On this week’s episode of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann is joined by Karl Lieberman, Executive Creative Director and Creative Head at Wieden + Kennedy New York.
I don’t always launch campaigns that generate thousands of memes for years to come, but when I do, it’s awesome. Remember Dos Equis’s The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign? Of course you do. Well, that was Karl. He co-created that iconic campaign and many more.
Raised in New Jersey by an artist mother and a doctor father, Karl’s creativity and ambition was nurtured early on. However, it wasn’t until visiting his sister at work at her digital marketing office in D.C, did he learn about the world of advertising.
After studying fine arts at the University of Delaware, Karl got an internship at Mother London, where he learned his portfolio sucked, got an art partner, and learned to write from an honest place.
Karl has worked at several big-name agencies including Gyro, Mother, and Wieden + Kennedy, where he’s helped create famous work for huge clients, including Bud Light, Dos Equis, ESPN, Yoplait, Velveeta and more.
During the interview, Karl offers insights about coming of age in the business, being true to himself, and making it big. Listen in for the whole scoop
[0:00 – 2:55] Intro
[2:56 – 7:42]Having an artistic childhood in New Jersey with a painter mother and a doctor father
[7:43 – 13:00] Exposure to the advertising world,learning jobs don’t have to stuck, pursuing art at The University of Delaware
[14:30 – 25:29] Interning at Mother London, getting a portfolio invention, partnering with art director Brandon Henderson and landing first jobs
[25:29 – 30:05] Working with hero Jeff Kling (Miller High Life) in the creative department, writing a basketball blog, connecting the dots between writing and writing ads
[30:05 – 37:35] WritingDos Equis’sThe Most Interesting Man in the World campaign
[38:40 – 39:57] Working harder post Dos Equi’s campaign
[39:58 – 52:40] From Gyro to Mother then eventually Wieden + Kennedy, and the importance of briefs
[39:58 – 55:45] Defining “good ideas,” the future of advertising, and the power of the internet
[55:45 – 59:16] Droga5 Superbowl spots Walking Dead and Game of Thrones
Advertising Awards Are Stupid. But Also Important.
I have a piece of art made by Rohitash Rao on the bookshelf in my office. It’s an award. A golden (plastic) statue that sort of looks like an Oscar stands on a wooden base. On the base, in wonderfully frantic hand-painted white letters, it says “YOU DIDN’T EARN THIS.” I love it because it reminds me of the foolishness of awards. Especially advertising awards.
Next to it, on the same shelf, sit my advertising awards. A One Show Pencil. A Clio. Some Addys. A Telly or two. I can’t seem to find the Cannes Lion (bronze), but when I do, that’s where it will go. I’m proud of these awards because they remind me that I have participated in doing work that was recognized by my peers as “great”, whatever that means. And that inspires me to try to do it again. And to know that I can.
Am I stupid? Not really. I know that winning an award doesn’t necessarily mean that the work “worked” on consumers. Many award-winning creative solutions didn’t have any effect on sales, as the haters love to remind us every year during award season. The very worst examples of this are the fake ads made by unscrupulous creatives who just want to win an award to soothe their fragile egos. Most award shows have tried to squash this by making new rules, but the award-addicts will always find ways to get around the rules. This is infuriating.
But in another way, I am stupid. I’m human. Like all humans, I have an ego. We are imperfect creatures. We need lots of ways to inspire ourselves to action. An action as simple as looking at our naked bodies in the mirror can inspire us to go to the gym. (Or maybe to buy roomier pants.) Tracking your finances can inspire you to make changes that help you save more money. These are ways that we hack our imperfect human brains.
I was always very disorganized. I thought it was just a part of being “creative”. But I’ve recently started Bullet Journaling as a way to inspire myself to stay on task and get more done. The simple act of writing everything down by hand somehow connects to a part of my brain that has way more organizational skills than I knew I had. And the work has gotten better for it.
Awards can be an inspirational tool. Awards are not the goal. Great work is the goal. But by hacking our egos, we trick ourselves into pushing the work to a better place. The result is surprising, novel work that can better spark the imagination and move people to act. At DiMassimo Goldstein, we call this Inspiring Action. Sometimes, it’s a traditional television spot. Sometimes it’s an experiential pop-up made to be shared on Instagram. Sometimes it’s a web-enabled doohickey that helps volunteer types find like-minded dates.
Awards are also a kind of shorthand for creative minds. The same way hobos marked houses with weird symbols to let other hobos know if they were safe or not, awards are a secret language that tell the makers of the world: “this agency will feed you and give you succor”.
Awards help us push past the obvious. Getting the work to a place that is “award-worthy” is an important way to check our inherent bias towards our first thoughts. We are forced to find elegant solutions to our clients’ business problems that can stand alone. Or to rethink the problem entirely. This is a good thing for business.
Our campaign for Shutterstock is winning a lot of awards. A shorty. Two webbys. A One Show shortlist (grumble grumble!). And a coveted, hard-to-win D&AD pencil. I haven’t checked the Cannes results yet, but it’s got a shot. And this may be the one case where awards are a part of the marketing solution itself, because creative people are the target. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on our minds as we worked on it a way it normally isn’t at first. We had to impress the creative class and we did. Sales are up big.
So the shelf in my office will have more awards. But the Rohitash Rao piece will always stand in the middle, reminding us all that awards, in the end, are just tools we use to get to great work that works.
When Weight Watchers first came to us in the spring of 2015, the brand was in an alarming state…
The previous months had been some of the worst in the iconic company’s history, with substantial dips in subscriptions, sign-ups, and revenue, leading to the stock plummeting from $25 to $7 per share.
At the same time, the category was facing fierce and unfamiliar competition in the form of wearable tech, free fitness and calorie counting apps, and niche diets that were sweeping the internet. The consumer was now living in a choice-filled world, which led to powerful defenses. Inaction is exacerbated by the unprecedented level of emotional distance and skepticism that people are feeling, primarily because they are overwhelmed.
The conversation shifted, and no one was talking about Weight Watchers. With the brand on the “brink of irrelevance,” they needed more than just an agency – they needed an ally.
That’s when they came to us to inspire action.
The client couldn’t afford to be patient. Like any true change agent, our client couldn’t sacrifice brand for revenue or revenue for brand – they needed both, and urgently.
The challenge: refresh the brand to drive both recruitment and brand value.
The timeline? One month.
30 days to diagnose the previous failed strategy, create and choose offers, plan channels, agree on a brief, conceive and write scripts and concepts, and then produce, launch and traffic two television commercials and a digital campaign.
We accepted the challenge, and with confidence. From our work with Reader’s Digest, Netflix, eBay, Fresh Direct, and many others, we knew subscription-model businesses. We knew the health and wellness category. We knew the immense pressure and responsibility our client felt. We knew we could help.
Executing a process that most agencies require four to six months to complete in just 30 days would require all hands on deck and inspiring collaboration with our client. With both teams excited by the new partnership and the challenge ahead, we immediately went to work.
There are two ways that we can change behavior: by increasing motivation and by making it easier for our audience to take action.
Weight loss is one of the toughest behavioral challenges of our times. Sometimes people might be very motivated to lose weight, but lack the skills to do it. They don’t know how to do it, and the environment does not make it easy for people to lose weight. Life gets in their way.
To overcome these challenges, Weight Watchers needed to hit both, motivation and ease.
With our first campaign, we tapped into people’s natural desire to change by modeling behavioral change. People learn new ways of behaving by watching others. Modeling can be very powerful when it creates a new social norm. And there’s generally a tipping point when not participating in the action becomes the odd behavior.
In a four-week sprint, and with our client involved at every step, we conceived, developed, and went to market with a winning campaign that focused on the brand’s secret ingredient – its members – while highlighting the special offer of a free starter kit to increase ease.
The starter kit was a key. Everyone’s journey to weight loss is unique, but almost always, making the commitment to start is the hardest part. Most diets only last a few days because results don’t happen overnight.
With a free starter kit, the consumer now had something tangible to symbolize this new chapter of transformation. It gave them the tools they needed to succeed, and made them feel confident they could stay the course. It was a constant reminder of the empowering path they were on.
The campaign generated excitement and restored consumers’ motivation to act, leading to the first up quarter of recruitment in years. The stock price went back up, and for the first time in a while, the future was hopeful. Still, our work was far from finished.
In 2016, our brand planners helped us strategically prepare to launch a campaign around Weight Watchers’ new program, SmartPoints, one of the brand’s biggest innovations in 50 years.
Understanding the human behaviors that would ultimately drive action, our client doubled down on our consumer-centric approach and engaged the members like never before. We worked with Weight Watchers to cast real members talking about their experiences, capturing the values of the brand and its audience at the same time.
New signups surged, with increases in subscribers, meeting attendees, and an immediate 5% North American revenue lift.
With a new program in place, our client had something others didn’t – real results with real people.
Our Fall 2016 sprint started with a happier problem; Members were losing 15% more weight on beyond the scale.
How could our client get the news out in a way that would get noticed? Once again, the client inspired action, reaching out to real members and super fans. But this time, through Weight Watchers’ own app, Connect, which has been called the most positive social network on earth.
We asked members to film themselves telling us their success stories and living the program. A technique we’ve dubbed, the Selfifesto®.
And like the program, the campaign worked, inspiring the audiences to act in ways that benefit them.
During our over three-year partnership with Weight Watchers, our client achieved 10 consecutive quarters of recruitment growth. The stock grew from $7 to $107 per share, and Weight Watchers reached its highest marketing efficiency since 2008.
Together, we helped revitalize the brand, breaking down the barriers to motivation to gain over 1 million new members a year. We increased their commitment, made the path easy, and helped them each make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
That’s the master change agent way. That’s inspiring action.
Last week, our Chief Mark DiMassimo went AdAge’s Ad Lib Podcast to talk with host Brian Braiker about building brands and businesses in a direct-to-consumer world, why traditional advertising is less important today, how behavior change marketing can be used to help fight the opioid epidemic, and much much more. Full transcript and podcast below!
Mark: What experience do you want them to have? Like when you think about this thing?
Brian: What experience do I want my listeners to have?
Mark: Yeah, why should they tune in?
Brian: I want them to be entertained and informed, inspired, possibly scared. I think they are already probably a little scared.
Mark: So they feel like they need to listen, might be dangerous not to listen.
Brian: If they miss a single episode of this podcast, they’re doomed.
Mark: Alright well, I wanted my brief, so I gotta be entertaining and interesting.
Brian: And who are you? You’re Mark DiMassimo, Chief of DiMassimo Goldstein. Welcome to Ad Lib podcast
Mark: Great to see you and be here. And we are literally seeing each other across this card table.
Brian: It’s a shoestring budget here and you can change that with sponsors. First, let’s start with the basics. DiMassimo Goldstein, what is that? You’re an independent agency that’s 22 years old.
Mark: You know a lot about this business and you know a lot about my business. We are an independent agency in New York that I founded in 1996, 22 years young. Even though we’ve been around for 22 years, we have not had the same year over again because we work with growth-stage turnaround state of businesses so our clients are constantly driving us to embrace change.
Brian: Well I don’t think you have a choice in the matter when it comes to embracing change. So who are these clients?
Mark: Let me give you a few because right now, this is not about being self-promotional…
Brian: Yes, because this is not the DiMassimo Goldstein hour.
Mark: We believe in a direct-to-consumer, choice-filled world, and that people are actually out there in the marketplace trying to get inspired to do great things, and the right things. We want them to do that so some of our top clients right now are Salesforce.org. So Salesforce is one of the big tech companies in the world. And Salesforce with Salesforce.org they really help drive the not-for-profit economy and really help a lot of people so we’re really proud we’re working with them. TradeStation is a fantastic company that went from small competitors to Charles Schwab, to now the fastest-growing programmatic trading, very excited about them. I should mention the Bronx Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society.
Brian: What a cool client. So you said the words direct-to-consumer, you say those words a lot? I’ve heard those words a few times before we turned on the mics. What do you mean, really, what does that look like?
Mark: So when I founded the agency in 1996, I had this thought.
Brian: Were you a holding company refugee?
Mark: Right before I started DiMassimo Goldstein, I was Creative Director at Kirschenbaum, which was an amazing experience, and we were challenging the holding companies; but before that, I was at J Walter Thompson, YNR, started at BBDO and I went on to be this integrated guy who was working with the brand and advertising. But I had this early experience with direct-to-consumer and I saw technology making everything more and more direct-to-consumer all the time and I thought, man, when they turn to agencies, they always get the folks who don’t know brands, who don’t know how to build brands. I thought, wow, we could be the agency that builds brands for this direct-to-consumer world. For twenty years, I couldn’t really say that, because agency people always heard direct marketing, performance marketing, and it isn’t that. It’s building brands and businesses in a direct-to-consumer world. Dollar Shave Club, for example, all these platforms, Uber, Airbnb, I could go on and on.
Brian: So how does that work? Direct-to-consumer means knocking the agencies out of the way.
Mark: Look, absolutely. We are also agents in the middle and about 10 years ago, Google got together and talked about if it was time to get rid of the agencies and, thank god, they decided to work with us for now. But any middle professional can ] be pushed out of the way. We have to find how we add value.
Brian: How do you add value?
Mark: In a world where everybody has these expectations, I want instant, I want choice. In order to respond to that, you need your agency to understand those expectations. Those people are choosing an experience, but they’re also choosing what club to join. Thats why its also a subscription world, right, we’ve heard that with Amazon and Netflix. It’s people piecing together their own service world. So what inspires me? What clubs do I identify with that I want to make part of my life? You need agencies that can think those things through. Business and brand experience delivered through product service and then marketing, that’s the hierarchy today. So I think one thing that large agencies that grew up and built large factories for advertising, one thing they’re suffering with are these legacy agencies that were built for a world where the advertising drove the brand positioning. That’s not the case anymore.
Brian: The case today is agencies help build the brands themselves; is that where you’re going with this?
Mark: Exactly, I see it again and again, your CCO better be promoted to chief marketing officer and service content and brand or else someone else will. Then, your CMO will be reporting to a chief growth or product officer. Everybody has access to the opinions of others through consumer reviews and rating sites in every category. So product experience that you give and the story you tell around it through content, PR, social media, has to all hang together so advertising is a lot less important than it used to be.
Brian: So this need for brand building at holding company level has made room for consultant agencies to move in.
Mark: When I look at the independents that like us are thriving, they are brand consultant agencies at the core, but then activating through social or an integrated way like we are, or they’re innovation shops. That’s why innovation shops have grown up, because what are we gonna be has become a much more important question than what are we going to say about it.
Brian: So the traditional advertising agency as you see it, the writing’s on the wall?
Mark: Look, I think there are massive global companies that have all the problems of scale and they probably need ways of dealing with those scale problems. I don’t claim to be an expert on that, I believe those worlds are troubled both on the client side and the agency side. It’s really hurting now. I love that Martin Sorrell and I agree for the first time.
Brian: That holding companies are broken? Now that he’s on the other side?
Mark: Right! Now that I’m on the outside, I realize it. No, you were part of the problem, you profited from the problem, you understand the problem really well because you were on the inside and now you know how to compete.
Brian: That’s what George Soros did in a way, too.
Mark: Hell yeah.
Brian: What do you think is going to happen with WPP and the holding model? Pure speculation, obviously.
Mark: I think they compete as public companies, their stories aren’t great, compared to tech companies driven by pure tech stories. They’re holding a lot of what they used to consider cash cow assets, that are actually weighing them down now; they’ve also got a lot of new models. They’re buying independents, they’re trying to integrate them, make them matter for scale. I will not be surprised if we see some divestitures of mature assets. Meanwhile, I hear all the time from folks who would love to get people like me and agencies inside in order to get clients the experience they’ve been leaving for. What they keep telling me is that there are fewer and fewer things to buy.
Brian: Would you sell?
Mark: If the answer was yes, I would already be sold. Wherever I am, the next three years of my life are always too important to me. I’m not going to be the richest guy in the cemetery, but I’ve done well enough that if I love my job, I’ll be OK and that’s my priority to keep growing this place. I’ve given other people this experience in working in a focused, inspiring, less-problematic environment and I’ve seen what it means in their lives, too. We’re not for every client, but we play an important role in the lives of our clients as well.
Brian: Talk about then what you’ve learned at BBDO, JWT, that you saw there that you chose not to replicate. You said you did see a need for that kind of brand building skill set. What did you see that you didn’t want?
Mark: Great question. Without fail, the people at the top of the large agencies I work for, I’m forever grateful I got to work closely with these people. They were really smart, good and the same people that were running small independent agencies before. I won’t name any names but a lot of them at the top are the result of acquisitions, so at that level, there’s similar thinking. But I’ve seen people go into those situations and see problems they have to solve and the genius they go in with thinking about brands, orchestrating teams, really innovating through creative, they get worn down by the problems of how do I keep people out of this meeting. Everybody wants to sell their thing in the meeting. It becomes a how do I keep this all from going south then try to be a little bit better than other people who compete. The other thing I found, and my experience is a little old, but everybody tells me that the beautiful, pure brand planning that I worked with at Kirschenbaum was never really replicated very well at large agencies. As a creative director at J Walter Thompson, I was really a better planner than a creative director. That was true with just about every creative director there. We didn’t have planners. So we had to be right about the brand and therefore, the creative suffered. Whereas in independents, you have strategic thinkers working in lockstep with creatives and media people. But you don’t have to be your own strategists. You can connect your creative mind with somebody who’s really focused on that and it’s in a team where people who aren’t adding to the conversation are not in the conversation. That’s what I mean by the problems of scale. We have to find some way to engage all these people all over the world, even though that’s going to dilute the quality of this conversation. We don’t have that problem. We have it on the client side to some extent as our clients get bigger, but we help create these works that then help and inspire the rest of that team.
Brian: What are your clients’ pain points right now? What are they coming to you looking for help on?
Mark: I’ll say how they define the problem, then the changes that come from that. Without fail, the client needs to both build revenue and do it in a way that builds the brand at the same time. There are all kinds of pressures to sacrifice the long term of the brand for short-term sales. Different kinds of organizations have different pressures, so they own this problem. If they don’t solve this revenue problem in the short run, they’re out. They don’t get to build the brand. If revenue doesn’t actually build the value of the brand, it’s gonna stop working; then they’re gonna be out. With very few exceptions, when they turn to agencies, the agencies all wanna own one side of that problem or the other. So they need someone to step in and say, yes, I will own the integration. They got performance marketing agencies that are all about, let’s personalize, let’s automate. We don’t really care when customers get together if they speak the same language as us. We just need to maximize the amount of sales. Then we got brand people, who often don’t know how to create a brand platform that actually combines all of that stuff in an experience product promotion. The client has to be the orchestrator. When they come to us, they want somebody to sit with them at the table and be an expert in integrating those aspects.
Brian: Talk about your work in partnership with Drug Free Kids, which I think is interesting. Using advertising to fight the opioid epidemic. Why that cause?
Mark: Well, if I go back to the 90’s, when I first got involved with them, the woman who would become my wife and I got involved in the organization at the same time. She took a job there working with all the great agencies developing what has become the largest, single-subject public service campaign ever. She was on the inside working with agencies; I learned a lot how agencies present through that.
Brian: Can you give an example?
Mark: We don’t pitch. We’re one of the fastest-growing private companies in America in the last five years, and we do not do creative pitches. Back then, BBH entered this private market and I got to meet John Haggarty, they would say we don’t pitch. That was a mystery to me; what did that mean? Well at the partnership, I joined the creative review committee, which is now creative development board and I’m the chairman of it as of this year. I saw several times BBH present what they pitched and what I saw was, when you focus on ideas, not execution, you focus the client on the highest leverage you can bring, rather than all these distracting images and pictures. You’re allowing them to imagine whatever they’re going to imagine. You’re going to work with them for months to figure out how to execute. So they didn’t bring in nothing. They brought in strategic thinking and platforms. They said it wasn’t creative. So what I realized is, first off, clients are buying experience and a lot of agency experience is really awful. We’ll basically say you’re just buying one campaign, if this goes, well we’ll work on many things together. So let’s start with a project. We need to commit that much, so you need to commit that much. We’re never going to tie your hands and ask you for a two-year contract because we’ll earn our way; but let’s start with an initial project that assumes it is going to go on. Let’s talk about ideas and how it’ll be to go together, and we find that works. Meeting all these other agencies while working on anti-drug advertising gave me a window into the different cultures. I got to see folks from Crispen present when they were the hottest agency in the country and they set up their work less, they defended their work less, and they were so cool when they got direction. I would see these people come in and talk and talk and defend, and they were like, oh yeah, cool. Later they would decide if they would integrate. They gave you the feeling of confidence. Jill went on to become a client, one of the heads of marketing at Tommy Hilfiger, and I’d say, what do the agencies that work for you really give you? She’d say that as a client, you’re afraid. You can’t do it, you can’t force the agency to do it, and you don’t know how to make it work, even if you’re smart and good. A confident agency, confident enough to listen and support, is so reassuring. How would they be confident? And she’d say well there’s this one guy who will say this is our 7503 commercial, we’ll get this right.
Brian: That’s great that you have somebody on the inside feeding you pro tips.
Mark: Listen to the clients, I care about creative, I care about brand planning.
Brian: What about data?
Mark: We are very teched up and data-oriented because, in the direct-to-consumer world, our mix is 75% digital, including email. How do you integrate what you’re learning from your data with what you’re trying to build for your brand and experience? That’s the challenge your client lives with, and compromise is ultimate failure. Agencies that are either data-or brand-focused tend to sell what they do. They pull in their direction against the other guys and clients are stuck in the middle. It’s super uncomfortable and it makes them feel more responsible and less confident than they want to feel. We’re deeply into the data, and we have to translate it into insight and explain how it fits within what you’re trying to build as a brand. Not all data should immediately trigger a computer to pull a trigger, because that could undermine the brand. There are other ways to sell that will work better.
Brian: Back to fighting opioids.
Mark: Back to fighting opioids. Those guys back in the 80’s it wasn’t about opioids. But those guys who got together from Johnson & Johnson and media companies from the big ad agencies, they had this perfect storm of society is really worried about drugs, the government gets that they’re worried. Industry could really come together because the media landscape meant that advertising could really do something about it. They created the partnership and they did amazing things. They slayed crack, then ecstasy; they went out there and created effective campaigns.
Brian: How do you create an effective campaign to fight drugs? A human behavior that is never going to go away and kids are not receptive to advertising, less so now than ever before.
Mark: Yeah, exactly right. That’s what’s changed. That worked for the media environment of then, but that doesn’t work for today. Before it was media agencies and ad agencies, now its the core digital firms. The Googles, Facebooks, Twitters and the rest of media plus agencies and deep integrated digital agencies. It’s a deeper coalition in the world today. Now, what we’re focused on is the partnership for Drug Free Kids and what that means, is helping parents who are on the front line with their kids. We’re not up there advertising to kids saying stay away from drugs. What we are is providing services in a direct-to-parent way. Leveraging these partnerships with Google and Facebook. It’s working, and the government isn’t spending money on getting help for parents. They’re not spending money right now on prevention; maybe they will. But if you’re in a tech firm, media firm or agency, my message is this is our generation’s problem, and I know you’re working with guns, add that, too. This one of the biggest social behavior problems of our generation and step up, it’s a whole new thing now. If you’re interested, a lot of folks have had personal experiences, reach out to me, I’m not hard to find on social media. We need people to step up and be a part of this, and we have some great people on this creative review board now, amazing thinkers, a top innovation guy from Apple, great CCO’s from agencies. It’s a great thing. I don’t think it’s just me. We found through our research that folks are having trouble with technology addiction.
Brian: We saw that in Apple’s keynote.
Mark: Tim Cook is right again. How many of us are working on attracting people’s attention and distracting people from paying attention, engaging them for as long as possible. Getting them to click for as long as possible. We’re all out there mastering the art of diverting people’s attention and casting a spell over their behavior. There’s an enormous amount of choice and my belief is that values have to come above business. I think values will drive business success, but you have to align. I believe we can help people solve this choice problem. We can help people control themselves a bit more, so they can get more satisfaction out of life. If we do that, the brands that do that are ultimately going to do better. This is why we focus on inspiring action brands and help people form more empowering habits and make more inspiring decision. That’s what we do.
Brian: I’m sure that’s hard to monetize.
Mark: Because people are desperate in situations like this, now because of what’s happened, I really believe that is what’s driving us into a direct-to-consumer marketplace. I think the brands that give you a better experience feel better afterward. This is why Facebook and Apple are doing this. They realize that there’s a limit on just pure behavior if people feel miserable, if they don’t feel empowered, they’re going to go elsewhere and there will be competition. Talking about the benefits of scale, the benefits don’t extend to be able to make people miserable forever. Government will rise up, too. I’m a challenger, but I don’t want to challenge through government. I want to create alternatives that give people incredible experiences. And I also would love to help brands like Apple and Google do that as well. But I think we have to give people better experiences of themselves, feeling empowered.
Brian: That’s an empowering place to leave things. This was excellent. Sounds like you’re doing good work. Thanks, Mark, appreciate you being on the show today.
So now you’ve redesigned your website, reinvented your platform and unleashed an entirely new pricing structure. How do you get the word out about your brand’s new logo, voice and everything in between? If you’re TradeStation, an award-winning fintech company and brokerage, then the answer is simple: dye people’s hair blue in the middle of one of New York City’s busiest commuter hubs.
Video captured by TradeStation
“TradeStation just got a fresh look and now it’s our turn to give people one,” said Kevin Karp, Creative Director. We created the TradeStation Barbershop, located in the heart of The Oculus, a stone’s throw from Wall Street and in the shadow of One World Trade Center. The pop-up barbershop gave away free haircuts, blowouts and blue hair dye and extensions while hosting trading competitions, trivia challenges, market-themed meditations and photo ops with blue wigs. Why all the blue? Why not? (And it’s the brand color.)
“It was completely unexpected in the fintech world,” said Nehal Beltangady, Brand Director. “So was engagement. Over 400,000 people go through the Oculus every day. Partnering with LiveGauge, we were able to track 87,000 unique impressions at our barbershop over the course of three days. And we recorded over 4,600 repeat visitors, too.”
TradeStation is highly regarded in the trading community for its powerful tools, winning numerous best-in-class awards yearly, but isn’t as well-known as other mainstream discount brokerages. “Competing against bigger budgets and bigger names, the brand was struggling to stand out in traditional TV,” said Alessandra Pinho, Director of Strategy and Planning, “At DiMassimo Goldstein, we look to find new ways to find solutions for our clients. Live events create memorable brand experiences. You’ll see hundreds of commercials every day, but you won’t forget the trading platform that gave you a blowout.”
Like most advertising agencies and fintech companies, DiMassimo Goldstein didn’t have a lot of experience running a barbershop. “It really was a big cross-disciplinary effort,” said Claudia Mark, Design Director. “We had people working together, some in completely unfamiliar territory, across different fields. From the project’s inception, we had people from every discipline work together.”
“TradeStation’s offices are in South Florida,” said Matt Peters, Senior Designer, “So we wanted to bring those vibes to New York City.” It wasn’t enough to just create any old barbershop, but a modern one that felt like TradeStation’s hometown. Our bulls had sunglasses and our bears carried surfboards. It’s Wall Street meets beach culture.
“The client was happy, we were happy and we left a lot of people with blue hair,” said Mark DiMassimo, Chief here at DiMassimo Goldstein. “What’s amazing is that we raised brand awareness and none of it looked like a traditional advertisement. Lots of brands want something out of the box but lose their appetite when it comes to actually doing it. We found a novel, engaging way to take an online-only brand and bring it face to face with their consumers. That’s what Inspiring Action is all about.”
A call to action to people everywhere to direct their attention to the ecological challenges facing our environment. To use this day as an opportunity to adopt new behaviors and habits that benefit our planet, and to ensure that those actions become part of our daily routine moving forward.
No action is too small. No action is insignificant. It is our collective responsibility as humans to be advocates for the protection of our environment, to continue to push the dialogue, and to commit to lifestyle changes that ensure the safety of our planet.
Brands, too, share this responsibility. With large audiences and the ability to captivate, influence, and inspire movements, it is vital that brands create purposeful actions to raise awareness around the many challenges facing our environment, and to implement alternative eco-friendly methods to help solve these issues, in all aspects of their business.
Here are some brands that inspired us by stepping up to the plate on Earth Day this year, reaffirming their commitment to make this planet a better place.
Apple debuted Daisy, a robot that can disassemble iPhones to recover valuable materials, getting one step closer to its goal of making products with only renewable or recyclable materials. Apple is one of the most innovative companies of our time, and inspiring action with inventions like Daisy further stamps their commitment to use technology toward protecting our world’s resources.
Republic Services, the industry-leading sustainable waste disposal company, encouraged its staff, the communities it serves, and its customers to commit to “#1More” action each day to become better at recycling. They released a series of tips to help educate, build awareness, and inspire action in people to recycle properly.
Staples expanded its Electronic Recycling Program to include coffee brewers, and for this entire week, Staples Rewards members who recycle an old coffee brewer at the national retailer can get a $10 coupon for any purchase above $30. Since starting its Electronic Recycling Program, Staples has collected more than 400 million pounds of electronic waste, including ink and toner, which is the weight of roughly 13 Brooklyn Bridges.
Popular outerwear brand The North Face partnered with the National Park Foundation to clean up waste in parks by pulling over 160,000 pounds of single-use plastic bottles and recycling them into “The Bottle Source Collection.” One dollar of every purchase made will be donated back to the parks.
With its new campaign, “Earth Day Every Day,”1 Hotels announced a year-long initiative that will include activations across all properties focused on raising awareness of environmental issues, specifically around saving our shores.
Though not yet an action, ride-sharing service Lyft announced its plans to become completely carbon neutral. If the direct-economy brand can follow through on its promise, millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide can be offset, which would be the equivalent of planting tens of millions of trees or taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road. It’s a lofty goal, but one that would protect the environment and prevent the continuation of mass pollution dramatically if achieved.
As reported by CNET, home automation producer Nest used Earth Day to make an inspiring promise: to install one million smart thermostats at little or no cost to low-income homes over the next five years. The pledge is part of Nest’s “Power Project,” an initiative aimed toward raising awareness around energy efficiency and consumption.
At DiMassimo Goldstein, every member of our team plays an important role in bringing our clients’ ideas to life and helping them inspire action.
“A Day in the Life” is a new blog series that shines a light on the many faces behind our agency and the different roles that we each play, showcasing the creativity in every corner of our office.
This week’s post provides a glimpse into the daily routine of an Assistant Brand Manager at DiMassimo Goldstein. Matt Zani brings unrivaled enthusiasm and energy to every account he works on, including TradeStation, Sallie Mae, National Jewish Health, and Starr Companies. To learn more about a day in Matt’s life, read his story below.
Having spent exactly a year at DiGo, the five images below accurately represent my every day at the leading Inspiring Action and Behavior Change Agency.
Stepping into this beautiful world isn’t bad every day. The agency aesthetically reflects its inner soul which can be seen clearly through the walls teeming with award-winning work. A glance at the décor and a cup of coffee from the DiGo kitchen is all I need to get my day going.
DiGo breathes strategy. The agency’s process and work are strategically infused, bringing insights and measurements into creative work that allow it to work harder.
Don’t even get me started about the eats. I don’t know what I like more: Salad Wednesday, Bagel Friday, Friday happy hours or Mimosa Mornings?! Not to mention, we have some of the best snack-sharing in the ad agency game. A bowl of Cocoa Puffs is never more than 10 steps away.
DiGo is a culture designed for growth. The employees inspire each other to achieve and tease the most out of the work. The leadership team has instituted structures and programs that allow for employee transparency. There is opportunity for development and learning for whoever is hungry and willing to seek it.
The people are truly what bring this place to life. At the end of the day, DiGo is filled with bright and beautiful minds infused seamlessly to create campaigns, branding and work that hit home in the universes they aim to reach.
– Matt Zani, Assistant Brand Manager. Photographs by Will Jellicorse.
John Foley, the CEO and founder of Peloton, joins Rebecca Jarvis of ABC for an interview on May 5, 2016.
Calmly and confidently, he says the following.
“I think that the Peloton brand will be bigger and more influential than Apple in 10 years.”
Now, maybe you’ve heard of Peloton, the all-in-one stationary bike and at-home cycling class platform, and maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’re probably wondering how, or why, the founder of a stationary bike start-up, then just four years old, could make such an ambitious claim.
The company has already proved Foley’s inspiring idea to be true: that people would pay to re-create the cycling class experience at home – but to have more influence than the most influential brand of the past decade? That is a different beast entirely.
I’m not here to say that his prediction will be true, but what I can say is that the Peloton riders, all 600,000 of them, likely believe it to be.
On the surface, it’s easy to think of Peloton as, well … a stationary bike company.
And from there, one might assume that they compete with other cycling and fitness-based brands SoulCycle, Flywheel and Barry’s Bootcamp.
But ask Foley and he will adamantly tell you that Peloton is not a stationary bike company and instead considers his competitors to be Tesla, Amazon and Apple.
To understand this line of thinking, you must first understand Foley’s philosophies. There’s no goal too grand, and no vision too wide. Later in that very interview, he goes on to say:
“You hear that goals should be achievable. I don’t think that goals should be achievable because you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. I think that if you hit every goal that you set out for yourself, you will never know how far you could have gone.”
In the two years since saying that, he has taken the company very far. For the second year in a row, Peloton tops the list of New York City’s fastest-growing companies, as subscribers tripled this past year alone.
Today more than ever, consumers are going to market to become more of who they aspire to be. They are constantly searching for brands that will help them change their behaviors for the better. They have a natural desire to change and improve. Peloton does just that, innovating an outdated category with a fusion of revolutionary software and masterfully designed hardware, they have inspired audiences in ways that benefit their well-being tremendously. Riding Peloton becomes a part of your weekly routine. It’s a lifestyle.
So, if Peloton isn’t a stationary bike company, then what is it?
It’s a great question, and one that Foley gets often. Peloton transcends so many categories, and because of that, it stands in a category of its own.
Yes, the company became popular for selling its own state-of-the-art bikes, but Peloton is far from a hardware company.
That bike comes equipped with a 22-inch tablet computer, one that Foley claims, in addition to being three times the size, is even better than Apple’s. If you don’t want to purchase the bike, you can still enjoy Peloton’s classes through a monthly subscription via its award-winning app, and although they recruit software engineers from the likes of Google, technology is only a part, albeit a very large one, of what they do and offer.
On that tablet, Peloton streams cycling classes led by professional instructors to its legion of subscribers live from its television production studio in New York City. It’s an aspect of their business that has people labeling them “the Netflix of fitness,” turning instructors into celebrities with hundreds of thousands of social media followers and giving its riders over 8,000 on-demand classes to choose from – uniquely positioning Peloton as a media- and content-production company that’s attracting executives from Netflix and HBO.
And with 31 showrooms nationwide, a number that’s expected to grow to 50 by the end of 2018, Peloton is also an e-commerce and retail company. When purchasing the bike, whether online through their website or through one of their showrooms, you can pay an additional $250 for the bike to be delivered in one of their Peloton-branded Mercedes Sprinter vans by Peloton employees, who then install the bikes into your home, which also makes Peloton a logistics company.
It’s not the most economical way to deliver the bikes, but it’s an important differentiator for Peloton, as it gives them 100 percent control of the consumer experience end to end. Uncompromising in their direct-to-consumer approach, the deliveries are made by brand enthusiasts who are equipped to deliver a high-touch, on-brand experience. They can answer any questions the consumer may have, give the brand a voice and build relationships. Most importantly, they know how to get them set up and riding in no time.
So, if you’re following along, that makes Peloton a part hardware, part technology, part media, part logistics, part e-commerce and part retail company, all while not truly being any one of those.
“At Amazon, they make the Kindle Fire, and they make it for $250 and they sell it for $150. That disrupted all the Dells and HPs and IBMs and Acers who also tried to make tablets, but they were hardware business models. When you make a tablet, and you make it for $250 but sell it for $500 because your business is making money on hardware, you can’t compete with Amazon, who makes their money on the digital content after the fact.”
For Peloton, it’s not about the hardware, as the company primarily has a subscription digital content business model.
That’s not to say the bike isn’t the best bike in the world, because it is, but what truly differentiates Peloton from anything else is the content, community motivation and software it provides its consumers.
The bikes are suited with an electronic dial that displays your exact resistance from 0 to 100. It shows your cadence (pedaling speed), calories burned, distance ridden and total power output (a combination of your speed and resistance). The tablet constantly compares your current ride to your personal record, minute by minute, pushing you each time to reach new milestones. The tablet also shows you where you rank among others who have taken the same exact class, giving you incentives to climb the leaderboard.
If you take a live class, the instructor will often shout out your achievements, like breaking a personal record or riding your 100th ride. This make the Peloton experience immersive, entertaining and interactive. You become a true virtual member of the class, giving you the magic of being in the room all from the comfort of your home. You can even video chat with other riders and friends while the class is in session.
With over 8,000 classes to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Rides vary in length, difficulty, music genre and by instructor. Some combine riding with an upper-body workout, and Peloton has even added yoga, ab workouts and stretching classes to their library as well. Skip a trip to the gym and enjoy the rush of your favorite classes at the tap of a screen, on your terms.
Everything at Peloton has been designed with intention. That intention is a bit of a tongue twister.
Peloton wants to make you want to want to work out more.
And they’ve succeeded. Through a synthesis of social marketing, word-of-mouth advertising, persuasion design, behavioral science and design thinking, Peloton has mastered the art of behavior change marketing. Proving that emotion leads to motion, they’ve inspired their audience, increasing their commitment to improving their health. Sprinkling in behavior change ingredients into every brand touchpoint, they have created a cult-like following that has become the envy of brands everywhere.
Ninety-six percent of riders would buy the bike again if they could go back in time. On average, riders ride eight times a month, or twice per week.
But more impressive than that is their Net Promoter Score, an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. Peloton has an NPS of 91, which, per Foley, is the second-best NPS in the world and far ahead of Amazon, Apple and Netflix. Foley has stated that his goal is to make Peloton the first company ever with an NPS of 100.
This brand loyalty makes word of mouth a powerful acquisition tool, as over a quarter of Peloton’s customers first learned about Peloton through a friend or a family member.
So what’s next for Peloton?
Earlier this year, they announced their entrance into the treadmill market with the Peloton Tread, a $3,995 Internet-connected treadmill with a 32-inch HD screen, so that if you step off the treadmill to participate in any of the guided core exercises, you still have a fully immersive view. The Peloton Tread will be available this fall.
The treadmill market is five times bigger than the stationary bike market.
Peloton is already working on a third product, and it won’t be their last.
“We want to build the biggest consumer-products brand in the world. We’re going to make Apple look small-time,” Foley tells Bloomberg.
As for taking the company public, Foley has stated that he eventually will, but not for financial reasons. Instead, he looks at an IPO as a marketing event – a way to generate awareness and get the word out about Peloton to the masses, helping as many people as possible improve their health and fitness.
That’s why Peloton is our inspiring action brand of the month!