Starbucks is No Longer Seeing Red

velocity Seasonal

It’s the time of year when the flavors of fall fade away, and peppermint mochas beckon consumer to get holly jolly. A significant signaling of the holidays is Starbucks’s red cup. Since 1997, Starbucks has welcomed the holidays with a cup that ranges from modern and abstract to nostalgic and traditional. The cup design is mostly red with white details to evoke the warm fuzzy feelings we associate with Christmas. In 2015, the company took advantage of the popularity of minimalism in design and debuted a completely red cup.

The cup spawned a social media uproar. Consumers claimed there was no holiday cheer or mention of Christmas on the cup. A movement of people ordering coffee and asking for their name to be “Merry Christmas” and posted it on Twitter with the hashtag #merrychristmasstarbucks. To avoid another round of controversy, Starbucks responded with a brilliant campaign in 2016. The cup was to be designed by the consumer. Starbucks held a contest to support the creativity of their customers by inviting them to share their designs on Instagram. Starbucks received more than 1,200 individual submissions from 13 countries, and the images were featured in an online cup collection. Every design was featured on a cup. This excellent PR work remediated the outrage that sparked the year before.

In 2017, Starbucks fuzed its ideas from the previous two years in honor of the holiday cup’s 20th anniversary. This year’s cup features a black and white sketch with just a few splashes of red and green. The design is meant to encourage drinkers to grab their art supplies and fill in the rest. The design was described by the Executive Creative Director Leanne Fremar as an “ode to years’ past.”

In the colder months, Starbucks profits raise on an average of 12% and the reaction to their holiday menu on social media is always highly positive. Starbucks continues to be the master of consumer-based and straightforward marketing strategies that keep on giving. Which holiday cup was your favorite and why?

Surviving Black Friday and Cyber Monday

velocity Seasonal

Not long ago, Black Friday was a one-day event. Now, Black Friday sales seem to last an entire season. Brands launch sale days in advance and stretch out the holiday shopping season as long as possible. Some shoppers seem to be losing interest in Black Friday. There has been a 72% decrease in social media conversations about Black Friday since 2012. While Black Friday is on the decline, the internet is favoring Cyber Monday. The decline in Black Friday is due mostly to the negative presence on social media. More than half of the conversations on social media surrounding Black Friday have had a negative connotation. Whether you choose to embrace Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the pressure is on to compete with nearly every other brand in the country. So, with so much pressure to be at your peak performance, how can you win the holiday season?

Here are some strategies that can make your holiday marketing flourish:

  • Revisit Last Year’s Data
    • It’s important to look back at last year’s data and monitor keywords, contents, promotions, traffic and conversions. You should know what the behavior of your consumers was the previous year to create the best marketing plan in the current year.
  • E-Blasts
    • Email marketing is still a strong weapon in your arsenal. It is responsible for 27% of holiday sales. Your e-blasts should be simple, include a special offer, extend your sale and eye-catching.
  • Social Media
    • Using social media should be an obvious strategy for Black Friday. Just like with e-blasts, you can share coupons, promotions, deals and contests on all social media platforms.
  • Paid Ads
    • Facebook ads are extremely effective. They have the potential to reach target audiences instead of reaching one that will likely not purchase your product.
  • Target Millennials
    • Millennials spend the most money in our current economy. Make them a part of your brand’s strategy! You should experiment with social media, write valuable content and be honest in all of your ads. Millennials love to be a part of your brand, so allow them to co-create content.
  • Mobile Optimization
    • More than 70% of adults in the US own a smartphone. Your business should be smartphone friendly so that customers can access coupons or promotion codes.
  • Video Content
    • Stand out among all of the scary black Friday footage that has gone viral in the past years. Generating video content that is fun and creative will entice your consumers as well as drive more traffic to your site.

Velocity Agency has helped our clients succeed year-round, but we know how to make a promotion stand above the rest. Don’t let your business get left behind! Contact our highly skilled and professional marketing team so that we can help you have the happiest holiday for your brand yet.

Public Relations Managers

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Superheroes in Disguise

Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public and is commonly shortened and referred to as PR. A career in PR involves gaining understanding and support for your clients and trying to influence opinion and positive behaviors. You may have heard somebody say “that’s great PR” about a commercial for a brand, or a donation to a charity from a washed up celebrity. One of the most important duties of  Public Relations managers is crisis management.

In 1996, Odwalla Good’s apple juice was contaminated with E.coli resulting in one death, 60 becoming sick, and more than 20 lawsuits. Odwalla demonstrated fantastic PR by immediately recalling all Odwalla products containing apple or carrot juice and the CEO accepted responsibility when talking to the media and vowed to pay all medical costs for those affected by the outbreak. Odwalla also released daily press briefings that updated the public along with full-page newspaper ads and a website explaining the situation. This created a sense of concern for the safety of the public and demonstrated the company’s willingness to take full responsibility for their mistake. Today, the company has been bought by Coca-Cola for $186 million.

Launching a new product is also where PR is crucial for success, and Apple is winning in that department. Apple creates a good deal of media hype around each new product before release by following some rules to live by in the PR world:

  • Establishing what is newsworthy about the product
  • Creating a buzz with social media
  • Writing a media release
  • Encouraging and dispensing Product Reviews
  • Holding an Event
  • Continuing the hype after release

It’s not hard to believe that when Apple is launching a new iPhone that people camp out for days to be the first to have their hands on it.

Lastly, great Public Relations Managers know how to be a skilled storyteller and put a spin on media to persuade public opinion in favor of their brand. Here at Velocity Agency, we know that spinning the news isn’t generating propaganda or blatantly lying but a tasteful skill that requires skill and experience. Our entire staff is well versed in the art of public relations that will make your brand stand apart from the crowd. If you are looking for a team that will help your brand attract not just clients and customers but fans, give us a call today.

Marketing Lessons from the Pumpkin Spice Latte You Can Sip On

velocity Seasonal

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

velocity Digital Innovation, Social Media

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

velocity Mobile Technology

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

velocity Digital Innovation


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

velocity Technology


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!