Marko Knezic

Did You Just Purchase a Product or Buy Into an Idea?

A few days ago I was chatting with a few industry friends about whether the role of marketers was to “tell stories” or to “sell stuff.” I’ll spare you the drawn-out details of this philosophical chess match, mainly because a point-for-point retelling would have the same effect as chugging a large glass of warm milk. But I will discuss the main points, because given the seeming ubiquity of social media and the continued success of content marketing, there is a right answer to this question.

Marketers who believe that the term “storyteller”  fundamentally describes their job have an advantage over those who more closely self-identify with terms like “salesperson.”

Storytellers understand people’s motivations and are able to make emotional connections that are both influential and long-lasting. Salespeople fill an immediate need, provide product information and then are likely forgotten – and we live in a world where success and longevity rule together, hand-in-hand.

(*Note: The point that the best salespeople actually sell relationships – not products – was brought to my attention. Exactly, and I would argue that those relationships were forged by emotional bonding via storytelling, not regurgitating product information.)

Evidence of people’s love for for a good narrative and its effect on their spending decisions can be seen every day. Consider Coca-Cola. Coke is a fixture at or near the top of Forbes list of the world’s most valuable brands, year in, year-out. They didn’t achieve this by simply creating advertisements featuring the product. They arrived and continue to reign over the top spots by emotionally resonating with multiple facets of people’s lives – and using the multiple channels that power our 24/7 connectivity –  via content marketing like

The point is that if you can use intriguing stories (content marketing) to sell people on an idea – why they should invest in your brand – you will have created a more personal, loyalty-generating bond than if you’re simply pushing a product because it’s your job to “sell stuff.”

So, now you’re saying, Philosophy is great but is there any factual evidence to put a definitive end this chess match? I’m glad you asked. A recent Ad Age survey revealed that 71 percent of marketers will increase their content marketing budgets in 2014.



Lydia Eichner

240 Films from 44 Countries in 15 Days: Milwaukee Film Festival 2013

Here at Laughlin Constable, our passion for innovative ideas and outstanding creative extends far beyond our doors. As sponsors and champions of the Milwaukee Film Festival, we are proud to support one of the most important cultural events in Milwaukee – no other occasion celebrates creativity, imagination, and art with such enthusiasm. Alongside other Milwaukee advertising agencies like Bader Rutter and BVK, specifically Sara Meaney, Development Co-Chair for the Milwaukee Film Festival, we’ll be jumping in with both feet and exploring the diverse range of experiences this year’s festivities have to offer.

Opening Night Party + Red Carpet Experience: The festival kicks off on Thursday, September 26th with Break Up Man (Schlussmacher), a comedy blockbuster named best German film of the year. Catch the film at the Oriental Theatre, and then head to Discovery World to get down with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and local DJs. Also enjoy drinks, food, and lots of prizes. Not swanky enough for your taste? LC is also sponsoring the exclusive Red Carpet Experience, featuring star treatment, VIP access to a private area of the museum, an open bar, and silent auction benefitting Milwaukee Film.

Cream City Cinema: This showcase of local filmmakers’ work culminates in a yearlong Filmmaker-In-Residence prize awarded to the jury winner. Say you saw them before they blew up – our city’s concentration of filmmaking talent is going places.

Milwaukee Music + Music Documentaries: To contribute to an even lusher multi-sensory experience, musical documentaries are now their own film category – Sound Vision. Plus, the festival’s official live music series, Soundtrack at The Hotel Foster, features live local music every night of the festival – free with a festival pass or ticket stub from the night’s screenings.

For a full list of program categories, click here >>

For a complete festival lineup, click here >>

We’ll be tweeting throughout the festival and live-tweeting the Opening Night events. Join the conversation by tweeting #MFF2013 and share your thoughts on what you see (but wait until the show is over to break out your cell phone).

Why film? Like advertising, cinema is an art form that has the unique ability to impact audiences in almost unlimited ways. Both mediums employ boundless creativity in order to provide entertainment, spark conversations, inspire ideas, and communicate emotions.

The experience of film is at once collective and personal, communal and introspective, social and private. Before the invention of Netflix and before Blu-ray players were even a twinkle in the home entertainment industry’s eye, going to the movies was a necessarily shared experience. Today, we’re seeing cinema come full-circle – it’s never been easier to enjoy, share, experience and discuss films with communities near and far than it is right now. You can see this happening with your own eyes at the Milwaukee Film Festival – a community of film-lovers coming together to experience something great.

Join us for over two weeks of film – we’ll be sure to save you a good seat.

Ilana R. Borzak

Riding the slipstream

It’s Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Your feet drag as you walk into the office. You stop by your desk to put your bag down and then charge towards the coffee machine. You pour your first cup of the day. The guy who is always wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt regardless of the weather approaches you and starts chatting about his favorite ad from the game. You take your first sip and before you go for a second, you look up and spot a small group of people heading towards the coffee machine that is not even two feet behind you. They pour their coffee and join the conversation.  Two minutes of commercial-mentioning pass:

GUY WITH BUTTON DOWN (GWBD): How much did that spot cost to air again?

WOMAN FROM CUBICLE NEXT TO YOU: The average price for thirty seconds of Super Bowl air time is 3.8 million.*

GWBD: That’s just for the airtime. Don’t forget about the added costs of actually creating the commercial.

Conversation ensues for another minute until GWBD mentions his workload and everyone returns to his or her desk.


The nearly four million-dollar price tag is the highest amount the networks have ever set. Many marketers, such as the creators of Go Daddy’s commercial, point to the volume of conversation their ads created on social media to justify the multi-million dollar price tag. But does a brand need upwards of $3.8 million to take advantage of Super Bowl hype?  Not necessarily. This year, two brands got people talking without a huge price tag:

Oreo Takes the Cake 

Oreo cookie has been declared the winner of the Super Bowl’s blackout, beating other brands that used the power outage as a marketing opportunity. Within minutes of the power failure, @Oreo tweeted a photo of an Oreo cookie in a lit corner against a black background. White text under the cookie read: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The satirical, simple, and relevant message resonated with frustrated viewers, most of whom used the interruption to check their Twitter feed and revisit the snack menu. At the time of writing, the Tweet had more than 16,000 retweets and more than 13,000 related news articles. The photo’s production cost was minimal and the media buy was nothing.

Even with the considerable cost associated with setting up a war room for senior management and the client, this social media execution still cost significantly less than a Super Bowl commercial would. And it got people talking.

The Commercial You Didn’t See

Old Milwaukee Beer’s Super Bowl antics are not novel to 2013. For the past couple of years, Will Ferrel has been writing and starring in “crazy fun commercials” for the beer. He spends very little on production and shoots all of the commercials in small towns like Terre Haute, Indiana. The beer company airs the commercial during the Super Bowl in small markets like North Platte, Nebraska, spending very little on media. They then post the video online and allow the powers of the internet to take over.  The beer company’s adept manipulation of the Super Bowl hype brings awareness to the brand at a low cost. And, despite its affiliation with the hyper-commercialized Super Bowl, they successfully maintain their branding as an underground beer. At time of writing, the 2013 Super Bowl ad had more than 3 million YouTube views and nearly 7,000 related new articles.


A huge budget is not a requisite for owning a piece of the Super Bowl conversation. True, some of the bigger spenders own a larger chunk of the conversation, but that’s okay. Perhaps ideal. For a brand like Old Milwaukee, a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t appropriate for the image they are working towards. Their method fits with the brand and thus provides a high value at a low cost. Plus, we benefit from brands like Old Milwaukee Beer and Oreo by seeing how creativity, ingenuity, and wit can take a brand places that no money could ever buy.


*Note: While quotes are direct, characters are fictionalized



David Rathsack

Social Media and Beer: 3 Lessons for the Beer Industry

Living in Milwaukee has its perks. One being the beer, they don’t call us brew city for nothing. Recently I attended the PR + Social Media Summit at Marquette University. Naturally one of the sessions revolved around how social media is being used in the craft beer industry.

Like all effective social media campaigns, everything comes back to strategy and authenticity. I think panelist Mike Thiel, marketer for Goose Island hit the nail on the head when he said “For every beer that we’ve sold, we don’t do it through big advertising budgets…Everything we’ve done is through one taste at a time. So the way that we view social media is that is an opportunity to reach every customer, one point at a time and help tell a story.”

With that in mind, below are three authentic social media lessons the beer industry could learn from:

Show Personality
Whether big or small, craft or domestic, local or import – beer companies need to determine what their story is and how they want to tell it. Putting a personality
to a brand is one of the easiest ways to build relationships with customers. Beer companies have an amazing opportunity to profile their brew masters and provide insight into why their employees have a passion for their job. If the story surrounds sustainability or other goodwill initiatives, tell consumers why your company cares about that specific cause by sharing a personal connection story. Whatever the story may be, showing personality develops trust with an audience,
online or off.

Infuse communication with packaging
Often times when we think of social, we assume Facebook, Twitter and email are the only ways we can communicate with our customers. We need to break that mold and think about how we can integrate our offline and online communication. For example, Milwaukee Brewing Co. is integrating QR codes on all of their packaging. Although the fad for QR codes may be dying, I still feel they can add value if used appropriately. I honestly can’t speak to where @MKEbrewco is directing user engagement, but for a company that has branded each product with a unique personality, this is a phenomenal opportunity to continue the story and track analytical data for each product.

A picture is worth a 1000 words
Let’s face it, we are a visual people. When we find something we like, we want to see more of it. Today we are seeing more and more companies including visual components to their social media posts. Our consumers expect us to be at the same level as they are, and with the emergence of tools such as Instagram, they have become amateur photographers. According to panelist Dan Murphy, Milwaukee Magazine Brew City writer, “A few bars around [Milwaukee] have done a nice job with Instagram….They’ll take a picture of a new barrel that comes in and post it. I mean, to the beer geeks, it’s beer porn.” Breweries have the opportunity of providing a “sneak peek” at a new products or packaging before hitting the market as well. Recently Blue Moon Brewing Company gave their Facebook fans the opportunity to help brew the newest seasonal beer: Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Untappd yet – I suggest you check it out if you want to try new beers and bars near you.

Crystal Kostrivas

PR + Social Media Summit | Key Takeaways

Last week, a group of Laughlin staff attended the daylong PR + Social Media Summit, which focused on the convergence of strategic communications and social media.

While I found the entire day to be insightful, a few of my favorite presentations included Chris Barger’s ‘From Planning to Execution, the Story Behind GM’s Social Media Success,’ Jess Berlin’s ‘From Cirque du Soleil to American Eagle Outfitters: A Social Media Comparison’ and Augie Ray’s Glimpse Into The Future of Social Media, which LC’s @SarahVanElzen wrote about here.

A few key takeaways:

  • Don’t feel like you have to come up with a really big idea. You often find that the simplest ideas take off + drive engagement. (via @AlKrueger)
  • Redefine “influence” – treat everyone as if they have thousands of followers on Twitter / friends on Facebook. You can have the most impact in the small communities. (via @CBarger)
  • Shift from “Big” to Local >> Less expensive, less national push, but more directly effective. (via @CBarger)
  • Listen more than you talk, answer more than you promote and above all provide value. (via @CBarger)
  • Make ALL your content searchable – but more importantly, shareable. (via @CBarger)
  • Unexpected happenings can become the best part of your social media campaign – leverage them. Example: American Eagle’s “Denim Song”  (via @JessBerlin)
  • GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOUR BRAND! *all caps is necessary (via @JessBerlin)
  • What can your brand offer that users didn’t already know? Offer your social communities exclusive content. (via @JessBerlin)
  • The sharing economy is about to explode. Old: they sell, you buy + own / New: they own, you rent / Future: you own + rent (via @AugieRay)
  • Be real. Advertising cannot save brands that are inauthentic. (via @AugieRay)

Want more? All of the speaker’s presentations are available on SlideShare. Check them out here.

Did you attend PRSMS last Tuesday? I’d love to hear your thoughts + key takeaways @ckostrivas





Casey Flanagan

The Axis Of Aspiration In The Age Of Engagement

There’s an old saying in the world of marketing, “nothing kills a bad product faster than great advertising.” Bad products can’t be helped by great advertising, rather great advertising simply accelerates their badness. Expectations are set way too high.

This is even more true in The Age Of Engagement. A recent Google study puts the number of daily conversations mentioning a brand in the US at 2.4 billion. Social media only makes reaction travel faster.

Brand managers should take note. Will those conversationalists be talking about how they were delightfully surprised, terribly disappointed or something in between? A likely influencer of their tone is where they started. Expectations matter.

Framing your brand in an aspirational way is great because it increases “interest in.” Framing your brand in an aspirational way creates a risk that “satisfaction with” will decrease. With 2.4 billion conversations happening daily, balancing the two is critical.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Laura St. Marie

The Social Bucket List

Applications and social startups are born at a faster rate than babies in the boomer generation by hopeful entrepreneurs anxious to be the next Mark Zuckerberg and Biz Stone. The majority of these startups never get off the ground, but a tiny fraction of them have the formidable combination of – a smart idea, unmet need, monetary support and most importantly, the agility and wherewithal to adapt and evolve – that ultimately launches them into the arms of Early Adopters.

One startup that’s caught my attention is the freshly released social start up, WhereBerry. The brainchild of Nick Baum and Bill Ferrell, former Google techies, seems like it could have a fighting chance.

Most social networks capitalize on what we’ve done in the past or what we’re doing now. The logical next step is for people to share what they want to do in the future. WhereBerry, which opened to the public last week, allows people to post activities they want to do… someday – from restaurants they want to eat at, to movies they want to see, to places they want to visit – people can organize and store their desires in one convenient place, turning the familiar “bucket list” virtual, and most importantly, social.

As a society of “dreamers” it is in our nature to make plans and set goals. As a rising society of “sharers” it is in our nature to broadcast these plans to friends. WhereBerry seems to have what it takes to capitalize on these popular behaviors. But it is at a fragile and vulnerable state in its growth, where important decisions can either make or break its success. I believe that if they can successfully accomplish the following, they could in fact be the next big thing:

  1. Community & Groups: With the rising popularity of social networks, we not only want to share, we want to be part of a community or group. What users of WhereBerry are going to want next is the ability to join together with others around entertaining, thrilling, educational and delicious activities. Providing users the ability to share plans with smaller, private groups will not only be a feature users are interested in using, but will allow the application to spread virally as friends plan together.
  2. Sharing on Steroids: The sharing is currently very straightforward: add to your list, post to your wall, see your friends’ to-dos in your feed, etc. WhereBerry should evolve the “share factor” by using a more complex formula – connecting people who have similar interests, presenting users with to-dos that seem to match with their trends (and location), suggesting plans their friends have, and more. The key is, users want the service to do the work for them and provide them with value they wouldn’t have on their own.
  3. Competition and Achievements: Based on your bucket list and the items you accomplish, users should be able to achieve recognition or status for their completed tasks (e.g. Advanced Foodie, Dare Devil, Movie Buff, etc.). This brings a level of competition to the utility and drives participation, stretching users to try more and more – and therefore use the social network more.
  4. Businesses & Brands: Selling this idea to brands by presenting the benefits to their business and getting them involved will provide substance to network by providing users with recommendations, deals and rewards, and will be the push to eventually turning this start-up into a money maker.
  5. Continuous Evolution: WhereBerry needs to pay close attention to analytics, use, feedback, and the industry as a whole to learn what users want. They need to quickly evolve, adapt, grow, simplify, and integrate in order to meet users’ rising expectations.

The tech world today is a rough one to survive in, and the get-rich-quick theory very rarely applies. In 3-5 years we may see WhereBerry checking “10 Million Users” off their bucket list. Or we may be asking, “What’s WhereBerry? A new BlackBerry device?”

Matthew Waller

Laughlin Constable wins three PRSA Paragon Awards

It’s not the Oscars, the Grammys or even the Emmys, but to us, it may as well be: The PRSA 2011 Paragon Communications Awards. Ever hear of them? Well, chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in the world of marketing so the name may sound familiar. If not, well, StumbleUpon must have incorrectly guided you here. Either way, this is worth a read.

The Paragon Awards recognize outstanding work in public relations campaigns. Similar to the Oscars, these are the type of campaigns that make you laugh, make you cry, or in the marketing world, make you buy in.

Laughlin Constable is thrilled to have brought home not one, not two but three of these awards last night.

An award of merit was given for work on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism iPhone app launch. An advanced look at the app by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and well-planned distribution of a news release to select media helped make the release of the app a great success. Coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Associated Press resulted in hits in, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Times-Picayune and many more. The immediate result was more than 80 million impressions, $3 million in publicity and more than 2,000 downloads.

LC also snagged an award of merit for the 2010 Department of Tourism’s press kit. The team used sound media relations, creative ideas and strategic planning to develop a kit that generated significant awareness of all the unique events, activities and attractions in Wisconsin and ultimately, caught the attention of the media. Not to mention, it looked pretty cool (our designers rock). The team met with more than 25 different media outlets in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee and also mailed or dropped off press kits to 30 more outlets. Many of the reporters complimented the team for having designed such a useful and easy-to-navigate press kit and supplementary USB flash drive.

And finally, there was an award of merit for the social media successes for the Department of Tourism.  When the Facebook page, Twitter account and blog were initially launched, consumers flocked to the pages within minutes (okay, not minutes, but quickly). The 2010 summer campaign character Miles Feldspar was introduced on these platforms, and unique content, trivia questions, and giveaways followed. From its launch, the Facebook page has grown to over 24,400 fans, with the Twitter account at just over 2,000 followers. The blog has received over 64,181 views since its launch and is consistently a top 10 content section on

All and all, it was a great night. While these are public relations awards, the effort on all three of these campaigns was agency-wide. Our hard work and dedication to our clients really paid off.  So now, after a night of celebrating, where’s the afternoon coffee?

Matthew Waller

PR 2.0: Working with the media

I recently attended a luncheon held by the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of PRSA. The event featured a panel discussion with Mark Kass, editor of The Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee, Jim Nelson, Politifact editor and deputy business editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Steve Jagler, executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

The well-respected trio participated in a great discussion on what lies ahead in 2011, how their respective publications are adjusting in an ever-changing media landscape and how PR professionals can more efficiently work with them.

This post will touch on a few highlights and how PR professionals can stay on the media’s radar.

My guess is the points below will ring true with a lot of you or serve as a reminder on how to conduct media relations 2.0, but it never hurts to have a quick refresher. They don’t cover the entire discussion but cover segments I found particularly interesting. Without further ado:

Embrace online exposure – The hard copies aren’t dead (publishers are nodding vigorously in agreement). But PR folks need to continue to counsel clients that online exposure is just as good as print coverage, if not better. Jim Nelson said the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gets as many as 2 million hits a day. That’s a big audience. Compare that to the print circulation of 183,636 during the week and 331,171 on Sundays. Between online stories, blogs, e-newsletters and live updates, there are plenty of opportunities to garner publicity.

Think like a reporter, better yet a TV reporter – Think visually and for ways your story can have legs itself. How can you make this story more appealing, even if it isn’t for a TV station? Utilize those Flip cams and iPhones, and edit footage back at the office. Offer the footage to compliment your pitch or news release. Steve Jagler said it a number of times, “We’re a multimedia company now.”

Have a spokesperson ready 24/7 – News moves fast these days. Really fast. The news media world is a competitive business and PR professionals need to be able to act quickly. Have a spokesperson always ready to speak on breaking news. Work with the media. Mark Kass said, “Our story will run whether you comment or not. You have to decide whether you have your say.”

Look for unconventional opportunitiesThe Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee’sForty Under 40” annually honors 40 up-and-comers in the community under 40. It’s a great way to see who the new leaders are in the area. Mark Kass mentioned that they receive close to 300 nominations for the program. Tough odds, to be sure. However, he said they don’t just toss the 260 or so nominees that don’t make the list (yes, I can do basic math). He hands them out to his staff and has them hold onto them for potential profile pieces or to use as experts/sources down the road. Unconventional opportunity but a good one.

Engage social media – All three editors couldn’t stress it enough. It’s happening and it’s here to stay. Get clients involved or be left behind.

So those are just a few of the nuggets I found interesting. Please share ideas and input below.