Audi Work Nominated for Webby Awards

  Our work with Audi has been nominated for two categories in the Webby awards! Vote for Spider-Man in the Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Short Form category: Vote for Think Faster one for Advertising & Media/Branded Content/Automotive:

Thank You

As I walk out the door for my official last time today, I look back in satisfaction on 35 remarkable years as a brand management principal at The Richards Group. I came in with that designation, and I proudly retire with it too.

When I joined Stan and his mighty band of 35 or so Groupers in 1983, I had already been blessed with a solid launch at Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago and almost ten years in marketing at Frito-Lay. I was 35 and, some would say, a bit full of myself. What I learned most from Stan, and all my colleagues here, is that the agency business is the ultimate team sport. There are no more important jobs – or less important jobs. They are all critical to our work, the growth of our clients, and the welfare of our people. Nothing else matters.

I have also grown to understand that hiring and developing smarter, more organized, and harder-working people will help you grow and ensure that your clients and the agency prosper too. And many of these wonderful people will grace you with friendships that will last a lifetime. I am also counting on many of them to lead the next generation of Groupers to carry on Stan’s legacy far into the future.

Every retiring agency person has enough client stories to fill at least one book, but in the interest of blog etiquette, I will keep to just a few. My first big new business “win” was Motel 6, and it wasn’t a real win but an assignment from one of Stan’s former clients.

The first thing I learned on Motel 6 is that advertising can do very little unless the product is at least competitive. Motel 6 delayed the launch of a new campaign until they finished some major remodeling and product enhancements, like putting telephones in the rooms. But that gave us time to really understand the motivation of the potential customer – and time for the creative and media folks to develop one of our most successful and longest-running campaigns, which is still running today. Though I passed the baton early to another principal, I was asked to take the helm again later in my career to ensure that we kept the business on track. Along the way, my wife, Becky, and I developed a lifelong friendship with our first CMO at Motel 6, Hugh Thrasher, may he rest in peace.

My next new business highlight – and I partnered with my good friend Jeff Upshaw on this one – was The Catfish Institute. We had been recommended to the institute’s president, Bill Allen, by a New York consultant. But Bill also knew of Jeff, whose family still farmed in the Mississippi Delta.

Jeff and I worked hard to understand the challenges of working for a farmer cooperative and had great fun plotting with the first creative team, Glenn Dady and Mike Malone, to help put farm-raised catfish on the menus of America’s white-tablecloth restaurants. And what fun we had along the way! I still count Bill and Jeff as two of my closest friends.

I was also blessed to lead the agency team that pitched and won Chick-fil-A. Though a couple of smarter, harder-working folks eventually took the ball from me and ran with it for the rest of our 22-year run, I was fortunate to be there at the start. Our team helped craft the Original Chicken Sandwich strategy that pitted us against the burger boys. A brilliant young creative team came up with the self-preservationist cows, and we were off to an incredible run – and a few more lifelong friendships including Steve Robinson, David Salyers, and Greg Ingram.

Another really interesting opportunity came our way with a call from Malmö, Sweden. The woman in charge of Perstorp Flooring’s advertising admired our work for The Container Store, Elfa’s primary retail outlet in the United States. She invited us to Fort Worth to meet Perstorp’s president, Lars von Kantzow, who had just signed Color Tile as their first U.S. outlet.

Stan wasn’t available, so Owen Hannay and I were on our own. We told The Richards Group’s story the best we could and showed our work to much nodding and laughing, so we knew there were no language or cultural issues. We then suggested that Lars consider Stan’s four conclusions that he hopes every client prospect will come away with at the end of a pitch: I like what you said. I like how you said it. I like you. Let’s do business.

Lars called the next day and said those conclusions right back to me. Together, we launched Pergo, the most successful new flooring brand in a generation. And I made another lifelong friend in Lars.

These are only a few of the stories about this place and our wonderful clients, but they are representative of my story here. They are part of why this place has meant so much to my career and why I have remained here so long. But in every story, it wasn’t just the business success – it was the people I had the opportunity to work with every day. They are what I will dearly miss.

Thank you.

The post Thank You appeared first on The Richards Group.

Aesop Storytelling Series; Season 2 – Episode 1

Back by popular demand, we’re here for another mind-expanding helping of the Aesop Storytelling Series, this time from the mind of our new Executive Creative Director, Brian Cooper.

In the last series we uncovered how the power of narrative could help build brands. Now we’re going one step further, and exploring the storyverse, what this means for brands, and how it might be the only way to reach the consumers of today.

Advertising in Tomorrowland—why every good brand needs a good storyverse

“Black Sunday” is a phrase one usually associates with a massacre or a financial crash. Not with Disney (unless I missed the subtext of Frozen completely. A film cryogenised Disney would identify with). However, Disneyland’s opening day was dubbed just that by the park’s employees back in 1955. It seemed like Walt’s new venture was set to be the crappiest place on Earth.

Flash back twenty years earlier and our man Walt is enjoying a lovely summer’s afternoon with the fam. Back then there weren’t the kind of amusement parks that Walt would make famous the world over. If you wanted some family fun in 1930s Los Angeles, you took the kids to the fairground piers, home to any number of wholesome pleasures: organ grinders, caged animals, hookers, freak shows. I know, it sounds great. But this was clearly no place for Walt and his daughters. “I’d sit there thinking there should be something better,” he said, “a place where adults and children could have fun together.”

So Walt set to thinking. He dreamed of a more salubrious, family friendly amusement park. One based, perhaps, on his string of already successful movies. It was a completely original concept in entertainment—one that extended the Disney brand from the silver screen to a magical in-person experience. Disneyland. Where dreams come true.

The vision was a ‘storyverse’ come to life. A place where you could visit Snow White’s enchanted castle, hang out in Davy Crockett country, or cruise round Autopia for a taste of the yet-to-be interstate system. Not to mention Tomorrowland, a vision of 1986 pieced together from the leftover set of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, featuring picture phones, microwaves, and lots and lots of plastic.

It was an incredible vision. A vision so incredible that no one had a clue what Walt was on about. He struggled to convince colleagues and investors. Even his own brother Roy thought he was nuts. When he started diverting money from the profitable studio business, his bro’s scepticism turned to outright hostility. It soon became known as ‘Walt’s Folly’.

But plucky Walt wasn’t going to give up that easily. Twenty years after first thinking up the idea, he secured $17m in funding and 160 acres of orange grove. But his troubles were only about to begin.

Construction was a nightmare. No one had ever built a princess’s fairytale castle before. The artificial rivers and lakes leaked and ran dry. The opening got pushed back, and pushed back, until finally the ribbon was set to be cut—right in the middle of a scorching summer. As the day approached, the heatwave descended. The mercury hit 110 fahrenheit, and the plumbers union went on strike.

As the gates opened it soon became clear that someone had been printing quite a few counterfeit tickets. The park had been expecting 15,000 visitors, but 28,000 passed though the turnstiles. The place was overrun with petulant crowds. Queues for the popular rides extended to hours. And the less popular rides were just awful anyway. Cries of WHERE’S MY CORNDOG abounded as the food and drink ran out only a few hours after opening.

A TV host called Ronald Reagan covered the opening for ABC. But even his soothing tones couldn’t cover up the fact that the day was spiraling out of control. There was a gas leak in Fantasyland and a sector had to be evacuated. The steamboat in the background nearly capsized.

“Walt’s dream is a nightmare… a fiasco the like of which I cannot recall in thirty years of show life,” said Variety. “Probably for the first time in his career, Disney has disappointed thousands of youngsters,” harrumphed the Associated Press.

But we all know that this didn’t last forever. Disneyland has been providing screaming kids and bleary-eyed parents with a break from the shitshow that is reality for over 60 years. And since that fateful Sunday nearly a billion people have traipsed through its gates across the globe, from Orlando to Shanghai.

But none of this happened by accident. Disneyland is what it is today for two reasons.

Number 1: persistence. Walt kept chipping away, sorting out the counterfeit tickets, rebuilding Tomorrowland. Disneyland was still open the following Sunday, and the one after that.

Number 2: he stuck to his storyverse. Disneyland is successful because people have an appetite for fiction, and what could be a more immersive fictional experience than a real-life fantasy land that you can touch, walk around in, and eat questionable themed snacks?

They say that fiction is seductive because it is an escape from reality. But such an all-encompassing storyverse as Disneyland is seductive because it bolsters the solidity of our own lives. ‘Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real’. Cheers Baudrillard for that badboy.

So, where was I? Oh right, advertising. All the best brands, like Disney, create their own storyverse. A world in which consumers can engross themselves in, time and again. A world in which their participation in the fiction validates their sense of realness—making them believe that their choices truly are rational, truly are their own.

A storyverse can have multiple narratives—but they all feel part of a unified whole. In the same way that ‘secret agent + crazy weapons + villain + hot girl = Bond film’, a coterie of colours, images, signs and symbols denote that something is McDonalds or Nike or Coca Cola, even without a name or logo. These storyverses allow consumers to fully participate in a brand, whether that’s watching an ad, in the store or just staring at two mountains next to each other and thinking ‘heck, I want a cheeseburger’.

And, if you keep at it like Disney, a robust enough storyverse will last you for generations, with a boundless scope for new stories and directions.

In this latest series we’re going to explore what makes a great storyverse (and a terrible one), and why this kind of approach to advertising is our last attempt to reach the consumers of our very own Tomorrowland.

Download Episode 1—Advertising in Tomorrowland.

Or, if you missed it, catch up on the entire first season.

Aesop Storytelling Series; Season 2

Back by popular demand, we’re here for another mind-expanding helping of the Aesop Storytelling Series, this time from the mind of our new Executive Creative Director, Brian Cooper.

In the last series we uncovered how the power of narrative could help build brands. Now we’re going one step further, and exploring the storyverse, what this means for brands, and how it might be the only way to reach the consumers of today.

Download Episode 1—Advertising in Tomorrowland.

Or, if you missed it, catch up on the entire first season.

Three ways brands finding purpose are also finding profit

This article originally appeared in Chief Marketer. I shared my thoughts on a recent speaking engagement on “The Evolution of LGBT+ Consumerism” at OPEN Finance and talked about our work with Love Has No Labels.”

Femvertising. Purpose-driven branding. Micro-niche marketing. No matter what you call it, it’s undeniable that brands are increasingly pushing themselves to find purpose beyond their products and services.

And let’s face it—it’s a delicate step for a brand to stand up for a cause it believes in that’s greater than profit. Recent studies have revealed that many consumers feel it is important for brands to use their influences to help shape social and political discussions. A stellar example of this from last year was with Patagonia. The brand blacked out its homepage declaring, “The President Stole your Land,” in a blatant protest (including a lawsuit) against President Trump’s declaration to decrease the size of several national parks.

Only 10-40 percent of B2C brands and 50 percent of B2B brands have an emotional connection with their audiences—Google

The outdoor retailer is no stranger to supporting causes, particularly those aligned with its mission to “use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” The brand often literally puts its money where its mouth is—and is willing to potentially sacrifice profit to support its beliefs.

So why do it? Because buyers in today’s market respond to more than just products on a shelf. It is this type of advocacy that helps strengthen the connection between brand and consumer. People are looking for brands that reflect their own values and are prepared to take action on the issues that matter to them.

Recently, an OPEN Finance & Nomura’s event addressed “The Evolution of LGBT Consumerism” and how brands can do business with a market that is estimated to have $917 billion in buying power in the U.S. I was lucky to be part of the discussion during which time we reviewed the topical example of the digital and content marketing work for the Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels campaign, a collaborative effort focused on combating bias through love. The most recent effort on Veterans Day honored the love Americans have for the extraordinarily diverse community of people who have served our country, representing a wide range of races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, genders, ages, and abilities.

During this discussion, we considered how brands can be successful when wishing to pursue a purpose, while also pursuing profit. Three key themes emerged:

1. Beyond the Base Brands considering associating with a cause are wise to think about the appeal of their efforts beyond the core group. Accenture reports that 78 percent of LGBT adults and their friends, family, and relatives would switch to brands that are known to be LGBT-friendly. Similarly, brands supporting female empowerment are wise to consider that 33 percent of men also identify as feminists, according to the Washington Post.

2. Efficient Emotional Connections Modern marketing requires balancing consumers’ emotional and rational behaviors. Yet, Google reports that only 10-40 percent of B2C brands and 50 percent of B2B brands have an emotional connection with their audiences. Aligning brands with passions and values of audiences is a clear path to emotional connection. And with the power of targetable media based on user-provided data (via Facebook, DMPs and more), brands can now target their affiliations and purpose-driven initiatives to exactly the right populations, leading to more efficient media buying and better results.

3. Meaningful Contributions, Not Messages Brands must go beyond messages to actually make meaningful contributions to populations. If brands are seen as being opportunistic or disingenuous in their efforts, that can mean being held accountable by the media, customers and powerful digital influencers. For example, for brands trying to reach LGBT+ communities and their allies, it’s critical that they score well on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, support social causes surrounding equality and demonstrate a commitment to the community, even when it’s not convenient. In other words, it’s not enough to put a same sex couple or a gender non-conforming model in an ad. The community expects to see what you’ve done to support those people and make a difference in the real world.

In the case of the Love Has No Labels campaign, which, is supported by brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, State Farm, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Google, each brand has been able to appeal to a broad audience of Americans who support inclusivity and an intention to be aware of the role implicit bias plays in our lives. The campaign boasts broad awareness among about 60 percent of Americans and the brands that support it will ultimately make a true contribution to the fabric of American culture.

And like Patagonia, if brands can find their purpose and profit at once it’s a win-win for marketers.

The post Three ways brands finding purpose are also finding profit appeared first on Jack Morton.