What would you look like as a Venn diagram?

Last Saturday I received a very interesting text message. It was from a former client of mine who was the CEO of a popular American brand. The text said that she wanted to talk about potentially working together on a new marketing campaign. She wanted to know if I could talk the next day. Which, for those of you familiar with calendars, was Sunday.

I have always really liked this woman. She is smart, savvy and aggressive. But what made her text particularly interesting was that I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in 5 years. That’s right. 5 years. So I was quite surprised to hear from her. Pleasantly surprised, yet surprised nonetheless.

Sunday afternoon we jumped on a call (actually there was no real jumping). She told me that about the exciting things unfolding at a new company that she is now leading. She said:

The work we need to do requires someone who is passionate, strategic and highly creative. And the first person I thought of that fits that description is you.  -Former Client

That may have been baloney. I may have been the 5th person she thought of. Or the 50th. Or 500th. But the thing that struck me was the Venn diagram she referenced.

Venn Diagram

Venn diagrams are like filters, sorters or separators. They are like visual algorithms. They help identify people places and things that have a specified combination of required attributes. And based on her evaluation, I fit into the small space at the intersection of strategic, creative and passionate.

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A favorite Venn diagram…

Flattered

I was flattered, honored and appreciative of her comments. And when I quieted my own humility, I had to agree with her evaluation. I have worked very hard at developing both my strategic and creative skills for decades. They are areas of relative strength. And I am a naturally passionate human. However I don’t take any credit for that. Because baby, I was born this way.

Personal Brands

Our personal brands are nothing more than Venn Diagrams. We are sorted and remembered for our distinct combination of traits and abilities. It is how we quickly summarize and categorize each other.

Following that phone call I thought a lot about my own VD (um… maybe we should stick with Venn diagram). I wondered about what venn diagrams I had created in the other people’s’ minds. I wondered about the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought about my strengths and weaknesses. I thought and the various impressions I have made along the way. I thought that I should ask for feedback from other people to better understand my venn diagram.

Key Takeaway

Do you have a strong brand image? What unique combination of assets or liabilities describes you? Do you get sorted into the groups you want to be in?  Do people think of you at all?  If not, it is time to develop your own Venn diagram. Work on sharpening your strengths. Put them to great use. Add value. And let me know the next time you find yourself in a satisfying venn diagram. We could all use a little more of that in our lives.

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This is what people really remember about you.

I don’t have any tattoos. But each time we get a meaningful image or quote added to the walls of our new offices at The Weaponry, I feel as if an important statement has been tattooed on me. Of course our wall art is much larger and much less painful than a real tattoo. And I don’t have to hide the wall art from my Mom.

I’ve written about our wall statements before. But last week we had another quote tattooed to our office. Not only do I find this quote inspiring, it states a critical tenant of brand-building.

Our Latest Wall Quote:

 “You are remembered for the rules you break.”

-General Douglas MacArthur

MacArthur hit the nail on the head, and sent it into concussion protocol with this line. In Nike Founder, Phil Knight’s book Shoe Dog, he references this quote several times. I find myself referencing it often too.

There are multiple ways to interpret this quote. But I see it in the most positive light possible. You are remembered for the norms the standards and the expectations you don’t follow. You are remembered for the parts of you that stick out. Not the ones that fit in. You are remembered like Frank Sinatra, for doing it your way.

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Me and my cousin Brooks Albrecht and some 504 point type.

This is true of people, businesses, brands, products, services, plants, minerals and animals. Speaking of animals, consider mammals for a moment. They are warm-blooded and fur-bearing creatures. But the dolphins doesn’t seem like a mammal because it lives in the ocean. The bat doesn’t seem like a mammal because it frickin flies! And the platypus, well, it breaks so many rules I don’t even know what it was to start with.

Conformity

Conformity is the opposite of creativity. Conforming to every rule means you disappear. If you want to be remembered by your peers, in job interviews, or in customers’ minds, you have to break some rules.

Key Takeaway

Look for ways to be different. Break stupid rules. Break smart rules when you have an even smarter reason to do so. Rules were made to be broken. You were made to be remembered. You are not a sheep, or a cow. Don’t follow the flocking herd. Give them something to remember you by.  Your Mom and Dad will eventually get over it. Trust me, I know.

How to determine the best advertisers in the Super Bowl.

Did you see Super Bowl LII? What a show! The game is always hyped as the greatest television event of the year. It certainly lived up to that billing again this year.

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My fellow Wisconsin Badger Corey Clement scored big. He even started a Conga line in the end zone.

The Game

The game itself was amazing. There were so many Super Bowl records set that I think the game set a Super Bowl record for setting Super Bowl records. There were over 1000 yards of total offense. There were two pass attempts to quarterbacks playing wide receiver. And there was an exciting Hail Mary pass into the end zone as the clock expired. The only thing that would have made the game better for me would have been a Patriots victory. But as a huge Pats fan, I have two Super Bowl miracle wins in the last few years to console me.

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JT told the crowd in Minneapolis, ‘I once went fishing on Lake Minnetonka and caught a walleye this big!’

Halftime Entertainment

After getting off to a slow start Justin Timberlake’s halftime show made a nice comeback and finished strong. The momentum turned during JT’s tribute to Prince. His performance of Mirror was spectacular. Although I worried that one of the hundreds of kids running around the stage holding mirrors would drop one and bring seven more years of bad luck to the hometown Vikings.

 

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My cravings for M&Ms decreased dramatically when I saw this commercial.

The Commercials

Then there were the ads. As an advertising professional I love Super Bowl spots. At a price of over $5 million for 30 seconds, commercials during the Super Bowl are too expensive to get wrong. So most of the spots that run during the big game do what good commercials should do. They entertain us. They make us laugh. They surprise us. They wow us. They make us think differently about the products, services or brands they promote.

The Super Bowl ads are so good that people actually want to see them. They are part of the appeal and entertainment of the entire event. Sometimes they are they best part of the program. Especially when Up With People are the halftime entertainment. Or when the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Buffalo Bills.

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This Peter Dinklage spot for Doritos Blaze made me want to breathe fire as if I were the Father of Dragons.

The Best Advertisers 

So who won the battle of the advertisers? This is a question that gets asked every year. It will be a topic of conversation around the proverbial water cooler all week. Marketing types will weigh in with their professional opinions. And there will be polls that try to determine a winner. However, we will never know the real answer.

Here’s Why.

You don’t succeed in advertising by winning a popularity poll. You win by setting a marketing objective, and then nailing it. Advertising can help increase awareness, brand affinity and purchase intent. All of these dimensions are measurable. But not by a poll that asks viewers to pick their favorite commercial.

Your opinion of the marketing only matters if you are part of the audience the advertiser is trying to reach. I thought the beer commercials were funny. But I don’t drink alcohol. I also liked the Tide commercials, a lot. But I don’t make any of the decisions about which laundry potions my family uses.

 

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I liked this guy. But I still don’t like the taste of alcohol. 

Key Takeaway

Super Bowl commercials are not simply meant to entertain you. They are strategically developed marketing weapons. The only way to evaluate their success or failure is to measure the impact they have on their target audience. Anything else is just playing Monday morning quarterback.

 

 

How to make an office feel like your home.

In the summer of 2015 I began the perfect agency project in my home office in Atlanta. It wasn’t just this blog. It was an entrepreneurial project to create the perfect ad agency. I was a man on a mission. I wrote down my goals. I mapped out the people, processes, and purchases needed. I declared the agency’s core values and pillars for success. I could see it all. I even envisioned the first company picnic, and how lame it was going to be when we played tug-of-war with just 2 or 3 people.

In mid 2016 the agency opened for business.

One of the most profound and important steps in the process was naming the agency. There was something about going from building “an advertising agency” to creating The Weaponry that transformed the dream from ethereal to concrete.

The first year was a great success, as measured by the original vision. We had even moved the headquarters to Milwaukee, which was part of the larger plan. In July of 2017 we decided it was time to move the agency operations from a home office to a real office downtown (things will be great when you’re downtown). I began a search for space and wrote about my experience in a 3-part series that you can now binge read anytime. See Looking for office space: A Startup Story,  Looking For Office Space 2: The Messy Middle, & Looking for office space: We have an office!

Moving in.

November 1st we got the keys to our new space in Milwaukee’s modern North End. The team is thrilled to have an office of our own. But just like when you buy a house, the empty space we inherited didn’t immediately feel like us. It wasn’t bad. It was just, neutral. And we are decidedly not neutral. So, just like at the beginning of the project, our team had to apply our vision for the agency in order to transform the space into The Weaponry.

We started with some basics. We added wi-fi and computers, desks and chairs. We were operational and our most basic needs were met within the first week. But the space wasn’t ours yet. Like ranchers brand their livestock, we needed to brand our new space. We needed to give the office a name. And personality. So we looked for ways to make our mark.

Front Door

Our front door was just naked glass. There was nothing on it to tell people who we were or where they were. This had to change. So we contacted a very talent freehand sign painter. We really loved her style. Apparently so does everyone else. Because she told us in November that she was booked until late January or early February. Since we signed a 13-month lease we couldn’t afford to go sign-less for the first 3 or 4 months.

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Our front door is no longer naked. 

We looked into signage that we could have in place quickly.  We found a good sign company that could make what we wanted, and have it installed within 3 days. Which was great.  But then we ran into another challenge. To install the wall graphics we wanted we had to wait a month after we painted so that the gas could escape from the new paint on the walls. I snickered at the idea of having gassy walls.

So we began painting immediately. Or I should say K-Lil, our super talented Associate Creative Director started painting. She picked the perfect colors and started bringing The Weaponry to life as a real place.

 

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Do you think the logo is too small?  

Last Friday, the paint had properly aged and we had the sign people come and make their magic. And magic it was.  They put up our first three branding marks. And suddenly the space feels like The Weaponry. Our front door declares that you have arrived at The Weaponry. When you enter our space you are greeted by a 90-inch wide reminder of where you are. And we have started putting small thinking reminders around the space.

 

We have much more to add. But the office is developing a great feel. We’re thrilled to call this place our home. And we’d be happy to have you come see it for yourself.

Here are a few videos of the installation.  If you want to see and hear more about our journey please subscribe to this blog.

 

What is your St. Louis Arch?

I recently spent a long weekend in St. Louis with my family. It’s a great city with history, excellent food, interesting architecture and such. They have some of the best such in America. The city has a special place in my heart because 17 years ago I proposed to my wife, Dawn, under the St. Louis Arch.  Why would I choose The Arch as my proposal stage?

Top 5 reasons I proposed under the St. Louis Arch.

  1. I could afford to.
  2. It’s the Eiffel Tower of Missouri.
  3. It was April and the weather in St. Louis was way better than Wisconsin.
  4. It seemed better than the monkey house at the St. Louis Zoo.
  5. I heard that Lewis and Clark, one of the great American couples, started their adventure under the St. Louis Arch.

Back to the story.

My family and I enjoyed many of the great attractions of St. Louis: The afore-mentioned Zoo, Grant’s Farm, a great restaurant on The Hill, The City Museum (which is one of the most interesting, mind-opening places I’ve ever seen), historic St. Charles and, of course, The Arch.

The thing that stood out about St. Louis, above all else, was The Arch. It simply makes the city look different than any other city. It is the thing that makes the St. Louis brand memorable.  There are a lot of great cities in America, and the midwest is packed full of them. But it is hard to come up with the distinguishing feature of Detroit, Cincinnati, or Minneapolis. Other than the sitcoms that took place there.

Since proposing under the arch I have noticed just how much it is used as an American icon. Every time a commercial, TV show or movie wants to tell the ‘Sea-to-Shining-Sea’ story they include the following:

Icons that represent America

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • The St. Louis Arch
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • A lighthouse in Maine

Not only does the Arch represent St. Louis, for most coasters, it represents the entire Flyover Region of America. (I’ve always thought that ‘The Flyover Region’ sounded funny. Mostly because I imagine people working at Levis discussing the ‘Flyover Region’.  As in ‘We should put a fly over that region’.)

In the city itself, The Arch (aka the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial) is the symbol that represents the city. Which makes me wonder, why don’t more places create their own version of The Arch?

And if it works for cities, certainly it works for brands.  Far too few brands take the time to figure out the one thing that will set their brand apart. Of course there are brands that have their thang: A catchy jingle (Nationwide Insurance) Free returns for life (L.L. Bean), Ducks (The Peabody Hotel) Swedish Meatballs (Ikea).

I have spent my advertising career helping clients find the things that will help them stand out from the crowd.  But the same holds true for your personal brand. (And we all have a personal brand).  Do you have something that stands apart?  Do you do something, say something, wear something different?  Do you refuse to eat chocolate? Is one of your eyebrows actually a tattoo of a caterpillar? Do you have a memorable sign-off to your conversations?  If you don’t have anything I encourage you to spend some time thinking about it. Or better yet, try something. See if you like it. See if it sticks.

Today we have an abundance of options for everything. When travelers are looking for their next destination, The Arch helps St. Louis stand out from other great neighbors like Kansas City, Omaha, Memphis and Indianapolis.  Having your own Arch-like differentiator will help your business or personal brand stand out in the same way. If you’d like help finding your Arch, shoot me a note. If you’d like a great place for a weekend getaway, head to St. Louis.

Applying Dr. King’s approach at work.

I love MLK Jr. Day. It is a holiday that makes me think. It makes me appreciate being an American. Like the 4th of July, MLK Jr. Day is a reminder of the American Dream. Which is dreaming of your ideal world. Then overcoming the forces that have prevented that ideal from becoming your reality. Finally, you have a great movie made about you that garners critical acclaim, even if you don’t win the big awards you deserve.

My dream is to be ridiculously happy. I’m a happy person naturally. I consider it fortunate wiring. But I want Maximum Happiness. To help chart my path to MaxHap I did what MLK Jr. did. I envisioned something better than anything I have seen. I wrote down my plan. I painted a picture of the dream in vivid detail.  Then I began to bring it to life. To spare you all the details, the rest of this post will focus on my happiness derived from work.

My dream was born in the last hours of my 39th year.  I contemplated what I wanted the next chapter of my career to look like. Then I started scripting a plan to make it happen.

We spend so much of our time at work that you have to get the work life right to get your whole life right.

It was clear to me that no one else was trying to create my ideal workplace. It was my responsibility. But after 20 years in the advertising industry I knew that if I could create the perfect agency I could help a lot of other people achieve their own happiness in the process.

So I started The Perfect Agency project. It was just a project at first. Then, as it gained shape I decided to create a blog about it. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you are reading it right now. Maybe there is no way that you are not reading it right now.

Then I named the agency The Weaponry and began to bring it to life in 2016.

I started by scripting philosophies and processes. But I have written down everything. I have written a list of clients I want to work with (you may be on that list).  I have created a list of teammates I want to work with (you may be on that list). I have detailed services, team sizes and office locations. I have a list of features for our physical space that will make others ask, “Why don’t we have that?’  I have created such a clear image in my head that the rest of the project is simply bringing the blueprint to life (as if that were a simple task).

Here are a few of the important points that will make The Weaponry my ideal place to work, contribtuing to my MaxHap.

First, there are just three key factors that will determine our success.

  1. Excellent creative ideas.
  2. Amazing customer service.
  3. A fun experience for everyone involved.

We will call our people team members, not employees.  They work with us. Not for us.

We must remain eternally optimistic. There is a beautiful solution to every problem. It is our job to find it.

We must be collaborative. We have to enable and create great ideas. But we also must recognize when the client (and, yes, even the client’s spouse) has a great idea that we should bring to life. Too may agencies think they have a monopoly on good ideas.  But there are two parts to the idea business that you have to master. 1. Coming up with great ideas. 2. Recognizing great ideas on arrival. Even if they didn’t hatch in your incubator.

The Perfect Agency is a place that values the experience and know-how of professionals who have been crushing it and accumulating knowledge for decades. But it also embraces the college student and even high schoolers who bring unbridled energy and fresh thinking to the table. Mixing the two together gives the ideal agency energy, stability and control.

The Perfect Agency uses feedback productively. As an organization we are still in our infancy.  We have unlimited potential. But we need to take in feedback from others to learn and grow. Which includes feedback from staff, clients, advisors and partners. The kind of feedback you get when your walk in front of a speaker with a live microphone is not necessary to our success.

The Perfect Agency plays well with our clients’ other agencies, vendors and consultants. We want to be the best partners we can be. That means that we don’t drop the ball. But just as importantly, we don’t try to steal the ball from others. If we do what our clients want we will earn more work. We don’t need to punch, kick and stab others to get ahead.  This isn’t prison.

The Perfect Agency allows you to live where you want and is flexible with your time. Happy people are better teammates. We want people who are living their ideal lives. Ideas come faster, and service is better from happy people.  That means being open-minded to remote and part-time work.

The Perfect agency doesn’t force clients to sign a long-term commitment.  We are not trying to marry our clients after the first date.  We want our clients to be the ones who propose marriage because they love us so much and can’t stand the idea of us ever being with another client in their field of expertise. Romantic, I know.

The Perfect Agency doesn’t have A-holes. We baked that right into our logo.  See the A in the The Weaponry?  No A-hole.

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I could go on and on. But my dream blog post never hits 1000 words. If you would like to find out more about The Weaponry and how it could contribute to your long-term happiness give us a shout. My email is in my bio link. If  you can’t find that try adam@theweaponry.com.