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

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Knowing what should change, and what should never change.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.39.09 AM
(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

2,596 Bottles of Wine on the Wall (Or how to market in the world’s most overwhelming category)

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.41.23 AMIn the majority of commercial categories there are a handful of real competitors. Walk into a supermarket to buy some bread, and there are probably six or so to choose from? Toothpaste, four or five real players. But walk into a wine store, and wow, there are hundreds, even thousands of choices. According to theweek.com, there are over 60,000 different labels on the market. Dare I say no category has more competitors than the wine category? It creates a singular dynamic that wine marketers simply cannot ignore. They must develop a plan to separate themselves out form the overwhelming mass of competition. Otherwise, they’re just hoping and praying someone stumbles upon their bottle amidst the thousands. Not a good business plan.

Even as America gets more and more savvy, choosing a wine remains one of the most confusing and intimidating acts to the average consumer. Please note the word “average.” I am clearly not talking about wine connoisseurs. I’m talking about the average person who wants to enjoy some wine, and feels very uncertain shopping the category. In other words, the vast majority of wine drinkers.

It’s hard to know a lot about wine because there’s a lot to know about wine:
different winemakers, brand names, varietals, blends, countries, terroir, vintage, cork, synthetic, screw top, boxed wine, reviews 88, 91, by who? Little blurbs, posted on shelves, probably written by the brand, so of course they will sound good. Or they are written by the proprietor, which can be helpful, but also doesn’t mean you’re going to like the particular brand recommended. Wine is a very subjective taste. Like they always say, what’s a good wine? If you like the way it tastes, it’s a good wine. And of course, you can Google it on your phone while standing at the shelf. Then you just fall into the infinite abyss of the internet, and could be searching wines forever.

Consumers get hit with this onslaught of information: combine that with their tentative knowledge, and it becomes so overwhelming, most people just end up picking a wine the same way they pick a horse at the track: this one has a pretty color, a guy told me it’s a winner, I dated a Kim Crawford in high school, my uncle’s nickname is Toasted Head.

So what’s a wine marketer to do?

Never has branding been more important than in the wine category. Okay, relax purists, this doesn’t mean cheapen the fine art of winemaking with the dirty business of advertising. It means having a distinct point of view for the brand, a strong position, no matter if you advertise on TV, or simply talk to people one on one at the winery. It’s fairly simple, if you don’t know what your brand is all about, how can any consumer?

From my experience, here are two pieces of concrete advice that make a huge difference in establishing a brand POV for a wine.

1. Use the name and label unabashedly.
It’s the billboard, the calling card, the first thing everyone will see, the last thing they will remember, and the one thing no one else can own. Dig into it. Why is named that? What is the story behind it? What is the graphic on the label? Why was it chosen? Name and label are invaluable assets to a wine brand. Take them, inject them with relevant meaning, then work outward from there, so the meaning resonates with the largest amount of people possible. Many marketers make the mistake of doing the exact opposite. They work backward from some lame, generic wine insight or observation — people like to drink together, Italian and French wines have cache — then they create an idea that could work for dozens of other wines, just plug one in.

When you work from the name and label outward, you have a much more unique starting point, and much better odds of creating a distinct brand. From there, any marketing you choose to do, whether it be a TV commercial, or good old fashioned one-on-one sell, the story is singularly defined. So when a consumer sees it in a wine store or on a restaurant menu, they think, “Oh, I know that one.” Which brings me to my second piece of advice.

2. Never underestimate the power of familiarity.
Go back to the overwhelming information being downloaded on the average wine consumer. They are desperately fishing for familiarity, some trigger, some tidbit of pre-existing knowledge, a previous experience, some name they’ve heard of, label they remotely recognize, anything that helps guide this impossible decision, and point them to a particular brand they can feel good about buying, and proud showing up with. Maybe they’ll even have a one-line sound bite to go with it that makes them look modestly wine savvy as they hand it to the host.

I believe wine purchasing is a combination of familiarity and discovery.
Yes, people like to discover, but discover what they are vaguely familiar with already. Otherwise it’s a blindfolded stab in the dark, a total crapshoot. Like at the carnival, they might as well throw a ring at a bunch of bottles, and buy whichever bottleneck it lands on.

So give them a tight brand that comes from the name and label, and works as a signal at the moment of purchase. That will greatly improve the odds that they will remember, and hopefully purchase, that one in 2,596 bottles of wine on the wall…yours.

Rob Baiocco, CCO, Baiocco And Maldari
rob@thebam.com

A few examples of wines I have worked on:
•Bella Sera has a twilight sky on the label, and means “beautiful evening” in Italian. So we created the perfect wine to end the day at magic twilight, relaxing in the Italian style.
•The Federalist has engravings of Founding Fathers on the label. We put millennial guys through the same filter, and used that imagery to connect them to the revolutionary thinking of their forefathers.
•For Black Swan, we used the beauty and dark exoticness of the swan as the defining metaphor of the wine itself.
•On Santa Margherita, we used the timeless, sophisticated name and label to create a classic that will always be here and loved.

TheBamThinks #19

The Art of Attraction and Transaction. Great advertising is about these two things. Period.

Yin YangIn the world of marketing, at any given moment, you’re either trying to attract people to a brand, or trying to get them to transact, and purchase the brand. There is nothing else. All the brilliance of art and copy, all the amazing creative technology exploding around us is about driving these two things. That’s it. That’s all there is.

At this exact minute, how many people are in the market, and actively looking to buy your product or service? I’ll bet it’s somewhere between 1% and 10%, depending on the type of product or service you offer. If you sell something that is not used daily, and/or is durable, it’s probably 1%. If you sell something that’s used daily and/or is disposable, probably closer to 10%. If you sell tires, 1%. If you sell toothpaste, 10%.

Create an attraction
Unless you plan on ignoring the other 90-99% of consumers, you must create advertising that draws people to the brand, even when they don’t need it. It must create an undeniable attraction to be part of the action, and make them want the brand, or at least remember the brand when they need it in the future.

To create an attraction, the advertising must do more than simply list the benefits of the brand. That may work for the small percentage interested now, but the larger percentage will blow it off in a second. The message must be true to the product or service, but break the confines of the package or the walls of the store to capture something with larger life context that still pertains to the product, but broadens the appeal of the communication beyond ONLY the product. It must engage them, and matter to them now, even when they do not need the brand. From there, it must draw them in with some intriguing creative: an arresting visual that stops people in their tracks, something hilarious they want to pass on to others, something moving that connects with their soul, and causes them to comment, brilliant design they want to post, a clever turn of phrase they want to retweet.

Then attraction is patient. It doesn’t push for the sale right now. If that happens, great, and there should always be an opportunity for someone to transact, but its goal is to set a brand vision, to inspire, to entertain, to motivate, then somewhere down the road, because of the accumulated goodwill, to make the sale. It’s money in the bank.

Create a transaction
This is for the 1- 10% looking to buy right now. You better have the mechanisms in place to close the deal. This creative should shorten the distance between consideration and purchase. It should make it easier, faster, cheaper; and trigger transaction now.

To create a transaction you must be single-mindedly all about the product or service. They are here shopping for the brand at this very moment, don’t distract them with anything else but how to buy. Many times, transaction leans on creative technology to help make the sale by finding the location, delivering a discount, showing up on screen right when someone is considering that exact product or service. Transaction knows what button to push to drive the purchase. And it’s not afraid to ask for the sale.

Transaction is urgent. It wants the purchase now, and does everything it can to help get it immediately. It knows the ultimate goal of all advertising is to put money in the register.

Brands need the essential yin yang of attraction and transaction, not just one or the other. Create all the attraction you want, if no one transacts, who cares. Put all the transaction opportunities in front of them you want, but if you haven’t created an attraction, no one will pay attention. Think of all the ads you ignore each day…an astounding amount.

So look at all your marketing pieces, and ask yourself: is this helping me attract people, or transact people? It better be doing one, the other, or both.
Because the ultimate goal of every advertisement is a sale. The only debatable point is a sale now or a sale later.

The art of attraction and transaction. Everything else is distraction.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks#18

How to advertise to “guy guys.” Six things you’d better know.

Awesome!Men have evolved. We change diapers, do housework, have discovered our sensitive side, some are even “metrosexuals.” Yes, we have come a long way too, baby. However, there is (thank God) still a large portion of guys out there who are guys in every sense of the word. The hunting, firemen, classic rock, UFC-loving, beef-jerky-eating, messin’ with Sasquatch kinda’ men.

I’ve been around a lot of “guy guys” in my life. I grew up working construction with my burly, tattooed-armed dad, and my uncle Jack, a curb setter who could swing a sledge, and still put a much younger man (me) to shame when he was 60 years old. I’ve also played lots of sports, and spent a lot time in locker rooms around testosterone-filled guys. When it comes to marketing, I have worked on numerous “guy” brands including Wrangler Western (cowboys are the ultimate guys), Captain Morgan, Crown Royal Whisky, and so on. Based on this combination of life experience and work experience, here’s what I’ve learned about talking to guy guys.

1. Get to it, man
Don’t give them any of the flowery set up crap. There’s no need to rev the engine, just drive already. Guys want it quick and to the point. They don’t want a lot of discussion or a poll of their friends’ opinions. It’s like how they shop for clothes. Get in, buy a shirt, get out. They’re not browsers. They’ll take what the mannequin is wearing.

2. Make it simple to understand
This applies to everyone, but especially guys. They have to get it before they can like it. If they don’t get it, they’ll dismiss it as some a-hole who thinks he’s smarter than they are.

3. Simple doesn’t mean simpleton
Yes, guys like the Three Stooges and “football in the groin” (Homer Simpson reference), but they expect more cleverness from their advertising. A few years back, many of the Super Bowl beer commercials were simplistic fart jokes. Guys backlashed.

4. Don’t smack of femininity
“Guy guys” like guy things: guy colors, guy typefaces, guy music, guy brand names. Once I was in a focus group for wine, and a man really liked a brand called Layer Cake. In front of eight other guys he kept saying, “it’s really good wine, trust me.” He was apologizing, and saying I’m not a sissy who drinks a wine named Layer Cake (sorry Layer Cake). What wines did all the other guys like? Carnivor and Earthquake. Duh.
Also, never be “cute.” New espadrilles are “cute.” That bob haircut is “cute.” The romantic comedy is “cute.” “Cute” is a woman’s word in both usage and tonality. Keep it as far away from guys as humanly possible.

5. Honesty only
Guys call each other on their bullshit. It’s part of being a guy. Be full of shit, get nailed by your friends. So give it to them straight. No need for all the emotional histrionics either. (BTW, they wouldn’t like the word “histrionics.”)

6. Be positive
Guys don’t dwell on the bad, they dwell on the good. They’re not stressing about their weight gain, or worried about their hair color, or aggravated by the obnoxious thing Kim Kardashian said (don’t care). Guys are generally positive by nature. Great game last night. Cool car. Beer is good. Keep it simple and upbeat.

With rare exception, I believe deep down most guys want to be “guy guys,” at least a portion of themselves. Why else do soft-bellied corporate milquetoasts suddenly buy Harleys? As a result, appealing to guy guys is not niche marketing. You reach a lot more people than you think.

So there you have it, some pointers on how to talk to “guy guys.” And remember, if all else fails, you can always blow some shit up. Awesome!

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks#17

7 reasons why bad ads get created

Thumbs DownAs a Creative Director for the majority of my career, I have created thousands of ads, and overseen the creation of tens of thousands. (For the sake of this blog, I will use the general term “ads” to mean any pieces of communication designed to ADvertise a product or service.) Within these thousands of ads, many have been quite good, many straight down the middle of Mediocre Boulevard, and many I would consider just plain bad. After much experience, contemplation and self-loathing, I blame these bad ads on one of the following seven things.

1. Trying to say too much
This is the #1 reason hands down. Value, service, selection, quality, heritage, two logos, three RTBs, a product demo…let’s jam it all in there. If we care about all of these things, then our consumers must, too. They don’t, and even if they did, they couldn’t retain them all. This issue is usually driven by too many opinions, with each person trying to make sure their points get included. Remember, when you try to say everything, you end up saying nothing.

2. No idea
This one is hard to explain. What is an idea? It’s like Louis Armstrong said about jazz: “Man, if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.” Everyone thinks they know what an idea is; yet so many ads completely lack one. They just list stuff about a brand with no overarching, unifying concept, no singular thought that makes them memorable and simple to grasp.

3. The idea is too expensive for the budget
Okay you have an idea, a nice one actually. But it needs a high-end photographer, or an expensive director, or a particular song, or a more robust website…that all cost more money than you have. So you use a lesser photographer, get a cheaper director, put in a piece of stock music, don’t build out the full website. You hit the budget!…with a compromised piece of mediocrity. Create to the budget you have, and do the most interesting execution that budget can afford. Also know, people rarely remember that you came in on time and under budget. They remember that they love the final piece, or that they cringe every time they look at it, and curse you as the reason.

4. Poor execution
There are hundreds of individual decisions made when you are producing any piece of advertising, type design, color palette, director, photographer, location, casting, wardrobe, music, sound effects. Each decision is one piece that adds to the greater whole. Brilliant executors make more smart creative decisions every step of the way, and the end product shows that. And vice versa on the bad ads. While each decision is only a little bit, it all adds up to a lotta bit.

5. The ability of the makers
Either they don’t know how to make a good ad, or they do, but just had an off day. There are many people out there paid to make ads for a living who lack the talent to make good ones on a consistent basis, just like there are lots of professional baseball players who bat .200. And even the super talented ones who make greatness on a consistent basis don’t bat 1000. The best swing and miss often. Overall body of work is always the truest test of talent level.

6. Chickening out
It’s hard to put yourself out there, your idea, your baby, four months of your life, to take that shot, and let it fly. What if people don’t like it, or worse yet, hate it? Creativity and insecurity go hand in hand, which makes it easy to tone it down a bit, so you’re not dangling out there so nakedly.
Then comes the financial insecurity: I have a mortgage, a family, car payments, college tuitions, so let’s just go with the safe one that won’t get me fired. In both cases, the result is chickening out.

7. People don’t like it
Sometimes, you can do everything “right,” and still people consider your output a bad ad, and no amount of explaining will convince them otherwise. Welcome to the 100% subjective world of advertising. And often times the dislike is for ridiculous reasons: they hate the color red, or the guy in the ad reminds them of a former boss that bugged them. Now, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad ad in reality, but in perception, which sadly counts more.

If you think you are about to make a bad ad, spot which of the above 7 culprits might be to blame, then fix it before it’s too late. Because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. Your name is on a very bad piece of advertising for eternity. And that is as bad as it gets.

Rob Baiocco
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
rob@thebam.com

TheBamThinks#15

What my stilettos taught me about inspiration

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.15.33 AMFor as long as I can remember, I have worn high heels. I often joke that I was born in them. I have 2, 4, 6-inch heels in virtually every color, every designer and even in both open and closed toes. I could never have imagined a time when I would not be suited up in my stilettos, having grown up in the advertising business where I had to adapt to environments and processes that often constrained new ways of thinking. But, when I moved to Dumbo to start my own business. I left my heels in Manhattan…and never realized how liberating it would truly be.

Believe me I tried to strut my 6-inch beauties around the cracked cement corners and cobblestone blocks. Besides almost breaking my neck, the whole thing robbed my shoes of their dignity. It was then I realized that the move to work in Dumbo came at a price. I traded in part of my style to be inspired by the rough edges, and amazing sights and sounds of a neighborhood filled with creativity. It made me question the whole notion of style over substance. Do we compensate in life with style choices because we are often uninspired by our surroundings?

This dynamic is often revealed in countless meetings when brand builders grasp for the “sizzle” because the hard work of building substance is just too tedious. It’s much easier to focus on the logistics of making things happen – hire a cool director or a sexy model, link to a powerful social media influencer, or give incentives away! It’s a seductive process. It moves fast, and logistics make it easy to direct a project to the finish line. Many of those ideas lead brands down a precarious road. They are short-term hits. Style over Substance. They provide a look, a feel, but they sometimes cause marketers to miss the opportunity to find sustainable inspiration on their business. At The Baiocco And Maldari Connection, we believe in doing the hard work it takes to get to a collection of choiceful words that define the meaning of the brand’s intention and how it will impact consumers. We call it the One-Shot AnswerTM. Once that phrase is realized, the creativity explodes. Creating inspiration and meaning for a brand unleashes its true power. A mark that every brand can find and deserves.

So you might ask aside from a flirty opening, what the hell do my shoes have to with anything? Well let’s just say, when I left them behind, DUMBO provided new inspiration. I’m ready to strut, just not in stilettos.

Maureen Maldari
CEO
The Baiocco And Maldari Connection
maureen@thebam.com

TheBamThinks #13