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The Power of User Generated Content

In today’s digital age it has become increasingly more important for small business to embrace and utilize UGC – User Generated Content to its fullest extent. User Generated Content is content created about a brand by unpaid contributors (or simply, fans) such as posts, pictures, videos, blog posts, tweets, or comments on social media channels. It differs from traditional ads and promotions in one key way. It is created by real life customers based on actual experiences with the brand. UGC demonstrates how people can use and interact with your products in their everyday lives.

Ad campaigns can list features and benefits of using a particular product but they do not create meaningful connections with the consumer. The easiest and most successful way to create these connections is to utilize UGC – have the users promote your brand for you. 82% of consumers say that UGC is extremely valuable in their purchasing decisions. 48% of consumers say that it is a great way to discover new brands and a whopping 92% trust recommendations from people that they do not know over brand content.

Those statistics are significant. People respond to UGC campaigns for several reasons. One big reason is that it puts the customer front and center. Consumers love to share their experience and build a connection with like-minded people. Customers also trust the authenticity of UGC. In today’s online world people are skeptical of marketers and are not passively led by commercials and billboards like they once were. They want a say in who and where they purchase from and choose brands that connect with them on a human level – companies that understand them.

Specifically, Millenials react strongly to UGC. In fact, 84% of Millenials claim that user generated content on a business’ website influence their decision to purchase. This is important because Millenials are also the biggest online shoppers spending about $2,000 each year online.

One of the biggest benefits of UGC is that it is quick and keeps up with current trends. You will not have to spend lots of time and money developing an advertising campaign that may be irrelevant by the time it airs. Instead you can embrace and rely on your users to stay in touch and on the top of the minds of your audience.

The power of utilizing UGC is apparent and we will continue to see more of it as customers continue to reject traditional advertising and marketing tactics and crave authenticity.


Musical.ly is one of the most popular and fastest growing music video applications out today. MTV Networks recently launched a campaign with Musical.ly tied to their flagship program, the yearly Video Music Awards. But is Musical.ly the right choice for marketers? Well, that depends on what you are trying to sell and more importantly who you are trying to sell it to.

Musical.ly was founded in 2014 and boasts over 100,000 million users, most of whom fall into the 13-20 year old demographic. However, this information may be inaccurate. The company may claim that important market; however it appears that they may hit audiences even younger.

The app allows users create short videos in which they can lip-sync and dance to popular songs and other audio sources, and then post the videos to an Instagram-style feed. Its featured feed includes major stars familiar young audiences as well as lesser known social media personalities and artists.

The problem in trying to market with this fast growing tool is that it does not collect demographic information from its users or “musers” as the company calls them. Federal law requires online services that target audiences under 13 to follow strict guidelines regarding the collection and sharing of personal information. Musical.ly avoids this by prohibiting users under the age of 13 in their terms of service. They follow the Facebook route of taking the users “word for it”.

The app does not collect or show the age of its users, but some of its top-ranked users appear from their videos and profile photos to be in grade school. The app had a feature that suggested what users to follow based on their location. In New York, that feature revealed a list composed largely of children. This is treading dangerous waters for marketers.

Another big concern with Musical.ly is the content being posted. Many parents have complained that the children and adults are posting offensive and in some cases X-rated material. A simple hashtag search reveals countless examples.

While Snapchat and Instagram hit young audiences, Musical.ly is hitting children. Combine this with the risk of irreparable damage to the brand through association with offensive material, it’s best to take a “wait and see” attitude toward Musical.ly.

The Rise of Social Media Messaging

Are the days of people broadcasting numerous aspects of their life numbered? Probably not. But in today’s world, people (especially young people} are adapting new ways of communicating electronically to fit their specific needs. And with the rise of social media messaging services, there’s an app to fit almost all of those needs. According to Pew 2015, half (49%} of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use messaging apps, while 41% use apps that automatically delete sent messages. What makes these services so appealing? Well, for starters, these apps are free, and when connected to Wi-Fi, they do not use up SMS or any other data. They also offer a more private kind of social interaction than traditional social media platforms -and we know kids these days like their privacy.

So what does this mean for traditional-social networking? Facebook, lnstagram and Twitter are upping their game and making additions and changes to improve the messaging experience. Even Snapchat rebuilt the chat section of its app to keep up with the competition. But users aren’t just chatting with friends on these apps, they’re also connecting with brands.

Case and point: Fast food chains. With Facebook’s new technology allowing companies to build artificially intelligent software to interact with customers through Messenger, Burger King customers can now order and pay for food directly from the Facebook Messenger app. We’ll take fries with that, please! And it’s not just Burger King. Taco Bell introduced its TacoBot last month -an ordering system available exclusively over Slack. Last summer Domino’s launched Twiner-enabled ordering, letting customers place an order simply by tweeting a pizza emoji at the company.

The takeaway: What were once simple services for exchanging messages, pictures, videos and GIFs have evolved into something much greater.

What will we use social media messaging for next?

Daring to be Different – Creating a Brand that Stands Out

Think Different. Sound familiar? It should. It was the revolutionary advertising campaign and slogan that proved the game changer for Apple in 1997 when company co-founder, Steve Jobs, was brought back as CEO to steer the corporate ship. Seeking to reinvigorate the beleaguered brand, this campaign was the turning point, officially signaling that the company was back and ready to shake up the computer industry – and the world – in a major way.

That mantra so perfectly encapsulated the Apple brand, with its focus on innovation, emphasis on beautiful design, and customer-centric attitude, that today it’s dissected in marketing and advertising classes the world over.

So what does this have to do with modern-day marketing? Well, everything. It offers a valuable lesson in what’s called mental models. Coined by Dr. Yoram Wind, marketing professor at The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, mental models are constructs created in a person’s mind. They are “driven by the story we read.” Attitudes, feelings, and behaviors are all guided by mental models rather than reality. These models ultimately dictate an individual’s decisions and actions. That person can be you, an executive at your company, or even a customer. Mental models govern each and every one of us, and this carries enormous implications for businesses and the way they market their services.

The most successful brands are the ones that have challenged entrenched mental models. Take Starbucks, for instance. When it first entered the market, it could have sold itself as just another coffee company. Instead it altered the story. It became a destination, a haven of sorts. It chose to market itself as a cozy, den-like spot where customers could sit and stay awhile. This emphasis on community and intimacy helped catapult the company to an uberbrand that today has the attention and hearts of millions of consumers. Now, that’s challenging mental models.

Remember: the world is constantly changing, and consumer attitudes evolve. If you’re a brand seeking to win market share, you should be monitoring this. Figure out how you can challenge these attitudes so your product stands apart. That’s precisely what Apple did. Jobs understood that the company’s success hinged on its ability to deliver truly innovative – and unexpected – products to the marketplace. He also knew its marketing strategy needed to be remarkable. It had to extend beyond the simple product-focused marketing common at the time and, instead, tap into consumers’ emotions and sense of self. With this approach, Apple didn’t just sell computers, it sold a lifestyle.

Have you challenged the mental models of your industry? If so, how did it work? Tell us in the comments below!

In Marketing and Advertising, Emojis are Everywhere


Back in 1985, the glam pop girl group, the Bangles, exhorted everyone to “walk like an Egyptian”. These days, the hair isn’t quite as high and musical tastes have changed, but folks are again taking their cues from our friends in the Middle East. Today, we’re not walking like Egyptians, we’re communicating like them – with our own version of hieroglyphics! Better known as emojis, this new, digital and visual method of communication is transforming the way people and businesses connect with one another. Introduced in the U.S. in the early 2000s, emojis are used to convey attitudes, emotions, and even complex ideas, using a wide range of customized icons, from a simple smiley face to salsa dancers, peace signs, dogs, pizza slices, and much more. Brands like Chevrolet, Dominoes, Bud Light, and Goldman Sachs have incorporated the emoji into their social media and broader marketing strategies in an effort to engage millennials and boost the virality of online content.

Why the sudden emergence of the emoji? And is it just a flash in the pan marketing gimmick destined for the dustbin? That first question is quite simple: 1) the average person today consumes an ungodly amount of information within a 24-hour cycle; 2) our brains are wired to understand images much more so than text; 3) we have short attention spans – hovering in at just around 8 seconds. According to a number of reports that have come out over the past few years, “…today, we receive five times as much information as we did 30 years ago…as of 2009, it was estimated we consume 34 gigabytes of information or 100,500 words, outside of work on an average day” (SproutSocial, 2015).

Exposure to this near-constant assault of information means the average person has little time to read and process longer messages, no matter how entertaining they may be. That’s why it should come as no surprise that today, 63% of social media is made up of images. And it’s not just youth/teens who’ve embraced this new form of communication (though, they do comprise a significant base). Audiences 40 + have caught on, appreciating the ease of delivering a concise message in just a few short characters.

So, the next time you’re brainstorming a marketing/advertising campaign, consider testing out messages with emojis, particularly if your audience is young and tech-savvy.

And, as for that last question about the emoji’s staying power? We think it’s here to stay. Communication platforms will continue to proliferate. Devices will evolve to capture and produce more data and information than ever before, meaning the reliance on visual tools to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of a brand’s message will become increasingly important.

Crafting a Stellar YouTube Strategy


These days, online is everything. If you’re a brand looking to make headway with your audience, chances are you’ve already established a digital presence, because, as we all well know, that’s where the masses are. Old, young, and everything in between, the people have spoken, and what they’ve told us is: we’re on our laptops, we’re using a smart phone, we’re browsing on tablets! How will you respond?

Have you set up a Facebook page? Twitter handle? Instagram account? Good job! You’re keeping up with the Joneses. But, these days, that’s simply not good enough. There’s a surfeit of messages out there, and the competition is fierce! You want to rise above the rest, right? Well, video is fast becoming the best way to engage and grow your base online.

And that’s where YouTube comes in.

YouTube, the video-sharing social platform that has brought us enduring cultural gems like Justin Bieber, What Does The Fox Say?, Obama Girl, and Grape Lady Falls!, is one of the single best vehicles to promote your brand. It can help showcase your services and products in a way that less-interactive and dynamic platforms simply can’t. But, you might ask, how does one go about producing videos worth watching – ones with virality?

Sure, nothing beats pure creative genius, but even the brightest stars need some direction. So, we’ve assembled the following list of tips to help you formulate a YouTube strategy that sticks. Good luck!

1. Make your content shareable. Create videos that people will want to send to friends family over email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Do this by:

• Making your video topical. What’s dominating the airways and news channels? Use these topics to inform your content. Perhaps you allude to the latest Star Wars movie or riff on the current presidential campaign. Think relevance.

• Embracing your passion. Are you operating in a niche market? Perhaps you’re peddling coins from the 1800s or vintage scuba gear. There’s almost always a group of like-minded zealots trawling the Internet, eager to engage in conversations around your service. Be enthusiastic!

• Remembering that everything people share ultimately reflects on them. Users share humorous videos because it makes them look funny; they share political or literary links because it makes them look smart. Try to think about how you can tap into this phenomenon by appealing to the user’s identity or ego.

2. Be conversational. Communication in the 21st century is a two-way dialogue. Woe to the brand that talks at the consumer. Your message is DOA. What’s more, people prefer brands that sound and feel like a friend. Check your brand tone – do you come across as stiff, patronizing, overly formal? If so, make adjustments.

3. Be interactive. Some of the most successful brands on YouTube encourage followers to upload original content. Think GoPro (users send in videos of shark encounters, extreme alpine skiing, skydiving, etc.) and Jimmy Kimmel (parents prank kids by telling them they ate their Halloween candy). Know your audience, and figure out what makes them tick. Then, create calls to action that allow them to take an active role in the content creation process. It’ll boost engagement and help you build a content library that can be used across a variety of channels.

4. Don’t just promote your brand. Your videos shouldn’t be a series of ads or inward-looking messages. That’s predictable and boring. It’s the antithesis of a two-way dialogue. Instead, create content that your target audience will find helpful, useful, and entertaining. Check out Red Bull, and L’Oreal for some great examples of this.

Paris Terrorist Attacks and Social Media’s Response

Another atrocity shocks the world, this time in Paris. Again. Just under a year ago, the city was stunned when Islamist extremists stormed the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a French weekly satirical newspaper, and executed 11 people. Last Friday, the 13th of November, extremists once again targeted The City of Light in a coordinated attack that claimed the lives of 129 residents and tourists, many of them young people gathered at an American rock concert.

After the January incident, the phrase Je suis Charlie (“I am Charlie”) made the rounds on social media, with many on Facebook swapping their profile picture for a black and white Charlie sign in a powerful show of solidarity with the fallen journalists and the French people. Today, there is an online storm brewing, and not just in response to the terrorists’ latest heinous act. Instead, this uproar involves Facebook’s safety check-in function and the photo filter, which allows users to overlay their profile picture with the French flag. Who could possibly find this offensive? Even those who typically complain about social media being onerous or a time-waste have to admit that this was both useful and deeply moving.

As it turned out, the day before the Paris attacks, two suicide bombers killed 43 and injured 239 in an ISIS-backed maneuver in Beirut. But the people of Beirut haven’t seen the outpouring of support that Paris received almost immediately following reports of a bomb. There was no safety check-in function activated in Beirut. And, Facebook didn’t unfurl a digital Lebanese flag filter for users to upload.

While #PrayforParis was trending on Twitter and a global audience has professed its concern for the French people on myriad social channels, nary a word has been uttered for the Beirut community. They have been overlooked.

Or so they (and we) thought.

While it’s true that the support for the city has reached nowhere near the levels as those afforded its Western counterpart, the reality of this double standard has at least been raised in online debates. In fact, many users have noticed this disparity in coverage and have taken to social platforms to protest it. They’ve even called out Facebook, demanding to know why no safety check-ins were made available to people in Beirut. Facebook’s rather lame response? A post (naturally) from Vice President of Growth Alex Schultz: “There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris. This activation will change our policy around Safety Check and when we activate it for other serious and tragic incidents in the future.”

There’s a good chance that something similar in scope and size will occur again in the near future. And that, in itself, is tragic. Let’s hope that when it happens all social channels — and governments — are equipped to offer equal support.


Emissions Test Fraud: Volkswagen Deceives Regulators and Consumers, Brand Image Takes a Hit

It’s a tale as old as time: corporate greed — and unchecked power — drives corrupt behavior, resulting in public outrage and expensive lawsuits. As that old folk song goes, “When will they ever learn? When will they e-e-e-ver learn?”

Apparently never, because last week brought the news that German automaker, Volkswagen used sophisticated software to cheat U.S. EPA emissions tests on an estimated 11 million of its diesel cars.

This is a scandal of epic proportions that has rocked the U.S. and Europe and has threatened to destabilize the German economy. Even the company’s CEO has stepped down, though he claims no knowledge of any misdeeds. Could this possibly be true? It remains to be seen. Regardless, the fact remains that Volkswagen has done irreparable harm to its brand, one that, until now, has enjoyed a sterling reputation as economical and trustworthy. Forgive yourself for rubbernecking, for it is altogether warranted. In terms of reputation, this is a four-car pile up – carnage everywhere, with the Volkswagen image splattered in little, tiny pieces.

Decades of hard work—and advertising dollars— have gone into building the brand, transforming it into the economic stalwart that it has become. Famous for some of advertising’s most memorable campaigns featuring clean, hip, and quirky creative that touts an economical and efficient product, all of that has come crashing down.

Consumer trust has plummeted overnight, and it’s now up to a new CEO and crisis management team to do what they can to pick up the pieces of a broken brand. Will they succeed? We think so, but it will be a long, uphill battle, and Volkswagen may never again achieve the type of success that once made it a brand worth following.

‘We believe’ that she is marketable: U.S. women’s soccer star, Carli Lloyd, set to score big with corporate sponsors following World Cup win

Last Sunday, the chants of “USA! USA!” shook Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium. The world had just witnessed a dominant display of athleticism and technical wizardry courtesy of the U.S. women’s soccer team. And it made us swell with pride. From online social media communities to pubs to living rooms and more, Americans everywhere celebrated the squad’s first World Cup win since 1999. Not only did they defeat a worthy Japanese opponent, they sealed the victory within the first 16 minutes of the match, when midfielder, Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick, to make it 4-0. The U.S. went on to win 5-2, and Ms. Lloyd effectively cemented her status as the sports industry’s next darling. She’s all but guaranteed to join the ranks of female soccer stars Sydney Laroux, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan – all of whom have already inked lucrative marketing deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, GNC, AT&T, Bank of America, and others.

A relative unknown outside of the women’s soccer circuit, Lloyd’s star is now shining bright thanks to her Pelé-like performance that had the American public and international spectators in thrall. Within the short time it took her to slot through a thundering half-field punt, her Twitter followers surged by 50k+, and her official website crashed temporarily. Even superstars Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi gave a tip of their hat on Twitter.

With Lloyd’s marketability now through the roof, marketing analysts are predicting a surge in sponsorship deals for the winsome 32-year-old who they say has all the attributes a company could hope for: integrity, tenacity, intelligence, and likeability (not to mention a clean police record, unlike teammate and U.S. women’s soccer goalie, Hope Solo, who was involved in a domestic assault dispute earlier in the year, which sullied her image).

Up to now, Lloyd’s corporate partnerships have been limited to just a few minor players, with the exception of Visa, which signed her the week before the World Cup finals match (talk about timing!). But, with her profile now higher than ever, experts say Lloyd’s representatives would do well to secure national endorsements before the media frenzy dies down. As for her long-term marketing potential – could she be another Mia Hamm or Serena Williams? It’s too early to tell, but if she plays her cards right and maintains momentum by logging more superstar performances like the one last Sunday, Lloyd will become more than just another high-profile athlete, she’ll become a brand.

Cinco de Mayo Marketers Cast Their Consumer Net Wide

March Madness is but a memory, and the Easter Bunny has delivered his final basket. So, who – or rather, what – will fill the marketing void? If you answered “Cinco de Mayo”, give yourself a hand. The holiday, which commemorates Mexico’s 1862 victory over France (and not Mexican Independence), has grown in popularity, and not just among Latinos. Brands like Avocados from Mexico, Honda, Taco Bell, Major League Baseball, Corona, and others are throwing mucho dinero behind Cinco de Mayo campaigns aimed at the general consumer — Americans of all creeds and backgrounds who love chips, guac, and beer.

What was once a niche, largely manufactured holiday has become a U.S. staple, observed by more than just college students. When this annual Mexican fiesta rolls around, merchants report a dramatic uptick in sales that can be directly attributed to this branded event. Professional baseball teams, amusements parks, and food and beverage companies experience a similar phenomena as consumers take to the outdoors for sporting events and barbecues that signal the official advent of summer.

How will this year’s Cinco de Mayo promotions play out? Brands are deploying a variety of tactics to capture the hearts and minds of the general consumer as well as the growing U.S. Latino base. Avocados from Mexico is hosting a live Twitter chat with Latina actress and activist Eva Longoria, while Taco Bell will unveil it’s “hottest” hot sauce yet and give away free biscuit tacos. But the biggest corporate sponsorships will come from beer and liquor producers, like Corona and Jose Cuervo, both of whom host dozens of festivals around the country and roll out Cinco-centered print, TV, social, and digital campaigns that dwarf virtually all others.

At Nostrum, Inc., we know we’re lucky: we work in a dynamic industry with exceptionally smart clients and partners. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our Southern California location, where authentic Mexican food is as ubiquitous as the palm-lined streets. So, when the Fifth finally arrives, we’ll be out there, enjoying a delicious dish of arroz con frijoles and on the lookout for Cinco-centered advertising that hits the mark.

The Shorty Awards Honor Best Digital, Social Media Content

If you’re like us, you’re probably a little obsessed with all things digital and social. If something’s making waves on YouTube or generating retweets around the world, you can guarantee it’s made the rounds here at Nostrum. So, when the nominees for the 7th Annual Shorty Awards were announced, we were downright giddy! (For those unfamiliar with the program, the Shortys recognize exceptional short-form content on social media.)

Our account managers, media team, and creative department spent hours – possibly too many – pouring over the submissions and marveling at the ingenious ideas executed to perfection. There was the Humane Society of Silicon Valley’s in-house marketing campaign, “Eddie the Terrible”, which took a hilarious approach to promoting its services. Rather than taking the predictable route of using pictures of adorable dogs and cats to tug on the heartstrings, the agency’s marketing and social media team instead highlighted their most problematic adoptee, Eddie – a very crusty dog with some very bad habits (yapping, scratching, peeing, just to name a few). Through the use of blogs, a satirical press release, and an aggressive media outreach campaign, the Humane Society not only raised its profile and achieved a record number of media impressions, it also found a permanent home for Eddie!

Another Nostrum nominee favorite was GoPro, who blew us away with its YouTube and Instagram submissions. Billing itself as the “inventor of the world’s most versatile camera and category creator in action, adventure and lifestyle photo and video capture”, the company does an outstanding job of producing creative content through the eyes of its social media followers and sponsored athletes. From adventures high atop snowy mountain peaks to terrifying encounters with a great white shark, the awe-inspiring photos and video tell an authentic tale of those among us determined to take the path less traveled. That GoPro social media content has been favorited, shared, and viewed hundreds of thousands of times speaks volumes about its marketing team’s commitment to customers and to the company’s mission.

For a complete list of the Shorty Awards nominees and winners, visit http://bit.ly/1HqXwhS. Be inspired!

Beware the bot: Coke is unwitting victim of Gawker Twitter prank

Social Media. Either you’re on it, or you’re not (but be honest, you’re probably on it). It comes in multiple forms, too: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, et al. These online communities are more popular than ever, with features that promise greater freedom and flexibility. The opportunity to experience the world and connect with friends and family is just a touchscreen or a mouse click away, making it remarkably easy for brands to deliver their messages right into the hands of customers. But of course for every Yin there is a Yang. And as Coca-Cola experienced firsthand earlier this week, for every well-intentioned social media or digital campaign conceived, there’s an army of trolls ready to thwart forward progress.

Following a well-received Superbowl commercial in which a glass of Coke is accidentally spilled on a city power grid and subsequently “spreads” good vibes around the world, the company executed a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #MakeItHappy – an attempt to combat online negativity by turning mean tweets into cute, fanciful images.

Naturally, this brought out the trolls – in this case, Gawker, the gossip blog that covers media and celebrities – who proceeded to tweet out lines of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf using a Twitter bot @MeinCoke. You can guess what happened next: Coke’s automated system churned out passages from the book in the form of cute text art to its millions of followers.

Almost immediately, the company’s Twitter campaign was suspended, with Coke issuing the following statement: “The #MakeItHappy message is simple: The Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t. Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”

It was indeed unfortunate, but it was also a valuable lesson for Coke and other brands considering automated Twitter campaigns: assign a team to host the campaign in real-time, and monitor interactions because the likelihood that your campaign will be trolled, Rickrolled, hacked, hijacked is high. Even non-automated campaigns run the same risk, for where there is social media, there are pranksters at the ready, waiting to instigate and cause embarrassment on a massive scale. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Super Bowl Ads: GoDaddy Ruffles Feathers, Uber Scores a Touchdown

It’s a tale of two campaigns – two distinct advertising efforts launched the week before Super Bowl XLIX. Two companies, two campaigns, one thing in common: puppies. And that is where the similarities end because, the two vastly different outcomes that resulted from Uber’s PuppyBowl promotion and GoDaddy’s Super Bowl Puppy Mill TV spot highlight the need for businesses to seriously consider their messages, their audience, and their environment before paying good money for an ad campaign.

First the good: today, Uber, the app-based ridesharing network announced (http://blog.uber.com/puppybowl) its partnership with television network Animal Planet to deliver on-demand, adoptable puppies to businesses in the following cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle, and Washington D.C. It’s a promotion for Animal Planet’s wildly popular annual Puppy Bowl, where the hardest hits are also the cutest!

Between 11am and 3pm today, you can use your Uber app to request a 15-minute, $30 playtime with the adorable puppies. All proceeds will be donated to city shelters.

Consider us sold.

This brilliant idea not only helps shine some positive light on the beleaguered taxi company (which has taken a beating in the press) but it also helps raise awareness for animal shelter adoptions, a growing movement in the U.S. In short, Uber’s feel-good Puppy Bowl promotion is relevant, engaging, and sincere.

Now for the not-so-good: GoDaddy, the irreverent domain registry, has a history of pushing boundaries with its ads (http://bit.ly/1zCnH5W). It’s a brand with a clearly defined identity and voice; and when it runs campaigns, they invariably generate attention. But when the company unveiled its latest spot (http://bit.ly/1y5zLXy) earlier this week, it wasn’t prepared for the negative reception from consumers and animal welfare groups who decried the ads as being pro-puppy mills. The spot features a puppy that finds its way back home only to be sold on a GoDaddy site.

While the company was smart to issue an apology and remove the ad (an alternate one will run during the Super Bowl), the damage was already done. What the company considered a tongue-in-cheek piece was instead perceived as cruel.

Perhaps most puzzling was that a company exec would even think to greenlight such a project, especially in this day and age when support and awareness for animal causes has risen so dramatically. And while brands should indeed remain true to their identity and protect them vigorously, they need to take care that they don’t overstep boundaries in the pursuit of envelope-pushing work that grabs attention. The lines might blur, but good taste does not.

Nostrum named finalist in Knight Cities Challenge

It’s been hard to contain our excitement this week, what with the exciting news that we were recently named a finalist in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Knight Cities Challenge! More than 7,000 proposals from across the U.S. were submitted for this national call for ideas to help make cities more vibrant places to live. And Nostrum’s ‘Living Walls’ entry was among the 126 finalists to advance.

We now have the opportunity to compete for a share of the five million dollar civic grant money, which will be used to help encourage collaborations and spur creativity right here in Long Beach.

‘Living Walls’ is a series of themed structures placed throughout the city, combining educational and entertainment elements that we hope will help foster civic engagement. Think nature walls, arts walls, fitness walls, and more – the possibilities are endless! And with fun, educational features that attract both young and old alike ‘Living Walls’, will serve as a platform for the exchange of innovative ideas.

Final applications are due February 1st, and winners will be announced in Spring 2015. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re up for the challenge. Go Long Beach!

2014 – The Year of Content Marketing

The holidays have ended, and 2014 is but a memory. You may be inclined to simply forge ahead with your eye on the tasks at hand. But before you do, let’s pause and take a minute to look back at the year that was – when the industry seized upon the great, big idea of content marketing, a concept that, while not entirely new, found what looks like its permanent place in the marketing plans of companies everywhere.

Content marketing is the practice of generating original, relevant, unique, and timely content in a way that engages a brand’s audience(s). Gone are the days of one-way, trickle down communication. The current spate of online communities and social media networks – Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and so forth – have returned power to the people; consumers now talk with brands and help shape the conversation.

These same online channels also provide a constant drumbeat of messages, inundating consumers with flashy images and exhortations to buy, buy, buy! This glut of “noise” and newfound consumer influence can be intimidating. What’s a marketer to do when talking at a customer no longer works?

You guessed it, content marketing.

Consider top players like American Express, J. Crew, Target, and Disney. They’ve mastered the art of content marketing, and they understand that in today’s fast-paced world of short attention spans and ease of information a different strategy is needed. They must offer fresh, exciting, authentic and even provocative content to tell their story, earn customer loyalty, and promote brand awareness. These brands are tweeting, pinning, and blogging their way to higher sales and customer satisfaction with content that’s authentic to who they are, relevant to their target audiences, timely, and wildly entertaining.

Take American Express. To demonstrate its commitment to the success of small businesses, it set up a robust online forum where entrepreneurs can share information and advice. The company publishes content-rich articles with valuable tips for starting and running a small business.

Another content marketing home run: Target’s online, behind-the scenes magazine, A Bullseye View, a popular resource for home décor, lifestyle, and fashion tips, exclusive to the site. It churns out quality content that helps drive business sales but isn’t itself “sales-y”. It’s helpful. Likewise, J. Crew provides exclusive deals as well as stunning fashion photography on its corporate Instagram account, while the Disney company blog offers behind-the-scenes video capturing the magic of Disney characters and the happiest place on earth. Coincidence that customer loyalty and brand awareness are on the rise? Hardly.

2014 taught us a valuable lesson that we predict will hold true in 2015 and beyond: content marketing is an essential part of a successful marketing plan. Whether it’s via a corporate blog, a white paper, video, e-newsletters, or social media, consumers have an insatiable thirst for information that’s entertaining, that helps them solve a problem, and that helps them improve an area of their life. If your organization can provide that magical concoction of exciting and informational content, you’ll win both hearts and business. Good luck.

Nostrum scores windfall of marketing awards for Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Smart marketing and superb design. That’s the Nostrum way, and there’s nothing we love more than when a client comes to us with a seemingly impossible marketing or advertising request. A close second? Garnering recognition for those efforts, and showcasing our clients’ products, people, and their capabilities.

So, imagine our excitement when we learned that the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau – a longtime client – was honored by four separate marketing awards programs for Sky Transformation, a full-day conference and event celebrating the unveiling of the Long Beach Arena’s new multi-million dollar Pacific Ballroom.

The LBCVB and Nostrum teams won the following for a three-piece invitation series:

• Addy Awards, Regional Silver Winner
• Hermes Awards, Platinum and Gold
• MarCom Awards, Platinum and Gold – multiple
• Summit Awards, Silver and Bronze – multiple

Sky Transformation, which took place on November 20, 2013 was months in the making and took countless hours to coordinate, from musical acts to food selection, to purple and pink themed flowers and more. The goal? To help sell the re-imagined event space for conventions, large scale events, concerts, meetings, and more.

Nostrum was tasked with developing the event branding, messaging, and collateral/promotional pieces, including three direct mail invitations that played on the Sky Transformation theme of sight, sound, and space.

Using complex origami folds, acetate, and vintage vinyl record material, we produced an exciting invitation series that ultimately helped attract hundreds of folks from the media and hospitality industries, as well as local city leaders. The event was a rousing success, generating numerous press mentions and sparking a flurry of social media activity from guests eager to share their experience.

The best part: meeting planners from across the country booked the Pacific Ballroom for a range of events, while others now had Long Beach on their radar as a potential venue for future engagements.

Making our clients shine – that’s the Nostrum way!

First Invitation in Series
Second Invitation in Series
Third Invitation in Series



Move over ladies: men are now Pinterest’s fastest-growing demographic

Long considered the domain of females, Pinterest is fast becoming a man’s world. Well, ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the growing numbers of male “pinners” is making brands think twice about their social media strategy. Last week, Pinterest — the web and mobile application network that allows users to collect and share visual bookmarks from around the web — announced that it doubled its U.S. male user base in the last year, with men now accounting for one-third of new sign-ups. According to the company, more American men use Pinterest than read Sports Illustrated and GQ combined. Whoa.

Why is this significant? Because brands now have yet another avenue — beyond LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook and so forth — to reach both their male and general audiences. Traditionally, Pinterest has attracted a mostly female crowd (70%-80%, in fact) – one that shares pins pertaining to weddings, crafts, home décor, and clothes. Consequently, brands that cater to this demographic have achieved record levels of success via targeted campaigns. Companies like Etsy, Brides.com, Urban Outfitters, and Williams-Sonoma all boast active followings on the social network and have boosted their profile through the creation of branded content specific to the site. In other parts of the globe, particularly emerging markets, the Pinterest gender divide runs closer to an even split, proving the platform can engage both men and women.

Already, some traditionally “masculine” brands like ESPN and Mercedes-Benz, have established a strong Pinterest presence, actively courting their (mostly) male consumers with boards dedicated to car design, classic car shows, fantasy football, tailgates, and “game time grub”. Other “manly” boards you might stumble across? There’s Motor Trend, Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and, oh yeah, Chuck Norris.

So, if you’re looking to tap that male demographic with a social media marketing strategy that’s perhaps a little different, consider adding Pinterest to your marketing arsenal. And be sure to let us know how it goes!

Teen girls make Alex from Target an online sensation

He’s a social media phenomenon with thousands of Twitter followers, almost all of them teen girls. He’s not in a boy band, and he doesn’t star in a Disney sitcom. He is Alex from Target.

And, unless you’ve been absent from social media this entire week, you know exactly who we’re talking about: the Target employee and Justin Bieber look-alike whose good looks prompted a young female admirer to snap his photo, which then went viral after it was shared via Twitter. Besotted teen girls quickly made the hashtag #alexfromtarget a nationwide trending topic on Tuesday, November 4, and within a few days, analytics revealed that more than 1.1 million people had tweeted about him.

Naturally, rumors swirled that this was all an elaborate marketing ploy engineered by the discount retail giant. Target quickly denied any involvement in or knowledge of the photo and its circulation on social media. And the young man at the center of it all – Alex Lee? His instant Internet fame has left him flummoxed. Since his identity has been discovered, his Twitter followers have ballooned from 2,000 to 600,000+, and just one day later he appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show to talk about his sudden rock-star status.

The lesson for brands? Don’t underestimate the power of teens on social media, especially teen girls. With plenty of free time, disposable income, and online proclivities that span the spectrum of social media – Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube—this segment can drive interest in products and brands in a way that other groups can’t.

Teens are early adopters, too. They eagerly wade into the social media sphere, connecting with each other as well as the brands that take them seriously and target them effectively. They are vocal in their likes and dislikes, sharing that information via online channels, which can result in the kind of rapid snowball effect (influence) that we saw with Alex from Target. So, brands, take note: some of your most viable and valuable marketing prospects are the teeny-boppers you pass in the mall. Ignore at your peril.

Get on the Game of Thrones Bandwagon

It’s been a long, cold winter, but Game of Thrones is finally back. We’ve blogged before about how great their use of social media has been, but now let’s take a look at how other people react to the show’s momentum. For one thing, Sunday’s season premiere crashed HBOGo, which left users feeling extremely unhappy. Take a look at Mashable for some of the funnier reactions. Our favorite is “Winter is…loading?” from Twitter user @marissachristy. HBOGo had similar problems in March with the season finale of True Detective, and they promised more support for the app, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, those who did get to watch the episode loved it, including other brands looking to capitalize on the show’s trending status. The tweets range from hilarious (Arrested Development) to ridiculous (Mentos), but they’re all interesting from a social media perspective. The main question to ask yourself when trying to jump on another brand’s bandwagon is this: is it going to make users smile, or is it going to make them groan? Click here to see who was successful and who wasn’t.

Finally, if you didn’t see the episode, or just want to relive it, here it is recapped in .gif format, perfect for Tumblr. But beware…spoilers abound.

Social Media Roundup: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

This past week had the usual run of viral videos featuring Beyonce and clever cats, but there was some interesting news as well. We’ll cover both the newsworthy and the purely viral in this week’s social media roundup!

YouTube may be looking into creating a kids-only site, says Mashable. The site already has safety features to protect younger viewers, but they’re not 100% foolproof. A kids-only site could be just what parents need, given the, er, adult popularity of some children’s shows, such as “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” It won’t erase the need for careful monitoring and safety features, but it’s a good start, if it comes to pass.

A very informative study done by Fox, Twitter, and the Advertising Research Foundation shed some light on the dynamics between Twitter and television consumption. Click over to Mashable to get the full details, but the long and short of it is that there is, in fact, a direct link between a show’s activity on Twitter and viewers’ actions, although not in the way you might expect. The study reveals that the most influential proponents a show can have are the on-air talent, whether it be an actor or a host of a reality show. That being said, the more active a show’s brand is on Twitter, the more likely viewers are to make an effort to watch the show, and the more likely they are to take action on advertisements, especially if they are closely tied into the show’s activities.

On the viral side of things, frequent flier Jimmy Fallon teamed up with Kevin Bacon to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bacon’s dance classic, Footloose. Fallon announced that NBC had made dancing on “The Tonight Show” illegal, and that did not sit well with Bacon. What follows is a brilliantly choreographed homage to Footloose, proving that Bacon (and his dance double) has still got it. Click here to see the full video, and prepare for some serious 1980’s nostalgia.

Finally, just because we’re so excited for the return of “Game of Thrones” and because we like their social media efforts so much, check out some of the awesome fan art being sold on Etsy. The dragon egg necklace in particular is really hard to resist.