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The Way of the Change Agent

Now more than ever, the world needs masters of change.

All that was civilized and predictable has become a Wild West.

For you, who forge new order, stop the bleeding, and make new growth possible – I am sharing this excerpt from the upcoming Change Agent’s Cookbook. It will provide you with some mythical support. Don’t scoff at the notion of mythical support. Myths are some of the most powerful tools in the change agent’s arsenal. In this case, you’ll take sustenance from the mythic archetype of the Fixer:

We know the end:

You’re respected.
You’re respected because you respect yourself.
You respect yourself because you know what to do to actually deliver on the promises.
You respect yourself because you know how to think, you know what questions to ask, you understand what the answers mean.
You respect yourself because you’re not just a specialist – you can talk business, brand, design-thinking, creativity, behavior change, data, media, technology, boards of directors, ceos, management teams — everything that adds up to growth.
You are respected because you are able to show up as a master of change, in flow and having fun.
Your confidence and positive energy are attractors.
You are the embodiment of inspiring action.
Here’s the beginning:

You have a WAY. You have a process, a procedure, a consistent way of operating

The Way of the Change Agent.

“Be regular and orderly in your life so you can be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

We’re obsessed with “fixer” characters. These are true professionals who show up and take charge, resolving seemingly unsolvable situations.

Harvey Keitel’s Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe from Pulp Fiction is a classic fixer character. Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad is another quietly imposing fixer. Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington in Scandal, is billed as “D.C.’s greatest fixer.”

There are so many more iconic fixers. Sherlock Holmes, of course. Jodi Foster in Inside Man. Julia Roberts’s Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich, George Clooney as Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton. If you haven’t seen the classic scene in which fixer Alec Baldwin as Blake attempts to straighten out a pack of sad-sack salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross, go to YouTube and watch that right now. It’s the origin of the phrase, “Coffee is for closers!” Better yet, see the whole movie.

From their first entrance, our eyes track these characters like stalker ex-boyfriends. What makes them so mesmerizing is their competence and elegant confidence. They do their job with very little wasted movement. Like Jonathan Bank’s Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and George Clooney’s Michael Clayton, they also bring the humility and realism that should come from experience. Yet they can be brutally frank when necessary.

They can also puff themselves up into larger, scarier beasts when required to establish dominance in the service of good order. This is what is so brilliant about “The Wolf” sequence in Pulp Fiction. Keitel’s character is as polite and officious as Gustavo “Gus” Fring can be in his Pollos Hermanos apron on Breaking Bad. But, when he needs to establish who’s boss, he becomes momentarily forbidding before returning to normal size again and complementing the coffee. Alec Baldwin as Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross infuses this character with a striking realism – we know that there are Blakes in the real world and that they are one reason salesmen die. Blake also represents the brutal logic of the fixer – the fixer only does what works, even if it hurts.

As Master Change Agents, we embody the archetype of the Fixer, with a little bit of magic thrown in.

A Fixer is, first, a professional of the highest order. What makes many of these characters interesting is that their professions are often seedy or at least morally ambiguous, not expected to be “professions” at all. The professionalism that they bring to such things as cleaning up lawyer’s messes, making political scandals go away, “cleaning” gory crime scenes and bringing rapacious salesmen into line is what makes for great drama. It works because it rings with an insight about the human condition – that we can develop professional ethics even where they are absurd. We respect professional ethics even when we can’t condone the results.

So, as a master change agent, you will be ready to show up professional in all situations. We’ll also be careful to work toward worthy results.

Fixers are also Tricksters, going beyond professionalism to work a little magic in the course of their work. The order of the Fixer’s method leads to epiphanies and flashes of brilliance.

Master Change Agents are regular and orderly in their methods so that they can be violent and original in their work.

The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn

THE RHINOCEROS AND THE UNICORN - an excerpt from The Change Agent's Cookbook

Did you ever wonder where unicorns come from?

No one has ever seen one, because they only exist as an idea or a myth. So, where did the myth come from?

Imagine a time before photography, videography, TV, film, Instagram, all of it… a time when information was passed mouth to ear and walked on foot.

In 400 B.C.E., the historian Ctesias wrote about the one-horned creature for the first time in Greek literature. He was probably referring to the Indian rhinoceros, but readers imagined unicorns.

People hear about a rhinoceros and they imagine a unicorn.

That’s the short of it.

Author and essayist, Adam Gopnik, uses the story of the rhinoceros and the unicorn to explain the difference between modern liberalism (a rhinoceros) and other political philosophies (libertarianism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, etc.) which he likens to unicorns.

Unicorns are ideal. They have a sort of mythic perfection. We love to think about unicorns. We like to believe in unicorns.

On the other hand, a rhinoceros is an awkward thing. It’s basically a pig with a horn on its head. It’s funny to look at and is politely ignored by proponents of Intelligent Design.

The rhinoceros is a compromise. The rhinoceros is also a perfectly successful animal.

We like our ideals ideal. We like our goals and objectives that way too. We want to build our businesses to some ideal template, some golden form of a business.

Often one hears talk of the leader of successful challenger in a category spoken of in unicorn-like terms.

“Why aren’t we more like Netflix? Google? Apple? Wieden? Droga? RGA? BFG? CPB? DDB? etc.…?”

Tech disrupters with billion dollar-plus valuations are even known as “unicorns.”

They are not. They are rhinoceroses.

Everything successful is an evolved compromise. So, instead of trying to force people into inhuman ideals, why don’t we try to build our organizations from splendid compromises. Why don’t we use the parts well, respecting each one as a successful animal?

Yes, the result may be funny to look at, a bit awkward and ungainly, but it will also be real and more likely successful. And it will be human too.

Why don’t we try to build rhinoceroses rather than unicorns?

Behavior Change Marketing is a rhinoceros, not a unicorn. It isn’t an impossible idea, nor does it claim to be a pure and new thing in the world. It isn’t merely academic and philosophical.

Behavior Change Marketing integrates perspectives and learning from a range of disciplines.

It recognizes that Behavioral Economics is nice old Behavioral Science with some great PR.

We accept the gifts of Behavioral Economics, but we equally welcome that longer heritage of concepts and learnings from Behavioral Science more broadly.

Our long experience in the trenches of direct and digital marketing have taught us that the single best funded program of behavioral economics experiments and their results are mostly lost to us. Lost because their very existence constituted the protected trade secrets of the companies that ran them.

These hundreds of thousands of A/B split tests, multi-cell tests and other experiments form priceless expertise carried around in the heads of venerable brand response wizards, are sometimes set down in writing but always through the distorting lens of hagiographic self-promotion, agency promotion or awards entries.

The knowledge is legend, and much of it is lost to science. That said, we will take all of it we can get, and we will work to see our clients and the broader world get as much benefit from this Fort Knox of intellectual property as we can.

Equally we recognize that the first design thinkers were not denizens of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s, that design thinking was not an invention but at best a rediscovery. If you want to read an excellent compendium of astonishing design thinking, read the Federalist Papers, Hamilton, Jay and Madison’s case study and pitch presentation of their brilliant and flawed rhinocerian creation, the U.S. Constitution.

No, design thinking has been with us a long, long, time. In fact, it took science to get us off the trail of design thinking. Science limited its scope. For example, economics focused on rational homo economicus rather than irrational human beings, and behaviorism focused on observable behavior and demeaned cognition. In dealing with shadows of human beings rather than the whole, scientific thinking led to flat, rational, poor design and communication.

Design thinking was a rediscovery, an attempt to make whole again, to bring in empathy, humanity, uncertainty and chaotic reality. Behavior Change Marketing integrates design thinking as well.

The field of Positive Psychology has seen enormous growth in influence over the past two decades. Today, nations consider Gross National Happiness along with Gross National Product and Subjective Wellbeing is measured by the U.N. to balance their scorecard in evaluating the progress of nations.

And Evolutionary Psychology has helped us to understand the important of signaling, including self-signaling, which challenges the logical, simple, rational and largely incorrect view of human motivation.

The Modern Era loves Unicorns. We love the mythic simplicity. We want to believe that class struggle along drives history and that the future is knowable. A mechanical view of the Universe and envy of natural sciences supported a culture of simple certainty. But, today we understand that even our physics doesn’t operate that way. That, at the best, there is probability. That even if you know everything about the present, you cannot predict the future with any certainty. Randomness is a feature of every system.

So, we are building a Rhinoceros, and we couldn’t be more proud. If you’re building a Rhinoceros too, maybe we could help.

DiGo’s Favorite 2020 Super Bowl Spots

Many people may have tuned into this year’s Super Bowl to catch a glimpse of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira during the Halftime Show, but for the ad industry, tuning into the Super Bowl is like preparing for your own wedding, you just can’t miss it. We get ready every year to see what brands are capitalizing on, and which ones will come out on top.

This year we saw a few themes:

  • Celebrity Appearances

I mean, are we surprised? Celebrity spots have been a staple of super bowl commercials since the very beginning. Hyundai played on the infamous Boston accent to promote their Hyundai Sonota, in their “Smaht Pahk” spot that features a range of celebs such as John Krasinski, Rachel Dratch, Chris Evans and David “Big Papi” Ortiz. Doritos featured rapper Lil Nas X as he partakes in a hilarious dance-off with actor Sam Elliot to the rapper’s hit “Old Town Road”. Among the remaining range of celebrities were John Legend and Chrissy Tegan, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Missy Elliot, Maisie Williams and Jimmy Fallon.

  • Emotional Connection

You can always expect there to be at least one tear jerker amongst these infamous commercials. Pulling on the heart strings of the international audience is what these brands do best. Google hit home with a sweet spot featuring a true story of an elderly man remembering his late wife with the help of Google Assistant. NFL deserves a quick shout out for their “Next 100” commercial, featuring aspiring kids with the hopes and dreams of being future game stars in the next 100 years of the NFL. Budweiser’s Typical American spot showcased Americans doing acts such as serving the country, backbreaking labor, and beating the odds at the highest sports levels, of course all while fueling themselves with a Budweiser. They end by taking a moment to say, the next time someone calls you “typical”, show them what typical can do.

  • Humor

This long-lived tactic was utilized by majority of the brands this year. A few that gave us some extra chuckles were first, the Rocket Mortgage spot featuring Jason Mamoa who gets real comfortable at home, taking off his “faux” layers of skin.. Let’s just say they successfully shocked all of America while trying to promote the convenience of their app through this ad. Groundhog day, featuring Bill Murray brought back the nostalgia by recreating the “Groundhog Day” movie, but this time with a twist. Murray jumps in a Jeep that was definitely not apart of the original movie, and we start watching a series of video clips of Murray and his new groundhog friend having a blast over the course of a few days. The purpose here is to show that even though Murray lives the same day over and over again, no day is truly the same in a Jeep Gladiator.

We could go on and on rambling about the Super Bowl spots but we’ll cut you a break this time! As the hype of the Super Bowl commercials starts to die down, we’ve already begun our count down till we get to be entertainment junkies again!

Till next year!

Lester Wunderman, Direct Model Pioneer, Lives On.

Lester Wunderman, widely acknowledged as “the father of direct marketing” has died. He was 98 years old.

Direct Marketing.

That’s a broad category that includes subscription entertainment services such as Netflix, e-commerce loyalty programs such as Amazon Prime, and direct-to-consumer health and beauty memberships such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. It includes e-commerce websites such as Amazon, direct grocery delivery services such as FreshDirect, and meal kit services including Hello Fresh, SunBasket and Blue Apron. Add to that all the mostly late-night 1-800 number direct-response television commercials selling everything from Swiffers to convection ovens, Peleton and Mirror and so much more in fitness, Weight Watchers’ app, SlimFast, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig in weight loss. Warby Parker in eye glasses, Casper in mattresses and StitchFix in clothes. Dell in computers. American Express in financial services and credit cards. Apple in music and so much more. Priceline, Hotwire,, Kayak and TripAdvisor in travel.

I could go on like this for pages and still only scratch the surface of the immense direct marketing revolution that has upended the old intermediated marketplace and touched the lives of every consumer and business. Direct model businesses are the wave of the present, and Lester Wunderman saw this coming more than 50 years ago.

But, does that make him the “father” of all of this. There’s a really good argument for his paternity.

He did launch the first “direct marketing” agency, Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, later Wunderman and now Wunderman Thompson. He is credited with coining the term “direct marketing” and describing his vision of more personal and accountable marketing in a 1967 speech at MIT. He and his team invented the toll-free 1 800 number (for a Toyota campaign), the magazine tear-off subscription card, the record club that is a precursor of both Apple Music and Netflix, and the first loyalty program (for American Express).

In addition, many of the techniques used in direct market and direct response advertising were first developed by Wunderman and his team. The use of on-camera telephone operators which has become a cliché’ in infomercials and direct television commercials was invented by Wunderman himself and introduced in his campaign for Time Life books which he called “the Judy Wrap.”

Another legendary ad man, Tom Messner, tells of how Wunderman wrested the Time Life business away from Messner’s agency by putting their television spot in between two messages from “Judy,” one at the beginning and one at the end. Thus, the Judy Wrap.

Messner’s commercial and Wunderman’s version of Messner’s commercial with the Judy Wrap were both tested in market. Wunderman’s won by a landslide, producing many more calls and sales. Wunderman’s agency won the account.

Wunderman managed to grow his agency huge, sell it to Y&R yet stay in charge, step down from the CEO role in 1998, well into his 70s, yet continue to come to work through a brief name change to Impiric, a public offering and acquisition by Martin Sorrell’s WPP, after which Wunderman’s name was returned to the masthead. He continued to come into the office every day well into his 90’s and survived to see his name placed ahead of J. Walter Thompson in the merger of the two agencies at the end of last year, forming Wunderman Thompson.

Or, at least I hope he saw it. Though he lived, I don’t know what his condition was at that time.

Those of us who labored “below the line” in direct marketing back in the day like to think he saw that. Whenever I meet a fellow direct marketer, they say the same. With that name change, it felt like the revolution was finally complete and those who had been last were finally first.

When I started my agency, I published a piece announcing our approach as “brand direct.” I was thinking of Lester’s introduction of “direct marketing.” I worshipped entrepreneurs like Lester and I guess I had an ambition to be the “father” of something too. I thought I saw something, a future in which direct model companies would need to build brands as well as businesses, and a gap in the marketplace – a lack of agencies that combined those areas of expertise. About six months after I launched my agency in 1996, Lester Wunderman came to our offices to visit. I had never met him before, but he said he was interested in what we were doing. I gave him a tour and he was mostly silent, taking it all in. At the end he said, “I think you’re doing something very interesting and worthy. Don’t let it grow too fast. We grew too fast and it caused us no end of problems.”

He proceeded to charm me, in the way that he no doubt charmed every potential client who came within reach.

Thank you, Lester Wunderman, father of direct marketing.

“You are not in the club!”

“You are not in the club!”

Years ago, maybe a decade ago.

We’re in a meeting.

Plotting our glorious ascent.

A frustrated creative director blurts this out:

“You think you’re in the club, but you’re not in the club!”

He wanted to be in the club.

I didn’t.

An entrepreneur’s goal isn’t to be in the club.

White shoe, WASP country club ad agencies had no place

for young Lester Wunderman.

They were as “restricted” as country clubs back then.

Throughout the 20th Century and beyond,

they looked down on “direct marketing people.”

They were Jewish. (And sometimes Italian)

They were scrappy.

They cared about selling and business.

They harped on about “results.”

And they were sometimes lumpy and uncharismatic,

because they’d earned their seat at the table with results.

You see echoes of this, even today.

You see it in the horror of posts in this social network and others.

“How can they put Wunderman’s name in front of that classic Thompson?!!!”

Echos of the old WASP country club.

“Our kind” of creativity.

Lester Wunderman and the direct marketers couldn’t win advertising business.

They weren’t invited to the pitches.

Weren’t welcome.

They had to create business.

Lester literally invented businesses.

Record clubs, for example.

Seed clubs for gardeners.

He did the first ads and, if they worked,

the agency could make the commissions on the next ads.

That’s how he built a world-changing agency.

Because he wasn’t welcome at the club,

he invented his own club.

Built his own industry, company and culture.

Wrote his own book.

Donny Deutsch once told me,

“Most clients just want to be part of the club.”

I said, “Not my clients.”

He said, “Well, 95% of clients.”

I said, “I’ll be happy with the other 5%.”

Not being allowed in the club is opportunity.

The founder’s chance.

The entrepreneur’s moat.

The disruptor’s incentive.


First, they ignored you.

Then, they ridiculed you.

Then, they reviled and tried to fight you.

Then, they tried to buy and subjugate you.

Finally, they put your name up front, where it belongs.

Thank you, Lester Wunderman. Entrepreneur. Change Agent.

Takeaways from 2019 Digiday Media Buying Summit

As the Integrated Associate Media Director at the agency, I had the pleasure of representing DiGo at Digiday’s 2019 Media Buying Summit in Key Biscayne, Florida, to soak in the latest-and-greatest of media buying trends and bring home some tidbits for the team. It was there that I was able to immerse myself in panels ranging from media buying trends, to cross-channel audience planning, to deterministic data use, and more. Sitting in a room with hundreds of agency professionals — just like me — discussing every day wins, losses and everything in-between was extremely enlightening, and re-assured me that DiGo is here to compete. 

Let’s take a look at the five main takeaways from my experience and how they relate to our evolving responsibilities as stewards of clients media dollars:

1. Measuring Success

Attribution, Attribution, Attribution. Client investment in multi-touch performance models vs. last touch performance models is the #1 industry challenge for big and small agencies alike. 

The first exercise of the conference was for agencies to put a post-it on a wall detailing their biggest challenge, and over half of the post-its read “Attribution”. We need attribution to tell the correct performance story, but well-known industry attribution models are incredibly expensive.

We also need to start re-thinking the “A” in CPA. If we only optimize towards short term growth, we could easily be sabotaging long term growth. The audience must come first, and media planning second, as a deep understanding of our target is needed in order to build plans grounded in long-term success. This is why the strategic research phase is so critical; clients need to be 100% on board with this piece first, before jumping into approving media/measurement plans. Communication remains imperative.

2. Media Talent

We are reaching a point of serious automation, so energy needs to shift from training newcomers in the industry on the technical skills to training them to think strategically. The rise of digital over the past 10 years has inundated media planners with technical tasks (trafficking, tagging, reporting, analysis, optimization, etc.), and while newcomers need to be grounded in the skills of a media professional, management needs to shift focus to the WHY behind the tasks when training.

Speaking of talent, there was a ton of discussion around specialists. Social and search experts are typically in high-demand; however, we often forget the community that influences both the search and social marketplaces — Infuencers. We are in a social world led by our mobile devices, so engaging influencer communities has become an integral part of the channel mix for many brands, spanning a variety of verticals. Influencers can drive core brand details authentically and serve as ambassadors for building trust across any and all verticals, which in 2019, is the most important aspect of relationship-building with consumers. Addressing the influencer marketplace more aggressively and staffing for specific skill-sets is crucial in staying competitive.

Lastly, media planners are the unsung heroes of the industry that don’t often get the credit they deserve, and are at the forefront of a changing — and extremely challenging — media buying climate. Changes in the media buying landscape are changing their jobs (rise of CTV/OTT, omni-channel content consumption, advanced targeting and measurement, etc.), which has resulted in an increase in technical tasks. Recognizing and addressing media buying challenges and developing a career path for more dynamic roles will be crucial in retention. 

3. Integration

Integration is the name of the game, both internally and externally.

The days of briefing media and creative separately are over. Creative and media must marry and need to be on board with each other from day one to ensure harmony. Creative can be media’s #1 optimization lever, so both departments looking at performance together on a regular basis must become the norm. A certain level of coordination is needed to ensure long-term success, so creatives need to be invited to the table as early as possible in media planning. Mapping creative across strategies together will make performance exponentially better. Creative folks need to be held accountable for looking at performance throughout a campaign, not just upon launch.

Also, the consumer experience is everywhere simultaneously, so finding ways to story tell cross-format is imperative to breaking through. The days of traditional planning in silos are over. We need to connect the dots by tapping into digital addressability as much as possible. The marketplace is getting savvier and savvier with cross-channel sequential-messaging, and we need to make sure we follow suit. Connecting the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel and building out audiences exposed to other channels (Digital OOH and mobile, TV and mobile, etc.) is no longer ‘next level’ — it is the expectation. It’s our job to get clients excited. 

4. The Ad-Environment

Brand safety and brand suitability are not the same thing, but need to exist hand-in-hand. Moving into 2020, suitability is becoming a higher priority. Contextual intelligence, semantics of pages, etc. are growing needs. Missed suitability opportunities can lead to consumer angst and revenue loss.

Context DOES matter. Brand perception is highly influenced by context, and needs to be accounted for just as much as brand safety. Below are some stats that support this*:

  • Ads viewed on high quality sites are perceived 74% more likable than the same ads seen on low quality sites
  • Audiences on high quality sites showed 20% higher engagement than on low quality sites
  • Campaigns on high quality sites stand to benefit from 30% greater memorability driven by brand suitable content

Risk management is going to be a big differentiator between who is winning and losing pitches. Viewability, fraud, brand safety, etc. are themes nearly every presenter touched on. 

*Source: The State of Brand Suitability,  Integral Ad Science in Partnership with Digiday, 2019

5. Media Buying

Agencies are moving away from relying heavily on the cookie world to move towards going deeper with deterministic data. Working with clients to be more transparent with 1st party data for targeting is becoming the norm for agencies. Everyone wants to get their hands on 1st party data, but many clients aren’t there yet in terms of adaptation to Data Management Platforms, making this a challenge. Agencies need to be the stewards of smarter targeting, so DMP or not, we need to push to get our hands on the most ‘lower-funnel’ data possible — including CRM. 

We are also in an era of ‘set it and forget it’. Platform algorithms are sharper than ever offering automated settings; however, there is a false sense of security in leaving campaigns on autopilot. Plus, this doesn’t create any form of competitive advantage for an agency. Brand growth objectives need to remain #1 for media planners, with testing at the forefront of every activation. There is still a need to run media on OUR terms, not on a platforms. 

As the Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of the world have gotten bigger and bigger… we’ve found there’s a need to start becoming platform experts. Getting certified and understanding deeper levers/testing ideas will be crucial in standing out from the competition. 

Biggest takeaway of all? Media buying has significantly evolved over the last few years. 

There are more channels than ever, each with their own complications, and the rise of new players in retail media has meant even more buying complexity. New types of companies are transforming how brands are launched and marketed across various platforms. AI technologies are changing the way people do business. There’s increased competition across platforms, within agencies and with the rise of new in-house media buying teams, so everyone is undergoing a serious shift in standards. But, it is an exciting time to be at the forefront of trust and transparency, and that’s where the opportunity lies.

To that end, I’m pleased to say that we’re ahead of a few of these trends. 

We’ve added an Analytics discipline that we call digometrics, for Attribution Modeling, Marketing Mix Modeling, and Brand Measurement and Tracking. This discipline is guided by machine-learning and professionals doctorally-trained in nonparametric statistics. Our Strategy team has also created a Net Growth Score Analysis which uncovers where brands need to focus for sustained growth. 

digometrics broadens our reach with clients and the relationships they maintain with consumers. It’s a true necessity for today’s modern marketer who relies on knowing what their customer needs day in and day out, and ultimately, our promise to build brands and drive performance simultaneously is something more and more clients will be paying attention to. 

Thanks for the insights Digiday Media Buying Summit 2019! Until next year! 

– Alessandra Dierking (Geraci) Integrated Associate Media Director

Change Agent’s Cookbook: Fox or Hedgehog?

The ‘Hedgehog Concept’ dates back to antiquity, to a philosopher-poet named Archilochus.

His idea still has power to move us today because he told it in the form of a simple story, the story of the Fox and the Hedgehog.

In nature, a Fox is clever, whereas a Hedgehog is well-fed. A Fox’s brain gets bored easily and seeks new problems to solve. The Fox has so many ideas he often forgets which ones are his best and most useful.

The Fox tries everything in its quest to catch and eat the hedgehog.

The Hedgehog has one idea, and he’s learned to execute it perfectly – he just rolls himself into a perfect, prickly ball, and the Fox goes hungry every time.

Because the Hedgehog has a single defining idea, she just gets better and better at working that idea.

In life, business and cartoons, hedgehogs beat foxes every day. Wile E. Coyote is a Fox. He is forever inventing new “business models” to capture the Roadrunner. Roadrunner is a Hedgehog. Roadrunner’s Hedgehog Concept is FASTER. This just happens to be the same one that has driven FedEx and Google’s success for decades.

I first met this idea not in the study of Greek philosophy, but in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.

Collins studied companies that had taken their results from good to great. Without bias, he and his team set out to learn how. A key factor in these good-to-great stories was the finding a “Hedgehog Concept.” 

Collins said that this hedgehog concept lay at the intersection of, “What you have enthusiasm for,” “What drives your economic engine” and “What you can be best in the world at.”

I took Collins’ invitation to find our hedgehog to heart. But, how does the Fox develop a Hedgehog concept? And how does the leader of an unruly skulk of Foxes – creative, strategic, analytical, artistic, entrepreneurial, multi-faceted, idea machines – establish a Hedgehog Concept culture?

I knew we had a passion for the intersection of entrepreneurship, creativity and personal growth – Growth. And, we shared a passion for working with and learning from the best.

Secondly, we took the word “agency” seriously, even if the rest of the world didn’t. 

To us, being an “agent” means putting the client’s success first, being “unconflicted” – having zero conflicts of interest – and limiting distractions. I believed that an agency must take fiduciary responsibility for the client’s success. 

So, it was clear that our economic engine would be fueled by client success and only by client success. That translated to fees and bonuses based on achieving milestones.

Because of our commitment to aligning with the client, from CEO on down, we knew we needed an integrated offering, bringing together brand and performance. Clients were increasingly lonely with the responsibility for integrated brand-building and revenue-generating – brand and performance – as agencies focused on micro-specializations.

So, the typical specialization couldn’t be our Hedgehog. We couldn’t just do digital or brand design or creative or media.

We stepped back to observe ourselves solving problems. Whether launching, relaunching and turning around a brand and business, we noticed that we do in fact have a single, all-powerful strategy, a single defining idea.

Inspiring Action.

The Hedgehog views the world through the lens of a single defining idea, overarching goal, belief, or ethos that informs, colors and exemplifies all that they do.

For us that idea is Inspiring Action, and we’ve built it into a powerful, predictable process for accelerating growth.

All Growth is Behavior Change

Inspiring action starts with a core truth, that no growth in life or business is possible without behavior change. When we approach a business problem, we first look at the key drivers of value in the business. What levers move business value? What gears accelerate growth?

Value-Driving Actions.

All value creation is the result of behaviors, value-driving actions. For example, for many years we worked with an electronic broker, during which time we increased the efficiency of marketing by over ten times.

Analyzing the creation of value in the business, we noted three key levers: new funded accounts, more trading activity and increased balances.

In a low-interest environment, balances didn’t add much value to the company. We needed new accounts from active traders and a higher share of trading from our current customer.

In short, we needed to get more active traders to choose us, to fund their accounts and to trade more often with us – all value-driving behaviors.

Behavior Change is Inspiring Action

Optimal behavior change comes from a synergy of brand and performance.

Performance marketing alone is less efficient in the short run and damaging in the long run.

Inspiring = Motivated

Behavior is most likely to change – action is most likely to be taken – when motivation, ease and a trigger all happen at the same time (B.J. Fogg).

An inspiring brand organizes motivation, motivating the first value-driving action, while setting up the motivation for subsequent actions.

Inspiration is a function of the brand idea – does it connect and motivate, does it create a powerful lift?

Action = Ease

Action = Ease (simplicity, presence, lack of friction, plus a trigger – all at the same time).

In each case, we analyze the prospect and customer journey, looking for blocks, gaps and drags affecting value-driving actions. We prioritize those gaps and address them one by one, unlocking growth, marketing efficiency and customer value.

Yes, we can be fox-like in solving these problems, but the fact that we have a single problem that we solve – the problem of brand and business growth – and single, powerful way of solving that problem – Inspiring Action – means that we keep getting better and better.

So that’s why “Inspiring Action” is so much more than a “tagline” for us – it’s truly our hedgehog concept.

What’s your Hedgehog? Where do you stand with it? I’d love to hear from you.

Yours in Inspiring Action,
Mark DiMassimo

The A List Podcast with Matt Low & Mani Schlisser

On this week’s episode of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO, Tom Christmann is joined by BBDO’s Matt Low and Mani Schlisser

Matt is a Senior Copywriter (and resident sneaker enthusiast) at BBDO Worldwide where he has worked since being an intern for nearly five years. Matt is a graduate of Syracuse University and in his nascent career as a copywriter has received numerous accolades and nominations by bodies such as: The New York Festivals Advertising Awards, The Webbys, and his recognition earned him a feature in AdWeek.

Mani has recently taken on a role as a Senior Planner at BBDO (congratulations Mani!) having previously worked as a planner at mcgarrybowen, as well as a strategist at Laundry Service and Edelman. A graduate of Indiana University at Bloomington, he’s into all things tech media and business and has become a frequent contributor to the digital publication, Medium.

We are glad to have these two on for our second episode of our special “Dean’s List” edition of the A-List Podcast. On the Dean’s List we interview rising, young professionals who are building their legacies in the 21st-century advertising world. This is an interesting episode as we dive into a lot of great conversation and discussion about advertising in today’s world.

Tune in to this week’s episode of the A-List here:

Show Notes:

  • [0:00-2:39] Intro.
  • [2:42-5:31] Matt and Mani talk a bit about their roles at mcgarrybowen and BBDO.
  • [5:32-9:00] Matt and Mani on their shared upbringing and experiences pre-advertising.
  • [9:26-13:21] Mani on discovering brand strategy and creative planning.
  • [13:44-16:06] Matt on full time creative and tips for interns learning to excel in the workplace.
  • [16:09-19:51] Finding inspiration from agencies’ work and setting Google alerts to stay at the cutting edge.
  • [19:52-24:52] Matt and Mani’s perspectives on industry changes and shifts.
  • [25:00-27:50] Moms, millennials, and the importance of communication in the modern age.
  • [28:00-32:28] Combatting instant gratification and developing skills outside of work.
  • [32:30-38:10] Finding connections and inspiration from the world around us by unplugging here and there.
  • [38:17-41:29] Discussing the modern workflow of an ad agency.
  • [41:30-51:40] Matt and Mani’s goals for their future in the industry.
  • [54:09-58:17] Outro.

“The A-List” is a podcast produced by DiMassimo Goldstein, an inspiring action agency, recorded at the Gramercy Post, and sponsored by the Adhouse Advertising School, New York’s newest, smallest, and hippest ad school. You can subscribe and rate the show on iTunes or listen along on SoundCloud. For updates on upcoming episodes and guests, be sure to like the A-List Podcast on Facebook and follow host Tom Christmann on Twitter