Strategic Marketing & the Art of Fly Fishing

If your company is experiencing rough seas in a highly competitive market, is it better to become a generalist and cast as wide a net as possible, or to be a specialist and learn how to reel in a particular fish, one at a time? The answer is…”well, it depends.”

FlyfishingSmelt fishing on Lake Michigan can be a lot of fun!

When the smelt are running in the spring, you can wade into the ever-frigid waters with friends and a fine-mesh net and pull in hundreds of these delectable little fish in a single evening. And if someone’s on the beach furiously cleaning fish while you haul in, there will be plenty of smelt dinners for everyone. Only thing is, the Lake Michigan spawning run peaks in mid-April, and that’s it until next year. Of course, many smelt fishermen cast an even wider net, so to speak, and pursue other fishing opportunities over a year—taking in rivers, bays, inlets, salt flats, or the oceans of the world. Each type of fishing endeavor requires its own licensing and stamps, special gear, knowledge and training. Not to mention a plane ticket or two.

Another option is to specialize in one sport—fly fishing—pursuing elusive trout in fresh water 160px-PartridgeandOrangestreams or striped bass (rockfish) in our own Chesapeake Bay.

Fly fishing is as much art as sport, requiring great casting skill—a choreography of moves defined by distance, prey, and the surrounding environment—as well as an in-depth knowledge of fly knots, all that gear fly fishermen love to wear, the various flies your fish love to bite, and a keen understanding of fish psychology. You learn to spot fish by thinking like one of their predators, such as a heron. And, over  months and years, you come to know your quarry—even individual personalities like “Bubba,” the wizened old trout of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And you learn to trust your “fish intuition,” sensing when to pursue and when to back off, what they’ll bit and what they won’t, even when they’re playful or fearful…or just plain hungry.

A client of ours cast a wide net for many years, providing valuable services to a broad spectrum of clients in several major markets. They had worked hard to enhance their image and identity in these markets. Recently, they invited us to work with them to develop strategic marketing initiatives that would further develop their client base.

Specialist versus Generalist

800px-Maramec_Spring_fishing_lsTogether, we undertook several strategic thinking and planning sessions. And what evolved was our recommendation that our client move from a general marketing approach to a more specific market we both felt they could serve very well. Indeed, our client already enjoyed excellent relationships with several firms in this specific market and regularly contributed articles to its trade journals.

Rather than continuing to cast an ever-wide net for many different kinds of fish, we were asking our client to consider re-tooling for a very specific area—fly casting. Thus, new strategic marketing initiatives required a re-positioning of our client’s marketing efforts (and dollars)—building on the company’s already established relationships.

We worked together to develop a verbal identity and visual identity this specific market could relate to and connect with emotionally. We began with some “givens” about the industry: that it is challenged with chaos in project management, with meeting ever increasing requirements, and with a shorter life span for their products. Additionally, we understood that competition is very fierce in this industry, where the difference between being first and second to market can cost a company millions of dollars in the first months after product launch.

Core Beliefs Matter

Any new marketing initiatives also incorporate core beliefs and values we determined were the germinal underpinnings of many companies in this industry. These core values emanate from the corporate leadership and culture.

There began a strategic and integrated advertising and PR campaign that surrounded and penetrated the market from all sides. As a result, our client is enjoying new business opportunities which offer substantial growth potential. Rather than casting a wide net for many different “fish,” they are acquiring the habits, grace, and skills of the expert fly fisherman—casting a perfect fly into a still pool or a creek,…focused on a ripple, a thin moving shadow, a brief sliver of light.

Dames at Sea…You gotta see this one.

If you like musicals that are top notch in everything…dancing, singing, sets, costumes, and live music, you certainly don’t want to miss Infinity Theatre Company’s Dames at Sea, with shows running in Annapolis, MD for the next three weeks. Directed and Choreographed by Randy Skinner, 3-Time Tony Nominee, Dames at Sea is a fun, tap-happy, Navy-crazy musical with characters and scenes you won’t easily forget, like the Mona Kent (Kristie Kerwin) and The Captain (Erick Buckley) number in the Second Act that steals the show!

Here is a sneak peak at the second day of rehearsals!

Don’t wait! Click here for tickets as this straight-from-Broadway musical is here only for a short time!

Randy Skinner

Randy Skinner
(photo courtesy of Infinity Theatre Company)

For more about Randy Skinner, you’ll enjoy this DC Theatre Scene’s  live interview.  Says Randy, “I want to hit the audience with the power of tap dance, to elevate this form and take the audience to a whole other level. And I work on everything as if it’s a Broadway opening.” And he does, from the moment the curtain opens to the closing chorus with the entire company. Join Ruby, Dick, Joan, Lucky, The Captain, and Mona as they tap-dance their way to Broadway!

dames at sea

Destination Marketing

Prince George’s County Maryland Conference & Visitors Bureau, a Destination Marketing Organization here in Maryland, needed a new website. Actually, several. So we went to work.

Two of the sites we developed have won State awards. The website won the annual IMPACT AWARD at the Maryland Tourism and Travel Summit for a organization that has made a major impact with an important industry project or product.

Historic Prince George's Website

Impact Award Winner

Another Prince George’s County website, OneNews, also won the BEST ELECTRONIC MARKETING AWARD at the Maryland Tourism and Travel Summit. This award recognizes the most strategic, innovative, and successful electronic marketing initiative to attract visitors to the State of Maryland.

We hope you’ll check them out and give us your opinion.

And, if you have time, please take a look at which has just been launched. In the second full month after launch, unique visitors increased from 19,000+ to 42,000+. Using HTML5.0 and CSS3 to improve SEO was a great choice.

One News Website

Winner of the Best Electronic Marketing Award


Out on a Limb to find Gold!

We love architecture because we love creativity, innovation, and imagination. We’ve bundled all three of these “loves” together to highlight something for you to share with those you love…the “Out On A Limb” architectural masterpiece of AIA Gold Medal winner Alan Metcalfe.

Perched high in the trees at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is a child’s dream. A giant birds’ nest with Robin’s eggs both children and parents can sit on. A suspension bridge 50 feet above ground children can play on and run across. A rope-netting squirrel’s paradise skirting around towering trees where children can actually “go out on a limb”.

Out On A Limb Tree Exhibit

Go “Out On A Limb” at the Morris Arboretum’s Tree Adventure Exhibit in Philadelphia

Created by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, this is a 450-foot, fully accessible (Grandparents are invited!) tree canopy walk. Arguably the most elaborate of tree canopy walks in North America, the design is not only fun and exciting, it is sustainable. “Metcalfe balanced perceived danger, actual safety, beautiful materials, and real trees to create a playful learning experience about the forest.”  On their website they also mention all the awards they have received including:
~2010 AIA Philadelphia Design Excellence Gold Medal
~2010 AIA Pennsylvania Architectural Excellence Award
~2010 “Best of Philly” Award
~2010 American Association of Museums Excellence in Exhibition Design Award

Boardwalk at the Morris Arboretum

The Boardwalk at the Morris Arboretum

Inside a Bird's Nest

Inside a Bird’s Nest

Suspension Bridge

A Suspension Bridge High in the Sky

Some other fun things to see and do at the Arboretum include:

•    Dawn Redwood Grove – where you can measure the height of trees and study “living fossils” in a grove of some of the country’s oldest and largest redwoods.
•    Oak Alle – children can measure the length of trees’ roots and learn how roots grow and how they benefit the trees.

•    Springhouse – A pre-Victorian and Colonial refrigeration staple where you can  analyze temperature changes, using thermometers placed in the shade, the sun, water, and underground.
•    Log Cabin – Built in 1908, this structure illustrates how trees are necessary not only to animals, but to humans as well, to create homes and keep warm.

A Squirrel's (and Child's) Delight High in the Trees

Looking up into the trees where children (and squirrels) dance and play.

Everywhere you look you can find a new adventure to explore. This is a place where parents can play with their kids in the trees without having to build a treehouse in the backyard! It’s also a place where children can learn about nature, respect it, and also love it.

We hope you get to visit this marvel someday.

Your kids will thank you!

A Bird's Eye View

A Bird’s Eye View

Mobile Marketing: Reaching Consumers, Wherever They Go.

Businesses today, both large and small, are beginning to wonder if traditional marketing tactics are still enough.  After all, we are living in a new age where we check our in-boxes more often than our mailboxes and dial-up to the internet more often than we would dial-up a friend.  It seems apparent that we need to reach consumers in a fresh way, but what exactly is it that this generation is looking for?  The answer centers around the combination of two things: technology and convenience.  We want everything – our contacts, calendars, emails and yes, even our advertisements –  to be in one easily accessible place.  Well, Generation Y – say, “hello,” to mobile marketing.

For those who are less familiar with the idea, we’ll give a quick overview.  Mobile marketing allows businesses to communicate with consumers in a number of effective ways.  When a person responds to an ad through their mobile phone, they will usually receive a text back with some of the company’s information.  Businesses can also send coupons to the number as an incentive for them to actually come in to the store.  Some businesses, such as Starbucks, have even begun using mobile loyalty cards – a great way to keep frequent visitors coming back for more!  Other mobile marketing techniques include sending polls, contests, and text alerts to interested leads.

One very successful example was carried out by Ace Hardware and Microsoft Mobile Advertising.  In a month-long holiday campaign, Ace Hardware advertised four different in-store specials via mobile marketing.  The campaign resulted in a 60% lift in brand awareness in ages 35-54 and 101% in ages 25-54, as well as an 8% increase in store traffic – surpassing even the highest expectations.  This just goes to show that mobile marketing is more than just a passing fad for the tech-savvy; it’s a major break-through for businesses who are ready to get involved.  And here’s the kicker: it really does work!

With 2.4 billion active text message users in the world (more than any other data application), it’s surprising that this trend hasn’t caught on sooner.  In fact, a study by the GSM Association found that mobile marketing has already reached 25 times more people than Twitter and has 7 times the response rate as compared to e-mail marketing.  We should also expect it to increase in popularity as more age brackets adapt to text messaging and as mobile coupons are becoming more widely accepted.  While the revenue it produced in 2008 was a couple hundred million, it is predicted by that this could increase to $5 billion by 2012.

At The Souza Agency, we know how important it is to stay up-to-date in the ever-changing and quickly expanding world of marketing.  And with mobile marketing – the question no longer seems to be how or why to get involved, but when.

Team Souza

Marketing Across the Generation Gap

The idea of a generation gap is nothing new: What is true about one age group can rarely be said about another.  We all grew up through different stages in time and technology, and through various social and political world events that have shaped who we are today.  It’s logical, then, that we would all have different wants and expectations in terms of marketing techniques.  As Ann Fishman of Circulation Management once said, “In a marketplace that’s evolving from product-driven to customer-driven, understanding the fundamental needs, values, icons and historical experiences of the various generations to whom we hope to market is more critical than ever.”

In a market this complex we need to ask ourselves: Is it possible to communicate with all of them in the same way?  How can we reach each group effectively?  What is our target age group really looking for from us?  By comparing different characteristics of today’s  five prominent generations – the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generations X, Y, and Z – we can pin-point what each group is likely to be drawn to and do our best to reach them most effectively.

The Silent Generation: 1925-1942

After years of spending on their children and grandchildren, this is a generation that is finally ready to do something for themselves.  They have earned their retirement and they want to enjoy it!  So, how can we help them do this while bringing their business our way?  Here are a few pointers.

Most people in this age group still respect old-fashioned ways and values, so it is important to emphasize this when reaching out to them.  They also appreciate history and look for brands that are older and more established.  If your business has any sort of history or background, you’ll definitely want to bring it to their attention.

Direct mail is a great way to reach the Silent Generation because they are more likely than others to actually have the time and willingness to sit down and read it.  This is not to say that this group cannot be internet-savvy as well.  A study in 2008 found that 91% of the people in this group that do use the internet, use it to access e-mail.  They are also likely to use the web to view health information, news sources, and government sites.  So, when making a website or online campaign you may not want to leave them out.  They are looking for a website that is clearly organized and easy for them to navigate through.  The font should also be a bit larger than average, so it is easier for them to read, but never to the point where it would make them feel like “old people”.

Baby Boomers: 1943-1960

Frequent travelers, loving grandparents, and wealthy retirees – these are the generation of baby boomers.  Some believe the Boomer’s to be the most nurtured generation yet because of the large number of stay-at-home moms after World War II.  Perhaps this is how they earned the nickname, “The Me Generation”.  You can appeal to this characteristic by creating campaigns that focus on what’s in it for them and reinforce the idea that they deserve it.

This generation also holds most of the country’s wealth, and a 2004 survey by the Bureau of Statistics found out exactly what they’re spending it on.  They spend more than any other generation on goods and services and come in second for spending on transportation and entertainment.  The women, specifically, spend the most on clothes – 56% more than the average household.

Because of the increasing number of single and working parents, grandparents are now more involved than ever before.  It should come as no shock that the grandma’s and grandpa’s in this group are actually spending more than the Gen X-er’s on pets, toys, and children’s products.  So, when advertising for these products we need to remember the baby boomers as a key part of our audience.  What kind of toys would they want their grandchildren playing with?  Something safe.  Something that teaches good values.  Maybe even something that brings them back to their own childhood.

Generation X:1961-1981

Juggling new careers, marriage, and parenthood makes this generation a busy one.  If you can’t capture their attention immediately – you’ve probably lost them amongst everything else they’ve got going on.  Emphasizing the convenience or ease of your product/service is a great way to stand out to this crowd who would appreciate the break.

“Exposed to consumerism and public relations strategies since we could open our eyes, We Gen X’ers see through the clunky attempts to manipulate our opinions and assets, however shrinking,” writes Douglas Rushkoff, in his 1994 book, The Gen-X Reader. “When we watch commercials, we ignore the product and instead deconstruct the marketing techniques.”  What he is saying is a very valid and useful point – Generation X wants us to be genuine.  They aren’t likely to like or fall for gimmicks.

Generation Y: 1982-2000

A group of Gen-Y volunteers from Oxford College

Full of hope, optimism, and (most importantly) energy – this generation is determined to change the world.  It seems like every Gen Y’er is passionate about some cause or another and they are ready to do something about it.  For this reason, they are most likely to be drawn to a business that shares these ideals and is equally passionate about them.  Cause-related marketing is a very effective way to reach Generation Y – and of course, helping out the world while doing it is a nice little bonus!

Another interesting thing to note about this generation is that they have grown up in an age where having single or divorced parents is not uncommon.  But how can we use this to reach them as consumers?  The key is to make them feel like a part of something – like family.  One example that comes to mind is the Mac vs. PC campaigns.  No matter which side you’re on, you become a part of their team.  You no longer “have” a PC, you “are” a PC, etc. And from then on, you have some sort of connection with all the other users on your team.

This generation also places a strong emphasis on their friendships; so word-of-mouth marketing is extremely effective.  If they see that a friend of theirs “likes” your company on Facebook, for example – it makes a powerful first impression.

Generation Z: 2001-

The most important thing to keep in mind when marketing to Generation Z is that they are still too young to make their own purchases (with the exception of the occasional candy bar bought with their weekly allowance).  So when you target this age group, the people you really need to convince are the parents – Generation X and Y consumers.  In fact, they even have wish lists that kids can make online now, so begging your parents has never been easier!

And while you may not immediately think that internet advertisements would be the way to go, children are becoming very proficient on computers at a young age and many go online almost daily to play games. Interactive ads or short videos that will keep their attention work best.  Because they are so visually oriented, television commercials are still very effective with this age group as well.

Reaching Them All

Years of working with all kinds of clients at The Souza Agency have proven to us that the first, and arguably most important step in effective marketing is to know your audience.  Know what they like and dislike, what they’ve been through, and what they are attracted to.  Age cannot answer all of these questions, but it sure is a great place to start.

Turning 16: Driving Through The World of Social Media

Do you remember the feeling?  You were probably terrified.  A stranger was sitting next to you, judging your every move and just waiting for you to make one tiny mistake. Some people are so scared they make themselves sick; others panic and lose control. Words of wisdom are inevitably offered: “make sure you count to 3 when you stop,” “constantly check your mirrors,” “remember to stay inside the lines.”  But nothing really helps.  It is just you, the car, and a DMV official.

Taking your driver’s test at the young age of 16 is a terrifying, thrilling experience—nothing can really prepare you for it.  Eventually though, you pass.  And you have it—that tiny little piece of plastic that changes your life.  No longer were you reliant on your friends or family to cart you around; instead you were free to go wherever, whenever.

The feeling that the world was your oyster—just waiting for you to explore—was exhilarating. You could now reconnect with friends, visit a place you had never been, or just simply drive around.  Getting your driver’s license for the first time is a life-altering moment: suddenly the world gets a little smaller and you get a little bigger.  Suddenly, you are connected

So it is with social media.  One moment your company is 15 and stuck in this little pigeonhole, relying on others to get you where you want to go.  And the next, your company is 16 and has access to the world.  Social media is one of the most accessible and cost-effective forms of marketing today.  Nothing, since the advent of the web, has had such a profound impact on marketing and advertising.  Social media, however, ultimately transformed the face of the Internet—the web became two-way.  People (and companies) could now talk to each other from across the world; a connection was now possible.

Souza has embraced this change.  We believe that social media is crucial to any effective marketing campaign.

Recently, one of our clients asked us how they could generate more interest in their company.  We recommended that they consider employing social media, the fastest growing form of online advertising today.  Our client seemed hesitant at first—they questioned whether or not social media was professional enough for their image.  We informed them that more than 60% of Fortune 1,000 companies use at least one form of social media to reach customers.  A well thought out social media campaign can not only be professional, but also help make the company more accessible to thousands of people.

Together, we developed a plan of attack.  We decided to focus our efforts on web site design, blog creation, search engine marketing and optimization, and social media sites like Facebook and twitter.

Before we could construct an integrated social media system, however, we wanted to update their existing website, ensuring that it was as user-friendly as possible.  We wanted to create a website that was the focal point of their online marketing; from there, customers could access the client’s blog and their Facebook and twitter pages.  We also wanted an interactive website: we wanted customers to feel compelled to explore the site and the new features we had added.  Most importantly, we wanted a website that was current, because when clients visit your site they want the most recent information available.

However, potential customers would not have been able to enjoy our client’s new site if they could not find it.  Therefore, we optimized the site and submitted it to major search engines.  With our highly specific and specialized Search Engine Optimization (SEO) process, we were able to target certain web-users, ensuring that our site matched their search terms.  Ultimately, SEO created a site ranked as high as possible on various search engines.

We also created a blog for our client that was creative and modern, yet ultimately professional and classy (since our client wanted to retain its professional image).  With the blog we built an online community for the client, providing an essential link between our client and their customers.  Now, the company’s customers had a place to post their thoughts and opinions—informing our client about customer satisfaction levels.

The biggest social media sites are undoubtedly Facebook and twitter.  Thousands of companies have created profiles for themselves; many devote millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to creating the best profile possible.  Our client needed neither a million dollars nor extensive manpower; instead we were able to create a Facebook and twitter account with minimal expense.  We focused on setting up profiles that contained all pertinent information, with links to the company’s blog and website.  Then we allowed social media to do its job: within days our company was able to establish a large following of “friends,” simply through computer-to-computer communication.  People saw that their friends had become a friend to our client and they wanted to as well.  With our help, our client has created an online world that customers can easily access from anywhere.

As a result of this social media marketing, our client has created a cohesive and comprehensive brand image that permeates all forms of their web media.  Together, their various social media outlets have generated increased interest in the company, leading to substantial growth potential.

Social media is here to stay.  According to Nielson, last year companies spent $108 million on advertising for social media, and that number will only continue to increase.  We have embraced this change.  We have helped countless businesses celebrate their 16th birthday, thereby making the world seem a little smaller and much more accessible.  So does your company have that tiny piece of plastic that will grant it access to the world?