You can’t learn in school what the world is going to do next year.
The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid-1980s. Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, ‘Middle-aged accountant on board.’
#Boston is looking a bit Gotham-esque this morning. (at Boston, Massachusetts)
I joined LinkedIn just over 10 years ago - June 14th, 2004 to be precise. And roughly since then, I’ve been meticulous about keeping in touch with people; helping whomever I could with whatever I could whenever I could, and just generally staying well-connected to my ever-expanding network.
I rarely, if ever, asked that network for much, aside from the occasional small introduction or favor.
So a few weeks ago, when I hit that network rather hard and very directly, asking for some help in guiding me towards my next professional venture, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I hoped that all of this diligence would pay off, and that it would rain opportunities, but I also was prepared for my call to be met with a deafening silence.
Sufficed to say, the response I got was overwhelming and humbling. So many people were so quick to offer so much. It was far more of a response than I had ever imagined would be.
The meetings, coffees, beers, leads, intros, advice, pep talks, candid talks, everything. Thank you so so so much to you all. I am so incredibly grateful for everything that everyone was able to do for me, and I cannot wait to be in a position to pay it back.
And in true bury-the-lede fashion, I’m happy to say that all of this network badgering actually paid off. I’m a free-agent no longer, and will be returning to the world of the working, in short order. More on that soon.
Thanks again, and see y’all out there.
The reason I wrote a prose-style, 7,000 word “resume” and the reason I insist on meeting people in person, versus applying for jobs blindly, is that I will never win head-to-head on paper. I will never be able to articulate my value to someone with a resume alone.
As validation, the above screenshot is from a job posting on LinkedIn. It’s for an entry level social media manager role. You’ll notice, that based on a scan of my experience, LinkedIn has determined that I wouldn’t even be in the top 50% of applicants to be considered for this job.
How To Be Good At Stuff
As I’ve begun to explore the possibility of perhaps entertaining the idea of considering once again working for the man, it’s forced me to think a lot about who I am, what I believe in (and don’t believe in), and what my value is as a co-worker, a manager, a piece of talent, and just as a person.
Because regardless of what I do next, it is of critical importance that what I consider to be my value, is aligned the way whomever decides to lock me up thinks about my value.
The ultimate output of this thought (and something I am actively working on) is going to become my “platform”. Sort of like political parties have their stated platform (so you know where they stand, and can join them or fight against them) - I am going to have my own. And I am going to create a page on my site, and let it live there.
However, getting all of those thoughts organized is no small undertaking it turns out. And as an early step in the process, I’ve begun to just jot down disorganized thoughts and snippets of things I believe. Hoping that at some point, it will all come together somehow.
And I want to share those raw bits here. Partly as a way to see how they feel when I throw them out into the real world, partly as a test to see if I am able to live up to and stay true to them, and partly because I am really curious to have feedback/input/additions from other people…should you feel so inclined.
So, in no real order, and with zero polish (I am literally slapping this list together from scraps of paper and emails to myself with no editing), here is a working list of things and thoughts that I feel are central to me as a marketing professional, a creative thinker, an advertising guy, and as a person.
Again, it may be shit, but it’s
- Be fearless
- Be kind
- Be convicted - but know/admit when you are wrong, owning it and changing course appropriately
- Have heart
- Use your brain
- Be bold
- Have an endlessly open mind
- Embrace your ego
- Be irrepressible and insatiable in your desire to know more
- Know how to sell ideas
- Know how to make ideas real
- Look people in the eye when you speak to them
- Be genuine - even if that means some people don’t like you
- Read things that aren’t industry things, but look at them (and apply them) like they are industry things
- Know what matters and what doesn’t matter - be relentless about ditching the latter
- Question norms and don’t be afraid to ignore the prescribed path
- Know the difference between data and insights
- Keep in touch with everybody
- Learn how to play politics, but do so nicely. It’s sucky but it will matter.
- Don’t always focus just on the most important person in the room, but always know who that person is
- Respect people’s time
- Avoid meetings
- Really avoid meetings with more than 4 people in them
- If you have to have a meeting, make it short make it productive and focused
- If you’re in a meeting that you realize you don’t need to be in leave the meeting
- Most requests via email fall into one of three buckets - do it, dismiss it, or delegate it. Learn when to do each.
- Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list
- Observation is not strategy
- Get out from behind your desk. If you work in the strategy or creative business - or any business that sells to or markets to people - be out with those people as much as you can
- Fuck best practices
- Don’t care if it’s been done before
- Be the case study
- Big ideas win business, consistent execution and results keeps business
- Every brand or product has a story, find it
- Every brand or product also has a conversion event, some way to track your success, find that too
- Know where you are trying to go before you start going
- Don’t pre-kill ideas with data. Use predictive analytics only as a guide, and use trailing analytics to optimize and inform decisions
- Don’t go down with the ship. If an idea is bad, or something is not working (and you know it), get out and move on.
- If you work in an advertising agency, your job is to tell your client the truth, not just what they want to hear
- Think about how to create media, not just how to buy media
- Avoid buzzwords
- Have an opinion
- Make things that people want to spend time with
- Think like your consumer (but just refer to them as people)
- People are not neatly package-able into demographic composites
- Focus groups are usually a giant waste of time and are just risk mitigators. Avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
- Listen well and read between the lines. What the client really wants isn’t always in the brief, but often comes out in the hallway conversations or a chat over beers.
- If you can’t help someone, try and connect them to someone who can.
- If you live the principles of the strategy, the things you can count will go up.
- Don’t try to get fired, but don’t be afraid of it either.
Like most others, my Facebook feed has generally become a collection of ads, with some posts from friends sprinkled in.
Like the above for instance, a video ad/sponsored post from the near undrinkably horrendous Stella Artois, which is sitting atop my feed as I write this.
But this ad sparked a thought/question that has less to do with the beer, and has more to do with the ad unit itself and how it comes to its ultimate resting point in my newsfeed.
Specifically, who owns this?
Does the paid media team/agency own this?
Does the social team/agency own this?
Does the creative team/agency own this?
Does the content team/agency own this?
Does the PR team/agency own this?
Chances are, it’s a little bit of each. And chances are, as such, it took a lot more blood, sweat, and tears than necessary to get this piece of content (or ad?) from initial idea through to deployment.
Which is something I’ve been seeing with unsurprising regularity, across all sorts of organizations, as I do my job-exploration-tour-2014™.
A crisis of ownership.
A tangled mess of overly territorial partners, fighting over what something like this should be called (so they can claim ownership), costing everyone unnecessary time and money in the process.
All the while, ignorant to the fact it’s the losers who are busy arguing over who owns the next wave of communications, while the winners are too busy creating them, to give a shit.
The lines are no longer blurred, they’re gone.
And the smart, fearless, creative, modern marketing organizations who see this, and see the opportunity within the chaos, will thrive.
Those who see this new world as threatening, or choose instead to dig in and protect their territory, will die.
So my advice to those middling marketers is the same as it’s always been. Focus on consistently conceiving and deploying interesting things that people want to spend time with, and that grow the business - regardless of what department you think they should live in.
In fact, I’d even encourage you to specifically seek out the things that are hardest to departmentally categorize. That’s where the future truly lies.
Since READING IS HARD, and no one reads anything longer than a headline anyways, I’m guessing most people skipped my craft beer marketing slides and notes.
But you’re not getting off that easy! There’s a video. So now you can ignore this talk in yet another channel.
(PS, I was on the verge of a terrible cold, so apologies for the frequent throat clearing)
"Are you ready for more BJs?"
No, I Don’t Have “Category Experience”. And That’s A Good Thing.
This is a slightly edited version of something I wrote for Heart, almost a year ago. Been thinking about it a lot this week though, and wanted to re-post it.
In our first several months of existence, we’ve had a wide variety of conversations, with a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of industries.
And one thing I’ve noticed throughout, is a generally strong desire for founders, marketing directors, CMOs, etc, to hire people and agencies that have specific experience within a specific category.
Quick serve restaurant wants quick serve restaurant experience. (sweeping shots of steaming food!)
Automotive brand wants automotive experience. (dramatic footage of car driving on a windy mountain road!)
Luxury brand wants luxury experience. (implausible moment with impossibly good looking people - and a horse or other exotic animal!)
So on and so on.
But if you only look for category relevant experience as a filter, you will only get more of the category convention. You will get what an agency did for someone else (maybe even for a competitor), tinker-tailored and adjusted slightly for you.
You will get more of the same.
You will be another indistinguishable choice in a crowded space.
Because if you only work from what exists, how will you find what is yet to be imagined?
Apple didn’t hire the former head of Target or Best Buy to run their retail business. They hired Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry, an extra-category executive with a knack for transformation. Because as usual, Apple is looking to re-define a category, not operate within an existing paradigm.
Brave brands don’t give a shit about convention. They don’t care if you’ve done it before - they care if you can see what’s never been done before, and do it.
It’s about changing the game, not playing it.
Unpacking A Facebook Viral Hack
Spinning through my feed this morning, I saw this post from a radio station in Philadelphia.
I’ve seen this type of thing before, but this particular post caught my eye. My cellphone has a name? What kind of digital sorcery is this???
It also seems to have caught the eye of 1.2mm other people as well,
I started to scroll through the comments, and lo and behold, they all seemed to be legit names or real-sounding people (as well as some typos of numbers from people who can’t follow instructions).
A quick Google search on some of these names verified my hunch that these were all names of people who attended Harvard around the time that Facebook was launched. Meaning specifically, that they would have low Facebook user ID numbers.
More specifically, they would have three-digit Facebook user ID numbers, and when typed into a comment box preceded by an @ symbol, the corresponding real names would be spit back.
So it’s fairly safe to assume that Qhawekazi there, has a cell number ending in 197.
Same with Tiffany Egnaczyk Fisher, another Harvard alum, with a Facebook user ID of 547, which would map to Sherli’s input.
You get it.
Simple, but clever little hack to make this post go “viral”.
In an age where hashtag activism and information-free awareness campaigns are becoming more and more common, we should be very conscious of how to make viral trends as useful as possible.
I Was Wrong
It’s rare, but it happens.
But as Jeff Bezos said, consistency of thought isn’t a particularly positive trait, so I’ll own it.
Specifically I was wrong about the tangible impact of the seemingly silly ice bucket challenge that is overtaking our social media feeds right now. More precisely, I said this:
And then I went on to say this:
My initial reaction was that this was going to be another slacktivist routine where we mistook vanity and virality for actually making a difference (remember when we cured cancer with our profile photos?).
And the face-palming irony was only made more thick, when I’d see these videos sitting adjacent to posts from other people doing things to raise money for clean water (Charity Water, etc).
It made my head hurt.
But despite the empty vanity and social media virality (and there is plenty of both at play here) it turns out, this particular craze seems to be having a positive impact on the only metric that matters, donations.
The challenge, which has spread across the country the last several days, has raised $168,000 online nationally this week so far.
Last year, during the same time period, Newhouse said they had raised $14,000.
That’s a huge lift in giving over last year, which is almost entirely attributable (I’d gather) from this craze. And that’s fantastic.
So when I snarkily said that this wasn’t working, perhaps I was wrong.
Two parting thoughts on this though (for now).
I hope when this runs its course, that the ALS folks do a proper case study on this. Complete with detailed financials, an analysis of the program’s spread, ratio of participants to givers, etc.
Because more often than not, when these programs are done, we’re only left with some fuzzy numbers and correlations, which only get fuzzier and more legendary the further away from the craze we get - hence my comments about this just being broadly and blindly labeled as a “success”.
It’d be great to have something that other charitable organizations can learn from, replicate, and even improve upon.
Not to be a glass-is-half-empty guy here, but given just how prolific this campaign seems to be, an additional $154,000 in donations doesn’t seem like much.
If we’re counting in $100 donations (and I’m sure the composition of that $154k is more varied), it’d only be 1,540 donations, which isn’t huge. In fact, if you guesstimate that…I don’t know….500,000 people have done this? It’s actually quite a small number of donations.
Which says something about the delicate balance between the ability to spread something fun and silly and viral, and the ability to connect that action to the actual desired output.
Either way, it’s interesting to watch, and will be even more interesting to look back on and understand further.
Craft Beer Marketing
Several weeks back, the folks at BevNET and Brewbound invited me to speak at their craft beer business conference in Boston, the Brewbound Session.
Specifically, they asked me to do a talk entitled “Evaluating, Shifting Marketing Priorities As You Grow”, which was meant to be my broad take on where craft brewers should spend their marketing time and money as they grow.
The first draft of this presentation, was actually 60 slides, and clocked in at almost an hour when I did a run through. But since I only had 20 minutes on stage, I had to dramatically cut this down to fit the format.
Which given how much I like to talk, was quite a challenge.
Below is the final presentation I gave at the event, cut down to 34 slides, along with my original speaker notes (which are written conversationally - as I presented).
The audience was a couple hundred brewers and beer industry folks, and despite the fact that I talked very quickly while on stage, and tried to cram as much content into the allotted time as possible, I think this was pretty well received.
Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for coming today, and thanks to BevNet and Brewbound for inviting me. My name is Andrew Teman, and I’m the founder of a creative agency here in Boston, called Heart.
I’m here today, to talk about how you (as craft brewers), can think about and prioritize your marketing efforts, as a means to breaking through in this increasingly competitive space.
Because just as a bit of a level set - and this is something I know you’re all acutely aware of - this is what the average consumer is facing today when buying beer.
The sheer amount of choice is simply overwhelming.
I actually snapped this picture a week or so ago, at a liquor store not far from here.
These are bottles in the craft beer section, literally covered in dust, because they’ve sat untouched for so long.
And these aren’t way down on the back bottom-shelf. These are left side, eye level - a prime spot.
So, it goes without saying that to even stand a chance, to even have a hope of being pulled off of the shelf, you need to stand out. You need to break through this clutter and noise.
And when I ask people in the beer industry how they are approaching marketing (especially those just starting out), what I hear most often, is this:
And I get it. I understand completely why this is the starting point for everyone.
There is a perception that it is free.
That it’s easy.
That you can do it effectively without any outside help.
There is a perception that beer is inherently social, and thusly, everyone will just naturally talk about you and your product organically.
And while some of this may be partially true, relying on just doing social media alone, will not get you very far - I promise.
Social media is a tactic (one of many) that’s part of a larger communication framework through which you tell your story.
It sits alongside things like PR, events, your packaging, the product…all of the ways you can communicate your brand to drinkers.
So what I want to do today, is get a bit broader. A bit higher level, and give you a framework that hopefully will allow you to better organize and prioritize how you market your brands and your products.
And to keep things really simple, I’ve broken the world down into four pieces. Four pieces that I think can work for everyone, regardless of whether you’re MillerCoors, or two guys in a garage. All things you can be thinking about, and doing today, regardless of your size or your stage.
And we’re going to talk a bit more about what each of those things means in practice.
Let’s start with making a great product.
This is my friend Todd - some of you may know Todd, he’s been around the industry for a while. Todd worked at Sam Adams with me and ran the customer relations end of the business.
But his true passion is (and always has been sake). His commitment to the product, to the liquid, is second to none. He pours all of his heart and energy into making the absolute best sake he can.
And this is where it all starts - with that passion and that determination and that commitment to making an amazing product.
And this part, this is something I can’t help you with. Because all of the marketing in the world, can’t save a bad product.
And I trust, just based on your presence here today, that you are all people that have this step knocked.
So let’s build off of that and get into what happens next.
Which is having a great story.
And when I think about story, I think about it in terms of how each of you, in this room, would answer this question.
If I grabbed any one of you, and said “What is Backlash Beer?” or “What is Portico Brewing?”
Would you have an answer that’s clear, differentiated, own-able, uniquely yours, and above all…interesting?
Some of you would, I’m sure. But lots of you would probably respond with a long pause. Or some rambling monologue that’s hard to follow and ultimately trails off into nowhere.
Or you’d talk to me about being small, and independent - or having quality ingredients. Which I hate to tell you, isn’t story - it’s cost of entry to the category.
And it certainly isn’t unique or interesting.
And the reason story is so important, is that it’s your story. YOUR story, that becomes the basis of that emotional connection you need to build with your drinker in order to break through the clutter we talked about.
Capturing people’s hearts is the first step to capturing their wallets. And capturing hearts, has everything to do with having a great story.
That one simple truth, that uniquely-yours thing that guides everything you do, make, or say.
And while we could do a full day conference on story and brand positioning, I wanted to give a couple of real quick examples of what story looks can begin to look like in its simplest form.
First, Toms - one of my favorite brands, is built on a simple principle. A simple story that guides everything that they do. Whether they get into footwear, or eyewear, or even coffee. Their story is about social entrepreneurship.
And industry example, a beer example - Clown Shoes.
While this is personally not the direction I’d go in if I started a brewery, I do have an enormous amount of respect for what they are creating with this brand.
It is what it is, and it’s unapologetic about what it is, and it’s origins.
And from my perspective, this story is pulled through beautifully in the products that they make - certainly in how they are named. It’s a great, simple story.
And frankly, so much of its strength comes from it’s polarizing effect. The fact that it’s unabashedly not for everyone, is a big part of what makes it resonant. It forces a decision to be with them or not. And there’s great power in that.
But regardless of the angle, regardless of what your story is, it needs to be rooted in an authenticity, an honesty, a heart that bleeds through and is undeniable.
It’s cliche, but it’s true.
So begin with what you believe. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is that one simple thing that can guide everything underneath it?
Because once that story is defined and strong, the rest becomes so much easier. The advertising, social media, packaging…it all has something to be guided by.
But of course a great story poorly told, isn’t going to be of much impact.
Because it isn’t in the idea, it’s in the execution. It’s in how this story comes to life and begins to work hard for you.
So to that end, I want to go through some of the ways you can bring this story to life, in service of growth.
First, and maybe most importantly, is to tell great stories through your products themselves.
I know we are in a world where we’re all chasing the latest, hottest, most interesting, underground and extreme thing.
But there is enormous strength in having your brand and product stories map to one another.
I’ve always loved Dogfish, and while their portfolio is pretty eclectic, they (to me) are great at telling a brand story through their products. Product becomes a proof point for the stories they tell.
Next, package design - something I see far too many brands skimping on.
My advice is to invest in great design early on. The liquid inside is moot if no one pulls it off the shelf first.
And this matters more than you may think. Package design is key to what Proctor and Gamble called “First Moment of Truth” - which they described as the moment “when consumers stand in front of a store shelf … and decide whether to buy a P&G brand, or a competing product.”
Eyes lead people - colors, patterns, objects of beauty.
And trust me, designers are DYING to do beer branding work. I’m not saying exploit them, but know that they WANT to do this work. Engage them, and design something beautiful from day one.
Beyond just jumping out, design matters, because beautiful and interesting products become badges. They become social objects and vehicles through which people self-express.
This is Method, another brand I love.
Eric, one of the founders talks about how he knew people wanted cleaning products that they didn’t have to hide under their sinks. Genius. Totally upended the category style, and turned household cleaners into objects of desire.
What they’ve done with cleaning products (creating something beautiful) is going to quickly become a cost of entry - a necessity to compete, in the beer industry.
And I know so many of you may only have one or two styles in retail now, maybe a few more. But as you approach design, think in foundational systems. Think about creating a design system, that is consistent enough to create that retail billboarding effect, but also elastic enough to accommodate growth.
Because people pattern match.
This is Pastene. People may not know the brand name Pastene, but they damn sure know the Italian brand with the yellow label.
And this design makes it easy for Pastene to introduce new products and cross-sell existing ones. Because they’ve created a system of visual communications that works hard for them and makes it easy on shoppers.
And “system” by the way doesn’t mean bland and templated.
I look at Pretty Things for instance, and every label for each different style is so unique and so intricate. But there is an unmistakeable style that they have. So those individual parts, as unique as they are, sum to something greater when on a shelf together.
Social media and content - which to be clear, I don’t think is totally useless, I just don’t believe that it’s the ONLY thing.
What I absolutely do believe, is that we, as beer folk, create great content simply as a byproduct of what we do every day. And that these visuals, these simple, light content pieces are a great way to tell your story.
These are some examples of “content” that I “created” when I was with Sam Adams, and almost with no captions, they tell wonderful stories
Remember, that what you are doing is interesting. Most people sit in offices, and wear ties, and create TPS reports. You guys are making beer, and that’s cool in itself. Don’t complicate it, just own it and give people a window into your world. Share the awesomeness that is working in the beer industry, with those who don’t.
Lastly, another place I’d focus on and spend in if I were a brewer (in addition to design) is PR.
Aside from huge reach, these magazines like GQ, Women’s Health, etc…provide third party validation, which has great value. With these placements, you are able to borrow equity from other established vehicles as a means to build your own.
Same goes for awards and festivals. Enter and win.
My sister in law covets the Boston Magazine Best of Boston award for her day spa every year. And not just because winning is awesome. But that ability to badge, and get the press that comes along with winning. It’s such phenomenal validation - that borrowed equity is so strong.
But whatever the medium, and whatever the story, as Dan Weiden (one of the most famous advertising minds of our generation) says, “Just move me dude”.
Lastly, I want to talk about media.
Marketing with a capital “M” - giving all of this story a boost, and making sure people actually get a chance to see it and hear it and experience it.
Back to social media for a minute, and this idea of just “doing social media”.
Again, what I understand the logic path to be, is…
Social media is free
Social is about engagement
Engagement is good
Beer is social
We will get engagement, because beer.
Not sure if we have any South Park fans here, but most social media approaches I see, are a bit like the underpants gnomes from South Park.
But the harsh reality is, that Facebook and social media are now unambiguously paid platforms. Even Facebook themselves has said so.
Beer, no matter how inherently social, is not immune to this reality I’m afraid.
And the data proves this.
If you do not pay for ads on Facebook, you simply are not seen. You do not exist.
The latest data (this is from Ogilvy Social), says that only about 6% of a page’s fans are reached with its content.
So do the math. Without paying…
For every 1,000 fans you have, you’re going to be lucky if your posts even appear in the newsfeeds of 60 people.
And appearing is different still from being seen, or from having any impact.
The good news is, the targeting abilities on these platforms, are amazing.
For instance, here is a quick cut I ran.
Let’s say for instance, you make a stout and distribute in New England. This targeting segment would allow you to get content in front of people in New England, that have indicated they like Stout, and who have an upcoming birthday.
3,000 people now (that aren’t necessarily fans of yours) that you can reach with a specific message - like “celebrate your birthday with an XYZ stout” or something like that.
Getting WAY outside of social media, and going in a totally different direction….
One of the first things we did at Heart, was a billboard. I’ve been a digital guy for 15 years, the last thing I thought we’d do would be a billboard.
But we did, and they ran on Route 93 and the Mass Turnpike here, for 3 months. Total media cost was around $XX,XXX. The artwork and production end is not terribly expensive either. Maybe half that.
And from a pure reach + resonance standpoint, this actually outperformed everyone’s expectations. We STILL get mentions of this billboard, months after it’s come down.
Radio and TV, also tend to be overlooked, but are not nearly as crazy or expensive as you may think.
Sam Adams and Jim Koch did so many things well (they still do), but one of their smartest moves, was buying TV. It was a huge part of what allowed them to blow past the competition and become a category leader.
And recently we’ve seen folks like New Belgium and Kona start experimenting with TV also.
So to recap…
Make a great product - that’s all you
Have a great story - know your reason for being, why you exist, who you are and who you aren’t
Tell it well - take that story and be considerate of every touchpoint you have with a drinker, from product stories to content stories. And make sure they all build towards something greater.
Give it a boost - Don’t be afraid of paid media. You’re in an extremely crowded space, and for short money, you can start to force your way above the fray.
Lastly, I want to leave you with one more framework to help put all of this into a time and priority context.
And in the name of broad applicability, this is obviously grossly simplified.
But as I’ve mentioned, I’d start thinking about building relationships with three important partners sooner rather than later…
A creative partner
A PR partner
An advertising partner (media + creative)
And look at deploying those partners, roughly along this timeline.
Thanks a lot everyone, hope this was helpful.