7 Years Later: The Rebirth of Advertising as Storytelling

Katelyns Sketches of Books[1]A Millennial’s Perspective on Finding Purpose in 2017

Change comes every seven years.  In fact, some believe the human body will completely replace every cell over the span of seven years, giving birth to an entirely “new” person.  If change does come every seven years, the advertising industry is proof.  I’ve been in the delivery room myself to witness the painful yet beautiful rebirth.

Let’s rewind seven years to 2010.  We’ll remember this was the year of “Marketing with Meaning”.  Brands and agencies were searching for the philanthropic angle, the charitable partnership, the “one-for-one” business model.  Jamie Oliver was giving TED talks about the importance of healthy school lunches, P&G had revamped their Dawn dish soap packaging to feature baby wildlife, and Warby Parker had just launched with the promise of donating a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold.   It can be argued the 2009 release of Bob Gilbreath’s book “The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connecting with your Customers by Marketing with Meaning” fueled the rapid-fire growth of brands trying to reconnect with consumers in a more meaningful, valuable way.  It was my first year in the business and I was immediately swept away by this exciting and “meaningful” tide of change.

Seven years later, however, a new and much more complex tide has risen.  And with it comes a new audience, new expectations, and new technology, all of which has redefined what “marketing with meaning” actually means.  In fact, marketing, in many ways, is a moot term.  We are no longer marketers.   We are storytellers.  And our audience demands an experience, a bond, a purposeful journey with our brands.  One that they, and the brand, believe in.

And so, the next evolution is here and it transcends marketing with meaning.  It is instead storytelling with a purpose.  And while understanding how to be an effective storyteller can be challenging, the following ideas help to identify ways to step up your storytelling game and connect with this new audience in an authentic, impactful and evocative way.

 

  1. Have a Purpose IRL (“in real life”): The rise of Millennials and Gen Z has completely changed the way we speak with our consumers.  In fact, 88% of consumers believe brands have the power to address important issues.  It is no longer enough to have a Brand Purpose that exists only in an internal, confidential deck after a three-day workshop.  Even a baby duck on a bottle of dish soap won’t be enough.  Instead, the Brand Purpose needs to be woven so tightly, so expertly, into our real life narrative, that it becomes more important than air for our brand.  In fact, our brand cannot – and will not – live without it.  We must embrace and bring to life our purpose throughout all storytelling – not just on paper.

 

  1. Walk the Walk. Even the best brand purpose will not stand a chance, however, if our new audience does not believe us.  Brands must augment their strategy with storytelling they actually believe in.  If we look back to SuperBowl 2017, we’ll remember Audi’s ad that pushed to showcase the German automaker is committed to gender equality in the workplace.  It had the makings of a great ad and yet it failed.  While Audi promoted a story of gender equality, Audi has no women on its six-person executive team. Its supervisory board is only 16% women, significantly lower than BMW’s 30%.  How could consumers believe in Audi’s storytelling if Audi didn’t believe in it themselves?  Whatever story we tell must align to our core brand identity.

 

  1. The End of “The Beginning, Middle and End”. Once we stake out our authentic positioning, we must remember that storytelling is no longer linear.  Consumers want an experience, and we must reach them across all platforms in a compelling way.  This might be starting backwards and working our way to the answer through multi-channel storytelling.  We have the power to allow consumers to feel as if they are discovering the story themselves.  In Virtual Reality, we can take exploration and discovery a step further.  The audience can choose their own endings, or they can leave the story and come back to it later, uncovering something new each time.  We want our audience to become lost in an immersive experience.  Like being at an art show, we want them to get lost in the story.  Just remember that story might not always have a linear beginning, middle and end.

  

  1. Make them feel something. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up believing that experiences outweigh material items, and that life is meant for finding what lights your soul on fire, what moves you, what makes you feel.  At the same time, they have been exposed to the most content daily out of any other generation.  They have an intense longing to feel something new, and yet the constant influx of new information desensitizes them.   It is safe to call this new audience our Skeptical Dreamers and we must recognize they are becoming harder to reach.  In order to break through, brands must tell a story that is new, purpose-led, and moving.  We want to create a memory with our audience.  Whether its happy, sad, funny, raw, or simply relatable.  But we need that memory to be tied to our purpose as a brand.  To leave a lasting impact long after they have stopped thumbing through their newsfeed.   

 

The rebirth of advertising has created a world of opportunity and has made room for a new generation of artful storytellers.  The narratives we tell can allow our brands to tap into and even reshape culture.  However, these stories, if not genuine, can be the kiss of death for brands.  We must engage, learn and listen and then tell our story (and our purpose) in a way that authentically connects with our audience.  We want to be the J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) – and not the Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) – of advertising.

  

— Katelyn Lurvey is an Innovation Strategist at The BAM Connection.  She is inherently curious about the world and spends her time tapping into culture, human insight and technology to help facilitate big ideas.  She is still unsure if she is considered an older or younger Millennial, but either way, she embraces it and enjoys helping brands find new ways to connect with her own generation.

 

 

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Here’s the perfect cocktail for marketing a spirits’ brand

By Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder The BAM Connection, Brooklyn

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Like a rum and coke or a gin and tonic, to successfully market a spirits’ brand it takes a mix of two main ingredients: branding and tasting. The first drives the awareness and buzz, the second closes the deal. When it comes to wooing new drinkers in this very fickle category, the brand must be on their lips and over their lips. Without both, it comes up dry.

Branding is not just advertising product attributes

It’s very cool that you are triple-distilled or vapor-infused or aged in oak barrels from France. That makes you an interesting, quality product, but it does not make you an interesting, provocative brand. You can’t just talk about the product attributes, you must establish a powerful, unique point of view, a tone, an attitude…a brand. This will be a drinker’s first encounter, the initial spark that intrigues them enough, or not, to reach for a bottle in a liquor store or ask for the brand by name in a crowded bar where their own image is on the line. Not an easy task.

No one ever switched to a new spirits brand without first tasting it

An ad can spark them to try it, but the critical moment of truth comes when they taste and decide if they like the product or not. For that reason, tasting programs are critical and essential. You must get the liquid into the mouth of your prospective drinkers.

Here are two examples where I think spirits successfully mixed branding and tasting. Both are from personal experience.

Captain Morgan followed this strategic cocktail brilliantly

The spiced rum had strong branding campaigns done with healthy budgets. Campaigns like The Captain Was Here and Got a little Captain in you? set the brand apart as a lovable rogue offering young swashbucklers a drink that matched their fun-seeking attitude. The brand then combined this with thousands of grassroots, turnkey tasting events like “Keys to Adventure” where the brand quick-hit bar after bar with a Captain in full regalia, and a few Morganettes handing out tastes of the juice itself. The provocative brand campaign combined with the massive and consistent tasting helped the brand grow from 800,000 cases a year to over 9 million.

Brockmans, a gin and night like no other.

Again, it starts with very strong branding behind the “Like no other” platform, driven almost exclusively by a high-engagement social media campaign. Combine that with unique, “like no other” tasting events like the McKittrick Hotel Supercinema party where Brockmans became the first sponsor to join the hotel and their 1400 guests on an extravagant night of fun themed around the movie Clue. The private Brockmans’ lounge generated hundreds of tasting opportunities of a gin like no other, on a night like no other. This combo of branding and tasting has helped Brockmans become one of the fastest growing gins globally.

It’s a rather simple concoction, to achieve success in the uber-competitive spirits category, it’s best to mix one-part branding and one-part tasting. Cheers!

#TheBamThinks#24

Seeing CES Through a Different Lens: Snapchat Spectacles

sunglasses     I went to my first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.  I arrived to the massive tradeshow, which spanned 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space, ready to experience the latest in tech and innovation.  And as I had put an exorbitant amount of time into preparing for the tradeshow, I went into the conference prepared in terms of what the trends would be, which brands would make noise and which exhibits were a must-see.     

The wildcard in the mix was that I had decided to experience my first CES through a slightly different lens than anyone else: Snapchat Spectacles.   I wore the Spectacles on the tradeshow floor, during conferences and at nighttime events around Vegas, recording and “sharing” everything from Spotify’s Opening Party to NASA’s AR exhibit.   

After four days behind the lens of the Spectacles, it became clear that even in the high-tech world, sometimes the best way to connect to our audiences is through a pure and honest story.  Simplicity at its best.

Storytelling Magic:  

The idea to wear Snapchat Spectacles was born not only out of the desire to try out the new tech, but also to be able to record my first CES experience without constantly needing to pull out my camera or phone.  The way the Spectacles work is that they record exactly what you are seeing, directly from your eyeballs’ line of sight.  It is not a hand held camera.  It is not a 360 drone.  It is instead a much more natural, human experience.  I was able to capture exactly what I saw, what I touched, and what conversations I had face-to-face with exhibitors.  I could laser focus within each booth to explore what was intriguing to me while sharing my experience directly as I was seeing it in real time.  I touched (and secretly recorded) plants in an iGrow’s vertical farm, interacted with an LG touchscreen robot and transformed my face with the Modiface AR beauty mirror – all while wearing the Spectacles and recording hands-free. 

I controlled what story I told, simply by where I moved my eyeballs to.  I could show my audience exactly what I wanted them to see, so they could discover along with me while also paying attention to the details I thought were important (and that I wanted them to see).  It was storytelling magic. 

In a room full of robots, humans wanted to connect:  

One of the first things I noticed during CES was the lack of human-to-human interaction in comparison to the human-to-AI interaction.  The booths that were filled with just humans (even models) were often deserted, while the booths with robots, drones or VR were the ones gathering crowds.  I walked past a speaker sound system booth with a band playing live music, but no one was listening.  Just next to it, was a packed booth with Mayfield’s Kuri robot.  Even a famous MMA fighter got little interaction compared to LG’s smart fridge. 

However, when I was wearing the Spectacles, I found myself having more human-to-human interaction than when I wasn’t wearing them. During Robot Wars the commentators interrupted the show to excitedly ask if they were being “snapped” and to yell out their hashtags in hopes of making it into the 10-second video.  While in a conference on “Smarter Cities”, a group of international members turned around to ask where they could find them.   Some stopped me in the conference wings to ask if there was AR technology included in the glasses, while others asked to try them on.  And I found myself having an easier time getting exhibitors to interact with me while I was wearing the Spectacles.  

In a conference filled with artificial life, robots, and virtual reality, we were having real physical interactions versus just putting on a VR headset and pressing “go” to disappear into another world. 

Because the Spectacles are designed like sunglasses instead of a “techy” device, they encourage rather than inhibit human interaction.  But it’s deeper than that.  It goes back to when AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) became big in the early 2000s.  Behind the security of a computer screen, adolescents felt brave enough to speak to people they never would in real life.  Chat rooms and talking to complete strangers became a normal thing.  I found that more people came up to me while I had the glasses on because they were curious but it also was, simply, easier for them to start a conversation with me.  The Spectacles seemed to have been designed with just the right balance of tech vs. human.  They encourage conversation without intimidation and nicely bridge the gap between virtual and reality. 

Breaking through with a personal story:     

My favorite moment of CES was when I entered LG’s experiential tunnel made of 216 LG OLED TVs. Using Dolby ATMOS stereophonic sound technology overlaid with outstanding video imagery, it was a truly immersive experience.  And because the Spectacles recorded for me, I never needed to step outside of the experience or moment.  In fact, I forgot I was even wearing the glasses, completely immersed in the stunning images, colors and sound surrounding me in the tunnel.  I recorded around 2 minutes of Snapchat footage which is approximately twelve 10 second snaps.  I felt the most connected to this moment and wanted to share the exact experience with my followers.     

With the Spectacles on, the person behind the glasses has complete control of the story – making it therefore much more personal.  The story I played back for my audience was captivating because it was as shown through my eyes and delivered in a format that was new and different.  The video I shared of the showroom floor was not wide, sweeping views – but rather a much more intimate, behind-the-scenes view that told of one personal journey through a massive, at times overwhelming, sea of booths.  It allowed me to create and share a much more human take on CES in the midst of a world of tech. 

After the conference, I watched the footage back as we were creating our :60 recap video.  It was fascinating to be able to re-watch my EXACT journey over again.  Every conversation I had, every place my eyes wandered to – all captured in :10 video snippets.  Watching my editor stream the clips together was like watching her journey through my stream of consciousness.  An intimate, personal journey that was ready to be shared with the world.

Conclusion:

CES 2017 is being called the conference that catapulted a more connected world.  While this is certainly true in terms of connected devices – everything from TVs, to cars, to refrigerators – there was arguably a disconnect between actual human beings.  The larger the conferences are, and the greater the virtual and AI technology, the harder it is to maintain human connectivity.  I watched as most conference goers opted to put on a headset and disappear into a virtual world or have a conversation with Alexa (Amazon’s Voice Service), rather than explore human operated booths or have face to face interactions.   

The beauty of the Snapchat Spectacles was that it grounded me in the moment and allowed me to share a more human take on CES – one that was personal, intimate and real. Simplicity at its very best.

See the whole video experience:

Katelyn Lurvey, Innovation Strategist at The BAM Connection

It’s time colleges got educated on branding

 

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What makes a college get noticed? In most cases, it’s some arbitrary list of “best colleges.” Basically, someone else decides what you are, and what you are not, and if anyone should pay attention or simply skip you and move on. So how else can a prospective student judge a college? More importantly, how else can a college breakout, stand out, and get its message out, especially if it’s not “on the list?” And the majority are not.

Branding.

Now this may sound like “dirty business” in the hallowed halls of learning. Colleges are not toothpaste or potato chips to be marketed like a product. However, the truth is, it’s a very powerful way for a college to put its best foot forward, and in the process, be forced to articulate what it stands for in a very concise way. Writing 101. I learned that in college. Besides, universities are all about learning. Here’s s a chance to learn something about marketing the very school you work at.

Each college absolutely has something unique to offer.

Yet most colleges do not identify, then clearly and compellingly articulate this difference. Instead, they just regurgitate the same stuff over and over. The student teacher ratio. The library that gets quieter as you go higher. The “Harry Potter” building. The caring professors. The sense of community. Blah, blah, block it all out. I’ve heard each of these so many times. I not only own an ad agency, I also have three children, and I recently spent two years in a row touring 20-30 colleges. When I started, I wrote down everything they said, then I quickly realized they’re all saying the same crap, just listen for the one or two things that were different, if they even had any. Now my next child is a junior in high school, so I’m about to do it yet again. I beg schools across America, if you won’t have a unique point of view for the good of your college, at least do it for the poor parents and students who have to sit through 25 of these very repetitive sessions after schlepping for hours by car or plane to get there.

Having a unique pov is not easy.

Here lies the issue: each college offers so many awesome things, how can they crystalize it all into one single thought? That’s the hard part. That’s the branding, and why you need to tap experts to do it. You’ve got to dig, work, and articulate in a powerful, succinct and simple way what makes your offering different. It does NOT mean forcing each school to pick one of the 37 things that make them awesome, and tossing out the rest. It means aggregating all 37 into a packed and fertile singular thought. Aggregate not eliminate. That’s a difficult job, but not an impossible one, and well worth the effort it takes. Here are two examples from personal experience.

The Juilliard School: We worked on a strategic project and got the singular thought down to one word: Aspire. Students aspire to get accepted, they aspire to create original works of art, parents aspire to have their children go there, the college aspires to put beautiful things into the world, the faculty aspires to give birth to the next generation of artists, the alumni aspires to go forward and create even more, the donors aspire to be part of a great institution that develops the future of music, theater and dance. One word, fertile and packed with so many true and poignant meanings. Yes, people aspire to other colleges, but there is something uniquely Juilliard about that thought….some higher artistic purpose the college stands for.

Le Moyne College: One of 28 Jesuit Colleges in America, Le Moyne’s identity is driven by that distinction. Based on fundamental Jesuit principles, we created the idea: Greatness meets goodness. Greatness because the Jesuits have been some of the greatest educators since 1548. They set the highest bar, reach for heroic leadership; built on the principle of “Magis” which means more and better, and they follow the inspiring words of the founder St Ignatius Loyola who said, “go forth and set the world on fire.” However, it is a greatness always through the eyes of goodness. Never at any cost. That is not the Jesuit way. Goodness is a pov that is uniquely Le Moyne. It’s the mission of the faculty, the students, the entire college community, and the alumni. I know from first-hand experience. I am a proud graduate.

In both cases, these colleges put out to the world the unique message they want people to hear, not the outside perspective of third party critics. Not only does that help a college take their brand into their own hands and self-define, it gives those backward-walking student tour guides a few unique and interesting sound bites to say as they trip over that crack in the sidewalk.

Rob Baiocco

CCO/Co-Founder, The BAM Connection

#TheBamThinks#23

To make your work more interesting, make yourself more interesting

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There is no formula for creating interesting work. If there were, everything would be interesting, which is clearly not the case. So how do you align the stars for interesting to happen? How can you improve the chances that it will come out of you consistently and often?

“Interesting” happens at unexpected intersections, fresh combinations, two disparate things crashing together to create a new thing. Based on that, the more interesting bits you put into yourself, the better the odds they will collide in new ways and result in creative, original output. And the more varied the input, the more unique combinations that become possible. So you must draw from as many different sources as possible. Be an intense student of your particular industry. Digest all there is, soak in all the trades, study all the past greats, read all the current stars. But also reach out well beyond your chosen field, because often times, this is where the most powerful inspirations come from. For example, I’m in advertising. I have studied and read the past greats Ogilvy, Bernbach, Burnett, I have gone to Cannes many years and seen the world’s best work, but my most influential inspirations have come from art, poetry, music, martial arts, not from other “ads”. You get to more interesting, not by copying the way of your industry, but by introducing new influences that take your industry to new places.

When you randomly juxtapose unlike elements it usually generates an interesting result. So in your waking, working hours, push them together, line them up next to each other, the odd, short one with the tall, conservative one, pair the Krav Maga with the Barber for Strings, seat the E*Trade Baby next to Confucius, hang the Goya next to the Successory, mix the Oscar Meyer jingle and the Sex Pistols. See what happens. Do they suddenly and strangely get along? Spark something never seen or heard before? (Which is always the goal.) Now go to sleep and let them dance together in your dreams, then wake to their magical amalgam.

Interesting doesn’t come from sitting next to someone interesting. It doesn’t come from showing someone else’s interesting youtube video, or from telling someone else’s joke. It comes from you, ingesting and combining things in a singular way, a way that creates your “ness.” the special mix that is you and only you. Your Joe-ness, Your Emma-ness, your Rob-ness, your Sofia-ness, your Tariq-ness.

You are a crock pot. Put all sorts of assorted ingredients in there and let them stew and cook together. Create your own unique concoction, Original Recipe You, then serve it up in helpings of interesting work.

Rob Baiocco, CCO/Co-Founder, The BAM Connection

 

#TheBamThinks #22

 

Making business versus making creative: MBA versus ADD

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.59.46 PMMaking business and making creative are two vastly different affairs that require two completely different sensibilities and modes of operation. This has never been more clear to me than it is now, two and a half years out from opening my own agency. In large agencies and companies, it is much easier to compartmentalize and departmentalize jobs: businesspeople make business, creative people make creative. However, in entrepreneurial companies (aka smaller), you must often do both, and you quickly realize you can’t daydream your way to new business, nor can you “negotiate” ideas into brilliant existence. Also, in this new world of marketing, it becomes abundantly clear the most effective workers are the creatives who understand how business works, and the business people who bring a creative flair.

Here, in my opinion, are several ways the business process and the creative process differ. Hopefully, these can help you better toggle between the two worlds.

  • Overall, making business has a harder edge, while making creative has a softer edge. Making business calls for an aggressive attack mentality, where you “go for it.” Making creative needs a passive, laid back mentality, where you “let it come.”
  • When making business you must close deals, show no feelings or emotions, and reveal nothing. When making creative you must open yourself to all feelings and emotions, expose your heart, turn on every receptor, so you can sense and feel those elusive messages coming from the cosmos, then gently let them in.
  • Making business, requires a lot of talking, speeches, meetings, negotiating, so you can move someone to your point of view, squash their concerns, get them to sign on the dotted line. Making creative requires a good amount of quiet, so you can hear the voices, the angels whispering their creative secrets.
  • Making business involves acquisitions and takeovers, power trips and powerpoints, BHAGs, bottom lines, cold cash and hard knocks. Making creative involves, pretty pictures, daydreams, storyboards, color palettes, subtle turns of phrase, and swaying to the music.
  • Business mostly happens in board rooms, working in offices, on golf courses. Creative mostly happens in showers, walking the dog, on subways.
  • The tools of business are Excel charts, graphs, latest news, stock tickers, MBAs and best practices. The tools of creative are Photoshop, stupid youtube videos, odd factoids, a scene from a Gilligan’s Island episode you watched 30 years ago, a Picasso you saw at the Met yesterday.
  • Making business means being punctual, buttoned up, getting it done. Making creative means being ADD, a procrastinator, getting there eventually.
  • Making business means working the room. Making creative means doing everything in your power to avoid the room.
  • Making business is a friend of constant interaction, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to make quick, dynamic decisions, and time is of the essence. Making creative is an enemy of constant interruption, questions, emails, phone calls, texts, because you need to get into a flow, go deep, way down past the obvious to where the original ideas lie, and that takes time.
  • Making business is packed with pressure to hit your numbers, constantly grow the revenue, increase the margins. Making creative is loaded with pressure to turn a blank page into a breakthrough idea, catch lightning in a bottle, and do it by Thursday.
  • When making business, you march toward a deal fueled by determination. When making creative, you meander toward an idea led by inspiration. Because making business is driven by competition, it’s about winning and losing, you “win” business. Other than award shows, making creative is not driven by competition, it’s about creating something artistic, funny, beautiful or moving. It’s not a contest with an absolute “winner.” That’s like asking who wins between Michaelangelo and Leonardo Davinci?

By no means do these two endeavors split clearly down the middle, some of each exists in the other, but the business process and the creative process remain decidedly different, and you must be in a very different mode to achieve each. Understand this, and you can more easily shift from one to the other, and be a more versatile thinker who embraces this beautiful yin yang.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, The BAM Connection

rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks #21

Knowing what should change, and what should never change.

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(The most finely tuned skill in advertising…and life)

In this ever-shifting world it is deliciously tempting to change everything all the time. Human nature is smitten with things that are new. People assume if it’s new, it must be cooler, more advanced, better. In many cases that’s true, but in many cases, that’s absolutely untrue. Often times, we get new for new’s sake.

By no means is this an entreaty to stay stuck in the same ways over and over again. We must develop the delicate ability to understand what should change and what should not, and refuse to get caught up in the blind, sweeping momentum of change where people chase the latest ephemeral nonsense whether it merits pursuit or not; where “old” automatically means bad, and “new” instantly equals good.

There are many reasons why people “over change” in business. The first reason is because they can. Change is there for the taking. Let’s do it, let’s change, let’s do something different because doing the same thing is boring…even if it works brilliantly. The second reason: because I’m new. New people always want to change things. That’s why they showed up. Change is the way they leave their mark. Third: the impact of those three little letters N-E-W. “New” remains the second most powerful word in marketing, behind only the king of all words, “Free.” Lastly, and most importantly, people change because they lack a clear understanding of and respect for the deep-rooted unchangeables of a brand.

Here’s how I think the change dynamic works in advertising.

I see marketing on a continuum from brand essence to strategy to campaign to execution. The closer to brand essence, the less you change. The closer to execution, the more you change.

Key elements that define the brand should almost never change. Every company has their version of these…brand essence wheels, brand pyramids, brand arrows, mission statements. These are the principles that stand for generations, why they founded the company, the images inextricably linked to the brand. If these are to change, one random person cannot do it on a capricious whim. 11 keys should turn to launch that missile. Strategy should be well conceived (measure twice, cut once), then stuck with until it no longer works, or it wears out. Campaigns that support the strategy can change more often, so long as they are always true to the strategy. Geico is a great example of this. From the Cavemen to the Gekko to the “Happier Than” to the current “It’s What You Do,” the campaigns have changed, but the strategy has remained constant: 15 minutes could save you 15%. Executions should change regularly and often. That’s the whole point of “executions,” especially in today’s real-time world. Take some shots, do some analytics; use what works, dump what doesn’t.

So next time you’re faced with a decision to change something or not, ask yourself a simple question: am I changing this because it should be changed or because it can be changed. If the answer is the latter, don’t do it, then turn your attention to something that needs to be changed…because there’s always something.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, The BAM Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks #20