September 16th, 2019
The launch of Varian’s Ethos ™ therapy today marks Mortar’s fifth foray into machine intelligence* this year.
We kicked off 2019 with Cloudability and machine learning (ML) in the cloud. Apptio snatched up Cloudability earlier this year.
We featured ExtraHop’s use of ML to stop threats outside the corporate firewall in their 2019 campaign. (See the Rise Above the Noise video here).
Our friends at global hearing aid giant Phonak (the parent of Mortar’s client Advanced Bionics) built AI into their new Marvel hearing aids, delighting the hard-of-hearing (the sound from the new devices is apparently incredible!) and resulting in a massive spike in earnings (and, of course, exciting implications for Cochlear Implant recipients—but we can’t talk about that yet. More on that in a future post).
Our most recent project, e-commerce disruptor CommerceIQ is built around using AI to unify Advertising and Sales on Amazon.com.
Of Sunday’s launch of Ethos ™ therapy, Varian said their innovation “marks the moment when artificial intelligence and adaptive therapy combine to create the world’s first application of Adaptive Intelligence”. Varian goes on to say their breakthrough will “inspire healthcare professionals worldwide to reimagine cancer care”.
It’s not quite the mean, machine-driven apocalypse that James Cameron presented in Terminator. But hey, there’s still time.
From the cloud to advanced hearing loss to empty shopping carts, and eliminating cancer, we’re hoping machine intelligence can continue to make our lives easier and yes, maybe, curb suffering.
Wanna be a part of it? We’re hiring.
* At Mortar Machine Intelligence means the various flavors of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). And yes, dear readers, although we know that you know that we know there is a difference between the two, confusion about the difference is undeniably rampant.
September 12th, 2019
Expanding client work and a host of new business wins have created the need for a whole raft of creative talent (raft being the technical term for a group of creatives — like murder of crows). If you’re a whiz with words (triple alliteration word score) or pictures we’d like to talk to you. Read on for more…
We are looking for a Senior Copywriter/ACD with 360° capabilities: a conceptual thinker and skilled writer who can shift seamlessly between all media: print, digital, outdoor, broadcast/video, experiential, radio, interactive, etc. You’ll work closely with our Executive Creative Director and partner with art directors and designers, as well as our strategy, account, and new business teams.
You will be responsible for helping us move people through marketing that shapes the intended reaction (we call them A-ha moments) to our clients’ products and services. You’ll need to know what customer emotions to play into, how to trigger those emotions, and how to bring that to life through words in a way that’s not only new and engaging, but solves our clients’ business objectives.
- Develop creative concepts for integrated brand initiatives and campaigns that crystallize the strategic marketing decision
- Write and edit compelling copy in all forms—from detailed, long-form brochures and topical social content, to digital banners and captivating headlines and taglines
- Work effectively with all Mortar teams to develop copy that clearly meets the given brief and client objectives
- Ability to manage and jump between multiple ongoing clients and projects—from concept stage through to completion
- Possess a strong point-of-view and ability to contribute to the creative and strategic development of a concept
- Prioritize workload, and deliver exceptional creative on time
- Collaborate regularly and effectively with account managers, strategists, and new business teams—we’re no fans of department walls here
Required Skills and Experience:
- A portfolio that demonstrates exceptional creative thinking and copy in a variety of industries that spans traditional, interactive and beyond
- Minimum 8 years of experience in the advertising/branding industry
- Experience with B2B, technology sector, and/or medical product marketing a strong plus
- Excellent presentation and deck-writing skills
- Work effectively with other departments to meet deadlines and solve clients’ challenges
- A self-starter who can proactively manage time and prioritize workloads
- Meticulous with details, quality and grammar
- Extremely strong conceptual abilities
- Mastery of Microsoft Office and Keynote; you should be Mac-friendly
To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: email@example.com with the subject line “Senior Copywriter.”
Sr. Art Director/ACD
We’re looking for a Sr. Art Director/ACD with 360° capabilities: a conceptual thinker and skilled designer who can shift seamlessly between digital design, broadcast/video, and traditional print media. This leadership role will also require you to be an inspiring and attentive mentor to Mortar’s creative team. You’ll collaborate early and often, working regularly with our strategy, account, and new business teams.
- Develop creative concepts for high-level, integrated brand initiatives and campaigns that crystallize the Strategic Decision and drive the A-ha moment
- Conceptualize and design campaigns and executions across digital, broadcast, experiential, and print media
- Provide clear creative direction so designers can execute on your vision
- Manage multiple ongoing projects from concept stage through to completion
- Work with outside vendors: developers, photographers, production companies, etc.
- Be able to generate interesting and viable ideas across all existing and emerging media, whether that’s direct mail or Snapchat
- Participate in new business pitches
- Provide quotes for time and resources when new projects come in
- Be a true team player who works well with clients and Mortar internal departments. We believe good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone
Required Skills and Experience:
- A portfolio that demonstrates exceptional creative thinking as well as superb art direction, graphic design, and typography skills
- Minimum 8 years of experience in the advertising/branding industry
- Proven ability to execute traditional print design, experience design, and information architecture
- Works effectively with other departments to meet deadlines and solve clients’ problems while overseeing creative staff
- Can proactively manage time and prioritize workloads
- Must know Adobe Creative Suite like the back of your stylus-wielding hand (mouse-wielding hands ok, too)
- Effective deck-writing and presentation skills
- Proven ability to lead and manage a creative team
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
Bonus points for:
- Motion graphics or video editing experience
- Knowledge of AfterEffects, HTML, DHTML, CSS, Actionscript or jQuery
To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Senior Art Director.”
We are looking for a Production Designer to create and support the visual design and production of our print and digital deliverables.
- Design and execute campaign assets across digital platforms like ad banners, website mastheads, social brand assets (basic animation or video editing a plus) and print production materials, including tradeshow, direct mail, magazine and brochure layouts
- Set up documents, templates, and finished artwork, properly preparing files for production
- Review documentation to ensure files meet template and spec requirements
- Work with vendors and supplied specifications to create pixel-perfect and print-ready final assets
- Religiously follow and implement brand style guidelines, producing consistent and compelling designs
- Proofread artwork for design and copy errors
- Meet deadlines while juggling many projects and priorities simultaneously
- Be a true team player who interacts and collaborates well with peers, supervisors, and clients
Required Skills & Experience:
- 2-5 years of graphic design production experience in a production heavy environment, such as agencies or large in-house marketing department
- A portfolio that showcases excellent design production skills in both print and digital media
- Proven success working in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
- High proficiency in InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Keynote, and Microsoft Office. Adobe AfterEffects, Premier, or Animate are a plus
- Ability to take direction from leadership and incorporate feedback
- Skilled in prepress, file preparation, digital file transfer, and printing techniques
- Proper file management and impeccable attention to detail and accuracy
- Superb organizational skills
- Ability to manage time efficiently and to work independently
To apply for this position, send your resume, cover letter and portfolio link to: email@example.com with the subject line “Production Designer.”
April 30th, 2019
Yes, Eskimos really do have more than 50 different words for snow.
Why there’s “aqilokoq” for “softly falling snow” and “piegnartoq” for great sledding, to “matsaaruti” for wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners, “pukak,” for crystalline powder snow that looks like salt. The Inupiaq of Wales, Alaska, use 70 terms for ice ranging from “utuqaq,” ice that lasts year after year; “siguliaksraq,” the patchwork layer of crystals that forms as the sea begins to freeze; to “auniq,” ice that is filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. (See this article in the WashPost, doubters).
If our Northernmost neighbors can find room for multiple ways to describe the most plentiful stuff they know, surely we, dear marketer, can find ways to separate our products and services from everyone else.
Writing for the Harvard Business Review in 1980, Theodore Levitt forcefully pointed out that there is no such thing as a commodity—in consumer or industrial goods. In the marketplace differentiation is everywhere.
But why? Why is differentiation so critical to marketing?
Simply put, we will pay more for what we perceive to be difference. And difference can be produced by pulling on one of at least seven distinct levers:
- Target: Because not everyone cares about what your organization does or makes, we must learn early to focus on those that matter: the people who need what you make, and desire your solution. Insights into your target audience that lead to a superior understanding of motivation can go a long way to drawing a firm line around how you solve problems others can’t.
- Purpose: Customers can be very tribal: they find community in shared ideas. We see the differentiating power of purpose in politics, social networks, car ownership, and American’s odd belief that peanut butter pairs well with chocolate. How you state your purpose can set your offering apart. Using your product can be self-affirming and rewarding.
- Story: The story you tell about your product and your heritage can be a powerful motivator and a distinct feature. Many of our favorite brands are as much story as they are performance—think about how you feel about Apple’s genesis or Nike’s much applauded transition from footwear manufacturer to champion of fitness everywhere. How you tell your story gets you noticed and feeds word-of-mouth.
- Experience: What you are like to do business with can be very attractive—how we meet customer need can be fulfilling and valuable. Southwest, Nordstrom, Zappos and Rackspace have all made a name for themselves by providing stellar customer service.
- Quality: Here in California, In-N-Out burger still attracts long lines of passionate customers despite the availability of much cheaper, more readily available burgers. One reason for In-N-Out’s continued ascendancy is the quality of their product, which, unlike its rivals, actually matches the product it advertises (and tastes awesome IMHO).
- Strengths: This is an easy one. If you are well-known for a specific attribute others find valuable, differentiation is often a given. We see strength in Amazon’s domination of the cloud in terms of high awareness, robust services and widespread use.
- Attitude: We love an underdog. We love a rebel. We often seek out and reward those who challenge the status quo because they see a need to do something different. And we agree with them. We see this effect in the zeal of Trump and AOC supporters alike. Many of our favorite brands started life with a novel take on the world. See how Eat24 upended online food delivery by attacking cooking—and ignoring their rivals claims to have organized the Internet. How we talk to the world about what we do—and don’t–can be as liberating and refreshing as our products.
Ultimately, effective brand differentiation needs to create value in the minds of its intended customer. And to do that you must pull on one or more of the difference levers to set yourself apart.
Making the decision to be different is a vital part of any marketing strategy. If you’d like to know how we can help you pull that off, send us a email.
April 25th, 2019
The much-vaunted Sd & A-ha Mortar brand development process in one.
March 4th, 2019
2018 was the year for Enterprise Security in the Valley and at Mortar.
Client after client gathered around the whiteboard to describe how Security was transforming their business.
Each time I was struck by the odd sense that something vital was missing.
Security dollars have been flooding the Valley for years as big business seeks to defend itself from attack and protect valuable customer data. Last year Gartner estimated the global cyber security industry would soon be worth over $96 billion. We have yet to see a similar estimate of the opportunity in user privacy.
The Security debate has come to emphasize the protection of big company data, and not protecting individual users and their personal data. It’s almost as if the Valley expects Google, Apple and Facebook to do that job for users. For free.
At least that was the prevailing view going into 2018. But, after 12 more months of large scale breaches at Equifax, Yahoo, Starwood Hotels, UnderArmor, T Mobile, Google. The Cambridge Analytica scandal shining a harsh light on how Facebook handles our private information. And Russian intervention in US elections. Congressional hearings on user privacy. Individual users exited 2018 with increasing anxiety about their ability to protect themselves online.
Looking back at those events today, it’s not hard to see that the privacy opportunity that had been simmering gently under the big waves of Security, was finally ready to burst forth and soak the toes of the Aware.
Now, just as Mark Zuckerberg was busy defending Facebook’s pillaging of modern user privacy to Congress, your pals at Mortar were well into an extensive study of modern privacy in support of the launch of a new app designed to help individual users seize control of their personal information. (You can access the Beta of the FigLeaf app we named and helped launch, here).
We are all exposed online: and we don’t like it.
Still, we—and every user we know—remain horribly exposed online.
Everything we do digitally is tracked, parsed, analyzed and has the potential to harm us. Nowhere is it safe. And once revealed, our personal internet history can be traded with abandon by unknown actors. Our personal information has become the currency in a bitter new cold war between Russia, North Korea, China and the NSA.
This is hardly news. Either to you or to savvy global internet users.
In fact, the pundits often reassure us that we have gladly traded this intrusion into our personal lives in return for the promise of discounts on chips and waffles.
The truth is a lot more complicated.
Our research revealed that savvy internet users have a much more nuanced view of online user privacy. Users want it when they want it—and although they are aware of the benefits of trading personal data for a better experience, users do want to control who has what and what others do with their private information.
The facts about our views of what we will accept in digital privacy are tantalizing. Our global survey of online user privacy revealed that most users were already very concerned about their privacy.
More importantly, a major portion of the audience that expressed concern (perhaps half) were already spending good money to paper across the privacy cracks they knew about. (It is not hard to get savvy users to acknowledge how helpless they feel attempting to stay private, online).
Savvy users are already spending significant money on anti-virus—which we are used to thinking of as security technology, but is well on the path to evolving into a version of personal privacy protection. Concerned users and workers also spend to hide their private and corporate surfing data with VPNs. (Many use the same technology to skirt the rules for streaming movies and music online).
Subscription-based password services like Dashlane (which exceeded 10 million users in June 2018), 1Password and LastPass are booming and adding privacy features like credit score alerts, identity theft insurance and Dark Web scanning. (The entire password management category is predicted to exceed $2.5 billion by 2025).
Another security play, Lifelock (which surpassed $500 million in revenue way back in 2015) is now part of $4bn Symantec’s anti-virus empire, and is widely thought of as one of the earliest privacy successes by the growing privacy community).
Legacy is playing in the privacy war too.
Even legacy business is paying attention. Credit reporting bureaus like TransUnion and Experian are bouncing back (after spilling everything they know about us onto the Dark Web) with new subscription models designed to help us monitor and stay on top of our credit histories and digital identities. Add to all that ad blocking software and regular browser cache cleansing (the Firefox browser too just added Dark Web scanning), and it’s pretty clear that personal data privacy is already a booming and growing market quite distinct from cyber security.
It’s also worth noting that most of the members of this growing crop of security and privacy tools is fairly reluctant to use the word Privacy to describe their products. And certainly no other apps exist today to challenge the breadth and power of our FigLeaf app. No doubt that will change soon as more businesses realize the potential of offering a more robust promise to protect personal privacy.
Brush up your resume
And if that’s true, all those juicy new privacy players will soon be on the look out for talent—much of which can pretty much only come from one place: the booming ranks of cyber security.
Here’s our prediction: Security is huge. Privacy will be even HUGER. Maybe it’s time to brush up your resume?