I have been blogging for nearly half my advertising agency ownership life. It is true; the older you get, the faster time flies. And 12 years of blogging has whizzed by. I feel like the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The Road Runner represents the years in this metaphoric dream. And I’m Wile E.  Beep. Beep.

It is hard to think about the future of blogging, podcasting and content creation without wondering if it all is worth the effort. In my TV days, we would call it broadcasting to the ether. You always asked if anyone was listening above the clouds. Did the words, pictures and video make a difference?

New technologies are changing how we communicate. And we are all communicating through endless channels, large and small. With so many of us expressing ourselves, are we really reaching our target audiences? Are we touching the right people at the right time?  Are we listening? 

In college, I made a short film about a large rock on the main lawn of campus where anyone who had something to say climbed the rock and spoke out. Usually, a crowd would form. My movie short featured one speaker and a small audience. Then one by one, members of the audience all climbed up on the rock; all were speaking at once. Soon, no one was listening; everyone was on the rock speaking to the empty lawn. (By the way, I got a very low grade for my film. The instructor was more into the recently released “Rocky” movie knock-offs). It seems like my little film applies today. We all can speak from the rock, so what is essential as we become our own media outlets?

This is where three keywords become more and more critical: Relevancy, Empathy and Story. To me, empathy is the most important word. You must be able to empathize with your audience. Our thinking should be, “What does my audience need to hear? And not, “What do I want to say?”

You can’t blog this long about marketing and not be optimistic. Each new change has brought incredible opportunities to do things better and with more relevance. Ideas will always lead us forward.


Blog note: This is the last blog of 2021. There are times when readership is extremely low, and this is the lowest time. The weeks surrounding holidays always have low readership, so I’ll take a break.  Thank you for reading.  

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

One of the questions I ask people in interviews about working in an advertising, public relations, marketing and fundraising agency is: Do you like sales? If you don’t, then look in another field.

Our work is about getting people to do things — donate, sign up, take out a loan, convince an editor, select a physician. It is all sales. Every ad, every brochure, every website should do something. It’s not art. It is sales.  Sales person blog in December

Empathetic Listening

So if you are hiring all “salespeople,” what are the best traits for a writer, designer, PR professional or fundraising consultant? The same as a salesperson for business-to-business or in a retail store or in a bank or in a car dealership. LinkedIn calls it “active listening.” I call it empathetic listening.  

In our business, if you can’t put yourself into other people’s shoes, you’ll never be successful. You must be able to understand and share the feelings of another — not just be actively listening (as in, put down your phone while another person is talking).

You have to become that person. The closest profession to marketing is acting. In acting, the actor must get inside the character’s head. In marketing and fundraising, you must do the same. 

Happy National Salesperson Day.  #SalespersonDay

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Sometimes in our marketing and advertising world, we succumb to the overuse of buzzwords. Jargon allows us to communicate quickly in our own section of society.

The buzzword and jargon sea level is rising rapidly, which may raise all boats, but it is sinking our ability to clearly and effectively communicate.

Here are the top ten “most annoying buzzwords” according to TrustRadius.

  1. New normal
  2. Synergy
  3. Circle back
  4. Take this offline
  5. Pivot
  6. Unprecedented
  7. Think outside the box
  8. Bandwidth
  9. Work from home
  10. Low-hanging fruit

According to TrustRadius, “we use jargon because it feels convenient, comfortable and safe.” What can be lost is clarity. In a survey (combined with Google Trends research), TrustRadius found that 66% of people hear buzzwords way too much or often in a typical workday. And we all use buzzwords to communicate concepts quickly.  I’m really not sure what “It is what it is” is, but it seems to sum up how we are all feeling in times of crises and uncertainty.

Just like there are too many commercials in cable movies, too many buzzwords are cluttering our business communications, from advertising to annual reports. Clarity should be the watchword for 2022. Content is not king (another buzz phrase); clarity is king. 

I know I often use all the annoying terms. So my wish for 2022 is not to take this offline but to circle back and find better ways to express the new-normal synergy during these unprecedented times. To add bandwidth as I pivot and think outside the box to reap the low-hanging fruit as I build better alignment with my work from home.

That is what it is. 

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

A lot is going on in TV today. You may have read about the issues between Nielsen and the Media Rating Council. What may happen is that TV stations begin to look for alternative TV measurement methods. Regardless, the world of ratings is now under review.

Beyond the ratings dustup, the numbers for the Summer Olympics are worth reviewing. You probably read that the Olympics ratings were down: This year’s games averaged 15.5 million viewers nightly across NBC’s primetime and digital offering. Americans tuning in added up to 150 million. It may not be a gold medal Olympics in these COVID times, but it certainly won the silver.

Yet something else caught my eye: The majority of “streaming viewers of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony spent the most time watching on desktop computers and mobile phones,” according to eMarketer.

Streaming captured more than half the time for a combined share of 54%. This is a worldwide number, but it shows that you really need to think omni-screen even for the most significant TV events in the world.

Whether this is a trend, or if these results are COVID-related is the question we will be asking of all 2020 and 2021 marketing efforts. The good news, in just a few months, the winter Olympics in Beijing will feature opening ceremonies on February 4. 

I will get my phone ready.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Have you heard of Twitch? Twitch is a video platform (a channel in the old country) that broadcasts live gamers playing video games. The Amazon-owned channel also controls more than 90% of video game streaming. According to estimates, the channel serves 2 million viewers at any time of the day.

In this fractured world of TV, niche channels are developing content and delivering large audiences on a consistent basis. While some scoff at the concept, the channel is building huge numbers. In June of 2021, 237,000 people watched someone play Grand Theft Auto V on Twitch.

It’s another of the many channels to stardom and riches that have people buzzing. The best advice I read said, “Think of it like you’re taping a talk show and you’re the host,” Redditor Neon_Nazgul. Watching someone play video games is just like a live sports event on TV. You like the sport, you support a team (or player) and the host is important.

It seems that the real value comes from 1) learning something about the game as you watch others play and 2) the community that is built. Twitch allows people to comment alongside of the game. The streamer’s personality, just like on TV shows, seems to drive connections and make the gameplay entertaining. And like-minded gamers can connect in the chat room while watching their favorite game and gamer stream live.

The channel, besides offering reality TV quality entertainment and camaraderie also offers some key benefits that will allow Twitch to be relevant in the future. It is a great way to sample a video game prior to purchase. “Sometimes there’s a studio audience, and sometimes you’re shooting something the audience will watch later.” While this is absolutely true, that’s also part of what makes streaming without a significant audience so hard in the first place. It’s a solitary practice where you have to pretend someone is listening, with no idea how long it might be before someone shows up, or if they ever will.

You may not even know you are already buying video game broadcasts. YouTube also has large live-stream gamer audiences as well as a channel called Mixer. There’s so much more to gaming. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming already in progress.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

We all have heard remarkable COVID stories of perseverance and achievement. Many of us thought the pandemic would negatively impact fundraising and, specifically, capital campaigns.

What we found is that there is no limit to generosity, even in a pandemic. Many of the campaigns we started pre-COVID are moving along on pace, and some have reached their campaign goals.

But the pandemic will change people in ways we can’t imagine yet. And we all need to keep a sharp eye on the future. Google featured one such story in its “Think with Google” series. The organization featured is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has an operating budget of $1 billion. Nearly 80% of that total comes from individual donors.

Yet, according to Emily Callahan, chief marketing and experience officer, the message was not breaking through all the clutter and “revenue had flatlined.” Because of a deep dive into messaging and an emphasis on digital fundraising, today, online donations have increased 46% year over year. And, four out of five Americans now recognize St. Jude’s brand as No. 1 in overall quality in the Harris Poll Equitrend Study.  

St. Jude has started transforming its direct response model into a more digital model. St. Jude’s has found that “emotionally immersive long-form stories” cost half as much per acquisition than other video content. That is a huge savings, but the effort is also increasing giving.

To make the messaging switch, St. Jude’s developed a brand scorecard to aggregate and understand all the data points and track the journey to becoming an “iconic brand.”  

According to Callahan, “The messages we started with were very different than the ones we ended up with because we stopped pushing what we wanted to say and understood what people needed to hear.”

The St. Jude’s COVID success:

  • Great, immersive patient stories
  • Blending in digital efforts
  • List identification and management
  • Focusing messaging on what people need to hear
  • A mission well communicated

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Have you ever switched brands?

Some believe that brand loyalty is going the way of the bag phone. There are 50 ways to leave your lover and one thousand ways to leave a brand. 

We heavily rely on rewards programs and discounts to drive, or better yet, buy “loyalty.”

It seems as if a poor product or service experience drives people to switch brands. More than 30% said that they changed brands because an organization lied about its products or services. If your brand promise is hyperbole or a bald-faced lie, it will cause people to scatter to other brand options.  

Maybe we should be focusing less on loyalty, and more on relevance. In this case, messaging is critical to success. You need to make sure your brand and your branding align with why people use your services or buy your products.

So, is your marketing true? Are there real benefits to the user? Do you have a brand promise that you genuinely promise to your stakeholders?

Sure, there are many non-messaging reasons people switch brands, from losing data to poor treatment of employees. But you can minimize some of the loss by being authentic and honest with your marketing.  

Brand loyalty may not be as dead as some believe. It may be really sick because of all the hyperbole and lies told in marketing materials.

It takes some deep organizational soul searching to find your genuine promise. And the easy answer is never the truth.  

Poor product experience may appear to be the leading cause of switching brands, but the devil is in the messaging for me.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Noted marketing guru, Sir Isaac Newton, found that there are critical truths to the world of branding, advertising and marketing. He developed laws to describe what is happening in most organizations struggling to find their voice in this new digital world.

Law 1 Inertia

Content marketing efforts that are at rest will remain at rest. When was the last time you refreshed the content on your website? Are there updates of recent projects? Is your news segment up to date? How about your blogs, podcasts, white papers, case studies… We all know content marketing is essential in the digital world, yet when content marketing is at rest, it will remain at rest until a force acts upon it.

Law 2 Force = M x A

I may change the equation a bit: Instead of having the equation end in Force, it should be Speed = Mass X Acceleration. Speed thrills. And you need velocity to keep your content marketing efforts moving forward to impact sales. Velocity also measures the rate at which content is shared and distributed to the target audiences and stakeholders. It not only must be quick to respond but build both magnitude and direction with your marketing. You can’t move people without content that has a clear focus or benefit to the reader and enough importance or significance in their lives.

Law 3 Action/Reaction

You have to put your content marketing effort into motion with enough velocity and frequency to make a difference. Unfortunately, there will be an opposite reaction – internal issues, people who disagree with your stance, just the sheer magnitude of the ongoing task (we call it the hungry beast), and the press of other business.

All of this is really a definition of momentum. Momentum in a football game, a business or a content marketing plan is the force that keeps driving you forward. You can feel momentum shifts in a football game and you can see momentum in a content marketing effort. It’s time to stop thinking of your content marketing effort like a single event such as an apple falling from a tree. The laws of psychological and behavioral physics will provide the momentum to keep your marketing effort moving in the right direction.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

One year ago, I wrote a blog about trends for this year. Remarkably many are right on target. One, to my surprise, is lagging behind all the others: That trend topic is shopping and buying via voice activation.

Many of us are experimenting with voice for actions such as directions, phone controls or voice to text. Yet there is, what eMarketer calls it, “lackluster enthusiasm for shopping and buying via voice.”

“In 2020, we expected 30.7 million people in the U.S. ages 14 and older would be smart speaker shoppers, accounting for 13.4% of digital shoppers. Those figures will experience slow increases through 2022,” stated eMarketer editors in an Insider Intelligence newsletter.

The number of people who actually buy via voice is very low. With no screen, it isn’t easy to know precisely what you are getting. Compounding the problem are the issues with voice activation. Have you ever asked your navigation system to get directions to “home,” and the system plots a course to “Home, Kansas” or “Home, Pennsylvania?” 

Voice search engine optimization can correct the majority of voice issues. The spoken word is much different than what is being typed on a keyboard. And while buying via voice is not growing, search via spoken language is rapidly increasing. According to Adobe Analytics, more than 3 billion people worldwide use voice-activated search.

When you optimize for voice-activated search, don’t forget to include Bing in your thinking. Nearly 70% of voice devices are Alexa. Alexa does not use Google. It uses Bing for results.

Voice may not be big now, but soon, it will feel like it took over overnight when it acts more like Ironman’s J.A.R.V.I.S. 

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

I discussed how the “metaverse” would change how we meet and collaborate in a recent blog post. And for people who have grown up gaming, this will be an easy transition. 

But the transition does not stop there. Gamification, which has been talked about for years, is finally moving mainstream.  Gamification takes elements of gaming and applies them to other marketing areas. It also means that products and services can be applied to a digital game.

Some call the gaming platform the “metaverse.” And Hyundai is driving its marketing right into the metaverse.

Hyundai has developed the Hyundai Mobility Adventure with Roblox. You can experience Hyundai Motor’s offering in the form of digital characters or avatars. Roblox is an online entertainment platform.  

If you want to experience new vehicles differently, this is how you start building relationships with customers — especially Gen Z customers.

In the Hyundai Mobility Adventure, eventually there will be five themed parks where customers can experience new vehicles and interact with other customers. One of the key benefits for Hyundai is that in the interactions and use of the metaverse, it can learn from the experience people have or particular features people enjoy or have difficulty with.

It’s a new world to experience cars and trucks and a new world for selling cars. Imagine that during your experience, you pull into a local dealership, meet with a salesperson avatar and buy a new vehicle that is delivered right to your home. It’s real Wonkavision. 

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.