Brandcrush: Molly Moon’s Gets the “Offline Event” Badge!

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle

I could make a list of 100 things Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream has done right in terms of word-of-mouth marketing, really from the moment they opened. Their stylish scoop shops are loaded with talkable details like the irresistible smell of fresh waffle cones baking, a strategically placed low window where toddlers can peek in to see the ice cream being made, and smartly designed posters showing all the wholesome, local sources of their ingredients.

Molly Moon's Ice Cream Trade Map Local

Molly Moon's Trade Map

Of course, Molly Moon’s also makes seriously kick-ass ice cream with inventive, memorable flavors like Salted Caramel and Honey Lavender that get people literally lining up around the block on Seattle summer days — which, of course, drives interest and gets even more people lining up — you get the picture.

Today I saw a Tweet that Molly Moon’s was offering free scoops of one of their signature flavors, Scout Mint, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. It happens to be about 40 degrees and pouring — certainly not a day that would normally make me think “ice cream.” But this sounded so fun and compelling that I surprised the kids with an after-school stop. Here are five things I loved about this inspired event.

Molly Moon's honors Girl Scout Anniversary

Happy 100th Anniversary, Girl Scouts!

  1. It was generous. Not 20% off Scout Mint. Not buy one get one free. Not free scoops for Girls Scouts in uniform (which would have been perfectly awesome). Free scoops of Scout Mint. Period. No questions asked.
  2. No huh? moment. You know what I mean. You hear about a special promotion, you go into the store, and the person at the counter has no idea what you are talking about. Or you bring in a coupon and you have to wait hopefully while the manager scrutinizes it to make sure you’re not trying to rip them off. The guy serving up the free scoops at Molly Moon’s was just straight-up awesome. He patiently gave out tastes and served up dozens of free scoops with gusto. He made the whole event feel fun, which, of course, is exactly how it should feel.
  3. It felt celebratory. There was a seriously festive vibe going on. The whole store was decked out with artful arrangements of Thin Mints boxes. A local Girl Scout troop was camped out at the entrance gamely selling boxes of cookies in the rain. Another troop had come in for scoops in full regalia. As they left, they called out, “Thank you, Molly Moon’s,” and the cool scoop guy called back cheerfully, “Thank you, Girl Scouts!”  It made me love my neighborhood and, of course, love Molly Moon’s for being part of it.
  4. It was disruptive (in a good way). When was the last time I took my kids spontaneously for ice cream on a Monday afternoon? Hmm. Maybe never. There was something about going at an unusual time that made it feel extraordinarily fun and memorable. Will I do it again? Probably. Where will I take them? That’s pretty easy.
  5. It was authentic. For me, this is a big one. Molly Moon herself was a Girl Scout, and she has honored that with her unique Scout Mint flavor. There is a real reason for Molly Moon’s to be celebrating Girl Scout Day; it wasn’t forced or opportunistic. It was from the heart.
Artful Thin Mint display on Girl Scout Day at Molly Moons

Those who follow word-of-mouth marketing best practices know well how important it is to have offline events in the mix, but I think Molly Moon’s gets a badge for this one: a sweet, simple, smart concept, perfectly executed. Thanks for those free scoops, Molly Moon’s! We’ll be back.


Brandcrush: PEMCO Gets It!

Over the past year I have had the excellent good fortune to get to know Rod Brooks, VP and CMO of PEMCO, through various word-of-mouth marketing events. It’s difficult to imagine a warmer, more authentic, more visionary leader for such a warm, authentic, visionary brand. I have heard Rod speak 3 or 4 times now, and each time, I feel more compelled to stand up and cheer and clap and say “YES! This is how it should BE!” I am continually inspired by the bold, consumer-focused marketing he and his team are doing at PEMCO.

Rod Brooks, CMO of PEMCO

Rod Brooks, PEMCO CMO and Sounders Fan

Here are five things that PEMCO has nailed, from my perspective.

1. They had the excellent sense to realize that their customers really don’t want to talk about insurance. After all, as Rod points out, insurance is odd in that you spend a lot of money on something you hope to never use. But when PEMCO invested time in really listening to their customers, they discovered that they *did* want to talk about their homes, their habits, their neighbors, and what makes them unique. This critical insight helped PEMCO carve out both a competitive niche and a creative point of view, celebrating the quirky facets of local life through its Northwest Profiles campaign, which immortalizes local characters like “Ponytailed Software Geek” and “First Snowflake Freakout Lady” and proclaims “We’re a lot like you. A little different.”

2. They have had the courage to stick with this memorable, extensible campaign for several years. They introduce new profiles as needed to keep things fresh and support their expansion into new Northwest markets (most recently, “Flawless Firewood Stacker” and “Portland Food Cartlandian“), but they haven’t succumbed to the temptation to break out some flashy new campaign once or twice a year like so many brands do. As a result, the campaign itself has become a local touchstone with meaningful roots and street cred. PEMCO fans can create their own profiles, suggest new ones, and even make trading cards.

PEMCO Northwest Profiles on Metro buses

Seattle Buses Adorned with PEMCO Northwest Profiles

3. They are truly committed to hearing and being led by the voice of the customer. Rod’s last presentation opened with a quote from a customer that said simply, “PEMCO gets it!” I frequently pull consumer quotes for inspiration in my work, and this one is a gem–crisp, memorable, and broadly applicable. Rod told me that they begin every executive meeting at PEMCO with a real customer story. I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from such a simple, focusing practice.

4. They have one of the most elegant and inspiring mission statements I’ve ever heard: “We enable and protect the dreams of responsible Northwest people.” Early on, they made the strategic decision to focus on “preferred-risk” policyholders in the Pacific Northwest–and this clarity about both their audience and their offering helps them stand out from the competition with a local angle and a distinctive voice.

5. They don’t just say they are local; they live and breathe it, supporting and participating in the Northwest community in enthusiastic and fun ways. They host a running pre-game foosball tournament at Sounders FC games. They hand out soup and coffee at the Polar Plunge in Eugene and show up at the Northwest Center with their WALLY (short for “We’re A Lot Like You”) van stuffed with 920 pounds of clothing donated by PEMCO employees.

PEMCO hosts the Foos Cup before Sounders FC games

PEMCO Foos Cup at a Sounders FC Game

If PEMCO can make insurance this fun and talkable, really, there’s an angle in for any product, category, or brand.

You can (and should) follow Rod Brooks on Twitter and read more at his personal blog,  as well as the PEMCO blog.

My So-Called Public Speaking Career

A friend recently asked me if I had done anything specific to develop public speaking skills. Though the answer is technically no, it’s just something I naturally enjoy, the question did prompt me to reflect on some highlights (and lowlights) in my speaking career.

1975: I asked if I could say grace at Thanksgiving dinner. I “surprised” the crowd by singing the ABC’s in my doll Gloria’s voice, several octaves above my normal register.

1980: I ran my own school, attended by neighborhood kids, and somehow managed to keep several squirrelly kindergarteners entertained and educated for several hours a day. Inside! In the summer.

1987: I delivered my high school valedictory address on the “daring” theme of how we were butterflies emerging from our cocoons. I managed to keep my cool and deliver my earnest, trite teenage speech while being attacked around the ankles by savage mosquitos.

2001-2008: I had numerous opportunities to deliver a “gong speech” at Cranium, which is how we celebrated company milestones such as new hires, new products, and awards. My most memorable (though not my best) was the one where I got streaks-of-mascara teary welcoming our new publishing partner. In my defense, I was seven months pregnant, I had just hosted an intense two-day kick-off meeting, and I had walking pneumonia. I can safely say that this particular combination is unlikely to repeat itself.

Catherine wearing Cranium brain helmet
Sometimes I even gave gong speeches wearing the brain helmet. It’s actually quite heavy.

2008: Soon after Cranium’s acquisition, I flew to Hasbro’s headquarters in Pawtucket to introduce Cranium to a packed crowd of executives and a mix of curious/skeptical/excited employees. A deadly combination of time-zone change and insomnia meant that I got about 1.5 hours of sleep the night before. The Hasbro exec appointed to oversee the transition hovered anxiously, cutting slides deemed too “wacky” and–two minutes before I went on–letting me know my allotted time had been slashed from 45 minutes to 15. It went well, however, and the Cranium team was nominated for a Hasbro “Inny” award for giving outstanding presentations.

2010: My inspirational and much-loved grandfather died at the age of 103, and I delivered a heartfelt eulogy–miraculously, without mascara streaks. You can read the text commemorating this remarkable man here.

August 2011: I delivered my first “Ignite” talk, “You Are Not Your SAT Score” to an all-ages crowd at an outdoor venue. This was partly to spread the “multiple intelligences” message that there are lots of ways to be smart and partly to demonstrate to my kids that I can do more than make quesadillas to order. It was also my first time giving a talk without being in control of the clicker–the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds, whether you want them to or not. (Holy cow…have you ever tried that?) My endless practicing paid off, though, and I’m still thankful that I only came close to stepping backwards off the stage in the middle of the talk (spatial intelligence is not my strong suit.) You can watch my Ignite talk here.

On the stage at Ignite Seattle 15 (image: Ronald Woan)

October 2011: I was invited to be a featured presenter at the Red Pencil in the Woods conference. I put together a talk called “Twitter: A Cocktail Party for Word Lovers” and had a fantastic time demystifying Twitter for a terrific group of editors and writers. The best part was seeing the event hashtag catch on during the session and to see all the conversation that kept going for weeks afterward!

Case Study: Mix-N-Match with Sir Mix-A-Lot, June 2011

Client: Giant Thinkwell, Seattle, WA

Mix-N-Match with Sir Mix-a-Lot, Facebook Game

The Challenge: Create hundreds of buzz-worthy questions for a Facebook game featuring pop culture icon Sir Mix-A-Lot  on a fast, fluid schedule. Drive outreach and launch on a shoestring budget.

Secret Sauce Contributions:

  • Established overall content approach, voice, and high-level parameters to support game spec and deliver innovative Facebook social gaming experience.
  • Crafted 1,000+ clever, entertaining game content elements to engage Sir Mix-A-Lot’s fans.
  • Helped mastermind and execute social media and PR strategy behind what GeekWire called “The greatest PR pitch ever.”

“[Catherine] instantly gets the idea, makes it better, asks tough questions, drives the process, and then delivers the most awesome content one could have imagined on time and on budget.” Adam Tratt, CEO of Giant Thinkwell (full recommendation here)

The Results:

“MixNMatch is Giant Thinkwell’s first game, and it’s cute and funny enough that we would like to see more from this shop.” Jolie O’Dell, Sir Mix-A-Lot Likes Big….Facebook Games, Mashable


  • Researching and referencing personal details in PR pitches gets them noticed.
  • Creating an optimized social media dashboard is a cost-effective way of amplifying a launch.
  • When you can make a bona fide character like Sir Mix-A-Lot laugh out loud, you’re on the right track with the content.

Sir Mix-a-Lot with Giant Thinkwell

If you need content or inspiration to support your launch, please contact us.