Convergent Dental – This is Big

Posted on November 27th, 2013

Remember that awesome time we had at the dentist? Said no one, ever.

There is no joy in dentistry. There are no fond memories. No can’t wait to see you’s. No I missed you’s. The dentist is a must, not a want and with that comes enough baggage to fill the underbelly of a jetliner. It hurts to go to the dentist. And that’s a pain to everyone.

But what if you could remove that hurt? What if you could remove all the anxiety? What if you could take that drill and all its creepy sounds and burning smells and stick it somewhere that the sun rarely shines? That would be a big deal.

This is a huge deal.

Breakaway helped Convergent Dental, a start-up company with a brilliant product, launch Solea – the first ever FDA cleared laser that does all the awesome things that lasers are supposed to do. If Captain Kirk had a dentist on the Enterprise, this is how he would fix that cavity brought on by too much Vulcan taffy.

Watch the Solea video, made in conjunction with Giant Ant Media. Then beam yourself up to a dentist who has one.

Mindie is a rush of music from a visual jukebox.

Posted on November 3rd, 2013

Mindie, the new short-form video app that launched recently, allows users to add a soundtrack to their looping videos. If that sounds similar to Vine and Instagram, it’s not. It’s different, and it’s better.

Mindie taps into iTunes API to give you a virtually limitless selection of honest-to-goodness free to use music from every artist you can think of. It turns the banality that is clogging up the competition into a 7-second music video, and provides an opportunity to create a moment that has depth and an emotional hook.

The biggest point of differentiation here is that Mindie is a music discovery app that uses video, not the other way around. They have tapped into the affinity for sharing music in the social space, and created a simple and intuitive way to do that. That ethos is front and center when you use the app, as you have to pick your song before you begin recording.

Co-founder Stanislas Coppin described the app to us in an interview as “a rush of music from a visual jukebox.”

This isn’t just fun, it’s also a huge opportunity for a brand to create micro-content with an iconic soundtrack, without having to navigate licensing issues. Flash forward a few months and think about all the content and visual stories that will aggregate around specific songs and artists. The ability for a brand to insert itself into that narrative will be very powerful.

Their affiliate relationship with iTunes also allows you to buy any song you hear on a video, which opens up some interesting pathways for launching new music and artists as well. Some smart record label is likely already planning a promotion to have people create videos for their new single.

The app is brand new, and is still finding it’s audience. A lot of the content found on the app now is not yet ready for primetime, but that will change quickly once creatives and filmmakers strap on an olloclip lens and get to work.

Coppin tells us that the app took just 8 weeks to develop, and that they were focussed on getting a minimum viable product to market as fast as they could. With that, there are definitely bells and whistles that need to be added, like the ability to shoot in landscape mode, use filters and embed your videos, but the core value proposition here is incredibly solid and exciting.

Download Mindie here, and share your videos with us at @bighugeboston.

We’re Hiring: Director of PR

Posted on October 2nd, 2013

ABOUT BREAKAWAY

BIG is a hybrid strategic consultancy, creative agency and venture capital firm in Boston. We invest in cool and promising early stage brands that meet at the crossroads of consumer and technology and we often partner with these firms to be their creative and branding agency. We are experts at creating new brands, reinventing or reinvigorating existing ones, and driving them to all to grow. We are also embedded partners with many large brands who are looking for something different in an agency model – one with strategic insights based on years of agency and client experience, the creative chops to bring those insights to life, and the business acumen to do it all for the right reasons.

A partial list of our portfolio / clients includes RueLaLa, IdeaPaint, Velcro, Newton Running, Mission Athletecare, TrueFit, CoachUp, Bemis Worldwide, Leitz / Esselte, Convergent Dental, Massachusetts General Hospital and many others in both B2C / B2B sectors.


POSITION OVERVIEW

We’re looking for an exceptional marketer to join our team at Breakaway in the new role of Director of PR.

This person will be responsible for building and developing a new public relations practice that helps accelerate growth with our portfolio companies, clients and Breakaway itself.

We are not looking for someone who thinks traditionally about PR.

The worlds of PR, digital, social, advertising and brand storytelling are quickly converging into one place and that requires a firm to think differently and proactively about the past, present and future. We need a rock star who knows there is a better way and who is creatively focused in every single aspect of their approach.

Breakaway is a highly entrepreneurial, fast-changing, and collaborative environment where people are driven, enthusiastic and not afraid to take risks.

That’s you too, right?

Candidates for this role should be able to check all of these boxes:

  • Expert PR leader and hands-on practitioner – Director / VP level in an agency or at a high-growth, well-known brand;
  • At least 10 years of experience – with many of those in a real management role;
  • Work with significant, well-known companies of all sizes across both B2C and B2B sectors;
  • Have established relationships with a wide range of media contacts and influencers in both traditional and digital media;
  • Be fluent in the latest digital marketing technologies, tools, channels and opportunities;
  • Understand the cultural, organizational, procedural and budgetary differences between early stage companies and global brands;
  • Have deep understanding / experience with influencer marketing;
  • Have the network and ability to construct, manage and inspire a team of internal / external experts for each unique client;
  • Be a doer, not a talker and delegator;
  • Have a high level of personal accountability and sense of urgency;
  • Be able to develop effective PR plans / strategic roadmaps, manage their successful execution and analyze performance of initiatives;
  • Have exceptional written and verbal communication skills, ability to manage tight deadlines and multiple competing priorities and the ability to change directions quickly and effectively;
  • Have at least a bachelors degree in public relations, communications, English, journalism, business, marketing;
  • Have an attitude that anything is possible.

CONTACT:
David Knies
dknies@breakaway.com
(email only please)

Breakaway profile in Boston Business Journal.

Posted on July 7th, 2013

We love being a part of the business and VC community here in Boston. The city is bursting with opportunity, and it’s exciting for us to be surrounded by so many brands and people that are pushing the envelope. Boston does indeed know how to “do consumer.”

Two of our head-honchos Dennis Baldwin and Scott Maney recently had the chance to sit down and talk shop with  from Boston Business Journal, and share some updates about our creative work, as well as our plans to ramp up a new capital fund in the fall.

Breakaway Innovation Group expects to begin raising a new fund of at least $50 million in the fall, says CEO Dennis Baldwin.

The Big Cheese

You can read the full article here.

I’m a fan of Spam. I just don’t want to eat it.

Posted on May 16th, 2013

I can say with relative certainty that the last time I had Spam was 1979. I was on a boat trip with my father and brothers, and my dad made us fried Spam sandwiches for dinner. Spam, fried in butter until browned, served on white bread with yellow mustard. We had been on the boat all day, first hot and now cold as the sun went down. A little sunburned maybe, hair (when I still had it) thick with salt. Hungry enough to salivate at the smell of ham loaf being fried in a tiny, windowless galley kitchen.

I don’t remember much about being 7, but I can tell you I loved that fried Spam sandwich.

It hasn’t occurred to me since then to crank open a can. Never once. I’m fairly certain I won’t eat it again, and can’t imagine ever serving it to my kids. It’s like eating the inside of a hotdog. No thank you.

And yet, despite the fact that I won’t eat it, and won’t give it to my children, I’m glad it’s there. I like the can that hasn’t changed. I like the ridiculous noveltyness of it. I like it’s history, and I like that it’s part of mine.

The Spam brand has benefited greatly in this case from the positive association I have given to it from that boat trip when I was 7. I find this interesting. There’s really no reason for me to have any brand loyalty to Spam. I’m not a customer. I’m not an evangelist, at least not by any modern definition. But I had a great Spam t-shirt in college that I loved to wear, and I laughed along with everyone else at the Monty Python sketch.

I’m a fan of Spam. I just don’t want to eat it.

It’s very fringe-Americana at this point (unless you are in Hawaii, where it is a staple). It’s the ultimate Yankee Swap gift. Everyone knows it, most people joke about it, and some people love it … but it’s as important to us as Grease and Twinkies. Why is that?

It’s because Spam, like Kool-Aid, Oscar-Meyer bologna and John Oates, is part of our story, both collective and individual. It’s a childhood memory, and a running joke, and it’s beloved by enough people to keep it interesting. Spam doesn’t run from this position, it embraces it.

There is a lesson here for brands, albeit one that is enormously hard to replicate. Finding a way to be a part of the story that unfolds in our short time here on Earth is the greatest of opportunities, and the biggest challenge any marketer faces. In the absence of nostalgia and kitchiness, how does a brand fold itself into our lives, instead of orbit around it?

There are a million brands vying for my attention every day. An avalanche of content and contests cascades through my news feed, trying desperately to get me to care enough to remember them the next day.

But there’s only one sandwich I can still taste 33 years later.

Boston “Does” Consumer.

Posted on May 14th, 2013

Tribal wisdom about the Boston-area innovation economy is our inability to create and build consumer businesses.

It’s time to debunk that myth.

We have a massive local community and ecosystem that “does consumer” extremely well, creating beautiful products and experiences. Many of these companies are not active in the Boston innovation scene and are based in the suburbs (so fly under the radar). But many of them have been funded by local VC / PE firms, and purchase services from local B2B service firms.

And more importantly, they employ thousands of residents, and pump billions into the local economy.

While its a shame that Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Zappos’ and other dominant internet brands aren’t headquartered here, there are surprising amounts of great, world-renowned consumer brands that have been conceived, incubated and raised in the Boston area. (I’m a native Philadelphian, and I know they’d kill to have the consumer ecosystem that Boston has. Literally. They would kill.)

I thought it would be a fun experiment to track all of the Boston-area consumer brands I saw in one day. Here’s what happened:

I drank some Sam Adams Summer Ale this weekend. Beautiful. As was the K-cup + Keurig machine I used to make my coffee this morning. Dunkin Donuts coffee. I’m listening to music on a Bose system right now that sounds amazing. Wearing a great pair of Pumas that were designed here in Boston and purchased on RueLaLa. I shaved with a Gillette razor + foam this morning. Then I checked my Fidelity Investments 401k balance to see if I could afford to retire before I turn 80, but the news was so depressing that I decided to go on vacation, and i’ll probably use Kayak to book it at a place I check out first on TripAdvisor. Guy just walked by my office door wearing a Red Sox cap made by Twins / ’47 Brand and wearing a Johnny Cupcakes T. He stopped in to see if I wanted to add to the office Staples order. I’ll probably have lunch at Panera Bread today. With a friend wearing a New England Patriots hoody designed by Reebok. The same guy I run in a group with – one wears New Balance running shoes while another wears Saucony. Bought at CitySports. We’ll run past the Life Is Good offices on Boylston Street and talk about doing a Spartan Race together. My wife is wearing diamonds from Hearts On Fire while she feeds the dog with food from SmartPak and Wellness, all while the Roomba from iRobot cleans the floor. I’m shucking a dozen Island Creek Oysters for an appetizer while my kids are playing with toys from Hasbro (Rhode Island-based) and Harmonix (RockBand and Guitar Hero) in a room with furnishings bought from HomeGoods and Wayfair. One is even using FashionPlaytes on her laptop. And yes, some of what they are wearing came from TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Fortunately, the photos (not Polaroids, of course) I take of them are securely preserved forever using Carbonite. But if we printed them, we could use Velcro® Brand (based in Manchester NH) to hang them to the wall. And one of the walls in the room has IdeaPaint so they can draw on it. One day, I hope they go on an EF Education exchange program, a spring break trip from StudentCity,  or use discounts from Student Universe. As long as they’re going to one of the renowned universities in this area that draw legions of students from all over the world. Like MIT, Harvard, or Berklee.  Wait a sec, I need to go outside and grab the package from Karmaloop that was just delivered. Fortunately, no one will steal my car out there because it has LoJack. But if that happened, I’d get a Zipcar. And make sure to use a Kryptonite lock on my scooter. Wow, check out my neighbor having a PartyLite gathering at her house.

Boston might know how to “do consumer” after all.

How do you like them apples?

Double Albums, Musky Grandmas & Fairytales.

Posted on May 8th, 2013

Communication Arts magazine has recently undergone a nip and tuck design makeover, including the addition of a new opinion column called Voices. Since they knew I had several inside my head (voices), they asked me to put one of them down on paper (opinions).

We said sure.

I didn’t set out to write about cat shit, Boo Berrys and weed, but lo and behold that’s where I ended up.

All in the name of better branding, of course.

View PDF

Reprinted with permission by Communication Arts, ©2013 Coyne & Blanchard, Inc. All rights reserved. This first appeared in May/June 2013 issue. commarts.com


How to make sure your LinkedIn profile doesn’t suck.

Posted on May 2nd, 2013

There are over 200 million professionals on LinkedIn, with two new members joining every second. That means that in the time it has taken you to read these first two sentences, four new people joined, or six if you read really slowly.

LinkedIn is not just your rolodex, it’s access to the rolodex of everyone you know (and everyone they know). It’s a direct pathway to almost anyone you want to do business with, and it’s often the first place people go to learn about you if they want to do business with you. It’s your resume, your business card and the front door to your company.

In addition, LinkedIn is almost three times more effective at driving leads than either Facebook or Twitter.

Because of all these reasons, it’s a tremendously great idea to make sure your LinkedIn profile doesn’t suck.

With that in mind, and with the full understanding that I am contributing to the proliferation of the obnoxious “Top 10 Things” blogging epidemic, here are some (ok, 10) tips to make sure you are using LinkedIn to put your best foot forward.

1. Ensure that your profile is complete and up to date.

Don’t look like a LinkedIn rookie who has only had one job and never graduated from college. Listing your two most recent positions makes your profile 12 times more likely to be found, so take the time to manage your profile and make sure your current job and title, past jobs and education are all correct and up to date. Your profile page includes a graphic that shows your profile strength, which is based on how robust it is, and you should be shooting for All-Star status.

2. Make sure you have a profile photo, and make it good.

I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t have a photo on their profile. Think of what message you are sending here. It’s either (a) I don’t know how to work this thing, (b) I don’t take this space seriously or (c) look away, I’m hideous.

You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a photo. Seven times.

Remember this is a B2B marketplace, it’s not Facebook. Your photo doesn’t have to be stiff and boring, but it should be professional. Photos with your girlfriend, dancing at a club or kissing your cat are not great choices. Your photo should show your face clearly. Someone should be able to recognize you at a trade-show after seeing your profile. Upload your photo at a minimum size of 200×200 pixels to make sure it looks good on both your profile page, and in news feed and search.

3. Create a custom profile URL.

LinkedIn gives you the ability to customize your profile URL. A custom URL is not only visually cleaner and easier to remember, it’s also a simple way to protect and enhance your personal brand.

By default it will look like this when you set up your profile: www.linkedin.com/pub/your-name/14/986/804. You can easily change your URL to www.linkedin.com/in/yourname in your profile settings.

If you have a common name, your custom URL may already be taken, so go grab it before someone else does.

4. Manage your profile visibility.

LinkedIn provides options for you to manage what people see when you have viewed their profile, and conversely, allows you to see who has viewed yours.

There can be benefits to being “invisible” when prospecting, but this also limits your ability to see who is looking at you if you have a Basic account. You don’t get to spy on others unless you allow people to spy on you, which is fair enough. Premium customers get better visibility and insights.

You can manage your settings dynamically, depending on how you are using LinkedIn on a given day.

5. Make your professional headline work for you.

Your personal headline sits under your name on your profile, next to your photo. Most people use this space to either list their current job title, or use some sort of soft and fuzzy resume term like “passionate marketing professional.” The best use lies somewhere between those two extremes. Your headline description is indexed for search engines, so focus on using descriptive terms that potential customers, partners or employers would be looking for.

Nobody has ever searched for “passionate marketing professional” – at least not for the reasons you might want them to.

6. Recommendations run both ways.

LinkedIn recommendations help make your profile more robust and bolster your professional reputation. In fact, your profile needs recommendations in order to qualify for All-Star status, and being an All-Star makes it much easier to be found by potential employers and others you want to be found by.

Recommendations are also a great way to reward your partners and colleagues for a job well done. One of the best ways to solicit recommendations is to give them, which is also less awkward than asking for them and looking like your on a job hunt (unless you are, which is then of course just fine). Take the time to write brief recommendations for the people you do business with. Trust me, they notice and appreciate it.

7. So do Endorsements.

If Facebook Poke and Klout had a bastard child, it would be LinkedIn Endorsements. LinkedIn Endorsements are a relatively new way to quickly endorse your connections for specific skills. You can find the endorsement widget at the top of each contact’s profile page. Think of it as a professional attaboy.

Endorsements are widely regarded as fairly meaningless, especially when compared to Recommendations. That said, over 10 million new endorsements happen every day, and they do have some value if you manage them correctly.

First, the contacts you endorse are notified of your support, so this can be a useful way to stay front of mind with the people you do business with. Second, you are in the driver’s seat for the skills you are endorsed for (see number 8 below), and LinkedIn is beginning to give some SEO weight to skill endorsement keywords now.

Like recommendations, the best way to get endorsements is to give them, so let it fly.

8. Show that you have skills.

Maintaining a relevant list of skills on your profile will help others understand your strengths and match you with the right opportunities. Plus, these are the attributes others will be prompted to endorse you for.

Be strategic, specific and concrete about the keywords you use to describe your skills, as they do impact how “searchable” you are both within LinkedIn and across the rest of the interwebs. You can test the search volume for specific keywords here.

9. Don’t be a contact hoarder.

The size of your contact list is not the most important thing. It may feel like it, especially with so many people proudly welding their 500+ connections and LION status, but remember why LinkedIn started. The idea was to create a dynamic, professional community that can facilitate introductions within 3-degress of separation. The quality of your contacts matters much, much more than the quantity, so be selective about who you solicit and accept invitations to connect with.

10. Finally, don’t forget that LinkedIn is a social network.

Be a part of the conversation that unfolds on your news feed. Comment, share and like the posts from the people that matter. My friend Dave will tell you that this is his secret sauce to inflating his Klout score.

Connect your Twitter account and post links that your network will find interesting. Join groups, or start them.

Remember, in order to be interesting to people about whatever it is you might be trying to sell, you need to be interesting for other reasons too.

Got other tips for the masses? Leave a comment below or drop a tweet on me @linberg or @bighugebostonBut, don’t try and connect with me. I’ll probably say no.

26.2gether

Posted on April 16th, 2013

This is not a race.

This battle. This sorrow. This road to recovery.

This is a marathon.

Sometimes you can’t even imagine the finish line. It seems a long way off, doesn’t it? But there is one. You can’t see it yet. But there is one. It’s at the end of a very long run where everything is heartbreak. Not just the hills.

Like every marathon, there are people along the way to clap and cheer and feed and nourish and help you go on when you the last thing you want to do, the last thing you think you can do, is go on. But go on you must. One step. Then another. Then another. Some for you. Some for them. Some for some other power that you find deep in a place you didn’t even know existed.

It’s a solo journey. But you’re not alone. We will run together. One step at a time.

This is not a race.

This is our marathon.

Show your support for Boston by sharing 26.2gether. Post it. Share it. Print it out and hang it in your window. Join us on Facebook. Just run with it.

Why The Marathon Is What Boston Is Really All About.

Posted on April 16th, 2013

“Write your name on your shirt. You won’t believe how many people will cheer for you.”

Excellent advice that two of my good friends + training partners gave to me on the eve of running my first Boston Marathon in 2006. They were more than right, thousands and thousands of Bostonians shouted my name for well over four hours. Until yesterday, I thought the marathons I’ve run were all about me overcoming myself – but never understood that a marathon is really about crowds of people and their never-cease-to-amaze instinct to help each other when they need it. And that’s why the Boston Marathon might just be the best example of what Boston is really all about.

David Knies 2007 Marathon Photo

I’m a native Philadelphian who has called the Boston area home since 1994. I work on Boylston Street – a couple blocks from the Marathon finish line – and live with my New England-born wife + daughters in a small town outside of the city. My travels for work have taken me all over the world and introduced me to many different cultures and people, but every time I return home to Boston, I’m reminded of how unique + special the people here are. Because I’ve only been here for 19 years, I don’t feel like I can say “we” yet – this IS New England after all, so that will take a couple more generations – but anyone who has spent time in New England knows that the people can be a bit tough on the outside. When you’re new to the neighborhood, people don’t introduce themselves for a long time. Change is slow. But what I’ve found is that once you crack that hard outer shell, they’re incredibly kind, loyal, honest and giving on the inside. After all, our country started here – and Patriots’ Day / Marathon Monday is an annual commemoration of it.

The Boston Marathon is the day that Boston invites people from all over the world into their home. When the crowd of Bostonians reaches out to help you and tell you that you’re capable of doing something you might not believe you can do. It’s a day when the true inner core of Bostonians comes out and makes the world feel welcome. Especially the individual runners.

One of the greatest life experiences I’ve ever had was running the Boston Marathon. The whole event – crowds reaching out with support, shouting your name, giving you food + drink, high-fiving you – is a giant, 26-mile festival of encouragement. And then you make the left turn onto Boylston St and enter a canyon of noise. One of the coolest things ever. Since I’ve basically always sucked at sports, even though I’ve played them my whole life, it’s the closest I’ll ever come to athletic glory. A large part of the experience was the knowledge I conquered myself to get through the training and finish; but an even bigger part was the experience of being helped + encouraged by hundreds of thousands of people. Strangers. It was also the first time that I saw masses of New Englanders come out of their hard outer shell and welcome me in a way I had never felt before.

There’s no hate in a marathon crowd. Its the complete opposite – nothing but encouragement and support from a crowd of strangers. But what we’ve seen yesterday in Boston and continue to hear stories of today are the triumph of the crowd helping people – stories of heroes running into danger to help; stories of Bostonians opening their homes to stranded runners from out of town, state and even country; stories of the rest of the country and world reaching out with support.

I’m proud to call myself a runner and even a marathoner. But after yesterday, I’m more proud to live + work in Boston and be another face in the amazing, unique and extraordinary crowd of Bostonians.

Believe in Boston. I know that I do.