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.





August 4, 2015

by Katherine Jianas, Group Media Director at BKV

It seems like every day we read about new technological advancements in the search marketing space. There is no doubt search is changing rapidly, making it an exciting time to be a search marketer! We have identified the three main reasons for changes in the landscape.

new paid search engine marketing updates

  1. Mobile

    As speculated already this year, mobile search has surpassed desktop. While mobile has naturally grown with the increase in smartphone usage, it has been further fueled in the paid search engine marketing space with the migration to Google Enhanced campaigns in 2013, and more recently with Bing Enhanced and Yahoo Gemini. And in the organic space, most recently “Mobilegeddon”, Google’s mobile SEO algorithm update, has further powered the importance of mobile. Gone are the days when you can target mobile and tablet separately from desktop. Now, search marketers must input mobile bid modifiers on an ad group level to manage mobile exposure. And organically, mobile search engine optimization must be accounted for as a site’s rank could be penalized if the site is not mobile-friendly. The growth of mobile over the last year has been astounding. According to Google, many categories are seeing upwards of 70% of all search queries occurring via mobile. While searches are as high as they’ve ever been and it is becoming easier for searchers to purchase via mobile, many are still finishing the purchase cycle via desktop or continuing their research across other devices. Here lies the challenge of identifying multiple searches as coming from one searcher on multiple devices. Leading us to #2…

  2. People-Based Marketing

    Stella searches on Google for “dog bed” from her mobile device over breakfast, clicks a sponsored ad and finds a few options of interest. During her lunch break at work later in the day, Stella goes back to Google on her work laptop and searches “tempur-pedic dog bed”. She visits the same site and purchases a new tempur-pedic dog bed. Using “last click” conversion data, we would see Stella’s two searches as two different users. However with Facebook’s “people-based marketing”, we are able to see that Stella is the same searcher on both desktop and mobile. Facebook’s 2014 acquisition of Atlas Solutions makes this possible by leveraging Facebook login data to determine searchers across multiple devices. And in recent news, it has been rumored that Google will leverage Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, search queries and other Google services that require sign-in to better target search ads. Leading us to #3…

  3. Targeting

    New technologies will allow for search marketers to better target ads based on known data. Using login data to determine searchers across multiple devices, Google and Facebook will also soon use collected data to better target search ads. Search marketers currently have several ways to personalize search results, such as using search query and location information and running certain betas that allow for bid modifiers on demographic information (like household income, gender and age). We can also remarket to a searcher when we know he/she has previously visited an advertiser’s site. As Facebook has done with “custom audiences”, Google could soon leverage email data to target users in an advertiser’s database with an applicable message when they are searching. For example, if the user previously purchased a product, it could be used to upsell another product. Google could also leverage “lookalike” audiences across the search platform to enable advertisers to extend an advertiser’s targetable reach.

    Search marketing is changing for both SEM and SEO. Growth of mobile usage, people-based marketing tactics and targeting capabilities are primarily responsible for recent and upcoming changes in paid search. We can speculate that a paid search campaign in the future will look more like a display buy. For instance, we will have to buy on target rather than or in conjunction with the keyword. The search engines know to serve the right ad to the right person at the right time and on the right device whenever the searcher’s query is relevant in some way (i.e. on the advertisers landing page, similar to keywords on the advertiser’s landing page, is a top autofill search, etc.). As marketers, we’ll be able to better target and better optimize our search marketing campaigns by leveraging these initiatives.

    Don’t get left behind as these changes roll out.

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.
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.

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.

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

June 26, 2015

This is a recap of the AMA June Signature Luncheon event, Linking Entrepreneurial Marketing with Innovation and Performance. Really great event with a rock star group of speakers. And, being a startup centered group, the feel was slightly less formal than the typical Signature Luncheon. A lot more laughter, and even some cut-up jeans!

Devon Wijesinghe, CEO Insightpool
Brooke Beach, Marketing Director Kevy
Eric Spett, CEO Terminus

Jeff Hilimire, CEO and Co-Founder Dragon Army

Photo cred: Brandy Jessen

Photo cred: Brandy Jessen

Question 1: How do you focus on sales? What’s the importance of sales and marketing in a startup company?

Brooke: Be in the weeds of sales: demos, calls, and being everywhere you need to be. You have a sales organization, not just a sales department, that’s growth-oriented. Set periodic milestones to hit your long-term goals.

Devon: Conferences. Attack people coming out of the bathroom. Whatever it takes! Sales and marketing are really meshing into one thing, with different subsets of attributes. A successful sales tactic today is to educate with influencers. Insightpool has been killing it this way lately, hosting webinars with the likes of Brian Solis. Devon also reiterated that people typically don’t know they have a problem until you show them.

Brooke: [People are] 45% less likely to buy if first contact is strictly sales. So your messaging and activities must gravitate towards education: eBooks, white papers, influencers, etc. People do their own research these days and will eat up your educational content!

Question 2: Uncomfortable corporations with startups. How do you deal with this?

Eric: Terminus is a data provider — cookies for display ads, etc. Basically, they are putting ads in front of every decision-maker; self-titling it “creepier retargeting,” where the targets don’t even have to hit your page to be served your ad! Corporations see the value, however, and are generally ok with the practice (it is totally legal, after all).

Devon: It’s so fragmented. There’s no one touch point.

Question 3: Word association game. Match the process explained to one word of your choosing… What if you couldn’t change the marketing plan of your company for 12 months?

Brooke: Horror
Devon: Stupid
Eric: Conservative

Jeff explained this is how large corporations generally run. They fall into this budget allocation trap, which in turn creates an organization that is not agile. Jeff then discussed The Innovator’s Dilemma, which really struck a chord with me. Basically, this concept is derived from Clayton Christensen’s book, suggesting that “successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers’ current needs and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers’ unstated or future needs.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 12.18.03 PM

Side note: I really liked this style of moderating; super creative.

Question 4: What advice would you give to corporations to breakout from this trap?

Brooke: Big money is spent at decision-time, so it’s great for vendors and service providers!

Devon: Budget allocations don’t really make sense. For example, say you want to win the Super Bowl. How do you get there? It requires agility and the ability to restructure any processes and tactics. Set short-term goals to visualize where you stand in the company, jot down long-term goals in pencil, and work backwards.

Brooke: A big annual budget to spend typically results in doing the same thing year in, year out. There’s no A/B testing, no ROI implementation. It comes down to intentionality. For example, startups measure and analyze a lot more, because they inherently have to. Every dollar counts!

(Brooke wrapped up by recommending the Justin Mares book, Traction, with the takeaway that testing is a necessity.)

Devon: Large corporations typically don’t factor in that things will change. For example, with employee advocacy being all the buzz these days, organizations aren’t prepared to implement these systems that ultimately allow for huge successes like 10X content reach!

Eric: Set up test/experimental budgets that are more open-ended. Have an allocation on the side to use for R&D.

Question 5: Startups (even with upwards of 50 people) can pivot relatively easily. How and why is this?

Eric: Terminus had no idea what to do at the beginning of their journey. They knew the B2B space was underserved, with a huge opportunity, and the market was moving towards automation. They jumped in to the advertising automation space and are confident it will stay at their core, but zig-zags are still to be expected.

Devon: Insightpool began as a lead generation B2B social tool that’s now more enterprise level, chasing the big guns.

(In his words, “It’s nerve-wracking,” but a lot does not matter so long as you have a great product. Devon also said that pivot is a strong word when all you’re really doing is changing. Everyone, in every industry, is doing small changes constantly. Again, the key is to remain agile.)

At this point, Affordable College’s Sean O’Brien offered his story to the audience. Sean’s spearheading efforts that will help create a clear path for students to an affordable, recognized bachelor’s degree; amidst hardships in affording the massive tuition payments and also transferring schools. He told the story of his complete pivot, following the realization that college presidents don’t care about college transfers and the issues with their credits transferring, a cause I can definitely get behind.

Audience Question: “Startups must see opportunities everywhere. How do you focus and know which to chase?” – Joe Koufman

Devon: If you operate quickly and can absorb it, and have “that opportunity gun guy,” go for it. You need an opportunity spotter and a person to implement and plan. These should not be the same person or you’ll likely end up on some extravagant, albeit exciting, divergence.

Brooke: Jeff specifically wanted to ask about the influence of David Cummings, the founder of Atlanta Tech Village, while Brooke’s been at Kevy. She said that he’d had some influence but not an overwhelming amount. He stressed that it’s important to be agile, but not too agile or everything will be left half done. You need that priority and process-oriented person to complement the ideas person. There also needs to be a process to vet opportunities.

Question 6: On transparency…

Eric: Open book policy at Terminus, minus salaries and equity. Eventually compartmentalize a bit more as they grow, but they’re just not there yet.

Devon: Humans are really adaptable when given the information. Otherwise, employees will spend too much time asking “what if” and trying to learn what’s going on. Everyone is more productive when they know where they (and the company) stand.

Brooke: Transparency builds trust, and decisions are easier when the team understands the “why.”

Eric: Hiring process is transparent as well. That could ultimately be the edge over other companies for new talent!

Jeff: Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, recently implemented a Holacracy alternative management system, letting self-governing teams get their work done through tactical meetings. It encompasses a non-hierarchical organizational structure and has been adopted by various companies around the world, Zappos being the largest. Being a somewhat new manager myself, learning and studying new management styles like Holacracy is very insightful.

Question 7 (more of a prompt): Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) spend more than Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) on technologies and softwares.

Brooke: “MarTech” is the new buzzword these days. In 2012, experts stated that by the end of 2017 CMOs would be spending more than CTOs, but it’s happened already in 2014! This isn’t necessarily a strategy, spending money on technology, but a tool. Technology today is becoming more and more enabling for marketers. Also, we’re seeing more agency partnerships with SaaS startups for educational purposes. There’s so much out there that it’s important to stay plugged in and keep learning.

Devon: Casually coined the term, SWaS. Software WITH a Service. Think, Client Success Managers. Many get addicted to the results, before truly learning and loving the software capabilities.

To wrap it up, Eric addressed SalesLoft’s thought leadership expertise. When you create educational and instructional content, it lives online for the lifetime of your web property, there for people to use and reference. You’re building a library of helpful content that becomes mutually beneficial, as consumers will begin viewing you as a go-to source and subject-matter expert.

Jeff played one last word association game: “If you were the CMO at a large corporation, what would you immediately change?”

Eric: The way we measure.
Devon: Setting priorities.
Brooke: Enabling time to make decisions.

That wraps it up. Really great answers from all the speakers, please comment or let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.

For more of my AMA write-ups, click here.

By: Steffan Pedersen | Director of Digital Marketing at Object 9 | @steffanpedersen

May 27, 2015

The business of professional sports relies heavily on building and maintaining an actively engaged fan base that will not only root, root, root for the home team, but also become season ticket holders, purchase branded merchandise and be passionate word of mouth marketers. And while their teams’ regular seasons may last between four to six months, a sports marketer’s job is year-round.

AMA Atlanta’s May Signature Luncheon featured an impressive panel of leaders from Atlanta’s major professional sports franchises, who shared their insights into the business of sports marketing: Steve Koonin, Chief Executive Officer – Atlanta Hawks; Derek Schiller, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing – Atlanta Braves, and Mike Gomes, Senior Vice President of Fan Experience – Atlanta Falcons. Moderator: Scot Safon, former Chief Marketing Officer – The Weather Channel. Below are my three key takeaways. Trust me, there were several more – so don’t hesitate to share yours in the comments.

Photo Credit: @HayleyRSchmidt

Photo Credit: @HayleyRSchmidt

Marketers, Know Thine Audience

Don’t assume you know who comprises your core audience; do the research. Koonin pointed out that the Hawks conducted extensive research into game attendees to determine that their target audiences are African-Americans and Millennials. Season ticket holders average 38 years old and live approximately 10 miles from Philips Arena.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, maintain a laser focus on them in all marketing outreach efforts. Everything from the food and beverages served to the in-game entertainment must be on point to attract and retain them.

The Experience Matters

While selling season ticket packages obviously is important, Atlanta’s professional teams are focused on making the experience valuable for casual fans as well. Millennials are less interested in the “ownership economy” model of holding season tickets, but they place high value on receiving a quality experience when they interact with sports teams (and other brands). Schiller referenced the Braves mobile app, which includes offers from participating sponsors to provide added value to digitally minded game attendees…which brings me to my third and final key takeaway.

Let Your Sponsors Do the Talking

Both the Braves and Falcons rely heavily on their corporate sponsors to create experience-rich, value-added fan promotions and contests, both online and in real life, to extend their brand activation. Whether it’s sweepstakes, merchandise discounts or free items – sponsor activations significantly augment what may be more modest advertising budgets.

For the Falcons, Gomes noted that they are focused on partnering with sponsors to make what happens in-stadium a true and authentic experience that energizes fans and motivates them to return.

With both the Braves and Falcons getting new stadiums in the coming few years, we are certain to see an increase in sponsor activation and fan loyalty.

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

April 17, 2015

Howard Gossage believed that most of the advertising of his time was manure. The Socrates of San Francisco died more than forty years ago, but his radical approach is as important now as ever.

Howard Gossage in front of repurposed firehouse where he housed his ad agency

HQ of Freeman, Mander & Gossage: a repurposed firehouse which attracted counterculture and influential thinkers

Gossage was irreverant, inquisitive, and creative. At a time when agencies encouraged increasing media buys for their own profit, Gossage worked on quality over quantity, and even instructed some clients to reduce their ad budgets. He eschewed TV. He helped launch the environmental movement. David Ogilvy called him “the most articulate rebel in the advertising business.” Gossage was an iconoclast and proponent of using advertising to effect social change. He cared more about ideas than media.

When Gossage was in the ad business in the late 1950s and sixties, you could reach 85% of the U.S. with three TV networks and four publications. The options for sharing information and stories were a tiny fraction of modern media, but HLG was a prescient proponent of interactivity. His most important principle will outlast this month’s shiny new marketing toys:

Respect your audience

Howard Gossage on advertising

Gossage was talking about conversation long before Twitter. Our age is one of digital marketing buzzwords that mean little beyond having secured standing room on a crowded bandwagon, of an obsession with social media too often devoid of strategy and technique. Now we have tools that make the conversation more convenient and immediate, but this has made us lazy in ways.

Tired of reading articles about how to “measure the ROI of social media”? Quit reading them. Turn off your phone, sit down (better yet, stand up) and take the time to write interesting copy, inform, incite. Spell check.

Client: Petrofina Oil

Gossage transformed a pedestrian category, gasoline, with a campaign that directly acknowledged that most service stations were identical, while satirizing “advertisingese”:

1960s Fina ad - pink motto by Howard Gossage Gossage’s Fina motto ad satirized the pounding slogans and culture of consumption in most “advertisingese”

Fina didn’t pretend to be your friend or solve your problems. Fina acknowledged reality in a conversational way. Fina sold petrol.

Ask customers about their pain points then speak to those negatives in a new or helpful light. Brands aren’t people: brand messages that seem personal simply because they begin with an @ still must offer some value, honesty, or fun if you want the audience to care, participate, or purchase.

Diet Imperial Margarine – 1967: not a Gossage ad Fizrin – 1958: not a Gossage ad

Unlike the above ads typical of his time, Gossage based his work on the belief that the consumer deserved to be treated with some modicum of respect. Ogilvy agreed: “The consumer isn’t a moron, she is your wife” (1955). Gossage went a step further with campaigns like the one that saved the Grand Canyon from being flooded:

His point, recalled by then partner Jerry Mander, was this: “You can’t just make people feel bad, you have to give them an opportunity to do something.”

Direct, honest, creative messaging that acknowledges the realities of the transactional relationship beats a feigned or forced friendship and unrealistic promises. It was true in the sixties and it’s true today, especially on social.

We relish our digital two-way street, opine about the “conversation” until its terminology has become hackneyed, yet many brands still turn off customers with their attempts at tone. Before you hit “send,” ask yourself if the message is interesting and real, or simply, WWGD?

By: Emily Binder | Director of Marketing at Budget I @emilybinder

April 3, 2015

LEGO’s Brand Revival – A Recap of the March Signature Luncheon


Did you know that the LEGO Group was battling bankruptcy in the early 2000s, before catapulting up to its current 2015 position as the “World’s Most Powerful Brand?” I, for one, had no idea of these struggles and failures, up until the March Signature Luncheon featuring LEGO VP of Marketing Mike Moynihan.

As Mike began, he brilliantly grabbed our attention by opening with some engaging LEGO trivia questions. For example, did you know that for each person in the world there are 62 LEGO bricks? Or how about that the LEGO Group is one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers? Also, supposedly LEGO’s mini figures are the world’s largest population, of any kind! (More here if you’re interested!)

Moving into the heavier material, Mike explained how LEGO has always been a well-known brand, and is one of the top toy makers in the world alongside Mattel and Hasbro. However, huge deficits around 2004 led to significant changes in attempts to turn the company around. Referring to these hard times, Mike explained, “I remember it got so bad that for six to eight months I walked in thinking, ‘Today could be the day,’ and I remember there literally being a lightbulb in every other fixture.” I scanned the room following this declaration, and it’s safe to say nobody had any idea this was their reality as little as 10 years ago. Whoa.

Eventually, LEGO was forced to ask itself the question, “Why do we exist?” That’s when the current customer-centric strategy was created. LEGO began proactively listening and talking to fans, which led to its new mission statement: Inspire and Develop Builders of Tomorrow.

Mike joked that LEGO was indirectly responsible for the creation of Google, as Larry Page and Sergey Brin were featured in an article around the same time discussing their childhood love for LEGOs and praising the creative benefits of building with these small bricks. I know it was just a joke, but hey, I’m totally cool with LEGO claiming Google.

Moving into the depths of the brand, Mike displayed LEGO’s impressive brand framework, seen below, including its mission, aspiration, various promises, brand spirit, and values. It was highly captivating—and inspiring—to see a huge global brand operating in this way, in this day and age.

ama 3 17 lego 1

LEGO Brand Framework

Mission: Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow
Aspiration: Globalize and innovate the LEGO system-in-play
Play Promise: Joy of building, value of creation
Planet Promise: Positive impact
Partner Promise: Mutual value creation
People Promise: Succeed together
Spirit: Only the best is good enough
Values: Imagination, creativity, fun, learning, caring, quality

Mike went on to discuss the way LEGO tracks the NPS (Net Promoter Score) of its communities, across platforms and engagements. The communities LEGO has developed are impressive to say the least. For example, let’s take a look at LEGO Ideas (fka LEGO Cuusoo, which exists only as a blog now). This concept was introduced to allow the community to be part of new product development. Awesome. So you’ll create an account, log in, and share your idea.

Lego Ideas

If your idea gathers enough support (10,000 supporters or more), LEGO will review your project and decide whether or not it’s worth creating. Basically, it’s a branded Kickstarter! As you can see below, popular projects can receive over 100,000 eyeballs in less than a month’s time! Projects moving on to review will typically see a quarter of a million views, with thousands of comments! Talk about a successful B2C collaboration campaign.

Lego Ideas reviews

Next, we learned more about the processes, and culture, of LEGO.

1. Exist to serve others (this ideology has directly led to average profit margins twice the industry average!)
2. Brand ownership
3. Leadership focuses: collaboration, not coordination
4. LEGO > EGO! (Self-effacement is inherently a part of Danish culture. Scandinavian societies operate according to the “Law of Jante,” a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.)
5. Execution > Strategy

1. Start with insights
2. Co-create with stakeholders (Capture the passions and creativity of unfiltered children.)

Another couple of key takeaways are listed here:

Brand extensions must support the core function, e.g., The Lego Movie. Much to our surprise, it took Warner Brothers over two years of pitching to win the production rights to this film! Straight from Michael: “You’d be amazed by how little money LEGO made off of this.”

Always challenge conventional wisdom: Be laser focused on consumer needs: Kids = Mastering skills!

Think through a consumer-needs lens. For example, why are teens waiting longer these days to get their driver’s licenses? Historically, cars were important for social reasons. They were the method for transporting yourself to a specific destination, friend, or social gathering. But teens are not as anxious to drive these days as they were, say, five years ago, for one simple reason: smartphones! Analyzing and looking through this consumer lens allows you to understand your target demographic in greater depth.

Threats [such as digitalization] can be opportunities: Minecraft.

Know who you are, and who you aren’t; go to senior leadership with any questions or concerns.

Be all about serving your stakeholders. How can you help them? This is not about tricking anyone into buying anything, merely about helping out.

Don’t worry about competitors as much as you think you should.

Innovation flourishes in constraints.

Don’t wait for a “crash” to change your course! Be willing to make changes and take risks.

And, finally, with power comes responsibility. This speaks to the new CEO (although he’s no longer so new) and his vision. He’s been crucial in LEGO’s revitalization.

Audience Questions

Q: What is the typical role of an agency when working with LEGO?
A: LEGO has a few agency branches: consumer and shopper agencies (both in house), and media/”other” agencies (Starcom). In-house creates approximately 80 percent of LEGO’s design, while the media agency works with process and keeping up with the latest trends. Other agencies are sporadically consulted with needs like marketing to adult demographics, etc.

Q: How do you manage UGC (user-generated content)?
A: LEGO Clubs, which are independent and separate from the LEGO brand and operations, play a huge role in UGC. LEGO provides support to these groups, which often have thousands of members. The approach: stay in the background, step in to facilitate and provide assets when necessary. (Being a part of a LEGO Club offers you exclusive content and access to the latest products, often before anybody else.)

Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Workload. It’s impossible to scale as fast as LEGO has required, and it’s even tougher to prioritize efforts and activities.

Q: What’s next?
A: Digital visualization and digital experience integrations. LEGO is doing its best to keep on top of trends and user experience innovations. This may mean new developments in the app world, along the lines of Minecraft’s successful venture. Furthermore, 25 percent of LEGO profits are allotted to the LEGO Foundation. Leaders have finally pinpointed the future usage and potential of this foundation, and plan to utilize it for further education. Nice!

In Conclusion…

A cohesive change management philosophy is crucial, regardless of your company’s size or financial positioning. Treat your vendors as partners, let your customers have a say in brand ownership, and clearly define the role of innovation. Teach younger, up-and-coming generations about the lessons learned, historic brand values, and giving back to the community that made you.

Mike did a brilliant job with his presentation, and I was even able to connect with him following the discussion to ask some more personal questions regarding Denmark and working among Danish peers and culture. As a Dane myself, I was thrilled to have this conversation and hear such great things about the motherland. :)

Be sure to check out AMA Atlanta’s upcoming events.

By: Steffan Pedersen | Director of Social Media at Object 9 I @steffanpedersen


March 26, 2015

Know a Nonprofit Marketing Rockstar? Nominate them

Do you know a nonprofit marketer who is a strategic dynamo, who is respected as a thought leader, or whose achievements have transformed their organization?

Now’s the time to shine a spotlight on all nonprofit marketing rockstars and help them achieve recognition for their incredible accomplishments. How? By nominating them for the AMA’s 2015 Nonprofit Marketer of the Year.

The 2014 winner, Kate Grant, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Fistula Foundation in San Jose, California. The organization transforms the lives of women with the childbirth injury obstetric fistula by funding curative surgeries.

Kate Grant 2014 AMA Nonprofit Marketer of the Year

Nominations are due by March 31, 2015. The winner will be invited to the AMA Nonprofit Marketing Conference in Washington, DC, in July. Learn more about this prestigious annual award and get the nomination form at

Registration for the AMA’s signature annual conference for nonprofit marketers is open! The conference zeros in on essentials to help nonprofits engage their audiences and meet mission-critical objectives. It attracts marketers from around the country in organizations, foundations, and associations both big and small.

This year’s conference will be held July 13-15 at the Fairmont Washington, DC in Georgetown. Register at today.