The Blog

How An Experiential Marketing Agency Fêtes Its New Home

We’re in the business of creating experiences for brands, which means we spend our days dreaming about the thoughtful details that set an experience apart and make attendees feel that only [insert brand name here] could have done this. Almost from the moment we moved into our new digs in Jackson Square last fall our wheels were turning about how to celebrate this moment in a way true to Grow’s essence. Joined by clients, partners and friends (the most important element of any successful gathering) we brought in some of our favorite things to warmly welcome guests into our space. And, based on how long many lingered, we think it was a hit!

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In keeping with our feminine, Parisian-inspired aesthetic, the fête incorporated Grow’s personality and essence, including thoughtful touches from candlelit staircases to lush floral arrangements by Natalie Bowen Designs in ivory and pink tones to our favorite Glassybaby candles in bright, fun colors.

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Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley
Given our mutual love of inspiration from aesthetics and unique lifestyle experiences (not to mention our love for a great bottle of wine!), Grow invited our friends at Ma(i)sonry – a bespoke Yountville-based wine collective – to join us and offer guests a very special tasting of wines from their limited-production collection.

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Roka Akor
Chefs from Roka Akor, a contemporary, innovative Japanese restaurant located only two blocks from our office, hand rolled an incredible array of sushi for guests to sample as they explored the various nooks in our new space. We’re salivating over the beef tataki with shaved black truffles just thinking about it.

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On-Demand Poetry
As a team of logophiles (word-lovers, in case you didn’t study Latin), we couldn’t have dreamed up a more unparalleled, captivating experience than that of on-demand poetry. Each guest received a personalized poem, crafted on a vintage typewriter in mere minutes by the talented Silvi Alcivar, the results of which made more than a few of us a little weepy.

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Hog Island Oyster Co.
One of the premier producers of certified sustainable shellfish and also our neighbor over at the San Francisco Ferry Building, Hog Island Oyster Co. set up shop in our communal kitchen to offer fresh oysters from their 160-acre farm just up the coast in Tomales Bay. As expected, this was a popular spot throughout the night that left our guests saying “aw, shucks.”

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Cotogna
As our go-to spot for a special meal, catered lunch or just a post-work nibble, Cotogna offered Grow guests a taste of their rustic Italian fare, including burrata crostini and their heavenly arancini.

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This was truly an affair to remember – from sharing stories about the Barbary Coast history of our building to toasting with the entire Grow family. We are so grateful to all who joined us and can’t wait for all the milestones we’ll celebrate in the years to come.

For anyone who wasn’t able to join us, please stop by and check out our new spot next time you’re in the neighborhood!

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A Night at the Autodesk Gallery

As experiential marketers design figures heavily into our daily inspiration and world view.

We’ve been watching the maker movement for a while and the increasing interest and innovations in design technology. Autodesk is at the forefront of bringing makers from this movement together and highlighting some of the coolest innovations with their monthly Design Night in the Autodesk Gallery here in San Francisco. And because we are lucky enough to have it located in our own backyard we just had to check it out. Filled with other design enthusiasts, innovators and natural born toyers and tinkers from across the globe, the experience brought to life how tech is transforming the design industry.

Bright yellow signs that exclaim “Eat! Drink! and Make!” grabbed our attention and set a playful mood as we entered the space excited to explore the inventive, playful interactive moments. Over 20+ exhibits, including Nike’s latest running shoe, a digital flower, a styrofoam Mercedes Benz, magnetic silly putty, an 8.5ft dinosaur made of 62,500 LEGO pieces and a soccer ball that generates electricity from play — all in one room. Each station conveyed a fascinating story of the tools and engineering used to create the unique design. Taken all together, the experience demonstrated in an engaging and relevant way how the intersection of design and technology is improving our everyday lives by shaping a better world.

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Grow Knows: Our Favorite Neighborhood Hotspots

We are defined by and draw inspiration from the neighborhoods where we live and work. Grow recently moved into our new home in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square neighborhood, a building that was formerly Spider Kelly’s Tivoli, considered by many to be the foulest saloon and brothel on the vice-ridden Barbary Coast. We’re proud of our building’s rich history and “life of the party” heritage while, a century later, embodying a more honest way to make a living!

Nestled between the Italian flavor of North Beach and the bustle of the downtown Financial District, today Jackson Square is truly a gem – boasting a European charm meets artsy, bohemian vibe, and serving as home to many of the city’s top restaurants, creative agencies, antique shops and design galleries.

As we get to know our new neighborhood, we wanted to share some of the local spots that we’ve come to love, and hope you’ll join us soon for an artisan cocktail or stroll down Pacific Avenue.

1. Cotogna: Quince’s rustic Italian sister restaurant, Cotogna is a neighborhood hotspot offering daily-changing menus and ingredients from local purveyors (…and they’re also great for catering). This is Gabrey’s favorite spot, who shares that if you are lucky enough to grab a sidewalk table, to sip an amazing cocktail on a beautiful night — you will feel the magic of Jackson Square. This is Grow’s Cheers, and Gabs is definitely Norm.

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 Photo courtesy of Cotogna

2. Reveille Coffee Co.: a charming, yet hip coffee shop on the corners of Columbus and Kearny also offering countertop workspace and a full, locally-sourced menu. Alyssa loves their beautiful space, with clean lines and windows that let in floods of sunlight, and beyond friendly staff. Although, she warns, watch out: their vanilla latte is addicting and will keep you coming back!

Reveille

Photo courtesy of SF Eater

3. La Boutique: a gorgeous boutique with one-of-a-kind finds from European brands and perfectly located for some post-work retail therapy. Our fashionable Tami frequents this shop and credits La Boutique’s fantastic stylists with helping to find the right look for any occasion.

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Photo courtesy of La Boutique

4. Comstock Saloon: a local watering hole offering classic cocktails and refined turn-of-the-century fare, nodding to our neighborhood’s Barbary Coast history. Shannon loves the vibe of this historic space, including the amazing cocktails from interesting mixologists who clearly take pride in their creations. She recommends ordering the Barkeep’s Whimsy (their choice), and ensures it will delight!

Comstock Saloon

Photo courtesy of SFGate

5.  Tosca: a part of the fabric of North Beach with a recently launched menu, Tosca is known for their classic cocktails with a twist…especially the house cappuccino, which they’ve been serving since 1919. Cassie loves stepping into this rich, iconic San Francisco experience, not to mention that there’s something for everyone on both the food and drink menus.

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Photo courtesy of Tosca

6. William Stout Architectural Books: with over 20,000 titles on architecture, art, urban planning and design, William Stout’s 30 year old shop is a creative’s dream bookstore. Every time Thao steps through the door it’s a new adventure, where she finds hidden gems and amazing inspiration amongst the shelves.

William Stout Books

Photo courtesy of William Stout Architectural Books

7. Barrique: a private-label wine bar, offering hand selected wines from the barrel and a perfectly balanced menu of snacks from charcuterie to truffle popcorn to a robust selection of cheeses. Barrique offers a great atmosphere and is a frequent spot for Shana to grab drinks with her friends while nibbling on small bites.

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Photo courtesy of SFWeekly

8. Bocadillos: offering some variety from the many Italian restaurants in our neighborhood, Bocadillos serves the best of Spain’s wine and small plates (tapas). You’ll often catch Shari at the bar, enjoying the friendly, laid-back ambiance and intimate space filled with locals, noshing on the out-of-this-world lamb sliders, patatas bravas and kale salad (they are also open for breakfast & lunch).

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Photo courtesy of Bocadillos

9. Naked Lunch: famous for their fried chicken sandwich, Naked Lunch offers a “small” menu of farm fresh ingredients, which changes every day. Brie loves their variety of sandwiches and refreshing cinnamon sweet tea, especially when she has the chance to enjoy on their covered patio.

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Photo courtesy of Hungry Hong Kong

10. Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub: offering Irish American hospitality, good music and plenty of TVs, Kells is the place to be to meet friends over a cold beer. Only one block from the Transamerica Pyramid, Neel frequently finds himself at Kells to catch sporting events, meet friendly locals and unwind after a long week.

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Photo courtesy of SFGate

Ted 2014: An Experience Worth Sharing

TED is an experiential marketer’s dream.  Everything about the thought-leader conference is centered around storytelling, engagement and challenging conventional perceptions.  And they combine all of the elements in a way that draws your attention to each so nothing is missed.  Even the setting, which provided a breathtaking view of Vancouver’s bay and surrounding mountains, the seaplanes coming and going with the frequency of new ideas being tossed around, served as a moment of respite to clear your mind before heading to the next session.

Vancouver as Viewed at TED 2014

Vancouver as Viewed at TED 2014

Here are some of our favorite highlights from Day 4:

The Weirdest Athlete Wins

There’s a reason why Michael Phelps is a better swimmer than you are, and life-long training is only one part of the equation.  While 17 American men in history have run a marathon in under 2 hours and 10 minutes, 32 Kalenjin men (a tribe in Kenya) did so last October.  Know a man over 7 feet tall?  There’s 17% chance he plays in the NBA. David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, gave a fascinating talk in which he challenged our thinking about why athletes have gotten so much better, stronger and faster over the last 100 years — and why we’re still far from reaching our limits (not yet live on the TED site but captured in this blog post).

Who’s In Charge?

Why would a mouse seek out a cat, or a seemingly mad caterpillar protect the offspring of its killer? Science writer Ed Yong took us on a fascinating journey of how parasites engage in a sophisticated level of mind-control over their hosts that causes self destructive and annihilating behaviors designed to propagate the parasite’s existence.  He ended by introducing us to toxo, a parasite that lives in a third of the human population. Are we being controlled as well? Read a summary of Yong’s humorous, illuminating and deliciously creepy talk here.

From Blind to Brave

Mellody Hobson, an African American woman and president of Ariel Investments, acknowledged that she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Although she is one of only two publicly traded companies chaired by a black woman, in 2006 she was mistaken for the help at a high powered media luncheon in D.C. that she had helped to orchestrate.  Without an open dialogue on race — a topic she compared to the third rail — change will continue to remain elusive.   “It’s time,” says Hobson, “for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race. If we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, we need to have real conversations about this issue. We can’t be color blind, we have to be color brave.”  Read her story and challenge to the TED community here.

Honey, I Laid Off The Kids

We also had the honor of attending a luncheon featuring Day 5 TED speaker Simon Sinek, leadership expert and author of Start With Why? in conversation with Thomas Goetz.  Sinek began the lunch with the provocative question of if we believed we were good parents.  He later used the metaphor to discuss how companies can create long-term success by using the family model, something that was the norm until the layoffs of the 80’s, to create an environment of safety and allowing for the failures that are the necessary precursors to real innovation.

And of course we explored the social spaces during the breaks and checked out the different and interesting ways brands chose to show up at TED.  From a pop-up eyeglass shop from do-good brand Tom’s to a journey to find your social soulmate courtesy of Delta to a live tweet art install and handwriting analysis from Target (one of us was deemed a Visionary, the other an Individualist), we fueled up on the plethora of healthy snacks and artful cappuccinos, which took us into the closing party where literally everyone was the most interesting person in the room.

Live Tweet Art Installation

Delta's Social Soul Experience

Target Handwriting Analysis

Tom's Eyeglass Pop-up Shop

Thank you to the TED team for another amazing and thought provoking event. We can’t wait for what comes next!

sxsw look back: 3 strategies to make your brand pop

This past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to head down to Austin, TX, for SXSW Interactive and after 3 days of session hopping, countless breakfast tacos and a dozen photo booths, we’re back at Grow smarter, inspired and excited to share our thoughts on the smartest activations at the conference.

As marketers who develop unique branded experience for clients, we kept our eyes peeled for the most innovative and interesting event happenings at SXSW – and we weren’t disappointed. Though we tired quickly of countless free t-shirt after free t-shirt, several brands found ways to engage consumers in a new way. We found that those that stood out most used three strategies:

Stealing the Buzz: Taking Advantage of Existing Fads

At SXSW, we saw multiple brands capitalize on a piece of pop culture that’s already cherished by the Internet world and found a way to make it their own. By incorporating a pre-existing “fad” into their event, these smart marketers drew an already engaged audience — guaranteeing crowds huddled around their event.

Mashable’s creation was one of the best examples of this, as it continued its tradition of being one of the most buzzed about brands at SXSWi. With over 579 million views on YouTube and endless parody videos, Mashable capitalized on Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking ball video by replicating the set.  As hoards of Miley fans took their own tongue-out photos on the wrecking ball, posts were automatically streamed to a social-media wall showing all snaps with #MashSXSW. Billy Rae would be proud.

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Unless you’ve ignored the Internet for 2 years, 3D printing is the hot topic that still amazes us all — and brands took note. OREO tapped into this realm with its “Trending Vending Lounge”, using 3D printing technology to give out cookies with custom cream designs equalling over 4,000 different possible combinations. Deloitte also dabbled 3D printing by scanning guests to receive digital 3D-rendering versions of themselves and creating actual edible candies made by 3D printers — yum!

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Making your brand purpose bigger than your product

Sometimes brands forget that it’s not all about them and their products, and we as consumers forget that technology can do so much more than entertain us and fill our phones with apps. There were several brands at SXSW that reminded us that sometimes a product exists for a bigger purpose.

AT&T Digital Life popped up a fully-functional home exhibit to allow consumers to experience the ease and convenience of managing their home security, locks, electricity and water all from the Digital Life app on their phone. Marching to the same beat, Nest introduced their smoke and carbon monoxide alarm with a retrofitted fire truck and lounge to drive home the message to let technology help you stay safe.

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The 3M Idea Generator lounge reminded us that 3M doesn’t just create tape and post-it’s. Attendees walked away from the lounge buzzing about 3M’s contributions to the tech and design world including futuristic outerwear prototypes that revolutionizes reflective materials and insulation, amazing chemicals that provide fire protection and cool data centers, and an enhancement film to make LED screens brilliant with color.

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Launching big with an immersive experience

To launch a brand new music streaming service Milk Music, Samsung made a SXSW splash in a big way. The beautifully designed Samsung “Galaxy Experience” lounge took over a gorgeous space and featured a juice bar, custom-printed swag bar, taco stands, lounge space, Milk Music demo stations and a photo area that curated photos from your personal phone using WiFi to create a photo montage commemorating your SXSW experience. On top of all of that, buzz flooded the streets about their on-demand battery delivery service to whoever tweeted #PowerOn – ensuring their customers stay charged throughout the festival immersive experience.

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Take the time to engage your audience in a thoughtful way. We’re not telling you to recreate Miley Cyrus videos for every event, but the devil’s in the details and you get one chance to make an impression.

 

TEDxBerkeley: Social Engagement – It’s Contagious!

Here at Grow, we are constantly thinking of ways to marry amplification with our real-world engagement strategies – from a simple hashtag to building an online community of loyalists to help spread the word. As the strength of brands’ and individuals’ social networks gain more and more cultural importance – especially with sites such as Klout that rank social influence – it’s not just about the number of followers or likes you have, but how you activate your network to effect change.

We were fortunate enough to attend TEDxBerkeley this past weekend and want to share a few basic guidelines to follow when building engagement:

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Find the few who fuel the many

Turning the word contagion on its head, Leslie Lang and Microclinic International have helped prevent and manage deadly disease in various communities by creating a network led by a few people who share access to education, technology and social support. Whether combating the obesity epidemic in Southern Kentucky or educating people on the effects of diabetes in the West Bank, Microclinic relies on people and their own networks to create a robust information dissemination system that can, ultimately, change behavior and social norms – as Leslie put it, creating a form of positive “social contagion.”

Leslie Lang

Tap into and reward the target’s natural behavior

Find out what the target likes to do and incentivize them. Tim Shields’ talk was a brilliant example of how an organization can tap into fundamental human behavior to ignite engagement. Challenged with making environmentalism fun rather than a guilt-ridden task, Tim used and mobilized our playful human spirit and competitive instinct, blending it with tech and social, to create the first ever crowd-sourced conservation game, Raven Repel. Gamifying his conservation efforts, he was able to get the audience to participate in the mobile game together, deflecting ravens from attacking endangered desert tortoises in real-time.

Tim Shields

Create meaning to catalyze change

Too often, individuals and organizations define themselves by what they do, rather than the value they provide. To truly make an impact on the world, it’s critical to identify – and clearly communicate to those you are seeking to influence – the meaning behind a product, company or cause. Veteran evangelist Guy Kawasaki offered his top tips for innovation and, as a member of the team that marketed the Macintosh in 1984, shared the inspiring example of how Apple created meaning for consumers through their desire to democratize the computer.

Guy Kawasaki

Whether you are a brand or an individual – think about the networks that you have cultivated online and offline. How will you captivate your social circles to spark conversation and influence change?