Video: John Holt talks about how dealers can allocate high-funnel marketing dollars

Cobalt’s CEO, John Holt , talks about why its important for dealers to allocate some marketing dollars higher up in the funnel for the sake of attracting customers who are 4 to 6 months out in their vehicle purchase processes.  

Video interview featured in the Nov 23rd issue of Dealer Digest Daily:

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group


Cobalt Teams Up with Northwest Harvest to Tackle Hunger

On Sunday, November 8, a group of Cobalt volunteers turned out under grey skies at Qwest Field with friends and family to support Northwest Harvest’s annual “Seahawks Tackle Hunger” food drive. The drive occurred just outside of the stadium before the Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions game. This drive was the end result of a lot of planning and effort from many hands.

Cobalt has previously worked with Northwest Harvest, Washington’s own statewide hunger relief agency, donating money, time, effort, and people to the cause of getting nutritious food to those who need it. John Holt, Cobalt’s CEO, is committed to making an annual financial donation on behalf of the company, and his commitment has inspired employees across the company to give as well.

Months before the event, Cobalt’s Northwest Harvest committee, a hard-working trio: Jennifer Krause, Arthur John and Marcia Maling, met to make plans. It was Arthur who described the theme perfectly: “One family helping another family.” This was the theme that carried them forward.

Once the team decided on what they were doing, Jayden Feagins from the Cobalt Marketing team, expertly turned some rough copy into attractive promotional materials – visuals that were spread around the company to draw attention and spark interest in the Northwest Harvest drive. Jayden also designed posters and email notices for the event.

All the volunteers, from a number of Seattle-area companies, were deployed around Qwest Field on game day to carry a sign, or a bucket to encourage donations, as well as thanking the generous football fans for their contributions. This day was the easiest and most fulfilling part of the project; seeing the fruits of their labors come to life.

By the end of the day, 100 volunteers had collected $14,500 and 2,982 lbs. of food – nearly a ton and a half in canned goods. Of those 100 volunteers, 25 were from Cobalt! There were employees, friends of employees, family of employees, and friends of family. Even 9-year-old Juan was manning a bucket – with his mom Keisha and baby brother right beside him. Helping others is its own reward, and Cobalt is very proud of its volunteers and thankful for their efforts. Each of the volunteers received a Starbucks gift card as a small show of gratitude for a great day.

The event may be over for this year, but Cobalt isn’t done yet. Not satisfied with one success, the team is already planning how next year’s drive can be even better! Cobalt is filled with smart, successful and talented people – exactly the kind of people to help Northwest Harvest achieve even bigger successes in the future.

Cobalt is proud to have been a part of this year’s Northwest Harvest food drive, and looking forward to doing even more next year!

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group

Video: John Holt talks about calibrating dealers’ ad budgets

Watch a new video where John Holt, Cobalt founder and CEO, talks about how dealers should optimize their media budget in the current economy.

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group

What it Means to be a Cobalt “DieHard”

Over the past 14 years, Cobalt has grown from a small business to a leader in digital marketing for the automotive industry. With innovations such as unique display advertising, used car lead generation programs and owner marketing, Cobalt has proven to be a strong and effective company even in the recession.

The “DieHards”
On St. Patrick’s Day 2010, Cobalt will be celebrating its 15th anniversary, honoring its exponential growth as well as its hardworking and dedicated employees.  Within Cobalt there are 50 people who stand out and truly encompass the energy and drive of the company and its employees. These individuals have worked at Cobalt for nine or more years and are lovingly called the “Cobalt DieHards.” They are committed to the success of the company and focused on growing and learning with it. In total, the DieHards have given over 480 years of combined devotion to Cobalt.

As John Holt, Cobalt’s CEO, said, “Some of them have fancy titles; lots don’t. It doesn’t matter… they’ve given us sweat/commitment/contribution from their hearts for a long, long time… and that makes all of them the same… and very special.”

Remembering the Old Days
DieHards bring a unique factor to the Cobalt equation, offering unification as well as a wealth of knowledge about the industry and its transformations. When asked how they felt about being DieHards, many responded with “proud,” “old” and “excited.” To honor them, every summer for the past three years, Holt opens his home to the DieHards in celebration of their longevity and friendship, as well as in welcome of the newcomers to the group. They are given special DieHard name placards, jackets and, best of all, one extra personal day off each year.

“When I started working at Cobalt [in the late 1990s], most dealers didn’t have an Internet connection and many were using fax numbers to dial in. In order to present to a dealer or a group of dealers, I had to bring hardcopies of websites and a telephone line that was long enough to stretch from the fax machine to the conference room!” recounted Melissa Satterwhite, senior operations analyst and Cobalt employee for eleven and a half years.

The Drive for More
The DieHards have seen the company through many years of good times and some frustrations, including growing pains and winning large accounts like Lexus, GM and Volkswagen. Regardless, the excitement and motivation for the future is ever-present.

“We are constantly doing new things, working with new clients, growing and innovating. Cobalt is simply the very best at what we do. I am a firm believer of working hard and keeping your eye on the prize. If you’re looking to stretch your imagination and grow, then Cobalt is the place to be. Being a Diehard, we stick to it. I hope there is more of this as the years continue. More, bigger and better,” said Scott Sabo, director of enterprise sales operations and a Cobalt employee for eleven years and nine months.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cobalt Honored Twice for Wellness in 2009!

fit-company-award-logo-honorablemention2009In 2008, Cobalt was honored for its Wellness Program, promoting better health in its work force. Not to be outdone this year, Cobalt has been recognized twice for its advances in employee wellness.

The ClearAdvantage Trust has awarded Cobalt with the Best Overall Wellness Program for 2009, with this reasoning: “Through the years, Cobalt has consistently reviewed and assessed both their medical plan designs and wellness program offerings… As a result, medical renewals have been controlled; employees are becoming smarter consumers about healthcare and the workplace culture has embraced wellness which has been visible in increased usage of gym facilities, over 150 program participants engaging in health coaching, and an overall feeling of health and wellbeing.”

Healthyroads, Cobalt’s fitness partner, has also recognized Cobalt for increased fitness efforts in their first annual Healthyroads “Fit Company” Award for 2009. Wellness initiatives were judged on a point scale according to company commitment, innovation, communication, and participation and engagement levels.

“This honor is a testament to your company’s health improvement efforts for employees and fortifies your leadership position in the health and wellness industry,” said George DeVries, Chairman and CEO of American Specialty Health Incorporated. “Now, more than ever, you are set to become a true role model for organizations that are trying to engage their own employees.”

Julia Pizzi, Vice President of Human Resources at Cobalt, had this to say in response to winning the awards: “An Arabic proverb says ‘He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.’ Creativity and vigor can bloom when an employee is feeling fit and well.  I am delighted that Cobalt has been a pioneer in workplace community wellness, and I am pleased that Cobalt has been recognized by these two awards this year for results that have been achieved by the wellness efforts. My hope is that ultimately all employees at Cobalt will participate in the Wellness program during 2010 and the coming years.”

Cobalt is proud to be a wellness-focused employer who believes that a healthy workforce is a satisfied and productive one. All of the benefit plans offered to Cobalt employees are designed to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle, featuring a partnership with Healthyroads Wellness to bring employees the tools to monitor their fitness progress. Additionally, a free onsite fitness facility including; a basketball court, weights, elliptical, Stairmasters and treadmills are available to employees in the Seattle office, and healthy food is served in the vending machines.

Cobalt is honored to be recognized by wellness providers and partners this year, and plans to continue advancing the cause of a healthy workforce with new innovations in 2010!

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group

Pirates and Spooky Ingenuity at Cobalt’s Annual Halloween Party

Pirate posterHalloween is the time of year when all are welcomed to dress up in costumes and trick for a treat. It is a favorite holiday for many, including John Holt, CEO of Cobalt. Every year, Cobalt employees are cordially invited to the annual Halloween Party, where everyone is encouraged to dress up and enjoy Halloween-themed food, drink and, of course, contests! This year, Cobalt set out to “do it big.”

Party Planning
“Halloween is one of the big holidays where we really go all out. It took a month-and-a-half to plan the party. This year, I had a team of people helping with food and decorations and I couldn’t have done it without them. I really enjoyed managing the décor and hand-making the chandeliers,” said Sarah Morrison, executive assistant.

Cobalt Halloween began the weHalloweenParty_6ek before the party with cube decorations and roaming witches brooms, chasing all who entered the lobby. Also included was the annual Poster Contest where employees were enticed by prizes to design this year’s poster featuring the pirate-themed company party. Allison Maslow took the win for her outstanding design.

A Graveyard Fit for a Pirate
Finally at 3pm last Friday, costumed employees gathered in the auditorium where spooky decorations of skull chandeliers and black draperies, as well as, pizza and drinks awaited them.

“We had a candy gravelliott & ETeyard with tombstones where people dug up candy, pirate dog tags and stress balls. Many of the departments had themed costumes. There was a lot of sport and competition. Our department did the Roaring 20s and HR did a monopoly theme,” said Jeremy Helstrom, web builder.

Holt came dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow as he does every year; however, this year the Seattle Children’s Theatre added the final touches. Luckily for Holt, the makeup artists were well-versed in pirate makeup as they had been preparing for the Theatre’s production of Peter Pan. Other costumes included vampires and devils, a treasure chest and Elliot with ET.

Cobalt’s Costume Creativity
That’s not all. No Halloween party would bepirate's booty complete without friendly competition. There were several costume contests including Best Large Group, Best Small Group, Most Creative Individual and Best Cube Decoration. Best Large Group had stiff competition with Roaring 20s accepting the win and Monopoly as a close second. Best Small Group went to Iris Laband and Brian Hagins, the web analytics vampires. Kambrie Balser won Most Creative Individual Costume for her rendition of Betty Boop and Morrison won for Best Cube and her efforts in planning the party. Prizes included group Happy Hours and gift cards to various local merchants. All in all the party was a howling success.

Alyse Speyer
Contributing Editor
The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group

“This job is in the auto industry, are you crazy?”

onlinecarsales_1Chris Reed
Chief Marketing Officer, Cobalt

 I was talking to a close friend about a call I had received from a recruiter about an opportunity at a company called Cobalt in Seattle. We both had spent our careers at the cutting edge of technology and analytics, working with the world’s most sophisticated companies as clients. Our impression of the automotive industry was one of slow moving behemoths in decline. The idea of focusing my energies on that industry was just a non-starter; how could I stay on the cutting edge in such an industry? I told the recruiter that I wasn’t interested.

The recruiter was persistent. Did I understand that Cobalt was a leader in digital marketing, one of Google’s largest partners? Did I know that Cobalt had pioneered new practices in coordinated marketing across thousands of independent businesses? It seemed Cobalt was actually a digital marketing company that happened to specialize in the auto industry. What could it hurt to talk with them? I did talk to them and I’m glad I did. The auto industry is different. Buying a car, after buying a house, is one of the largest investments many of us make in our life. The car itself is more than a hunk of metal and plastic, it is symbolic of freedom and a means to express ourselves – whether that be to signal our status or our commitment to the environment. The industry has a rich history and many characters. What I discovered was that Cobalt was leading a quiet revolution within the industry, working with forward-looking manufacturers, Internet firms, agencies and dealers to exploit the rapid adoption of the internet by auto shoppers, lowering costs and bringing objective measurement to new areas of marketing.

As a marketer, I was fascinated by the opportunity to understand a specific shopping process in great depth, to deliver tailored experiences to the shopper to speed their decision, and to have the analytic insights to optimize their experience over time. Cobalt’s culture was also appealing. Having been in large companies and start-ups I knew I liked organizations that were still dynamic enough to create personal opportunity, but had sufficient scale to have market impact. Cobalt was in that “sweet spot” – I felt I could make a difference. The company’s culture was still guided by its founder, John Holt, and had a solid foundation of integrity and mutual respect, values that are important to me. I did make the move to Cobalt and I can honestly say there hasn’t been a boring day since. It is a pleasure to consult with a diverse set of clients and partners – independent business owners growing their businesses, advertising agencies and digital marketing leaders like Google and Yahoo! – to develop new cost-effective marketing approaches ideally suited to the times.

Today, Cobalt is ideally positioned within an industry in re-birth. The last year has shaken the industry to its core, challenging long held assumptions, opening minds to new approaches. There is absolutely no doubt that one of those new approaches will be the active embrace of the internet as a primary marketing channel for the industry. J. D. Power & Associates projects that the automotive industry’s spending on digital marketing will increase by 150% from 2008 to 2011. Cobalt is the clear leader in digital marketing for automotive retail networks – where the majority of this spend will occur. The industry itself is almost guaranteed to grow by 50% in the next few years from today’s depressed sales levels, as the market returns to the rate it needs to support population growth and vehicle replacement. If you are considering an opportunity with Cobalt don’t let the media image of the auto industry deter you. Here at Cobalt we are excited about the opportunity to transform and strengthen one of the world’s largest industries – come and join us!

The Cobalt Group

The Cobalt Group