Andy Bly, Art Director at DiMassimo Goldstein
Even though I was raised in a small town hidden in Northwestern Pennsylvania, I was fortunate enough to visit New York City a few times early in my life. My dad would come out once a year for the International Toy Fair and from the very first time he brought our entire family out for a long weekend, I knew this was the place for me. There’s no grey area with New York and I think you figure out fairly early whether you can handle it or not. It would take another two decades of living to make that a reality.
Early last June I had planned a trip to the city from Cleveland to see a few friends, one of them being Cait DeAngelis, who I first met in 2002 while attending architecture school at Kent State. (And yes it took us almost 12 years of friendship to realize our initials are ABCD). Within hours of being in New York and only minutes after meeting Cait at her office here at DiMassimo Goldstein, I was filling out a W-9 and signing up for a freelance gig that started in 10 days. So, after years of struggling to find my place in northeastern Ohio, I had a job and apartment in the best city in the world after only a few minutes. It’s never that easy. Luckily, a few people took a chance on a bearded guy moving from Cleveland with no direct advertising experience. It’s been almost a year and I am comfortably freaked out on a daily basis in my role as junior art director. It’s never that easy, but when it is, I’ve learned to make the most of it.
In his research, Jim Collins finds that companies achieving lasting greatness have many things in common. For one thing, they have a “stop doing” list that rivals the to-do version. Here are a few things we stopped doing at DiMassimo Goldstein that seem to have made all the difference:
TIMESHEETS. That’s right, at DiMassimo Goldstein exactly zero creative energy is spent on useless timesheets. This exercise, once thought to be absolutely essential–and which is almost universally a billable time-consuming farce that occasionally leads to criminal penalties–has no place in our routine. We just don’t do them. Instead, we put time and energy into growing our client’s brands and businesses.
But what if a client insists on timesheets? Every organization must choose its priorities. To those who can’t appreciate the benefits of a team 100% focused on their business rather than our own, we just say “No thanks.”
BILLING BY THE HOUR. DiMassimo Goldstein is not a temp agency that lends employees to clients, who then must manage them. We take care of the integration of the team and take full responsibility for the results. That’s why we never charge by the hour. Each client pays a monthly retainer. If we put in more hours, the fee remains the same. If we need more staff, the fee remains the same. If a relationship is unprofitable for more than a few months, we sit down with the client and reprioritize or expand the scope of the work–always going forward, never backward.
Some say, “It’s unsustainable!” All we can say is that we’ve been doing it this way for more than a decade—over ten years of satisfied clients and consistent agency growth and profitability.
So how do we manage and know what people are doing with their time? We can, by asking the team every day – what are you working on? What are your challenges? How can we help? These questions not only take bureaucracy off everyone’s plates, but they fuel integrity. Along with trust, it forms the core of all successful relationships.
What’s on your Stop Doing List? Let me know at email@example.com.
We were recently interviewed for an article in Investor’s Business Daily about employing different tactics in this digital marketing age. It’s extremely difficult to be a marketer right now. The effectiveness of traditional marketing tactics are declining at a rate faster than executives can figure out how to best leverage all of the new media opportunities out there. There’s no end to the amount of reading you can do to bone up on “best practices” and “new paradigms”. If you just practice them more religiously and adopt them more quickly, you would no doubt outpace the competition.
Missing in this conversation is the ultimate killer advantage: do you love what you’re selling?
Your job is not to be the sanest, most balanced and detached individual in the world. You should be on fire, whatever moves you. Bring all the experience you have to the party, but leave your cynicism at the door–it is a failed attempt to prevent disappointment and only prevents the joy of surprise.
In Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, he describes how a new endeavor– whether it’s a job or learning how to rollerblade–starts with enthusiasm and excitement. But between the beginning and the end of the process, when you’ve achieved your goal, is a dip to power through.
“Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point—really hard, and not much fun at all.
And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip—a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a cul-de-sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.”
Loving what you’re selling is the super fuel that impels you through the dip. People who adore what they do will pore over the most tedious spreadsheets, attend snore-worthy meetings, listen to stomach-turning feedback, and keep on barreling through. Godin continues:
“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt—until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. In fact, winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. If you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.
Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. Either they fail to stick out the Dip—they get to the moment of truth and then give up—or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.”
To do marketing @speed, you must eliminate the fear of failure and new ideas, and the fear of an iterative process. Remember, love is the inverse of fear.
It’s so much easier to follow our simple advice, “do something”, when you’re passionate about your work. There’s no dread, fear of failure, or procrastination of difficult tasks.
We love what we do at our agency – and more importantly, we love people who love what they do. So why not “do something” right now. If you’re passionate about your job, company or career, email Mark DiMassimo and tell him all about it.
Today, I got my last DailyCandy. There it was in my e-mail inbox, and today for the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened it.
Titled “The Short Goodbye,” it was exactly that- the last of a legendary series that had admittedly gotten pretty weak of late.
Back in 2000, the founder, Dany Levy, created something unique and valuable for the e-mail channel. Focused, witty, stylish, it delivered what it promised. Her list grew and grew from word-of-mouth and pass-along, and the site became enormously popular. She sold a controlling stake to a partner for $3 million after which they sold the whole thing to Comcast for more than $125 million. Comcast subsequently merged with NBCUniversal.
By 2011, Dany Levy was completely out. The big company didn’t know what to do with the 10-carat diamond that was DailyCandy. It was a precious, small gem that by jewel standards was a real diamond. But by giant conglomerate standards, it was a small stone that just didn’t fit the setting.
As a result, they mismanaged it. They confused following with innovating, launching spin-off fashion and daily-sale type businesses. Both failed.
Then, they closed it down.
Levy says, “It had a good life.” It was a sweet life indeed. DailyCandy, you changed things. You inspired. You showed us that great content can rise to the top, even in the context of the lowly e-mail inbox. You proved that small, focused, and different can still change the world.
And in the end, you reminded us that independence can be a priceless and irreplaceable jewel as well.
DIGO, DiMassimo Goldstein, Proove, Propolis, Origami… in our WHY, we are all one and we must all be one.
Since Simon Sinek says that effective leaders start with WHY, I’m going to start off 2014 with the one word that describes the why of DiMassimo Goldstein (DIGO). That word is…
This comes from Greek words meaning to get a god inside you. Think of it as having life breathed into you. The word I often use, INSPIRE is actually a synonym. It’s just the Latin version of “breath into.”
There are two ways to respond to life. One is FEAR. Often this is frozen in depression or its lukewarm cousins, boredom and ambivalence. The other direction is ENTHUSIASM. Love, curiosity, creativity, friendship, interest, affinity, enjoyment… these things come from enthusiasm.
We create enthusiasm for things, people, services, ideas, organizations and brands. And in order to do that, we first have to find it in ourselves. So, there’s your why.
We focus on growth because there are a lot of things about growing organizations that enthuse and inspire us and that challenge us to be the best we can be. And because we don’t have to fake it.
So, there’s your Day One Message.
Find, tend, teach, feed, grow, protect, challenge and expand your ENTHUSIASM this year. Tend and feed it every day. And there’s no limit to what we can do in 2014.
When it comes to marketing, how do you find the right balance between human judgment and the power of the testing and optimizing machine?
You’ll remember the story of John Henry, who competed head-to-head with a machine laying down railroad ties and hammering in spikes to secure the rail. Most people remember that John Henry beat the machine that day. Few remember that he dropped dead immediately after.
Brad Stone writes, in his definitive book on the history of Amazon.com The Everything Store, how over time and through testing it was established that automated and personalized recommendation messages outperformed the creative copy created by proud, literary editors. This ultimately led to the end of the editorial department. At that time, one of the departing editors ran this add in a local Seattle newspaper:
If you only had a heart to absorb our hatred… Thanks for nothing, you jury-rigged rust bucket. The gorgeous messiness of flesh and blood will prevail.
This reminds me of a story by Ray Bradbury, set in a distant future when humans have relied on computers for so long that they have completely forgotten mathematics. Expensive computers perform complex equations to steer missiles in an interplanetary war. One day, while repairing a missile, a lowly mechanic re-discovers by-hand calculation. His eureka moment proves revolutionary. Earth’s military leaders reason that human beings are cheaper computational guidance systems for their missiles than expensive computers. Realizing the evil that has come from his wonderful discovery, the mechanic takes his own life.
Be careful what you wish for. Machines are taking jobs, because they can do certain jobs more effectively. Make your tests intelligent and extensive. Let an enlightened, holistic and clear-eyed reading of the results guide your decisions. Be willing to adapt your role and your organization to making the most of technology in producing marketing results. In doing so, you grow and you drive growth.
For more on how rigorous testing and marketing automation can help you drive growth, please write to me at my personal email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call me at 646 507-5820.
Maybe we’re writing too many headlines and not enough heart-lines. Maybe we’re appealing too much to the brain and not enough to the heart, guts or gonads. Maybe that’s because we’re trying to write “headlines.”
We in advertising should know better than anyone the influence of an unconscious connotation. We should also know that the best way to overcome that unconscious tendency is to create a new one.
If we can advertise to change other people’s minds and, then we can advertise to ourselves too by choosing the words and images we use.
So here’s what I do. After I’ve been writing “headlines” for a while, I tell myself that I’m not going to write some “heartlines.” Heartlines aim to evoke emotion. While a headline might read, “5 Ways to Write Better Headlines.” Or, “Why your best headlines aren’t headlines.”
A heartline might read, “Pack more power in your headlines.” Or, “They’ll never ignore your headlines again.” Or “Imagine a world in which your ads actually get written.” Or, “Here’s more power to inspire people from the first seven words.” Or, “I used to write headlines… until I had something really important to say.”
After the well of heartlines starts to run dry, I switch to writing some “gutlines.” Gut lines aim to smack people in the gut, to first and foremost get a gut reaction. For example, “No one reads your headlines.” Or, “Your headlines are boring.”
When the gutline well starts turning up half-empty pots, I start writing “groinlines.” Groinlines are just what they sound like. They go for the general vicinity of the gonads. They can be sexy. They can be funny. They aim to turn you on or turn your head. A groinline for this post might go like this, “Headlines. Heartlines. Gutlines. Groinlines.”
Nice, I think I’ll go with that one! Glad I didn’t just write headlines. Go ahead and give it a try. Sometimes I think we are only as good as the assignments we give ourselves. By assigning more than headlines, I keep myself writing and trying new things long after most people give up.
Some of those other lines might make good Tweets or test headlines in an A/B split. This approach also speeds things up. I spent about ten minutes on the first draft of this post. And I’m going to publish it just like this. Later, I’ll share my edits and I’ll tell you about them too. If it helps you write better lines, then I’ll be happy. And that’s from the heart.
Why do most companies fizzle or flat-line, while others become truly great?
Consider a decisive moment in the history of Amazon.com.
2001 was the Waterloo for most highflying dot com companies, but it was also the year that Amazon went from good to great. Under intense pressure after an influential New York analyst had predicted the company would go under within the year, bleeding enormous amounts of cash, and with slowing growth in their core book business, Amazon had begun to flail about. But then, they not only pulled it together, they lay the groundwork for domination. Brad Stone tells the story in his authoritative book on the history of the e-commerce giant, The Everything Store.
“At a two-day management and board offsite later that year, Amazon invited business thinker Jim Collins to present the findings from his soon-to-be-published book Good to Great. Collins had studied the company and led a series of intense discussions at the offsite. “You’ve got to decide what you’re great at,” he told the Amazon executives.
Drawing on Collin’s concept of a flywheel, or self-reinforcing loop, Bezos and his lieutenants sketched their own virtuous cycle, which they believed powered their business. It went something like this: Lower prices led to more customer visits. More customers increased the volume of sales and attracted more commission-paying third-party sellers to the site. That allowed Amazon to get more out of fixed costs like the fulfillment centers and the servers needed to run the website. This greater efficiency then enabled it to lower prices further. Feed any part of this flywheel, they reasoned and it should accelerate the loop. Amazon executives were elated; according to several members of the S Team at the time, they felt that, after five years, they finally understood their own business.”
The emphasis is mine. A beautiful clarity. What can we best in the world at? What drives our economic engine and makes our flywheel turn? And what excites us enough to commit to making this work?
At DiGo, we figured out that we could be best in the world at helping mid-sized organizations grow. By providing an integrated, cross-trained team of growth masters so clients can keep their own teams lean. Which allows them to invest in and focus on growth. And by keeping the cost of testing down through no-commission direct media billing, inexpensive production, and in house programming. Then squeezing every last dollar of return through intense daily optimizations, deep and detailed dashboard reporting and analysis, and extensive use of distributed content strategies. And finally, by deploying our best creative people across all touch points, rather than separate and unequal departments for “above and below the line” media. The result is our clients show they can produce more customers and revenue per marketing dollar and they grow. And this fuels our growth – a beautiful flywheel indeed!
Let’s work on yours! Please feel free to respond directly to my personal email at email@example.com. Or call us at 646-507-5820.