GOOD STORIES, NOT NOISE

by David Heatley

Despite the promises that gaming, the internet and choose-your-own adventure books would destroy linear storytelling, it seems to be here to stay. Maybe more than ever before, we're drowning in stories: from clever tweets and status updates to bloated Super Bowl spots to multi-season, 60-hour-long serialized cable dramas. The efficient single panel gag comic strip has lately morphed into single image memes—the kind that usually feature cats and clutter up your newsfeed. Experiential strains of storytelling are also on the upswing: live standup comedy, improv shows and The Moth-style story slams have all become ubiquitous. All of these stories are neatly boxed and packaged and are just a click away from sharing with all of our friends. There's so much to sift through in all of those boxes and so little of it contains much, if any, value. But we keep looking because we're hungry for something good. We always have time to be blown away.

Creating, telling and consuming stories is how we process our experience of the world and how we make sense of our lives. We always need to know how we're doing in our own story, so we check ours against everybody else's constantly. Marketing has an opportunity in all of this and it also has a choice: to contribute to the noise or to cut through. Smart brands embrace good storytelling, not just "communication." Smart brands know that stories aren't data sets or "messaging" and they're not written by a committee. They're about a specific protagonist who wants something and struggles to get it. To quote Adam Gopnik in a 2012 New Yorker piece, "Good stories are strange… they make claims so astonishing that they seem instantly very different from all the other stories we’ve ever heard. Good stories are startling." In other words, good stories grab you by the throat and don't let go. We don't care much who's telling the story—a major brand or a trusted friend—as long as we're startled, woken up. We want to get excited so we can get back to the business of living our own story with renewed vigor.

Some say we've become so inundated with stories that we've lost our ability to discern. But our bodies know. When the hairs on the back our necks stand on end; when we're doubled over in laughter; when we feel that punch-in-the-gut surprise and tears flow—that's a good story. That's the kind of story we want to spread and share with everyone we love. Let's put something in those boxes worth experiencing!

Brand Interference: How to be what people are interested in, rather than just talking about it

by Molly Schlinger

It’s been a week since the Super Bowl and I have a confession to make: I cry at commercials. It’s pretty embarrassing, I have to say, especially when I’m in a room with about ten or so people. And most of them are men. Whether it’s a puppy and horse becoming BFF, or Sarah McLachlan showing up to ruin my day, I shed a tear or four. That is, however, all that commercials get out of me. A brief emotional flash that doesn’t even leave my living room. And I’m not quite sure how tears translate into ROI.

I waited a week to be sure of it, and I’m sure that I don’t really remember any of the commercials from the big game. Yes, moving someone to happy or sad tears is an accomplishment – in some world – but is that really worth the $4MM some brands paid this past Super Bowl Sunday? Were those marketing dollars better deserved elsewhere? Like maybe on shelf or on pack with a moving promotion? Maybe engaging consumers on an emotional level, instead of just making us emotional.

I know that a Super Bowl ad reached 111.3MM pairs of eyes, but did it really reach their hearts? Corny? Yes. Dramatic? Also yes. But to be ignored? No. Not if you want to be one of the brands that survives.

Buzzwords like ‘engagement’ and ‘experience’ are populating the blogs, the articles, and the loyalty hubs, but who is really living up to the meaning of them? A viral commercial is never going to be as good as an experience you can share with a loved one, or memories created after an outing with your family. So, what’s the fastest way to reach a consumer’s heart? Rewarding them with those experiences. KY built the perfect movie and dinner date-night-in for their consumers, Ray-Ban rocked peoples’ socks off with concert tickets for every purchase, and Famous Grouse took its consumers to the links for the day.

As Craig David, Chief Creative Officer Worldwide, of JWT says, “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.” The last thing consumers need is another short lived multi-million dollar advert clawing at our eyes at half time.

And instead, gain a few yards on the experiential spectrum.

The Wizard of CES

by Molly Schlinger

After attending CES, there’s little more on our minds than technology, who’s got the next best smart-object, and of course, the bright lights of the Sin City itself. If all of the chatter before the show didn’t tip us off enough, our suspicions that wearable technology was going to dominate the conversation was confirmed.

With so many new and emerging products on the market from different brands, one might actually find themselves in quite a pickle when deciding what piece matches best with their…lifestyle? And choosing is not just as simple as, does navy blue go with black? Which, no by the way, it does not.

These technologies are generally very expensive, sharing the price tags of products like tablets and Smartphones and soaring ever higher as they continue to develop. So how does a brand help a shopper choose which product to bring into their life for good, every single day, and for a hefty amount of sheckles? Especially when 61% of 1000 U.S adults surveyed said they don’t plan to purchase any sort of wearable technology at all, according to Citrix.

Well, they create a connection far beyond microchips and auto-parallel parking.

No matter how much we attempt to humanize technology, it will always fall a little short in regards to its “emotional” measurements. Which leads us to wonder: how can we work with that? How can we tie a computer chip into someone’s life in a meaningful way that also stands out in a crowded market? In other words, how do we get the tin man his heart?

Though the product may not spew laughter and love and memories and good times, there are dozens of ways that we can surround it with such. We just have to take our google glasses off and look a little deeper.

Rekindling the In-store Flame

by Molly Schlinger

You can look but you can’t touch,” means many - sometimes inappropriate - things for a lot of different people, but personally it takes me back to my childhood. For as long as I remember, the moment I’d enter a store with mom, she or the employees would harp on that phrase the entire visit. Who would have imagined this mantra would essentially blossom into the “kryptonite” of the retail sector?

A few years and website discount retailers later we get: showrooming.

With the likes of Amazon, Ebay, and Groupon, consumers nowadays get to enjoy picking out what they need, like, and admire in store before heading immediately onto their mobile devices to make the sneaky purchase behind the retailer’s back. My professional diagnosis? Serial retail cheating. I would usually recommend couples therapy…but in this case, I’ve found there’s a brilliant solution in experiential incentives.

Retailers get their shoppers in-store, but what are they willing to do to get them spending in-store? We typically see cash back or a discount, maybe a doodad or a free coffee – nothing new. That makes for a fickle shopper. So, how about rewards and incentives, loyalty programs, or surprise and delights in the form of experiences people love? I’m talking real added-value rewards. Experiences, activities, luxurious happenings and appealing to-dos – something to encourage and motivate their behavior that the online discount retailers don’t provide.

Let me paint a clearer picture.

We’ve seen Banana Republic incentivize their target by offering Broadway tickets for a minimum level spend in store. DECA Supermarkets wanted to appeal to their family-specific demographic, so they answered that with free Piano Lessons, Movie Rentals, and Family Adventure Activities. Sears wanted to target dads on Father’s Day, and so they gave out free rounds of Golf for buying in-store. We even saw Levi’s sell more jeans in their brick and mortars by giving away general admission concert tickets.

And who wouldn’t welcome a branded experience like that? Just picture yourself front row.

It’s time to build that relationship again, get the shoppers off line and save their phones for a rainy day. The retailers are back and they’re ready to mingle.

Whoever said you can’t buy love never tried in-store.

Green Eggs and Brand

How To Stand Out From the Competition
by Molly Schlinger

If you have any Italian friends, you know a thing or two about "my sauce is better than your sauce" competition. It’s a decades long, cut-throat tradition that never seems to die out no matter how many victors named and how many tomatoes slaughtered. But the fact is, sauce is sauce and they are all bringing the same thing to the table, literally. If they really want me to choose them as Italian of the year, to pick them over the other, they’re going to need to show me something different.

In a study done by Bain & Company, 50% of a brand’s "loyal" consumers will no longer be buying with them the following year. Cause: Price based promotion competition. Effect: The slow demise of brand loyalty. Solution: Experiential based promotions.

In a market overdosing on coupons, rebates, and typical discount deal promotions, brands must find a way to differentiate themselves from the rest in order to score a customer and maybe a loyal one at that. How, you ask? Why not build an emotional connection between brand and consumer that will leave a lasting impression forever?

Through experiential promotions, brands are able to offer lifestyle activity rewards to their consumers that give them gratification in real time. Though a .25 cent coupon may sound good, a day at the spa makes a person feel good.

It’s time to change up the game, make a splash, be the change we wish to see in the…market. As famed author and illustrator Dr. Seuss once wrote "why fit in when you were born to stand out?"

In Independents We Trust

by Molly Schlinger

Just having finished celebrating our great country’s Independence Day, my mind has nowhere else to drift off to than what we consider the backbone of our business and the American economy as well: independent businesses.

What a group to celebrate.
As we mention in every introductory phone call (and probably every conversation after that), our greatest ability over others in the market is to offer on-brand, high perceived-value lifestyle and entertainment rewards to every person who engages with a promotion. We deliver these rewards at a fraction of the retail cost due to the networks of independent businesses that we’ve partnered with over the years. These cherished partnerships that we’ve built over time and space have given us the geographical reach and extensive variety of reward experiences we can offer everyone one of our clients’ consumers – not just a few lucky winners.

We claim that for any demographic, there’s an experience that we can find and provide as an incentive – and it’s due to our independent partners’ innovative businesses and services. Time and time again we’ve proved that TRCo reward experiences can reach every teeny tiny corner of the US – due, yet again, to our thousands of independent partners.

Though we work with and welcome all types of businesses and experience providers of all sizes, it only makes sense in the name of pun and patriotism, to shout out our amazing independent partners and their extreme value in all parts of the marketplace, our business, and of course, the home of the brave.

Reaching Your Consumers Without Batting an Eye

by Molly Schlinger

So you’re at the grocery store in the beverage aisle having the seemingly most important debate of your life: which drinks do I get for my party? You know that there will be some 30 or so people there and you want to satisfy them all. Do you get every flavor of Juice and Cola Drink that's been made since 1935 and try to please everyone with impromptu mixology? Or do you stick to a basic 4 or 5 core drinks and hope that everyone likes them? Decisions, decisions.

It seems brands today have made their decision on this front – trying to do and produce everything and trying to reach and please everyone (the every-juice-and-cola-drink-since-1935 option). The real wonder arising…is it all becoming a bit too much?
I think it’s safe to say that consumers today have an overwhelmingly vast choice of products and brands in their lives every day; which candy bar, which sneaker, which computer, which vodka, which pain reliever, which condom, which coconut water – and it doesn’t seem like the market is slowing down any time soon.

So then we arrive at the question: is it possible to have too much choice? Maybe the flooded market is actually drowning us instead.

So, who will rise to the top?

An average person may see about 5,000 ads per day – that's nearly 1 ad per 17.28 seconds. There’s not many things I do every 17 seconds except blink, maybe. And it seems that if I do that, I may miss the newest, or funniest, or intrusive advertisement.

In a world where thousands of brands are clawing at our eyes for a mere glimpse of attention, it seems as though they need a differentiator to help them stand out fast (seventeen seconds fast, if we’re being scientific). Advertisements have become redundant, and strategy cliché and repetitive – it’s time brands reevaluate the market and their consumers, and find the niche in the promotional world.

So don’t blink…cause you just might miss it

Deception vs. Perception

by Molly Schlinger

”Things are not what they seem.” We’ve all grown up hearing it, and though it appears to be a deceitful and menacing concept, it has become the strongest tool in the marketplace’s arsenal in recent years and marketers have categorized it with two simple words: perceived value.

As we age, we become more accustomed to how much a tube of toothpaste is worth, or what a good price is for a 12 pack of our favorite beer. Commodities like these are something we can put a price on, but what about the experiences that we love and share? Can you put a price on that?
Here at TRCo we believe that you can…in the consumer’s mind. Take the Back to School period for example. It’s on the horizon, and the Staples, Targets, and Wal-Marts of the world will be full to the brim with people looking for 5 subject notebooks and 3-ring hole punches. Shoppers will be out and about looking for the best deals based on what they’ve always known and spent – but how about adding a bit more value this year?

A pack of blue, pink, green, or purple (choose wisely) Post-its is worth $8.99 this year – but what happens when you tack on a free dining experience to share with your family or a loved one?

A Texas Instruments scientific calculator is worth $15.99 – but how about when you throw in Soccer Lessons for your youngest who wants to make the Varsity soccer team this year?

Suddenly the offer is amplified. And it’s not because we’re giving you a few cents or dollars back, it’s because we’re giving you time with your family, or a moment for yourself, or a new adventure or memory to save for a lifetime.

But here’s the best part – what if your brand could deliver those high perceived-value (yet normally pricey) experiences for just pennies on the dollar to every consumer? Now we’ve got ourselves a ball game.

Though we don’t consider trickery or condone deception, we do believe in marketing a high-perceived value experience, while paying minimal dollars for it. So that's exactly what we do for the biggest brands; adding value without adding debt. A simple equation for a simple solution.

No need for a scientific calculator after all.

Let’s get engaged!

by Molly Schlinger

There are over 7 billion people in the world today. Over 315 million of those are in America alone. Chances are they aren’t all interested in the exact same thing.

Enter demographics, target audiences, really expensive database memberships and: tailored experiential promotions.

The time for standard product-based rewards is nearing the end as it gives way to a more humanized, emotionally connected form of incentives and consumer engagement. Through careful market research and understanding of specific demographics, now brands have the ability to truly get to know their consumers – what they like, what they do, what they want – and act accordingly. It opens the door for brands to connect on that emotional level humans crave so much; it’s just a matter of who actually walks in.

Although I was completely thrilled to receive another plastic keychain when I signed up for a new checking account, it made me realize that we as consumers are demanding more from the brands we love and trust and, even more so now, the ones we don’t know yet. When Edelman Berland surveyed some 4,000 people, they found that 75% said they want brands to “provide them with the opportunity for more life experiences.” TRCo Marketing has found a way to do exactly that through a unique business model that rewards everyone – customers, brands, and its partners.

TRCo Marketing might appear to be your average promotional engagement agency made of deal makers, creative brains, and seasoned marketers; however they’ve got something no one else has: a unique, yet simple, solution allowing brands to reward every consumer with lifestyle experiences they love, all for the same price as the average coupon/rebate or less. Whether their targets enjoy being pampered or skydiving, brands can now reward every consumer with high perceived value experiences like these and only spend cents on them. How is it possible? The answer is logical, like most ground breaking ideas.

TRCo recruits thousands of experience providers who supply their services to every customer who purchases a promoted brand, for example. Every customer has an amazing experience and, more often than not, returns to the experience provider for future business. Likewise, the customer re-purchases the promoted brand because of the emotional connection that has been forged. Everyone wins, literally.

In a world that’s been couponing for over 100 years, slapping 27-step mail-in rebates on box tops, and handing out complimentary key chains to get attention, brands need to explore better ways to connect with people on a more personal and emotional level. If not, we’ll continue to see loyalty go out the door as fickle shoppers carry on making decisions based solely on “that brand is cheaper”, not “that's the brand I love.”

WELCOME TO TRCo MARKETING 2.0.

by Molly Schlinger

Now that we’ve been around for a while – sharing the likes of the wheel, electricity, or Betty White – we decided to get a bit of a face lift. After months of planning, coding, nixing, agreeing, disagreeing, agreeing to disagree, and long distance phone calls, we’ve finally recreated our online presence – and we hope it’s to all of your liking. Have a look around and go through all of our things – we’ve got a lot up our sleeves that we’d love for you to see.

Through the help of our amazing design and support team in London and one wonderful Andrew Mockridge - Marketing Manager by day, web ninja by night - all of our website dreams have come to life.

So go ahead, click all of our buttons, and see what happens. Check us out, get to know us, and make sure to click on that “Free ideas” button up there…because you never know where your next great idea may come from.

BOWERY SOUP KITCHEN

by Molly Schlinger

TRCo Trust, our volunteer initiative to give back to the community, proves that actions speak louder than words at The Bowery Soup Kitchen in NYC.

We’ve all heard it, we all know what it means, and last Tuesday we got to experience it for ourselves. Our wonderful Client Services Director,
Aviva Walsh, organized a group of TRCo volunteers to help the Bowery Mission in serving food to those less fortunate in New York City. Only a short walk from our office in SoHo, a group of 7 of us headed out to The Bowery for the dinner shift where we served upwards of 200 people. Partnered with another volunteer group, we had all hands on deck cleaning the kitchen, replacing food, setting up plates and delivering trays to people at their tables. The two-hour process seemed to fly by, with different groups of people entering the church service and dining hall in organized waves, trying to get the most people seated and served in the allotted dinner time.

It was incredible to see how only a few pairs of hands could serve so many that truly needed a warm meal – an experience we hope to remember and repeat in the future. As I like to say, teamwork makes the dream work.