How Crowdfunding Changed The World: Interview W/ Ryan Brennell

UMSL Marketing recently talked to Ryan Brennell, founder of Gladitood, and how the era of social interaction has re-shaped the way we give! Ryan will also be teaching an exclusive ‘Crowdfunding 101 ‘ class as part of the revamped UMSL Digital curriculum!

We live in the era of social organizing. How has Crowdfunding been a part of this trend over the last five years?

I think crowdfunding is a natural progression of social organizing. We’ve been using Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, or Reddit to talk with like-minded individuals about shared interests, and I know it’s easy to connect the dots looking back, but it just seems like Crowdfunding was inevitable. We’re making it so easy for people to connect from all over the world, it was only a matter of time before we started using this medium to raise money. Now we’re seeing it on a scale that is changing our culture. Bernie Sanders just ran the most successful political crowdfunding campaign in history during the last election. Startup founders aren’t at the whim of venture capitalists who held all the power. Now they can find their audience and let the market decide if they should be funded. Thanks to social organizing, we have crowdfunding. And thanks to crowdfunding, new opportunities exist for us all.

Crowdfunding services such as GoFundMe are everywhere. From school supplies, family tragedy’s, to lifelong dreams. How has this changed fundraising culture?

I think that the many crowdfunding platforms that have popped up, especially those like GoFundMe where anyone can raise money for nearly anything, has increased competition for fundraisers and also increased an individual’s awareness of fraud. Crowdfunding has completely democratized access to funding. If you can tell a compelling story and execute a clever promotional plan, access to a wealthy network isn’t necessary anymore. It has also made fundraising a very real piece of pop-culture. The subjects of viral campaigns become overnight celebrities, and this perpetuates the biggest myth in crowdfunding – “If you build it, they will come.”

Despite the abundance of crowdfunding campaigns, many generate zero dollars. Why is this?

The failures almost always come down to that crowdfunding myth. The idea that crowdfunding is internet magic is the reason why the vast majority of crowdfunding campaigns fail right out of the gate. You have to put in the work.

Crowdfunding campaigns can be very difficult to dissect. We see the success, but we can’t get a good look under the hood to see what’s driving those results. This makes it very difficult for those new to crowdfunding to figure out where to begin. After years of helping hundreds of campaigns succeed, and seeing plenty fail, we’ve recognized the patterns and formulas that lead to both results. Frankly, 90% of the work for a successful campaign happens before it even launches.  Realistically, there were several weeks – sometimes months – of planning ahead of a successful 30-day campaign.

Basically, crowdfunding is not a magic ‘Easy’ button. It takes work. How can someone approach this?

I like to approach it by creating a two-part plan. Part one consists of everything you need to get in place in order to put the campaign together and set yourself up to execute successfully. Part two is the actual execution.

Part one is about crafting your story, strategically planning your reward levels, identifying and building relationships with your audience, and lining up distribution channels for your campaign. This means making a video and creative graphics, coming up with creative and unique “up-sells” that don’t dip into your profits, figuring out which social channels and forums to engage, and creating a PR plan. It sounds like a lot, but if you tackle these, you are in the top 10% of your competition. If you take part one seriously, part two is a breeze. If you half-ass part one, those 30-60 days might be the most stressful of your life.

What will your new Crowdfunding course be touching on? Who is this course for?

The course is for anyone who wants to learn how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign from day 1 of planning through day X of follow up after the campaign has ended. Nonprofit organizations, startup founders, marketers, and inventors, I’m talking to you. My goal is that my students leave with not only an understanding of how to run a successful campaign but with their own concrete plan of action.  We’ll cover how to craft your story to include the four key ingredients for virality, how to identify and engage your target audience, how to utilize distribution channels to increase your reach. We’ll go over creating a great video – even without access to a professional production team, building an email and social campaign to accompany your fundraiser, and how to capitalize on the momentum of success after your campaign to keep backers engaged for your next fundraiser. The course will include a number of case studies that break down some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in history, including successful campaigns from right here in St. Louis!



The Changing Content Marketing Landscape: An Interview With Matt Kamp

Matt Kamp

Matt KampAs every marketer knows, “Content is King”. This phrase continues to be more true each year as both search engines and consumer expectations of brands change. To help us take a deep dive into the importance and power of having a strong content strategy, we sat down with a St. Louis specialist, Matt Kamp.  Continue reading “The Changing Content Marketing Landscape: An Interview With Matt Kamp”

Digital Marketing for Non-Profits: An Interview with Emily McNew

emily mcnew

By Kathryn Todd
emily mcnewWith the 2015 State of Digital Media Marketing Conference taking place at UMSL Campus next week, we began to think about all the amazing marketing talent residing in our hometown of St. Louis. One St. Louis marketer who is blazing the way for how non-profits leverage digital and social media is Emily McNew. Emily is currently the Digital Marketing Manager at United Way of Greater St. Louis, where she is responsible for implementing the overall vision for United Way’s digital experience; including website and mobile, social media, email marketing and other digital and online marketing. In addition to her work at United Way, Emily is also the Marketing Communications Manager at STL Up Late, St. Louis’ only live late night talk show featuring the most talented and engaging guests that St. Louis has to offer. Recently we had the chance to catch up with Emily to discuss digital marketing, St. Louis, and more! Check out the full interview below: Continue reading “Digital Marketing for Non-Profits: An Interview with Emily McNew”

Free Event: Discover What’s New in Sitecore!

By: Peter Cartier, Senior Copywriter at
Inbound marketing through your website has proven to get the sales results at a fraction of the investment previous marketing strategies like TV, billboards or magazine ads required. And businesses are starting to notice.
At the heart of the inbound movement is personalizing and perfecting the customer experience, and to that end, one company is taking the future of business marketing platforms by storm. Continue reading “Free Event: Discover What’s New in Sitecore!”

St. Louis Brand Marketing Highlight: JORD Watches

St Louis Jord Wood Watches Cherry Maple

“JORD is a Swedish word for earth, soil, or land. We chose the name simply because we wanted something unique, short, easy to spell, but may cause discussion in how its pronounced. The word reflects what we do as a brand seeking to create premium fashion accessories from the most natural and sustainable of materials.”
-Amir Shah, Co-Founder of JORD Watches

St Louis Jord Wood Watches Cherry MaplePresently, JORD (pronounced “yoad”) offers a premium line of men’s and women’s wood watches. Amir points out, “As we grow, it is our intention to expand into other fashion items that stay true to our sustainable and natural mission while remaining fashion forward.” The brand is owned and operated by people born and raised in the St. Louis area. JORD wants to maintain an image of quality, fashionable, and adventurous. Amir said, “When people think of our products, I want them to feel like the watch or any of our products serve as a unique accent on an otherwise conventional day.”
During February 2013, the concept of a wood watch came from the co-founder’s friend in Europe.  The concept was unique and had not caught on yet, so with an existing channel of fashion bloggers and influencers, they decided to research the idea and see what was possible.  Wood watches were prototyped, tested, and manufactured for 8 months.  The official website launched on November 12, 2013, with their marketing strategy already in position. Amir states, “We have only one strategy and that strategy is: don’t spend money marketing directly to the customer. Instead, market and incentivize social influencers so they can vouch for our product to their audience.So as long as we are actively finding influencers ,gaining trust, and encouraging unique ways of introducing our products to their audience, we have something to measure and grow on.”
What differentiates JORD from their competitors? They are the only wood watch company offering automatic movements. They focus on the quality and design, unlike their competitors. Amir stated, “ We are not focused on being a commodity but rather a premium brand that continues to grow in reputation and durability.”
Their target market are millennials ages 24-40. Many of their customers are younger, but the majority falls into this age group. Amir states, “We are targeting working professionals with discretionary income who are seeking creative fashion accessories beyond just the utility of a watch.”

Influencer outreach with a contest on The Voice.
Influencer outreach with a contest on The Voice.

The company is active on many social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.  They are also testing getting involved with niche fashion networks like Polyvore and Wanelo.  Another part of their advertising and social media is their own customers.  Anyone wearing a JORD watch while sharing pics can attract interest from future customers. Amir says, “ Everyone who wears one of our watches is a walking advertisement. Sharing pics on social media can leave an impression on future customers. Our sole advertising campaigns right now revolve around social media.”
Their social media is firmly measured in their own marketing engine developed internally. Even though they have good numbers on their social influencers, they are still bootstrapping their social media strategy. Amir believes that they can be so much better engaging their audience through social platforms such as facebook, twitter, instagram and others.
Even though the company is not tracking the “chatter” with their products, they are working hard in tracking the SEO, facebook fans engagement, twitter, etc. Their plans for the future are to have their marketing team expand their social programs and develop creative ways to  improve engagement.
Outside of social media JORD was recently featured on FOX2Now with Chief Brand Officer Salman Shah and Retail Director Abby Peskorse and had product placement on NBC’s The Voice. Contestant Taylor John Williams was shown performing with the black watch from the Fieldcrest Series. JORD has also been featured in Alive magazine St. Louis, The Post Dispatch, and has recently partnered up with Touch of Modern.
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.55.03 PMJORD has also had the privilege to work with the Albert Pujols Family Foundation to help generate revenue for them and spread awareness by designing a limited edition timepiece for the foundation.
When asked for any tips on success, co founder Amir Shah had this to say “Start with a market… not the product.  Beat headphones are not the best but they have market share because they tapped a very specific market.  They leveraged the athletes to gain access to their market. Spend your time and money finding the influencers over a target market. Gain their trust and vote of confidence and they will sell the product for you.”
What advice does he have for someone starting their own brand? Amir concludes, “ It does not matter how great the product is. If you don’t have access to a market, creating a brand is challenging. Before you even begin working on a product, clearly identify exactly how you will connect with the market. If your answer is social media, you are not ready. Instead, have an idea of how you can use social media and what resources you have to persist down this path. Instant success is almost certainly not guaranteed.”
This post has been completed by students in the UMSL Digital Marketing program Renee Richardson, Miquel Subira Ribas, Kyle Dermody, Kathleen Harris and Martin Gwozdz.

#TopTweeps: St. Louis' Top Twitter Influencers Announced

And the winners are…

UMSL Digital Mindshare was looking for a short list of the best Tweeps in the St. Louis region and a short list of the greatest minds, sharing their wisdom in 140 characters or less. Maybe you’ve seen one or more passing by on Twitter.
The UMSL Digital Mindshare #TopTweeps contest kicked off 11/6 and wrapped up 11/26. All Twitter votes were counted by our UMSL #TopTweeps jury. Special thanks to those who voted and our compliments to the nominated! You all did an excellent job and we couldn’t have done it without you!
UMSL Digital TopTweepsNow after all the energy, sweating and tweets, we are proud to announce the winners.
Best of Art & Entertainment

Best Local Brand
Best Business Leader
Best Advocate
Best of Sportsball
Best of Fundraising
All Around Best Tweep


You will all receive a shiny new badge for your profile or blog and bragging rights until next year!