Our 2020 Card: Recognizing Struggle

Why should anything be easy? At the end of 2019, my team and I began the process of assembling our end-of-the-year card. My blog post about the card mentioned that it was comparatively uneventful in marketing and general pop culture. Ultimately, we refined an impactful message that encapsulated the year.

2020 presented no such challenge. Why? ‘Cuz COVID.

The year began with Presidential campaigning and the death of Kobe Bryant. It quickly devolved into one of the most challenging years of our lifetimes. We endured with you through health, economic, business, and personal struggles. To call it a roller coaster may not do it justice. So few peaks and plenty of deep valleys. Everyone on our team, our clients, and our families experienced loss. Loved ones were lost due to a deadly pandemic. Businesses made difficult decisions to lay off valued staff or close their doors. Friends lost friendships. Children lost classrooms and play time. But there have been many moments of hope and help as we rallied together. Our society has pushed through pain and will come out stronger for it. The pandemic may instigate and define much of what happened, but it is the lessons we learn that matter most.

The creation of our 2020 card would be unlike anything else because it was a year unlike any other.

Many of you know that the Arkside card is not a holiday card. My simple rule is that it should represent the year. That’s why, on some occasions, it is delivered in January. Whatever the year brings, our card is intended to be a thought-provoking reflection on the events that shaped our world. This year provided too much to work with. Our brainstorming sessions were long and emotional.

Children Represent the Best of 2020

The lessons of 2020 will never be mirrored more acutely than by our youngest generation. While we adults faced so much, it is our children that were most unfairly burdened. They shouldn’t be asked to rise up to such epic challenges. But they were. Parents lost jobs or health, friends couldn’t come over, school was locked away, and family became a virtual experience. Their lives were not stable.

The kids of 2020 showed us resilience. They sat at desks in their bedrooms, connected with friends online, made “thank you” signs for hospital nurses and restaurant servers, and hugged their parents during moments of grief. And they listened during conversations about racial justice, politics, and patriotism. No doubt it was painful, but they continue to shine and will have much to teach future generations.

So as the Arkside team discussed the good and bad of 2020, we came to realize that the future is bright. Far brighter than 2020 would lead us to believe.

How to Creatively Capture 2020

This card would be our most ambitious and important. You deserve that. No expense was spared. No creativity was blocked. We set out to make something special.

How could we reflect the endurance of children and the challenges of our society?

We selected Riverside City College as the site of our photo shoot and they generously supported us with space and staff to help. To represent the children who have survived such struggle, we found Chloe: a young Black girl who is waking up every day wanting to be a good kid who can learn and have fun, no matter what challenges she is given. She has watched Black men and women die on the news. She has watched her teachers via video. She has wanted to play but couldn’t touch her friends. She was also a wonderful talent that was always positive during the shoot!

Distance learning represents 2020

The scene seeks to depict many of the events she experienced including the death of Kobe Bryant, the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule, racial justice protests, and virtual learning. It also shows the iconic kid stuff of cute posters and doodles on a notepad that will keep her generation going. Maybe they keep older generations going as well.

There were other events of 2020 that were discussed but ultimately didn’t make the cut for the card: Jeffrey Epstein, the Tesla Cybertruck, murder hornets, George Floyd (separate from the protests and marches), massive wildfires, TikTok, “Karen”, Harry & Meghan, and BREXIT. Each was important but were left out of the final image for various reasons.

Looking Forward

2020 is behind us but its obstacles are still in our path. Our optimism and pride are also there. We have seen how communities come together. We know people are supporting each other and helping where they can. We see hope in our children as they continue to learn. Each of these positive examples will serve as reminders of that which we are capable. Challenges will always rise before us, but because of the kindness of the human spirit, we look forward to seeing each challenge overcome.

So let us be inspired by Chloe and all children of 2020 who will learn lessons not seen in in a century. If they can do it, so can we. And we wish each of you a very prosperous and healthy 2021!


The Darkness of Our 2019 Card

As we look back on the year 2019, the Arkside team came to realize how it was truly bizarre. Each year we gather in our conference room and review all the major happenings in marketing and pop culture. It is a time to reflect on tide-changing moments. Those memories serve as fuel for our annual end-of-the-year card. We select a theme for the card and then begin discussing design ideas. For the first time in six years we faced a lack of inspiration.

2019 was difficult to summarize. The marketing industry saw no important shifts. We did not have any major moments that genuinely shaped or redefined culture. Brexit was stalled, we were blessed with a lack of devastating natural disasters, no major elections, and a relative lack of large scandals in marketing.

Further complicating our discussion was a rule I instituted for 2019: no politics. The conversations of our nation and world have been defined in recent years by the acrimony, conflict, and chaos of politics. Massive upheaval and drastic turns have turned neighbor against neighbor. Despite the tremendously positive responses we have received in the past to our neutral inclusion of politics such as our “Clinton/Trump mashup” in 2016, or controversial topics such as Colin Kaepernick in 2018, it was important that we go beyond those targets.

Once we turned our attention to media, we started to find some hope. We began with a list of major movie and television productions. Avengers: Endgame broke the box office revenue record (currently $2.8 billion) this summer and did it in record time. More recently, the audience-acclaimed Joker became the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history and also did so in record time. This was due largely to the incredible performance of Joaquin Phoenix. Audiences had a chance to revisit Stephen King’s creepy version of Maine for IT Chapter 2 and see the end of Pennywise 30 years after first venturing to Derry. And of course, there was the much anticipated but massively derided finale to Game of Thrones. It became the most watched single program in HBO history with 19.3 million viewers.

Common Themes in 2019 Media

But what did these major moments have in common?

Two things. The first was that none of them were firsts. There are now 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe feature films. There have been at least a dozen Batman feature films with many including Joker. Pennywise was making his third feature film appearance. And Game of Thrones was wrapping up after eight seasons and seven books. Lest we forget the many other reboots and remakes this year.

The second commonality was evil. All of these successes focused on evil characters. Thanos is a genocidal narcissist in Avengers, the Joker is a homicidal genius, Pennywise is a deranged alien, and Daenerys is a murderous ruler. Does this speak to a cultural dark turn in today’s society? We’ll let you decide if the collective billions of dollars spent on these stories says so.

A Light in the 2019 Tunnel

In all, it took us three separate meetings to find this thread woven through the year. But not all hope was lost as we wrapped up our 2019 year in review. Many of us felt like something was missing. And then it hit us like an anvil in a cartoon.

The Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Many Americans expected that Chick-fil-A had the best chicken sandwich. Why should anyone try to dethrone the king? It turns out that people were willing to consider options and when they got a hold of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich creation, they were thrilled! There may have been media-hyped incidents of insanity but it could not be denied that America had embraced a chicken sandwich alternative. And this one could be found on Sundays.

It was simply a good product that met the unmet needs of an audience. It was promoted through effective channels. These are all the things we love as marketers.

Back at 2019 and Forward to 2020

The year 2019 taught us that while audiences may deride the lack of new stories from Hollywood, they are more than willing to ignore their criticism in the face of a good story. They still love the theater experience, especially as more theaters add better food, comfortable leather seats, and even seat-side service. Even things we didn’t need -like a new chicken sandwich- are warmly welcomed.

Each of our cards is a look back on the year. It isn’t about the holidays or winter season, but the year we experienced with you and the lessons we hope to take into the next one. Marketing shapes all of our lives as we experience products, services, and messages daily.

So we take these lessons into 2020. We hope to work with you to provide a better experience, better service, and tackling any preconceived bias about things already done. The people have asked for good stories and good experiences. Let’s provide them together and grow your business.

Looking forward,
Nathan Greenberg, CEO


Disney Gets Harsh Reminder that It Needs Advertising

There are those who believe that some businesses are so well known that they don’t have to advertise. The notion of “too big to fail” may only apply to banks, because The Walt Disney Company was reminded in calendar Q3 2019 that even the Mouse needs advertising to reach the public.

The Power of Disney Branding

Audiences are certainly familiar with names such as “Avengers: Endgame”, , Star Wars, The Disney Channel, ESPN, Disneyland, and “Toy Story 4”. That familiarity is the result of long-term effective marketing. Jingles, vivid images, emotional storytelling, positive customer experiences, and merchandise investments all make for the largest entertainment company on Earth. They generated US$20.25 billion in the second calendar quarter of 2019 alone.

It may seem natural that a behemoth could skimp on some marketing here and there. When you combine such beloved brands as Disneyland (the most famous theme park in the world) and Star Wars (arguably the most famous science fiction franchise in the world), advertising was considered optional – something that could be skipped because the public was already addicted. This is what Disney tried to do with the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyland. Tried – and failed.

Despite Disney’s colossal box office success in generating US$8 billion so far this year and the new Star Wars-themed areas in Disneyland and Disney World in Florida, the company’s fiscal Q3 (Apr-Jun 2019) earnings were far below analysts’ expectations and theme park attendance was off 3%.

“Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger had said he didn’t even need to advertise the new attraction, since anticipation among Star Wars fans was so high. But the company has since stepped up promotions of Galaxy’s Edge on billboards and social media.”

Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg

Marketing is Mandated

So what happened? How did two iconic brands miss the mark? How did the most expensive upgrade in Disneyland history not put feet in lines?

As CEO Iger said, they thought the people knew and cared enough. They failed to account for the negative effects that higher ticket costs, long lines, and boosted food prices would have on affordability. There was also a significant over-correction for enthusiasm. Iger believed interest would be so high that they needed to persuade potential visitors not to come. Competition also stepped up their attacks by spending more on marketing and offering discounted ticket prices.

Assumptions are risky and Disney’s blew up in their face. The public didn’t materialize as expected and posts abounded on social media of the nearly empty new Star Wars land. Not great for a billion-dollar product launch.

Every brand must advertise. The public not only deserves to know about your product, but they also must be comfortable choosing to use your product. This is where Disney failed. People were concerned about affordability and experience. Mickey and his friends didn’t effectively communicate with their audience because they believed they didn’t need to. Thankfully this has changed.

Digital and Traditional Media Save the Day

Disney is now advertising the new land in digital and traditional media. Even the marketing titan of Disney with their billions of dollars and millions of media tools understand the value of a media mix. It could be assumed that Disney would only need to go digital. Everyone is sharing experiences on social media, using the official Disneyland app, and searching for tickets online. But billboards, television, and radio remain prominent and trusted parts of daily life for hundreds of millions of Americans.

So don’t repeat Disney’s mistakes. If the Avengers, the Sith, Hakuna Matata, and Buzz Lightyear require multimedia marketing to get the job done, so do you.


Why the Nike Colin Kaepernick Ad Inspired our Card

If you are one of the hundreds of people receiving the Arkside end-of-the-year card, you may be wondering why -or even what- it is. I thought it best to take a moment to share the brainstorms and actions that went into our card. We take our end-of-the-year card very seriously. The discussions and designs include our entire team. How did we end up summarizing the whole of marketing in 2018 with inspiration from the now-famous Nike Colin Kaepernick ad?

First, it is important to recognize the controversy surrounding the ad, its talent, and our message. I will clear up a few things here:

  1. The Colin Kaepernick ad is arguably the most talked-about spot of the year. It prompted millions of difficult but important conversations – both in the marketing industry and the general public.
  2. Retail continues to experience seismic shifts and evolution impacting stores like Toys ‘R Us and brands like Nike.
  3. The message from Kaepernick and/or Nike are not our focus. Our card encapsulates the topics of the year. Our card does not cast votes, take sides, or play favorites.

The Controversy of Colin Kaepernick’s Actions

The image above is not the start of the controversy but it is the peak of discussion when it comes to marketing. The work comes from accomplished ad agency Wieden + Kennedy as part of Nike’s 30th anniversary celebration of their “Just Do It” tagline. (And congratulations to the W+K team on being named Adweek’s 2018 U.S. Agency of the Year.) The idea is fueled by Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem before NFL games. It cost him a considerable amount of money and, ultimately, his job as an NFL quarterback. He receives love and hate daily for his choices. He is accused of dishonoring the United States military and citizens, while simultaneously receiving praise for using his amplified voice for the cause of justice. His choice is nothing if not polarizing.

When Mr. Kaepernick first tweeted the image of the new Nike ad campaign, it instantly went viral. The news media grabbed on with both hands. Much like his protest, the controversy and conversation were multi-layered. Does Nike want to dishonor America too? Does Kaepernick’s hate now have corporate support? Why would Nike do something so incredibly politically incorrect?

Know Your Audience

Again, I’m not here to discuss the controversy in a vacuum. My aim as a marketer is to look at the scenario from a variety of angles and analyze the successes or failures of the marketing effort.

Nike knows its audience. The Colin Kaepernick ad campaign exists to connect with that audience in a moving, personal way. I have spoken to companies for years about the need to be “human”. Audiences want to work with real people who are relatable. Corporate thoughts and prayers, routine answers to unique problems, and hiding behind policies doesn’t sit well with today’s consumer.

Where other brands may be about status, Nike is about empowerment. Nike encourages customers to be the best runner or ball player or neighborhood walker in the history of whatever-the-customer-is-doing. They want you to think big. That requires big ideas and big risks. Kaepernick took a big risk.

Risks can bring rewards. Let’s go back to my second bullet point above. Every tier of retail is struggling to adapt, evolve, survive, and thrive. Nike is no exception. They’ve had good quarters and bad quarters. But they continue to survive -and in some cases thrive- by knowing their audience. It is this knowledge that informs their marketing decisions. They know their target market is not a conservative Caucasian baby boomer.  Their ardent fans tend to be young men of color. Their growth opportunities are in markets around the world while the US market stagnates. Alignment with a young man of color who speaks to a global audience about social justice is natural.

Colin and Connections

Nike was faced with a decision. Do they risk intensely negative PR from half the country -including the President of the United States and his son– to speak with a clear voice to their audience?


Nike was almost immediately hammered with boycotts, media attacks, and a drop in their stock price. But the protest and the stock drop were temporary. Soon, it was estimated that their sales were up 31%. The stock climbed to a 52-week high within days. (It is now back to where it was at the end of June 2018.) And CEO Mark Parker said the campaign generated “record engagement with the brand”. They took a risk and reaped the rewards.

Inspiring the Arkside 2018 Card

So after all of that controversy, how did Nike inspire our end-of-the-year card? Quite simply: it didn’t. At least not at first. As our team gathered and listed some major events of the year -the #MeToo movement, Russian interference, cannabis, bankruptcies, celebrities, etc.- a theme slowly became clear: massive change.

Legendary businesses like Remington, Sears, and Toys ‘R Us collapsed. Weight Watchers (now WW), Dunkin’ Donuts (now Dunkin’), and even Kanye West (temporarily Ye) shortened their names. So did Arkside Marketing (now Arkside).

We couldn’t ignore the Nike controversy, but we didn’t see how it fit. Ultimately, one member of the team realized that the brands under discussion did what they believed in and the results were a sacrifice of everything. They certainly didn’t intend bankruptcy, but their lack of evolution brought about the final change: end.

The design of our cover was difficult. As you may imagine, there are not many photos of Geoffrey the Giraffe in the same position as Colin Kaepernick in the Nike ad. Furthermore, at that angle in black and white, it was hard to distinguish Geoffrey from a horse or just a creepy, big-eyed stuffed animal. That forced some variations from the original Kaepernick ad but the quote, black background, and overall layout remained.

About Marketing, Always

Our 2018 card is like those that came before it: about the year we experienced alongside you and the world of marketing. It is not about taking sides. It is not about support or attack. It is a reminder of what has happened. It is about the message. Interpretation is personal.

I hope you had an amazing, educational, and successful 2018. I hope 2019 brings you new opportunities along with good health. Thank you for taking time to read this. If nothing else, I’m proud that we took a risk to make a card unlike any other you may see.

Looking forward,

Nathan Greenberg, CEO


The Power of Words in Advertising

The power of words is especially important in all human cultures and must be thoroughly understood for effective advertising. Regardless of which language is spoken by which people, we are in awe of the impact word choice can have.  “The pen is mightier than the sword,” according to English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. All of existence began with “the Word” according the Old Testament, which also begins with the Word. The Persian poet Rumi once said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” The First Amendment to the United States Constitution deals entirely with the protection and importance of self-expression. So what impact does the power of words have on your marketing efforts and the perception of your brand?

All Media Interpreted as Words

In today’s fast-paced, digitally-obsessed world it can be easy to forget the complexity and fundamental nature of language. Marketers are constantly hearing from social media platforms, designers, and ad agency executives that visual cues matter most. Video reigns supreme on social. People love to capture a moment in a photo for a succinct communication of its impact. But have you ever stopped to think about the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The importance is the relationship. The picture is defined in terms of words – not the other way around. No one ever said “one thousand words are worth a selfie”. Words are the foundation of our understanding. They are the foundation of our communication.

All advertising is a means of communication. Marketers use every media available to communicate a message, story, and emotion to their intended audience. People receive and process each attempt into words. A deaf person learns to communicate with visual words. A blind person learns to communicate with tactile words. It is our words that matter in advertising so that we can achieve the desired result.

Word Choice

As mentioned before, the power of marketing can and should elicit an emotion. The emotion could be the joy of saving money or the nostalgia of the past or anything in between. Every purchase decision ever made is rooted in an emotion. Now take a look at the following two words and the difference their meaning may have:


Both could be used as a call-to-action in an advertisement. “Discover the new Porsche 911 today” or “Learn about the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class today”. The difference lies is the imagery evoked by the words. “Discover” offers a connotation of adventure, exploration, and excitement. “Learn” delivers recollections of classrooms, tutors, and textbooks. Both words imply the acquisition of knowledge, but in very different ways.

One important tactic for marketing success is to understand that context matters. If the audience is comprised of engineers, programmers, or other professionals with a technical skill set, the word “learn” may be the best choice. “Discover” would serve a better purpose if the audience is young skydivers looking to purchase apparel. Knowing the psychology of an audience is vital to effective word choice.

Professor Gerald Zaltman is a Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, and author of Marketing Metaphoria. He has spent years teaching the customer mind to his students and using metaphors to better interact with those customers. There is an understanding among qualitative market researchers about how people process and associate images and experiences through the power of words. That is the goal of successful marketing.

The Power of Words to Affect Action and Recall

Metaphors have been famously used in advertising jingles for decades. Chevrolet was “Like a rock”. State Farm is “Like a good neighbor”. Such phrases conjure easily understood imagery. The power of words can actually produce a chemical reaction in the brain. If powerful words are used to trigger an emotional reaction they can prompt the release of dopamine. That dopamine enhances the brain’s ability to remember. A good call-to-action is a memorable one. The audience should be directed to embark on a single action after receiving the stimulation of the advertisement. Effective branding includes recall rate and top-of-mind awareness. For the audience to remember the advertiser and what they were asked to do, they need an emotional stimulant.

According to a 1959 study by J.A. Easterbrook, high levels of emotional arousal result in narrowing of attention and stronger commitment of that experience to memory. Today’s consumer is more easily distracted than ever. They require greater stimuli to capture their attention. The average American transient attention span is 8.5 seconds. A goldfish has 8.0 seconds. Their attention must be captured and then acted upon.

10 Words That Make an Impact

Now for the cheat sheet. Here are 10 words that you can use in your marketing campaigns.

  • Love – The only emotion arguably more powerful is fear. Love is a positive emotional connection.
  • Free – Stimulation of the desire to save. Most people want to make smart financial decisions (even if they don’t always do so).
  • Unique – Exclusivity makes a consumer feel special. The word can also be used to describe a product or service feature. Doing this separates the offer from competition.
  • Opportunity – The positive version of a risk. Opportunities are discovered. Risks are stumbled upon.
  • Guarantee – Providing a sense of security to the customer. Also denotes stability from the advertiser. Remember Kia’s 10-year warranty announcement?
  • Win – Depending on context, this may resonate more strongly with men than women. But both genders want to avoid losing!
  • Increase/more – People seek to optimize what they already have or do. The product or service that delivers such results gets the win.
  • Real – A statement of genuine materials, processes, or results. Break down the walls of artificial promises or ingredients.
  • Now – Reduces hesitation before action or confusion about timing.

The 10th word on this list is the most powerful of them all. It changes the intent and interpretation of the statement. Most importantly, it personalizes everything within it.


“You” forms a connection with an individual. It encourages them to place themselves along the path you want them to follow. In radio, it is a key component of the “theater of the mind”. Humanizing a product, service, or even a result can make a substantial difference in ad recall, action, and revenue. By including the word “you” in marketing, the audience immediately thinks of what the product or service does for and with them. A separation from the group and focus on the individual. This is a shining example of the power of words.

Language in Tomorrow’s Marketing

Technology and data are being combined to create the most personalized and customized marketing in history. Marketers have the ability to know their customers on a very personal level. As this capability advances, marketers must be ever more aware of the power of words and the language used in each media.

As you depart this blog, remember:
At Arkside, our winning knowledge is free because we love you and offer guaranteed access to unique wisdom now and in the future so you can increase your real ROI at every opportunity.


2 Rules of Marketing

As we celebrate our seven year anniversary in February 2017, we want everyone to understand a basic fact: You only need the 2 Rules of Marketing. The marketing industry can become extremely and unnecessarily complicated. Whether sifting through data, managing opinions, or exploring media options, the number of ways to get overwhelmed is staggering. I have seen this phenomenon as I’ve worked on all three sides of the industry – media, client, and agency. It is one of the primary reasons I created Arkside: to be a one-stop shop for an organization’s marketing needs. Achieving that goal required simplification of the typical approach to marketing. My years and depth of experience led me to two rules that can be applied to all situations resulting in simple decision making.

Marketing Rule #1: Marketing should be always treated as an investment.

Think about stock investments. As I remind guests at my lectures, no one throws darts at a Wall Street ticker symbol and decides to put their money there. Even 401(k) plans are managed by professionals, and the investors who invest in them rely on the knowledge of the fund managers. The bottom line is that a positive return is expected on the investment.

Why would you treat your marketing any differently?

A proper campaign should be a combination of great creative and data-based strategy, all intended to align with an organization’s goals. From business card layout to multi-network TV ads, you should expect a return on your investment. That Return on Investment (ROI) can be measured in a variety of ways but should always be aligned with your goals.

Types of Return on Investment

Don’t limit yourself to sales. Your investment can be used to achieve one or more goals.

  • Brand awareness
  • Media share of voice
  • Direct sales
  • Job applicants
  • Website traffic
  • App downloads
  • Event attendance
  • Newsletter subscriptions
  • Offer/coupon redemption
  • Social media following and/or engagement

The first step in a marketing campaign should be to establish its goals and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Only then can you measure success. That success is your Return on Investment. If, and by how much, you achieved your goal is your success…or failure.

Failure is An Education

Many years ago I adopted my attitude toward life: “I only have two kinds of days – good days and educational days.” Learning is the key to success. The only way I can have a bad day is if I didn’t learn something. Failure is an education. It will teach you how to not repeat the mistake. It can show you how to try something in a new way.

After you have done your research, identified your target audience(s), selected the proper media, and crafted a great message, what happens when you don’t meet your goals? That should teach you something. As our client Chris Surdak says, “reports should be an input”. The failure you experienced will certainly be disappointing but it should be used to do better the next time. I have heard marketers blame the media and, frankly, I feel that is lazy. Statements like, “I tried radio and it doesn’t work” or “we dumped a bunch of money into Google and got nothing out of it”. While I don’t doubt their results were bad, I am always skeptical that the tried-and-true media formats are to blame.

Identify the error(s) in your approach and don’t repeat them.

Marketing Rule #2: Never make it hard for someone to give you their money.

This is no less important than the first of the 2 rules. Let me address something up front: Your sales and marketing efforts are not separate. They are intrinsically linked for very good reasons. Take the following scenario as an example:

You have invested many, many hours on setting your goals, doing your market research, identifying your target market, building a beautiful campaign, and launching to the public. Leads start pouring in. Your sales team wasn’t given any of the ads to review, were not prepped on the offer, and are putting all of your carefully crafted leads into a broken sales funnel.

This is not the time for the marketing department to say, “we did our job!” Sales and marketing should be working together. Sales should be providing on-the-ground, real-time feedback to marketing about what questions customers are asking, how providing key information earlier in the process can avoid unnecessary delays, and other elements that improve the customer experience. Conversely, marketing should be training sales on where ads will appear (radio stations, Facebook, direct mail, etc.), how the offers are being presented, and what they can expect customers to know and/or ask about.

Great Customer Service is Great Marketing

There are so many potential customers out there willing to become customers. So many, in fact, you would never be able to serve them all. But for those who have given you a chance to earn their business, you better not blow it. They are ready to give you their money. Are you making it easy for them to do so? Long buying processes, repeat negotiations, complicated pricing or discounts, improperly trained staff, key information buried on your website, no credit card payment options, and many more are all things that make it hard for someone to give you their money.

So how do you make it easy?

  1. Exceed their expectations…in everything.
  2. Simplify the payment process. Can you take payments online? Can invoices be automated?
  3. Be convenient.

2 Rules for Everything

These two rules form the foundation for every decision we make, both internally and the advice we offer our valuable clients. Marketing is one of the few areas of business that impacts and is impacted by every department and person in an organization.

We changed our company slogan in 2016 from “The way things should be.” to “Educate. Succeed. Repeat.”. Our 2 Rules are now a cornerstone of delivering on our mission to teach marketers, help them succeed, and repeat that cycle. Whether you are a client of Arkside Marketing or not, we want you to make the most informed marketing decisions possible. Your advertising should result in success. Once both of those are done, we hope you repeat the process.

You will be seeing “2 Rules” in all of our marketing materials and we will be using the hashtag #2Rules throughout social media. We encourage you to use it on your social media as well for any questions or discussions you want to have about marketing. We look forward to meeting and helping you in the years to come.


Why Fox Should Not Have Apologized for X-Men Billboard

Twentieth Century Fox apologized last month for an “X-Men: Apocalypse billboard because it shows Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Mystique, being choked by Apocalypse (a male character). The outrage over the X-Men billboard began when actress Rose McGowan posted her disappointment on social media after seeing the billboard in Los Angeles. After the public flogging, Fox issued this statement:

In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.

The offended people and 20th Century Fox are both missing the point. When analyzed from a marketing perspective, both groups are making a mistake.

Is the X-Men Billboard Offensive?

Of course. Everything is offensive to someone. The legendary “Got Milk?” ad about the assassination of Alexander Hamilton may have offended people. Budweiser’s Clydesdale ads offend people against the use of animals in advertising. Does that mean they were bad or mean-spirited? No. Marketing is a combination of art and science. It should be understood that “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” (John Lydgate, adapted by President Abraham Lincoln). The important issue is whether or not the offense or the size of the offended party merits attention in your marketing.

In this case, the size of the offended group and their voice were extremely small until Rose McGowan used social media. After that, the size of the offended group remained small but they had a larger megaphone to broadcast their grievance. They became a very vocal minority. It can be said with some certainly that most people understood that the latest installment in the X-Men movie franchise had violence in it. Why was this violence so offensive?

Offensive in Advertising But Not on Screen

It is worth noting that the image depicted on the billboard is taken from the movie itself. It is an actual scene in which Apocalypse battles Mystique. But only the advertising was vilified. Why is the on-screen “violence against women” not decried yet the advertising depicting the violence is maligned? According to Ms. McGowan and followers of her cause, they didn’t feel it was right to have the image “forced” upon them (especially their children).

Some facts need to be added for the sake of marketing analysis and public perception:

  1. Both of these characters are fictional.
  2. Mystique (the female character) is the hero.
  3. Mystique (the female character) is the leader of the protagonists.
  4. Stan Lee, like many comic storytellers, created their characters for the empowerment of the oppressed such as women, homosexuals, and racial minorities.

It seems counterproductive to criticize a billboard for violence against women when that movie has a strong, female lead character who defeats all the men that stand against her.

Furthermore, the same level of outrage was lacking from Ms. McGowan and her fans when Mystique was killing military personnel in previous films or when she was beating up men at all. A double-standard in objecting to violence seems inappropriate.

X-Men Billboard Apology Mistake

Fox’s mistake came not in the billboard, but in their apology for the X-Men billboard and removing it from the campaign. As marketers, we fully appreciate the pressure on major corporations to walk many fine lines to please customers. In this case, we would not have advised Fox to apologize or remove the billboards. It is our opinion that they should have stood behind their campaign, the strong female lead character, and the film’s PG-13 rating which deems it appropriate for most of the world’s population to watch.

For parents, the billboard is an opportunity to have a positive discussion with their kids. They can explain Mystique, her strength, her redemption, he leadership, and her triumph over evil. Tell them Apocalypse is an evil character who thinks it is okay to use power over people instead of helping them.

The X-Men, like the Fantastic Four, and many other comic book characters are about good defeating evil, equality among all, and justice reigning supreme.

Fox could have told that story instead of apologizing for it.


10 Worst Reasons to Advertise

Over the years we have heard some strange reasons/excuses for advertising. The initiative is usually based in good intentions and then gets lost somewhere along the way of “where should we advertise”.

Below are the top 10 (or bottom 10) worst reasons to choose (or not choose) a particular advertising strategy:

10 worst reasons to advertise
10. “The competition did it and they’re doing great.” – Did they do great because of the ad you saw? Is there another campaign you’re not aware of? The devil is in the details and you don’t know enough about your competition’s operations to attribute perceived success to one particular campaign. And finally, maybe they’re not doing as well as you think. Could be a house of cards.

9. “It’s my favorite station.” – Don’t assume you represent your target market. It can be hard for owners to view their companies objectively. Your favorite radio or TV station, or favorite celebrity, may not resonate well with your audience.

8. “It’s on my way to work.” – Which is more important: you seeing it or your potential customers seeing it? Focus on their way to work before your own.

7. “Those colors are really popular right now.” – That doesn’t mean they work with your brand, or speak to your audience, or match your message. Choose function over form. Stay true to your own style so your customers are not confused.

6. “I’ve never clicked/called/responded to one of those before.” – You haven’t but others probably have. You may not be a skydiver, but other people jump out of planes all the time. We hear this often about Google ads. Literally millions of their ads get clicked every day and generate sales. That’s why they did more than $60 BILLION in advertising sales last year. Someone clicked.

5. “It’s funny.” – If you’re goal is to be a stand-up comedian, than this is a good reason. If your goal is to sell more of your products or services, this may be a terrible reason. If your brand isn’t funny, don’t try to make people laugh with your marketing. Humor can be a great element if it fits the overall goal.

4. “I get a free trip.” – True, but unemployment is a permanent vacation. That’s what you’ll get if you waste money on ineffective advertising. Trip or no trip, invest in marketing that will achieve a measurable goal.

3. “It worked when I did it years ago.” – Marketing changes. Daily. Most importantly – the lives of your customers are changing. They have more media options, are spending more frugally, and are more informed (and empowered) than ever. Newspapers are no longer focusing on print. Facebook has more targeting capability now than they did a month ago. Billboards don’t need to be printed. Don’t rely on old success as a barometer for the future.

2. “Everyone will see it.” – And then what? Being seen doesn’t sell more. If you’re the commercial everyone saw and hated or the commercial everyone saw and forgot, being seen didn’t help. Prioritize results above fame.

1.  “It’s cheaper.” – In most cases, you get what you pay for.


The Best Salesperson

Are you the best salesperson?

All of our career openings (jobs fill time – careers fill passions) are posted on our ad agency jobs page. So why are we writing a blog post about our current sales openings? Simple. One of our designers got it in her head to make an ad for them. Weird, right? An ad agency making creative advertising. Who would have thought?

So if you are good enough to answer “Yes” to the questions below, we want to talk to you. We’re looking for those people that care about customer service, want to solve marketing challenges, and enjoy a creative environment. Oh – the pay is good and benefits come with it. Learn more about the positions and contact us today.

Can you sell salt to a snail?


Can you sell ice to a polar bear?


Can you sell milk to a cow?

Client: Arkside Marketing, Inc.
Campaign: “The Best Salesperson”
Media: Web
Designer: Amanda Johnson


Sell the Car Experience Instead of the Car

People don’t love buying cars.
People love driving cars.

Going fast. Showing friends and family. Personalizing with accessories. Even the new car smell. You can buy it in sprays, little mirror trees, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. No one feels nostalgic for the “low” payment or the warranty. They love the experience that is uniquely part of owning a vehicle. So why are dealerships continuously and relentlessly focused on everything but ownership?

People Hate Buying A Car

“The dealership experience is as old as the car industry, roughly 100 years old. While cars have changed, the retail experience is much the same as it was 100 years ago.”
–Dr. Ian Robertson, Head of Sales & Distribution at BMW

This is what so many dealerships resist to acknowledge and are even slower to correct. They remain focused on their experience (lot layout, funneling an up, trade evaluation, price negotiation, finance, etc.) instead of the experience of their customers. Most other industries have already recognized the necessity of building an experience for the customer instead of forcing customers into an experience.

Consider these facts from a 2014 Edmunds survey:

  • 1 in 5 people said they would rather give up sex for a month than haggle for a new car
  • 44% would give up Facebook
  • 1 in 3 people would rather do taxes

That should be alarming to the automotive industry. One-third of your customers would rather deal with the IRS than you. Employees are personified as the icons of lying, cheating, and stealing. “He’s as bad as a used car salesman.”

When we meet with dealership clients, most say they want to stand out from their competition. To do that at most stores, we encourage them to look internally first. At Arkside Marketing, we have two rules we teach every client. The second one is, “never make it difficult for someone to give you their money”.

The Better Dealership Car Buying Experience

The solution is usually easy to identify. Any area where the customer is not the primary focus could be an area for improvement. Getting a customer excited is surprisingly easy for a great dealership. Expectations are already so low that exceeding them can be achieved with one or two simple actions. A dozen would blow them away!

Here are some simple changes you can make to improve a customer’s first five minutes at your dealership:

  1. Ample customer parking – Do they have to drive through rows of cars for four spots?
  2. Breathing room – Customers arrive to look at your cars, not your salespeople. Give them a 1-2 minutes to get out of the car and look around. Then send a helpful salesperson to answer questions. (If you think we’re wrong about this, read some online reviews and count how many “salesman hounded me as soon as I opened my door” comments you see.)
  3. Offer snacks and beverages – Car buying isn’t a 30 minute process. They will be there a while. Promptly offer snacks, drinks, and let them know about your play area for their kids.

Build everything around the experience of owning a car – not buying one. Your dealership is a method of delivery for a product they can buy at your competitor. You can be a dealer of a great experience. By doing so, you will generate more word-of-mouth referrals, more positive conversations and testimonials online (Facebook, Yelp, etc.) and more service drive retention. Then take those incredible experiences and make them part of your marketing. Tell the world about your success.

Don’t sell a car – offer a great car experience.

If you would like to know more about how to integrate your sales and marketing strategies to deliver a great car experience for your customers (and cost-efficiently for you, contact us today. Our first consultation and needs analysis is completely free.