? 

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    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win?

    In business, it isn’t easy to compete with industry leaders. It’s hard to anticipate your direct competitors’ next moves. Given the increasing occurrence of disruptive innovation, it can seem nearly impossible to predict the completely unpredictable — such as a non-competitor entering your market or niche and crushing you.

    Competition from non-competitors entering your industry, market, or niche can and does happen. Want to improve your company’s ability to predict unexpected competition (and even fortify your performance against current competitors)? Challenge your team with creative reverse thinking exercises.

    One of the reverse thinking exercises RE:INVENTION uses in our Innovation Labs and Workshops is called “How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win?”


    Divide your team into small groups and then ask them to chart the path, process, and activities a non-competitor could take to proactively enter one of your sectors or markets and usurp your current competitive advantage. The more disparate the non-competitor the better. An example: how could McDonald’s enter the hybrid electric vehicle market and beat the hybrid engineering team at Toyota?


    How Could (X) Do (Y) and Win” changes the normal/logical direction of competitive benchmarking and shifts the focus from whether something might happen to HOW it might happen, thereby encouraging creative thinking and problem solving. It not only enhances your ability to predict unpredictable actions from non-competitors; it helps you hone your positioning and strategic advantage against known competitors. You’ll also reveal hidden assets, potential weaknesses, and profitable opportunities.

    Decision making involves both forward and reverse thinking. Improve your team’s reverse thinking capabilities and you’ll boost your company’s ability to innovate.


    Kirsten Osolind is a brand and business reinvention strategist with executive team transition and M&A due diligence / brand integration experience. A former Fortune 100 executive, she has worked for four of the world’s most innovative companies according to Fortune Magazine™ as well as advised numerous middle market and venture-backed growth stage companies.

  • feedwordpress 00:15:47 on 2016/03/16 Permalink  

    Facebook Canvas is a game changer 

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    This article was originally published in Ad Age.

    It doesn't take a marketing genius to tell you people spend a crazy amount of time in front of their phones. And there's no sheet of glass humans stare at that is more desirable to advertisers. 

    But the truth has been that other than pre-roll, most mobile advertising options available to brand marketers have simply sucked. The unchecked proliferation of ad tech is arguably the worst thing that ever happened to our industry, and it only gets worse in mobile where the technology is far less mature.

    Facebook has played its own part in the "ad mess" that has withered brand trust in digital. In an effort to get brands to shift TV budgets online, it has introduced digital GRPs, but a sophisticated marketer will raise an eyebrow when asked to pay for "view" counts defined by three seconds of video -- with no sound.

    Martin Sorrell has described that yardstick as "ludicrous." I'm inclined to agree.

    But the state of mobile advertising has changed with the recent launch of Facebook Canvas.

    Here's why I believe this ad product has the potential to be a game changer for brands in mobile: 

    1. It's fast to get in. 

    The first thing you'll notice when you click on a canvas ad is that you are instantly transported to an immersive, app-like brand experience. Engagement is a priority for brands in a digital world where advertising is so easy to ignore. Having a full-screen interactive canvas to showcase your brand story simply delivers that engagement in a snap.

    That snap is important. Canvas is certainly not the first immersive ad format that's been developed, but the fact that (at least in the units I've seen) there is virtually no load time means that impatient phone users won't abandon the ad before they experience it.

    2. It's fast to get out.

    There is a fine line between immersiveness and intrusiveness. Does this experience sound familiar? You accidentally click on an ad on your phone, and you're unintentionally taken to some page that takes an interminable 15 seconds to load. You feel like your phone has been hijacked.

    Facebook Canvas ads have a little arrow in the upper left corner that reminds you that you can simply swipe left to escape an ad. By the time your thumb crosses the screen, you are back in your Facebook feed. Painless.  

    Users learn behaviors quickly. It is my belief that this quick escape feature will dramatically minimalize the potential intrusive nature of an immersive digital experience. People will be less hesitant to engage because the commitment they make by clicking on an ad is so quickly reversible.

    3. It's an answer.

    Content marketing is all the rage. Brands are recognizing that in order to connect with customers, they need to create marketing users actually want to consume. The question then becomes, "What do I do with all this awesome content I've created?"

     Many brands stick it on websites that their customers never visit. Other brands, with more of a focus on e-commerce, fret that content will take visitors out of their funnel. 

    Facebook Canvas is an answer to the question about where to put content. It's like delivering a small website right to your customer's thumb.

    4. It's easy to build.

    The authoring environment for Canvas requires no special coding knowledge to create. Great content still requires an investment to produce, but you can put your dollars toward what matters -- the content -- rather than the shell it sits in.

    I opened Canvas Builder and stitched together an ad in 10 minutes. Think about how you're spending your budget building a customized HTML5 banner ad that requires a developer with a specialized skill set to produce.

    I, for one, would rather see that money go toward the creativity, not construction. 

    But will it stick?

    With Facebook Canvas, an engagement is an engagement. You know what you're getting, and you know that the impressions you're paying for are impressions you're actually making.

    Facebook boasts 12- and 18-second engagement rates in pilots conducted with Asus and Coca-Cola. These numbers are strong, but brands will only succeed in gaining traction on this platform if the content they produce is great. 

    Moving forward, I would expect other platforms to emerge that imitate the fast, seamless and immersive nature of this platform outside of Facebook. The appeal for brands and consumers is real. But the ultimate success will be determined by brands' willingness to invest in content people actually want to consume.

  • feedwordpress 20:22:27 on 2016/03/15 Permalink  

    Traction named a top Digital Marketing Agency 

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    Today Clutch published an updated report on top San Francisco digital marketing agencies. The research leverages Clutch’s proprietary Leaders Matrix methodology, mapping each firm's focus on digital marketing services against their ability to deliver on clients’ expectations.

    “The selected companies that have the ability to keep up with digital trends and create innovative, cutting-edge digital campaigns that deliver great results to their clients,” stated Eleonora Israele, Analyst at Clutch.

    Clutch’s assessment is based on over a dozen quantitative and qualitative factors, including company experience, client list, industry recognition, client reviews, and market presence.

    Thanks, Clutch!

  • feedwordpress 19:19:56 on 2016/03/11 Permalink  

    The ad blocker problem is real 

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    I recently attended the iMedia Brand Summit where I was interviewed about the problem this industry is facing with ad blockers. Check out the video to see what I said.

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