Lessons Digital Marketers Can Learn from Kevin Costner Baseball Movies

I know, it’s an astoundingly specific subset of movies from which to draw an analogy, right? But, let me explain. Baseball is nothing if not a game of strategy; adjusting lineups, positions and pitchers to accommodate specific situations.

Costner’s baseball movies tend to focus on the everyday aspects of the game. The day-to-day part of it. So for this post, I want to talk about that part of digital marketing — the day in, day out work that makes a plan successful.

Field of Dreams

Yes, he will come. But only when you put in an insane amount of work into the part of that sentence occupied by the comma. So what did Costner have to do for the 90 minutes of movie between building it and when “He comes”? He made a cross-country trip, gave a disgraced ballplayer a second chance, kidnapped James Earl Jones, and fulfilled the life-long dream of a small town doctor. He had to put in all that work to reach his goal. (If you don’t start ugly crying at the 1:50 mark, you might be a robot.)

My point is that just building it won’t get you very far. Whatever “IT” is doesn’t matter. A website, an app, an AdWords campaign. They all take nurturing, thought, planning and work. We can’t just turn a product loose and hope for the best. We have to work, we have to earn success.

Bull Durham

Listen carefully to what the pitcher says. “I’m cruising.” He’s in a groove and doing great, so why should he change that now? The thing you have to know about baseball is that hitters catch on pretty quick. They recognize patterns.

The same goes for advertising. When we start doing the same thing over and over again, people take notice and then stop noticing. We need to be one step ahead of our audience. We should hit the bull once in a while. Don’t let your audience get comfortable.

Look at the current campaign from GE. They had a gorgeous, Emmy nominated spot, “Childlike Imagination.” They followed that up with the similar “The Boy Who Beeps.” Both spots were all about childlike wonder and making the world better with your ideas and talents. Then came Jeff “Crazy Eyes” Goldblum.

A complete curve ball (See what I did there? I’m not sorry). The messaging is still very much on point. An innovative idea that became an innovative product. But they hit the bull with this one. They hit it hard, and it works.

Knock It Out of the Park
What I’m trying to get at here is this: there is no easy path to successful online marketing. It takes a lot of hard work. But with nearly 40 percent of the world’s population spending time on the Internet*, and the average smartphone user picking up their device almost 150 times per day**, can you really afford to shortchange the digital side of your marketing campaign? Build it. Do the work. They will come.

* http://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2014/09/global-internet-usage-by-the-numbers-infographic.html

** http://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2014/09/essential-skills-internet-marketers-need-to-master-infographic.html



mosherAs KCG’s interactive director, Justin Mosher is responsible for anything with a pixel, from building websites to creating digital publications, and from crafting social media strategies to providing consulting services. With 10 years in the digital space, you’ll always find this self-admitted techie exploring the latest and greatest to find opportunities for our clients. After a long day behind computer screens, Justin looks forward to unplugging with a hearty beef stew and time with his wife and two girls.

Apps that Go Farther

Mobile devices are everywhere; smart phones, tablets, even those new phablets (giant phones that are as big as tablets). They’re consuming a huge amount of our day. I bet if anyone is reading this, they are most likely reading it on a mobile device. As marketers, you are naturally going to want to be on that device. But how do you reach an audience that can ignore everything and everyone and get them to pay attention to your brand?

“An app. That’s the solution. We’ll create an app! An app will let us interact with our customers, another channel, outlet, avenue, bucket or whatever other marketing term you would like to throw in.”

Before you head down this path of planning out your perfect app and pushing content to this huge audience of mobile targets – I mean customers – stop and give this some thought. I don’t, repeat, do not want you to think about your brand, all the cool stuff you are doing and how you are going to get your message out to your followers. No, this isn’t about you. I want you to think about your customer. What are they doing? What do they need? Can you help them with an app? To create a successful app, it isn’t about your brand, it’s about what you can offer the user.

Take the FREE Nike+ running app, for example. I’ve used it to track every run for more than two years. It gives me updates throughout my run, tells me my pace and distance every half-mile, the average pace of my run and has celebrity audio clips to encourage me after I finish. There’s even GPS tracking that maps out your run and then shows the splits for each mile you ran. But wait, it does more. The Nike+ app now features a coaching function. You tell it what race you want to run (5k, 10k, marathon, etc.) and the app calculates when you should start training and creates a plan to have you ready for race day. Say you want to run 12 miles. The app will estimate how long it’ll take based on your average pace as well as count down the miles and encourage you along the way.

But how does an app designed to help an individual become more than that? You create a community.

So you crushed your run? Maybe even a new personal best? The Nike+ app is connected to your social media accounts. And with just a couple clicks, you can send your road warrior ways straight to Facebook and Twitter. Better yet, you can create your own virtual running group. Invite your friends who have the app and challenge each other to race. The app automatically creates a list that keeps track of your friends’ progress each week and month. It also ranks everyone on how many miles they have run. At KCG, we are now in month four of challenging each other to run a set distance in that month’s time. In June, it was 30 miles. In July, August and September, the goal rose to 50 miles. In August, there were 15 people in the challenge and the winner of the challenge ran 50 miles in 11 days 7 hours and 18 minutes. Not only did this app help each of us track our distance but with a little competition and team building thrown in, it helped push four of us to 100 miles or more in September. My friends and co-workers helped push me to a goal that I had never achieved thanks to a digital reminder. Even though our 50-mile goal had been reached, others had not stopped and a new unspoken goal had been realized.

Here is a little app that is useful, fun, creates an opportunity to challenge yourself and your friends. You know what it doesn’t do? It doesn’t try to sell me on Nike products. I have never received an email, text or offer for Nike gear. Yes, there is a button to see what shoes they offer, and you can even retire a shoe, but I’ve never used it and they’ve never forced it on me. They give me something that I want and now rely on without forcing content or talking about themselves.

So, ask yourself, what can you do to help your customer? It should be better than a way to buy your product on a mobile device. Start with something big and crazy. Something ambitious. Something +.




As creative director, Joe Robertson oversees, inspires and develops Koch Creative Group’s team of copywriters, designers and art directors. Leveraging 20 years of agency experience with banking, healthcare and aerospace clients, he also works in close partnership with the account service team, providing insight and input on strategy and developing relationships with clients. When he’s not at work or cruising around town in his Shocker yellow Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited, Joe spends his free time renovating, overhauling or rebuilding anything he can get his hands on, including his 1918 home.

Content (Marketing) is King

A recent memo from the New York Daily News’ deputy entertainment editor leaked online, thanking staff for “keeping our stories SEO strong with the *Robin Williams dead at 63* headline.” The memo went on to provide staffers with a handful of other “buzzy” words to utilize, including “death, dead, suicide, etc.,” to ensure the continued prioritization of their article’s placement above others on search.

Cold-heartedness of the memo aside, it serves as a good reminder about the new reality of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. There is an increasing need for companies and organizations like the New York Daily News to shift their search strategy to focus more on the content of the articles they produce and less on trying to outsmart “The Google” (lest you never forget that Google is smarter than you). In short, content marketing is the new SEO.

The SEO saga stems back to 2011 when the New York Times broke a story about JC Penney’s manipulation of Google’s search algorithm. The company employed an SEO firm to strategically link thousands of unrelated retail sites to JCPenney.com in order to increase their placement above other retailers on Google during the highly competitive holiday season. Unsurprisingly, the company turned over a profit from the strategy, but juice Google and you’ll be sorry. The practice, known as black-hat SEO, prompted the search engine to roll out a series of complicated algorithm updates over the last few years that not only punished JC Penney, but also made it even harder for brands to win at search.

Enter content marketing – a powerful branding tool and the future of marketing as we know it. But what is it?

Content marketing is a technique of creating and sharing content without the intention of selling something to your audience. The information can take on a number of formats including news, videos, webinars, storytelling, infographics, case studies, or photographs, all which depends on the goals for the brand.

While content marketing isn’t a solution to SEO, it’s a fundamental shift in thinking for most.

When done right, it can provide an avenue for brands to start communicating with their audiences in an impactful, and more importantly, real way. And once it’s been developed, it doesn’t have to live as a separate marketing strategy for a brand. It can be seamlessly integrated and leveraged for application across all forms of marketing including social media, PR, inbound marketing and of course, SEO.

Dollar Shave Club needed to increase brand awareness so they leveraged content marketing by creating and launching this video that received 9.5 million views, 76,000 Facebook fans, 23,000 new Twitter followers and 12,000 new customers – in just two days. General Electric needed to refresh how consumers viewed their 132-year old brand so they chose to design Ecomagination, a forum for fresh thinking and conversation about clean technology and sustainable infrastructure. These are just two examples of many brands successfully leveraging content marketing.

So where to begin?

Defining the voice and focus of your content is an important place to start. Where does your expertise lie? What differentiates your brand from your competitors? What does your audience really want to know about you? The average consumer has an opportunity to engage with anywhere from several hundred to several thousand pieces of content and advertisements per day, but only chooses to click, share and like content that is relevant or valuable to them.

By creating an identity for your brand and an organizational foundation from which you’ll communicate your voice, you can define how your brand can create content that engages your target audience and cuts through the noise. Good content marketing will make a person stop, read, think, behave, share, and react differently. Traditional advertising talks at you – content marketing is a conversation.



Adalaide Johnson is responsible for #hashtags and all things digital. Propelled by her background in politics and advertising, Ada’s role as social and digital manager immerses her in social strategy, digital branding and content marketing. With experience working on clients such as Susan G. Komen, Quiznos and Sonic Drive-In, creative thinking is her wheelhouse. If a new app, social platform, trend or technology emerges, you’ll find her brainstorming how to make it work for her clients. When she isn’t filling your Facebook feed with content, this KC to ICT transplant can be found painting in her studio, cheering on the Michigan Football team (#GoBlue) or cooking up a new recipe.

Marketing Goes “Boink”

Lessons from a little boy and his tiger about trust, taking risks, innovating and enjoying the ride.

Growing up, I always identified with the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes. I probably still do to some extent. Their adventures taught me many important lessons about life. I learned about embracing the fleeting moments of joy, the pain and heartbreak that come with death, the importance of fostering a rich imagination and that despite the fact that I have a wife and two daughters, I will never understand what goes on inside a girl’s head.

Every day I have to get up and go to school. Nothing ever changes. It’s just school, school, school. But not today. Today, I go for the gusto. – Calvin

The longer I work in the digital marketing world, the more I have come to realize that Calvin and Hobbes is actually a fantastic metaphor for a healthy agency / client relationship.

The role a good digital agency is to innovate, to go careening down a hill like Calvin on his sled; not knowing exactly what waits for us at the bottom, only that it will be a new and exciting ride and that everyone will come out better for it on the other side. It’s the job of your agency to experiment with seemingly reckless abandon — we wouldn’t be much good to you if we didn’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that an agency should just throw itself blindly down a hill with no idea of what’s at the bottom. You see, Calvin had Hobbes. Hobbes kept him focused. He reigned in Calvin’s wild ideas when necessary, asked if Calvin had run it by his mother (read: legal department) and then gleefully jumped on the back of the sled with him.

The best clients are the Hobbes to the agency’s Calvin. They expect the crazy ideas, and anything less is disappointing. But, the most important thing to remember about Calvin and Hobbes is how they always worked together. They were friends, partners and co-conspirators. They trusted each other implicitly. Sure, they disagreed from time to time, but they knew that each other’s best interests were always top of mind and they never really put themselves at risk. Sure, Calvin was the crazy one, but Hobbes was always there to encourage the crazy.

And Hobbes, like any engaged client, always kept Calvin on his toes. Calvin had to always be ready and never get comfortable. Because when an agency gets comfortable, they get complacent. That’s when the boring work happens. The work that may get the job done, but isn’t exciting anymore. Every agency requires a good pouncing every now and then.

“Everybody seeks happiness! Not me, though! That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” – Calvin

As Koch employees, we have all been challenged to innovate. To challenge the status quo, embrace change and redefine what the “best” is. Just like Calvin, we should all be striving for something better. Our leaders, and even more importantly, our customers expect it of us, even if it’s a little scary at first.

Which leads us to that scary hill known as digital marketing. It’s a landscape that’s constantly evolving. It’s not enough to just have a website or a Facebook page anymore. Every day, a new opportunity comes knocking and it’s up to us to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. In this ever-changing world of digital marketing, every business needs a trusted partner; Hobbes needs a Calvin to be successful.

Marketing is changing. This past holiday shopping season, mobile sales accounted for nearly 26 percent of all sales. That is an increase of 49 percent over the past year.1 Digital marketing and engagement, particularly in mobile, is here to stay and companies have to keep up. Companies must leap over the edge and embrace the technology to reach their customers where they are now.

So what does your digital marketing strategy look like? How is your company reaching out to the nearly 77 percent of consumers who research products and services on their mobile device?2

Koch Creative Group is uniquely positioned to understand your specific business needs. Whether its traditional marketing or digital, we are able to find the right mix of crazy ideas that accomplish your goals and still live up to high expectations.

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!” – Calvin

We’d love to get together and explore with you sometime. Give us a shout.

1. http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1837
2. http://think.withgoogle.com/databoard/#lang=en-us&study=23&topic=62&dp=315



mosherAs KCG’s interactive director, Justin Mosher is responsible for anything with a pixel, from building websites to creating digital publications, and from crafting social media strategies to providing consulting services. With 10 years in the digital space, you’ll always find this self-admitted techie exploring the latest and greatest to find opportunities for our clients. After a long day behind computer screens, Justin looks forward to unplugging with a hearty beef stew and time with his wife and two girls.