Tag Archives: advertising agency

GCRBC Wins Award

HOUSTON, TX (March 8, 2011)—One of NextLevel Thinking’s clients, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center (GCRBC), was selected as the 2010 Marketer of the Year for the category of Physicians and Healthcare Services by the American Marketing Association Houston chapter.

AMA Houston’s Marketer of the Year program recognizes exceptional marketing by Houston-area companies, organizations and institutions. The awards were presented on March 7 at the Alley Theatre.

AMA Houston recognized the challenges The Blood Center faces both in recruiting new donors and retaining current donors, and acknowledged The Blood Center’s
program as an innovative marketing solution to these challenges.
Commit for Life is a partnership between individuals and The Blood Center that is focused on saving lives today and in the future. The Blood Center’s annual collections have increased 50 percent since the program began in 2003.

Cheap Houston car rental

Envisioning Your Brand

Determining your brand is not only a complex undertaking, it is also very personal when done properly.

Much like dieting (because I can relate everything to dieting!), building your brand is very much a lifestyle change. It is much more than the right graphics. A one-time project it is not. Your brand should be comprised of the company’s personality, vision, core competencies and mission. The impressions that you make, as well as the words people will use to describe your company to others, are the basic framework of your brand.

So when Incept decided to get laser-focused on the blood bank industry, it became very clear that our existing brand – which, at the time, had taken somewhat of a “be everything to everyone” approach – was not going to get us where we wanted to go. After much deliberation on the right approach, we decided to enlist the help of NextLevel Thinking. NextLevel Thinking is a strategic marketing firm that has extensive experience in the blood bank industry, so our decision to partner with them was, well, strategic!

I sat down with NextLevel Thinking’s managing partner, Eric Poerschke, to ask him some questions about defining the Incept brand…

Billie: “What were the steps taken to begin the process of brand identification for Incept?”

Eric: “Incept has a great reputation and relationship with their blood center clients, so we started there. We asked their clients what they liked most/least; we asked about strengths and weaknesses, etc. All in all, we spent a considerable amount of time with each client to learn that the one thing Incept does best is care more about the client’s goals and objectives, in many cases, than the clients do themselves.”

Billie: “And how does information that strong develop into a brand?”

Eric: “It became clear to us when talking to Incept’s clients that they had a unique ability to converse with blood donors in a way that made the donor feel good about what they were going to do. This is where the term “conversational marketing” at Incept was born.

Another strength that we uncovered was Incept’s ability to understand their client’s needs. In fact, we feel like Incept puts their clients and their client’s customers at the center of ALL they do.”

Billie: “What are the key elements being used today to deliver this information?”

Eric: “The most significant elements are the Incept Listen and Incept Lead philosophies. Incept Listen is an in-depth analysis of a blood center’s goals, objectives and best practices. This is a great way for Incept and their clients to get to know each other in a way that ultimately ends up being mutually beneficial.

The result is Incept Lead, a formal, comprehensive, written road map that clearly defines the blood center’s successes and challenges, and ultimately offers recommendations for the future to ensure goals and objectives are met.

What’s powerful about these processes are that they take place on an ongoing basis which ensures that strategies stay current and new objectives are always considered.”

Billie: “If you could tell our readers one thing about Incept, what would that be?”

Eric: “Incept is a company where relationships matter more than anything else. As a result, they really do care about their client’s results. Incept’s clients knew this all along. Our job was to develop the message that told the rest of the world.”

Thanks go out to Eric for taking the time to talk with me.

I’d love to hear from all of you about your brand. How did you develop it? What does it mean to you?

Talk to me. I’m listening…

About the Author

Billie Johnson is the Vice President of New Client Results at Incept. Incept is a conversational marketing firm that specializes in developing and strengthening relationships with your current and potential clients, on your behalf.

Billie has over 16 years of experience in developing strategic campaigns that engage audiences in productive and meaningful conversations on behalf of client organizations. For over 11 years, Billie and the team at Incept have focused their efforts on having conversations that educate and inspire donors across the nation to help save lives.

WorldFest Bronze Remi Award

Back in April of 2009, NextLevel Thinking partner Kirk Loudon ventured into the film arena by writing, producing, directing, and editing his first feature film FORWARD SLASH.

The horror film was part of the 2009 WORLDFEST Film festival in Houston Texas, the 2nd oldest festival in the nation, and FORWARD SLASH took home the Bronze Remi. To learn more about the film go to www.murdermaster.com.

In 2010, FORWARD SLASH was picked up for distribution by PUSH ENTERTAINMENT. Click Here to learn more about PUSH ENTERTAINMENT.

Kirk is hoping for a 2012 DVD release!

But Paid Media Costs Money

So you have these television commercials or radio spots, or even print ads that are ready to hit the marketplace. Great! Here is the question…where are you going to run them? And a better question…what is this going to cost?

Let’s answer the second question first. It is going to cost. This is where it gets a bit sticky. You see, if you don’t have a lot of awareness in your marketplace, there is no better way to establish a presence than by using paid media. So you will have to spend money to make money. I know…that kind of takes the wind out of your sails, but that’s the way it is…I am sorry.

I use the term Paid Media because the other kind of media…you know…the free stuff, it just doesn’t work. Public Service Ads that some stations or publications give you are a nice gesture, but they alone will not get the job done. The ads are few and far between and probably not being run at the best times to serve your core audience. Staying in front of your audience is crucial when building a presence in your marketplace. An ad that runs once in a blue moon will not create the impact that you need.

Okay…now you are thinking…“but I heard about these packages that the television stations, radio stations and magazines offer and they are giving us a bunch of ads!” Right…The Package Deal.

Here is how to look at a Package Deal:

If Macy’s is offering Lime Green Plaid Pants, Buy One Get One Free, is it a good deal? The answer is, of course, no. Crap is still crap, even if it is on sale. If they wanted to really stick it to you they would have done three for one. The point is, when spots are packaged, that usually means the station has extra inventory they are trying to unload. So if you are offered four spots between 2am and 3am during the great documentary, “The Armadillo: Nature’s Little Tank”, think twice before buying those slots.

So now you say you are willing to spend some money on advertising and you are ready to buy. USE A MEDIA PLACEMENT FIRM! There are people who know how to do this and can get better rates than you. Also, a good media person will be honest with you if he or she thinks you don’t have enough money to do the job correctly.

All media placement firms have software and expertise in this area. They will talk about “reach” and “frequency” and other fancy words. However, what it boils down to is this: are you reaching the people that you want and need to reach? And are you doing it often enough? If the media firm feels you can do this with the money you have, then go for it!

Now the first question… where do I run these spots? This is a bit more vague but there is always a way to figure it out. Say, for example, that you know from your media firm, that 50% of your potential market watches the evening news or reads a specific publication…then that is what you buy. This will change from market to market and this is where the media firm really earns their fee. They will know what will work for you. Keep in mind that different media firms may have different ideas on how to invest your money. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Do not be concerned if you get different answers from different people. Just make sure that they have the data to support their suggestions.

Oh, one last thing to think about. This is very important. When you decide to dive into this arena, make sure to be consistent. There is no need to change the ads every couple of weeks. You will get tired of the ads long before the public will. Keep your message the same and make the spots look like part of a family of ads. Sure GEICO has three different campaigns running right now, but guess what, you’re not GEICO! Just keep things simple and to the point.

To Recap:
You need visibility.
You need to reach your target market.
You need frequency.
You need consistency.
You need to keep it simple!

One of our largest clients followed our plan to a tee. They now exceed their projected goals almost every month, and have increased business 50% in the last six years.

But paid media costs money…and it does work.

About the Author

Kirk Loudon is a partner at NextLevel Thinking, a strategic marketing firm that successfully blends emotion, education, and execution into a marketing approach and framework for your organization that can be effectively communicated internally to your employees and externally to your current and potential customers.

Kirk is a veteran in the marketing and advertising business. He has been a creative force in the southwest market for over 18 years. He has worked in all areas of the business.

The Tee Shirt Works

So the local blood center decided to print some new tee shirts for the next big drive of the month. The employees are getting excited because they get a chance to take a look at the new designs that have been created by Number One Tee Shirt Company of Florida.

“I think we should do a big blood drop with a smiley face”, says Carol, a twenty-year employee at the local center. “Everybody loves the smiley blood drop”.

That fact is, not everyone loves the smiley blood drop. Your donors are happy to get the shirt…they smile and say thank you, but as soon as they get home it goes in a drawer that has been set aside for shirts to be used for washing the car or sleeping in. It is time to take another step back and re-evaluate the reason for the tee shirt in the first place.

For the first year that we were in the blood business, we fought to have blood centers stop handing out tee shirts to every donor. We would do seminars on how handing a donor a gift for a single donation was rewarding them for behavior that we do not want them to do. One donation equals a tee shirt…what motivation do they have to come back if they already have the prize?

One of our speaking engagements was very interesting in that we discussed the fact that tee shirts are not the best way to go. We presented our case and shared our point of view of rewards for the second or third donation but not the first. Everyone in the room was nodding in agreement and taking notes. We thought we were really making headway.

So we decided to take a short break. My partner left the room to take a phone call and I stayed behind and…well I eaves dropped! I began listen to the attendees during the break.

The first conversation was a woman talking on the phone to her donor center in another state. She was telling them that the lecture was really informative and that she was learning a great deal on changing how we view donors…and this is where I had to bite my tongue.

The very next sentence out of her mouth was placing an order for…that’s right; you guessed it, the smiley face blood drop tee shirt. Not just a small order, she was purchasing 2,000 shirts! That’s a bunch of blood drops!

People let me be clear; I am not against tee shirts. As a matter of fact that is pretty much all I wear…well pants too. I felt I had to clarify. The point is, if you are going to use a tee shirt as a reward, first make sure that the donor is doing exactly what you want them to do before they get the shirt. And second, make sure that they wear it!

Take a trip to the local mall and scope out the tee shirts that are being sold. Do you see any smiley blood drops? I think not. What you will see are some very cutting edge shirts that are being sold at a premium. Some of the designs are going for as much as $100 per shirt. $100…who pays that? Believe it or not, the shirts fly off the shelf. These new graphic tees are so popular that you can now get knock offs at the neighborhood department store.

The designs do not have to be blood related. Make them say what you want but in a fresh way. Tattoo graphics, Fleur-De-Lis images, artistic typefaces…get creative.

What we are getting at is give the people what they want. Go online and get examples of what you think is a good design and show it to your tee shirt printer or your in-house artist. Have them come up with some ideas that are similar.

We work with a blood center in Texas. This center was doing what every other center was doing when it came to tee shirts…smiley blood drops. We were asked to come up with a few new designs for their tee shirts. At first they were a little uncomfortable with the idea of doing something outside of the box. After all, they have been doing it the same way for 30 years.

The first tee shirt was for a radio station. The promotion lady at the blood center got the call almost instantly. They were so pleased with the design that they wanted us to repeat the look for the station’s own promotions. Since then they never looked back.

It used to be that I would see a blood center tee shirt every couple of months when I was out and about. Now I see three or four at the gym, a couple in the grocery store, some on the golf course. My son says he sees them in school as well.

So after 10 years in this business I am happy to report that the tee shirt does actually work…as long as someone is wearing it.

Remember…when it comes to giving shirts, get out of your head and into the donor’s. A gift worth getting is worth doing something for!!!

Difference in Life Campaign Pays Dividends

SAN DIEGO, CA (June 2008) – The Difference in Life Campaign pays awareness dividends to the San Diego Blood Bank!

The Caster Family Center for Nonprofit Research presented a report to the community on San Diego’s third sector. San Diego’s nonprofits contribute in significant ways to the quality of life in the San Diego region, and the confidence that San Diegans have in the sector is its bedrock.

From November 2007 to January 2008, a total of 1,002 adult San Diego County residents responded to a survey designed to assess their confidence in the ability of local nonprofit organizations to provide quality services on the public’s behalf and to spend money wisely.

At the beginning of this survey, participants were given an identification test to determine their awareness of nonprofit organizations. This was done in order to determine whether or not respondents were basing their perceptions of the sector on an accurate understanding of what is, and what is not, a nonprofit organization.

For the purpose of this study, a person’s ability to correctly identify nonprofits when asked to name three nonprofit organizations was used as an indicator of nonprofit awareness. The top three most frequently identified locally based nonprofit organizations were Father Joe’s Village/St. Vicent DePaul, San Diego Blood Bank, and Children’s Hospital.

“The visibility that the Difference in Life campaign has given the San Diego Blood Bank has really increased their awareness in the San Diego Community,” say Eric Poerschke, Managing Partner at NextLevel Thinking. NextLevel Thinking is the Houston based strategic marketing firm that created the Difference in Life program for the San Diego Blood Bank.

San Diego Blood Bank Wins EAR Award

SAN DIEGO, CA (April 29, 2008) – The San Diego Blood Bank’s Difference in Life campaign is back in the news!!! The “Are you Ready to Make a Difference?” radio commercial was entered on behalf of the San Diego Blood Bank in the 2008 EAR Awards for Effective Advertising on the Radio and was among the commercials chosen as a winner by this year’s judges, a panel of over twenty San Diego radio professionals.

The San Diego Radio Broadcasters Association’s EAR Awards are different than many other advertising competitions, as they recognize radio commercials that produce concrete results. Six English language spots were selected as winners this year as well as two Spanish language spots. Judging focused mainly on the tangible and specific results derived from the radio message and campaign, followed by creativity and execution of production.

“This award is particularly significant because it recognizes the tangible business results that the Difference in Life program has garnered for the San Diego Blood Bank,” says Eric Poerschke, Managing Partner of NextLevel Thinking. NextLevel Thinking is the Houston based strategic marketing firm that created the Difference in Life program for the San Diego Blood Bank.

Getting Out of the Blood Business and Into the Life Business

The Harris County Medical Society and the five blood collecting organizations (Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, The Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston) got together to develop a plan that would permanently increase the blood supply in the Gulf Coast region.

The quest for a marketing strategy began with a series of nine focus groups conducted in Houston, Texas among donors and non-donors. The breakout was as follows:

Hispanic Females, 25-45 years of age
African-American Females, 25-45 years of age
Anglo Females, 25-45 years of age
Hispanic Males, 25-45 years of age
African-American Males, 25-45 years of age
Anglo Males, 25-45 years of age
Dormant Donors – have not donated in 2001 or 2002
Infrequent Donors – donated 1-2 times in past 12 months
Frequent Donors – donated 3-6 times in past 12 months

Additional analysis was done to study the experience that a donor has when they come to a mobile or permanent facility to donate blood. The following was learned as a result of this analysis:

Approximately 70% of donors give blood only one time and approximately 87% give two times or less in a year.
Donors see people when they donate blood instead of concentrating on the actual process.
Donors see a bigger world picture instead of inconvenience.
Donors see themselves making a difference versus seeing others carrying this burden.
The experience of donating blood can be described as clinical. It is actually not a bad experience, but it is not a good experience either. In order to attract new donors and retain existing donors, the experience must be a good one – less clinical and more emotional.

Once a foundation of knowledge was established based on the analysis described above, the terms “Doer” and “Woulder” were developed to better illustrate the mindset of our potential donor market. A “Doer” is someone that donates blood regularly and is very knowledgeable about the benefits that it provides to the community. A “Woulder” can be defined either as someone that has donated blood in the past and would certainly donate again if asked, or someone that has not donated blood in the past but would do so if asked. Most of the progress toward our goal is going to come from the “Woulder” group. In fact, the objective of the marketing strategy is to remind the “Woulders” to do and the “Doers” to do again. This can be accomplished by creating a donor experience that is warm and committed and fosters never-ending support.

The focal point of our strategy is asking donors and potential donors to make a commitment to donating blood on a regular basis. This focus should not be thought of as a tagline or a campaign, but a point of differentiation and a new way of doing business. It should be imbedded in the culture of your organization. In fact, it should mean something to Donors, Recipients, Employees and Volunteers – Our Hero Quadrants. In fact, specific programs will be developed for each group to ensure that this happens. All it takes are the following three steps:

Donate blood one time per quarter – it is important to understand that donating one time per quarter is different than donating four times per year. There is no end to donating one time per quarter.
Allow us to contact you – we are going to ask the donors to tell us how they would like to be contacted, via email, phone or regular mail. This is an important step because it is our intention to establish a dialogue with our donors in order to increase the frequency.
Spread the word – we are going to ask donors to spread the word about all the positives regarding the donation of blood and we are going to reward them for doing so.

A donor life cycle was created in order to illustrate how the objective of permanently increasing the blood supply in the Gulf Coast region is going to be achieved. The four components of the donor life cycle are Awareness, Experience, Recognition, and Retention.

Awareness in this case is not just trying to create an understanding of the need for blood. The real objective here is to try and create a familiarity with what it means to donate regularly. When creating awareness, it is important that our message is emotional, heard by a large portion of our target audience (Reach) enough times (Frequency) that it reminds them to donate blood at least once a quarter.

The Experience of donating blood must be uplifting and educational. Imagine walking in to donate blood and you are greeted by a volunteer that is assigned to take care of you. As you walk through the process, there is signage, brochures, and multimedia designed to educate you about your blood donation and what it means to donate on a regular basis. All the while, your volunteer is with you setting expectations and making sure that your experience is a good one. When it is time to leave, you will be asked to sign up to donate once a quarter and to schedule your next appointment

Recognition needs to come in the form of applause and appreciation. The four quadrants that were discussed earlier, Donors, Recipients, Employees and Volunteers, will all be a part of the recognition program. Recognition programs will be designed specifically for each group. The year will culminate with a “Life Gala” where applause and appreciation is given to those individuals that best personify what it means to participate in this program.

The previous three steps are very important parts of the donor life cycle. Last, and certainly not least, is Retention. The name of the game is to get our existing donors, as well as new donors, to donate with more frequency. The direct emotional appeal of the

Donor Retention Program is designed to do just that. As mentioned earlier, before the donor leaves, we are going to ask them to commit to donating once a quarter, if they have not already done so, and schedule their next appointment. As their next appointment nears, we will contact them to remind them of the date and time of their donation. The cycle then starts over and before long we will have a very large group of individuals that understand what it means to be in partnership with us in the Life Business.

Local Strategic Marketing Firm Netting Big Results

HOUSTON, TX (March 10, 2005) – NextLevel Thinking, a Houston based strategic marketing firm, is executing a fast break that is garnering national attention.

Interest in the company’s services is high in part because of their phenomenal results with The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. The Blood Center has seen a spike in donations in the year and a half since NextLevel Thinking developed and rolled out the Commit for Life program.

First, NextLevel Thinking cofounders Eric Poerschke and Kirk Loudon addressed the initial problem, why aren’t more people donating blood? Research showed that people feared the needles used to draw blood. They then concentrated on the Blood Center’s marketing materials and moved from a blood business focus to a life business focus showing those patients that are positively impacted by blood donations.

“It was easy to see where we needed to make some changes immediately,” says Loudon. “We knew we needed to move away from the needle image and attract potential donor’s attention on all the positives of giving blood.”

The Commit for Life Program was born and blood donations have been increasing ever since.

With their slam dunk for The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, NextLevel Thinking has been approached by other blood banks and blood centers about upping their donations.

“We’re very strategic about the way we approach our client’s business,” says Poerschke.

Poerschke, a former Arkansas Razorback basketball player, always knew that he would run his own business. For a while though, he wasn’t sure what that business would be. He studied finance in college, worked in that industry for a while, then decided that was just not his passion. He went to graduate school at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and tried to figure out how he could merge his interests in psychology with his business strategy background. Marketing relies on and plays off psychology and he found his niche.

“I started looking at the consulting field and it all came together for me,” says Poerschke. He joined Anderson Consulting and got into the strategic side of their business. He then joined Loudon at Brand Imagination, an advertising firm. There the concept for NextLevel Thinking was born. They figured that combining both their skills sets would prove to be a successful move. And it has been.

Poerschke, the namesake of the E.J. Poerschke Mr. Razorback award, is pleased with the success of NextLevel Thinking and has great visions for the future. The Poerschke award was created by former head coach Nolan Richardson in recognition of athletic and academic excellence in the true spirit of the Razorback tradition.

“We feel like our combination of strategic and creative excellence is just the right blend to help those organizations that really want to separate themselves from their competition,” says Poerschke.

To learn more about NextLevel Thinking, go to their website at www.yournextlevel.cc.