Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact

The winter of 2013 was a hard one for Georgette Carter.

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As a single mom raising two young boys while she cared for a father with dementia, money was very tight. Then, she totaled her car and found her resources – and her hope – were nearly gone. That is, until a 1996 blue Ford Contour arrived from the Connor Brother Collisions “Recycled Rides” program.

Conner Brothers of Richmond, VA, overhauls donated cars and awards them to people who have been nominated by community members. Carter said her heart was rehabilitated almost more than the car she received:

“It turned my life around. I can get to my job on time, and I don’t have to maneuver to get my child out of daycare. I’ll never take that for granted again.”

Getting Others Involved

Small businesses like Conner Brothers are creating innovative giving models that not only impact people but strengthen the business and the character of the companies themselves.

Kevin Conner said his company donated its first car and was looking to extend the “Recycled Rides” program to three other locations, but they had some pushback in the process. Some objected to giving away freebies when they were working so hard to earn a living themselves. But Conner says this mentality changed when employees got physically involved because compassion comes from being part of an experience instead of merely giving a donation:

“I got them involved in actually giving the cars away, handing over the keys,” Conner says. “Now the guys at the shop call me and ask, ‘When is our next car?’ It would be easy to give money or a service here or there, but it’s the teamwork behind the program that creates an amazing atmosphere for a successful company.”

The car giveaways have become such a cornerstone for Conner Brothers that the program helps define the type of employees the company wants.

“Giving back is a huge part of our company,” Conner says. “I challenge the guys every day to give back in some way, to give customers more than they expect. People remember that.”

Giving That “Changes” Lives

Another giving strategy comes from literal pocket change, as givers round up or down for charity.

For example, the ridesharing company Lyft recently launched an initiative allowing customers to round up their fare to the nearest dollar for military appreciation and human rights campaigns. More than 40,000 passengers donated over $100,000 in the first two months!

Grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and retailers have also invited customers to donate change to worthy causes. As technology and digital platforms make such giving easier, small businesses have challenged staff members to round down their net pay to the nearest dollar (or tenth dollar) and give the difference to charity. While painless or even unnoticed, these small donations add up to a collective impact with heartfelt results.

Whether your employees give financially, volunteer together, or embrace a community partnership project, innovative giving helps your business to:

  • Stand out from competitors or set itself apart in the community
  • Make matching donations alongside employee giving to multiply impact
  • Use positive feedback from supported causes to provide content for print and digital marketing
  • Increase team unity as employees give toward a common cause

While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative giving strategies begin with small business. Join us for part two of this series to gain more inspiration for a culture of charity that will strengthen your business.

 

 

 


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Printed Gifts Are Perfect Any Time of Year

Providing your customers with a small memento of your business is one of the best ways to keep your brand top-of-mind.

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However, many business owners struggle with ideas about what they can use as gifts that are cost-effective, memorable, and useful to their clients. There are plenty of options on the market today in terms of promotional products, but a thoughtful printed gift may be the ideal option for your business.

Here are some of the ways that businesses are making themselves memorable in print!

The Gift of Humor

Knock knock. Who’s there? Etch. Etch who? Bless you, friend.

There are few things that will put a smile on someone’s face more quickly than a corny knock-knock joke. You know they are terrible, but you still have to smile! Your customers will feel the same way, so why not gift them with a little light and laughter in their life? A small printed joke book is the perfect way to let your customers know you’re thinking about them. Humor has been shown to build trust and inspire creative thinking — what better gifts could you provide to your best customers?

Giving Notes

Many organizations are clear and consistent with their message of helping others, so why not extend this concept?

A simple printed postcard or notecard showing your clients that you contributed to a specific charity on their behalf is a terrific way of showing your commitment to giving back to the community and the world. Prefer to have a more lasting memory for your customers? Printed magnets or labels will also help you share the message of generosity.

Office Supplies

Who “borrowed” my notepad this time?!?

Offices throughout the country hear this cry on a regular basis, so why not take away some of this pain? Printed pop-up notes or notepads are an inexpensive gift that will be appreciated for weeks — or even months. Plus, you can add your brand in a way that not only are you sharing your message with the individual sending the note, but the recipient will also have a positive association with your brand, too. Instead of doing a simple blank note, why not print inspirational statements on them or create bold “Thank You” messages on the notepad? Your customers will love being able to share them with friends at work.

Desktop Prints

Motivational posters or prints are always a welcome gift, as they help clients stay encouraged even when they’re going through a rough patch.

A simple mini-print is ideal for this situation, and you can even upgrade to a small matted display for your best customers. Help customers see how much they mean to you by sharing a heartfelt note that brings together your brand promise and shows how far above and beyond you are willing to go to provide top-notch service.

These are only a few of the ways you can share the appreciation that you feel for your clients on a daily basis. How do you show appreciation for your clients?

 

 

 

 


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Don’t Throw in the Towel!

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Down but Not Out

They say that the difference between baseball and life is perseverance. No matter how hard you swing in the batter’s box, three strikes always mean you’re out. But in the game of life, strikeouts are only assigned to those who stop trying.

Feel like throwing in the towel today? We all do sometimes. But consider the words of Thomas Edison, who made more than a thousand attempts before finding the right materials to create the incandescent light bulb:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or find hope in the words of journalist David Brinkley:

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks others have thrown at him.”

The Irrevocable Power of Attitude

While circumstances are often beyond our control, we all have irrevocable power over one crucial area: our attitude. Austrian neurologist and Victor Frankl considered himself living proof. His best-selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” (or: Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicled his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, discovering that a fundamental human reality means finding hope in all forms of existence. Even the most brutal. Frankl said this:

“The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.”

Surviving or Thriving?

How do you move beyond mere survival? Whether it’s stress at home or disappointment at work, how can you equip yourself with a persevering attitude?

Angela Duckworth (professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania) was teaching math when she noticed something intriguing: The most successful students weren’t always the ones who displayed a natural aptitude but those who possessed an overcoming (or “gritty”) spirit. That grit – a combination of passion and perseverance targeting a particular goal – helped Duckworth develop a “grit scale” tool to predict outcomes . . .  like, who would win the National Spelling Bee or who might graduate from West Point. Duckworth found a “gritty” attitude beat the pants off things like your I.Q., SAT scores, or even physical fitness in determining whether individuals might succeed!

Here are a few tips from Duckworth on awakening passion when your willpower is dying:

  1. Discover and deepen your interests. If you feel like quitting, re-examine what really energizes or inspires you. Perhaps a depressed spirit can prompt you to consider a necessary life change.
  2. Commit yourself to a positive attitude. Duckworth says the difference between quitters and overcomers was largely how they processed frustration, disappointment, or boredom. While “quitters” took negative emotional cues as an opportunity to cut and run, gritty people believed that struggle was a chance for growth, not a signal for alarm.
  3. Look forward not backward (especially in the face of failure!). Resilience is the ability of people, communities, or systems to maintain their core purpose, even in the midst of unforeseen shocks or failures. Futurist Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, says grit is the combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence that one can find meaningful purpose while influencing surroundings, outcomes, and individual growth in the process. In other words – even failing doesn’t bring failure! No matter what you face, you can take heart that even setbacks bring progress and that even suffering has meaning.

Of course, the final factor in persevering power is the support of a strong community. That’s why we take pride in a thriving local business economy and we take pleasure in shaking your hand. Let’s continue to grow in grit as we run the race together this year!

 

 


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How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

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There is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

 


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6 Over the Top Things to Look for in Business in the Future.

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Business isn’t going anywhere. In fact, here’s where the most probable types of market exchange will happen with customers according to famous futurists:

  • Remember those Star Trek episodes where people used a transporter to go from place to place? In the future, it’s likely that business will use something similar to deliver goods, from your printed materials to food to durable products delivered right into a person’s room as ordered, bought, and sent from a business electronically.
  • Michio Kaku sees a technology-driven convergence of thinking, consciousness, and the internet. Instead of thinking of the internet as a tool, people will become the Net by connecting their brain to it for full immersion and interaction, as well as contributing to real-time synergies in information generation and use. Business, no surprise, will become far more intangible as a result, adapting to the mind-environment to keep pace with where the new demand exists.
  • Personal augmentation with technology will be commonplace. Just being a regular, average human being won’t be good enough. Instead, people will carry their technology within them. Not to be confused with “on” them, but tech actually integrated with their bodies. We won’t need a computer to design what we want to print; the idea will come straight from a digital connection to our minds translated to electronics and then produced by a vendor as we desired.
  • James Canton sees robots and artificial intelligence giving human-led business a run for its money due to the fact that robots and AI will be able to easily grind millions of bits of statistical data and produce probabilities of what consumers want well before any humans can realize that want or need on their own.
  • Some folks don’t even look at business in typical environments. Instead, Jason Silva sees cars becoming so advanced, our need to drive will be replaced by our need to get lots done in a car while it dries itself. And that includes business, generating new ideas, printing and producing inside a car, and getting work and life done while traveling from point A to point B every day. Business services will tailor themselves to people working remotely all over the place, delivering what they need where they are, and when they need it.
  • Finally, our bodies won’t necessarily want to live longer just because our technology advances. So instead of relying on a failing system, the medical community will embrace body part production and printing, creating organ replacements designed by computer to work specifically with an individual patient. The term “batch order” printing replacement organs will take on a whole new meaning in hospitals.Long story short, business will likely still be around years from now, but how it delivers goods and services to consumers will change dramatically.

 


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Is Your Advertising Take You Up or Down?

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Marketing and advertising can be quite costly. However, marketing can attract customers and earn you money. So, you need to be asking yourself “is your advertising taking you up or down.

Let’s take a quick look at three of the best ways to make sure your marketing efforts are boosting your sales revenue instead of draining your budget for nothing.

1) Keep An Eye On Frequency Rates When Online

Advertising online can an effective way to reach a targeted audience. What you want to avoid, though, is blasting your ads multiple times to the same people. The more times the same consumer sees your ad, the more they will become annoyed by it. In fact, when the same person sees the same ad twice, the click-through-rate decreases by 8.91 percent. Seeing the same ad five times decreases the click-through-rate by 30 percent. And once they see the same ad nine times or more, the click-through-rate is cut in half. More important, the cost-per-click rate increases each time the ad is seen multiple times. This is why you need to check ad frequency  and mix up your marketing mix using other effective channels like print.

2) Switch Up the Background

Both your online and offline marketing campaigns can benefit from switching up ad background colors. Did you know that ads with the color blue tend to make consumers feel calm? Green brings about a sense of peace, while yellow ignites a feeling of happiness and optimism. With this in mind, you need to integrate these colors into your ads based on the feelings you are trying to invoke. For example, if you are advertising massage services, then you will, of course, want your background color to be blue or green to portray a sense of peace and calm. If you’re advertising a theme park or vacation services, then using yellow in your background to bring forth feelings of happiness and excitement will be effective.

3) Run Your Own Blog

One of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to market your business is by running your own blog. Your blog can touch on a variety of topics, including articles discussing products you sell, tips for your using products, how to get good deals on your products, and how your products can be used to make your life simpler. The important thing is to make sure you are providing content to your readers that has value.

Once readers see that you are genuinely trying to make their lives better, they will come back to read your future blog postings. More importantly, they will be enticed to share your postings with other consumers, which is an excellent way to attract and secure new customers. Even better is that running your own blog is very affordable. In fact, if you’re a decent writer, you can write your own blog postings for free. If you don’t write, you can always hire a content creator to create the content for you.

 

 


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4 Ways to Incorporate Humor at Work.

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Nothing is more embarrassing than telling a joke and having it fall flat at work, but don’t let that stop you from adding appropriate humor to the workplace, as it can be a great way to reduce tension and improve overall relations.

Having fun with the people you spend at least 40 hours per week with can raise your mood and boost camaraderie throughout your office. Here are some of the top ways you can incorporate humor at work:

1. Hire for Personality and Cultural Fit

When you’re the hiring manager or simply someone able to have input into hiring processes, try to look for someone to join the team who approaches work seriously, and themselves lightly. This could come in the form of an easy smile, a little self-deprecating humor, or the ability to find the amusing side in everyday situations that others may consider stressful. When you have someone on your team who can inject some fun into the workplace, it gives others permission to crack a smile as well.

2. Encourage Silliness

Sure, you don’t want to be silly all the time as you’d get nothing done, but a little wackiness once in a while can break up an otherwise boring or tedious day. Send a cute animal meme or 30-second video to a small group of work friends and enjoy the smile on their face when they view it. If it’s not against your rules, post a humorous cartoon that has a positive message. It is important to be careful, however, as longer videos beyond two minutes or so sent to a large list of people can effectively kill productivity (which won’t make your boss happy at all!)

3. Keep it Professional

A great rule of thumb is that if you would be embarrassed having whatever you want to say plastered on a billboard — don’t say it! Same goes for the grandmother test. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear what you’ve been saying, you probably should abstain. Don’t make fun of others even when it’s “just for fun,” and keep teasing to a minimum. This especially holds true if you’re a supervisor or in another position of power. You may not realize that your good-natured poking fun at others can be taken much more seriously when there’s an imbalance of power.

4. Inspiring Others

You’re more approachable to others when you’re smiling, which may be one of the reasons that many leaders work hard on keeping a pleasant look on their face. When you work hard to uplift others with a pleasant word, even sharing amusing inspirational videos can provide you with some personal collateral to be used at a later time. It’s important to note that individuals who appropriately use humor at work are likely to be promoted more quickly and make more money, so there are definite reasons to putting some fun-loving vibes into the air!

Using humor appropriately at work can tighten the bond between co-workers, keep those creative juices flowing, and make the days fly by! However, you always have to balance the good times with ensuring you’re being as productive as possible on the job. Jokes and effective banter can improve your standing within the organization specifically because it is assumed that you are mature enough to understand the proper use of humor and that you’re relaxed and confident enough to call attention to yourself.

 


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Want to Be Successful? Take Time to Dream.

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One of the most famous dreamers of our time is Steve Jobs, the Co-founder and CEO of Apple, an iconic visionary who believed so deeply in the power of his dreams that he was able to bring them to life for millions of people. Jobs believed that the era of mediocrity was over and that you should put in the work on every project to make it great. His famous recommendation to a Disney retail executive to “Dream bigger” when it came to Disney stores resulted in a new type of store experience that continues to delight children of all ages. How can you leverage these same tactics and take the time to dream big in your own life?

Dream Fearlessly

Individuals often lose confidence in their dreams because everyday reality creeps in and has a way of tamping down your passion. Big dreamers are different. Even if you think they’re relentlessly optimistic, it requires constant hard work and commitment to make dreams come true, and a fearless need to be successful.

Believe in Yourself

Constantly second-guessing yourself doesn’t leave a lot of time for forward movement, making self-confidence a critical requirement for living your passion. You have to identify every element of your vision down to the smallest detail, and then break it down into the small steps required to make it happen. Professional athletes are very familiar with this concept, as they are coached to visualize making a basket, getting a hole in one, or nailing a complicated gymnastics floor exercise.

Take Action

Dreaming is great, but once the dream is solidified it is time to begin moving! Harness your beliefs and stay focused on reaching your goal. There will be others who will support you along the way — great! There will also be those individuals who are constantly looking to undermine your skills, your ability, and your passion. Graciously ignore them, and keep taking steps to move your dreams forward into reality. Pausing too long to consider the consequences can often result in a missed opportunity, which may not come around again.

Compete to Win

Successful dreamers are by nature quite competitive. They’re always looking around for how their competition is doing something and finding a way to improve upon the concept, or better yet — revolutionize it in their own way. Solving problems for your customers is a daily devotion, allowing you to rise to any challenge and overcome it as you follow your dreams.

Leave Space for Dreaming

What can you stop doing (immediately, next week, in six weeks) that will free up additional time for dreaming? It can be incredibly difficult to fuel your passion when you’re so caught up in everyday activities and overall busyness that you aren’t able to stop and think. Actively look for ways that you can create space in your daily activities that provide a block of time in which to think about the future and how you’ll get there. Your future self will thank you!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, persevere. When things don’t work out exactly as you had planned — keep going. Remind yourself that nothing good comes overnight, and success can take years to achieve. Stay resilient, be patient and keep dreaming!


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Ways to Protect Your Brand in the Real-Time Information Age.

 

Brand concept. Fresh and green grass on wood background.A brand is more than just a company logo, and it’s bigger than any one particular product or service. Instead, it’s the feeling that people get when they think about your company. It’s what goes into the instinct they have regarding whether or not to make a purchase.

A brand is also massively important in terms of how successful your marketing efforts will be in the long-term. The impression someone has of your brand is something that occurs almost immediately.  48% of consumers say that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand if their first experience is a positive one, regardless of whether or not that experience actually took the form of a purchase.

That means your brand must be protected at all costs, particularly in the real-time information age that we’re now living in. People are being marketed to from nearly every angle. If you don’t work hard to strengthen and hone your brand, you run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. Hope is not lost, however, as there are a few key things you can do to protect your brand as much as you can.

Consistency is Key

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brand is focus on something that real-time information doesn’t provide: consistency. According to one study, 90% of consumers expect that their experience with a brand will be similar across all channels – whether you’re talking about print, in-person interactions, or digital content.

Don’t Wait For Your Audience to Come to You

Another study estimates that, on average, you really need about five to seven positive brand impressions with a consumer before they start to remember your brand in a similar light. This is good, but you need to remember that in a real-time information age, you don’t necessarily have the time to wait for a consumer to initiate those impressions.

Also, consider the fact that brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility. YOU must be reaching out to your audience by way of consistent, enjoyable and helpful experiences whenever and wherever you can. Increase the frequency of the print marketing collateral that you’re putting out there and focus on being helpful, educational, and informative.

The Unmistakable Benefits

Give people as many opportunities to experience your brand as you possibly can and your entire identity will benefit as a result. If brand visibility is something of a numbers game, you need to play those numbers as well as you possibly can. Don’t wait for someone else to hopefully do it for you.

Successful branding brings with it a wide range of different benefits, from increased customer loyalty to an improved image, to a relatable identity and beyond. But in an age where information is everywhere, your brand is something that you also need to work hard to proactively protect. If you don’t, you run the risk of watching those important relationships with your audience begin to deteriorate.

 


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Bullies, Burgers, and Buzz.

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What do Whopper Juniors and bullying have in common these days? They are both being talked about. A LOT.

Recently, Burger King released a three-minute video in honor of National Bullying Prevention month. The viral video revealed that 95 percent of customers were willing to report their smashed, “bullied” Whopper Jr., but only 12 percent stood up for a high school student being harassed in the same store. The “No Junior Deserves to be Bullied” spot received national attention, generating countless online shares and loads of free publicity. One blogger said this:

“Yes, this is basically a three-minute Burger King ad. And, yes, it’s not subtle. But this PSA is better than it has a right to be, and is certainly more than you’d expect from a restaurant that doesn’t really have an ethical obligation beyond selling burgers . . . this weirdly good anti-bullying PSA will wreck your day.”

Viral: Why Certain Messages Multiply

Have you ever wondered why some YouTube videos go viral? Or why some products receive more word-of-mouth and top-of-mind awareness? Whether we’re in marketing, politics, or public health, it’s helpful to consider why certain products or ideas catch fire. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, devoted nearly a decade to researching this very question. We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most dynamic form of influence, but why do some things seem to create more buzz? Berger gives several ideas for getting your ideas to stick and to SPREAD.

  1. Social Currency. What we talk about influences how other people see us – whether we look clever, silly, or thoughtful. How can our product or idea be a fun or interesting thing for someone to share with others? Many who shared the Burger King ad found it to be a compelling social commentary, a fun (but thoughtful) perspective worthy of passing along.
  2. Triggers. People often talk about whatever comes to mind. Just like a Subway ad might be effective in a subway station, a trigger is an association that prompts people to think about related things. Burger King wisely released this PSA during Bullying Prevention month, because what is on the top of the mind is often at the tip of the tongue. Burgers and bullies were on our lips in October.
  3. Emotion. How can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Our relational bent prompts us to share things that are surprising, inspiring, funny, beautiful, or motivating. Burger King tapped into a heartfelt issue, knowing that when we care, we are more likely to share!
  4. Stories Sell. Why are Super Bowl commercials so fun? Because nothing tops a great story, and these ads tell them well. Top marketers know that one way to replicate a message is to embed it in a “Trojan Horse,” or a noteworthy narrative people are bound to repeat. In this instance, the Whopper Junior had a supporting role in the greater story of bullying and social justice. But Contagious reminds us the product or idea has to be essential to the plotline: “We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.”

Getting Your Message to Spread and Stick

Looking for ways to get your message to spread and your brand to stick? From large-scale publicity to customer care and referral options, we have opportunities in all sizes. We’ll help you package your stories, triggers, and ideas with several time-tested tools and tricks. Give us a call to talk options!

 


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