July 30, 2016

by Alex Membrillo, CEO, Cardinal Web Solutions

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Just two short years ago, Facebook users around the world were up in arms that CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have the audacity to force people to download an entirely separate app to message with their friends and family.

“What’s the point?” many asked.

In 2016, I think we’re all beginning to see the point. Brands have begun to use Messenger – coupled with chatbots – to connect with their audiences on a far more personal, and targeted, level than ever before.

Those marketers who had the foresight to see this trend coming are now leading the charge, reshaping how businesses converse with their audiences and stealing market share from their competitors.

Isn’t it your time to do the same in 2017?

Building a marketing strategy for the upcoming year requires you to be equal parts Nostradamus and Weathervane: You have to be able to make some predictions while gauging which way the wind’s blowing. But predicting the trends to hit the marketing world in 2017 isn’t as daunting a task as one would think. The signs are out there. You just need to know where to look.

Integration is the buzz word

A few years ago, the terms chief content officer and social media manager didn’t exist. Now résumés and LinkedIn profiles are littered with these titles.

In some ways, this is great; it shows that the world of marketing can adapt to consumer behavior, expectations, and the technological tools that have disrupted the human race.
But in other ways, these additional titles have stalled the progress of a marketer’s goal: to deliver the best possible customer experience.

Take, for example, the title digital strategist.

A digital strategist is the guru of your digital marketing campaigns. If it’s on Google, Facebook or a mobile device, your digital strategist is on top of it.

The problem is, by establishing a “digital” role on your marketing team, you’re creating walls that stifle collaboration and communication. Sure, digital is an important part of your marketing strategy. But it’s time to think past the digital era and move toward (and, essentially, revert back to) the blanket term of marketing. Be it a newspaper, TV commercial, social media or your website, each of these channels serves as an opportunity to connect with your audiences.

Start breaking down your silos before 2017 and you’ll be in a better position to adapt to consumer behavior because, I can promise you, the hottest trends of today (Pokémon Go, for example) won’t be here for long.

It’s time to accept the role of the podcast

So much talk these days is around video, and for good reason. A stat by Video Explainers in 2015 revealed that 63% of senior executives visited a vendor’s site after viewing a video.

Videos tap into the emotional side of your audience; but, they can be costly (and a pain) to make.

About a decade ago, podcasts were thought to be the next big thing. And while that never panned out, it’s not like podcasting’s gone away. In fact, you should be looking at this channel for your 2017 marketing plan because few people are talking about its impact.

From a content creator’s standpoint, podcasting is far simpler to produce than a video, particularly if you’re looking to create an ongoing series. Whereas videos are effective as one-off pieces that pack the potential to go viral, podcasting gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as an influencer while building a following or loyal listeners.

From a user’s standpoint, podcasting remains the only medium where folks can multitask while still consuming your content.

No one’s watching a video while jogging down the street. I can’t name a single person in the history of time who simultaneously read an article from their phone while gardening.

Your audience is overbooked with things to do. They can’t dedicate enough time to brush their teeth, let alone consume your content. Podcasting gives them the ability to check-off their to-do lists while listening to your pearls of wisdom.

Ah, but here’s the kicker (and a good rule of thumb for all your content in 2017 and beyond): you can’t just create a podcast made up of useless information and hope to build an audience.

Podcasts are about the story. The Serial podcast was a huge success because of the way the story was told, over a series of episodes.

NPRs podcasts, like Fresh Air, are popular because they engage the audience.

Your brand can do the same. Don’t think of your podcast as a good channel to overtly push your product or service. Rather, find ways to tell stories of people, places, and things that fall in line with your messaging.

Start building out your physical web plan

As soon as consumers started being able to watch TV on their own terms (through DVRs and Netflix), the balance of power shifted. No longer do brands dictate conversations. No longer can a business be in charge of how, when, or why information is released.

Consumers hold all the power, and they know this.

That’s why so many consumers respond negatively to traditional forms of marketing. They don’t want over-the-top sales pushes that they didn’t ask for.

They want engagement.

The physical web falls in line with the modern-day consumer mindset.

The physical web relies on the use of beacons, but unlike how beacons are currently used, the physical web doesn’t push notifications to a consumer’s mobile device.

Instead, it allows consumers to see a list of URLs being broadcast in their immediate environment (be it a parking meter, store, poster). That consumer can then choose to access the URLs the he or she deems most relevant or engaging at the moment. With the physical web, brands no longer have to disrupt their audiences with potentially unwarranted notifications. Rather, it gives consumers the control they demand.

Brush up on your landing page skills

It’s no secret that the folks at Facebook want to essentially kill the web. They want to make it possible for users to access everything they need online, without ever leaving their platform.

I don’t see that happening anytime soon; but I do see consumers performing less and less deep site browsing.

A lot of this has to do with the influx of mobile devices, and the onslaught of apps (although I predict serious app burnout over the next year or two, which is yet another reason to start planning for the physical web).

Consumers don’t want to be forced to navigate through pages of your site, no matter how nicely that site might be designed.

That’s why you have to make sure you’ve mastered your landing page game. So, what’s that mean?

A/B testing on everything. There are so many services out there now that make it easy for you to A/B test your pages. Use them! From headlines to button colors, to font choice and more, there is no shortage of landing page elements you can test.
Personalization. Personalization. Personalization. If you’ve broken your audiences up into segments based on location, job title, and income, then you’ve only scratched the surface. In 2017, harness the massive amounts of data you can mine through your social ad campaigns and more. Segment your audiences based on micro-moment behaviors, and then target them with relevant ads that lead them to personalized landing pages. The technology is out there. Your landing pages should make your readers gasp, as if to say, was this written specifically for me?
Expanding your paid campaigns. Your landing pages won’t do much good if you’re not promoting them through campaigns. Take a good, long, hard look at where your audiences spend their time. I don’t want to break it to you, but it’s my job to: most people spend a ton of their time on their smartphones and, specifically, social media. Stop procrastinating and coming up with reasons why social isn’t worth the investment. It is. I promise.

Make 2017 the best year your business has ever seen – get back to marketing basics

Like you, I’ve heard it all before:

• Email is dead
• SEO is dead
• Social media isn’t worth investing in

It’s easy to get caught up in buzzwords and industry jargon; but if you want to hit a grand slam in 2017, it’s time to put aside those acronyms and focus on marketing as a whole.

Your goal is simple: target the right message, at the right time, to the right people. Whether that’s on social media, through email, or from the side of a bus all depends on your specific industry and goals.

More importantly is to understand that trends come and go, but the message of marketing remains the same: deliver the best possible customer experience.

About the Author

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning digital marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. Named Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)’s 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year, his innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Cardinal has been 3-time consecutively named on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies. Visit www.CardinalWebSolutions.com to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo

July 30, 2016

by Alex Membrillo, CEO, Cardinal Web Solutions

Want to boggle your mind and impress your friends? Share with them this factoid:

More than 1 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook every minute, and the average user misses 70% of the feed. That doesn’t sound promising for your Facebook marketing strategy, does it?

Twitter, on the other hand, still retains its chronological newsfeed, which users think they like, but makes it nearly impossible for brands to reach their audiences.

At least, organically.

This isn’t just a downward trend – where organic social strategies are getting overshadowed due to sheer volume of content.

It’s a paradigm shift.

Now I’m not Chicken Little here, running around screaming that Organic Social Media is Dead! Organic Social Media is Dead!

I’m a bit less hyperbolic: organic social media isn’t dead. It’s just not as impactful today as paid social media is. If you want to get seen and noticed on platforms like Facebook, you have to be willing to invest.

I can hear the collective groans of budget-strapped organizations. Do we really have to start spending on social media? Is it really worth it?

Allow me to answer your questions: Yes.
And yes.

By next year, social media ad spend is slated to surpass $41 billion, meaning your competitors are investing in Facebook and the like. Their investments are robbing you of screen time with your audiences.

I know what you’re thinking now: Sure, but just because my competitors are doing something doesn’t mean I should.

True. Going against the grain is a fundamental precursor for disrupting the marketplace. But during Facebook’s Q1 2016 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that users are spending more than 50 minutes each day across its apps.

If you subscribe to the adage go where your customers are, then doesn’t it make sense to invest in social media?

Don’t worry, you can still follow the herd – so to speak – by accepting that an organic approach can no longer drive your social strategy – while still going against the grain.

Let me show you how.

Get personal – target your posts to your audience

Email marketing continues to provide one of the most successful returns on investment for marketers. Why?


You can target your emails to audiences based on actions (or inaction), demographics, job title and more. When you segment readers into various lists, you can tailor your messages to speak to that audience.

The same goes for paid social media.

Let’s examine this by comparing an organic post vs. a paid post on Facebook.

Let’s say your business has a Facebook audience of 5,000 people. These 5,000 people could have “liked” your page for any number of reasons, including:

• A campaign you created
• A link on your website
• A blog post you published on a 3rd-party site
• From a related page they found on Facebook
• Because you convinced your friends and family to like the page (admit it)

Now let’s say that you publish a post promoting a sale that’s specific to a certain population of prospective customers. Great! Except, how many of those 5,000 followers actually fit the mold?
When you post organic content on Facebook, you have little control over who sees it, meaning your efforts could fall upon irrelevant ears (not to mention an organic post is confined to just your followers). With a paid strategy, you’re opening your post up to the entire Facebook community.

Of course, targeting an entire global community isn’t an effective marketing plan, which is why you can narrow down your audience (essentially creating little list segments) by choosing from a massive database of potential determinants (want to get your post in front of folks who just bought a car, moved, or got married? Great, you can! Facebook knows all.). This allows you to place your promotion directly into the news feeds of the people you want to see it and who are most likely to jump into action.

Retargeting – create a conversion funnel based on action

Personalization is the key to your social success, and remarketing to folks who’ve interacted with your content help you get downright personal.

Retargeting, which is only available through paid social strategies, allows you to target users with the most relevant possible content.

For example, let’s say you create a paid post promoting a How-to article you wrote on growing tomatoes in your backyard. Using the analytics made available through Facebook’s ad manager, you can target the users who read that article by promoting a new ad, pushing an eBook: The Complete Guide to Transforming Your Backyard into a Garden Paradise.

You’ve now just pushed your readers further down the conversion funnel.

Paid social media gives you tremendous insight into the actions your audience takes, so that you can remarket to them with not only relevant content, but content designed to get them closer to a conversion.

You know how to get personal. Now you have to get creative

At the core of a good paid campaign is the ability to personalize your message. But just because you think you’ve tailored your message to your narrowed audience, doesn’t mean you’ve actually succeeded.

I’m reminded of an article by Erin Sagin at WordStream, where she highlights 8 Super Creative, Crazy Effective Display Ad Ideas.

While the focus is on display ads, the message is translatable to social.

Within her article, Sagin shares two ad examples from one of WordStream’s clients. The first ad shows a stock-photo image of a generic female doctor, with the headline:

Healthy Weight Loss Solutions from Medical Professionals.

Not very personal, and not very effective.

The WordStream team decided to target a male-only audience for the revamped campaign. Smaller population, but the ability to get personal. They replaced the generic doctor with the unsightly profile of a bare, protruding male belly. This time, their headline read:

Size Does Matter.

The latter ad yielded a 47% higher CTR than the original ad. In other words, now that you know how to target a narrowed audience, make sure you deliver with your messaging.

Use the tools social platforms give you
When it comes to creativity, also consider the tools at your disposal. Both Instagram and Facebook give marketers the ability to use carousel ads to promote their goods and services.

Use these tools to their full capacity, the way Tieks by Gavrieli has. For example, let’s say you only sell one product (as Tieks does). You might not think the carousel format works for you.

Try again.

Tieks used the multiple-image layout to highlight their only product – women’s flats. Each tile card focuses on, and highlights, a different feature of the shoe. Not only that, but the company’s use of a woman’s hand (which appears to be dragging her fingers to zoom in to the shoe’s image) encourages readers to do the same.

Brilliance and worth checking out.

Try not to forget about storytelling

Whether it’s on a billboard, in a magazine, on a webpage, or on social media. I find myself inundated with advertisements that lack creativity and fail to engage.

The very notion of social media is about storytelling, conversation, and engagement. Just because you’re putting dollars behind your messaging doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the story.

With the tools and data that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter now offer to marketers, there’s no reason why you can’t develop a highly targeted ad, that reaches a highly motivated audience, and captures their attention. But, you’re going to have to pay to play.

About the Author

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning multi-local digital marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. Named Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)’s 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year, his innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Cardinal has been 3-time consecutively named on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies. Visit www.CardinalWebSolutions.com to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo

July 30, 2016

by Alex Membrillo,CEO, Cardinal Web Solutions

Each month, an average of 275 million people log onto Kik, a free instant messenger app for mobile devices.

Realizing the potential associated with that many users, the beauty brand Sephora decided it was worth its while to get on board. Now, by conversing with a chatbot designed by the company, Kik users who communicate with Sephora can take a quick quiz to receive:

• Specific product recommendations
• Reviews
• Video tutorials & beauty tips

Users can even purchase Sephora products directly from the app.

Pretty impressive seeing as the entire conversation between user and brand was conducted by a machine. But that’s the power and potential of the growing number of messenger apps out there: use technology to personalize the customer experience for thousands – or even millions – of customers.

Face it: 3.6 billion people can’t be wrong

Advisory firm, Activate, states that around 2.5 billion people are registered to use at least one messaging app. By 2018, that number is expected to rise to 3.6 billion or, in other words, 90% of people on the planet who have access to the web.

While many people use these apps, initially, to remain connected with friends and family, it’s inevitable that messenger app users will discover the benefits of connecting with brands as well. Rather than sift through dozens of webpages, monitor and maintain a flurry of phone apps, or endure the frustrations of a call-center conversation, users could simply use their existing messaging apps to reach a company.

Brands, conversely, will realize that they can address the needs and requests of most of their customers, and attract new prospects, through automated chatbot conversations. In other words, it’s a win-win for all.

While messenger apps include the likes of Yik Yak, Kik, WeChat, and even Snapchat, the two biggest names in the game at the moment are both, not so surprisingly, Facebook related:

• Messenger
• WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19.3 billion)

As you introduce yourself into the world of messaging apps as a way to engage with your customers, it’s best to start with these two juggernauts. Once you’ve mastered – or at least warmed up to – the concept of messaging and chatbots, you might consider expanding your reach.

First, understand who uses these messaging apps

Just because 2.5 billion people are registered with at least one messaging app, doesn’t mean they use them regularly … at least not yet.

Those who do actively engage on messaging apps tend to be young, connected, and used to having conversations with brands in a personal space (so long as the conversations are of worth to them). That means you (and by you, I mean your chatbot, of course), have to speak the language of this audience. When striking up a conversation with a customer, don’t start with: Hello, or even How do you do?

The former is stale, and the latter comes across a bit Eddie Haskell-esque (the wise-guy neighbor in Leave it to Beaver).

Try using more fluid language, like: Hey there, or Got a minute?

Now, how can you engage these users?

No matter what direction you eventually take with your messaging strategy, remember the purpose of these apps: conversations.

Social media introduced the notion of brands conversing with customers; but apps like WhatsApp and Messenger take it to a whole new level.

Take Colgate India as an example. The company created a contest-based campaign, using WhatsApp, where they invited users to send smile selfies to a specific phone number displayed on the toothpaste packaging.

By submitting these selfies, the users entered to win a makeover by the brand’s ambassador stylist, and Colgate India found a way to connect on a personal level with its customers (not to mention they were also provided with invaluable user-generated content).

Brands are also harnessing the convenience-factor of these apps as well. Remember, users have no problem connecting with brands on a personal space (like a phone app) if the connection offers value.

So, offer value to your audiences.

Uber and Lyft, for example, allow users to hail drivers right from Facebook’s Messenger app; Taco Bell is testing out a Slack bot that will let users order without leaving their desk or picking up a phone.

Don’t forget the fun factor

Users love convenience, but they remember fun experiences, and share those experiences with others.

That’s why, for all if its shortcomings in terms of user analytics, Snapchat is a pretty exciting messaging app for brands to use.

Brands can create specialized filters which people can use as part of their snaps in the hopes of becoming a part of the brand’s limited time story. Sporting events have harnessed this approach well.

Users love these filters because it gives them the opportunity to flex their creativity; you should use them because it gives you the opportunity to use this user-generated content for future marketing purposes, even outside Snapchat.

The conversation era of marketing is here. Don’t be the wallflower

For years, brands had only television, radio, and print ads as a way to “connect” with their customers. I’ve branded the term “connect” with quotation marks because, well, connections were hardly formed.

These traditional marketing channels allowed brands to merely speak at their audiences. Now that your audience has the power to speak back, brands need to join in on the conversation or risk being left behind.

About the Author

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning digital marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. Named Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)’s 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year, his innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Cardinal has been 3-time consecutively named on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies. Visit www.CardinalWebSolutions.com to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions. Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo

April 12, 2016

The AMY Awards is usually described as a “Night of Fun” and this year was no different. Amidst the silent auction, digital caricature drawings, delicious food and cocktails, nearly 300 attendees came dressed to the nines to celebrate each other’s accomplishments inside the Fabulous Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.

There were 28 award categories that honored Atlanta’s best marketers who have made their mark in our community and beyond.  We broke records with over 104 entries and for the first time ever, we recognized Atlanta’s unique startup culture with the city’s only Best Marketing/Advertising Tech Startup award.

View our honoree videos here:

Marketing for Good – https://youtu.be/0fHwT4kMQsE

Best Tech Startup – https://youtu.be/jQuTd_KrFb0

Best Overall Entertainment Campaign Winner –  https://youtu.be/z0NsI2boTdA

Lifetime Achievement Winner – https://youtu.be/b6d1Nc1wwg4

Lifetime Achievement – Acceptance Speech – https://youtu.be/D4OyTvSuEA4

Corporate Marketer of the Year – https://youtu.be/y7F4Wxd99IQ

Agency Marketer of the Year – https://youtu.be/f0jZQzMysgM

I cannot thank the fantastic committee of volunteers enough for their selfless contributions. We also had several amazing cash and in-kind sponsors and without them, there would have been no AMY Awards.

View pictures of the event by clicking here. If you were not in attendance, I hope they make you want join us next year and inspire you to #MakeYourMark!


March 4, 2016

Recognizing the achievements of Atlanta’s marketing community

The AMY Awards spotlight Atlanta’s most creative and talented marketers, chosen from among the most impressive candidate pool to date.  With over 100 entries this year, the 2016 nominees showcase the quality, success, and outstanding strategic methods of local organizations. Atlanta’s marketing community will gather on the evening of Thursday, March 10th at the Fabulous Fox Theatre to celebrate those who make their mark. View the Judging Day video for a behind the scenes look at how we chose the winners!

New award for 2016 – Best Marketing/Advertising Tech Start Up Award

Atlanta’s climate of innovation and surplus of workforce talent speaks to those who choose to ignite business in our city. As entrepreneurs launch new endeavors, Atlanta marketers are rising to the challenge and impacting industry. The 59th Annual AMY Awards signal that influence with the presentation of the first ever award honoring marketing and advertising tech start ups.

Tickets & tables are still available

The 59th Annual AMY Awards offer an opportunity to share cocktails with the game changers and extraordinary talent that Atlanta’s marketing community has to offer. Sponsorship tables are still available. What better way to inspire your marketing team? What better way to meet the people impacting the industry? What better way to get involved with and learn more about AMA Atlanta? Fellowship with industry titans and mingle with the leaders of tomorrow, all at one amazing event. Buy your tickets or table here!

Special Event Award Presentation Winners

Speaking of our #MakeYourMarkATL theme, join us in honoring these special award winners who have done just that.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
David Christopher

Marketing for Good Award Winner
Kate Atwood
Metro Atlanta Chamber Vice President of Marketing

Corporate Marketer of the Year
Janna Ducich
Cricket Wireless Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Agency Marketer of the Year
Richard Ward
22squared CEO

Black tie optional? Yassss

Gentleman, we know you have been waiting for an opportunity to wear that new shawl tux or midnight blue-slim fit suit you purchased last year. Ladies, will you choose a cocktail dress or gown? Either way, let’s get in formation for the 59th Annual AMY Awards!

January 27, 2016

PowerPoint and passion aren’t two words typically associated together, but when you add renowned presentation designer Nancy Duarte into the mix, you are inspired to change the world through effective presentations. The AMA Atlanta Chapter recently hosted “An Evening with Nancy Duarte,” and this post will offer a recap of the main takeaways.

A Bit of Background on Nancy Duarte

Duarte is the principal and CEO of Duarte Design, and the author of several books including:

She also worked with Al Gore to develop his keynote presentation “An Inconvenient Truth” which was so compelling that filmmaker Davis Guggenheim directed a documentary based on the presentation, and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.Duarte is also a frequent TED Talker, and works with the organization to improve other TED Talk presentations.

Duarte’s passion is to help people effectively communicate their ideas and vision for the world.

Communicators are Torch Bearers

Duarte opened with the idea that as marketers and communicators, we are torch bearers. We help people take the next step into a new concept, idea, or pitch. New ideas can be scary, intimidating, and filled with resistance, but as the torchbearer we hold the guiding light that illuminates the way into something different.

The Best Presenters and Presentations are Focused on Storytelling and Empathy

The greatest communicators use the story format.

PowerPoint slides should be a great narrative with assisting visuals and data. Duarte reminds us that slides can be beautifully designed but if they don’t tell a story they will not be effective [side note: Edward Tufte’s theories on visual data design and avoiding chartjunk are a great reference to utilize when designing your slides]. Duarte believes that stories impact our belief system and shape our collective conscious, so we can use stories to shape the perceptions and opinions of others.

To tell a great story, you must have empathy.

Duarte stated that the single most important element to begin a presentation with is empathy. She encourages spending time inside the skin of your audience to develop empathy so you can better communicate your vision. If we want to change our audience’s perception and get them on board with our idea, then we must empathize and tell our story within our audience’s perspective. Duarte calls this resonating with the audience. As presenters, we must “hit their frequency” if we want to effectively communicate our vision.

Tips on Presenting Change

An audience member asked Duarte for tips on presenting change, especially when your audience may be primed to resist. Duarte’s recommendations include considering the two polarities as you design your presentation – who will be motivated by your ideas, and who will resist?

Brainstorm a “bucket of resistance” by writing down all the potential ways your audience could resist, and then empathize with your audience through this resistance to bring them over to your goals and vision. Duarte reminds us that if we have to push people, then we haven’t thought about the situation empathically.

A Brand is a Story

The best brands tell a story. When corporations have a great story to tell, people want to join in on your journey and be a part of your brand. Duarte recommends hiring staff who share the same values of your brand because skills can be taught. To protect your brand’s story and ideals, sometimes you have to make decisions that value reputation over revenue.


Empathy and storytelling are rhetorically effective strategies that enable us to design compelling PowerPoint presentations, and convince the world that our vision and ideas are worth pursuing.

Blog written by Caroline Moore

November 23, 2015

Originally posted on Interface Blog by Lauren White on November 23rd, 2015

Tell me who you run with and I’ll tell you who you are. This was one of many words of wisdom from a group of highly successful business men and women who spoke on a panel at an American Marketing Association Atlanta Chapter event moderated by Interface’s own CMO Jo Ann Herold.

From left to right: Jo Ann Herold, Kate Atwood, Steve Behm, Ken Bernhardt, Julie Bowerman, William Pate and Shannon Harlow

From left to right: Jo Ann Herold, Kate Atwood, Steve Behm, Ken Bernhardt, Julie Bowerman, William Pate and Shannon Harlow

The topic? “A Tribute to Mentors.” It was fitting that all of the participants were mentors or mentees of Jo Ann. And, wow! What great company she keeps! The panel included Kate Atwood, executive director at the Arby’s Foundation; Steve Behm, president of Edleman South; Ken Bernhardt, professor at Georgia State University; Julie Bowerman, vice-president of ecommerce at Coca-Cola Company; William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Shannon Harlow, vice-president at 22Squared.

Jo Ann learned early in her career the value of seeking out mentors to help her along her journey. “You’ll be surprised at how honored people will be when asked to be a mentor,“ she told the group. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance.”

How do you find a mentor?
Shannon suggested starting your search with “people you admire,” and Julie added that it’s important to “have a few different types of mentors.” Ken also advised that, when seeking a mentor, “it’s important to have people you trust to tell you the truth, like your own personal board of advisors.” He added, “When faced with difficult decisions, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. Just like professional sports players have a coach, we all need a coach.”

Who can be a mentor?
As it turns out, we all can. Mentors can be those who already hold advanced positions in your career field, people who are in a different career field that you aspire to enter, college professors and other educators or even someone who is just getting started. Steve reflected on a time when he received some great advice from a junior member of his staff and the importance of having a relationship with people at all career levels. Kate said, “Don’t under value how powerful you [as a mentee] can be for a mentor.” The panel explained that mentors should be humble leaders, have integrity and be willing to tell the truth with kindness because, as Steve noted, “Words matter.”

Members of the Atlanta AMA and friends gathered to learn about the importance of mentoring programs.

Members of the Atlanta AMA and friends gathered to learn about the importance of mentoring programs.

Advice from a mentor
Mentors offer real-life examples of challenges and lessons that may help you find the answer in one of your own challenges. One of William’s biggest lessons learned was a time he “almost got fired” over an advertising campaign in the mid-90s for a product that integrated emails, fax and pagers (oh my!). After the initial pitch, the CEO didn’t like the campaign but William believed in it. “He told me ‘I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll give you the money for it, but if it doesn’t work, then you’re fired.’” The campaign ended up being successful and William learned to “believe in what you’re doing.”

If you don’t have a mentor, seek one out. And be available to mentor others. We can learn a lot from one another.

September 30, 2015

Originally posted by on

You may have heard it said that content is king for digital marketing, but have you ever wondered why? Below is a summary of key points from our CMG Local Solutions partner’s eBook, 7 Reasons Why Content is King.

1.  Content is king, but it must be quality content.

Keyword stuffing can penalize you in Google, but good quality content with relevant keywords scores high points with search engines.

2.  Focus on producing content that helps improve your customers’ business or lifestyle.

60% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts, according to the IBM Institute for Business Value.

3.  Content-based emails generate more leads. 

Emailing customers with tips and informational content generates 388% more leads than primarily sales-focused emails, according to MarketingSherpa.


Click here to download the 7 Reasons Why Content is King eBook for additional advice on how to maximize your content marketing.





June 27, 2015

by Jo Ann Herold, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Interface

When I graduated with a degree in communication and journalism, I learned quickly that the academic environment had not fully prepared me for the real world. My first job was in Field Marketing at Shoney’s and Captain D’s. My role was to advise franchisees on how to grow their business. A big takeaway is that as a 21-year-old recent college graduate, the franchisees I worked with had a lot more to teach me. As a result, I was going to need to be responsible for my continued education.

So, what did I do?

The first thing I did was join AMA. www.AMA-Atlanta.com
I went to hear the AMA’s speakers and continuing education. The programs opened my eyes to how smart marketers think and gave me tools and insights on what is the latest thinking in business and marketing. I also went back to school later and earned an MBA.

Second, I discovered that most successful people have strong mentors. I have been so lucky to have several mentors. I want to give them a shout out and express my gratitude.

Nancy Gibson was my first mentor. She and I worked together for 10 years while at HoneyBaked Ham. Whip-smart, strategic, loyal to her people and irreverent are traits that I love about Nancy. She was formerly the Global Director of Diet Coke in the 90s. While working together @ HoneyBaked, she taught me about brand management and the importance of listening to the consumer. She is back at Coke and continues to be a rock star. She heads up global shopper marketing and serves to inspire others at Coke. www.coca-cola.com

I think about Nancy almost every day. I often write down WWND…code for What Would Nancy Do?! Her fun personality–coupled with her wit and wisdom always are in style.

Ken Bernhardt is another person for whom I would walk through fire for. For those who don’t Ken, you should. He has been involved in AMA for 30 years. He was President 20 years ago. He’s a Professor at Georgia State and has taught and mentored many people. Ken helped me grow as a young chief marketing officer at HoneyBaked. He introduced me to the Georgia State Marketing Roundtable and helped provide further education on what successful marketers do to grow sales and profits. Ken is always willing and able to lend a hand. Moreover, Ken recently won AMA’s Lifetime achievement recognition and helped raise over $100,000 for AMA scholarships. He helps Atlanta and marketers in so many ways.

I had the privilege to work with one of my mentors while I am at Arby’s. I reached out to her over a decade ago when a read an article about her in Nation’s Restaurant News. I cold called her and asked her to go to lunch. I was surprised when she said, “yes.” She didn’t say yes because she had lots of free time. At that time, she was CEO of Church’s Chicken. She said yes because she believed in the value of helping others grow. From there, Hala went on to become CEO of Susan G. Komen. Through the work at Arby’s, and its Foundation, we worked to End Childhood Hunger through Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative. I was lucky to work with Hala on a daily basis and help drive profitable sales for the iconic and beloved Arby’s brand.

Now, I have the wonderful opportunity to work for Interface. It is a company filled with purpose and truly “walks the walk.” I love the people, the culture and our products. www.interface.com

I feel fortunate to have such tremendous resources and mentors. Curiously, do you have a mentor? If so, who is it?

Video screenshot from Millennials in the Workplace - AMA Atlanta Signature Luncheon - panel
April 30, 2015

Millennials in the Workplace

According to research conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, many of the myths plaguing Millennials are, in fact, not true. We’ve pulled three of the five busted myths, some uncomfortable truths and some recommendations directly from the report for you to see.

Read more– recap and full video

Scot Safon, Former Chief Marketing Officer, The Weather Channel

Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader, IBM
Bob Van Rossum, President, MarketPro
Emily Binder, Director of Marketing, Budget
Liz Nixon, Director of Emerging and Social Media Marketing, AT&T (unable to attend)

Full Video – Millennials in the Workplace – AMA Atlanta February 2015 Signature Luncheon

See more clips: subscribe to AMA Atlanta on YouTube

February 24, 2015
Atlanta, Georgia