Category Archives: Professional

What’s Next for Autos and Online Marketing?

Gas_Prices When I recently came across these old gas price signs I had to take this picture. The days of a gallon of gas costing less than a bottle of water are long gone. But as the cost of crude oil climbs, auto manufacturers have to get more creative with their engineering, as well as online marketing.

Last week this headline hit the news feeds:

Planworks, Starcom MediaVest Group’s dedicated General Motors buying-and-planning unit, has cut 25 jobs. The cuts come as GM is preparing to shift half of its $3 billion budget into digital and one-to-one marketing within the next three years.

This headline demonstrates the shift that is occurring in both consumer habits and the agency world. For example, is Gen Y a) subscribing to print publications and picking up the newspaper, or b) surfing the web and sending text messages on their iPhones?

Looks like GM gets it. $3 billion is no small spend, and it may even exceed data released by BIGresearch who provided a report in 2006 (see below) comparing the amount large brands spent on ads vs their influence on consumers.

   Automotive Ad Spend vs. Influence to Purchase

Advertiser  Magazines  Newspaper  Outdoor    TV    Radio   Internet
---------  ----------  ---------  -------  ------- ------- -------
General      12.19%/     6.66%/    1.24%/  40.29%/  3.04%/  3.59%/
Motors        16.9%      17.0%     10.2%   17.5%    6.4%     8.7%

Ford         13.08%/     5.89%/    0.82%/  40.85%/  1.52%/  3.85%/
              17.0%      16.5%     11.9%    18.0%    6.7%    8.4%

Toyota       12.95%/     2.58%/    1.09%/  39.47%/  1.40%/  2.79%/
              19.0%      15.8%     10.5%    16.8%    5.3%    8.6%

*Source: BIGresearch SIMM 11 and analysis of Ad Age Domestic Ad Spending
         by Category (2006)
**       % of Total US Ad Spend/Media influence on brand owners to purchase
         a vehicle

What GM undoubtedly sees is an increase over time in the Influence metric for Internet, as well as the eventual merging of Internet and TV.

GM has already begun to foray into interactive websites and social media marketing campaigns.

Here are a few examples:

At the heart of GMNext is a two-way dialogue with customers about everything from environment to innovation. It is a commendable endeavor and demonstrates a commitment to an open conversation about the future of transportation. Big brands like GM cannot afford to seem out of touch or archaic. They have to be on the pulse of current and future consumer preferences in order to be relevant in the market place. Using the web to engage customers is an excellent way of gathering data, and it has far more reach and measurement potential than a conversation in a showroom at a local dealership.

Of course, it is all lip service unless GM’s products actually evolve with their online strategies. My guess is they will because they have to, because I certainly won’t be buying another car that only gets 18 mpg. I just hope it is fast enough.

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Marketing a Phenomenon

Lion_King On Friday, I attended a luncheon hosted by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Marketing Association held at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to learn how Disney’s theatrical production, The Lion King is promoted through marketing, advertising, and public relations. Whether or not you enjoy Broadway shows or anything to do with Disney, there is much to be gleaned from the incredibly successful marketing of this production. To date, the show has generated more than $3.2 billion and attracted 30 million theatergoers around the world.

The presentation was delivered by Scott A. Hemerling who currently oversees the marketing, advertising, publicity, and promotions as the National Press Representative for the national tours of Disney’s THE LION KING.  Prior to this, he worked in the same capacity representing the third national touring production of The Phantom of the Opera.

Some of the more interesting aspects of Scott’s presentation detailed their careful selection of those cities in which they perform, and how they tailor the marketing strategy for each location. This can consist of everything from messaging to displays to involvement with the community. For a 2nd-tier city like Tampa, their marketing and advertising budget consists of around 12-15% of gross revenue or roughly $125 – 150,000. Much of this goes to carefully selected ad and banner placements and media buys. Surprisingly, none of this budget goes to online marketing, but that is something Scott admittedly said needs to change.

Where The Lion Kings gets its greatest reach, however, is through the strength of their brand. Media outlets want to be associated with the show regardless of whether they are directly receiving ad revenues. They will hold contests and promotions with ticket giveaways to demonstrate a link with the show and their community. Scott and his team are happy to oblige as long as these partners adhere to their branding standards.

It is such a powerful community event that they would be remiss not to be involved. Aside from the entertainment value, the economic impact of the show generates an additional $3 for every $1 spent. Just think about an entire stage crew living in your town for 2 months, let alone many other ancillary items and expenditures.

On top of the marketing budget for each city, there is also a general budget for the creation of tchotchke items like you see in the picture. Notice, by the way, what seems at first like such a simple logo for such an extravagant production translates so well no matter the medium. You could see the lion on a giant billboard, or the head of a tack.

Right now, The Lion King  is entertaining audiences in two locations.  As soon as the Tampa show comes to an end the crew will be packed up in 24hrs and on to the next location, continuously leapfrogging the other production from one destination to the next. It is an impressive undertaking that requires more than a dull roar to fill seats and perpetuate the show. Aside from an aggressive online strategy, Scott and his team have a great formula, and it was very interesting to learn how they have constructed their marketing strategy.

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Save Our Wild Horses

WildHorse In case you have not heard, there is a very heated issue erupting here in Nevada around the protection of wild horses. The Department of Agriculture has plans to round up hundreds of wild horses for slaughter because they claim the horses are starving and do not have enough land. What is perplexing is that no one has witnessed any starving horses, and instead only seen healthy horses grazing in plentiful pastures. And regardless if there was a population problem, surely more humane practices could be implemented like relocation and sterilization of some of the herd, which have been intermittently used.

Celebrities such as Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg have done radio spots urging people to call Governor Jim Gibbons, (775) 684-5670.

Listen to the radio spots here:

Willie Nelson

Snoop Dogg

Protestors gathered outside the Nevada Capitol yesterday holding brooms and plungers emphasizing their desire to see the Department of Agriculture “cleaned up.” Media outlets all over the West have picked up the story including:

Also, you might want to check out what this local Nevada blogger has to say. Clearly, this is an important issue to many people and rightfully so. The horse is an integral part of this Nation’s history and an iconic symbol of the West. And might I add, GREAT FOR TOURISM IN NEVADA.

You might remember a blog post we did back in November 2006 regarding the American Horse Act. This issue hits close to home. You don’t come to work everyday for a company called, Twelve Horses, and not on occasion think about why you built your brand on that name.

We will bring more information to you as we receive it. You can also visit 

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Ski Resort Marketing

In order to truly understand a brand it helps to experience it firsthand.

HeavenlySnowboarder When we at Twelve Horses are not busy geeking out on the web, many of us here are charging hard somewhere in the outdoors. Whether it is around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada range that rise above our Reno office, or the Wasatch Mountains that tower above our Salt Lake City location, a common means of experiencing these environs is on a pair of skis or a snowboard. Come visit us and you’ll find that the last powder day is a common conversation around the water cooler. Even as I type this blog post apres ski session, I am looking out across big, beautiful, snow-laced Lake Tahoe and looking forward to the next time.

This company culture is undoubtedly a major contributing factor as to why we service so many destination and sports marketing clients. Passion for these pursuits permeate our client work and online marketing endeavors such as brand building, web design and development, email and multi-channel marketing, social marketing, and search engine optimization. It works well because we are marketers and technologists that are a part of the target snow sport audience. 

When I came across this blog post titled, Seasonal SEO and Online Marketing for Ski Resorts, I couldn’t resist beating our own drum. Not only is it an informative and well-written post on online marketing for ski resorts, but it also touches upon one of our clients that we have serviced for more than 12 years – Heavenly Mountain Resort. It is a great compliment, but it also gives you a window into what we have been doing for them. Here is an excerpt.

Heavenly Resort in Lake Tahoe is perhaps the best example of a ski resort with an effective online marketing strategy. They are relatively well optimised for search and have good visibility in the search results. They have developed a MySpace profile and their website offers a range of initiatives including videos, daily podcasts and RSS feeds for their interactive blog, mountain condition updates and their own TV show.

Our work for Heavenly has also garnered several awards including a Web Award, ADDY, and California Travel & Tourism Award, and this success stems from a well-designed website that relies on the right online tools to reach and resonate with a global customer base. But I also believes that it comes from a deep and personal understanding of their brand.

See you on the hill!


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Video Video Video

With the proliferation of online video there is no question that it has become a preferred method for communicating a message. How many of you would prefer to spend 4 minutes watching a video as opposed to 4 minutes of reading straight text? {Except for this of course! ;~)}

We recognize the importance of it and are actively blending video into various social and interactive marketing campaigns for our clients; for example, websites, landing pages, mobile devices, and social networks like YouTube and Facebook.

This content can also be extended to sales teams to help illustrate a particular product, service, or the unique value of the company they represent. It can be used at a tradeshow, powerpoint presentaion, or live on your iPod for that perfect moment when it can compliment a particular point you are about to make.

It might even be something that serves to personalize your brand and communicate something a little deeper, as this video shows.

Well, now there is another way. Google recently announced they are beginning testing for video ads on search results pages. For now it is no more expensive than the usual CPC you would make. This marks a new means of delivering targeted, measurable messages in a rich format, and it is something you should consider as part of your SEM campaigns.

Let ‘em see it!


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Helpful Blogging Tool for Posting Rich Content

Quite a number of our clients use blogs for business to establish an online presence and publish informative and searchable content to the web. Of those blogs/websites, we always use WordPress because of the flexibility for custom design and access to a seemingly endless array of community applications.  As powerful as WordPress is, it is not always the easiest application to use for non-technical business owners and employees who want to provide more than just text and links. However, there is a solution.

Windows Live Writer is a free, downloadable desktop application that runs on your Windows PC and allows you to publish pictures, videos, and other rich content to your blog/website. There are also a number of useful free extensions available that you should check out if this is of interest to you.

As an example, I will use it to show you some recent blogs/websites that we have launched in the past week or so.

Here is an example of how you can use Windows Live Writer to create a table, format, insert pictures and links. No html knowledge required.

Business Location Business Type Website
Red Rover Corvalis, Oregon Software RedRover
Eagle Gate Salt Lake City, Utah Education EagleGate
SouthernLINC Atlanta, Georgia Telecom SLINC
Big Valley Honda Reno, Nevada Retail BigValleyHonda
The Godfather Las Vegas, Nevada Entrepreneur GodFather
International Bank Concord, New Hampshire Finance InternationalBank

You can also use it to insert videos or maps. I’ll just stick to the same example as above and show the locations of these particular clients.

View Larger Map

You can also input tags that specifically relate to your blog post, which help with search engine optimization.


When you are ready to publish your post, simply click Publish, and it will also do a quick spell check for you. If you are not ready to publish yet, simply Save Draft for later, or set the publish date and it will post automatically. There are several other handy little features for you to explore and find on your own.

To get started, simply go to the Windows Live Writer page to download it. Once you have installed the application, go to “Weblog” in the upper navigation and select “Add Weblog Account.” There you will be asked to give the url of your blog, as well as your username and password. That’s it! You can even add other blogs if you like. It will detect the styles, plugins, categories, and recent posts for each one.

A key component of a successful blogging strategy is doing it fairly frequently The more empowered you and your colleagues are to publish content to the web the more likely you are to do it. I hope this helps.

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eCommerce Solution for the Las Vegas Monorail

Nevada_Business_Journal_Ad I was recently working with one of our designers from the Creative Services team to produce this ad for the Nevada Business Journal when it occurred to me that I have never blogged about the work we do for the Las Vegas Monorail; therefore, I am taking the opportunity to do so now.

Before starting a relationship with Twelve Horses, the Las Vegas Monorail did not sell tickets online. This was in part because they did not have the technology to take online ticket purchases, as well as the fact that they needed an enhanced web presence. What we helped them uncover was that a lot of opportunity existed to create new relationships, increase awareness, and generate a greater demand for tickets.

If the Las Vegas Monorail was going to sell tickets online they would need an ecommerce solution that was flexible and customizable. For example, Las Vegas receives a plethora of different groups to the city. If the Monorail was going to service these customers they would need to be able to handle large group purchases, as well as offer special incentives to encourage them to do so. Furthermore, non-technical staff would have to be able to manage it whether it was adding groups, defining the ticket price, specifying date ranges, managing the payment options, setting shipping preferences, and much more.

Needless to say we built it for them. Here is a look at some of the features of the Las Vegas Monorail Ticketing Platform.

Managing Channel Partners

The Las Vegas Monorail works with a number of channel partners and groups. The ticketing platform allows them to set-up a revenue share with these partners, as well as implement their own branding and images online, in emails, and print. It is extremely flexible. For example, they can run multiple promotions at once. This was the case for the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where there were two different promotions – discounts for attendees and discounts for exhibitors.


The ticketing features are very diverse and capable of handling a multitude of different scenarios. Additionally, integration of ticket tracking and reporting is providing the Monorail with deeper customer insight, which enables to provide a higher level of customer service. Here are just some examples:

  1. Automated postings of ticket blocks and and auto removal of postings by set parameters such as date of expiration.
  2. Discount Codes defined and assigned either randomly or branded such as “CES2008.”
  3. Overrides conducted either temporarily or permanently to groups, types, or partners.
  4. Tiered ticket pricing based on quantity, time purchased, or aggregates.
  5. Logic in the ticketing prevents, for example, trying to use standard postal delivery when it is international.


The ticketing platform is flexible enough to allow the fulfillment of tickets via email, direct shipping, and soon – mobile.

  1. Electronic delivery allows the customer to print the voucher at home and redeem onsite.
  2. Email confirmations sent automatically with purchase confirmation, canceled order and refund, and tickets shipped. Email templates also include branding based on channel partner and/or promotion.
  3. When the Monorail handles the print fulfillment they can download all the contacts and do a mail merge on all their envelopes, mailing labels, and tickets.

Customer Service

  1. The customer service module gives the Monorail the ability to look up the customer based on any information they give.
  2. Those with set privileges can void and change tickets, which reconciles on the financial side and funnels down to the various communication channels.


  1. The Dashboard shows financial report summaries and projections, so they know how they are doing.
  2. Integration with Salesforce matches opportunity numbers to promotions so they can track real-time ticket sales and the success of a campaign. It also allows them to see important items such as what a particular vendor or channel partners agreement was from the previous year.
  3. Redemption tracking not only makes sure the ticket cannot be used again, it also lets the Monorail know where and when the customer scanned the ticket, so they can better understand traffic and know where there major stops are.

All of this may seem like a lot, but this is just a brief overview of everything the Las Vegas Monorail Ticketing Platform can do. Suffice to say, the integration of this ecommerce solution has unlocked another channel of additional revenue for the Monorail, and because it is business automation at its best, it is completely scalable and requires very little additional internal resources to get it done.

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Non-Profit Makes Use of New Media Tools and More

Information is only as powerful as it is accessible.

We just recently launched two different websites focused around a life-threatening disease called, hydrocephalus. Why you may ask? One really important reason is because there is no cure…yet. Of equal importance is the fact that symptoms of the disease can manifest in many different ways. Many doctors, family members, and individuals battling the disease are uninformed and ill-prepared to handle the symptoms, let alone recognize them when they first manifest. Part of the remedy is to put information out that is accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

As stated on the website, “Hydrocephalus is a chronic neurological condition characterized by an increased volume of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within spaces inside the brain.” In layman terms, it is water on the brain, which causes swelling, brain damage, and even death. It is more common than you may know. In fact, more than 1 million people in the U.S. alone have been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, and it is believed to occur in 1.5 of every 1,000 births.

Hydrocephalus_Association The Hydrocephalus Association website is in its first phase of development. Aside from the access to information you readily see at first glance, the other features of the site facilitate Member Signup and Donations, both of which integrate with Salesforce to manage the data and the relationships with those involved with the organization. Because the organization relies heavily on its active community, there also handy little features like the Flickr Uploader application, which gives people the ability to upload their photos and add search-friendly descriptions. There is more to come.

I briefly mentioned the importance of community as it relates to hydrocephalus. Many of you who participate in social networks and blogs understand the power of online interaction and communities; but for many it is still relatively new ground. The purpose of is to create and foster community participation in order to generate greater awareness around the disease, as well as empower people with helpful information. The site gives people tools to communicate not only with one another, but also the world at large.

Gabriels_Life Gabriel’ is a custom build using WordPress. On top of that it allows users to create their own WordPress blogs as part of the network. There is also a forum, and the ability for people to search for others and connect to share information privately if they so choose. Finally, visitors are encouraged to submit their own stories, which are featured on the homepage. These tools are designed to tap into the collective knowledge base of those who have faced the complexities of the disease so that others are better prepared to handle their own. While still in its infancy, the site appears to be serving that purpose.

My main hope for this blog post is that you will see it and read it and tell someone about it. You will meet someone that has or knows someone else with hydrocephalus, and they will go and start to use these sites and tell someone else. And so on, and so on, and so on….

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2007: A Year in Review

As we all come sailing in to the New Year, there is little pause except to consider what has transpired over the last 12 months and recognize that the world of the web waits for no one. There has been a staggering amount of new blogs launched, a slew of new social networking sites, and just as many widgets, plugins, and assorted applications to deliver content to the widest audience possible.

With all the noise, fragmentation, and attention to the web, the challenge is to resonate, connect with and keep new customers. Listed below are some of the hottest channels and services on the market in 2007. Keep in mind, however, that for most all businesses it still comes down to having a well-designed, optimized website that offers a seamless experience and delivers on its promise.


  1. emailLove it or hate it, Email Marketing still holds the lead.
    • 96% of Internet users access Email almost daily.
    • 90% use email to engage in and determine the value of a relationship with a company.
    • 83.0% of marketers surveyed chose email as THE most important advertising medium
    • The ROI for email is twice that of any other online marketing channel.
    • E-mail marketing is growing annually at 8-10%
    • This past year alone, U.S. businesses spent $500 million on email marketing to generate $21.9 billion in sales.
  2. webSearch Engine Marketing & Search Engine Optimization
    • Deliver a targeted, relevant result to a customer at the point at which they are actively searching for what you sell and track the entire path from keyword to conversion. The only problem of course is that the greater the competition the higher the Cost-per-Click (CPC).
  3. syndicationReally Simple Syndication (RSS)
    • Horsepower RSS Feed.Almost every website uses RSS syndication to deliver content in a format that best suits the user’s needs. What is amazing is how few consumers know what it is, understand it, or know how it can help them consume information. Does it matter? Probably not. Using it is getting easier all the time. When you find a website you want to follow just look for the orange icon and click it.
  4. Mobile
    • Mobile Marketing really took off for a while there, and then it seemed to plateau. Carriers and handset manufacturers made it difficult and expensive for most businesses to adopt it. However, the prices have started to come down. Additionally, this year something new came along – the iPhone. Since that time several popular web sites have created their own mobile versions for the iPhone- Google, Digg, and Facebook just to name a few. Mobile is only going to get better as it delivers richer, more useful and more user-controlled (see Twitter below) experiences. (Update: Director of Strategic Services, TJ Crawford talks about another hot mobile service in the works.)

Web Services:

  1. wordpressWordPress, a blogging and website software
    • WordPress has seen incredible growth this past year and rightfully so. Not only do they offer a fairly quick and easy way for you to have a blog or website, but they also have some of the hottest web designers and developers in the world continuously donating their time to building new free and very functional tools for you to use to communicate and extend your reach more effectively.
  2. Salesforce, a customer relationship management suite
    • For medium to large to enterprise level companies, managing enormous amounts of varying customer data requires automation. Salesforce offers a variety of different applications for organizing data and managing customers and projects. Understanding that each business has unique needs, many of their applications are customizable. In the past year, they have become even more successful by soliciting input through their Developer Network.
  3. Facebook, a social web service
    • Facebook is king! Unlike MySpace, Facebook has inspired a lot of new and different applications to enrich the experience and keep users involved. The creators are still trying to make it pay out–and have even failed in some regard–but it certainly reaffirms how passionate people are about connecting through online communities.
  4. Twitter, a mobile social web service
    • Twitter is unique since it is a web service integrated with an application that everyone with a mobile phone already has. People are using it to exchange information in the mobile environment, post updates to their blog or website, and meet new people. There are a lot of potential uses for Twitter across many different types of industries. Just remember you have to say it in 140 characters or less.

Of course, there are many more web services out there that have caught on and are gaining in popularity. As 2008 gains steam, you will undoubtedly see a clear leader – maybe Flock – that is capable of efficiently mashing up and managing multiple sites and accounts such as these. For any other predictions, you can check out fellow Twelve Horses’ bloggers, Josh Kenzer, TJ Crawford , Colin Loretz, and Mike Henderson. No matter what the future holds, you can be sure that the Web will continue to evolve and provide you with the tools needed to get the job done.

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Go Big in the Biggest Little City

Headquartered in Reno, Nevada, and less than 30 minutes from the nearest ski resort means quite a few of us here at Twelve Horses like to ski and snowboard. In fact, two of Twelve Horses founders, David LaPlante and Martin Gastanaga, were professional ski racers back in the day before they got a wild hair and decided to start a web design and development company.

Obviously, their passions have an influence on the office culture, as well as the type of clients we have. As an indication, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Mountain Sports International, and Reno-Tahoe, America’s Adventure Place are just a few clients we have that are involved in promoting snow sports.

It is the latter client, along with a merry band of high altitude hucksters and several other sponsors, that somehow managed to convince the city of Reno to:

  • Get access to one of the tallest downtown buildings
  • Construct a ramp complete with a snow surface
  • And then rip right off the thing with skis on their feet and parachutes on their backs.
  • The video speaks for itself. You can also watch more on this YouTube channel. Can you say, Cool!?

    Also, here are some awesome Ski Base Jump photos of Shane McConkey doing his thing courtesy of the RSCVA.

    Shane McConkey

    Shane McConkey 2

    Shane McConkey 3

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