Category Archives: marketing consulating

Food For Thought: Businesses Need a Marketing Plan

Life is a series of $64,000 questions. Here is one for your scrutiny: “Can you sell steak to a vegan?” Try this one: “Does Your Business Really Need a Marketing Plan?”

Think about this. No matter what it is, things function better when they are planned. If a course of action is ineffective, correcting it is navigable because options are anticipated and already planned — introducing effective solutions negate potential business setbacks.

A formal marketing plan is a smart move because it can prevent wasting valuable dollars chasing the wrong customers with the wrong message. Statistics reveal that around one-half of small businesses do not have a formal marketing plan. Careful attention to marketing can be critical to your business’ success.

We in the creative field will hammer clients senseless with the fact that business plans aren’t as important because they are static. Business plans are goals and objectives: “This is what we want to do in this particular market.” It assumes that variables will not factor into the growth of the business. Well, that’s wrong because every day there’s always a dog waiting to pee on your pants leg. On the other hand, marketing plans are organic and flexible.

Thus, a business owners attitude becomes, “I will achieve my goal, as adjustments require.” Small businesses survive if they can advertise to consumers that will likely purchase a brand and create revenue. This doesn’t happen by accident. A good creative agency researches casual factors of market penetration. It should combine a strategy statement with a solution-laden marketing plan. For us, it’s an art form, not pure chance.

Every business can benefit from a formal marketing plan in the following ways: Marketing plans force intentionality; Clear brand messaging; Measurable results. Data is compiled regarding marketing results, weighing the benefits of multi-layered marketing and advertising. Marketing plans expose the “good,” the bad,” and “the ugly.” They are without personality and emotion, yet give insight, and direction regarding market penetration and growth. Informed decision making.

As a business grows, marketing plans are useful in measuring staff performance and is the common denominator when it comes to who should be promoted, as well as what strategies need implementing.The mistake business make is to go for what’s popular instead of what works. If you own or manage a business, remember, waste is avoidable. Marketing plans are conduits to success because they are preemptive.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

http://www.cdm-digital.com

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

Food for Thought: “Loyalty” is a Seven Letter Word

 (Part 2)

‘Part 1’ of this article postulated that there is a protocol of professional etiquette one should follow when a decision is made to leave a company. This protocol takes into full account perceptions of fairness or a belief of having been treated unfairly.

Maybe it’s best to leave quietly but express yourself at the exit interview, or do it in a letter to the object of concern. Putting it “on blast” is a bit questionable. There are exceptions like provable criminality, legally culpable racial discrimination, or sexual harassment.

Here’s the rule: If it will be in public discourse, speak to your reasons honestly. Don’t hire ‘Red Gloria’ and get pimped like a fool, though. Don’t.

I’ve interviewed prospective employees that lambasted their former bosses for any number of subjective misdeeds. Some having to do with business ethics; while others spoke to personal and intimate details of things one normally commits to memory and silence. Some people also go online and place a blot on the reputations of a company and individual. To me, this is wrong.

We forget that bosses and coworkers are people that probably wish us well. I understand keeping one’s business close to the vest, but jobs are more than just collecting paychecks: they are relationships of trust. It hurts when a friend walks out the door.

Certainly, how one leaves the job is an individual decision, and thus their actions are individual undertakings. On that, there can be no argument. But an employee leaving is often a kick to the solar plexus – it hurts. It hurts particularly if you felt that you mentored an individual. It hurts because you feel that they did not trust you enough to let you know of their decision. Of course, it’s the employee’s prerogative. The question remains as to whether a courtesy is owed.

I remember this young woman whom I mentored and thought a bond and trust existed. I did everything I could to prepare her for dealing with advertising at our level and beyond. In the most inconsiderate fashion, I found out she was leaving because a fax came in reminding her to bring her resume and related materials to an interview that morning.

She’d call and misled me, with: “I may be in later – if that’s okay.” It was her business to act in a manner she deemed appropriate, but that fax kicked me in the gut. And, it was the last time I saw her.

When I’ve had to fire someone, I found it depressing and reacted accordingly, cocooning myself until the feeling went away. I’m sensitive, sure. But, I also grew up having to fend for myself. Still, someone leaving a job that you shared in commonality leaves the degree of a scar.

But, we’re all grown-ups here.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Is That Ice Tea?

(It must be because he’s wearing a cool suit.)

pavarotti-6a00d83451c83e69e200e54f8df6008833-800wi

Everyone at Geico hopes its heavily rotated commercial where a question is posed to kids operating a lemonade stand, has been seen by the world. Three adults walk up and ask, “Is that ice tea?” We won’t spoil the punchline because it’s the same as blurting out the ending of a movie you’re about to see.

We’ve all had these moments. The popcorn is about to crunch in your mouth when a loudmouth a row behind you says: “I’ve seen this five times. Yeah. Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s dad.”

That kills the anticipation. You want to throw milk duds at the big mouth. Here is the relational gist all business should have: “product clarity,”and “brand distinction.”

The kids in the commercial are selling lemonade, but seem to encounter the same question about what they’re selling. In advertising clients often failed to identify essential key markers for success.

It begins with packaging. Perhaps it resembles similar packaging for a totally unrelated product. People are also reluctant to change their websites because Uncle Fredo did it. But, Uncle Fredo used the 1998 AOL homepage template. (Inspect a few clothing lines or restaurants websites) The layouts are chaotic and have too many fonts.

Think about walking in front of a beautiful business establishment, only to be let down by décor that’s raggedy, archaic, or too opulent.

There is a brand perception issue. What are you buying, exactly? Here is an anecdote. We were at the beginning stages of a campaign for a professional service company. Their business cards were Times New Roman. The stationery masthead fonts were gothic. Their company colors were dissimilar. It happens that the company’s envelopes were similar in color to a company that fell into disfavor  with a number of businesses. Our client’s stuff went into the trashcan.

Brand confusion happens more often than one might think, and its avoidable. Branding actually defines what a business is. To some this is elementary, but to most, it isn’t.  Here are some questions one should ask about their business:

  • Have we established, a clear and concise message about our  brand?
  • Does the brand messaging  extend to every aspect of the business, including how the phone is answered, and what people wear as ambassadors of the company on  sales calls?
  • Does the messaging “voice” for the company truly reflect what the brand represents? Evaluate then act to improve it.
  • Develop a tagline that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and reflective of the brand  for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel. Consistency is paramount
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.

Branding must be designed to bring about product distinction. If it isn’t — marketing becomes more difficult. Don’t take branding lightly. Don’t mistake ice tea for lemonade.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Food For Thought: Dealing With Sexual Harassment

chick9qQKPProbably to the person doing it, being accused of sexual harassment shouldn’t be a shock. You know what you know. Usually, as in the case of Roger Ailes, soon to be formerly of Fox News, it’s a man doing the harassing. As Gretchen Carlson’s accusations have not been adjudicated, Ailes is an ‘alleged’ perpetrator. The same thing applies to Bill Cosby. Nothing has been proven, though an allegation of sexual assault is processing through the criminal courts. Presumption of innocence should prevail.

There is a legal definition, and thus a threshold of conduct that falls within the definition of sexual harassment. It’s supposedly ironclad, but I contend an accusation can be often off based. There is such a thing as a misunderstanding. I’m not talking about the quid quo pro, “Hey, sugar, you’re working for me. Play with me and have a drink, sister and you’ll go far,” I had a short stint as a writer for a production company way back when. I met a woman executive that said that to me. She tossed in the cartoonish skin-crawling protruding eyeballs as her hand traveled somewhere between my lap and knee. Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

Those types of things are easy to call, as it in the case of a woman being hit on by a supervisor or co-worker. My point is that it shouldn’t happen – no one should feel uncomfortable doing his or her job.

I remember interviewing a young woman who, initially came across as being all business. She didn’t stay that way. She repositioned her chair to sit directly in front of me – slapping a hand on my knee and a display of cleavage came next. I was stunned, but more so by the overture she floated at me. I had no real interest and politely refused. Why? Quite honestly, it could have been a setup. I’m also married to the woman of my dreams. Besides, that’s not how I conduct myself in the workplace.

After that incident, I had my female assistant manager, conduct interviews with me, or, altogether, take the lead with women. Our agency has always been small with many lineup changes, but the culture is interesting. It’s always been my belief in providing a safe, comfortable environment. My colleague and I thought it essential to nip issues early on because, even off premises, men and women exhibited a lot of locker-room bawdiness and language. It usually spills over to the workplace. We felt the being proactive with written policies, and role playing were the best ways to deal with this issue.

Here’s a cliché’ “Appreciate women for their character and ability to do the job…” That’s really true, but also pabulum because it’s just a set of words that sound right. There are a number of people who want sexual neutrality and gender equality in the workplace. Just like the mythical “color-blind” society they claim they live in, its bull. It is a given that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same. That’s just common sense, not arguable. However, ‘sexual neutrality’ is a notion that goes against the male and female dynamic. Put men and women together and there will be tension.

As a man, I appreciate women for their gifts – intellectual and esthetic. I will pay attention, open doors and show deference because I am a man. No apologies. The unfortunate thing is that some men turn a gaze into a leer. That’s when the illusion that a quiet friendly smile, manner of dress, and professionalism is an invitation to make a woman feel devalued. In all ways holy, that’s just plain wrong. It’s also equally wrong to assume there is a demand behind, “Hello how was your day?” or, “Nice outfit. You wear it well.”

If the latter happens, remember you’re not under attack. It is called a ‘compliment.’

Food For Thought: The Evangelist

rr10008427_409093179235050_1165222411_n

Maybe it’s finally started to dawn on me, but as one who runs a small advertising agency, I’m realizing that I cannot do it alone. While serendipity set in, I also know that certain aspects of my job require me to do the selling of agency services. That process has to be systematic, consistent, and in some respects automated. I’m wasn’t big on ad tech, but it’s a necessity. “One must adapt – resistance is futile,” a former client of mine that resembled a Borg Soldier (from Star Trek mythos) told me. He was right.

Too many of us in the small agency arena have the illusion that we’re glib MadMen. We aren’t. I seldom consume alcohol. So is very unlikely that I will get a client agreement after a three martini lunch. I’m not friends with a politician or some big business owner. Getting clients requires hustling, and when relating the virtues of what we do in my shop, speaking with the fervor of an evangelist.

That doesn’t mean that I have to become the king of alliteration, breaking out into a gospel song in the middle of the presentation, but it means something that is lost on most of us. We must believe without whole hearts in what we’re doing and offering and that it is good.

Why now?

Easy. Change has to come from within. I referenced MadMen, not because of the television show, but the familiarity people have with it and the era of advertising it represents. Below I have studied the subject, my principal learning came from reading and consuming everything that I could get my hands on regarding David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jerry Della Fermia, Roy Eaton and Leo Burnett. I had no illusions of walking into some agency and showing off my portfolio. I transitioned to marketing and advertising but wanted to bring the same sensibility and vision to what I was doing, as had the Masters of Madison Avenue.

That era has passed not because of creative obsolescence, but as the winds of time move the sand, it does the same to our lives. Thankfully, they passed down a legacy. Strive to be great.

For me, the lessons learned from studying the greatest should translate into developing a level of confidence and competence. The agencies of the Masters grew not only from superior creative work but also from unison within the agency. What’s produced these days can be summed up by a line from the lips of Jack Lemon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross: “It’s horseshit.”

I’m a firm believer that the fame of Ogilvy, Bernbach, and the rest came about because they had strong sales ability – if not people in the trenches kicking in doors. The creative work spoke for itself – it was magnificent. Account services were practiced on a level generally not seen today. So, that’s what slipped past.

When CDM Digital Advertising was in its nascent days as Carson Dunn Media Advertising about eight years ago, or whenever the recession started, I was the face of the company. Sales came because I did the majority of the networking consisting mainly of going to civic organization meetings, and being the agency motor mouth. Here’s what is unpleasant about sales: rejection. There is also a hint of ridicule behind that. Can you imagine some CEO puffing up his face, turning his nose at the mention of your agency? It happens.

But in rejection, you’re reminded to persevere. An evangelist believes in the word they are spreading. Nothing should deter him or her. In the last year, I examined different sales funnel models, methodology to convert leads into actual clients, until I turned blue. (I have a Carmel complexion, so can you imagine?)

Here’s an observation. I’ve noticed that perspective clients have made a decision prior to meeting me. That decision is based on their belief of the benefits of their brand. My shop is a brand, too. Thus, despite differences in bank accounts and business clout, the client is the same as I am. They want to interface with a human being. As a communicator, I should be able to develop rapport, as I grow to understand what they are dealing with and growing their businesses.

It’s my hope that as I turn over the reins the new business development and sales to someone in my organization, they have that understanding as well. Marketing automation tools help a great deal to keep everything organized, but without commitment and belief, the agency evangelist is hitting his head against the wall.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC

Agency Culture: “The CDM Way”

The idea of agency culture is powerful. Culture can be defined several ways. It could be a culture based on intimidation, paranoia, or political infighting. Culture can also be nurtured trust, from that, productivity develops. Ideally, culture within the company goes a long way to allowing those things to come to fruition that make us fulfilled in what we’re doing.

Studying other agencies have given me a perspective. At one time, culture embodied around company social interaction (crazy parties like they used to have before sexual harassment litigation, or dram shop lawsuits). When that stuff waned, agencies took on a casual style – torn clothing, sandals – disheveled chic — shorts — bowling alleys – ping pong tables and so on.

Is that culture, or comfort and playtime? I don’t know, but its sounds like recess. How many big ideas come from playing ping pong? How ticked off is a graphic designer buried with her nose in work while listening to guys drinking beer and shooting the crap about shagging girls?

Whatever form it is, culture should be positive. Everyone in an agency should embrace it because company culture is simply taking care of business the right way. Agency culture does not start with recess on the client’s time, but truly exists if the agency functions with cohesion.

Culture, or projected positiveness should be voiced by every member of the team. Interns, middle and senior management included. Everyone. Each is an ambassador of an agency, and should understand the shop’s motives and goals.

When asked, they should be able to enunciate it. It doesn’t require a lot of words, but whether or not we provide good work is demonstrated by the actual product. If it is memorable advertising, or the brand is made memorable by our work, it’s also evident, it is consequential by how we do things.

In the past I’ve written that I’m from the city of Boston. The NFL Patriots Football Team have a special place in my heart. I love the way that team operates – I love their culture. Our agency has a culture called the “CDM Way,” patterned on the “Patriot Way.” We’re gaining structure and a desire to be exceptional.

Here’s what the “Patriot Way” is: Cohesion. It starts with Mr. Kraft, to Coach Bellichek, to the players and staff. Individuality is not discarded, but loyalty and purpose are stressed to attain a goal: The championship. If one player or a group of them become susceptible to injury and cannot play, they are replaced by players who believe that they can get the job done. That is the Patriot Way. “Do Your Job–” Coach Bellichek exhorts.

The CDM Way is to do good work that enables a client’s products to sell. Consistency must be good year after year. We developed and mentored an excellent art director at CDM, but for whatever reason she left. She was also associate creative director, making her within a small percentage of female creative directors in the United States (that was regardless of agency size. Perhaps she did not understand or appreciate it.) She left with her work undone and it had the effect of an injury on the rest of us.

Her replacement was able to adapt her graphic styles to our style – the CDM Way. The work product is always supposed to stand for excellence, integrity and be respected for the workmanship. The same held true of copywriters. When a copywriter left, another replaced him.

When culture is real, the true objectives of an agency speak loudly. Quite honestly, when it is not, presentations a much harder, and RFP responses seem to be circular arguments. Whoever we are is represented by what we claim. That is not bragging, it is to simply state what we can provide that’s different than other agencies.

We are many things: a work in progress, a ‘dark horse’ unknown group in a nondescript building, but since we are developing, what we are today, will be tomorrow’s memory. We can’t be intimidated by relative smallness of staff. The Patriots didn’t capture a Superbowl until they had an earth shattering change in thinking. Prior to that, the team had been good, but the infusion of the culture of winners birthed a dynasty. History speaks to that.

I’m confident history will speak to the consistency of the CDM Way and its efforts to make a client’s brand memorable. That can only occur unless our agency culture is that of winners and believers.

NEW BEGINNINGS: The Parable of the Chewing Gum Wrapper

It’s How You View It

The words of this blog may seen the bit self-serving and they probably are. Every missive has a point; it’s up to the reader to find application to whatever they are doing. Consider the parable of two people that stumble upon a chewing gum wrapper, separately and moments apart. They both pick it up and look at what’s written on the back of the wrapper. One person sees it as just a bunch of words on a piece of paper. He tosses it back to the ground. The second person stumbles on it, reads it carefully and sees the ingredients as perhaps be the key to the universe.

Here’s the lesson: pay close attention to the moment at hand and to what you are looking at because an elusive kernel of wisdom is staring at you.

I know this relates to me in the following respects. Operating a small advertising agency, which I will mention prominently throughout, is my latest foray into business. I’m also a writer of mystery fiction. I enjoy both and good at them. I find myself questioning whether or not either have brought me to success that I want –the question is whether or not success can be to find. That is an internal argument and ongoing.

Here is where a chewing gum wrapper analogy comes in. A man I was helping to get through a number of problems took exception to the way I was doing business. He made a comment that I was smart, so smart and back that I should be a millionaire. I listened, remembering that my Mercedes was parked downstairs next to his junk on wheels, and my shoes cost more than his entire ensemble. That isn’t being arrogant that wasn’t putting the guy down, but I’m stating a fact. The dude was actually putting me down because I didn’t act ostentatious like someone would have that he deemed to be successful. He misread the gum wrapper. But, I also learned something about life, and how quickly what one has dissipates in the thin air.

Guard what you have and build on it.

I took stock of my business assets, and other things including property that I owned. On the surface, or paper I was a millionaire. He was seeking rather rudimentary advice and if he’d taken his time to really observe what he felt the need to seek counsel for, he could have figured it out.

As the cusp of the 2017 stands over the horizon, I realize my agency cannot continue to do things as we have and expect optimum results. Change has been necessitated by time. It’s time for me to go forward and find people that share a common vision for marketing midsized companies. Every small agency owner faces the same thing – the quality of their staff, their motives and their commitment. Work-life balance is great – but for me it’s a myth.
It isn’t that busting my brain assures more of what I’m hoping to achieve – it’s just that hard work can pay off. Success is according to your own definition – but you have to try.

Working hard does not assure that I’m smarter than the next guy either. Success is a matter of positioning. Even the dumbest people have succeeded in business in spite of their lack of common sense. It’s blind luck, or just their turn to succeed. You have to try and put yourself in that position of achieving orbit of success.
What you did in the past is relevant only to the extent that is foundational to what you are trying to do today. It does not define you. As a year closes we probably can reflect on mistakes as opposed to pockets of success. Be that as it may — it is milk that cannot be unspilled.

Whatever business you’re in you happen to in is part of the cycle. Sometimes is repeated, sometimes it’s best to forget it and act as if it never happened. It’s the Don Draper Philosophy. Forget it – it’s happened – get your tail in gear and roll up your sleeves.

I know in my small corner of this business, we will encounter businesses that believe that they will succeed without the type of marketing we provide. I know they believe a fallacy because the client I’m attempting to do business with will encounter potential customers being courted by a similar product.

That’s too much reliance on the past. “We succeeded without you … Blah…blah…blah.” When moment that happens, business will go south because consumers will see the old company as being irrelevant. As Joe Friday said: “That’s where I come in. I carry a badge.” Well, in my case it is a briefcase, a Samsung tablet, a yellow pad and pen.

CDM Digital Advertising offers advertising services that will help a company survive on something other than its own inertia. Our agency specializes in and execute campaign plans, analyzing marketing trends and development, and importantly, consumer receptivity of a brand. I learned that that my decision a few years ago about the type of clients I’d take on may have been wrong. Nowadays the very people I refused to marketed in the adult industry are being assisted by others, as are the medical marijuana merchants. It’s only foundation was that a mistake? No. It was looking at the chewing gum wrapper and realizing that those decisions were foundation to where I want to go.

Check you, later.

Bernard A. McNealy

Food For Thought: Veterans Day 2015: Sometimes, Thank You Isn’t Enough

I lived in Boston until my teen years. Despite its rather checkered history in race relationships, Boston is a place where my heart beats faster because I discovered what I am – I am an American. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate people that live in other countries, and I sense their struggles and their ambition for both are human. I’m certain that their histories are rich, colorful, and valiant but I have something that they don’t have – I am an American.

I’m not going to ignore incidents of police brutality, blatant injustice and discrimination. I’m sure those other places have skeletons. But, today is Veterans Day. Honesty makes me acknowledge by the hand of God I was fortunate enough to be born in the latter part of the 20th century in a country that offers opportunities to go beyond my wildest imagination.

My ancestors are African, Gaelic and Native American. My family were freemen, not slaves. That doesn’t make me better, because you wouldn’t know it if you are hell-bent in holding my skin color against me. Here is what I learned — going back to the Revolutionary War, men in my family put the uniform and defended whatever they were assigned to defend. If they were alive today, I’d tell them my journey fighting for my own civil rights, was only because some people could not accept change.

Thanking those ancestors wouldn’t be enough.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about letting our servicemen and women know how much they’re appreciated. They are the best and the brightest and always have been. There is bravery in volunteering to put one’s life on the line should the situation arise. Thank you.

My mother married a handsome man that was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and fought in the Korean War. He never talked about war, but he did his job. He let his achievements speak for him, becoming a teacher, businessman and owned a considerable amount of stuff. I don’t quarrel with materialism – he earned it. I was born in the military hospital at Fort Gordon. I started choking as I came from my mother’s womb. Had it not been for a quick thinking nurse, and a doctor, I would’ve died. They will both under uniform and white. They saved my life. Thank you is not enough.

I was always amazed by watching military hardware pass near my grandfather’s house. Tanks, trucks filled with troops, helicopters flying overhead. No one knew what fate had for them. I suppose, in some later conflicts some died, and since we are still here, their sacrifices were for you and me.

When I attended Julia Ward Howe Elementary School in Boston, Mrs. Brynn took our class on the Freedom Trail. I heard stories of Paul Revere, William Dawes, Crispus Attucks, and Concord and LexingtoFeatured imagen. Each of them had a greater purpose. We even stood on the Constitution – Old Ironsides pretending to be sailors fighting for our country. But we cannot say enough about the one’s under arms in the war of 1812, the Civil War, the Mexican War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq One and Two and places that we aren’t supposed to know about. Let’s not forget the responders at natural disasters. The spirit of men and women in arms and motivation is always the same — they protect and serve.

Beginning a generation ago a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals infiltrated the school systems and taught everything the United States does is evil. That’s bullshit. They scream about American interventionism, colonization and how America killed indigenous people. These statements have a degree of truth. But the people in uniform believe in ideals and principles of a nation that has done more for this world and spit upon, more than we deserve.

The JFK Kennedy Library in Boston sits on what was once the Columbia Point Housing Project. I lived there and had a beautiful view of Boston Harbor. I remember the fleet spreading over the horizon, then coming in precise it straight like a string of pearls. I thought about Pork Chop Hill, and Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, the Battle of Midway, and Smoking Mountain a century before, Brandywine, the Battle of Trenton and Yorktown before that, and understood that even though my family lived in a housing project, in wars past some people didn’t come back for the privilege. And those that did make it back were unappreciated. Thank you would not be enough.

So, on this Veterans Day I’d to truly like to believe that the current Administration starts taking things seriously because the same forces that caused one to take up arms, still exist. They just call themselves something different. Our men and women come back from wars traumatized, into poverty, addictions and so on. They put on the uniform so that these suit wearing politicians can attend photo ops celebrating the Unknown Soldier without a clue as to who and what that means.

It’s time to say thank you by making the G.I. Bill stronger, and giving our troops jobs when they return to civilian life (the military trains exceedingly well), medical and psychological treatment, housing, education, and whatever else they want.

I once trained a former Marine to be an account executive. He left two months later, but not before we talked. He felt loyal and owed me, he said. He didn’t owe me anything because donning his uniform was enough. He laughed that I trained him so good, a big agency snatched him up.
I can’t say thank you enough for putting on the uniform. Maybe as a nation, we can just show some gratitude.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising LLC

New Beginnings: Confronting Errors

I read an article written by Matt Cronin in Agency Post that proved eye-opening. Matt pointed out something that creative agency owners that I find especially true of small agencies: We tend to forget the importance of being watchful of our ROI and the things that make it.

Opening and running a business requires investment in those things that help us in that pursuit. But we miss the mark on occasion. Our biggest investment isn’t in equipment and software, but it in the people that work for the agency. In our efforts to keep the lights on and the rent paid, how an employee interacts in discoursing their job reflect on the brand – the agency.

There is a basic reason for this. We sometimes find it hard to face truths about the way we run our companies, thus not confronting an error. If a staff member fails to complete a project in a timely manner, we have not only failed the client, but jeopardized the account. People that spend chunks of money on an ongoing basis sometimes are looking for ways to save – a foul-up, presents justification.

My own experience has been one where a new business account representative failed to write a letter of acknowledgement to an RFP (we stood a good chance at being hired since we were one of two agencies under consideration.) It was a simple task, but it wasn’t done and the chance at a six-figure account dissipated. Another example was someone in the same position negotiating to bring in another creative agency (secretly and for a fee) on an account. Also, there was discord fanned by a rather intrusive individual complained about everything, including her salary and prying into everybody else’s. Certainly, this behavior wasn’t helping us in the least and really hurt our reputation.

I’ve described selfishness and business betrayal – but how did that happen? How did it slip by me? I could say I was busy with other day to day tasks, but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

Cronin contends that an agency’s goal is to maximize every dollar invested in a campaign. However, the failure to understand that an agency is a brand as well, is an ingredient in the formula for disaster. A solution is to re-interview each employee to determine job satisfaction, career aspiration and more importantly, what do they feel about the company. In other words, the interview cannot be superficial because one with corrosive attitudes hurts the company. It can tarnish the view of a brand.

This may be lost on some – companies need loyalty. There is some popular thought to the idea that as long as you show up, do some semblance of things within your job description, how you dress, speak and behave is the employee’s business. To an extent those are all true, but the employer is owed something too. The reason why an old fashioned idea like loyalty is so vital is that no business can sustain without it.

Take care.

Bernard Alexander McNealy, President

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing

New Beginnings: Re-branding is Daunting

Re•brand
verb
gerund or present participle: re-branding
1. change the corporate image of (a company or organization).

Re-branding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, and competitors.

In some case re-branding involves radical changes to a brand’s logo, name, image, marketing strategy, and advertising themes. The changes are devised to re-position the brand/company.

It also typically occurs when a company seeks to distance itself from negative connotations of the previous branding, or to move the brand upmarket. Re-branding seems to be the first thing a company does when it emerges from a bankruptcy or other presumptive business setback. Here is what all of this means in total: Management has recognized that business has change in methodology and product demand. Management has created a new business posture or even dismantled its old model. In order to stay relevant, one must adapt. Adaption communicates a new message a new board of directors’ wishes to communicate.

In our particular case, it has been hard. I must confess, it has been a little daunting. Our company, Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. started this process deliberately, like an iceberg frozen in some vortex of a moon on the cold side of Jupiter. It was slow on purpose because we wanted to get everything right. I had two business partners – one left and to tell you the truth, left a tremendous vacuum. Partnerships work best when the partners have specific assignments in relation to the company. In her case, she had primarily responsibility for developing an execution strategy and helping develop a logo and website. Well, while I’m happy that she moved on because I will always be fully supportive, it didn’t obviate her duties. Somebody had to absorb them and it turned out to be me.

In the meantime, our other partner became immersed in a long term assignment pursuing what could be a gargantuan account as we handled little projects for them. It pays a few bills, so refusing them was a no-brainer.

A peculiar thing happens when one is reevaluating a business model –organizational weaknesses and flaws come to the surface. Our biggest flaw is not saying “no,” to life sucking accounts. I also discovered what it truly is to be drained during this process. A big client whom we launched, marketed, branded had boneheaded lawyer send us a nasty letter explaining why that now rich client decided to put the account in review. The last sentence dripped with sarcasm, “Oh, about your last bill…you practiced law as a mediator didn’t you…take us court…our assets are off shore…heehaw-haha…”

If you’re in the agency game you’ve met another type of client. It’s the guy that was formerly marketing or sales head at some Fortune 500 company. He got fired for being an asshole. The same guy turns up as the COO for a new client and figures out ways to get work out of your agency. He also dreams up ways to screw us out our retainer and fees. Staffers view him as the devil and cave in dealing with him, quitting in frustration. They didn’t realize why he did sowed trouble. It’s simple: He’s still an asshole. Or, maybe he is the devil.

We resigned nonproductive accounts, and let attrition run its course. Re-branding and dismantling an old business model teaches that you need a stomach to run an agency. You have to rebuild from the process. Agencies are not for the faint hearted, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

I delayed the launch until later this September because even though Carson Dunn Media Advertising, Inc. seemed structured it wasn’t – and that can be fatal. It was a good outfit, but we operated without what all companies need – policy manuals for every department. So, as we are about to launch into being a digital agency, we are going to be structured like a traditional agency. Dichotomous, to be sure.

Why?

We aren’t in the entertainment business; although what we do can entertain. Our advertising work will be designed to sell products. I truly believe what David Ogilvy preached and Bill Crandall, ‎Chief Marketing Officer, Consultant at Della Femina Rothschild Jeary + Partners reminded me when he graciously agreed to network on Linkedin. We are a brand – thus we are advertising’s finest. We must approach our work qualitatively. Yes, CDM Digital will drum our motto into the heads of staff: “We have purpose, to create, to succeed and be the best.”

Re-branding and having to revamp my company is both exciting and precarious. “In the world of business, what good is it to be an original creative thinker, unless you can sell what you create?”

Catch you later,

Bernard Alexander McNealy, CEO

CDM Digital Advertising & Integrated Marketing