Our blog

How to Go Off the Grid for Two Weeks. For Real.

In modern agency life, it seems impossible to take a vacation without taking work with you, but it can be done. Here’s how I did it.

Meghan Gardner

Flexbox

As a back-end developer, it can be hard to style a web page. CSS is not very intuitive and around every corner there’s a “gotcha.” Flexbox is a fairly new CSS technology that once mastered, can be much easier to use.

Dan Sudenfield

How to (Successfully) Lead Your First Tech Meetup

There are a number of reasons you might want to start a technology meetup. In order to narrow the focus a bit, we’re going to approach this from the standpoint that you work for (or run) a company that is interested in the idea of hosting a meetup.

Brendan Butts

How Do You Fix a $75,000 Mistake?

As a new marketing manager for a practice group within a consulting firm, I had a lot to learn. And a few of those things, I had to learn the hard way, like making an error that cost the company many tens of thousands of dollars.

Meghan Gardner

Reimagined At Work

When done right, something reimagined is almost magical. It’s not just about integrating a product with another one or allowing for internet connectivity, it’s about taking an existing solution and changing the experience that individuals have, ultimately creating a new kind of experience.

Torrey Fazen

Snapchat

Snapchat launched its first ever TV ad campaign to reposition the app as a camera, which begs the question

Kayla King

The Digital Agency is Dead. Long Live the Digital Agency.

The coming wave of digital de-specialization.

Colin Alsheimer

Tomorrow Comes Today

The coming wave of digital de-specialization.

Dan Zarzycki

Your Next Programming Language (Part 1 of 2)

People often ask “what is the best programming language” to the reply “depends on what you’re doing” – an answer which is paradoxically as true as it is unhelpful.

Ryan Taylor

Making Social Media Politics Great Again

Your uncle will probably never stop posting about his crazy conspiracy theories, but at least now you can rest assured that you won’t be bombarded with sponsored content from illegitimate advertisers.

Nasreen Salem

Six Seconds to Advertise

Whether consumers like it or not, the six second commercial format is here to stay.

Dustin McCormick

Useful Mac Keyboard Shortcuts for a Windows User

There’s a lot of keyboard shortcuts available to a Mac user. As a primarily Windows user, I’ve found a few shortcuts that are extremely helpful as a programmer and may be useful to you too.

Sonya Chen

Animation Trends

When you think of the word “loop,” different definitions might come to mind. You might think of a simple circle, or a rope that’s made into a circle. Maybe it’s a pattern you make while driving, or something else entirely.

Michael Callahan

Stumbling Upon a Twitter Vulnerability

Reading privacy policies on websites and other legal documents are important. I have read Twitter’s privacy policy before but I wanted to make sure nothing had changed. GDPR was coming and seeing how they structured their page and spelled out the details seemed interesting. Starting on help.twitter.com, I went right to the footer. Mouse over the Privacy link and NO click. It looked funny.

Keith Koslowsky

The Alipes Team Vibe

The Alipes team structure and way of working is the most important aspect of how we deliver great solutions to clients. We thrive, believe, and deliver in team. Our norms are about outspoken creativity, inherent curiosity, and effective listening across departments.

Torrey Fazen

From Maryland to Chicago, Alipes is Boston Strong

Boston Strong represents different meanings for different people. Five years after the Boston Marathon Bombing, Alipes reflects on what it means to us.

Kayla King

None of Their Business

There’s an old expression about how good people staying silent is all it takes for evil to triumph. Burger King made a single video that captured the power of a modern distribution channel to spark mainstream conversation about bullying. It’s a corporation using the tools of an upstart movement to deliver a powerful message that staying silent is destructive.

Meghan Gardner

Alipes Opinions

We polled the majority of Alipians and asked them what their favorite social networks were, and why. Most results fell within the big four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) but the most interesting thing about the results were the reasons why folks preferred their favorite social network.

Brendan Butts

Blockchain 101

The first in a series of posts covering the Blockchain, key players, trends and how the technology can be applied to a variety of industries, including digital media and marketing.

Colin Alsheimer

#DeleteFacebook – Why it Matters for Brands

Facebook is in trouble. As the social media platform deals with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, #DeleteFacebook has gained steam, prompting many to reexamine the role that social media plays in their lives. But what does this mean for brands?

Colin Alsheimer

Don’t Wait, Learn How to Code Now

Anyone can learn how to code, but often people go about it the wrong way. As an accomplished web developer, here are my suggestions on the best ways to learn how to code.

Dan Sudenfield

Limitations Can Drive Innovations

Limitation of the design systems of yesterday gave rise to the internet technologies of today.

Jason Tennis

Networking

If you’re a Resistant Prisoner like me, but you see the value of networking, rest assured that you’re not the only one. In fact, you’re already taking steps toward improving, just by reading this.

Sonya Chen

A Trick to Clearly Communicate with Developers and in Teams

Communication is key, and software development is no exception. Anyone who has worked with developers knows how tricky communication can be, whether they are talking about bugs, new features or even layout.

Ryan Taylor

Audience Centric Advertising

The best digital advertising remembers who the audience is.

Michael Callahan

One Less App

However, how do you know if program that you just put on your computer is safe? It may be sending information about you out to an unsafe location. The developer may tell you they are collecting this information in their privacy policy. Although, I’m willing to bet you haven’t actually read the privacy policy. Go ahead, admit it.

Keith Koslowsky

When Brands Sell Culture

Advertising is an unavoidable part of life for most people. It’s been with us since we were born, surrounding us on TV, magazines, and billboards—burrowing into our memories. Speaking as an American thirty-something who remembers a time before the internet, ads have always been around.

Dustin McCormick

We’re Honored to be Honored

We believe our work is the hero of our story—and we’re honored to have captured two Davey Awards, awards named for the legendary hero of small stature and big thinking.

Meghan Gardner

Internet Memes

There’s millions of Internet memes, but only the best make it viral. Learn how the concept of natural selection comes into play in the world of memes.

Kayla King

Glad to Meet You

Alipes, the boutique agency reinventing digital for clients large and small, announced today that it has inked new client relationships and established a presence in Chicago.

Meghan Gardner

Pitching Your Employer, Include the Doodles

It’s a random Tuesday and you have a new business idea. It’s just that, an idea. It needs to be fleshed out, nurtured, developed, but it’s a place to start and you are getting excited about the possibilities. Where do you go next? To friends and family for advice? To your business mentor for a brainstorm? What if the next step is even easier, what if you need to look no further than your current employer?

Torrey Fazen

A Coming Change in Traditional Websites

Over the horizon, there is a significant change coming to your web browsing experience. A change that, once it’s pervasive, will seem necessary.

Nathan Lamont

How Not to Make Friends and Influence People

Influencing the people right next to you may be even harder than trying to capture the attention of someone with 500,000 followers. Here’s why.

Meghan Gardner

Developing as a Developer

There are so many solutions that developers accumulate over their careers. Each one of these solutions can be abstracted and potentially applied to a number of situations. The more solutions a developer has come across, the more solutions they have available to them when they encounter a particularly tough problem.

Brendan Butts

Now Hear This

Check out 37 of the best podcasts to help you become a smarter and more informed digital marketer.

Colin Alsheimer

When Brands Sell Culture

Advertising is an unavoidable part of life for most people. It’s been with us since we were born, surrounding us on TV, magazines, and billboards—burrowing into our memories. Speaking as an American thirty-something who remembers a time before the internet, ads have always been around. In the days before Netflix and DVR, we were forced to patiently watch every ad, sometimes with joy and humor, and sometimes with mind-numbing repetition, all the while just waiting for the show to return. Nevertheless, we always powered through— and had a good time, for the most part. Yet, despite our Hulu’s, our YouTube’s, and our ad-blockers, ads still manage to find a way; and they’re obviously still with us today. Sometimes they take a stance on a political issue, sometimes they sell us a fantasy life, and sometimes they just join in on a harmless meme. It’s hard not to see the fakeness in one, and then trust the genius in another— all the while knowing that it’s still selling a product.

Branding techniques have evolved from unique selling points, to emotional selling points, and now cultural selling points, as Dino Dimitropoulos writes: “Culturally tuned brands are interacting with consumers in new ways, places and moments by telling stories that are part of culture and hence are more truthful and appealing. Consumers purchase branded products in order to experience and be associated with these stories and enhance their own cultural identities.”

Cultural selling points (or CSPs) are nothing new, but they now seem more prevalent than ever, and brands are vying for our attention by tapping into the trends.

With the advent of endless streaming content, documentaries have made a comeback, and brands have capitalized on this trend by making their own documentary-style content. Sometimes it’s long-form, and sometimes it’s bite-sized, but it always seems to be less about the product and more about an inspirational lifestyle or aspirational feeling. Patagonia follows a rock climber up El Capitan in Yosemite, and RedBull showcases extreme skydivers who jump from terrifying heights. It all makes for well-produced, engaging content that unknowingly tricks the viewer into watching branded content. One wonders, however, what the true purpose of these ads are. Does Patagonia clothing make you a better climber? Does RedBull give you the energy and courage to get into extreme sports? Or is it all just a benevolent, subtly sponsored, inspirational gesture by a company who truly wants me to live life to its fullest? Even Coors Light took a turn with the doc-style ad when it featured the story of an aspiring fashion designer whose plans were halted when he was diagnosed with a heart tumor. He eventually overcame the illness and released his fashion line, and you hardly realize it’s a Coors Light ad until the very end. I can see both sides to this. On the one hand, it’s a great piece of well-shot, well-edited content, and it’s good to see Coors Light greenlight something with substance. On the other hand, one might see it as a corporate giant saying, “overcoming adversity is trendy, let’s cash in on that.” There’s a quote from the video when the fashion designer says, "Doctors would tell me to walk three times a day, and I would walk five times a day. I started getting stronger and that's when you can't stop me.” I couldn’t help but wonder if drinking Coors Light also helped him get stronger.

Sometimes for brands, tapping into the cultural conversation is more about taking a political stance. After the 2016 election, lots of brands made commercials that took a position on some of the main wedge issues. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t (a-la the botched Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial). When it worked well, we got beautiful ads that promoted a strong positive message, such as the AirBnB We Accept ad, and the Budweiser Born the Hard Way ad. Both ads deal with the issues of diversity, immigration, and accepting people who are different from yourself. Budweiser’s ad was shot like a well-produced motion picture, and told the story of how its founder immigrated to America and struggled to get by, but eventually realized his dream of creating a beer company. It took a side on the immigration issue by implying our nation was founded and built by immigrants (and rightly so). It is interesting however, to wonder that if Budweiser wasn’t a corporate juggernaut with a well-established brand, would they be able to take a stand on an issue like this? If the ad were to upset their more right-leaning audience (which I imagine is a large portion) and it hurt their sales, would they have made an ad like this? Maybe they don’t have to worry about it hurting their bottom line because they’re already so established and ingrained into American culture. Maybe the more interesting question to ponder is why do companies feel the need to take a stance on a political issue? Maybe it’s genuine, maybe it isn’t. In Selling What They Preach, Megan Garber writes, “You could see them all as progressive messages that share a convenient conviction: that the right side of history can often double as the more lucrative side of history.”

Aside from these heavier issues, brands can take a more light-hearted approach by tapping into pop culture. A lot of times, brands piggyback onto popular TV shows. Several brands like Google, Target, and even other shows like Sesame Street tweeted about the season 2 premiere of Stranger Things. Nearly everyone was talking about the season 2 premiere, and brands were paying attention. This is the more fun side of cultural marketing, and it kind of humanizes the brand by saying, “Hey, we’re cool, and we watch the same shows as you.”

Sometimes it’s unclear which brands have official partnerships, and which don’t, and it’s interesting to see them piggyback on the success of something else without having to be officially affiliated. Sometimes it doesn’t work. This tactic backfired on McDonald’s recently when they brought back their discontinued szechuan sauce after it was referenced in a Rick and Morty episode. The plan didn’t go so well, fans got a little out of hand, and the creators of Rick and Morty were able to distance themselves from the situation by simply stating that they weren’t partnered with McDonald’s. Another example of it not working is when brands try to use memes. Usually by the time a meme has reached the attention of a corporation, it’s pretty old and overused, and the brand just ends up looking like a grandmother saying something is “on fleek.”

Another example of piggybacking is when brands provide the production funding for something they see as leverage to promote some other cause or campaign. This is often the case with the rock band OK Go. They’re known for their creative and complex, chain-reaction style music videos that require huge production costs and can’t be done without funding. Last year they partnered with Morton Salt to do a music video for The One Moment. The resulting video was a stunning, time-bending Rube Goldberg style production, and it didn’t even mention Morton Salt until the very end, with a call to action for their “Walk Her Walk” campaign. It seems like Morton knew this video would get millions of views, and cleverly integrated their campaign, almost as an afterthought. It would be interesting to see how many viewers actually went on to check out the Morton Salt campaign.

Cultural selling points are an interesting trend in today’s marketing. The urgency for a brand to appear real and authentic (or quirky and fun) sometimes really works, but sometimes it comes across as disingenuous. It is possible that a company is honest when they express their core values or say they want to change the world for the better; but a lot of times, the actual history of a company doesn’t support the same narrative. And this article isn’t trying to discredit the content from a purely artistic standpoint. It isn’t to say that something can’t be beautiful, artistic, or groundbreaking if it’s funded by a corporation or a car company (everything is usually funded by something else). But at the end of the day, when you look past the authentic documentary-style, the high production value, and the incognito brand integration, it all boils down to one thing—selling a product.

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