REI stays true to brand despite Black Friday temptation

Tim Leon
President/Brand Strategist

REI stays true to brand despite Black Friday temptation

Last week, outdoor and camping retailer REI announced it would be closed for Black Friday, one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year. This gutsy move will pay off in spades over the long-term, increasing both customer and employee loyalty. CEO Jerry Stritzke has decided to buck the traditional retail mentality of being open on the biggest shopping day of the year and put the brand and his employees first.

If you go to the REI website, you’ll see a countdown page to Black Friday and an open letter from REI CEO Jerry Stritzke which is simple and to the point. Here it is:

“You read that correctly. On November 27, we’ll be closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside. Here’s why we’re doing it. For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us. “We’re closing on Black Friday and going outside. Since 1938 we’ve been bringing you great gear and services to get you out there too. That’s our story.”

This is a brand that is not tempted by short-term gain. REI is more focused on long-term growth and, most importantly, staying true to the brand promise of embracing the outdoors and supplying outdoor enthusiast with the advice and gear they require to enjoy their passion. My guess is the national PR attention this has and will garner over the coming weeks will be more powerful in engraining the REI brand into our culture and life than any amount of paid advertising. And to boot, REI is making Black Friday a paid holiday for its employees.

Bravo to REI for being fearless and staying true to their brand. I plan to partake in the outdoors as well on Black Friday…and I plan to buy a few Christmas gifts from your store this holiday season.

If you’re a brand focused on thinking about the big-picture and about long-term success, let us know. We love hearing stories like this.

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How to fight Ad Blockers? More Quality Content and Native Advertising

Mary Sawyer
Vice President of Public Relations

How to fight Ad Blockers? More Quality Content and Native Advertising

While in the past, some companies and publishers have scoffed about advertorials, or sponsored content that is designed to look like editorial, now there is a renewed interest in native advertising. Ad blockers are changing the entire equation of how to reach consumers.

According to a report commissioned by Adobe and conducted by PageFair, the number of consumers using ad blockers in the U.S. increased 48 percent during the last year. There are 198 million active adblock users around the world.

With Apple announcing that they are allowing ad-blocking apps, digital advertising is on the verge of being turned upside down. Consumers want to avoid advertising as they listen to music, stream videos or check their mobile devices. They’ll download apps and pay extra for services that block ads.

PR and social media practitioners have been counseling companies that “content needs to be a priority” for all marketing efforts. Now, ad blockers are driving home the necessity of producing entertaining or educational subject matter that provides a positive end user experience.

With native advertising, the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience. The intention is to invite the consumer to be engaged.

Native advertising is everywhere online, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, YouTube and Buzzfeed. Good native advertising, like good public relations, should be informative and relevant to the reader.

A consumer might be more than happen to read a story sponsored by a consumer packaged good company if she can obtain an easy dessert recipe. Likewise, a pet owner looking for grooming tips might gladly watch sponsored instructional videos. Whether you have a B2B or B2C company, you will need to be promoting your product or service in a new way to effectively utilize native advertising.

For years, online marketers watched as banner ad clicks plummeted and then disappeared. Marketers followed up with a variety of other methods to squeeze their message onto a given page, but consumers became fed up with cluttered websites, obtrusive videos and interference to what they want to see.

It’s time for marketers to realize that if they want to get their brand message through to these folks, native advertising presents great opportunities. It is a combination of PR and advertising that can be tremendously leverage through social media. Content that is engaging, enlightening and/or entertaining can be shared with ease, and provide the marketer with huge audiences.

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Display Advertising on the Decline? Well, yes and no.

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Display Advertising on the Decline? Well, yes and no.

As marketers, we have the occasional tendency to overreact. Whether it’s a particular news story, an emerging trend or a new platform to try, we want to immediately immerse ourselves in the new info. It’s in our curious nature.

In the excitement, though, that “next big thing” can overshadow what’s currently working. So instead of taking a previous approach and adapting it for the current landscape, we can end up opting for completely new solutions. And with so many digital marketing avenues to choose from, it’s definitely easy to feel overwhelmed.

So when a number of people make the claim that display advertising is dead, or at the very least, is sharply losing its effectiveness, it’s bound to grab some attention:

“The banner ad is now (two decades old). It has become a symbol of all that’s wrong with online advertising. It is more often than not devoid of creativity; it stands out as an intruder on webpages; and it is mostly ignored by readers.”

While it’s true that banner ads from the 90s probably wouldn’t be all that effective if they ran today, it doesn’t mean that display isn’t still incredibly effective:

“Even with these predictions of doom and gloom from some marketers the investment in display advertising continues to grow. Ad blocking software isn’t slowing that down. One of the reasons why is simple — targeting, retargeting, machine learning, and programmatic approaches to serving up ad units is creating a much more efficient system. This helps increase brands’ return on investment.”

At the same time, a number of marketers are diversifying their digital advertising with a combination of site-direct buys; programmatic opportunities, social media distribution as well as a strong push from sponsored content and native advertising.

This is even before considering different types of mediums, including images, video, infographics and other digital properties and how they plan to continue adapting to reach a wider, yet more targeted audience.

If you’re trying to figure out the best digital marketing mix for your brand, we’d be happy to chat and share what we know. Just drop us a line anytime.

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Trending from G/L: Building a soccer brand from scratch with LAFC

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Trending from G/L: Building a soccer brand from scratch with LAFC

Soccer is continuing to grow at a rapid pace in the United States. More than 25 million viewers saw the United States defeat Japan in the Women’s World Cup this past summer. There are more than four million registered players at all ages throughout the country. And Major League Soccer, the country’s biggest professional league, has expanded from 10 teams in 2004 to 20 this season.

That expansion will continue with Atlanta joining the league in 2017 and a new Los Angeles club joining the mix in 2018. Franchises in Miami and Minneapolis are also on the horizon. MLS Commissioner Don Garber even visited St. Louis earlier this year, although no expansion into the Gateway City is imminent.

Los Angeles is an interesting case, which is back in the spotlight this week. The new team officially announced that their name will be Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), which was the placeholder name dating back to the team’s initial announcement last year. While many MLS clubs have American-style names such as the Chicago Fire, the Portland Timbers and the Los Angeles Galaxy, many of the expansion sides have opted for the more traditional soccer naming and branding, including Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC and New York City FC.

Interestingly enough, while the Galaxy was one of the ten founding MLS clubs when the league began in 1996, this is the first season LA has been back to one team. A previous LA-based team, Chivas USA, was formed in 2005 and ceased operations last year, paving the way for LAFC. Chivas USA, which was owned for a time by Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico, failed primarily because it failed to attract a significant Hispanic audience, which was the club’s key target.

Now LAFC, despite being just under three years away from their first game, is hitting the ground running early on their marketing efforts.

Their key demographic: Millennials.

Already, the club is stating their intentions to distinguish the team from what’s already out there, according to Rich Orosco, the club’s head of marketing for culture and community:

“They don’t want to be talked at,” Orosco says of millennials who, studies show, are 16% more interested in soccer than any other U.S. demographic. “So from Day 1 that’s all we’re doing. We’re opening up a dialogue with this exact fan base: ‘Let’s talk about this.’

These insights are certainly important. And having a defined target audience is a critical part of any brand launch. However, there has already been some blowback on the organization for their approach. One Twitter feed is aimed directly at the club’s attempts to win over young fans.

The seed of this discontent probably comes from how terms like millennials (or hipsters for that matter) can be used to produce widespread misconceptions. Our Mary Sawyer looked closely at this disconnect in a post last month:

And as Mary says in that post:

“The key is to know your facts but to tailor your approach – no matter the age group – to accurately reflect opinions and behaviors to make your marketing relevant and meaningful.”

Whether LAFC will be a hit with the Angelino youths remains to be seen. Regardless, whether you’re discussing a soccer brand, a consumer product or a business-to-business message, having a targeted approach based on research and data is the best way to plan for success.

What are your thoughts on LAFC’s approach to building a soccer brand? Think they’re doing it the right way or are they casting too broad of a net? Let us know your thoughts!

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One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work For Millennials – Or Any Segment

Mary Sawyer
Vice President of Public Relations

One Size Fits All Doesn’t Work For Millennials – Or Any Segment

Lest anyone wonder why millennials are the focus of countless news articles: This is the year that Millennials — defined as people ages 18-34 — will outnumber the Baby Boomers in this country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

And, Millennials, who make up a quarter of the U.S. population, have surpassed Gen Xers (those with birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s) to become the largest share of the American workforce.

No wonder why every industry wants to market to Millennials.

Not a day goes by when someone is not issuing an opinion about a presumptive trend related to Millennial connectivity and digital experiences, and what approach to take to get the attention of Millennials.

But, some experts are issuing cautions about making assumptions about Millennial influencers and practices.

According to a story last week in AdAge, what you’ve been told about Millennials is (mostly) wrong. The article about a myth-busting Carat survey called “The Millennial Disconnect” found Millennials are not all hyper-connected optimistic digital extroverts.

The survey warns that brands shouldn’t just accept that that high digital numbers mean that Millennials are all “users” in the same way. Higher users can skew the data, and result in misunderstanding the population. Marketers must be dig deep into understanding insights of the demographic for a better marketing strategy.

The Millennial generation is the most diverse generation in history. There are more African Americans, Latinos, Asians and racially mixed Millennials than in GenX and the Baby Boomer groups combined. They are accustomed to rapidly changing technologies and life choices. They are going to have different perspectives and reactions to marketing approaches. What appeals to one Millennial may be completely out of touch with another’s interests.

This certainly isn’t different from what is required of successfully working with other demographic groups. No age group should be treated in absolutes. You have to understand the “why” and “how” of the audience. Don’t make assumptions.

The key is to know your facts but to tailor your approach – no matter the age group – to accurately reflect opinions and behaviors to make your marketing relevant and meaningful.

If you are looking for a way to give your target audience a personality to get better marketing results, check out our Persona White Paper. Click on this link to download it. Or just fill out this form and we will send it to you.

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Trending from G/L: The Future of YouTube Advertising

Luke Smith
Senior Account Executive

Trending from G/L: The Future of YouTube Advertising

We have all seen the pre-video commercials on Google’s YouTube that play before your chosen content starts up. And we all probably wait for the very moment that we can click the “Skip Ad” button . While YouTube has been around for over 10 years, commercials have only really been prevalent for 5 years or so.

With anything relatively new, there is a learning curve and marketers are beginning to understand that this format should not be treated like a normal TV spot. It requires a different thought process.

“Storytelling has changed. With television, there is a beginning, middle and end. A digital campaign- there is no real end. Once you put it out there, what it becomes is another part of the idea…” stated David Droga, Creative Chairman of Droga5.

Emily Anderson, Creative Director at Ogilvy added, “The number one thing would be, who do you want to watch it? And then start there and work backwards.”

As the storytelling aspect of YouTube advertising is refined, it should be noted that the formats are ever evolving and marketers will need to adapt as new technologies emerge.

New Advertising Technology Coming to YouTube

Standard YouTube commercials may quickly become a thing of the past as new formats are developed. Jaunt is working with Bud Light to introduce experiential, 360-degree video ads to YouTube.

As Virtual Reality becomes mainstream, Google’s YouTube is at the front of the pack of early adopters. The new technology allows viewers to not only view the video but also interact and experience it by enabling them to drag and view the entire scene in a 360-degree radius.

YouTube Ads product manager JR Futrell states that the new 360-degree format is “a truly mobile-first video ad product,” – something worth noting considering half of YouTube’s views come directly from smartphones and tablets.

Major consumer brands are jumping on-board and gradually perfecting the art of storytelling through these new, unique formats. Nike, A-B InBev and Coca-Cola are examples of some of the brands leading the charge.

But what’s next? As VR headsets become more prevalent, brands, and content providers alike, will be able to provide even more immersive and interactive experiences. Google already has a cardboard VR headset that you can place your phone in to get the full experience and it costs next to nothing to obtain one.

As VR hardware like Oculus Rift becomes more readily available (and cheaper), the possibilities for delivering VR content are truly endless.

If you’re interested in learning more about the newest advertising technologies and how they can help your brand, shoot us a message.

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Trending from G/L: Are Craft Sodas about to pop?

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Trending from G/L: Are Craft Sodas about to pop?

Because the world needs more snobs, Pepsi is planning to launch a line of craft sodas called “Stubborn Soda”—but wait there’s more—it will be dispensed from pub-reminiscent taps. Flavors include black cherry with tarragon, classic root beer, lemon berry acai, pineapple cream, agave vanilla cream, and orange hibiscus, which I’m pretty sure is a flower.

Craft Soda

Now, this is an obvious nod to the craft beer market, so let’s head down that road. Craft beer is sort of an arbitrary term, but generally speaking, it’s beer that’s been produced by a microbrewery in less than corporate-sized quantities. Microbreweries generally pride themselves on their ability to concoct personalized takes on established brew styles—like a pale ale or a stout.

So what makes craft sodas…craft?

I find it hard to believe that Pepsi won’t mass-produce these suckers, so the idea of a micro-soda-manufacturer is out of the question. Maybe quality? The Stubborn brand will boast “fair trade certified cane sugar and natural flavors,” so maybe it truly is a step up from the high fructose corn syrupy stuff we’ve been guzzling the past few decades. That being said, Pepsi’s throwback line of cans featured cane sugar, so Stubborn isn’t quite avant-garde enough to be dubbed an innovation in the soft drink industry.

It’s safe to assume Pepsi’s become self-aware of its flagship product’s decline in popularity—and it’s not just Pepsi—I’m talking soda in general. For a while, large soda manufacturers had the all-too-handy diet soda crutch to lean on in times of need. No longer. Diet beverage sales are down more than 20 percent since their peak in 2009 because of health concerns with the zero-calorie beverage’s sketchy chemical makeup.

Instead of launching a ritzier line of soft drinks like Pepsi, Coca-Cola is funding the Global Energy Balance Network—an organization that argues poor diet isn’t to be blamed for rampant obesity. Instead, they advocate the theory that inactivity alone is the main culprit of obesity in America. Really, Coke?

Coca-Cola’s approach may seem massively different than Pepsi’s, but at the end of the day, the soda giants are attempting to broadcast the same message: Soda is still a sensible consumable.

Okay, the soda giants are scrambling, so what? My main point is this:

Just as Pepsi and Coke are doing, mature brands need to make moves. Remaining stagnant and weathering the steady decline of a product in hopes of a chance revival at a later date isn’t sufficient for any sized company let alone the likes of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Follow the lead of the big guys—they know what they’re doing. Except green-lighting that flower-flavored soda, maybe.

G/L deals with everything from new product launches to mature brand extensions. If you’re dealing with either or anything in between, give us a call. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you’ve got.

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7 Examples of Horrible Marketing Advice

Luke Smith
Senior Account Executive

7 Examples of Horrible Marketing Advice

As marketers, we all want to be innovators and bring the next big idea to our clients to move the needle for their brand(s). But sometimes not all ideas are good ideas. Some marketing ideas do not align with a brand’s creative and messaging strategy, other ideas might not resonate with an audience.

We’ve compiled a list of some less-than-sound (i.e. horrible marketing advice) ideas out there to provide examples of what not to do when it comes to planning your marketing efforts.

1) If you’re trying to build awareness, advertise everywhere you can.

If you’re trying to build buzz or awareness for your new brand/product, it’s important to plan, strategize and understand your audience first. Focus on who will care about your brand and where you can reach them, not how quickly you can reach anyone and everyone. A key step to marketing success is making sure that your messages are targeted and efficient.

2) You need to be on this social media platform.

The marketing landscape has changed significantly over the past 10 years, but just because there is a new, trendy social media platform, does not mean that you need to be there. Granted, you don’t always need to be on the same social channels as your customers (consider where you might find new customers and opportunities), but if you are marketing a product that appeals to a 70+ crowd, chances are you don’t need to be on Instagram or Snapchat. Focus on participating on social channels that will be an extension of your brand and help your business flourish.

3) If you buy an email list you’ll have better email performance.

Buying an email list will definitely grow your distribution channel for direct digital marketing, but it doesn’t mean that the recipients will find your content relevant. If you choose to purchase an email lists, it should be one that is appropriate for your business. Even better, activate and focus on direct outreach through current customers or interested parties that sign up for your mailings on their own. Organic growth is ideal- this means that they want to hear from you.

4) Long lead forms are always worse than short forms.

Long online lead forms can be tedious and time-consuming. That’s a good thing. If your goal is to generate new customers, would you rather have a solid lead or a lead that might not truly be interested in your offerings? You shouldn’t necessarily make the lead jump through too many hoops to get more information, but weeding out the unqualified leads with some detailed questions will produce concrete leads that are truly engaged in what you have to offer.

5) Asking for likes, retweets or shares makes your brand look desperate.

Trying to get the word out? Asking for people to share and repost your content does not have to translate as desperation. In fact, some of the greatest online campaigns are successful due to concise and clear calls-to-action. If that CTA is having others share your content- then so be it! Tying a prize or some sort of incentive to sharing will produce more results and success. You will get more shares if you just ask.

6) You don’t need a responsive website design.

Mobile and tablet internet use have now surpassed internet use on a standard laptop or home computer. If you have a CBD company for example, and you’re not prepared to integrate a responsive design with the help of a CBD Website Design Company, it can lead to frustrated visitors and a bad user experience. This will also reflect poorly on your brand. You wouldn’t want to purchase products from a brand that has a terrible website design, would you? When you are building or redesigning your website, responsive design should be a priority. If you do not have enough resources or manpower to accomplish this task, you can think of outsourcing this work to a reputed digital marketing firm like Hooked Marketing. They can help in delivering a high-quality professional website design for your business.

7) More personalization will garner a better response.

Sometimes too much personalization can come off as a bit intrusive. It’s important to know the customers, recipients and targets for your outreach efforts, but focusing on finding the right balance of friendliness and personalization (within reason) and not coming off too stalker-ish will be key. Make sure not to include everything you know about your customer.

If you would like some GOOD marketing advice instead of horrible marketing advice, please reach out to us. We’re here to help your brand reach it’s potential and provide advice on utilizing the right marketing tools to guide you to success.

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Find Your Why: Make It Mean Something

Tim Leon
President/Brand Strategist

Find Your Why: Make It Mean Something

Those four words are really the credo of Geile/Leon. They didn’t exist until about four years ago. Our management and new business team had been discussing the Simon Sinek book Start With Why. We wanted to incorporate the G/L why into our culture and our brand offering. We wanted to discover the Why for ourselves, and develop a process for helping clients discover their “why”.

Make It Mean Something

As we discovered firsthand, finding your “why” requires some real introspection and looking hard at yourself in the mirror. The objective of our meetings were to fill out the golden circle that Sinek refers to in his book. And as we found out, it didn’t take us long to nail down the first two questions posed.

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it differently?

But the most enlightening and satisfying part of the process was also the most challenging and it took some real brainpower. It was when we discovered and articulated the G/L Why. It took much discussion and we asked ourselves two questions.

  • Why do we exist?
  • Why do we come to work everyday?

Pretty thought-provoking questions, but they helped us dig deep to get to that important answer to why G/L does what it does. I guess I should share it with you.


G/L believes that every organization has a deeper purpose and it’s the agency’s role to help those clients discover it. By identifying, defining, and exposing that deeper sense of purpose, organizations can attract buyers that believe what they believe.

Once the organization’s purpose has been identified, G/L can create work that changes behaviors and builds relationships. Building relationships between brand and consumer that truly mean something, and cause buyers to make decisions that will benefit them, and ultimately, our clients.

Whatever we do, whatever we say, whatever media vehicle we choose, we make it mean something. The words, pictures, music, motion, emotion and opportunities we use to reach people need to mean something to them…something that will in some way benefit them…and enable them to do something, know something, be something, have something better than what they have now.

These six sentences drive everything we do here at Geile/Leon. They impact who we hire, clients we target, processes we put in place, our culture, our work, our decision –making, and our role in the community. It’s been inspiring and empowering in how we position ourselves. When I walk into a new business meeting or someone asks me about Geile Leon, I do what Simon Sinek’s book says and I start with why. You should try it and G/L can help you get started. When you come to our office, you’ll know exactly why you did.

Make It Mean Something

If you are looking for a more emotional way to communicate with your target audience and employees, contact us using the form below.


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Find Your Why: Why Do You Do What You Do?

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Find Your Why: Why Do You Do What You Do?

What makes a company successful?

That is a question that start-ups and longstanding businesses alike find themselves asking when times get tough.

This complex question has a very simple answer. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

In 2009, Simon Sinek released “Start With Why,” a book outlining exactly what makes companies who are concrete in their purpose so prosperous.

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”

These questions are not something that many companies have truly thought about. There are so many different brands fighting for the top spot in the same industry; to stand out seems nearly impossible. It takes an organization that has a clear vision for what they are trying to achieve, and that vision needs to be valued from the company president all the way to the office intern.

Once an organization has established their core belief – one that defines everything that they are doing everyday – it is time to share the message. Consumers are going to choose the brand that they can believe in. When they can relate to and understand a company’s “why,” there is a certain level of trust established – in quality and service. The customer is going to remember that brand and become loyal to it.

When you find your why, success is simple: believe in your business and others will do the same.

Are you looking to inspire people to believe in what you are doing, but can’t quite define your “why”? We’re always here to help out.


Plus, if you fill out the form below, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

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