AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

One-Minute MarketerA Little Theme Goes A Long Way

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A Little Theme Goes A Long Way

This summer we traveled through some of Wisconsin’s small towns and as I visited one, I was reminded of how important theme is to marketing.20180701_142753

The towns — population 1,200 to 2,000 — all seemed so well-kept. Even the smallest ones had fairly strong retail in their main streets. Now it is hard for me to remember anything about most of the small towns, but one thing is clear as a bell: Mt. Horeb. Mt. Horeb is the self-proclaimed “Troll capital of the world” and who would argue?  “You know Mt. Horeb, it has those trolls.” 

There are more than 15 life-size trolls around the city that were hand-carved. The entire town has adopted the theme, including the brewery called the Grumpy Troll.  When the bypass was built, community leaders decided to adopt the concept of a Trollway to entice visitors.

Themes help with marketing by:

  • Making the products and services (and cities) memorable in a sea of sameness
  • Helping to make people care about your product or service
  • Giving your story depth and making it much more interesting
  • Giving you a platform for future marketing

How do you know if you have a great theme? It is really as simple as the theme music of Star Wars (that let’s you know when the hero or villain appears).  The theme should connect on an emotional level. Just think of the little (and not so little) trolls around Mt. Horeb. Kids love the human-like crazy characters and you could see people snapping family photos around the trolls all across the town. Not only a story, but a great way to encourage social media exposure as well.


Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.