Marketing Lessons from the Pumpkin Spice Latte You Can Sip On

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Fall is officially here and you’ve already felt the effects of fall fever. You have moved your sweaters to the front of your closet, you passed a pumpkin patch on the way to work, and you are anticipating the slew of fall festivals on your calendar. Pumpkin spice has taken over this season and it isn’t slowing down.
There are pumpkin donuts, bagels, hamburgers, chips, beers, liquors, wines, yogurts, salty snacks, cheese and even toothpaste. In 2017, America’s pumpkin spice obsession is bigger than ever. Sales of pumpkin products have grown by 79% since 2012 and have grossed $361m compared to $201m five years ago.
Most of us are not buying pumpkins and serving up slabs of it for dinner, so why are we so obsessed with the pumpkin spice flavor? Pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, not pumpkin itself. Profound psychological reasons underlie your innate craving for this flavor. This flavor evokes positive associations like cool breezes, piles of leaves, crackling fires and the cozy togetherness of the upcoming season. Combining this with successful marketing makes pumpkin spice “taste like fall.” Our sense of taste is 80% smell, therefore, it’s the cozy smell of pumpkin spice that evokes fall nostalgia more so than the taste. Take the aroma of pumpkin spice, combine it with sugar and the consumer immediately has a warm, homey and nostalgic digestive experience that is arguably addictive.

The pumpkin spice trend started in 2003 when Starbucks’ espresso brand manager noted that there was nothing pumpkin flavored on the market and created the pumpkin spice latte. One of the key factors behind the pumpkin spice craze is the fact that it is a limited time offer. Tying an LTO to a season or a holiday associated with indulgence conjures up excitement for the product, creates enthusiasm around the product, and drives consumers to purchase the product before it’s gone.

All companies have very carefully planned marketing strategies when it comes to their seasonal product, especially Starbucks who has a verified Twitter and Instagram for the pumpkin spice latte. The posts are amusing, creative, and visually appealing as well as diverse. Starbucks has remained current by evolving their brand and products through storytelling marketing mainly by making the PSL a character that directly communicates with their audience.

Learning About Storytelling from Found Footage Films

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The Blair Witch Project is still one of the most beloved horror movies of all time. On a budget of $60,000 and a grossing of $248.6 million, other filmmakers took note of the film and followed suit. The Blair Witch Project is an excellent example of found footage: a subgenre in film that is presented as if they were discovered video recordings.

Found footage films make sense for horror because it puts the viewer in the shoes of the story and allows them to experience scares more viscerally and directly. People love horror movies, but sometimes being spoon-fed demons and monsters through traditional marketing for horror films has played out. At the time of The Blair Witch Project, found footage films were not a new concept. In fact, the subgenre got its start in the 1980s. Many film critics have dubbed this style of lazy film filmmaking, but the results don’t lie.

Handheld cameras and improv only heighten the inherent danger, insinuating that what’s happening onscreen is happening moment by moment in environments that could turn on the actors at any time. Some found footage films have been major flops in the past, so there are several rules to producing a fantastic found footage film.

Be Relatable

A good found footage film should be set in a relatable environment or a space that is recognizable to keep the belief of the audience alive.

Establish a Reason to Film

There has to be a reason why the characters are filming to make a found footage film work. The Blair Witch project’s premise center around a group of filmmakers that had the idea of making a documentary in the woods. Cloverfield was released in 2008 with a completely different premise: monsters. Instead of being a traditional Godzilla-like movie, the characters are at a party celebrating while one character is making a movie as a memento for his friend when disaster strikes.

Cut to the Chase

Don’t bore your audience. Eerily build suspense instead! Avoid strained banters and keep the movie reasonably short in comparison to traditional films.

Embrace the Limitations of the Style

When you’re telling a story with found footage, you are telling the story with much less exposition than a typical narrative. You do not need to explain everything or have narration; it’s about the images being captured on film.

Here at Velocity Agency, we know that making something authentic and real is essential for the success of our marketing campaigns. The powerful storytelling marketing behind the success of found footage films is the same strategy that we use to take our clients to new heights.


Google’s and Facebook’s Mistakes Following the Las Vegas Massacre

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You’ve heard it over and over again no matter how much you’ve tried to ignore it: fake news. Fake news is used to describe a political story which is seen as damaging to an agency, entity, or person. The printing and dissemination of fake news isn’t a new concept. However, in the past, it has been easy for people to understand which news story is inherently false. Last Monday Morning, many Americans woke up to the heartbreaking news of the Las Vegas Massacre which killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500. Google and Facebook displayed false reports on the unfolding tragedy; adding to the ongoing failure of the Internet’s largest news platforms to manage misinformation. We can confidently say we are living in the age of the algorithm.

An algorithm is a set of instructions for carrying out a particular task. It’s deterministic, predictable, not subject to change and works for all cases. The average internet user often doesn’t check facts or consider whether the source is credible when reading an article. Algorithms within networks such as Google and Facebook provide users with personalized, and ultimately, skewed results. Algorithms are always changing so companies can maintain a competitive advantage. The algorithms made explicitly for filtering news narrows the information we receive and serves us information that tends to support what we already believe. Facebook confirmed in a paper that it often shows users news from users with similar political beliefs and users are about 6% less likely to see content that the other political side favors. Your best friends and their political views influence what appears on your newsfeed more than the algorithm does.

After the Las Vegas massacre, Google’s algorithm promoted a story on a 4chan message board thread that misidentified the shooter. Facebook’s crisis response hub showed an article with the same misidentification. Google responded quickly and stated that relevant results had algorithmically replaced the story. Facebook told CNN that they were working hard to fix the issue that led to the false news story being promoted. These examples of algorithms failing present a great lesson for marketers. Many marketers feel that everything can be reduced to algorithms, predictability, and numbers. This logic can be true to a certain extent: but not wholly. Algorithms arouse suspicion in consumers which causes plans to backfire. If a customer feels that the marketer knows too much about them, they will abandon ship. Algorithms also encourage complacency and stifle customer responses to marketing offers.

Here at Velocity Agency, we know our clients on a personal level and work with them side by side to ensure that they have success rather than treating them as a formula or equation. That extra attention makes ordinary brands extraordinary, and we are proud of each of our client’s success.

Pushing Forward in Smartphone Marketing

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All Smartphone users are starting to notice something strange about their phones. You leave work on a regular workday; your phone alerts you that you are 12 miles from home and it’s ready to navigate you through the traffic. It gets even spookier! You go to the gym every Wednesday for a spin class, and before you leave, your phone has caught on that you are going to the gym. Don’t worry, your phone didn’t hear you cancel your plans with your friends because you are going to the gym. It’s all about location services.

30% of the smartphone-using population is already using location-based marketing services, and 80% of them want to get location-based alerts from businesses like yours. A geofence is a virtual perimeter that you can draw around any location on a map and then target customers that enter that area. Hardware, referred to as beacons, target customers as they arrive, leave, and dwell in the location where you set them up. These beacons are ideal for proximities or knowing if someone is near a particular product. Beacons are best suited for larger areas so that companies can gauge if someone is walking by your store, a competitor’s store, or into a particular location.

More and more companies have started developing apps for their customer base. Starbucks launched their app to cater to customer rewards and mobile ordering. American Eagle sets up a geofence around shopping malls to draw more customers into their store. Netflix gives updates on what shows are streaming when they are released. Successful companies must adapt to stay ahead of the changing tides of consumer needs. They are utilizing the most significant advancement in geofencing and interactive marketing campaigns: push notifications.

A push notification is a message that pops up on a mobile device via an app. In 2015, push notifications changed from general push notifications to segmented push notifications. Segmented push notifications target users based on their preferences. They can show the latest sports scores, get a user to take action such as downloading a coupon or let a user know about an event. Many brands are looking at push notifications instead of e-blasts because of the clutter that most email users have to sort through on a daily basis. Push messaging may eventually replace email marketing altogether. Therefore, marketers must remember the rule of value exchange. While consumers do like coupons and discounts, they don’t want apps to bombard them with messages continually.

Powerful and effective push notifications are brief, eye-catching, and infrequent too often. Most users that are overwhelmed by push notifications too often will delete apps completely. It’s exciting to see new technology being utilized creatively and making our lives easier! Do you think that push notifications are useful or annoying?

IoT and GoT Have Something In Common: Feudalism

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It’s 2017, and everyone is on the Internet, seemingly all of the time. You could be scrolling through your social media pages at a red light or shopping for something on Amazon during your lunch. The Internet has made our lives much easier but has also put us at risk. It’s not just the Internet itself; it’s the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects with internet connectivity and the communication that occurs between them.

IoT applications include Smart Home, the Apple Watch, AT&T’s Connected Car, Amazon Echo, and the Fit Bit. It seems that now everything from dishwashers to doorknobs requires an internet connection, but this has caused many problems. Recently, internet hackers broke into a casino through its fish tank. This tank had internet connected sensors that measured temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors, then to the computer used to control them, and ultimately to the other part of the casino’s network. Our devices and products are always gathering information about us and our environment. That information is valuable not just for us, but for people who want to sell us things.

A good example of this is the Roomba, a useful robotic vacuum cleaner. The high-end models can create maps of its users’ homes to navigate while cleaning. Roomba’s manufacturer may plan to share those maps with its commercial partners.

It can be argued that even after we purchase a device, the manufacturer still owns it. A smartphone is a great example. Companies claim they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. This started to become the norm even before IoT. John Deere told farmers that they don’t actually own their tractors. Therefore, farmers can’t fix their farm equipment on their own or take it to a repair shop of their choosing. Tractors and other farm equipment must be returned to the manufacturer for repair.

Currently, we are still allowed to paint our houses whatever shade we want and have our cars repaired at whatever shop we choose. The expansion of the Internet of Things seems to be steadily moving to the Middle Ages. This expansion could be the return to feudalism: a system of medieval Europe where the king owned almost everything including everyone else’s property. Peasants depended on their relationship with the king and lived on land granted by him. Workers didn’t own the tools they used for farming, carpentry, and blacksmithing meaning that their way of life and making money was completely in the hands of their ruler.

Don’t freak out just yet! These problems become public relations nightmares for the companies involved, and there is overwhelming support to return power and privacy to consumers. Think about the Internet of Things the next time you walk to your car after leaving the bar, and your phone tells you how many minutes you are away from home. Many people love that their life is made simpler by the power of the Internet and accept the Internet of Things with open arms. However, beware of the hackers and those companies that are directly selling your information to control how you consume.

2017: The Age of Hackers

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2017 has been a year full of high-profile data breaches. Consumer credit score company Equifax revealed that hackers accessed up to 143 million customer account details on July 29th. This breach means that details such as names, social security numbers, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers from more than 200,000 people have potentially been stolen. Verizon announced that phone numbers, names, and pin codes of six million Verizon customers were left online for nine days. Voter data belonging to almost 200 million Americans have been found online. Chipotle’s payment system was hacked resulting in hundreds of people’s payment information being unsecured. 2.5 million gamers that use the XBOX360 and PlayStation PSP forums had their account details compromised; email addresses, passwords and IP addresses were leaked. One of the most bizarre breaches took place at a North American Casino by using an Internet-connected fish tank. This fish tank was connected to a PC that regulated the temperature, food, and cleanliness of the tank. Out of many computer crimes, it has been described as one of the most ingenious system hacks.

Here are the nine most common ways that hackers find their way:

  • Email Social Engineering/Spear Phishing
    • Cyberspies can get into a network by sending an email or instant message to a targeted victim that will include an attachment to a website. Many times, the spies customize the email for the recipient.
  • Virus Infections
    • Hackers will implant a piece of code onto a website so that anyone who comes on the site will be immediately infected.
  • USB Malware
    • Hackers will place malware onto a USB so it will infect the computer upon use.
  • Scanning Networks
    • Hackers can remotely scan servers to determine vulnerabilities and exploit it by sending a command to the server causing it to crash.
  • Social Engineering Passwords
    • Hackers have various ways to trick users into giving their credentials. If hackers can find out the credentials of that user, they can log in as that user and access network resources.
  • Wifi Compromises
    • Hackers can invade a system by exploiting an open wireless network through unsecured or poorly secured wifi.
  • Stolen Credentials from Third-Party Sites
    • A good example of this is when cyber spies look for victims on third-party sites, like Linkedin.
  • Compromising Web-Based Databases
    • When someone enters personal information on a website, it gets stored in that company’s database. Cyberspies can put in a specially crafted code to cause the database to unlock.
  • Password Reset Services to Hijack Accounts
    • Hackers can simply find out the answers to possible security questions by researching the victim on social networking sites and other places.
  • Insiders 
    • Cyberspies still resort to old-fashioned disguise techniques. Spies can find a way to get hired by companies and, upon hire, get into the system.

In this digital age, it is imperative to know the steps to take if you or your business is hacked. Even the smallest businesses now have to worry about network security and protection. If your company has been hacked, it is necessary to investigate the scope of the compromise, contain the attack by pulling all systems offline simultaneously, remediate and repair systems to prevent future attacks, and communicate with your customer base as soon as possible. Many businesses have plans set to prevent security breaches or to recover quickly in the event of one. At Velocity Agency, we are constantly staying abreast the ever-growing digital world to make sure that our employees, clients, and information are secured properly and understand that as the industry grows, hackers are learning and growing as well. We hope you stay safe out there!

It’s a Facebook Thing: Connecting Users With The Products They Want

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You’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you see a sweatshirt that has your name or your profession in a catchphrase, and it’s only $30. It feels weird to see something so distinctly “you” pop up. So, how does Facebook do that? If you feel like Facebook has more ads than usual, you aren’t dreaming it up; Facebook has been hitting all of us with more ads that are more relevant to us. Although it may seem unnerving at first, Facebook’s data collection tools are fascinating and can often connect users with products they want.
Facebook uses your profile to create personalized ads. If you like Target’s Facebook page, then Target will start delivering ads to you. Facebook will deliver ads to you based on what your friends like. However, it’s not just what you and your friends are doing alone that generates ads; it’s also demographic information. Major life events like getting engaged or married will produce content specifically for you. If you are recently engaged and post it to Facebook, wedding dresses and wedding venues will start to populate your feed. Kind of cool, huh?

When an advertiser creates an on Facebook, it can select all sorts of parameters, so it reaches the right people. For example, if someone is trying to sell a swimsuit: They can target it towards people that live near large bodies of water or has swimming listed in their interests. The more information you put about yourself on Facebook such as your age, where you live, where you graduated college, activities you like and where you work: This all will determine what ads are delivered to you.

If you don’t include all of this information on your profile, Facebook turns to your friends to fill the gaps. Facebook only needs to know one particular thing about you, like where you live, and what your friends provide to create a reasonable demographic that advertisers can use to reach you.

Let’s say you have a Facebook account just for the sake of having a profile. Facebook collects data through companies such as Datalogix, Acxiom, Epsilon, and BlueKai. These companies collect information about you through things like store loyalty cards, mailing lists, public records, browser cookies and more. So, if you are a customer at Starbucks and utilize their rewards program, you will see a Starbucks ad pop up on your Facebook at some point, or even a tee-shirt with a coffee cup on it saying Coffee Addict.

These data collection companies know more than you would think: race, gender, buying habits, economic status and more. If you don’t use loyalty cards or enroll in reward programs when you shop, Facebook still has you pinpointed. If you purchase a car at a dealership, they will more than likely ask you for your email to send you reminders about car servicing and more. That dealership wants to advertise on Facebook, so they upload a list of all of the email addresses they have. That data is then made private, and Facebook pairs the email addresses with the one you registered on Facebook. If these match, you might see an ad from that dealership on Facebook. Your friends might see the same ad from the dealership because they are reaching out to their target audience.

There’s no reason to feel a little spooked by all of this, but all of this information is kept private. Facebook uses a system called hashing to prevent from all of your private information from leaking. When you went to the grocery store last week, and you tried a new brand of yogurt that has just launched and used your discount card at check-out, Facebook might have delivered an ad for that yogurt that you had not seen previously. Don’t worry; it’s not because your phone heard you say how delicious it was at first bite.

Here at Velocity Agency, we pride ourselves in our knowledge of data collection and ad targeting. If you are trying to expand your target audience, we can help you take your brand to new heights. We have the knowledge and experience to make those internet users stop mid-scroll and CLICK the purchase button.

Brands Lead The Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

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Hurricane Harvey was the first major storm of its kind to make landfall in the US in over a decade and caused mass destruction along the southern border of the nation. Companies from all over the country are offering funds, goods, their employees and offices to help with the relief. At this point, corporate donations have already surpassed $157 million.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have pledged $2 million to the mayor of Houston. They also have plans to match customer donations on a two-to-one basis. These funds will add up to $10 million that will be donated to the relief effort. Dell is a Texas-based company that has been around for decades and has become a global brand of choice in the computer industry. They pledged a whopping $36 million to assist Texas. The Starbucks Foundation has pledged $250,000, and the chain is encouraging its customers to chip in by allowing them to make a direct donation to the organizations aiding Texas in any of its coffee shops across the country. Home Depot is pledging one million to numerous organizations that are helping out with relief efforts and has put together its Team Depot volunteers who are on their way to help with the cleanup effort.

When Hurricane Harvey hit, people tried to prepare for the worst: buying up provisions from grocery stores and stocking up on water. Because of this, companies raised the price of water bottles to make even more profit. Companies such as Best Buy are being scrutinized by the public for their price-gouging during a time when people have lost their cars, homes, and even loved ones. Anheuser-Busch sent over 255,000 cans of emergency drinking water to Corpus Christie, Houston, and Austin to aid Hurricane Harvey response efforts and donated all of the profits to The American Red Cross.

Even fashion companies have stepped in to help. For example, Lime Crime, a trendy makeup company, will be donating 100 % of sales of their Beet it Matte Velvetine lipstick to help Houston. Keep in mind that many animals were affected by Hurricane Harvey too, which is why companies like PetSmart are giving one million dollars to animal welfare agencies that have been working to rescue and relocate homeless pets in the storm-ravaged areas.

It’s amazing that so many companies have been doing everything they can to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. However, it’s important to ensure your business’s disaster relief donations are well received. For smaller companies, your efforts can be coordinated with an accredited organization or the local government to determine whether your donations qualify. Depending on your industry and your business’s size, you may have access to supplies or service that will be useful to victims and aid workers. Media Companies have worked hard to list companies and organizations that will accept certain donations so that the general public can help.

In the corporate world, it’s all about competition. It’s the reason why we see CVS open across the street from Walgreens. It’s the reason why commercials will refer to their competitors and claim they are better. In times of Disaster, these companies come together for one unified reason: to help. Now the incredibly powerful Hurricane Irma is barreling towards Florida, and everyone in America is watching worried that Florida will be in worse shape than Houston was after Harvey. If you missed your opportunity to help after Harvey, here’s your chance for you or your company to employ a plan to help.

The Pets of Velocity Agency

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You’ve met all the humans of Velocity, but now it’s time to meet the Veloci-dogs! In honor of National Dog Day, we thought we’d introduce you to our favorite furballs!


Layla Sutton, Social Media Manager

“This is Brother! I named him this because I have a younger brother who lives in VA that I am really close to and when I moved to New Orleans it was hard to not live in the same area as him. I got him in January when he was 6 weeks old so that I would have a walking partner and someone to explore the city with and he has become my best friend. Brother loves food more than I do which says a LOT. His favorite things to do is steal cotton balls from the bathroom, go to the dog park to play with other dogs and he’s actually a really good cuddler. His favorite toy is his giant tennis ball. ”

Beau Runnels, Editor

“I never had a dog, but my dad did raise a wolf. Her name was Feather and she was a sweetheart. She loved children, especially the chewy ones. This is a photo of my dad reading to some school kids, Feather was there to protect him in case one of the little thugs tried to knife him. Feather had a scar on her nose from when she found out porcupines were indeed not made from pork. She called them Needle-Rats from then on… Feather also talked, but cursed a lot. RIP Feather 1995-2011”


Linda Nickerson, Office Manager
“This is my dog Abby.  She is 5 years old and was a rescue from the 9th ward in New Orleans.  She has two cat brothers (Coal and Stanley) to protect her!!”


Josh Spencer, SEO Manager
“This is Nala. She is a Pitbull/Lab mix and her favorite things in this whole world are rolling in dirt, tug of war, trying to get on my side of the bed, and smiling.”


Alex Dufresne, Jr. Editor
“This is my sister’s boxer, Balboa Seabiscuit, but we call him Bo for short. His hobbies include staring at interesting things off camera and relaxing on his private Yacht. He is also the reason I refer to Beau Runnells as “Human Beau” when talking to my family. I know I could just say “Dog Bo” instead, but that would be silly. “


Alison Pitre, Account Manager
“Meet Chuy, we rescued her from the streets of New Orleans about 4 years ago and she has had my heart from the first day I saw her. She is the sweetest little Chihuahua in the world! On a fat day, she is 5 lbs. She howls like a wolf and spins like a ballerina when excited. Meet Gidget, she is half Chihuahua and half Corgi. We adopted her from the SPCA 3 years ago. Don’t let her teddy bear good looks fool you…she will tear your face off. Meet Tchoupitoulas, we adopted her from the SPCA about 5 years ago. She is a pit bull mix. Tchoup likes to spend her days laying on the sofa watching Steve Harvey. She also likes to go for short walks on the levee. She loves playing with Chuy.  She is afraid of cats.”


Emily Kranz, Media Assistant
“This is Dexter. He’s a 2 1/2-year-old Shih Tzu. His hobbies include indulging on treats, chasing frisbees that are bigger than he his, and pretending he’s from Endor by rocking his Ewok costume.”


Danielle Doty, Social Media Manager
“Spooky and Savage were the only two in their litter. They are long haired dachshunds who are inseparable and love to get into trouble. I originally planned only to adopt one, but then I came home with two puppies. Oops! Spooky is full of energy and always up for an adventure, whereas Savage is patient and gentle (except with lizards).”


Chase Treadway, Web Developer
“This is Delta, AKA ‘Hot mess’. AKA ‘That’s not your food.’ AKA ‘no ma’am.’ AKA ‘I’m sorry, my child is a con artist, and I’m not responsible for those genes'”