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These articles were prepared for the June 20, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Thinking Out of the Box
Some companies feel marketing is a necessary evil, and
when sales get tight they cut out the necessary evil. "But if you
know what your marketing program is doing you shouldn’t be doing it
all — in good times or in bad," says Jeff Barnhart, CEO of Creative
Marketing Alliance, the full service ad agency on Clarksville Road.
Know what your marketing dollars are actually doing, says Barnhart.
Too many business owners don’t. "In any downturn they have no
substantiation of their return on investment."
To evaluate your marketing, says Barnhart, look at where the company
is now, and where it wants to get to. In what time frame? What is the
needed investment? How should you manage the investment to get the
One way to measure the results, of course, is by tracking sales. For
cybercommerce, analyze the hits on a website. Or track how many leads
you are getting, or where your customers are coming from. Home Depot,
for instance, gets your zip code before they ring up a sale. "They
want to know where people are coming from," says Barnhart. "Once they
have that information, they will market to that area."
Daniel Thomas, of Chameleon Marketing at 947 State Road, warns agency
letting the shoemakers’ children go unshod. Even as you tell your
clients not to stop marketing — but to market wisely — consider how
you are marketing yourself. He offers these statements taken from
Brandweek Magazine research:
marketing input at the levels that they used to. What we need is a
marketing partner who understands our business, our customers, and our
needs and has the ability to play a vital part in our efforts to
increase market share and meet objectives."
our shirts just trying to keep the business. It hasn’t been profitable
for years and they’re continually hammering us to produce more work
for lower fees."
are debatable, however they do reveal some interesting viewpoints from
both sides of the fence. "Out of all this, one thing has
become crucially clear and more vital than ever — agency branding.
It’s the only clear cut way to differentiate oneself from the
U.S. 1 invited marketing and communications firms in the greater
Princeton area to share their war stories about surviving
in a tough market. Some responded to this self-branding challenge, and
here is what they said:
When it comes to promoting themselves, many advertising
and marketing agencies become "shoemakers’ children," says Christine
Hough, director of business development at Alan Brooks Design, a
creative shop with offices at 20 Nassau Street. Hough, deciding her
firm should avoid that trap, challenged her creative staff to come up
with a campaign to put Alan Brooks in front of desirable clients.
The result is an eye-catching, camo-covered, cardboard chest stamped
"Marketing Survival Field Kit." Olive drab pull tabs labeled
"watercolors," "pencils," "markers," and "sketch pad & stickers," jut
out from silver drawers full of prime doodling materials. Standing
not even five inches high, the field kit makes a big impression. And
was the idea. "We went for a higher-end promotion that would get us in
front of the vice president of marketing or the marketing director,"
"I asked the design team," Hough recounts, "`What would get their
attention? What would show them why we need to charge so much?’" The
answer was a nifty set of pens, markers, and miniature paint brushes
in a box stamped with an invitation to potential clients to go ahead
and try to create their own marketing messages. The idea was that
marketing directors would look at the colored pencils and the sketch
pad and think a little about just how much work and talent goes into
crafting even the most simple logo. Reinforcing the point is a
sentence on top of the box reading, "If this kit proves to be
inadequate for completing your mission, immediately call for
professional field support," and giving Alan Brooks’ number.
The kit is a pitch for work, for sure, but it is also fun, and the
kind of thing that could well get passed around the office. That in
itself puts the promotion ahead of a simple letter touting the
agency’s expertise. Hough knows the fate of most unsolicited mail. She
herself admits to tossing a good number of letters, unopened, after
just a quick glance at the return address. "There are tons of people
soliciting work," she says. "You have to do something way out of the
box to get attention."
A reason Alan Brooks was eager to get a second look from decision
makers is that the firm is shifting focus. Now working largely with
pharmaceutical and R & D companies, often on specialty projects, it
wants to diversify its client base. And the firm wants fewer — but
larger — clients. "Small clients take just as much time as large
clients," says Hough, "but with small clients, the overhead is not
met." An account that just wants a brochure is not as desirable as one
that will use all, or most, of her agency’s services, which center
around corporate brand creation, and include website development,
interactive CD-ROMs, and online training.
Hough started getting the message out by sending the survival kits
(purchased wholesale from the Crayon Factory in Clifton and customized
by Alan Brooks’ creative staff) to pre-qualified prospects in the toy
industry. Hough got the company names from a list of attendees at the
annual Toy Fair, a major trade event held in New York City. She then
placed phone calls to determine whether the companies might have any
interest in her agency’s services. The kits, which cost $4 apiece to
buy and another $4 to mail, are too expensive to send out en masse,
The first set of survival kits went to 30 companies, and resulted in
three meetings and "a couple of new accounts," says Hough. While the
pay-off is hard to quantify, Hough says the agency charges about
$12,000 for a very basic website, and $20,000 or more
for one with interactive elements such as a search engine.
A quick look at these numbers indicates that Hough, who continues to
send out the Army-themed survival kits to carefully screened
prospects, would be justified in characterizing the efficacy of the
extra-mile mailing effort as "Mission Accomplished."
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Creative Marketing Alliance signed up a stellar client
when it acquired StatementOne, a privately-held financial management
company. The big plus for the ad agency is that every one of
StatementOne’s new clients also has the potential to generate more
work for CMA.
StatementOne creates what once was every financial advisor’s fantasy
— consolidated financial statements (www.statementone.com). Let’s say
a bank buys StatementOne services. To avoid starting from scratch to
come up with marketing materials to present this service to their
customers, the bank may want to personalize the marketing materials
that have proven effective. It asks Statement One for the materials,
and CMA gets another job.
StatementOne started out by delivering transactional data from
disparate clearing houses and custodians. It turned this back-office
operation into a marketing tool for financial advisors — easy-to-use,
online consolidated statements. CMA launched the first-to-market
integrated marketing communications campaign. "We developed a
high-impact, high-tech corporate identity," says Jeff Barnhart,
president and CEO of CMA, "and it reverberated throughout all
corporate collateral, direct marketing pieces, advertising, and public
The branding materials involve a logo with its roots in an accounting
symbol — a pair of brackets that are abstracted into sweeping curves.
These curves are echoed in the design of tagboard envelopes serving as
press kit folders. Colors are dark royal blue with lighter blue and
accents of orange. One client, ING Advisors Network, took the
materials and used them in dark blue and orange. Another, Financial
Services Corporation, emphasized its trademark blues and purples.
"We wanted a sophisticated high tech look that was not overly flashy,"
says Dave Orban, vice president of marketing at StatementOne. "We
wanted to say we are on the cutting edge of technology but recognize
that we are in a conservative industry."
The lead generation campaign, to industry press and financial
institutions, had the tagline "Quench your thirst for knowledge,"
referring to how Statement One’s web-based tool lets financial
institutions and advisors offer clients a way to cleanse raw
transaction-level securities data and present it in one statement.
Going first to the financial media, CMA’s public relations efforts
brought in "substantial press coverage," says Barnhart, and a number
of feature articles in such publications as Bank News, American
Banker, and Accounting Today. "This visibility in trade media
established a foundation of industry awareness and also pulled in
qualified, viable leads."
The next step was to send a series of what Barnhart calls
"cutting-edge mailers" to reach an good-sized audience of large
financial institutions and national investment firms. StatementOne
followed up each mailer with a telemarketing effort that brought a
strong group of well qualified sales leads with what Orban terms an
impressive response rate, 3 1/2 to 4 percent.
If competent design and marketing principles influenced CMA’s winning
the account, so did personal relationships. Orban had worked with
CMA’s Dave Sherwood when he did marketing at Lenox and at Princeton
Financial Systems. "When I talk to Dave," says Orban, "I can cut to
the chase without a lot of words."
Clarksville Road, Box 727, Princeton Junction 08550. Jeffrey E.
Barnhart, president and CEO. 609-799-6000; fax, 609-799-7032. Home
Last year you could have won a trip to Greece by playing
a game, the Odyssey Challenge, at the website for pharmaceutical firm
Novartis. Created by
Chameleon Marketing, the game created a link between Novartis and a
hypothetical kingdom ruled by the "Queen of Pharmacias." Click on the
Greek urn, turn it with your mouse, and find a Novartis factoid, like
how many employees the company has, or how much money is spent on
drugs in the United States. Entrants could win a T-shirt or — the
grand prize — a trip to Greece. "The game was up on the web for eight
weeks and generated 60,000 visits and completions," says Daniel
Thomas, Chameleon’s founder.
In an industry that struggles for differentiation, creating a branded
agency that truly stands out from the crowd is not easy, says Thomas.
"We at Chameleon Marketing spent a great deal of time creating the
company name and logo, considering what services we should offer our
clients, and how we might communicate the agency’s personality."
The best way to brand, he decided, was to create personality. So a
preliminary encounter with Thomas’s agency usually includes the
delivery of a mysterious looking box with holes in it and pieces of
straw straggling outside. "Live Chameleon Open With Care!" says the
label. After you cautiously take off the lid you see, sitting on the
straw, a card saying "Oh No! YOU let it get away!"
Compared to the advertising agencies, Thomas thinks the marketing
communications industry has very few prominent personalities. No David
Ogilvys or Jay Chiats. "We believe the best way for a marketing
communications agency to make a difference is to display the type of
creative energy that has come out of these larger than life personas
of the ad world," says Thomas.
Thomas chooses an unusual location to meet with clients, either for
the brainstorming process or for the campaign launch announcement.
"Our creativity starts with unconventional brainstorming. Not with a
cup of coffee in a meeting room, but outside the office in an
environment that relates to our clients," says Thomas.
"Chameleon Marketing is an agency that encourages people to express
their individuality and style in a work hard, play hard environment,"
he says. "If we don’t allow ideas to flow we will become conditioned
to mediocrity and produce the expected."
Thomas explains the brainstorming process he uses internally and
externally: "Just as the physical workout has become a ritual in our
lives, so the creative workout is becoming the new ritual of corporate
business. Starting with the appointment of a facilitator, timekeeper
and notetaker, we protect this special time to reflect and create
around the business. Putting aside technology whenever possible, and
being intentionally messy, we use many techniques — word association
games and drawings, for instance — to bring out the best ideas. A
final distillation process gives us a core set of ideas."
Two of the unusual client brainstorming spots were the Philadelphia
Zoo, for a Kraft campaign involving lunchbox treats for children, or
at the World Trade Center, to expand upon the theme "Reach Higher" for
Summit Bank. (That high-flying campaign has been scuttled, of course,
due to the bank’s takeover by Fleet).
For the zoo brainstorming Chameleon sent a disposable camera to 18
brand managers and asked them to show up at the Philadelphia Zoo. "We
rented a room next to the ape house and everyone came up with ideas.
Then we asked them to go out with the camera and challenged them to
take imaginative pictures of children that could illustrate lunches
and snacks with Kraft products." At the end of the day they collected
the cameras, judged the photos, awarded prizes, and sent out the best
of the lot by E-mail. The day cost about $2,000 and resulted in a
successful "lunch box" campaign.
For the pharmaceutical campaign launch, he hired the Greek room of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The whole event — backed by
vases and statues and Trojan armor — cost just $1,000, including the
Other recent successes include a novel die-cut, pop-up sales brochure
for Gorton, a packaged goods company, and bringing sales promotion
tactics into the notoriously conservative insurance industry.
Progressive Insurance was the client.
"Times are tough in the marketing communications industry. We are
competing daily for even the smallest of design jobs," says Thomas.
"Many agencies are still struggling with their identities and where
they go next — given the many changes they are facing. Learning to
market ourselves is just practicing what we preach to our clients. It
is more vital than ever as the economy has taken a turn and our
clients seek greater value and creativity from their agencies. In an
industry that struggles to find differentiation, as Chameleon begins
its sixth year, we are thankful for being alive and well."
Princeton, 08540. 609-921-6588; fax, 609-921-6516. E mail:
One of the most widely used explanations for success in
business is, "it’s not what you know, it’s who you know." It means, of
course, that networking and relationships are more important to
success than ability and experience.
Hugh Miller, CEO of Hollyrock/Miller Marketing Communications, has
changed just one word in that phrase in explaining how his
Forrestal Village-based advertising and public relations agency has
been posting strong growth numbers in the past 18 months. "With us,"
Miller says, "it’s both what you know and who you know. Of course,
it’s vital to have cutting edge skills. But, I believe our ability to
network through past relationships — many extending back into my
childhood — has been a crucial factor in nearly doubling our revenue
in less than two years."
The benefits of networking has touched every aspect of
Hollyrock/Miller’s operation, he says, from staffing to vendors to
acquiring new clients. "A perfect example of how it’s worked for us is
our new campaign for the Wiz and its music and video department."
Needing to come up with an exciting new traffic-building promotional
concept, Miller hit on using Matt Pinfield as the campaign’s
spokesperson. Pinfield, a veteran host on MTV, is widely respected for
his ability to spot blockbuster talent. He had been Miller’s friend
since both were 12-year-olds in seventh grade. "Matt actually had his
own radio station in his basement back in those days," Miller says.
"It was the forerunner of the talk/music format of today. Really
cutting edge for a 12-year old. Matt came to mind immediately as the
ideal spokesperson for the Wiz. When I called Matt, it was as if that
basement radio station was only yesterday. The concept we have is a
natural: we identify Matt as the Music Wiz. It was the perfect
marriage of Matt’s ability to spot the stars early, and the
Wiz’s desire to become identified in the minds of young music lovers
as the place to find the hot, new talent."
Miller’s inclination to mine his boyhood contacts extends to his
creative team. Hollyrock/Miller’s creative directors, Donna Geczi
and Tom Churak, came into Miller’s life more than 30 years ago when
they were youngsters in East Brunswick. Miller and Churak played
Little League baseball together. Years later they ended up working at
the same New York ad agency. So when Miller opened his agency in
Princeton, the call went out to his third grade teammate to join him.
Geczi, too, was a childhood neighbor whose brother was Miller’s
teammate on the East Brunswick High School basketball team. Geczi
encountered Miller years later as a freelancer. That evolved into her
position on the Hollyrock team.
Looking for a promotional hook, the team began thinking about a band
search and competition. Once again, an old friend rode to the rescue.
Miller encountered Neil Barry of WNEW-FM radio, a former Miller
client. He mentioned to Barry his desire to develop a new band search
concept. Barry remembered his recent conversation with Steven Van
Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street
Band, and a regular on the Sopranos television show. Ironically,
Miller and "Little
Steven" had worked together on a project several years ago. Van Zandt
expressed to Miller his desire to revive rock music. Together, they
came up with Little Steven’s Cavestomp Garage Rock Band Search,
sponsored by the Wiz. "The concept is simple," Miller says. "The Wiz
sponsors the Band Search, soliciting entries through advertising and
in-store displays. We’re seeking submission of
original music from unknown garage rock & roll bands."
The top 20 finalists will appear on a compilation CD and be
distributed through all Wiz music and video departments. Little
Steven, Pinfield and other celebrities will select the ultimate winner
who will get to perform at this summer’s Cavestomp Garage Rock
Festacular in Manhattan.
As proof that there is no end to Miller’s networking, the Wiz client
turns out to be Miller’s former teacher and coach at East Brunswick
High School, Tasso Koken, who is executive vice president of the Wiz.
"It’s amazing to me how my old relationships keep surfacing and
continue to fuel our growth. There is certainly a special sense of
trust and shared values that make the Hollyrock/Miller environment and
culture special," says Miller. "Our clients often comment on that
unique feeling and the way it contributes to winning campaigns."
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