Category: Uncategorized
March 4th, 2019

Wondering if there is life after Security? Yes, look to User Privacy.

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?

January 10th, 2019

The reaction you want in the end is the best way for marketing to begin.

Every marketer understands the power of distinction and how what makes you unique needs to be pulled through to every stage of your sales cycle. From product design to user experience to purchase, use and sharing—every time a customer touches your product is an opportunity to amplify your brand and deliver an unique a-ah moment of delight. But a-ha moments are only possible after you get your team to own the decision to present a different promise.

Teams that see the value in selling difference can make a Strategic Decision—we call them SD’s for short. Nail your team’s SD and the big time will be within your grasp.

Good decisions make for awesome A-ha moments: A-ha moments are how you want your customers to react to your decision. For dog food makers this means owners will say, Wow, Fido LOVES this stuff. If you make something cloudy, well your job is a little harder but your A-ha should still sound something like, “Well bugger me sideways, now this is awesome”. Your customers will rarely pause to understand the glory of the SD you worked so hard to define, but they will experience their own A-ha delight. And that is what we are here to help you deliver.

Mortar is an agency of very experienced people, led by a team that understands what we do is all business. All of it. Even the pretty bits. Call us a boutique. Paint us as a niche-player. We don’t mind. We are one of the few ad agencies that know what we do well—and is not particularly excited about growth or becoming part of a mega-shop. Weird, huh? Yeah we don’t want to win at Cannes. We get off on making our customers rich or meaningful. And isn’t that the point?

Leaders pay us to think with them not for them. If you’re reading this you are among a bold group of people we think we can help in areas like brand strategy and positioning, creative development and strategic messaging.

We have already helped create businesses worth over $21 billion: Our clients measure success measure in billions of dollars. Which tells you something about us: you can benefit from a perspective rooted in massive commercial success. And you will be in good company — our customers include:

Tyra Banks, Tyra Banks Beauty: we launched Tyra’s new line of beauty products. She thanked us for our badassery.
Oliver Roll, Chief Communications Officer, Cisco: we created Intent-based networking and helped Cisco engineer its largest global campaign of the last decade.
Ellie Oppenheim, CEO, Reno Sparks Convention & Visitors Center: we reversed 10 years of declining tourism for the City of Reno.
Nadav Sharon, CEO, Eat 24: Nadav’s team rode our program to market leadership in online food delivery and a very successful exit.
Brett Goodwin, CMO, Isilon Systems Inc: we drove this enterprise storage company through IPO to acquisition for $2.2 billion.
Garth Saloner, Dean, Stanford University Graduate School of Business: we helped Stanford’s famed MBA program position itself to pull more of the cream from Harvard.
Skip Viragh, CEO Rydex Investments: our repositioning of this mutual funds innovator helped birth the modern ETF industry. Rydex sold for $800 million.

To discuss your next project drop us an email at

June 13th, 2018

Creating a category “splash” with an A-ha Moment

One of the most difficult strategic decisions a company can make (especially in tech) is to create a new category. Couchbase came to us looking for a creative way to market a new type of NoSQL database: an Engagement Database.

We developed a series of giant, paint-splattered words that showcased the euphoric A-ha Moment Couchbase customers will experience by using the world’s first Engagement Database.

Take a look at the work we created that’s helping a category creator become the category leader.


May 23rd, 2018

Marketers: are you giving up too much ground?

150 years ago, Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. for two cents an acre. With the discovery of huge oil and gas reserves 20 years later, Russia realized it had also lost natural resources worth billions.

Knowing the potential of what you have is not just important. It’s essential.

To help our clients make smart strategic decisions, we start every assignment by gathering with key team members around a whiteboard for an energetic brainstorm—and work hard to uncover what’s surprising, challenge what we think is true, and forge a plan forward.

Had the Russians aristocrats used a similar technique they might not have sold off such a vital resource.

If you’re looking to get a fresh lay of your own land before launching any new marketing efforts, drop us an email at:

We’ll help you mine the gold that’s just waiting to be tapped.

April 4th, 2018

Remember the lesson of the Greeks.

During the siege of Troy, the invading Greeks hid a small number of troops inside a huge wooden horse and placed it at the city’s gate. Thinking it a symbol of surrender, the unwitting Trojans pulled the horse inside. That night the secreted Greeks crept out and opened the gate for the rest of their army, destroying the city and ending the war.

Every marketer needs to be able to tell the difference between promise and threat.

To make smart decisions, we should always listen to the wisdom of colleagues—but let’s not forget to also pay attention to critics. Just as the voice of caution could have saved the Trojans, so too could a dose of objective, collaborative third-party thinking (from, oh we don’t know, these guys?) ensure you’re headed for victory.

Looking to mount a new marketing effort? Drop us an email at: We’ll make sure you ride off with the spoils.