The Confluence

Where we share ideas on creativity, data science and technology.

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Engaging Talent in an Era of Innovation

August 16, 2018

Originally published in CIOReview. The challenge It’s hard to keep a high-value, technical team motivated, polarized on the job and happy with their employer. Everything companies do is to leverage the latest and greatest: the newest technology, the latest challenges and innovating entire business structures. But, the latest and greatest doesn’t stop turnover single handedly. Instead,
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An Open Letter to Grey and to Putting 100% into the Creative Process

July 5, 2018

Originally published in The Drum. Earlier this year, Grey New York announced they’re dedicating 75% of their resources to creative. As a creative, I applaud that decision. It’s about time we all did something like that. But to me it also begs the question, why stop at 75%? Just the other day my account team
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Brands Leading the Way Through the Retail Firestorm

June 10, 2018

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” is upon us. The winds keep shifting and wildfires rage while retailers scramble to remain relevant and adapt to fast-changing consumer expectations. As retailers are slipping away in the charred wasteland of their own making, brands are now beginning to embrace their role in the re-invention
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10 Questions to Your Data Scientist to Pass the Sniff Test

June 1, 2018

In marketing, we don’t want to evoke je ne sais quoi. Specificity is currency. Be it the audience, be it the message, or the emotional reaction to our campaigns. In the age of data analytics as the backbone of marketing decisions, this relevance becomes more and more attainable. To say data science is a lot
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Deliver No Evil

May 25, 2018

As marketers, we love having it. We try to consider every input to deliver the most personal and closest to one-to-one message possible. All in hopes that this personalization will result in deeper connections with our customers and ultimately more sales. Dealing with the realities of GDPR. As consumers, we facilitate this. We ignore the
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When Rocket Scientists And Marketers Say “I Do”: Despite The News, The Marriage Of Data And Marketing Remains Strong

May 15, 2018

Talking about the weather forecast might mean you’re wondering aloud if family picnic plans are a viable entertainment choice on Saturday. And, if you’re a data analyst, like Brunner’s Matt Walentosky, a trained physicist who studied in Alaska and had portions of his thesis work published in the Astrophysical Journal about dwarf galaxy simulations, you
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Challenger Brands Don’t Climb the Mountaintop. They Transform, Then Own It.

May 10, 2018

There are big dogs and underdogs. There are champions and there are challengers. For every Goliath there is a David (or a Dana) waiting in the wings to slay him. For every established mega-brand there is a start-up getting off the ground in some home office or shared office cubicle. In fact, there are start-ups
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PR And Marketing May Be Converging, But They’re Not The Same

May 7, 2018

Originally published in MediaPost.   Whether it’s PR agencies hiring chief creative officers or advertising agencies creating award-winning PR campaigns, media convergence has resulted in a lot of changes to the traditional agency structure. Omnichannel marketing has become the default expectation of today’s consumer, and that means everything from PR to advertising to marketing often
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Five Basic Tenets for Employee Social Media Advocacy Programs

May 1, 2018

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.   Across our clients, average organic reach on Facebook for brand content ranges between 4% and 2%. Organic reach on other social media platforms is also waning. On the paid social media front, Facebook’s average CPM and CPC rose 171% and 136% respectively in 2017 according to a study
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The Value of PR Cannot Be Measured in a Vacuum

April 30, 2018

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.   “This campaign delivered a total of 687M earned impressions and more than $75B in media value.” Marketing and PR professionals have all read these kinds of statements in case studies, award write-ups and presentations, but how many have actually considered how these numbers were developed? If you did
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Defanging The Data Monster For Good

April 17, 2018

Originally published in MediaPost.   While Facebook and other global behemoths have long understood the power of data, the recent breaches and unlawful use of personal information have reminded them (and us) that their understanding is incomplete. Nonprofits are just discovering the power of data, and because they are not immune to troubles, they must
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Designing Women: Brunner’s Digital Duo Takes UX Development to New Levels

April 15, 2018

Originally published in PGHTECH FUSE.   Both come from the same small town in the southwestern Pennsylvania countryside. Both formerly worked as graphic designers. And both have married the art of design and technology as UX pros to produce globally award-winning work. UX Designer Trish Duffy and Visual Developer Amy DePalma didn’t meet until they
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Tips on How Companies Can Use Branding Videos to Generate Business Leads

April 1, 2018

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.   You know you need video content for your brand. But do you know how to use that content to actually generate leads or track the success of your content in terms of conversions? Let’s talk about “email gates.” You’ve probably seen these in action, but you may not
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Social Media Provides a Wealth of Insight on Consumers’ Home Improvement Activity

March 30, 2018

People actually do talk about more than politics on social media, believe it or not. In fact, converstions about home improvement are one of the most popular topics across channels. And for builders and brands that service these needs, it’s a great place to source business intel. An Ongoing analysis of social listening data on
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Brunner PROfile: Katie Collins, Social Media Strategist

March 15, 2018

Facebook is the largest and most sophisticated social media platform in the world. Marketers know it is a critically important communication medium. However, with all of its algorithm changes, budding ad formats and evolving user experience, brand marketers may find it intimidating and confusing. But wrangling the platform for the good of her clients is
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Analytics are the ticket out of “Valley of Crushed Dreams”

March 1, 2018

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.   We know that understanding the customer journey through analytics is key to driving relevancy and performance for digital marketing efforts. This helps marketers predict where we think people are going to go, where they want to go, and what will help inform and ultimately make their decision. If
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Five Simple Steps To Start Your Innovation Effort

February 28, 2018

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN PGHTECH FUSE.   The notion of a defined R&D or innovation initiative is not new. But these days it seems that just about every company is using some form of the word “innovation” in their positioning or value proposition. And with good reason. Simply put, innovation is the way that companies create new
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Don’t Send Customers Packing, Start Anticipating Wanderlust

February 15, 2018

Originally published in MediaPost.   People have high expectations of the customer experience. To say UX and content must be attuned to our every whim is an understatement. So why do so many brands get it wrong? Well, they’re not anticipating the needs of the consumer. Take, for example, mainstream travel sites. These brands are responsible
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Brunner PROfile: Anthony Monahan, Interactive Creative Director

February 1, 2018

Maybe it’s because he’s traversed disparate hubs of creative energy, working in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC and New York before returning to his wife’s hometown of Pittsburgh. Or, it can be traced to his childhood in Virginia Beach, where he spent days in a high school for the arts and afternoons designing epic
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Data Science and the Customer Experience Revolution Hits Home

January 30, 2018

Widespread digital disruption has compelled companies in the home improvement category to think critically about their future and the competitive advantages that will propel them to success. Increasingly, that advantage is delivered through the customer experience. Leading brands have mastered it: Amazon knows its shoppers, Facebook its users, Netflix its bingers and Home Depot its
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Social Listening: An Ear in the Conversation

January 15, 2018

For our home enrichment practice, we track monthly social media listening data on 10 home improvement categories. Figures include the volume, net sentiment, and passion intensity of conversations as well as a host of other metrics. In addition, we compare these monthly metrics to an 18-month benchmark report. Here’s a snap shot of conversations from
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Thinking Inside the (Subscription) Box

January 1, 2018

Orignally published in HBSDealer. Home brands fit nicely inside the subscription box concept. So what’s the hold up? Subscription-only brands, such as Stitch Fix, have taken advantage of the boom in boxes. For home brands, one of the greatest struggles is how to get products in the hands of new customers. Big-box competition is fierce, the
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When Real Things And The Internet Of Things Collide

January 1, 2018

Originally published in MediaPost.   Anyone over a certain age will recall AT&T’s 1987 “Reach out and touch someone” campaign. Ah, yes, back in the days when phones were connected to land, and our innocence didn’t allow a phrase like that to be an instant PR threat for companies of all sizes. It’s one thing to
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Agencies Should Start Thinking More Like Consultants

December 28, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   For the last five years, my account managers have called me Mr. Scopecreep. I’ve never been able to see a problem and not try to fix it, even if it’s outside my lane or scope of work. As a result, I tend to get involved in conversations or meetings I
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The Power Of Holiday Advertising: The Gift Of What If?

December 20, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   Ever imagine the surprise of finding out you have relatives you never knew you had? Cynics say to be careful what you wish for, lest everyone from hillbillies to Hollywood moguls show up on your doorstep. But the way advertisers portray tempting the fates makes buying a key to unlock
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Importance of Being There: Micro Moments for the Home Brand

December 15, 2017

Like the process of remodeling a home, it starts with emotion and never ends. Maybe it’s the tired, sweaty man push-mowing his vast, hilly lawn who cannot take another sneeze or muscle ache. He’s had it, so he realizes it’s time to invest in a riding mower and reaches for the phone in his back
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Nobody Leaves Baby, Er, Gen X in the Corner

December 5, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   “Gen X was a generation that grew up cynical, angry and profoundly insecure—or so goes the common perception. Why would any brand marketer want to target such a group?” – Adweek  I’ll tell you why. We may be the smallest generation, with about 60 million sandwiched in between 77 million
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Omnichannel Marketing is the First Step, Not the End Game

December 5, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   Congratulations on your integrated marketing plan, your omnichannel marketing strategy, your paid-earned-shared-owned media strategy — you’ve now completed the bare minimum of what customers expect. Just because marketers have finally started to consistently create integrated cross-channel plans doesn’t mean we should toot our horns too much. After all, we’re the
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Is your brand online-ready?

October 26, 2017

Originally published in HBSDealer.   According to The NPD Group, the volume of home improvement products sold online is swiftly approaching $11 billion, a growth of 41% compared to last year. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are seeing double-digit, year-over-year growth in online sales. With emerging competitors in the category like Amazon, retailers are placing
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Leaders still need people skills

September 12, 2017

Originally published in HBSDealer. In a not-so-futuristic world where robots and algorithms take over tasks and jobs once accomplished by human workers, it’s antithetical to say “people skills” would be the No. 1 ability future leaders need. But, it’s true. Everywhere you look, another headline addresses how artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots are transforming
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Machine Learning And AI – Don’t Buy Hype, Buy Solutions

August 17, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   To say machine learning is over-hyped is an understatement. And it would be wise for marketers to not get too dazzled by this shiny new tool. Here’s why in one sentence: new advances in machine learning are often unnecessary and undesirable if the objective is to gain business advantage from
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Deep Personalization: The Next Step In CRM Effectiveness

July 21, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   Companies are striving to personalize their marketing. Personalizing the content, the timing, the channels, the contacts, the journeys and so forth. It’s effective and, indeed, necessary in a marketing environment increasingly dominated by always on digital channels. In fact, a quick Google search will produce lots of advice about “getting
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The B2B Millennial Buyer: The New Decision-Makers in the Workplace…on Their Terms

June 27, 2017

Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.   Earlier this year, I asked a national sales manager from a leading consumer brand to share his biggest challenge in 2017.  His response – The buyers are getting younger. They’re all millennials and an older sales team has trouble relating to them. In 2015, millennials became the largest generation
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The Importance Of Quality Assurance

June 22, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   The era of digital transformation is here and with that comes the opportunity to rethink how things are done. “Things” is a pretty broad term, but a definitive process to work alongside the changing tech landscape can be equally as ubiquitous. Technology transforms how we work, but the constant challenge
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Is ‘Made in America’ Made for Millennials?

June 20, 2017

Originally published in HBSDealer.   For millennials, “Made in America” remains a key product attribute, but only if it conveys a sense of quality. Millennials aren’t necessarily buying American products to be patriotic or to support the American worker, but because the “Made in America” badge can serve as a mental shortcut for quality products.
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Pervasiveness Of Video In The New Media Landscape

May 26, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   Reach into your pocket. Chances are you have a video camera in there built into the smartphone you use every day. This freedom means just about anyone can create and publish videos these days. So then why do some videos seem to work really well while others fall flat? What’s
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Virtual Reality: Still Swimming With Sharks

April 25, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   “I want to live in there,” squealed a friend’s 7-year-old daughter. She had just taken a virtual swim with sharks through Google Cardboard. But, alas, kids bore quickly. Even in shark-infested waters. With “VR … revenue … forecasted to reach $4.6B in 2017”, according to Marketo’s “Virtual Reality is Now
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Ad Blocking Is An Opportunity, Not An Obstacle

March 31, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   Ad blocking is a hot topic. While many argue it’s still in its infancy stage, it’s not to be ignored. Fun fact: “One in five smartphone users, or almost 420 million people worldwide, block advertising when browsing the web on cellphones. Still, only 4.3 million Americans, or 2.2 percent of smartphone
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Analysis: Smart Home Tech Adoption

March 10, 2017

Originally published in HBSDealer.   Would you pay $229 to replace your front door deadbolt lock with Smart Lock? How about $200 to trade out your garage door opener for one that you can open and close with your phone? More often than not, homeowners just aren’t ready to get rid of their perfectly functioning
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The Service Soul: Service-orientation And The Human Connection

February 27, 2017

Originally published in MediaPost.   In this day and age, what does “service” really mean? Does it still have a place in business? Are we forgoing the importance of a heart-to-heart human connection for the convenience of technology? In the past, people were quick to pick up the phone and talk. Not only did this
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Why Brands That Are Direct Are Powerful

December 5, 2016

Originally published in MediaPost.   I recently returned from my honeymoon to France, Italy and Great Britain. In several of the cities we visited, I noticed United Colors of Benetton had “clothes for humans” splashed across their windows. The message was inclusive and inviting, a welcome change at a time when we are seemingly becoming
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Forget Training; Empower Digital Entrepreneurs

October 26, 2016

Originally published in MediaPost.   If we take a look at the multitude of digital consultants, “boot camps” and agency training programs initiated every year, we might assume the path to digital transformation bliss is paved by training. A January 2016 Forrester survey of top U.S. and European companies indicates 62% of them plan on
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FaceTime & Millennials: The Future Of Parenting And, Well, Marketing

September 26, 2016

Originally published in MediaPost.   Parents of Gen Xers used to let youngsters run outside and play the day away unsupervised. Then you had helicopter parents rigorously scheduling their kids’ free time and shadowing them through it all. Now, Millennials are becoming parents. And while they want to provide their kids more unstructured playtime than
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Pokemon Go Highlights Shifts In Augmented Reality

July 26, 2016

Originally published in MediaPost.   The Pokémon Go app is perhaps, as many breathless commentators have noted, a key breakthrough in consumer awareness and adoption of an augmented reality (AR) use. Since its launch, the app has 7+ million downloads with “60% … using it daily,” says A “killer app,” as they say. Or
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DIY vs. DIFM – 2nd in a Series of How Consumers Approach Home Improvement Projects

July 15, 2016

Painting an interior room is a fairly “doable” first DIY project for most new homeowners. Worst case scenario? You have to paint it again.  But what about something more complex, like changing out a sink vanity or cabinet in the bathroom? Worst case scenario? You’ve flooded your new home and have to use a neighbor’s
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DIY vs. DIFM – 1st in a Series of How Consumers Approach Home Improvement Projects

June 30, 2016

Nike tells us to “Just Do It;” The Home Depot advocates “more doing.” And today’s homeowners are…just not always by themselves. Do It Yourself (DIY)? Or Do It For Me (DIFM)? Or Do It With Me (DIWM)? Or all of the above?   What we’re finding is that that the type of “do it” depends on a number
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