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I love CES. I know it’s not cool to say that. But what’s better than a sprawling conference full of half-baked tech gadgets and sensory overload? In Las Vegas? With all your tech-media friends?

It’s the tech conferencest of the tech conferences. And like every other tech conference, it just isn’t the same this year.

We have clients participating, though not as many as usual. There’s still news, and cool product announcements. Journalists writing, bloggers blogging, thought-leaders thought-leading.

But CES 2021 is in the same foggy, liminal state as the rest of us. It exists purely on-screen, just like everyone…

Editorial Marketing
Editorial Marketing

How many “future of marketing” posts have you seen this year? A million?

Make it a million and one.

My issue with “The Future of Marketing” as a writing genre is that it tends to revolve around entertainment trends…

(“Every Brand Should Pivot to Short-Form Video: What’s Your TikTok/Quibi Strategy?”)

…or nascent technologies.

(“Microtargeting for Immersive Experiences: Welcome to Programmatic VR”)

If we’re doing our jobs as marketers, the future of marketing will be whatever the audience wants it to be. We can sometimes see around corners that the audience can’t, but in the end, the audience is always right

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The year is 1999.

The internet is exploding, powered by browsers like Netscape, and search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista. Google is in beta, but you probably haven’t heard of it. Goatse is a new thing that you shouldn’t look up on Alta Vista. You might have one of those Nokia candy bar phones, and maybe you even send text messages.

The world is changing. Information wants to be free. Data wants to be accessible. The Web wants to be weird.

In that year, a marketing call-to-arms was published called The Cluetrain Manifesto, which was kind of a guidebook…

A Few Things We Believe
A Few Things We Believe

I’ve been inspired lately by some very smart friends who are proponents of “thinking in public” and “intimate marketing.” The idea that you can work through ideas and thoughts better if you’re publishing, collaborating, and letting the community read and respond.

I haven’t really seen this done at an agency level before. Codeword ghostwrites thought-leadership content for lots of big ad agencies and tech companies, but the message of that content is often “we have the answers!” or “look at our amazing success!”

Which is great, and certainly worth sharing when it’s true.

But tbh, in the media and marketing…

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(This started as an email to Codeword management, but after lots of input and conversations with team members, we decided to post it publicly. Hope it’s helpful.)

I was inspired lately by Del Johnson’s excellent essay about why relying on “warm intros” is bad for VCs. If you haven’t read it, you should — it touches on a lot of the patterns we see in our work with startups and founders. Especially the lack of diversity, both in founding teams and the spokespeople that represent their companies.

Johnson argues that our networks are way more closed than we might think…

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TL;DR: We’re joining forces with our friends at WE Communications, to create a new (same but different) agency, WE Codeword.

As a former journalist, I love a good counter-narrative. The story that no one else is telling, the information that flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Codeword is built on counter-narratives. We’ve grown an agency without marketing ourselves. We’ve shaped a team of cynical journalists into skilled creatives. We’ve driven news cycles with a few well-placed IMs. We target the smartest audiences instead of the easiest ones. We’ve clung to our independence. …

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Art by Ana Macías

At Codeword, we believe the smallest, smartest, hardest-to-reach audience is almost always the most valuable one for a brand to reach. They care the most, they’re informed, and they tend to have the most influence.

But marketing to them is a dangerous game, for all those same reasons. And these niche audiences often have their own language, behavioral markers, and skepticism toward brands encroaching on their turf.

A few examples of these “dangerous” communities that we’ve worked with: The maker community, Minecraft players, body hackers, whiskey connoisseurs, military veterans, EDM fans, physics students, IT VARs, etc. …

TL:DR; Knock Twice has a new name. From now on, call us Codeword.

Looking back, the founding story of Knock Twice isn’t that unusual at all: like many of the startups we work with, we started out as a few friends who were winging almost every single thing. We learned as we went, and ended up in a pretty great place in spite of ourselves.

Indulge me for just a cathartic minute.

Mike and I were sitting on the roofdeck of Speakeasy during SXSW a few years ago. …

An abridged guide for the transitioning journalist

By my count, over the past couple years Knock Twice has hired around 20 journalists or fresh journalism grads, many coming from popular tech sites and blogs. For them, working in an agency setting is a whole new world with, you know, clients and reviews and budgets and extended timelines and stuff like that.

When I made my own transition from journalism to an ad agency, I got lucky with a couple amazing mentors, and even so, much of my first year was spent in a state of semi-confusion. …

We’re creating this bloggish thing so we have a space to mess around and share some thoughts. It probably won’t be that serious. But sometimes it might be!

Kyle Monson

Founding partner at Codeword.

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