Music, Mascots, and Marketing: An Introduction to A-Train’s New Hires

Team members

A-Train is proud to announce that we have recently added four new members to our team and we’d love to introduce them to our friends and the community! We asked each of them to answer three questions, their answers really reflect the diverse interests and personalities on our team.


Clayton Shannon – Web Development Specialist

  1. Which band/musical artist, past or present, would you want to tour with?

Besides the early Grateful Dead, I wouldn’t mind touring with a down-tempo electronic artist like Shpongle or Shulman. They travel all over the world, and have a devoted and intellectual fan base.

  1. What would your mascot be if you had one, and why?

I’d have to say that my mascot would be the dancing Snapchat hotdog because he is timeless but also down-to-earth.

  1. What aspect of your new position have you enjoyed most thus far?

I would say that my favorite part of working with A-Train has been seeing ideas go from a vague notion to a massive campaign. There is something special about seeing your work transmitted to so many people.


Brys Scotland – Graphic Designer

  1. Which band/musical artist, past or present, would you want to tour with?

I’d love to go on tour with Brett Eldredge!

  1. What would your mascot be if you had one, and why?

Owl, I’m a night owl. My productivity is at its peak at 2am! Oh and they are my favorite animal.

  1. What aspect of your new position have you enjoyed most thus far?

Seeing my work come to life as I drive around the Northern Colorado area. It makes me feel like I am making a difference in my community, even if it is through design!


Jeff Morrell – Strategic Analyst

  1. Which band/musical artist, past or present, would you want to tour with?

Rival Sons would be awesome to tour with, they are saving rock n roll!

  1. What would your mascot be if you had one, and why?

It would be a Honey Badger because they are tenacious.

  1. What aspect of your new position have you enjoyed most thus far?

I really enjoy the professionalism and passion my co-workers show for every client project.


Allison Dyer Bluemel – Account Manager

  1. Which band/musical artist, past or present, would you want to tour with?

I would want to tour with The Foals or M83.

  1. What would your mascot be if you had one, and why?

Hmmm…mountain goat probably. They’re good at climbing and a little rowdy (both good things to aspire to in my book).

  1. What aspect of your new position have you enjoyed most thus far?

I’ve really enjoyed getting to collaborate with everyone on various projects, particularly messaging and web design jobs. It’s been great to see what everyone excels at and feels passionate about in their daily work.


Not only has A-Train gained an invaluable amount of expertise and industry knowledge, we have also enjoyed adding four stellar new personalities to the mix. We hope you have the opportunity to meet and work with all four of A-Train’s newest team members soon!

How Marketing Affects Holiday Culture

We all know that the holidays represent a time of marketing in overdrive, but history shows that effectively marketing a bit of holiday spirit can transform your efforts into long-standing traditions. Generating the right amount of buzz around any holiday can make your product the most prized gift of the season. Or you could use the season of giving to showcase your brand’s core values at a time when your audience is seeking the warm, joyous feelings associated with giving forward and giving back. Regardless of how your brand focuses their marketing efforts, this season could serve as a huge driver of your sales and consumer loyalty.

Santa Claus

Holiday traditions must start somewhere, but the origins of some traditions would surprise the average person. Many of the holiday traditions and symbols we see in Western cultures are derived from or enhanced by advertising campaigns. Take that jolly bearded guy, Santa, for example. Most people know Santa as the old man in a bright red and white suit with a long, snow-white beard.  While the truth of origin is debated among Santa historians, many agree that the image we associate with Santa became more standardized by Coca-Cola since they first commissioned the red and white clad St. Nick for use in their Christmas ads. And now, the beloved annual Coca Cola holiday ad is looked forward to by all.



Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the most famous holiday characters ever, recognized through song at school Christmas programs across America. But most people probably don’t know that Rudolph and his legend were created by a copywriter at Montgomery Ward. Rudolph was initially an advertising blunder because customers associated his big-red nose with excessive drinking. Eventually customers came to like the heroic reindeer and stopped worrying that he may have some vices.


KFC for Christmas

One of the most interesting cases of an advertising campaign becoming a common tradition can be seen in Japan. In 1974, KFC developed a campaign for the new Japanese locations called “Kentucky for Christmas.” Advertisements highlighted an affordable “Christmas Party Barrel,” which contained fried chicken, salads or soups, and a cake. Despite Christmas not being recognized as a national holiday, and only 1 percent of Japanese people practicing Christianity, the campaign was a huge success.

In each of the first few years, there were reports of 2-hour-long waits for the Christmas special. The campaign was successful enough to turn into a holiday tradition for a couple of reason. First, turkey was not really available in Japan at the time and if it was, most families could not afford it, making chicken seem like a more accessible alternative. Secondly, the Japanese people did not have established Christmas traditions. So, KFC used frequent repetition of their advertising to create a strong association between their food and Christmas.


So, it just goes to show that as much as we are bombarded by advertising, strong marketing can have a lasting impact. Often, images and associations are embedded into our culture without us actively noticing it. Regardless of how a holiday marketing tradition comes to be, that tradition can shape how a brand connects to its audience and drive noticeable results.

Campaign Advertising During the Elections

Campaign Advertising

In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower was running for President and his campaign team made history by airing the very first political ad on television. Fast forward to 2008, when President Obama made waves in campaign advertising by being the first candidate to effectively utilize digital in his campaign. Today, both candidates have been utilizing digital advertising, with approximately 9.5% of  their total political media spend going toward it. Not only are the candidates advertising like mad as we get closer to election day, consumer goods companies have also taken advantage of the growing buzz surrounding the election.

In this election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have gone in different directions as far as advertising is concerned. Clinton’s campaign has spent around $269 million on TV and radio ads. She has primarily aired these ads on national and local broadcasts because she has the financial means to reach the masses through traditional advertising.


Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s campaign has used many different tactics for their campaign advertising. Digital ad buys and promotional gear (i.e. Make America Great Again hats) had accounted for nearly 30% of Trump’s campaign spending at the end of September. His campaign has been able to rely on inexpensive digital ad spots online because of their ability to target the ads to specific users. Additionally, the “Make America Great Again” merchandise has been arguably the most effective advertising for Trump’s campaign. Whether his supporters are donning the bright red hat or they have “Make America Great Again” stuck to their car bumper, they have become living, breathing advertisements for Trump 2016.


Every 4 years, politics seem to consume the thoughts and conversations of most Americans. Many brands have taken note of this and have decided to roll with that momentum. This year, Doritos has been running a campaign to encourage Millennials to go vote with their “No Choice” Doritos. These Doritos can be sent to a friend who is not planning on voting, and to their dismay they will receive a bag filled with brown, cardboard triangles. These “no choice” chips will include a message card explaining that if you don’t vote, someone else chooses for you… and it may suck just as much as eating cardboard Doritos.

Tecate Light, a Mexican Import Beer, aired a commercial during the first presidential debate that was genius. The ad cleverly mocked Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

The ad suggests that instead of building a wall based upon fear of our neighbors, we should embrace each other and enjoy a couple of beers together at the wall bar. According to a 2016 poll by Pew Research Center, 80% of Millennials, Tecate’s target market, were not in favor of building a wall. In fact, 76% of Millennials said that they believe immigrants strengthen our country. With those stats considered, Tecate Light hit the mark in representing those sentiments with a nice dash of humor, to create one of the best political ads to date.

During election years it can seem like every ad you see is either directly from a political campaign or from a corporation riding the hype of elections. Hate it or love it, political advertising is effective because it focuses on topics that people are emotionally invested in. So regardless of if it is shown on TV, a blimp, the internet, or is delivered by carrier pigeons, the landscape of political advertising will continue to shift toward whatever methods best reach the current target audience.


Advertising and Promotions on Snapchat: Part 2

Affordable Paid Advertising

As seen in part one of this blog, there are many great features that Snapchat offers for advertising and promotion. But unless your company has millions of dollars allocated to the advertising budget, you will need to use different methods of advertising and promotion within Snapchat. Before we dive into the free options, there is one more paid advertising option that’s so affordable it hardly feels like paid advertising.
The option I’m referring to is a Geofilter.

A Geofilter is a graphic overlay that users can put on top of their snap, only accessed in a specific geographic area. They can be designed to represent a famed area or attraction. They can also be created to showcase events taking place in a specific location.
There are two types of Geofilters that Snapchat offers, a community Geofilter, and an on-demand Geofilter. A community Geofilter is free to submit for a public event or community gathering. It must be relevant to its respective area and free of branding. The on-demand Geofilter is geared more toward businesses as it allows company branding and has a quicker approval period than the community Geofilter. The on-demand option is not free but is very inexpensive.

The Geofilter pricing is determined by the square footage of your desired location and the amount of time the Geofilter will be active. To place a Geofilter within the parameters of Moby Arena at Colorado State University for 10 hours, the cost would be $18.76. On-demand Geofilters can create an unbelievable return on investment for your company if used properly. Snapchat even sends you next-day metrics and usage stats to analyze the effectiveness of your Geofilter. So next time you’re holding an event where selfies will be plentiful, consider purchasing a Geofilter and let Snapchat users do the rest of the work.
Not all forms of promotion and advertising on Snapchat have to be purchased via the app or even purchased at all for that matter.

One of the most basic forms of promotion is a coupon or discount

You can use this to promote your business through Snapchat. A frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles ran a very clever campaign that perfectly exemplified how to offer discounts via Snapchat. The Snappy New Year campaign asked that the customers snap a picture of them or their friends eating 16 Handles froyo. After receiving a user’s photo, 16 Handles would then snap customers back a photo that contained a 16%, 50%, or 100% discount on their next purchase. To prevent tampering with the promotion, the offer was only valid if the customers opened the snap in front of a 16 Handles cashier after they reached the checkout counter.
Snapchat is also an ideal platform for promoting a company event or product launch. You can build up hype for your upcoming products and events by posting product teasers and behind-the-scenes snaps. Before a company event begins, you can build excitement by documenting the transformation of the venue or by giving sneak peeks of what your audience can expect from the event. If you’re bringing in any speakers, special guests, or notable sponsors, you should consider requesting that they do a brief take-over or a quick couple of snaps promoting the event. Then, once the event is underway, it’s crucial to maintain live updates of your event. Otherwise, what was the point of all the promotion in the first place?

Snapchat is more than just a platform to share content.

With an age demographic that’s primarily made of digital natives, Snapchat recognizes that many of its users have developed the ability to tune out advertising. In response to this, Snapchat and its users have continually been creating fresh ways to advertise and promote your brand’s events and offerings. Don’t get lost in the cycle of doing the status quo. Set your brand apart with Snapchat – the newest revolution in advertising.

A-Train Snapchat

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Advertising and Promotions on Snapchat: Part 1

A-Train Snapchat

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Snapchat is one of the best ways to express your brand’s personality

You can use Snapchat to foster more personal relationships with your brand’s followers. But is it useful for advertising and product promotion? The answer to that is, absolutely! Much like getting followers or posting content on Snapchat, the methods of advertising and promoting your brand through Snapchat are unique to the app. This is part one of the blog that will serve as a guide to help your brand navigate one of the unprecedented methods of advertising and promotions developed by Snapchat.

Snapchat offers multiple forms of paid advertising and they can all be effective in reaching a large audience. But this can be a very expensive avenue with ads ranging anywhere from $100,000-$750,000 per day.

The first option for paid advertising is Snap Ads

Snap Ads are mobile video ads with a 10-second video that has a “swipe-up” option for users to view a promotional video in its entirety. According to Snapchat Internal Data, Snap Ads have a swipe-up rate that is five times higher than average click-through rates on other social platforms.

The newest paid advertising option is the sponsored lens. A sponsored lens functions as a facial recognition software that places animated graphics over your face using spatial mapping of your facial features and object recognition. Sponsored lenses typically cost between $500,000 & $750,000 and are fairly labor intensive to create, but some companies have received unbelievable engagement and awareness from this feature.

In May, Taco Bell created a lens that turns your face into a talking taco. I know, it sounds silly. People turning themselves into tacos. But, it was a huge success. We went to to capture the image for you as it may be hard to imagine.

Taco Bell

Image provided through

This lens was viewed 224 million times and the average Snapchat user played with it for 24 seconds before sending it to friends. Snapchat has created a serious competitive advantage for their company by innovating a form of advertisement that consumers can tangibly use and have fun with. Many marketers are seeking more data and metrics about how the lenses impact their bottom line. Still, there is no denying that sponsored lenses reach a large audience and are very effective at generating buzz.

Stay tuned next week to hear about the other paid advertising options that hardly feels like paid advertising due to its affordability and practicality for brands.



Snapchat Blog Part 2: Story Time


As a brand or business on Snapchat, your primary medium for sharing content will be your story. This is the “news feed” function of Snapchat that allows you to share a snap or memory to all of your friends instantaneously. The direct snap option is also available to use, but this is of little value to businesses. This blog is meant to help you create stories that will have your brand followers anxiously awaiting your content each day.

To understand what type of content to post on Snapchat, you must know the key demographics of Snapchat’s users.

  • 85% of monthly Snapchat users are Millennials
  • 37% of Snapchat users are ages 18-24
  • 26% of Snapchat users are ages 25-34
  • Women make up 70% of users
  • 100 million people use Snapchat every day

There are several things that a brand can do to appeal to the young, the largely female collective of Snapchat users. The most important thing is to make your snap stories colorful and upbeat. Snapchat is used in a much more light-hearted, informal way than most of the major social platforms. Users like to use it for its filters, document a night out, and to break up the monotony of a typical weekday. So be silly, and have fun with your snap stories! Promote your brand without making your stories look planned or ‘packaged’.

A good way to keep your stories from becoming repetitive is to let others take over your account. Allowing other employees or branches of your company can add a fresh flavor to your Snapchat and it can be empowering for the employees taking over. You can also let Snapchat influencers (popular/relevant social media users) take over your account. Letting somebody with a large following taking over your account can help you build your following and increase story engagement.

Another important piece in creating content on Snapchat is fully utilizing your Snapchat features whenever you can to increase your fun factor. You can add a lens, an improv drawing, a humorous caption, or a relevant geo-filter to your snaps. Snapchat is meant to be fun and trivial, but don’t forget to use good judgment when posting stories because you are still representing your brand.

A-Train Snapchat


Just like there is a distinct theme or mood that works well for posting content, there are also formats on Snapchat that work best. Videos are very important when making a Snap story, pictures have their place as well, but videos have emerged as the most popular medium. From May 2015 to May 2016, Snapchat’s daily video views have grown 400% (from 2 billion to 10 billion, according to Bloomberg). Snapchat has even topped Facebook in daily video views. The best types of video posts are exclusive content; it should be more than just a video for the sake of posting content. The video should be valuable to the customer, like a behind the scenes or a day in the life video. Customers will engage with your content if they get an intimate look at sides of your business that they could only see via your Snapchat. The last thing to note is that a story should be no longer than 1-2 minutes. Users will exit out of your story if it’s too long. It’s apparent that social media is shifting toward video, and Snapchat is proving that they have the best formula.

Snapchat is the fastest growing social app with the youngest average users. So, it should go without saying that it’s the most different and innovative out of all the social media apps. This growth and innovation are creating another powerful social media channel that is becoming a crucial tool for many brands. Although Snapchat is extremely useful for a brand’s development, it can feel daunting and unfamiliar. But with these tips for best practices and content creation, we hope your brand can navigate the waters and develop a successful Snapchat account. For more useful guides and advice regarding Snapchat, keep an eye out for the third installment of the A-Train Snapchat Blog Series.


Words of Wisdom from Gretchen

Gretchen's wise words

Gretchen had two answers for this question, but for her, they go hand in hand.

The first bit of wisdom she lives by is, “bad deals only get worse”. Meaning, if something is looking bad or going South, jump ship quickly. In a business context, this pertains to walking away from a business opportunity or a deal because you know it’s only going to be a detriment to you and your organization.

The second piece of  wisdom Gretchen tries to live by is, “Don’t do anything just for the money”. This one is true for her in all facets of life because she believes that money is not the root to fulfillment and happiness. This wisdom ties in with the “bad deals only get worse” because if a person commits to a bad deal or unfavorable job solely for the money, that person may have regret or dissatisfaction as a result. These two wise quotes that Gretchen lives by not only guide her personal life, they also transcend into the culture we uphold at A-Train.

Let’s Be Friends: Snapchat Installment #1

A-Train Snapchat


Snapchat began in 2011 as an app for silly, quick interactions via disappearing photo messages.

In just five years, it has revolutionized social media interactions. Instagram is even following Snapchat’s lead now with the introduction of Instagram Stories. Snapchat is constantly changing the landscape of social media marketing with innovative marketing tools like geo-filters, stories, and sponsored lenses (you might recognize these as the things that make it look like you’re shooting rainbows from your mouth). In addition to creating new ways to advertise, the app allows brands to relate with their followers in a more casual, fun manner than other social platforms. Snapchat is a must for any company looking to enhance its brand and increase loyalty amongst its consumer base. This blog series will guide you through each step of developing a successful Snapchat presence for your business. To start the series off, we’ll go over the initial creation of your profile and how to build a solid base of Snapchat friends.

If you’ve never used Snapchat, it would be wise to experiment with a personal Snapchat account for a few days before creating an account for your brand. When creating your brand’s Snapchat account, you should use the name of your brand or a recognizable variation of it. You should also personalize your snapcode with either a brand logo or a series of photos that are relevant and recognizable to your brand. The snapcode acts as a QR code for your account, allowing other Snapchat users to add you simply by focusing their Snapchat camera on it.

What’s your snapcode?

Adding friends on Snapchat as a company is going to be a little different than adding friends on a personal account. The most commonly used method of adding friends is to add people from your phone’s address book. This method isn’t very helpful unless you want to add Grandma and Uncle Jim to your company’s Snapchat friends. The best way to add friends as a company is to use your existing social media profiles to cross-promote and to add other users who are doing the same. The snapcode you made for your Snapchat profile can be posted as an image on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Your friends and followers can then scan your it to add you as a friend. Additionally, if your customers are often in your business (i.e. a restaurant or retail store) you can create posters, table cards, and other stationary materials with your snapcode on it. You can also share your physical username, but this will most likely be less effective than posting your snapcode.

Cross-promoting your account is obviously an effective way of converting your brand’s followers to Snapchat friends. But, you’ll need to seek out new users to keep your friend-base growing. Once again, you’ll want to use your other social platforms to find new friends. You can start by visiting Facebook and Twitter, and searching for different phrases like “follow me on Snapchat” and “Snapchat add me.” These searches will allow you to find users who are sharing their usernames, which you can then use to request them as a friend. Remember, your profile does represent your brand, so use your best judgment in deciding who to add.

Additional tools

There are a few additional tools that can be used to add more friends on Snapchat. One of those tools is a feature within Snapchat called “add nearby.” This is useful at networking events or any social situation where you will be around other people who you think would like to connect with you on Snapchat. To do this, everyone who wants to become friends on Snapchat needs to open “add nearby,” which is found under the “add friends” page of your account. Then, everyone using this feature will be able to add one another from the list of nearby users that was just generated.

One last way to add friends quickly is through the use of Snapchat discovery apps; the most notable of these apps is called “GhostCodes.” GhostCodes is essentially a Snapchat directory that categorizes users based upon their niche or what their brand identity is. Then, users can select one of many categories and that category will generate a list of the most liked and engaged GhostCode profiles. You can add any of these GhostCode users by taking a screenshot of their snapcodes and then adding their code inside of the Snapchat app. This application takes a little learning. But, when you’ve got it down and you’re regularly utilizing it, it can drive a large number of Snapchat users to your account.

Snapchat is still an unfamiliar territory for many. It can seem scary because it’s relatively new and has a different functionality than most other social media apps. But everything is new and unfamiliar before it becomes mainstream and universally understood. Stay tuned over the next few weeks! We’ll be posting a series of blogs that to teach businesses how to use Snapchat as dynamic marketing and branding tool. Take this opportunity to make your brand an early adopter of Snapchat and get ahead of the curve!


Meet Kerry, A-Train’s Newest Team Member

Kerry WicksA-Train Marketing Communications, Inc. recently added another team member to its ranks. With a growing workload and a recent staff departure, A-Train was in need of another full-time employee to help manage accounts and create exceptional content. The search was short and easy. Kerry Wicks had already been writing copy and creating content for A-Train on a part-time basis, and her work had impressed the whole team.

Kerry is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She moved to Fort Collins in the early 90’s to attend school at CSU. She graduated from CSU with a BA in English and a Master of Science in Student Affairs and Higher Education. Her writing skills have not gone unnoticed since arriving at A-Train, she has already written A-Train blogs and copy for multiple clients. So it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite hobbies is writing – or as she calls it – “word chasing and capturing”.

Along with being a fantastic writer, Kerry has also always had a set of keen marketing and sales skills. These skills date back to when she was eight years old and went door-to-door selling the Brushette II toothbrush system. She also applied those skills while working at the Junior League of Fort Collins where she served as the VP of Communication, Marketing Chair, and President. Now working at A-Train, she aims to use her writing and communication skills to thrive as a copywriter and account manager. The human impact of writing is what drives Kerry, and she seeks that same positive human impact in the workplace through team camaraderie and a progressive workplace culture. “The A-Train team is comprised of amazingly talented individuals. The company really has a grasp on effective marketing and helping companies tell their stories well,” says Kerry. In addition to her impressive set of tangible skills, she hopes to bring a new perspective, a desire to learn, and her creative spirit to the A-Train team.

Kerry’s life mantra is: “Happiness is not a destination,” meaning you can’t chase happiness, YOU have to create it. Something that makes Kerry happy is going on adventures with her kids and having a blast with the two of them. She also has a propensity to collect leaf dishes and cutting boards… just because she can. She enjoys being around the people she loves and doing whatever the heart desires – whether it’s dancing, sitting on the patio, or getting sushi. It’s not hard to see why the team at A-Train has already grown quite fond of Kerry as a co-worker and a friend.

Introducing A-Train’s Newest Designer: Hannah Hibbs

IMG_7282In early July, A-Train Marketing Communications welcomed Hannah Hibbs as the company’s newest graphic designer. In the few short weeks that she’s been with the company, Hannah has proven herself as a well-rounded, talented member of an already elite team.

Hannah moved to Fort Collins from Eagle, Colo. in 2011 to study graphic design at Colorado State University. In the time it took her to earn her degree, she gained years of experience in the field. Over the past three years, she has worked as a designer at Resolution Graphics, a design company in Eagle. Additionally, she’s been actively doing freelance work for companies from Vail to Fort Collins. Notably, she designed work for downtown events held by the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association.

Both Hannah and A-Train are ecstatic about the recent hiring. A-Train is thrilled to have a designer on the team who not only has high-level design skills, but also has the drive to grow as a professional.

“I am excited to expand my knowledge and experience in the graphic design field and to apply my own creative ideas to help expand A-Train,” says Hannah.

Admittedly, she had patiently been waiting for a year to get an opportunity that would allow her to jump on-board the A-Train. It’s rare to find a candidate who is so invested in the agency and that has an immediate passion to elevate the quality of work being created. Charlie Mueller, A-Train’s Lead Designer had high praise for Hannah. “I knew right away that Hannah was going to be a great fit at A-Train. She is out-going and was clearly a team player from day one. Her background and expertise are a great addition to our company.”

When she’s not at A-Train, you may find Hannah at Dungeons and Drafts playing a new game or hiking around the foothills. She also has a strong love for the fine arts – she took piano lessons for over 10 years and has always been passionate about painting and drawing.

Much like learning new skills and art forms, Hannah has quickly learned to thrive in the office. She attributes much of her smooth transition at the agency to the helpfulness and understanding of her co-workers. With each passing day, Hannah has become further acclimated with the way A-Train functions and we are so excited to watch her flourish in her new role.