Where Does the Responsibility of Branding Live?

Recently I was approached by a professor from a top journalism and advertising program with a question about branding. He wanted my opinion on whether or not branding should be a point of emphasis in the program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a staple in the curriculum for a while, but they are looking to make it part of the degree emphasis.

Here‘s the short answer – heck yes.

Here’s a more thought out answer -

Advertising is without a doubt the one marketing element that receives the most attention and most dollars. It has the responsibility of taking all the other elements of the marketing mix and crafting a persuasive message to sum it all up.

Branding is more than a function of advertising. It should be a function of business. It’s permeates all elements of sales & marketing.

Let’s look at the traditional 4P’s of marketing and see how they can affect branding.

Product – We all know product is king. It dictates your brand offering. The way you shape the touch, taste, sound, smell, name or experience of your product is branding. Calling your Kentucky-based fried chicken company Kentucky Fried Chicken is branding. Changing it to KFC to lessen the negative affects of health conscious consumers is also branding. So is the really cool buckets they come in.

Price – Your price tells customers whether you are a premium brand great reward or an inexpensive value brand. You can buy a .99 cup of coffee or a $4 cup.

Place (distribution) – The way you deliver your sales experience is everything about your brand. The fact that a fast-food restaurant can be found everywhere is branding. Your website’s appearance is branding (the role of websites today are no longer interactive brochures – they are a company’s 24 hour visitor center). If it were not, we’d all have plain type on white backgrounds for our websites.

Promotion - Okay, this is what people really think of when they think of marketing. It includes advertising, direct marketing, online media, events – heck anything that allows you to tell other people about your product-service. The way you say it is branding. A cardboard sign with a handwritten message that says “Fresh Corn” is branding. So is the same message typed out on a digital billboard or neon sign. Which one would you buy from?

Not only should the advertising program be teaching it, but it should make its way into other areas of study like public relations, fashion design, interior design, hospitality management or restaurant management.


Here’s a Way to Build Your Destination Brand – Hire Someone to Live It

Everyone is looking for a job, so why not hire someone to live your brand? Recently some tourism organizations have been creating some nice exposure for themselves by advertising new jobs to work at their destination – all in the name of branding. Apparently, the newest way to tell your destination’s story is to hire someone whose job description embodies your brand. I love it. The most widely talked about has been Queensland, Australia, who recently won the coveted Grand Prize at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival with an ad campaign seeking to hire "the best job in the world". The advertising calls for applicants to fill the role as caretaker of Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. They received over 34,000 applications from over 200 countries. I guess that means it worked.

First of all - great idea. I wish I had thought of that.

This is no different than expecting to see the big jolly elf in Santa Claus, IN or North Pole, AK (he does live in both places you know). Let’s have some fun. What other interesting destinations could hire a person to be the ambassadors of their brand?

Here are a few I came up with -

Chief Leprechaun – Dublin, OH (they’re tourism tagline touts where Irish Is An Attitude; Hmmm do you think they could go too far by making their official breakfast Frosted Lucky Charms? Probably.

Purveyor of Flavor - Mesquite, TX (their local CVB uses the tagline - Real. Texas. Flavor.)

City Manger of Creativity - Providence, RI markets using the Creative Capital.

Maestro of Music – Nashville, TN (who now officially uses Music City as its brand theme)

Storymaster – Jonesboro, TN (home of the world’s international storytelling festival)

Master Tailor - Augusta, GA (their tourism organization inspires everyone to “Play Augusta” and make all experiences a green jacket moment)

The Candyman - Hersey, PA (that was just too easy)

Head Witch - Salem, MA

Dr. Love – Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)

The Wizard - Liberal, KS who touts being the Land of Oz

Okay. I think you get the picture. If every community took this approach to branding, not only would it bring their brand to life literally, but it would create lots of cool jobs. “Copy catters” are already out there. Snow Peaks Canada is promoting a 3-month opportunity to become a snow bum (check out www.snowbumcanada.com). Nicely done.

Do you have any ideas for destination jobs? Let’s see what you got?

Four Ways Destination Brands Are Not Created

Everyday I read about a new city undergoing a new branding project, only to learn all they are really doing is developing a few marketing tools. I've been privelaged to help several communities with their own branding project. Here are four common misperceptions for creating destination brands.

Design a New Logo
A logo is a great tool but just because you make one doesn't mean you have a brand. It's just a mark to recognize once you've done something with it.

Write a New Tagline
It only means something if it's bold and really true. Most cities make it more of a political statement so it ends up being a watered down phrase like "a great place to live, work and play". Woopity-doo. No one ever made a decision to visit or relocate to a city because of a catchy tagline (or logo).

Hold a Contest
Ever heard of a contest for the creation of a community logo? Some places do it. Every time this is done to create political harmony. Truth is, taxpayers should be outraged that public funds will be put to use to market a community by a message crafted in a contest, not professionals. Also, the winner is normally selected because of its ability to speak to everyone, not on its ability to be targeted and bold (that also means it would be memorable).

Creative by Committee
Every single community is filled with talented and creative problem solvers. As individuals, they can help a city achive greatness in marketing. They need to be engaged with any community branding initiative. As a large group, decisions are made after everyone compromises. Annoint 2-3 people to be in charge of making creative decisions according to an agreed upon strategy. You may not agree with the creative work, but it will be better.

Here is one tip on what a destination brand is - a lot of work. I'd love to hear ideas and opinions for what you believe is important for creating great destination brands.

An Easy Rule When Writing Social Media Content for People Over 30.

Just remember WWBRD.

What would Bonnie Raitt do? Give people something to talk about. That’s it. Media has always been social when the message is compelling. If the message is not relevant or interesting then no one cares. Some things never change.

If you’re under 30 then you may not know who Bonnie Raitt is. When I threw this idea around my younger peers, they looked at me like I had horns on my head.

Any ideas for a younger, more hip way to remember this rule? I’m sticking with WWBRD.

Social Media Tips at the Nashville Technology Council

I attended the NTC Social Media Roundtable Discussion yesterday in the Microsoft Cool Springs office. It was a nice event.

Here are the top 10 things I learned:

1. Tweetdeck is a tool for monitoring Twitter/Facebook activity and trends. Cool.

2. Twitterfall is a tool for catching specific Twitter activity for specific groups using hash tags.

3. I sort of learned what hash tags were. We were #ntcpanel. We watched all activity from the meeting on Twitterfall.

4. To be a part of the social media marketing game means marketers have to be willing to have less control and be more collaborative with customers.

5. It’s not about reaching the most people. It’s about reaching the right people. Good lesson.

6. Book written called Ground Swell. It introduces the concept of POST for a sound approach to social media.
  • People
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Technology

7. Another acronym used for setting goals is LACE. Pick which one you are trying to accomplish.
  • Leads
  • Awareness
  • Customer Service
  • Engagement

8. Twitter idea from sschandler. Use it like the old school radio promotion. The 13th Tweeter to twitter.com.XYZ gets a free gift card. This may work well for more retail oriented customers.

9. Twitter is a great way to create a call to action. But it must be inviting not commanding. “Give us instant feedback on your experience or follow us on Twitter”, and include your Twitter tag.

10. Set up multiple Twitter accounts for different objectives. If your company uses Twitter is it trying to accomplish several things on one Twitter account. Is that effective or should there be more than one Twitter account?

What does tomorrow's marketing agency look like?

I've been doing the ad agency thing now for about 15 years. I remember the good ole days. Clients would call us asking for help with their $5 million account. We would develop a plan to spend 50% on three TV stations, 30% on local market radio and 20% on 3-5 print vehicles. We spent three weeks developing plans and another 3-4 weeks in production. Cha-ching - ad campaign is finished. Okay, maybe we did a little research up front to control, oops I mean learn, consumers' preferences. This was used to support the decisions that had already been made, oops I mean influence our decisions that were ahead of us.

Cliff Shaluta, Professor of Advertising at Western Kentucky University, recently posted a blog entitled A New Model for Ad Agencies. He does a great job trying to shape the madness that has been created with the surge of social media such as Facebook. Ad agencies are scrambling to retool their processes to include more online communications. PR agencies are claiming the current world of social media is a natural extension of public relations (after all they've been in the business of creating natural consumer buzz for years). Online marketing gurus have elevated past being just web designers and are staking their right to be kings of the online universe - the business they were born into.

What do I think tomorrow's marketing agency looks like? I honestly have no idea, but it will be a fun ride.

My favorite personal brand – Daddy!

We all try to position ourselves as a personal brand. Whether we want to be known as a marketing strategist, a social media expert, a pastor, a though-leader, a writer, a banker, a baker or a candlestick maker. Especially with the hub-bub around social media groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, everyone is constantly trying to make a name for themselves in some area of expertise.

Here’s a charge to all fathers out there. Make your brand, Daddy, your highest priority!

Ever notice when men gather together, especially in a professional environment, they are always sizing each other up? Usually the first question is something such as, “what do you do?”, or “tell me a little about yourself”.

If you want to make the conversation stop immediately try answering this way – “I’m a Daddy. During my week days I am also an online marketing strategist.” Revel in their surprise. Say it with pride. Heck, it might even make their conversation with you more memorable.

I love being a Dad. It’s an awesome responsibility and the most fulfilling role I’ve ever had to serve. It’s not easy. Being the Dad I want to be requires a conscious plan for building the young men I want my boys to become. Yes, they absolutely follow their fathers footsteps. Good and bad. The personal brand Daddy is not going to happen by accident. It requires a lot of effort (like the shaping of any other brand).

Life speaker and pastor Dr. David Foster said, “Anyone can be a father; it takes a manly man to be a daddy!”

Right on Dr. Dave!

Happy Father’s Day to all you Daddy’s!

Fish Where the Fish Are

An old lesson learned again.

I went fishing last weekend for six hours in the middle of the day. I caught nothing. My 5-year-old son joined us late in the day (dinner time) and he immediately caught his first fish (and two others moments later). Lesson learned? Sure, go ahead. I am not a good fisherman. What else? Fish where the fish are. Sounds like an age-old marketing lesson to me.

There are so many bloggers, white papers, analyst, ad agencies and consultants all telling us how to better understand the emerging online marketing world. Each one has a secret for how to balance traditional advertising and the new digital media. Maybe the most fundamental rule of marketing has never changed – fish where the fish are. Today over 66.2% of all US consumers are online and 1 out of 3 is on Facebook. Over 56% of all leisure travelers are now making reservations online. If you are in the travel industry, your web site is more than a brochure of amenities; it’s now your visitor center!

So the basic rule of marketing is alive and well. Fish where the fish are. Don’t be afraid to go there or worry if it’s a trend or not. There once was a time the fish were only watching three TV channels. Tomorrow the fish may be on the moon. If so, we will all be exploring ways to market there too. I’ll settle for the online world today.

Community Branding Basics

Seven Steps for Developing a Destination of Distinction

I’ve been fortunate enough to lead destination branding projects for over 35 communities. As I look back at the variety of cultures, assets and politics surrounding every effort, these fundamental points stand out as the pillars for success when you are beginning a community branding initiative.

1. Identify your core stakeholders.
Every community has a group of core stakeholders that guide the direction of the destination. Yes, this is the same group most often accused of controlling the political pocketbooks of the town. Truth is, they stay involved and know how to get things done. If this group includes Tourism, the local Chamber, the City and Economic Development you’re ahead of the game. Without a group of passionate people behind a community branding effort, nothing happens.

2. Engage everyone else in the community - somehow.
When people have a chance to voice their opinion they feel valued. Granted, the most vocal citizens are the same ones who show up at council each month and seem to do nothing but complain. Nonetheless, they are passionate, even if they are sometimes misguided. Naysayers will exist. You'll have to get over it and move on. Providing a vehicle for citizen input on the vision of a community is important. And it should be, it's their community.

3. Authentic experiences matter if you want to be remembered as somewhere distinct.
Everywhere, and I mean every single community, says they are a great place to live, work and play. That may be true, but it not a distinct statement. If you are going to really consider branding your destination, you must first decide to fully commit to leveraging your soon to be established USP (unique selling proposition).

4. What other people say does matter.
Have you ever gone house shopping and asked potential neighbors what they think of the neighborhood or community? Why wouldn't you do the same when learning the perceptions of your community? Ask neighboring community leaders and citizens what they think of your community. Good or bad, it's some of the most important feedback you could learn.

5. Taglines and logos are important, but way over emphasized.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to branding and marketing a destination. No one has ever made a decision to visit or move a business to a community because they liked their logo. This is probably the single most controversial area of community branding. Often a high-dollar price tag is assigned to a very complex branding project only to have one loud vocal citizen turn it into an overpriced logo design. Two primary tips to avoid this: 1) don't unveil a logo to celebrate the completion of the branding initiative (not sure I've ever seen McDonald's do this) 2)educate the public on the real insights of the project and how it will be used to make decisions moving forward.

6. Hire an outside (dare I say it) consultant to moderate the process.
Yes, the dreaded C word will instantly create cries to keep the business local; however, a local provider instantly creates conflicts over political alliances. An outsider brings a fresh unbiased perspective. Even Tiger Woods has a golf coach watch his swing.

7. Develop a marketing plan for success.
Most communities want to be recognized like Las Vegas, but seem to forget about the years of publicity, amount of investment and advertising that has been put behind it. Don’t expect to be recognized like McDonald’s, Nike or Apple if you’re spending like Taylor’s Bait Shop. More importantly, develop a marketing plan so you can see the affects of your efforts and measure the ROI of the dollars spent.

A Town Hall Meeting of the Nashville Advertising Industry

This past Thursday, I was the moderator for a town hall discussion held by the American Advertising Federation on the current economic climate of the Nashville advertising industry. All those who attended participated in a passionate exchange of observations and advice on how to get through these tough times. Here’s my list of the top five things discussed:

1. Consumers are in control more than ever. Haven’t we heard this before? We all have been saying this for a several years; however, in our quest to chase profits we find ourselves being reminded of this simple principle. In a world where mass media has been replaced by personal media, listening to consumers is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

2. Marketers are adjusting their messages in an attempt to empathize with consumers current fears. In a world of bail-outs and an uncertain financial future, security and comfort can be found everywhere in advertising today. One such example is Nationwide Insurance, who has dropped their “Life comes at you fast” campaign and gone back to the long running theme, “Nationwide is on your side”.

3. Marketers must be careful not to sacrifice long-built brand equity or long-term strategies for achieving short-term gains. Everyone is offering discounts and deals never before seen in order to create the added value consumers are demanding (see #1 about listening to the consumer). But remember, value is not just about low prices. Added value can be achieved by providing more than what is expected. If a consumer feels they have received more than they paid, they’ll keep coming back and tell others!

4. There was a lot of discussion around the emerging role of social media and how it has affected other traditional media. The big take-away was probably this – consumers are still consuming media. Most importantly, consumers have changed the types of media they are consuming, and they’ve changed the way they consume all media. Again, less mass and more personal.

5. Ideas still matter – a lot. Bring people ideas (consumers, customers, clients) and you create value.

Do you have more ideas or suggestions worth sharing? Add to the list. This is new territory for all of us. The more we share the more we evolve.

The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club – A Marketing Lesson Unlike Any Other

I played Augusta this week. Well sort of. I did not play golf, but if walking around admiring the magnificent beauty of the single most defining atmosphere of any sport can be considered playing, then that’s what I did. That’s right. I said it. Let the debates begin. I absolutely believe no venue defines its sport more than Augusta National does for golf. Fenway Park. Daytona. The Brickyard. Actually, old St. Andrews of Scotland is pretty darn defining. But I still place it behind Augusta National.

From a marketing perspective, there are actually some strong lessons we can learn from Augusta National (and a few of the other sacred venues in sports). Here are three of them that jump out to me:

1. Exclusivity matters. Imagine if your company delivered an experience so strong that customers would be thrilled to pay a premium for it. There’s an aura of privacy to Augusta National that builds on its lore. Marketers use membership and loyalty clubs to create this very reaction.

2. Don’t erode your identity for profits. Often we see companies salivate on their own success so much that they attempt to capitalize every way possible. Many of us call this a “sell-out”. Augusta National has two sponsors for the most important golf tournament of the year. Why? They have always felt commercialization of the tournament would lessen the golfer and spectator experience. An easy call to make 50 years ago, but in today’s multi-million dollar sponsorships it’s tempting. Augusta National maintains its elite status by standing to its low commercial content rules today (56 minutes of every hour broadcast on TV is commercial free).

3. Aesthetics matter – a lot! What do you think of when you think of Augusta? Here’s my list: golf; azaleas; pines; Masters; green jackets; greatness; tradition; a theme song (I can hear it now); perfectly groomed fairways and greens; caddies wearing white jump suits; the 13th hole (Amen Corner). That’s quite the profile. Was there any question where I was talking about? Their consistencies behind the elements that give them their identity are the reason why Augusta National has such rich imagery.

I’m sure the list could be longer. If you have any extras let me know. I’m off to leverage the inspiration of Augusta into a better golf swing.

Which marketing book keeps you coming back?

A recent blog by Jonah Bloom with Advertising Age issued the Top 10 Media and Marketing Books of All Time http://adage.com/bookstore/post?article_id=134945

It's worth sharing to see which ones made your lists over the years. What's the best marketing book you've read not on the list? Which book do you have countless pages turned and sticky notes attached?

Al Ries and Jack Trout

David Ogilvy

Al Ries and Laura Ries

Matt Beaumont

Luke Sullivan

Randall Rothenberg

Jim Collins

Howard Luck Gossage, Jeff Goodby and Bruce Bendinger

Robert B. Cialdini

Malcom Gladwell

Irish Is An Attitude – Just Ask The Folks In Dublin, Ohio

Who says you have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day? Heck, Patrick himself wasn’t Irish. Apparently the folks in Dublin, Ohio feel the same way. This jewel of a town has done a fantastic job of leveraging one of their greatest assets –their name. One small secret is the town has little connection to Irish ancestry. Its founders gave the dubious honor of naming their new village to their land surveyor, an Irishman who named it after his homeland, Dublin, Ireland. Today, Dublin is becoming one of America’s least kept secrets for enjoying Irish tradition, particularly on that sacred day of green, St. Patrick’s Day. In August, they hold an Irish Festivals that now attracts near 100,000 visitors. This was no accident; the city of Dublin and their active Convention & Visitors Bureau make a strong effort to deliver an Irish experience 365 days a year. Dublin is a great example of how to extend the attributes of a destination brand into the community. As evident by their green fire hydrants, themed festivals & events, community colors (yes the Chamber, City and tourism logos all contain a green clover) and their three rival high schools nicknamed the Irish, Shamrocks and Celtics. They even give out a “Living the Irish Attitude Award” to community businesses that add to the Dublin destination experience. One local hotel named its meeting rooms after Irish counties. Now that’s living the brand!

If you are ever in and around Columbus, Ohio I encourage a visit to Dublin – check out their web site at www.irishisanattitude.com. It really is magically delicious.

Fans Rule! Just ask Coca-Cola.

Last week I posted an entry about the power in being fancentric in your marketing. Did you know Coca-Cola has the second most popular page on Facebook (#1 is President Obama)? Here's the kicker, Coca-Cola didn't create the popular FB group, a fan did. Advertising Age recently published this fantastic story - http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=135238.

I also failed to mention a very popular book written about turning customers into fans called Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service written by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.

March Madness Teaches Us the Value in Being Fancentric

Is there a better month for any sport than that of March Madness and NCAA basketball? I personally love how it brings out the most rabid of fans. If you watch any Kentucky NCAA tournament basketball game (don't expect to see any this year) you'll see an Elvis impersonator dressed in complete Kentucky gear. You'd swear the King is alive and well living in the Bluegrass state. Also at the game will be students doning blue body paint and a sea of blue and white jerseys. Kentucky fans have actually been nicknamed the Blue Mist because of their numbers and extreme loyal following. Even UK graduate and well-known Big Blue follower Ashley Judd is among this group. After the buzzer, faithful fans will scream, cry, and even hug complete strangers all in the name of their team.

Creating fans should be the ultimate goal of marketers. If we could deliver an experience so authentic and meaningful to our customers that it helped them identify themselves, we'd have marketing gold.

Here are some examples of brands that don't just have customers, they have fans.

ESPN - I actually heard someone from ESPN speak to a group of Nashville marketers. They actually believe the difference between their network and others is that others have viewers while ESPN has fans. This is the basis of the "This is Sportscenter" ad campain.

Harley Davidson - What marketer hasn't mentioned Harley Davidson in a meeting as an example of someone who has created fantastic brand loyalty among its customer base. We all see people wearing the black and orange Harley apparel whether they are riding the motorcycle or not. It instantly makes a statement of who they are (I wish I had a Harley).

Other brands to deem fan-centric are: iPod, BMW, IKEA, and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ? Sure. Followers of this man have cried, sang and hugged complete strangers. Sounds almost like a college baskteball fan.

Let's challenge all marketers to try turning their customers into fans. Maybe it will turn the consumer experience into something so valuable we wear a t-shirt to tell the world.

Who's on your list of fan-centric brands?

Heidi Klum Understands the Basics of Marketing

While I was at the Playboy Mansion interviewing Heidi Klum was as much of a mystery to me as anyone. I was working on a project to help the sport of bowling. My client had a bowling ball made with the famous Playboy bunny logo on it, hence the involvement of Heidi and the folks at Playboy.

One side note - I happen to have spent much time over the past seven years helping Ebonite International market bowling balls and other consumer products. The industry has a substantial problem: they are losing league bowlers. They have a dire need to grow the sport.

Anyhoo...Heidi (we are now on a first name basis) was perplexed at why I was agonizing over what to do. She thought the product was cool. My problem was I didn't understand how a simple ball design would make people want to bowl more. Help me Heidi!

"This ball can make people feel sexy," she said.

"Uh, sure Heidi. One problem. Bowling is not sexy. It's nachos, pitchers of beer, loud crashing noises and lots of other things. People do not think bowling is sexy."

"Well isn't that what smart marketing is supposed to do; make people think differently about something than they did before? If it were only about reinforcing current behavior we really would have no need to spend millions of dollars on advertising would we?"

Wow. So simple but so true. I had become so focused on the rules of engagement prescribed by years of marketing to "bowlers", that I was unable to look outside the norm.

Okay, for clarity, the above scenario did occur this week - in a dream. I guess between my work related activity in bowling and watching re-runs of Project Runway (it was with my wife I promise) the two topics fused together to create a really cool project work-start meeting in the Playboy Mansion.

Nonetheless, there's a cool lesson. As marketers, we can sometimes be bold just by changing the rules. There's a great book about this very idea called Beyond Disruption. It's all about identifying the rules of conventional thinking and creating methods for disrupting and standing out. That's the whole point of building a memorable brand!

Now I must dig out of this dream with my loving, beautiful and understanding wife Dolly.

The Secret Sauce for Achieving Advertising Rock Star Status Is Revealed Over Dinner With Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Ryan Kutscher

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is hot! Real hot! They were recently named Advertising Age’s 2008 Agency of the Year to no one’s surprise. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen their work. They’ve been Burger King’s agency for the past several years and received some strong attention with their recent "Whopper Virgins" campaign and "sacrifice-a-friend" Facebook application. They have also recently produced work for Microsoft (Bill Gates & Jerry Seinfield), Volkswagon and Coke Zero (they were responsible for the Mean Joe green re-make in this year’s Super Bowl).

Recently, I had the opportunity to have dinner with one of CP+B’s Creative Director’s Ryan Kutscher, who works on the Burger King account. This was an opportunity to learn the magic of CP+B! I could take this knowledge, bottle it up and sell to the millions of advertising geeks looking to become famous over their big idea for marketing toilet paper. But before I reveal the CP+B secret, let me briefly describe Ryan Kutscher.

Simply put, Ryan is the rock star we all want to be. I picked him up at the Nashville International Airport. He was waiting for me in baggage claim when I arrived. He wore giant dark shades - the kind that cover up your entire face. Designer blue jeans with a huge belt buckle probably emblazoned with his latest creative award and some cool t-shirt that implicitly said, “I am one cool dude!” He stood well over 6 feet tall and carried the frame of a competitive body builder. Needless to say I was impressed. He fit the stereotype of the ad world's idea of a well-known agency creative director.

So back to dinner and my quest to learn the secret sauce of advertising greatness. I could practically smell the money I would make from the many speaking engagements and books deals that would soon follow. After a delicious coffee cured steak from Stoney River (if you haven’t had this you must try it) which Ryan and I both ate (no we didn’t share it), it was time to drink a glass of red wine and talk shop. No more waiting. Here it goes. “Ryan, what’s the secret at Crispin? How do you guys do what you do? How do you continue to do great work and get more big name clients?“

Ryan didn’t hesitate to answer. After all, it was engrained in his skull from years of Crispin training. “Man, I think some of it was being lucky.”

“Lucky?” I gasped. “Surely you guys have a Whopper-like special formula for creative success?”

Ryan kept the discussion pretty simple. To paraphrase, he said something like this, “To some extent I think the agency had a bit of luck in finding the right clients at the right time. Maybe that was one hundred percent planned. Not sure. I wasn’t there. What I do know is that the agency got an opportunity with TRUTH, and it turned out to be a great fit. The result was some really great work. Creatively, strategically and tactically it was really successful, really smart, and really different. That sort of began this momentum. MINI again just seemed to really click with the style of the agency. I’m not sure you can ever really know that’s going to happen like that. That’s why I say luck. And then there was BK, who I’ve been told, was widely considered one of the worst clients in advertising. Which is hard to believe, because I do have experience working with them. It was the first client I worked on, and now about 5 years later I can tell you, they’ve got to be one of the best. Luck again? Not sure. But, I think there was a little good fortune there.”

So that’s the secret sauce? A little luck? Wait a second. Perhaps the secret sauce is not a process. Perhaps it’s just a firm stance to be different and sometimes bold, regardless of the size of budget or how well known the client name is now. Anyone can create water cooler chatter over a Super Bowl spot for Budweiser using millions on production costs. Tomorrow’s rock stars are going to be made by the assignments and clients waiting to be popularized just like the Truth campaign. After all, that’s why they hire an advertising agency. Making them famous and creating fans are part of the job.

To end this blog, thanks Ryan. You taught me well and saved me from the embarrassment of buying an entire new wardrobe. I don’t need rock star jeans, cool shades or bulging muscles. I honestly don’t think they would have the same affect on me. Instead I’ll apply what we’ve all learned and relearned every few years as we watch another small agency rise to rock star status.

1. Do great work for our existing clients – NOW – using whatever budgets they give you. No excuses.

2. Push your clients to be unconventional in their approach to marketing. Big ideas that do this are why they are pay us.

3. Be willing to tell a prospect no if they are not willing to do #2.

I’m still buying a belt buckle.

Will 'Crazy Larry' Be Leaving Car Advertising? If not, at least one person gets it.

I was churning out some serious cardio mileage at the new fancy shmancy YMCA Nashville this past Friday. I was in a zone. No distractions could break me. Suddenly, my attention was seized by a TV ad for Action Nissan. It demanded my attention. It was so unusual and unique versus other car dealerships.

Here's the big surprise - there was no "crazy Larry" screaming his head off. No host showing off cute children assuming I'll be mesmerized into buying a car. "Gee, I get it. Your kids are cute so you must know a lot about cars?" No damsels tempting me to taste the forbidden fruit of great deals. No, the Action Nissan ad was unlike any other car advertiser of recent memory. It treated me like a smart consumer!

I have no idea who produced the TV commercials, but I guess that makes this less self-serving. Action Nissan actually stood out and created great awareness by being different (Marketing 101). Their message was clean, simple and informative (it was also nicely produced for whomever did it). Sure, they are pushing products like the next guy, but they didn't look like the next guy. I even went to their web site, and lo and behold, it reflected the same design and messaging as the TV spot. Continuity! What a glorious day it is! Hope is not lost. A change is coming in the world of marketing. Action Nissan is proof. And we can all be a part of it! Yes we can! Yes we can!