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Business & marketing advice, news and features, design inspiration, and the art of gifting.

Illegally Perfecting All-Natural Ice Cream with Nitrogen in Silicon Valley

Stanford Grad Robyn Fisher started her business by illegally selling all-natural ice cream on the street next to unemployed chefs. Today, she’s the proud owner of the super popular Smitten Ice Cream shop.


By Fausto Mendez / Photo by Robyn Fisher

    Wired interviewed Stanford Grad Robyn Fisher on her recent successes as the owner of a made-to-order, all-natural ice cream shop that started out as an illegal operation on the street.

Wired: When you launched, it was sort of a pirate ice cream enterprise wasn’t it? Not strictly legal?

Fisher: At that time I started getting my ice cream out there in 2009, all these chefs had been laid off from restaurants. So they went to the streets to sell their food, and I joined them. We used Twitter and Facebook and about 12 of us would set up in a park or on the street and say “come and get it before the cops come.” It was totally not legal. We would get hundreds of people coming, and it was amazing. I learned so much from all of those street food chefs about pricing, marketing all sorts of things.”

    Fisher partnered up with laid off chefs to improve her recipes and business model. Around the same time, she also perfected the art of using nitrogen, all-natural ingredients, and a custom mixer to instantly freeze the ice cream sans freezer, and it’s not just flashy tech for flashy tech’s sake.

    The nitrogen technique creates the perfect texture in ice cream because the instant freeze enables her to skip some of the chemicals that ice cream makers inject into their product in order to achieve similar textures. Fisher does a really great job of explaining the science behind the cream during the interview.

"Wired: I know ice cream is cold, but what does the nature of ice crystals have to do with how good the ice cream is?

Fisher: The general gist of it is freezing speed makes all the difference in crystal size, and the smaller, the better for mouth taste and creaminess. Freezing speed is correlated with freezing temperature. So if you can freeze it really, really cold, you can get smaller ice crystals.

And if you can freeze really cold, you can freeze really fast. The benefit of that is if you make small enough batches you can freeze to order. Therefore you don’t need any of those extra ingredients that make ice cream far from natural.”

    Smitten Ice Cream is now one of San Francisco’s favorite ice cream spots, and it continues to reach new heights of fame as travelers from around the nation and the world visit the shop during their stay at the Bay Area.

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Marketing Major Asks Reddit: “Is a Marketing Degree What I Need?” - #MarketingMonday

A Reddit user asks marketing professionals to comment on the viability of a marketing degree. I offer my thoughts on that, coupled with advice on how to choose a degree that actually boosts your marketing career.


By Fausto Mendez

    During my morning Reddit reading spree, I came across a thread by a college student that recently switched his major to marketing. He asks, “how viable is it as a degree, or is it a bit common?” He’s trying to plan out a career in marketing, specifically in the finance industry.

    I can’t comment on the popularity of marketing degrees, but I am a marketing professional. I can comment on what I’ve seen from my perspective.

    I’m currently the Director of Marketing at, and to be honest, I’ve never worked with anyone that actually has a marketing degree (as far as I know). I’ve worked with a wide range of majors, including artists, software engineers, accountants, IT pros, and more, but never a marketing major. We sometimes work with an advertising consultant, and he is not a marketing/advertising major. I also know a marketing manager at Disney, and his degree is not directly related to marketing too.

    However, my perspective is rather limited. I’m not even 30 yet (still have three years to go). Plus, I only have about two years in a management role. Fortunately, I’ve seen others climb the ladder, so I do have an opinion on how you should choose your major for a marketing career.

How to Plan College for a Successful Career in Marketing

    It all starts with your passion. The best marketing professionals are passionate about what they do. Whether they’re graphic artists or data analysts, their daily work excites them. Focus on a major that excites. 

    Next, refine your passion to a set of specialized skills. Your major should help you develop a set of specialized skills for your chosen marketing field. If you love to illustrate, you should major in graphic design. I’m a writer at heart, so I majored in English. Do not choose a degree in marketing as you won’t have a more refined specialty, and gigs that require specialty skills are more abundant . 

    Your major should help you refine your specialized skills, but don’t become too reliant on school. There’s a lot that school can’t teach you, so your best bet is to supplement your studies with internships, community service and real work. I started my sophomore year as a professional blogger. This added  invaluable real-world experiences alongside everything I was learning in class.

    Use your specialized skills to get your foot in the door at the marketing department in your company of choice. For me, this meant getting hired as a low-level copywriter and social-media guru. My organizational skills and leadership qualities made it really easy to move up the ranks to a management position, so it was only a matter of time.

    If you can squeeze into a startup company, you’ll move up the ranks more easily because the company is (supposed to be) growing. So your bosses will prefer managers that know the company well, especially if you know your department and co-workers better than outsiders. 

Advice from Other Marketing Dudes

    As I mentioned above, my perspective is really limited, so you should probably look into the opinions of other marketing professionals. Below, marketers that also happen to be Redditors chime in with their opinions in the same thread.

    A successful marketer with an MBA in marketing strategy had no trouble breaking into a marketing role. He sees Bachelor degrees everywhere but very few MBA degrees anywhere.

"I work a lot with advertising agencies and while there are few MBAs there, there are many undergrads. I do think it’s a difficult career, though, especially if you’re someone who’s more into the numbers than the creativity."

    Another successful marketer experienced great success from an internship at a B2B company that makes adhesives. This company did not have an official marketing department, but he came on as a marketing intern. During his stay at the company, he made his work indispensable to the growth of the company.  

"As an intern, expect to get grunt work that makes someone else’s job easier. You’ll be ‘greasing the wheels’ to make sales, negotiations, etc, easier for the people who actually handle marketing & sales. If you can prove yourself productive and intelligent, you may be tasked with greater responsibility.

I now have a job at one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. doing digital marketing for various clients. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, easily.”

   One marketing major could not break into the marketing industry, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t successful.

"I got a marketing degree, just graduated this past May. I am a supervisor in a factory, making great money. A degree is a degree, you can spin your degree anyway you want to get the kind of job you want to have."

   In similar fashion, another Redditor passes on sage wisdom from his career counselor.

"My career counselor said it doesn’t matter what you get a degree in as long as you have a great cover letter."

    Well, it is true that a cover letter can make a massive difference. Honing your writing skills so that you can assemble stellar CVs is critical in any career path. 

    But my favorite career advice is straight out of an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: get a job cannon.


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Finished Work: Black USB Hubs for Warner Brothers

AnyPromo’s design and production teams love to show off their #finished work. This is just another project of the many, many projects they finalize on a daily basis.

By Fausto Mendez

    This week, we wrapped up production on a sizable stack of mobile USB hubs for Warner Brothers. I’m really digging the way the shade of blue (that was selected by WB staff) complements the shiny black of the outer casing.

    It’s simple and minimal, yet beautiful, sleek and modern. I really wish I could keep this one, but alas, it has to go back to the client. If you’re interested in slapping your logo on a box of these, inquire at or just call 1-877-368-5678.

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Life-Boosting Ad Campaign, reblogged from: jeremyben.

"OCB Virgin Paper - Virginminded

Advertising Agency : Road, Barcelona, Spain”


Creative Advertising Gone Wild: Print Ads for Hovis Bread

British brand Hovis just launched a new advertising campaign, and it’s really hard to stop staring.


By Fausto Mendez

    Creating an effective ad that keeps your eyes glued for more than a few seconds is actually pretty hard to do - unless you’re exploiting sex. In that case, it’s actually pretty easy. Whatever the product, just make sure a naked model is holding it. That’s why we’re really impressed with a new set of ads out of agency JWT in London for Hovis, a popular bread brand in the UK. The ads keep eyes glued without the use of sex.


     As you can see, there’s a lot to look at. The ads spark a sense of nostalgia (or parenthood in those of us with kids). The longer I stare, the more I seem to appreciate the smaller details, the more I long for that simple time when life was just about school grades, silly pranks, quick sandwiches and lots of dirt. Ah, the good-ol’ days.

    I think I want a sandwich now. I guess the marketing effects are kicking in, or maybe it’s just lunch time.

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Fonts make a huge difference…

You should really value a graphic designer that can take a step back to examine his work from other perspectives.


By Fausto Mendez

    “10 Fuckering Lights”. This is what happens when you hire lazy graphic designers, or maybe it’s what happens when you don’t hire graphic designers. 

    Best case scenario: store marks down your product, which makes it sell more than it would’ve without the mistake.

    Worse case scenario: your product gets moved to the sex accessories aisle, which enables you to pioneer a new style of mood lighting in the bed room.

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(Source: theamericankid)

Is this the most disgusting marketing strategy ever? Probably.

The Atlantic has a fascinating piece on a new marketing strategy that cosmetic companies and other businesses in the beauty industry are seizing; however, the world is probably better off without it.


By Fausto Mendez

    The new marketing strategy - a product of modern tech and social media - seems rather predatory but certainly effective. 


Is This The Grossest Advertising Strategy of All Time?

Most of the time, targeted ads are pretty harmless. You searched for a flight to Denver? Here are some hotels in Denver. You looked for new running sneakers? Here are a few options.

But a new “study” from marketing firm PHD recommends a strategy that crosses the line from merely targeted to outright predatory, explicitly advising brands to seize on the times of the day and week when women feel the most insecure about their bodies and overall appearance in order to sell beauty products and other goods.

Women, the study claims to have found, feel less attractive on Mondays, especially in the morning. Thus, as the release explains, “Monday becomes the day to encourage the beauty product consumer to get going and feel beautiful again, so marketing messages should focus on feeling smart, instant beauty/fashion fixes, and getting things planned and done.  Concentrate media during prime vulnerability moments, aligning with content involving tips and tricks, instant beauty rescues, dressing for the success, getting organized for the week and empowering stories.” Yuck.

Read more.

    It’s hard for me to disagree with such effective marketing, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s morally correct. What do you think?

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Download this Free Font: Langdon

Finding the best free #fonts isn’t easy (except when we post them here), but it’s always good for business to have some extra out-of-the-box typefaces within arm’s reach. That’s why we’re always searching the Web for its best-kept-secret fonts.

By Fausto Mendez

    This week, we bring you Langdon, a free typeface by XLN Telecom in the UK. The company describes the typeface as “solid, serious, dependable.”

    It’s easy to see why. The typeface stands out above all other language on the page, offering evenly spaced letters that are ripe for manipulation in your favorite graphics software. This one’s only for uppercase letters.

    The font is free to use for both commercial and private purposes, so it’s unnecessary to contact the copyright holder for permission to use these fonts in your consumer-facing marketing materials, such as promotional giveaways, branded items for retail, event supplies, ads and more. Download the font for free at XLN’s website.

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When Big Marketing Budgets Don’t Matter So Much: Social-Media Marketing & Trade Show Marketing

Jeremy Waite shares priceless truth & wisdom on social-media marketing, but it’s not exclusive to social media.


By Fausto Mendez

    Waite’s graphic above (and quote below) explains why social-media marketing is not so reliant on massive budgets. The same principal can also apply to trade-show marketing too.


"Too many brands running around trying to join the dots between all their different properties and hoping that one day they may be able to compete with the top brand in their industry.

Social business doesn’t work like that. It’s a level playing field. It’s like moneyball economics. Social “media” or whatever we chose to call it these days is still one of the only areas of business where you don’t need to outspend your competitors in order to beat them.”

    The big disconnect between trade-show marketing  and social is that having a big budget can make a pretty big difference at trade shows. Fortunately, trade show marketing is not all about big budgets, massive booths and extravagant displays.

    A little creativity can go a long way, and the fact that your smaller company shares the same space and traffic as much bigger companies really helps to even out the playing field despite budget differences. You don’t get that kind of “equality” on TV, paper ads, billboards or any other marketing space except for social media. Of course, it’s not an easy feat to outshow a showy brand like Sony or Samsung, but you can attract massive amounts of attention anyway. 

    There are lots of ways to do this, and you’re only limited by your creativity. One relatively easy way is to flood the trade show with attendees that are wearing your company shirts, hats or other apparel. But how can you coerce masses of people to wear your promotional apparel?

    One way is to launch a contest that requires participants to wear your shirt during the trade show to win prizes. I put together a detailed plan on that strategy at a previous blog post titled, "How to Get Everyone to Wear Your Promotional Shirt at the Next Trade Show.”

    The basic idea is to bring along some extra employees to walk and search the show floor, randomly handing out prizes - such as free products, gift cards, money or coupons - to attendees wearing your shirt. In order to attract the most attention from each prize giveaway, the key is to use bold extroverts with a showman’s attitude as your prize patrol. They should be loud, attractive, attention-grabbing people that you can’t ignore - perhaps accompanied by music, a short siren and/or light effects. Like I said, you’re only limited by your creativity.

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Moleskine + Paper App = Future of Notebooks? Kind of… It’s an amazing marketing campaign either way.

Moleskine’s new marketing campaign with Paper positions itself as a fun and artistic way of keeping in touch with loved ones.

By Fausto Mendez

    I’m rather impressed with this new, beautiful and brilliant way to keep in touch with loved ones that are far away. Actually, this service can do much more than that, allowing you to print a high-quality Moleskine of any saved “notebooks” in your iPad’s Paper app.

    The idea of sketching a book of the sights you’ve seen on your trip is certainly a much more artistic and touching way of saying “hello” than a simple postcard, and positioning the ad to focus on this scenario really gives the marketing campaign the kind of “wow” factor that it needs to spread virally over the Web.

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What Scams Should You Watch For When Hiring an SEO Firm?


By Fausto Mendez

    Finding and hiring a great SEO provider is tough. Some businesses can never find one, and worse, other businesses fall for dirty scams that cheat them out of thousands and thousands of dollars. That’s why you should watch out for the following scams when hiring an SEO firm.

    Our experiences with SEO companies has not been so great. Actually, we’ve never worked with an SEO firm that impressed us with measurable results and a reliable work ethic. As a result, we have enough experience to know what to look for in an SEO company that only offers ineffective services that are only designed to eat up as much of your money as possible.

    Search Engine Journal has a great piece on SEO scams. We summarize SEJ’s list below, and we follow up the list with a few scams that we’ve seen ourselves.

+ Don’t fall for “free” services. There is no such thing as a free SEO service that also works. It’s possible that the company selling you “free” services is stealing your data, your customers’ identities, or learning your trade secrets. In the best case scenario, a free SEO service is just a way for the company to get its foot in your door to sell you more expensive services.

+ Watch out for first-page guarantees. Any company that guarantees first-page rankings is (pardon my French) full of shit. Don’t get me wrong. Getting on the first page is certainly possible, but nobody has the power or skill to achieve first-page rankings so consistently that they can actually guarantee it. Real marketers never make guarantees except to guarantee to do their absolute best.

+ Beware meaningless services attached to big numbers, such as “submitting your site to hundreds or thousands of search engines”. The truth is that there are only a handful of relevant search engines, and it’s not hard to “submit” your site to these search engines. Anyone with a minimal level of skill and knowledge can do it.

+ Don’t believe anyone that says they have connections at Google. I’ve heard this line from every SEO company that we’ve talked to. It’s most likely a lie, and even if it’s true, NDA agreements and fat paychecks prevent Google employees from giving out insider knowledge or favors. 

+ Beware anyone that assumes they know Google’s Search algorithm. No one knows Google’s algorithm very well, not even former employees or even current employees. Google Search is developed and maintained by several sets of teams that specialize in smaller aspects of the engine. There probably is someone in the world that manages these teams and has better insight into the algorithm, but I’m sure that guy is paid far too well to risk getting caught handing over secrets to an SEO company.

+ No one has a secret formula for successful SEO. The information that you need to be a great SEO marketer is freely available to anyone that wants it. Even so, SEO is hard work and requires a lot of daily research. Any company that claims to have a secret formula is playing you for a fool. In SEO, the only secret is that there is no secret. Most successful marketers know what it takes to rank well. The problem is most people don’t want to do the hard work that gets them there. 

    SEJ’s list is great, but it feels somewhat incomplete. Here’s a few scams some companies have tried to sell us before.

+ Never (ever) buy backlinks or use a backlink farm. Google killed this strategy a long time ago, and any website that creates unnatural backlinks in mass is only going to encourage Google to drop the hammer of penalty & pain. 

+ Avoid companies that don’t have experienced and well-trained copywriters on staff. SEO firms that outsource copywriters often outsource really, really bad writers that only write English as a second language. That’s because they don’t have a writer on staff, so there isn’t anyone that recognize great copy. Google is getting much better at recognizing well written (user-friendly) content, and if it finds that you are creating a great user experience for your site visitors, your site should rank better over time. However, bad copywriters may actually hurt your rank.

+ Avoid companies that create tons of low-quality content to help your site rank better. Why? See the above details on bad copywriting. Basically, you don’t want to associate your site with low-quality content.

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WTF, Google? What Does the Search Engine’s Massive “Hummingbird” Update Mean for Me?


By Fausto Mendez

    Has Google felt a little bit different lately? On the surface, Google may look like the same, reliable search engine, but under the hood, the company just launched a major overhaul of its search algorithm. And it’s already affecting the way you search.

    Google is constantly updating its search algorithms to better serve the public; most updates barely tweak the search engine’s behavior. However, Google’s latest update - dubbed “Hummingbird” - is a major overhaul, and if you’ve used this week, you’ve already experienced features of the new change. We summarize the update below, the meatier details courtesy of TechCrunch

Presenting a New Focus on Questions & Answers

    Perhaps the most noticeable change is a new focus on questions and answers. Previously, Google Search focused on keywords, but now, Search takes a more intelligent approach to questions. Asking a question results in Google trying to answer it with the most relevant and reliable answers. 


    Furthermore, an update to Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is a database that attempts to store and relate (connect) all kinds of data from various sources, has made the search engine much more effective at comparing and “understanding” data. For example, you could ask Google to compare the nutritional characteristics of broccoli and asparagus, and it should bring up relevant comparison charts, diagrams, Google+ pages/posts and, of course, good-ol’-fashioned links.

    In my test of this feature, I didn’t get any fancy charts or diagrams next to my search results, which is what is supposed to happen (sometimes) if Google understood your question. Fortunately, the first link on the search results did feature a fancy chart. So it looks like the update made the search results more relevant and useful at the very least, but if you’re hoping for fancy charts by your search results, Knowledge Graph may need to grow and “learn” a little more about veggies.

Over 90% Of Searches Affected by the Update

    During Google’s presentation of the Hummingbird update, the company remained quiet on how it all works, but they did mention that about 90% of global searches would be affected by the change. That’s a big percentage for an algorithm update, and that number is absolutely frightening to search-engine marketers as they may have to make big changes to the way they operate, the clients they work with, and the employees they hire. I’m search-engine marketers will ponder it over one too many drinks this weekend.

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