How Uber’s Community Engagement Hit Marketing Gold

Taxis and  drivers are aren’t exactly considered a “fun” business. But the ability to bring a jolt of life into an otherwise boring industry is exactly where marketers strive, and pioneering transportation company Uber has done just that.

The first metered taxicab hit New York City streets in 1907. A little over 100 years later, over 50,000 for-hire vehicles roam the roads of New York City according the Taxi & Limousine Commission.

Despite this, hailing a cab can often be a nightmare scenario for any New Yorker trying to go to and from any outer-boroughs. So when an app rolled around to hail a car with the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers sighed collectively in relief.

But Uber isn’t  just for New Yorkers. The company that started in San Francisco now serves over 100 cities in a handful of continents. It’s literally changing how people think about local.

Promoting a mobile transportation app in a market where none existed beforehand can be a bit of a challenge. But Uber has a killer formula – they’re local, they’re fun, and they’re on top of their social media game.

Uber has at times faced some hurdles from arcane laws and the existing taxi industry. But they have a huge trick up their sleeve: people absolutely adore the brand. Uber Community Manager Max Crowley recently noted in an interview that customer support and social media are intertwined. Leave an item in an Uber car? Have a terrible driver? Uber is always a tweet away, and constantly engaging their audience.

That is combined with their hyper local focus. Crowley went on to say that all Uber teams are locally based. “It really builds the foundation in a community.” That local flare is essential, travelers in Chicago may have little or nothing in common with travelers in LA or NYC, let alone Singapore.

Uber has benefited by old-fashioned marketing stunts with a charitable twist.  Last October, users who downloaded the Uber app discovered a special button for kitten delivery.

Those lucky enough to beat the crowds were treated to a 15 minute cuddle session with kittens and some complimentary cupcakes. The kittens were delivered from local shelters and users were also given the option to adopt them. Even though it cost $20, demand quickly exceeded supply, and Uber managed to raise over $15,000 for local shelters.

uber kittens

 Another similar, albeit less adorable, stunt brought Uber users their own ice cream truck for them and their friends to enjoy. And back in September, Uber partnered with GE to bring users an experience worthy of Marty McFly, a 15 minute ride in a classic DeLorean.

Social media hype aside, these campaigns are great for another reason. Customers are so psyched for Uber, they will actually revolt when local regulations try to shut down Uber operations.

“If Uber was to all of a sudden be pulled out of the market tomorrow, people would complain en masse because Uber has made itself into a very likeable company,” Ian Schafer, CEO at digital and social agency Deep Focus, told Digiday.

In short, Uber is not just marketing to these communities. It’s becoming enmeshed in them.

Not only do Uber marketing tactics like thse breed fierce loyalty among their users, but they also help build partnerships with other community organizations such as animal shelters or national brands like Virgin America.

In a way, all this embodies the spirit of local radio. Uber is sure to face major hurdles as it expands, but nothing seems impossible with their current marketing prowess.



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American Eagle Targets Creatives With Live Your Life Campaign

live your life american eagle

American Eagle launched its “Live Your Life” campaign in 2012 as a way to tap into the creative community and connect with its young audience. After two years and accolades as one of the 15 best marketing campaigns from the Cassandra Report in 2013, American Eagle brought back their Live Your Life campaign in a big way.

Life Your Life promotes the image of American Eagle as a means for consumers to create their own style, rather than fit in to a pre-determined mold. Back in 2012, Michael Leedy, American Eagle’s chief marketing officer told Women’s Wear Daily: “We’re really asking our customer to take [the brand] and make it their own.”

The campaign is supported by its eponymous contest, which asks users to create profiles that share their hobbies and creative work with the world. Contestants are encouraged to upload as much content as they want, videos, music, quotes and photos. Other users vote, and the winners get to appear in an American Eagle campaign and win $2,500.

This sort of “gamification” is in fact, a highly useful tool in web marketing that heavily boosts user engagement.

This year American Eagle launched a web series as part of the Live Your Life campaign featuring fans who were sent to San Francisco to explore their creative passions. It features Bailey, an aspiring photographer who appear in American Eagle ads, in addition to photographing his own. Another duo, Adria and Teren, design t-shirts to be sold on American Eagle’s website. The latter half of the series focuses on community engagement programs, including a foundation to bring performing arts back to schools and an “alternative spring break” where students beautify urban areas.

That episode is in fact a larger part of an American Eagle community engagement program, called #HeartThisCity. The company partnered with the Student Conservation Association to combat urban blight by cleaning up and beautifying city parks.

heart this city

All of this is not only good for society, but a smart marketing move in a world where 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for goods that came from a socially responsible company. American Eagle’s corporate responsibility program, which aptly proclaims “Live Your Life For a Better World,” includes the American Eagle Outfitters Foundation which offers grants and partnerships for non-profits and heads community initiatives of its own.

We’re crazy about the blending of community engagement and marketing here at Altitude. It’s why, in 2010, we acquired EcoMedia, a company devoted to “turning advertising  into an engine for social change.” Doing good and making money aren’t mutually exclusive, and American Eagle nails it with their latest campaign. Paired with an experiential campaign that promotes a positive message, American Eagle has crafted a marketing strategy to cement its position as a leader in its industry.


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Under Armour and Over the Top: A Growth Story


On Monday, the Motley Fool reported this about sports clothing retailer Under Armour: “The massive wave of success that athletic apparel, footwear, and accessories manufacturer Under Armour is currently riding shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.”

Routinely included in lists of hot stocks to watch and most innovative retailers, Under Armour is now perched to lead another area of business, one that for many years has been dominated by Nike: brand awareness.

So what do you know about Under Armour’s market positioning? Here are five things they’re doing right.

1. Under Armour Is Increasing Spending on Marketing. Big Time.

During this quarter’s conference call, Chairman and CEO Kevin Plank told analysts he expected to allocate fully 11% of revenues to marketing, or $330 million. That is an $83.5 million increase over a year ago, and a $125 million rise from 2012. Even though that’s a significant figure, it pales in comparison to rival Nike, which spent $2.7 billion globally on advertising and promotions during its most recent fiscal year, according to its annual report.

2. They’re Focusing on the Youth Market


Under Armour is spending a lot of time addressing it’s next generation of customers. They have a full collection of kids’ offerings, and support youth training camps and the Junior PGA Tour. UA’s Youth Movement campaign is “dedicated to promoting youth fitness and sports by providing young athletes with places to become champions.” And they support students in their home state with WIN Baltimore, a program designed to spark positive social change throughout Baltimore and its surrounding neighborhoods. They also, in partnership with the National Basketball Association, refurbish basketball courts across the country.

3.  Sponsorships Big and Small

Speaking of millennials, Under Armour has a groundbreaking association with twenty-year-old golf phenom Jordan Spieth. They were the first company to sponsor Spieth and he’s the the first golfer to be outfitted head-to-toe in Under Armour gear. Most recently, they began sponsoring Notre Dame, taking the school sponsorships rights from Adidas after 17 years. And this is to say nothing of it’s big-name sponsorships. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps are both proudly clad in Under Armour apparel. Finally, Under Armour has done deals with some less obvious athletic entities, like the Canadian Olympic Snowboarding team and the U.S. Olympic bobsledding team — and a Chilean soccer club — that could bolster its popularity in more niche sporting communities, as well as outside the United States.

4. It’s Groundbreaking “I Will” Campaign.

Last year, Under Armour unveiled its biggest marketing campaign to date, showcasing inspiring athletes oufitted in the company’s products. The campaign, dubbed “I Will,” includes athletes like Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s welterweight World Champion; Sloane Stephens, the only teenager ranked in the top 20 in the Women’s Tennis Association; and Bryce Harper, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year.

5. It’s New York “Brand House” Is Awesome.
Under Armour hopes to attract international tourists and other visitors to its two-level store, which has nearly 10,000 square feet of selling space in the Astor Building in SOHO. The location features an enormous digital marquee displaying a 22-minute video of products and athletes, a “living wall” of tropical plants, and an athlete wall of fame and mannequins showcasing head-to-toe looks. The Brand House will feature apparel for training, basketball, golf and other sports as well as the women’s line of Studio workout clothing. The store employs 100 full- and part-time workers and managers.

Under Armour has been a phenomenal growth story over the last decade and it’s groundbreaking marketing efforts suggest that sportswear giants better look out. Under Armour is definitely not under the radar.

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4 Examples of Branded Experience Done Right at Tribeca Film Festival

Now more than ever, companies today must strive for what the Harvard Business Review calls “intangible value,” which is to say that a huge part of company value, in addition to the talent of its workforce, is brand trust and recognition.

Marketers today are tasked with engaging their audience in a personal and memorable way. And while traditional ads are a great way to keep your brand fresh in a consumer’s mind, it’s experiential marketing that provides some of the longest-lasting relationships between brands and consumers.

And what is a better experiential venue than the hippest film festival on the east coast?

The Tribeca Film Festival has made a huge splash in the little over a decade it has been in existence. Founded in 2002 to revitalize Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood after 9/11,  it has since generated at estimated $725 million in economic activity for New York City.

Although still in its infancy compared to established giants like the Cannes Film Festival in France, more than 450,000 people attended screenings, panels, talks and free community events last year. It’s a crowd of movers, shakers and influencers. This year by working closely with sponsors like AT&T and United Airlines, the festival is providing  a one-of-a-kind opportunity for attendees and companies alike.

So what are some of the notable marketing initiatives at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014?

#1 AT&T Brings Movies to the People

at&t twitter marketing

AT&T managed to snag the position of top sponsor from American Express in 2014. One of their key promotions is their “Film for All” program, where AT&T offers free screenings at the festival for one day, and dishes out free tickets to tons more.  Expanding on their “films for the people” theme, AT&T reached out to its fans on Twitter to see what films “every New Yorker should see.”

#2 United Airlines Upgrades It’s In-Flight Entertainment

United Airlines partnered with the film festival this year as a sponsor. As a result, United will be offering “special in-flight content curated by Tribeca, including independent feature films, documentaries, shorts and other Tribeca Film Festival-related content.” They also hope to unveil content delivered to flyers personal devices, by connecting to the plane’s WiFi, passengers will be able in-flight content that will include many Tribeca selections.

#3 Lincoln Mines Its Fans’ Creativity

An entry for Damon Albarn's song "Heavy Seas of Love"

An entry for Damon Albarn’s song “Heavy Seas of Love

Lincoln Motor Company signed on a signature sponsor this year and created “Tribeca Interactive & Interlude: A Music Film Challenge.” Perhaps the most participatory of all the sponsorships, it invites “storytellers and content creators to work with Interlude’s interactive video platform to create a music film for songs” for artists like Damon Albarn, of Gorillaz and Blur fame.  The winning entries  will screen at the festival.

This variety of storytelling is integral to Lincoln’s image,  Lincoln’s Marketing Communications Manager tells PSFK. “The progressive male and female luxury client crave to know the story behind the products and services they engage – they want to feel that personal connection.”

#4 Innovation Week

tribeca innovation week

Trying to emulate the success of outlets like SXSW, the Tribeca Film Festival created its “Innovation Week” to connect the best and brightest, their businesses, and financiers looking to partner with the next best thing. One facet of Innovation Week is Storyscapes, a collaboration between the festival and Bombay Sapphire Gin. “It bringbrings together five distinctive transmedia projects by artists and digital media innovators from around the world. This year, the stories are all around us, brought to life by innovative storytelling techniques that engage us on the new and different sensory levels.”

While certainly not a “branded experience” in the same sense of our previous mentions, the event creates a forum for other branded experiences to happen. It’s open call to “Anyone with a story” to tell is certainly something we here at the Altitude Group can get behind.

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New Ad Campaign Celebrates Americans (and Dodge) at 100

Dodge rounded up a group of centenarians and put them on tape. And oh boy do they have some wise words.

It’s all part of the latest ad campaign for the 2015 Dodge Challenger, which also doubles up as a birthday announcement for a brand that turned a century old this year.

This spot was a big hit at the New York Auto Show and it is AMAZING.

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New Pep Boys Marketing Strategy Targets Women

pep boys waiting room

Overcoming the gender divide in marketing isn’t always easy. Especially when the public perception of your industry often turns off females with images of unscrupulous mechanics and an automotive “boys club.” Women spend billions on auto repair each year, but are solely under-represented in industry marketing efforts.

Now a groundbreaking new initiative is changing minds. With their new “Road Ahead” campaign, Pep Boys is radically revamping their marketing efforts and even their physical locations. The overall shift has been labeled a move from “do-it-yourself” to “do-it-for-me,” the former evoking a sort of boys-only elitism. According to Ron Stoupa, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, one focus group member went so far as to call repair shops a “valley of liars and thieves.”

The changes are coming rapidly. Pep Boys employees now explain in detail all repairs before conducting them, and welcome new customers with a handshake. And 70 of their 800 locations have been renovated with comfortable waiting areas that have leather chairs and free wi-fi.

It’s all miles away from the traditional way that women think about the auto shop.

Not a bad idea, considering women spend $300 billion annually on car repair.  “Though these measures are not targeted toward women exclusively, CMO Ron Stoupa said that the growing influence of female customers in the auto category was a motivator,” Adweek writes.

Despite the male-dominated image of car culture, women purchase over 65% of new cars. Women also spend over half of the annual GDP of the United States, and that number should grow in the next decade as women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

That’s a problem when many marketing assumptions about women are wrong.

While mini-van mom’s do exist, the tone of advertisements targeted to women misses the mark for a large swath of the female population. Slate has an excellent genealogy of auto-marketing to women, noting “many of the basic historical assumptions about women drivers turn out to be wrong. Contrary to theories about cup holders and rosebud upholstery, the data shows that compared to men, women at least as educated in their purchases, less emotional in making them, and less concerned with aesthetics when they do.”

One company that got it right: Cadillac.

Creative agency Muller, that handles Pep Boys creative, changed the logo from “Everything for Less” to “Trust the Boys to Get You There,” writes Ad Age.

While converting one store can cost over $500,000 each, some of the early renovations already have exceeded expectations. Just this week Pep Boys announced the revamping of 30 more stores in 2014. Tire Business reports:

Another key aspect of the Road Ahead strategy is digital operations, (CEO Mike) O’dell added, noting that sales from digital — online service appointments, tire sales made online and/or products shipped to customers or picked up in Pep Boys stores — grew 152 percent in the quarter and 142 percent for year and accounted for 3 percent of overall sales for the year.

It’s not bad for a company whose CMO admits was late to the internet game. Ron Stoupa notes that Pep Boys only got into e-commerce two years ago during this talk. He describes Pep Boys’ strategy of finding a niche in between low-end bargain shoppers and high-end branding. Rather than become an undifferentiated “discount tire” business or a Nieman Marcus, Pep Boys is opting, like Target, to take the best of both worlds.

Quality consumer engagement and affordability without racing to the bottom of discount prices. Stoupa cites Target as a success story that inspires them.

It’s a bold strategy, and much-needed after challenging fourth quarter last year. But in this case, the challenges that Pep Boys has faced have allowed them to transform themselves into a better brand and a more viable business. It’s great to see a reinvention of the way the auto-repair industry sells itself, and I’m sure auto owners will welcome the change.


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The Remarkable Power of a ‘Priceless’ Campaign

For almost 17 years, MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign has set the high water mark for powerful, transformational branding.

From the very first television commercial in 1997, MasterCard has proven again and again that “Priceless” is a durable, ” big tent” of a concept, enabling the company to be mysteriouscute, and inventive all under the aegis of a single potent word. Perhaps most notably, the idea of Priceless perfectly reflects the enduring feelings of trust and loyalty that people have for the company.

In fact, “Priceless” has almost become timeless itself, growing more beloved every year; always reflecting consumer loyalty and trust. As Kevin Allen, who was involved with the start of the campaign, recently told AdWeek: “I think perhaps we as an industry lose interest and patience with our own ideas a heck of a lot faster than the consumer does.”

What was the thinking is behind this monumental campaign and what’s next? In the latest installment of Marketing Masters, we sat down with Ben Jankowski, Group Global Media Head for MasterCard and Cheryl Guerin, Executive Vice President, US Marketing for MasterCard to find out more about the campaign’s history and it’s future.

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Radio Endorsements Most Trusted According to Recent Study

A ringing product endorsement from a trusted radio personality trumps its digital and terrestrial competitors, a recent study has found. Conducted by the University of Southern California, a study of 2,700 respondents revealed that radio recommendations carry more weight than social media ads or TV ads.

Inside Radio reports that 6 out of 10 respondents felt that radio hosts are “like a friend” who can be trusted.” As a result, more than half of survey participants said they trust brands, products and services that a personality talks about.

The survey also showed that 40% of those survey said personalities make a broadcast more personal. “On-air personalities are a key element in defining what makes radio different — and more personal — than any other medium in consumers’ minds,” CEO Bob Pittman says.  He says that’s a “powerful relationship” that can be leveraged by marketers.  “No other medium has this power,” Pittman says.

The news comes at the same time that Clearchannel CEO Bob Pittman told the global “Festival of Media” that advertisers need to drastically re-evaluate their ad-spend. “TV is wonderful but the media mix is out of whack — radio deserves a lot more than it gets,” Pittman said. He went on to describe a friend who runs a film company who found that “60% of people heard about the movie on TV, 20% on radio. Then he looked at his ad spend and realized he’d spend 80% on TV and 3% on radio.”

Radio also has a distinct advantage in native advertising. Now being utilized by digital platforms as “advertorials,” radio has been a front runner for decades. Aside from sponsored segments, radio host banter serves as the perfect opportunity to bring up local and national products. For many during their morning commute, this serves as an essential source for consumer information about new products and businesses.

All Access writes of the study:

The vast majority of Americans have interacted with radio personalities during their lifetimes; 8 out of 10 have called into a station, met a DJ in their community, or interacted in some other manner. And the growing social media landscape provides even more opportunities for listeners to connect with their favorite radio personalities ‹ according to the research, about 6 out of 10 of listeners have also engaged with radio through social media platforms.

And of course, radio does local like no other.

At the same time, many big marketers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with social media ads. Priceline’s CEO Darren Huston recently announced that Facebook and Twitter ads failed to drive conversions for the travel website. The majority of conversions came from keyword targeting with Google, where Priceline spends 90% of their digital ad budget. While that lesson may be more relevant to travel business, it would be wise for marketers to be wary of any platform that claims a one-size-fits-all edge over competitors.

Of course none of this means advertisers should ditch TV and digital. It means advertisers need to re-evaluate their ad-spend percentages and smartly distribute their dollars where they can make the most impact. Radio hosts can better connect with their fans on social platforms, and social media campaigns may get a boost from on-air calls-to-action. It just goes to show that extensive cross-platform marketing is essential for any successful campaign.

If you’d like to know more about some of the work Altitude has done with radio endorsements, check out our award-winning campaign with Bermuda tourism.


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The Toughest Job That You’ll Ever Love


Even in today’s tough economy, this job listing seemed awfully demanding. (Here’s the listing.) The title was “Director of Operations” and the requirements were no joke:

  • Must be able to work 135+ hours a week
  • Ability to work overnight, associate needs pending
  • Willingness to forgo any breaks
  • Work mostly standing up and/or bending down
  • Must be able to lift up to 75 lbs. on a regular basis
  • Crisis management skills a must
  • Ability to manage 10-15 projects at a time

And the list just goes on from there.

The job ad was placed by Boston-based agency Mullen and received over 2.7 million impressions from paid ad placements. Unsurprisingly, only 24 people actually inquired. They then interviewed via webcam, and their real-time reactions to the interviewer’s questions were recorded.

The applicants ask questions in disbelief. What job could possibly be so hard?

Watch the video to the end to find out.



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Zombie Ad From 5-Hour Energy Is “Most Shared”

Have you seen this genius spot from 5-Hour Energy?

Anyone who has been talked into the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet — and who amongst us hasn’t made that mistake? — will relate to this one.

This week the spot collected a much-earned award. Advertising Age honored the world’s best brand storytelling at the fifth annual Viral Video Awards and 5 Hour Energy’s horror movie trailer, which was produced by College Humor, was named “Most Shared Video.”

The harrowing exploration of food coma received over 6.9 million shares, absolutely killing it with the bored at work crowd. You’re probably going to want to check this one out again. And next time skip the BBQ.

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