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AJ&Smart Has Generated More Than €2 Million in Sales from Social Media: Here’s How

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  • Product design and innovation studio AJ&Smart has generated more than €2million from clients who first discovered it on social media.
  • Ninety percent of AJ&Smart’s new clients now come from social media referrals, replacing word-of-mouth as the #1 source of new business.
  • Social media has helped AJ&Smart’s client base to go global.

It was a cold January morning in Berlin, Germany, and Jonathan Courtney was feeling a bit stuck.

Nearly six years had passed since he founded design agency, AJ&Smart. And though the business had been a huge success — winning multiple awards and building a roster of big-name clients — Jonathan felt there was much more to come for his agency and team.

“But what?” he wondered to himself. “How can we take AJ&Smart to the next level?”

After much deliberation, Jonathan made a bold decision.

“Do you really want to do this?,” one advisor asked.

Other CEO friends in Berlin shared similar feelings. “Not only did they not understand it, they thought I was actively damaging the company,” he told me.

So what was it that sparked such impassioned responses from his friends and advisors?

Jonathan wanted to share everything that happened at AJ&Smart on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, giving followers behind-the-scenes access to the agency.

Yet now, 18-months down the line — and despite the initial pushback from advisors — AJ&Smart has generated in excess €2million in revenue from clients who first discovered the agency on social media.

‘We invested almost all of our profits in building our brand’

Whether you love his work or not, Gary Vaynerchuk is hard to ignore in the social media space.

If you’ve ever listened to his podcasts or stumbled upon a few of his tweets, you’ve probably heard some variation of his ‘Document. Don’t create’ blueprint. It was this strategy that encouraged Jonathan to take the plunge into the world of social media.

Trying to create content was always a big issue for Jonathan. He liked the ‘Document. Don’t create’ strategy because it was focused on simply showing people what was happening day-to-day and it didn’t require him or his team to spend hours planning what they’d publish.

“People think that you’re damaging your brand if you’re not being super careful about it. But while other agencies are thinking about what they should post each week and writing their social media guidelines, we’ve produced and published like 20 hours of content in that same amount of time and already have people engaging with it.”

Jonathan Courtney (@jicecream)
CEO & Co-founder, AJ&Smart

Once Jonathan and the AJ&Smart team had decided to embrace social media, they went all in. “We invested almost all of our profits in building our brand,” Jonathan told me.

And though his strategy was a little out there for a creative agency — most agencies keep their cards close to their chest, Jonathan explained during our call — there was a strategic reason behind it.

AJ&Smart helps clients with product design and innovation as well as working closely with the Design Sprint creator (& NY Times Best Selling author), Jake Knapp. But it’s a competitive space.

“We’re in a commodity market,” Jonathan says. “We could compete on price or just rely on the quality of our work. But I didn’t want to do that.”

Jonathan wanted AJ&Smart to stand out alone in the field of design agencies. He wanted the business to have its own brand. “My belief was having a highly engaged audience would benefit us more than simply just focusing on client work,” he explained.

‘Instagram is our social media hub’

AJ&Smart decided to go all in on social media when Instagram launched Stories. “It was a super low friction way to create content and a great way to get started,” Jonathan said.

AJ&Smart uses Stories to be provide an authentic look at what the agency is like day-to-day and tries to show as much of what’s happening in real-time as possible.

For example, in its Stories you might see behind-the-scenes at a client workshop:

Or the team traveling to meetings with clients:

This type of content is super interesting for AJ&Smart’s followers, but it also provides talking points for its clients. “We’ll go into an office of a client and because of Instagram they’ll know the whole journey we’ve gone on to get to them. They always talk about it when we arrive,” Jonathan explained.

When it comes to the Instagram feed, it posts highly curated content that’s focused on design-related hashtags it wants to reach:

Hashtags are important for AJ&Smart to reach its target audience on Instagram. “A huge thing for us is designers following us,” Jonathan explained. “Designers follow us and then when their boss is looking to hire an agency, they recommend AJ&Smart. It’s made sales so much easier for us.”

Instagram has also evolved into a central hub for all of AJ&Smart’s content and it uses the Stories Highlight feature to showcase its content across platforms.

For example, one highlight showcases its podcast:

And another talks about its ‘Innovation Hackers’ Facebook Group:

“We’re big believers in re-purposing and re-packaging content tailored to the platform. We usually find that when someone starts following us on one channel, they’ll very likely soon start following us across our other channels too, which is fantastic. It also keeps us on our toes to always be putting out interesting, fresh content that is specific to the platform.”

‘If you’re just focused on the numbers, you’re not going to succeed’

Social media success rarely, if ever, happens overnight.

After a couple of months of investing heavily in social media marketing, AJ&Smart had only picked up a few hundred followers here and there. And it took about eight-months in total before potential clients would contact the company saying they found it on Instagram, YouTube or any other social channels.

“If I hadn’t have been patient I’d have given up long before we started to see the benefits of social media. If you’re just focused on the numbers, you’re not going to succeed,” Jonathan explained.

The ROI of social media marketing

Just over a year-and-a-half after AJ&Smart went all in on social media, it’s seeing massive return on its investment:

  • 90 percent of its clients first discover the agency on one of their social media channels
  • Social media has been responsible for a minimum of €2 million in revenue
  • Its client base has expanded globally thanks to its social media presence

“If a company interviews us and two other agencies and the work and costs are similar, they tend to book us,” Jonathan says.

“They will choose AJ&Smart because they can get an insight who we are from social media, they feel we’re an authority because of the content we create and sometimes clients even ask for certain team members after seeing them on stories.”

“Having a strong social media presence is massive for us. To the point where almost every customer coming through our door already trusts us, knows who we are and what we stand for. It’s not only how many of our clients find out about us, it’s usually what convinces them to choose us over our competitors.”

How to start grabbing attention and winning clients

AJ&Smart has been incredibly successful on social media by being authentic and sharing what goes on at the agency every day. It doesn’t spend hours planning content or creating elaborate, highly-edited videos. Instead, it just shares the processes its team goes through and the work they’re doing.

To get started all you need to do is pick up a phone, open up Instagram or Facebook and start talking about your work and the things you care about.

As Jonathan said on our call: “There’s little or no reason not to be talking with your audience every single day now.”

Find AJ&Smart on Instagram or learn more about the agency here.

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Author: Ash Read

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Top Starbucks Exec Joins JPMorgan Chase as Chief Brand Officer

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Leanne Fremar, the senior vice president and executive creative director at Starbucks, is joining the financial firm JPMorgan Chase as chief brand officer, the company announced Thursday.

Fremar will lead brand strategy for JPMorgan Chase and the firm’s subsidiaries, Chase and J.P. Morgan. She will lead global brand initiatives and creative campaigns across the brands.

“This is an extraordinary brand, an extraordinary team and an extraordinary leadership team, and it’s an honor to be joining,” Fremar told Adweek.

Fremar will report to Kristin Lemkau, JPMorgan Chase’s chief marketing officer, and she will work with business marketers companywide on various campaigns and brand initiatives.

“It’s a big job, and we really needed somebody who was special,” Lemkau told Adweek. “It’s hard to find someone who is a true creative and somebody who deeply understands creative and who is also a deeply commercial thinker; because the work we create should be beautiful, but it should also drive real business outcomes.”

Fremar will be the first chief brand officer at the company responsible for JPMorgan Chase and the two subsidiary brands. Previous brand officers oversaw individual brands at the firm.

Part of Fremar’s role will be to manage JPMorgan Chase’s internal agency, Inner Circle, and relationships with outside agencies. Inner Circle, which JPMorgan Chase created in 2015, has saved the company $20 million in marketing costs, Lemkau said, and the firm plans to use it even more. The goal of bringing more creative in-house was a major reason Fremar, who headed Starbucks’ in-house creative studio, was the right fit, Lemkau said.

Fremar’s first day at JPMorgan Chase is Sept. 24.

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Author: Kelsey Sutton

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Why This Beverage Brand Is Opening a Cashierless Store in New York

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No cash? No problem.

As cashierless technology ramps up with Amazon soon bringing its third Amazon Go store to New York, more companies are testing the waters. The newest one: Dirty Lemon, a beverage brand that only sells its products via text, is opening up what it calls its “Drug Store” in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Unlike Amazon Go, where customers need to use an Amazon Go app to enter the store, anyone can walk into the store, pick up a beverage, and walk right out. Customers then text Dirty Lemon which beverage they grabbed and in five minutes, a 24-hour customer representative charges their credit card (new customers are prompted to open up an account). A few safety precautions include cameras monitoring the space, a heat map tracker to see how many people are visiting the store and a RFID tracker to see what products are taken out of the refrigerator (which holds 1,000 bottles).

“We think this is a really great controlled way of ultimately providing a really valuable experience to our customers,” said Zak Normandin, founder and CEO, DirtyLemon. “It’s a relatively low risk for us to be able to do something innovative and unique for the brand and with our customers.”

To bring people into this new space, Dirty Lemon is reaching out to its 25,000-member customer database, inviting them in and offering up the first bottle for free. The company’s VIP members—customers who order a Dirty Lemon case at least once a month—will get an extra perk: a 1,300 square foot cocktail bar, where the brand plans on hosting events and screenings and use the area as a lab to try new flavors, according to Normandin. (The company’s previous pop-up in Nolita last summer tested out two flavors, +Matcha and +Rose, that became best sellers and were eventually bottled.)

“It’s going to be a SoHo house type of programming schedule,” Normandin said. “We want this to be a place where people can come, have a drink after work, or take friends on the weekend.”

Normandin is betting on getting more out of the storefront than just sales. He thinks of the brand as more of a technology company than a beverage company, and he plans on proving that concept with the store. With Dirty Lemon’s recent acquisition of Poncho, a former weather chatbot service, Normandin said Dirty Lemon has “incorporated” all of Poncho’s technology around a conversational bot experience into its own platform. The new technology is less automated than Poncho, but it’s allowed Dirty Lemon to automatically process different types of orders, like a two cases of one flavor for one day and another flavor for another day. Before, Normandin said, it had to be done manually.

The storefront is also Dirty Lemon’s next bet to attract new customers, as the price to serve ads to a consumer continues to climb and is “too expensive” for the company to acquire a consumer at a certain price. Normandin explained that it’s not just beverage companies who are going after their customer (a millennial femal that’s “educated and has a high discretionary income”), but all types of companies.

“We believe in the power of experience and building community, and this achieves that in a big way,” Normandin said. “By creating a physical experience and community around a location, I think we’re able to build much more longevity with consumers.”

The company, which has more than 150,000 customers across the United States, plans on taking its “Drug Store” concept to three more locations in 2019: another in New York, Chicago, and Miami.

“Shifting our advertising spend from digital acquisition to these physical experiences is, we think, a much more effective way of connecting with consumers,” Normandin said.

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Author: Ann-Marie Alcántara

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Snapchat, Seeking Ad Revenue, Launches Partnerships With 25 Media Companies

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Today Snapchat parent company Snap, Inc. announced new partnerships with 25 media companies to create daily content for its Our Stories product.

These partners, which range from traditional media outlets and longtime Snap partners like CNN and NBC to digital publishers like Refinery29 and LADbible, influencer platform Whalar and sports media upstart Wave, will release daily editorial units that mix their own original material with user-generated content drawn from Snapchat’s millions of active users around the world.

Perhaps most importantly, these new content streams will provide Snapchat with another opportunity to serve programmatic ads to those users. Each media partner will also take an undisclosed portion of the resulting revenue.

“If publishers use content submitted by Snap users from all over the world to create stories, the byproduct will be better viewership and engagement.”
—Brian Verne, CEO, Wave

It’s going to be a different experience than the traditional kind of publisher experience that exists on Snapchat today,” said Brian Verne, CEO of Wave, which currently claims to be the fourth-largest sports publisher by total audience. “Their Our Stories portal will be opened up to exclusive publishing partners, one of which is us. If publishers use content submitted by Snap users from all over the world to create stories, the byproduct will be better viewership and engagement. As a value proposition for advertisers, that would seemingly be a more premium product. That’s why we were so excited.”

The idea is to make it easier for these publishers to monetize the content they curate for Snapchat while giving them more creative freedom on the platform.

“It’s a revenue agreement between publishers and Snap, but they are handling all the inventory,” said Allison Bodack, manager of communications for ad sales, data strategy and analytics at CNN parent company Turner. “There will be ads inserted into the stories.”

Bodack noted that these stories will have no universal format or length, predicting that they will change day-to-day.

“When this proposition came forward, a few things made it a natural fit. I have a social discovery team whose job is to identify and curate UGC content,” she continued. The new arrangement includes a dashboard tool enabling them to more easily facilitate these narratives.

“I still think it’s a platform that a younger audience is actively using and engaged on. It also doesn’t hurt that there are ad units available.”
—Allison Bodack, manager of communications for ad sales, data strategy and analytics, Turner

A party with direct knowledge of the new arrangement also said that, for the first time, Snap’s media partners will have access to the Our Stories API portal that had been exclusively available to the company’s own in-house team. In other words, CNN and others can stitch together the material created by journalists around the world who are already active on Snapchat with publicly submitted UGC content from the estimated 3 billion snaps created every day while adding custom graphics, text or other elements.

Additionally, each piece of content will have a unique, shareable URL via the Stories Everywhere feature so the partners can simultaneously publish on other platforms.

The news comes amid reports that Snapchat is losing users to Instagram, which essentially copied its primary feature for Instagram Stories just over two years ago. (Unlike Snapchat, Instagram does not have a built-in platform for publishers to monetize their content.)

Shares also fell on the news that chief strategy officer Imran Khan would be leaving the company, yet CNN and Wave both remain bullish on Snap.

“As an emerging media brand, you need to be everywhere,” said Verne, who told Adweek that his company shares Snap’s conviction that the future of media is a “decentralized model” that’s more reliant on content created by its own audience. “I think the results speak for themselves in terms of viewership.”

Bodack said, “I still think it’s a platform that a younger audience is actively using and engaged on. So how we contribute and distribute [our] exceptional journalism and narratives is still valuable.”

“It also doesn’t hurt that there are ad units available,” she added.

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Author: Patrick Coffee

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