One of the first things that you notice when you walk into Crispin, Porter + Bogusky in Miami are these giant monitors in a central open space. It's not really a lobby, but more like a quad. The space gets pedestrian traffic from around the agency, and is also the central part of what feels like a massive set of comfy bleachers. People are invited to hang to meet, chat, or chill.
Upon closer inspection, the monitors serve as live windows to other CP+B offices. You can see right into the Boulder, Colorado office, and say hi to anyone walking by. Boulder has similar monitors on their side, and can communicate back. Sure, you've seen this in a Cisco commercial before. But have you ever seen it implemented within an agency?
The end result is a virtual lobby that ties their offices together across the globe. Connecting high traffic areas within agencies produces "collisions" of people from across the firm. Collisions provide opportunities to say hi to a coworker across the country, ask about a project that's midstream, or meet someone that you've spent hours on the phone with. Collisions provide creativity.
Video conferencing technology has been with us for what seems like ages, but this is the first installation that we've seen that's successfully connecting multiple offices together in an informal way.
We chatted with Eric and Mason at CP+B, and learned about their rationale for multiple offices: attracting talent from across the globe. Now they've managed to connect these offices unlike any other multi-office agency empire that we've ever seen, giving us a sweet peek at all of their outposts while on our visit to Miami.
As we were approaching our visit with the Miami Heat, plenty of friends and followers had things to say. ("Kick LeBron in the cubes for us" comes to mind.)
Professional sports is one of those industries where everyone and their brother believes they are capable of making management decisions. (Coincidentally, advertising is another one of those industries.) People criticize player choices, management decisions, game strategy. Plenty of people think they might make better decisions. Most of your friends probably don't have strong opinions of recent management decisions made by the leadership team at Dell. But the Yankees? Or the Miami Heat? You bet.
We walked into the Miami Heat offices with plenty of questions from followers from across the Humongo Nation. Why didn't you have the announcement up on your website when LeBron announced his move to the heat? Why do you hate Cleveland? ;)
Like many businesses, there are things about running a sports team that are happening behind the scenes that you're probably not aware of. What seems like a simple and easy decision may sometimes have other factors for consideration that make the decision more complicated than it might appear on the surface.
Social media and marketing people criticized the Miami Heat for not updating their team's site or tweeting about the LeBron announcement immediately after the press event. Seems like a fair criticism, right? Jennifer, from the MIami Heat's marketing team sheds some light on the other side of the story. "We couldn't make the announcement until we had a contract signed." Until there was ink on paper, Lebron wasn't playing for the Heat, and therefore they couldn't update their marketing properties to reflect his decision. Fans forget that there are formalities that need to be taken care of.
We loved the fact that the social media team behind the Heat recognizes this fan passion. Even if that passion is coming from the side of another team. This is the landscape within professional sports, and that's core to the game. It's great that even in the midst of some Twitter hate from rival fans, the Miami Heat can keep their cool.
Our Wisconsin friend Todd Sanders (perhaps better known as @tsand, the funniest dude on Twitter) has kids. And everyone knows that kids need the hottest back to school fashions.
Because the Sanders family knows style when they see it, his kids wanted Humongo Nation t-shirts. (They were already the most fashion forward crowd in Wisconsin, sporting last year's PlaidNation t-shirts.)
Because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Todd's son was happy to oblige. Watch the frank and beans goodness on YouTube. (And yes, if you do the same, we'll send you a t-shirt. Just be sure to tag it #humongonation)
Chatting with Ramsey Poston at NASCAR gave us great insight into how social media is not only being embraced within the sport, but how it's changing the very relationship between drivers and fans.
In the old days of racing, it used to be that while a driver was a celebrity, there was a wall between their public life and private life. We all know that social media has changed that forever. NASCAR has embraced this revolution, and encourages their drivers to communicate with fans using the multitude of available social tools.
This has created new relationships with fans, as they're exposed to every aspect of the driver's life. With this new relationship comes new opportunities and new responsibilities. Naturally, the rules have not been written on where to draw all of the lines. For example, should sponsors integrate themselves into a driver's personal life?
Trash talk has been elevated to a new level, too. Drivers can tease their competitors publicly via Facebook and Twitter, and now their fans can join in on the fun. Clearly social media has changed life on and off the racetrack forever.
Wingate by Wyndham is a sponsor of Humongo Nation, so it's no surprise that we enjoy our stays at their properties as we make our way across the nation.
We've discovered something in the process as a part of our guest experience that could serve as a great reminder to brands in any business: small, pleasant surprises make customers happy.
Upon opening the door to our guest rooms, we each found a Wingate gift bag, with a bag of pretzels, M&M's and a personalized note. At first we believed this to be related to our sponsorship status, but have since learned that this is an experience that many Wingate properties extend to their guests.
The personalized note invites the guest to participate in the Wingate rewards program. You're accustomed to getting this pitch at the front desk - when you're tired from traveling, and just want to get to your room. But a gift pack of snacks and personalized note in your bedroom changes your perspective, right?
Could you be surprising your customers, and inviting them to your programs in new ways? Would a bag of candy help your offer? We say...yes.
How do you manage a brand that's a living, breathing, person? Stay true to your heart, and listen to your fans. That's one of the things we learned while visiting Paula Deen Enterprises, and chatting with Phil Peterman, Webmaster for the Queen of butter.
We were curious how a brand as popular and extensive as Paula's would protect it's reputation as the brand continues to grow with licensed products and future product development. We were pleased to learn that they're creating buttery Paula goodness by listening:
+ Listening to Paula's heart. "Would I buy this product?" Chances are that if she likes a product herself, her fans will find love for it as well.
+ When fans voice their opinions on Paula's Facebook page or via Twitter, Paula listens. Her team at Paula Deen Enterprises are listening, monitoring, responding - and even making adjustments to products that fans are asking for.
While Paula can't respond to everything personally, she's an active part of the process, and has a brilliant team of web geeks who are looking out for her, growing the brand and getting her fans what they need.
In an industry filled with focus groups and PowerPoint decks of research results, it's refreshing to see a brand that's growing based on what's true to it's heart and fans. That's a practice that many larger corporate brands could take a lesson from.
Oh, and...adding a little butter never hurts, either.
We were stoked to meet Interactive Strategy Director Sloane Kelley from BFG. She's one of the people that everyone you meet in Savannah will talk about. "Have you met Sloane yet?" or "You've met Sloane, right?" were consistent quotes from the creative people around Savannah.
Sloane has helped bring GeekEnd to life, an annual gathering of geeks for Savannah creatives. Geekend is proof that Savannah's packed with a tight creative community of people willing to share, help each other, and grow together. It's inspiring to meet people that are involved in the scene.
BFG is also the hot shop in Savannah that employs our good friend Hal Thomas, who was hired via Twitter. Really. According to Sloane, they wanted to hire people with real social media know-how...and what better way to separate the posers from the rock stars, than to eliminate the resume from the process? Candidates were asked to apply via Twitter, and Hal Thomas rocked it out, landing himself a job at the agency.
We chatted with Sloane about small agency power, GeekEnd and their Twitter hiring process while hanging out on one of the picturesque squares that make up the downtown landscape of Savannah. See the interview for yourself in the Humongo Nation Savannah wrap up video.
Research and development is arguably the most important investment a company can make in its future. Product development and design is what ultimately drives a company's success, yet many firms don't have the proper resources to invest in formal r&d teams. Other companies could benefit immensely from additional perspectives or new ideas above and beyond what their internal or agency teams are doing.
Victor Ermoli, Dean of SCAD's School of Design told us about a new solution for brands looking to grow. SCAD's collaborative learning program partners design students with actual companies, to help firms gain new perspectives and solutions for their products.
This is a winning situation for everyone involved. Brands get perspectives that would never be possible with an in-house design team or agency. Students get real world experience. Users get better, more interesting products.
JCB is just one of the companies that's making use of this innovative program. Students reinvented the design of a new JCB bulldozer to be more rough and tough, so that it would have better appeal to it's users. They also took into consideration the work environment of the bulldozer's driver -- this is a place where he'll spend his entire workday, so why shouldn't this get the same industrial design love as the rest of the machine?
The end result went into production, and is now a flagship JCB product offering that differentiates them from their competitors. How many students do you know who have worked on the redesign of actual construction, agricultural and material handling equipment?
We've seen collaborations of this sort in technology, bio-tech, engineering and some other fields - but not so much in the creative industry. Schools, businesses - pay attention to what's happening at SCAD: collaboration is the new way, in a new economy and new world of business.
From the moment we woke up this morning, we've had curly fries on our mind. And once you think of curly fries, you can't stop. So we went to the mountain top. And by mountain top, we mean the world headquarters for Arby's.
Bob Kraut sat down with the Humongo team to talk about Arby's advertising, product offering, and the business of fast food. We learned about how the brand stands out in a cluttered landscape of burgers, milkshakes and fries. And Arby's is doing that by offering a different mix of tasty treats. In the process, their curly fries and jamocha shakes have become iconic products (couldn't you go for one right now?)
We saw the Arby's test kitchen, and dreamed about the concoctions that we might create using curly fries as a base. (Arby's wasn't interested in our recipes.)
We left knowing a little more about the fast food industry and Arby's unique position in the marketplace. And a craving for Jamocha shakes...
Richard at Trend Influence is full of experience. He's one of the most traveled people you'll meet, and he's got the stories to prove it.
Trend Influence is in an interesting side of our business. The work they do includes research, strategic thinking and planning - but probably not the kind you're thinking of.
Does your agency have anthropologists on board? Are they embedding themselves into obscure cultures and societies? Trend Influence does all of the above.
They've helped major brands understand how their products impact cultures, how their products can evolve to become more than products, and what's important to humans as it relates to products. They're the agency that can take abstract, philosophical, and anthropological findings and lead them to real innovation and measurable impact for businesses and brands. They're unearthing opportunities that were never before visible.
We've never met an agency in quite the same business as Trend Influence, and have certainly not come across a team of people with the deep level thinking, research and planning that they're capable of.
We think you'll really enjoy listening to Richard in the Humongo Nation Atlanta wrap up video...we know that we could have hung with him all day and chatted about people, brands and...anthropology.
Every avid beer drinker has fantasized about starting their own brewery. Highland Brewing Company Founder Oscar Wong turned this dream into a reality, and has since become one of the top three breweries in the southeast.
We interviewed Oscar at their headquarters while in Asheville, and learned how classic business smarts applies to any business - even a brewery.
Highland Brewing Company is located in an old movie studio campus in Asheville, former headquarters for the Blue Ridge Motion Pictures studio. The location is their second, and there's plenty of room for growth.
We chatted with Oscar about growing a business, and the difficult decision of a move for most growing start-ups. The challenge for most small businesses is that a new location can't be an incremental move. You don't want to move into a new location that gives your business 20% more capacity. In order to justify the expense of a new location, most businesses would require a space that expands their capabilities by 50% or more. That puts a blossoming firm in a dangerous position when attempting to grow. How do you expand your operation, without increasing overhead to the point that it's dangerous to your business?
Highland Brewery has grown their business more conservatively over the years - giving them an edge over plenty of other brands who have grown themselves out of business. According to Oscar, they utilized bandwidth from other brewers who had available capacity to take on other work. By doing so, they were able to grow their business without dramatically increasing their overhead, thereby stalling the bigger move until demand would more than support it.
Oscar's expertise is proof that regardless of how sexy your business might be, it's still a business. And the brands with the smartest business moves are the brands that are most likely to succeed.
Let's toast to Highland Brewery and smart beer business!
Here's just one of the many interesting things that we learned while interviewing Heather Jordan, Wine Marketing Manager at the Biltmore Winery:
Millenials are now the largest audience of wine buyers. More than baby boomers. More than seniors. This is a new, young, sophisticated audience of buyers that the wine industry hasn't marketed to before. Historically, younger legal-age drinking audiences have trended toward beer and mixed drinks, so this is an exciting opportunity for the wine industry.
Naturally this younger audience requires different marketing tactics than the older demographic of tourists who visit the Biltmore Estate. Like many beverage brands, tasting drives sales. While they're ramping up their social media efforts at Biltmore, they're also aggressively getting the product in front of their audience at festivals and outdoor events like never before.
What we learned: just because a product was traditionally consumed by an older audience, doesn't mean that it will always be consumed by an older audience. Stay in touch with your market so you don't lose them entirely.
We were pretty stoked to meet the world famous Bob Knorpp, host and producer of the Beancast, the best marketing podcast anywhere.
True to form, Bob arrived at Sticks and Stones (he knew we like to eat on tour, and invited us to one of his favorite haunts) with his new iPhone HD camera blazing. We're accustomed to arriving in other people's workplaces with cameras in tow - that's what Humongo Nation is all about - but this time, Mr Knorpp turned the tables on us. We were the subject of a Knorpp style video interview, a Knorpp-famous audio boo, and then proceeded to fill the world famous podcaster with beer. And some pizza. And some beer.
We got our turn too, and interviewed Bob for the Humongo Nation North Carolina wrap up video, and learned a few interesting things about the person who's always interviewing other people.
What we learned: Producing a great podcast is a giant commitment. Each week, Bob books guests for his show, researches topics, and writes detailed show notes for his guests. This is all before the show's even recorded. Every Sunday while you're relaxing in bed reading the tweet stream, he's recording the Beancast. And hours of editing/finishing follow, so that the show can be posted almost immediately after recording.
We realized that Bob - a one man podcasting genius - pretty much does the same amount of work as a staff of about 12 people on the Jay Leno show.
Still want to start a podcast? Want it to be good? Or subscribed to? Then prepare yourself for a podcasting commitment. Podcasting's not a one night stand.
It was fun to meet Christina and Scott, some of the team behind Progress Energy, the utility company responsible for delivering power to kabillions of people across the eastern seaboard.
They pointed out an important aspect of a social media relationship that a lot of brands forget about: your customers don't always need to chat with you.
A power company is pretty much invisible, until there's a problem. And then you want instant, accurate communication.
Progress Energy has learned that Twitter can be a valuable communications medium for some markets during outages or storms. Twitter users are quick to share knowledge, and everyone wants to be the first person among their friends to share actual facts. So Progress can be the voice of authority with real information in real time, and it's appreciated by the community.
But here's what's really important: Progress Energy understands that information during an outage is critical - but that on an average day, their customers may not want to converse with them. It's important for all brands to recognize when they need to be "on" and when they need to take a back seat in their customer's lives. Progress understands this, and respects the relationship they have.
Proof that good honest communication and information beats a bunch of shouting from the rooftop any day.
You might wonder how a non-profit with a serious message could promote itself with such a daringly hot creative campaign. According to Patricia McLaughlin, Assistant Vice President of Communications for American Legacy, they've done their homework.
Research taught them much about their demographic - and in this case, it's not just a youth population, but specifically a youth population that's in rebellion mode. This audience is not going to respond to a message that's talking down to them, or that's crafted in marketing educational-adspeak.
What can you learn from the American Legacy Foundation? Pay attention to your research. No, really. Tons of brands have the Powerpoint decks filled with demographic information about their audience that drills down to every detail. And then they'll produce creative that speaks to a committee of people from the marketing department.
The Truth campaign cuts right through the clutter, speaks directly to their audience, and hits home in a way that feels genuine.