In this week’s episode, we host Chris Cera, Founder and CEO of Arcweb Technologies, a digital product design company. He shares his insights on the role of the brand in custom software solutions and app development. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | RSS
Chris Cera: I do think that there is a revolution of sorts that is happening, and that people realize that they need to care about user experience and customer experience.
Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique branding agency. Today, a pleasure of an interview with Chris Cera, the founder and CEO of Arcweb Technologies. Arcweb is a fast-growth, highly regarded, really innovative and interesting company that happens to be in our backyard, but with tentacles that expand, certainly, beyond it.
They are a digital-product design & development firm. They focus on clients in the financial and healthcare sectors. Our conversation veers in the direction of the role of brand endeavors such as those that they regularly entertain, as well as some thinking about Chris’s own story in terms of building the Arcweb company and brand, so enjoy Chris Cera.
We are here. This is the fifth floor, Chris, is where we are in this building.
Bill: We’re here with Chris Cera, who’s the founder and CEO of Arcweb Technologies. Steve, our executive producer, and I decided we were going to walk this thing. There’s a Fitbit challenge. Up we come to the fifth floor, and there’s this highly attractive shaved-head guy, like me, to greet us, and no one else. We’d read all this stuff about this fastest growing … Second in the Philly 100 Fastest Growing Company, 25th nationwide in the software category. All this growth. Where are these people? We ask Chris. Today is a Thursday, so why’s there nobody here?
Chris: We let people work from home on Tuesday and Thursdays.
Bill: Nice! That’s great. Quiet for us to talk through various things regarding your career and the industry, and also a bit of exposure to something interesting culturally. Chris here. Thanks for being with us.
Chris: Pleasure to be here. Thank you.
Bill: Arcweb Technologies. Before we dive in a little bit to where what you do hits brand and some of the things that we’ve been talking about and thinking about, give us a little bit of the scoop on Arcweb and what you all are up to.
Chris: We are a digital-product design company. We’re focused on the healthcare and finance sectors. Our mission is to build products that people love. We’re about 35 people here in Old City, Philadelphia, majority of which are software engineers. The next tier is designers and user-experience designers, and then the top tier is product management and strategy, so we have a number of product managers here.
Bill: Terrific. Healthcare and finance, there seem to be some common threads there in terms of regulatory environments. There seem to be common threads, perhaps, in both of them becoming a little bit more like retailers, a little bit more consumer-focused, perhaps, but how’d you wind up with those two shining verticals within the business that you’ve built?
Chris: In my last company, we ended up doing a lot of work in the banking sector, and so then, after I had left that company, basically, that was one of the industries that I had a lot of experience in. I’d done about 15 projects in the banking sector, so I was essentially branding myself to a degree as a fin-tech person and a fin-tech consultant.
Naturally, starting Arcweb and everything, we started to get projects in in the finance category, and so it was banking, wealth management, overtime insurance. Then, like you had mentioned, they’re very similar, so a lot of the same people cross over from one of those industries to another, because there’s a lot of similarities. So then we started to get a lot of healthcare business. In the last year, we won a healthcare product innovation award with Penn Medicine, one of the largest health systems around here, so we’ve been doing a lot of work in healthcare lately.
Bill: There’s a lot of it here within the region, obviously. That’s fascinating. We’ll get a little bit more into your journey, and the journey of the company, the growth of the company, as we continue. One of the things that I was thinking about, you’re all doing a lot of digital-app development that may be mobile or it may be, I guess, web, you would call it. Given the topic that we’re here to discuss in terms of our podcast, what’s the role of the brand?
We were talking earlier about you’re not a branding guy, but the brand, obviously, is important, it would seem, to expressing something through whatever one builds and offers. Could you speak to where brands intersect with what you all are doing on the technology-development side?
Chris: Sure. It’s absolutely important from a marketing perspective, and depending upon whether it’s a B2B or a B2C company, the brand has benefits and drawbacks depending upon what it is. That’s different depending upon whether it’s a B2B play, essentially, versus a B2C play.
For what we do, digital-product design, development, we’re often asked to solve a very specific problem, and if it’s in a financial services company, it might be something that’s internal to the company, not necessarily externally facing. So we come in there, come into a new company, and we do needs analysis, research, and try to come up with strategy for what is going to solve essentially a functional problem, and then the design and the branding will come in later.
It’s definitely evident in the visual design, how it looks and feels, so if you’re going to do an app, depending upon the audience, you might choose the color pink or you might not choose the color pink. Pink is one of those colors that has a lot of different meanings depending upon how it’s used. It’s not like black. I usually wear black clothes. I’m colorblind, so it doesn’t say much. I can blend in and everything else.
Bill: It’s sliming. You look great. Just for our audience. To your point, you get to a juncture in the process where things like look and feel, things like voice, I would imagine, enter into the workflow.
Chris: Absolutely. To give an example, one of the places I had worked years ago was at ING Direct, and I did a check-processing product that was used on desktops. For example, in a coffee shop, you could go in, and literally, there was a scanner where you could scan a check. This was right around the time, or slightly before the time, that you could scan a check with your phone. I can’t remember the exact messaging, but ING Direct had some very, I would say, punchy, get-in-your-face, get-noticed type of marketing. Their billboards were very punchy. I’m not sure if punchy is a technical term, but it kind of punches you in the face.
Bill: That’s what they teach in business school. ‘Let’s get punchy, here.’
Chris: When you’re not expecting, it kind of hits you in the face. They said something like, ‘Yes, you can really scan a check here,’ or something like that. It was something better. It was much better than that, but it was … I felt like that brand really spoke about that product in a very different way than I think a different bank would have chosen to speak about it.
Bill: I’m sure it was orange, too, when it comes to brand colors.
Chris: There was definitely elements of orange all over it, yes.
Bill: One of the things, we don’t have to go too deeply into it, or as deep as you’d like, but that we were talking about is your own branding experience with building Arcweb and some of the other things you’ve done along the way and in leadership roles that you’ve had. What’s the story behind the Arcweb name and how your brand has evolved overtime?
Chris: Jason Fried from Basecamp had said a long time ago. He had a BasecampHQ.com, or something like that. It wasn’t Basecamp.com, and so people would always comment, because he was growing a business very rapidly and didn’t have a .com, which, at the time, was like a, ‘Hey! How are you doing that?’ type of thing, and he made the point, ‘It doesn’t matter as long as they can find you on Google, and you’re the first hit,’ and so that has always stuck with me. I’ve oftentimes repeated that, because if people can find you, even if it’s a commonly misspelled word, but Google actually knows what the common misspelling is and still presents the right answer, that’s, in some cases, just as good.
Arcweb, the A-R-C is actually the first three initials of my grandmom’s name, and then the web was just kind of bolted on there. I figured that web is this thing that is never going to go anywhere, kind of like I feel like mobile, eventually, will be hot and die, but I felt like the web is eternal. I have a computer-science background. The web is what connects everybody from a networking perspective, so I felt like the web would be a name that would be more built to last.
I figured that people would know how to spell it correctly most of the time, although I never checked A-R-K Web. It would be interesting. I’m going to Google that when I’m done with this. Anyway, so that was the thinking that had gone into it.
Bill: Despite the interesting back-story of regarding the personal side of it, arc as sort of an umbrella shape. I never would have thought that, but I still would have maybe had an idea of what you all might be doing, what the focus might be. It’s interesting.
Chris: Our first logo, I remember when we did some focus-group-like things with it, we were told that it was too masculine, and I think because the name had been decided, and then we had someone do the logo, and then it ended up maybe looking more like a weapon, so anyway, we did …
Bill: The fact that a tank was in it may have been a little bit more masculine, right?
Chris: More like a star, like a Chinese star-type of thing.
Bill: Nunchucks in the area. The whole ninja routine.
Chris: Yeah, so Arcweb was what later someone described to me as a vessel brand, meaning you can attach a number of things onto it, so we could have Arcweb Services, Arcweb, I don’t know, Managed Services. I have to come up with different names of businesses, but if we wanted to have ten different businesses, we could throw Arcweb somewhere in the name, if we wanted to, since it’s rather meaningless and means nothing.
Bill: Right. Well, that’s one of the benefits, from a nomenclature perspective, of being non, I’m not going to use … The pejorative might be generic, whatever the … What’s the opposite of pejorative? The positive might be that it’s not specific, and it’s flexible, and it has room to breathe. That’s cool.
I would imagine there’s a variety of different ways in which you all developed business, and widened your own acquaintance, and, as you say, probably truer now than it even was then, everything is search. It’s not organic, ‘I got to dial it in!’ We still have some clients who, when we’re in a nomenclature exercise, say, ‘Well, we have to get the .com, and it’s got to be ten characters or less, and it has to mean something!’, so you’re like, ‘I know exactly how to do this.’ You have to name it like a pharmaceutical that doesn’t make any sense at all, and hope the people remember it, and of course, there’s budgets you need to do to … Anyway. You’re not my therapist.
One of the other things I wanted to get your take on, given the role that you all have in building these applications and being in a software-inclined business – we’re recording this on the tail-end of yet another Apple product, the fall one, the September release, iPhone 7, and in the commentary about that, one of the things that seems to be standing out is a general belief in … They’re speaking specifically about Apple, and they may be right, but that it’s really all about software at this point.
The WWDC is far more interesting than the hardware release. What comes in the iOS upgrade is far more interesting and more meaningful than what happens in the hardware itself. There were some hardware innovations here: your phone, the headphone thing’s going away. We all know what was in it, but hardware is dead, they say; software is the future. Software is the present. I’m sure someone might have said that the moment before the iPod came out and been proven wrong, so who the hell knows what happens.
What’s your take when you look at the world, and you look at how technology’s expanding? Software’s obviously what this company’s grown on, built on, but your sense of how hardware and software work in with what the future’s like.
Bill: Great Twitter follow, by the way. He’s great to follow on Twitter. Very entertaining.
Chris: Yeah. Very amusing. He says, ‘software is eating the world,’ so that, I think, is probably the quote that I hear often used the most. I feel like there’s certainly been consolidation to some degree in the hardware industry, at least in the sense that the phone itself is kind of the focal point, or at least the sinking point, or something, in a lot of devices, which wasn’t as clear 5+ years ago or maybe 10+ years ago.
I think the age of personalization in a lot of industries is happening right here, right now. So I think the hardware industry is extremely hot, in my opinion. I think a lot of software people avoid it intentionally, and people can make their own choices, but I think hardware is alive and well. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for small companies and innovative start-ups to try to disrupt what’s happening right now, so I think it’s an exciting time for hardware. I think there’s certainly some … The big players, like the Apples of the world, that have best stock prices on Wall Street and whatnot, they’re playing it at a different game, but I think at least for the small guys, there’s plenty of opportunity.
Bill: One of the things, before we started, you mentioned Nest, those other hardware plays. If you’re in the 7th generation of an iPhone, it makes perfect sense that it’s not going to be a quantum leap. It might be slimmer, or it might be bigger, or it might be messing around with the headphones or whatever, but to your point, there have been ideas that eight full years ago, like Nest, so home automation, that is software-driven but also hardware being essential to it, that we may never have contemplated, and holy crap, it’s here, it’s amazing.
Chris: That’s right, and so many things are being interconnected, too, so an ADT system today, for instance, actually can connect to a Nest, which isn’t even provided by them, but you can literally change the temperature of the thermostat in your house on your Nest from your ADT system. A lot of these interconnections are happening. It’s a pretty exciting time.
Bill: It is. What a big, wide, interesting world. With regard to what Arcweb’s doing, and I know that you are, just as we are, constrained a bit by confidentiality, and by things that may be still in development and may not be out there, but are there a couple of projects in recent years or whatever that you’re particularly proud of, and that were really stimulating, that you and your team completed that have really solved a functional issue and maybe even gone further?
Chris: Yeah. One example is the Penn Medicine Our Directives Project, which is to help patients complete their advance directive, which is essentially part of a will. When someone passes away, hopefully they have a will, and one of the four parts of the will is a healthcare advance directive, which says, ‘I don’t want feeding tubes. Do not resuscitate. Who’s my healthcare proxy?’ All of the things that … The legal form is very different than how people oftentimes will talk about it, which is part of the challenge of people completing these forms correctly.
Anyway, Penn had set out to solve this problem, and from an experience perspective, we had to, basically, design the experience of how someone would fill out this form. There’s a lot of things from a choice-architecture perspective, and how I ask you the question, like, ‘You don’t want feeding tubes, do you?’, and you can really influence how someone’s going to say yes or no.
This is one of these morally distressful problems in the world where families, doctors, attorneys, estate planners, these can get very legal, very ugly, and very sad. Anyway, it’s an area of moral distress, and I’m really proud to have been selected to work on it and have a project be successful, go through multiple stages, and be something that was award winning, in our case. That’s an example.
Bill: Awesome. A great one. I know there’s hundreds of others, both in your wake and probably on the drawing board right now. You mentioned the word experience. I’ve often bemoaned, both on this podcast and to anyone who will listen, which is a decreasing number of people, how the word branding and the word strategy are two words that have been used so widely and diffusely as to now mean absolutely nothing. I feel like user experience is getting closer in that direction, but as someone who’s a genuine authority, and practitioner, and leader when it comes to UX, how do you think about UX and what it means in terms of the work that you all are doing, and how folks ought to think about it out there?
Chris: I do think that there is a revolution of sorts that is happening, and that people realize that they need to care about user experience and customer experience. I think it’s very different, depending upon what industry you’re in, or what problem that you’re trying to solve, but I think a lot of it is really just are you really interfacing, are you asking the right questions from all of the people that have to interact with this system?
Sometimes, the people don’t interact directly with the system, but they do, whether they receive some form of report or an email, and there’s all these different ways of basically working and solving a problem through workflows. So, much of experience is just a new word for workflows, in a way, or operations. I would agree it’s definitely an overly used term, I think, in the sense that I see a lot of other companies touting their user-experience skills when in fact they’re not really practitioners of it.
Bill: Just to be clear, your definition of it is really about the touch points and the workflows related to … Maybe you’re better at expressing it than I am.
Chris: I wouldn’t say I have a great definition, but I think it’s just about the experience of the people that have to interact with the problem that you’re trying to solve, and trying to make sure that you really understand the stakeholders, you really understand what their concerns are, what they need to get out of it, and then you’re weighting those appropriately.
Because as a product manager, at the end of the day … I heard a joke used once, that the goal of the product manager is to disappoint the least number of people. Kind of like a good artist, or a good piece of artwork, the artist chose not to add everything. They chose, at some point, ‘I’m not going to add a lot of things,’ and so things that you don’t add, in a lot of ways, are just as important as the things that you do add. It’s kind of like how do you weigh all of this feedback, at least be conscious of it, and make a decision, and ship something that ultimately is going to disappoint the least number of people?
Bill: Yeah. No, I think that’s a good way to think about it, as someone who disappoints family and colleagues on a daily basis. When you think about your own journey as a business builder, and as a professional with an incredible resume and set of success stories along the way, what have been important things to you as your career developed, whether it’s mantras or core principles that have helped guide you to make good decisions? What are some things that have been important to you as you’ve grown as a businessperson and a leader?
Chris: Well, this is actually the fourth company that I’ve started, the second that’s actually gotten traction. I try not to use the word success, because I feel like success has to be measured at the end, so second company that’s gotten traction, and second one that made it out of the dining room. My last company wasn’t anything to write home about, but it wasn’t a total failure either.
Anyways, as far as my reflecting on the journey and whatnot, I would say that I have a thirst for learning and constantly trying to learn different things, so as I’ve been able to change my career from being a software architect and a coder, essentially, and more into a business guy, I’m still very challenged in everything that I’m doing. I’m still a maker, so part of this company was to try to build a community of people that are happy to be around each other and have this colloquial community feeling about them.
Part of Arcweb, I feel like, is a community where people … I have a lot of people here that have said, ‘This is the best job I’ve ever had,’ which, to me, is very meaningful and very valuable, and so we’re trying to build a place where people are really happy. That’s what I’m focused on the most. I’m not focused on valuation, exit strategy, or any of that.
Bill: Those are consequences, right?
Chris: Yeah. I’m trying to build a great place to work, and a place where we get jazzed about solving problems. Our mission is to build products people love, and I love that mission statement, because I love building stuff that people love. It keeps me going to work every day and I’m constantly challenged.
Bill: When you wear your various hats, obviously, the business processes and whatnot, but you seem to have the soul of someone who wants to be out on the floor making stuff, how do you, in your own life, balance the various demands that exists for your time from clients, from colleagues, from just the various stuff that won’t get done without you? When you think about your days and how you’re channeling your passions, what does that look like?
Chris: The hardest part … I’m always trying to replace myself. Part of the goal is to just make myself completely replaceable in all these roles. Early in Arcweb days, I actually was writing software for some of my clients. I was a project manager. I was a software architect. Then doing business development, I’m a BD guy as well, so I’ve had to do all of these things. Again, part of that is learning, but then teaching others how to do those roles and how to create a career path and a growth pattern for them has been an exciting part of the challenge in trying to groom the next generation of leaders.
A lot of people … In the tech industry, everybody needs … You need a lot of new … You have to keep keeping people interested every couple of years. Otherwise, they’re going to get bored and go do something else, so it’s easier to keep them interested when you’re a high-growth company, and so with the mindset of ‘I need to be replaceable,’ I’m constantly creating new opportunities here at Arcweb. I’m filling them first, and then I’m building them to someone else, so it’s kind of building this stack of great people along the way. Again, that hits back to the community thing.
Bill: To that end, you talked a little bit about culture. People love collaborating, except Tuesdays and Thursdays, apparently, over here, which makes sense, and I can see someone, a lot of people, really, depending on where they are in life, or geographically, really, finding value in that. Without offending anyone … Well, no one’s here, other than you and Steve. The occupation in which you and your colleagues exist is not always associated with gregarious types of people who are maybe as socially adept as others, and again, totally unfair, but when it comes to culture, when it comes to collaboration, when it comes to building a supportive, winning company, are there a couple key principles that help drive your efforts that maybe require, particularly in a space like this, where folks may not be as emotive as they might be in other environments?
Chris: Since we are a consulting company, and we’re services-oriented, we’ve had to apply a filter in the very beginning before we hired them, that they have to be able to communicate effectively and do a lot of the stereotypical things that technical people lack in terms of skills, whether it’s communication, eye contact, just body language. To be honest, I struggle with all of those things. I’ve made it somewhat of my mission over the last ten years to just be a better communicator, but for a long time, I was that person in the corner, banging out code, and not communicating as much as I probably should be.
The Tuesday and Thursday benefit, and I say benefit because it’s not really a benefit, because to some degree, since we’re a services company, we’re already tracking everybody’s hours to an extent, so it’s like we trust that the people that work here are going to do good work, and it doesn’t really matter where they are. We happened to win a Best Places to Work Award, which I’m proud of, and I’m sure that’s probably a part of it, but when I was an engineer, I really needed the time where I wasn’t in meetings, and I wasn’t getting bothered, so we try not to have any recurring meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, and just try to have that discipline and sort of DNA in the entire company.
Then the people that hear that, they are makers, and they’re not managers. Paul Graham has a very short post about this, probably ten years old now. The people that are makers, they can literally plow through an entire day in a coffee shop, in their bedroom, or whatever.
Bill: Your work’s probably heads down, I would think, at a certain point in the process.
Chris: Yep. Absolutely, so we kind of balance the best of both worlds. In our space, we have almost a bullpen. It’s a very big open room, and everyone can just tap anyone on the shoulder, myself included. We have that extreme, and then we have Tuesdays and Thursdays, so kind of, I feel like, the best of both worlds. That balance, I think, has built us a stronger culture and company.
Bill: Terrific. How many wins for the Eagles this year, or do you care? Doesn’t care. It’s going to be low, anyway, so I don’t know. I figured it’s about to start Sunday. Steve?
Chris: We’ll go with six.
Bill: Six wins? That’s not unlike what Vegas is thinking. Steve, what do you think?
Steve: I’m thinking 16 wins.
Chris: What about the playoffs?
Bill: My answer’s probably somewhere in between. I figure we can look back at this as the season goes on. Chris here, Arcweb founder, CEO, thank you so much for your time and your insight.
Chris: Pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.
Bill: Many thanks to Chris for his time and his insight. Even 5 1/2 years or so into the life of Arcweb Technologies, what a collection of stories, and successes, and growth, and excitement. Definitely a company to watch.
Three ways to help us as always. Get some of this business out of the way here. We certainly appreciate a rating in the app store of your choice. If we deserve it, five stars, or something similar, and comments as well, reviews as well of hopefully the value that folks are taking from what we’re doing here. As always, we love for that dialogue to continue @billgullan on Twitter, @FinchBrands on Twitter. Ideas for future guests, comments. Our skin is thick, as noted. As well as ideas for future topics, and just general thoughts about the world of brand and business building, which is really our focus here.
Then, lastly, just to make sure you don’t miss a one, if you want to click subscribe in the app store of your choice, this’ll automatically download when new content comes available. I’m looking at our executive producer Steve right now and suggesting that we haven’t always been predictable about what day and time. What we do here typically is in every other week, we have an interview with a brand and business builder, like Chris. In off weeks, weeks in between, we’ll do what’s called One Big Idea, which tends to be a smaller version of Real-World Branding, but focused on one particular concept. It’s designed to be actionable and quick. Hopefully, for those who may be thinking about particular topics, it’ll give them some sense of what to do tomorrow. Thank you all for your time and continued support of what we’re doing.
Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty.
The post Branded Tech: Chris Cera, CEO of Arcweb Technologies appeared first on Finch Brands.
In this week’s episode, Bill examines the factors that are critical to deciding whether or not a tagline is appropriate for a brand. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | RSS
Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency, and this is One Big Idea. We’ve heard a lot recently in our own work and just, scanning the inter webs and other media sources, about taglines, for whatever reason. A question we get a lot, and it’s a good one, is do we need a tagline during a re-branding process or, just in general, when folks are approaching their marketing efforts and their identity?
There’s a couple of different dimensions to this. First of all, I think the general, overarching principle is that taglines do seem to be less important today. A lot of the famous best taglines that you hear are, frankly, old. These existed in the times when brands communicated in print or via major TV spot moments where they was a lot of copy and a lot of script, and really, a tagline was used to encapsulate the whole idea. Some of the famous taglines of old came to life that way.
Many of the taglines that today are regarded as among the best and in some ways it’s because of their longevity. They’ve become inseparable from the brands to which they’re attached. There aren’t that many of those. There’s a lot of ones that when you read top hundred list or whatever it’s the same ones over and over again.
A couple other reasons I think that taglines seem to be less important. One is that, as noted, as we’ve moved away from these big anthem level brand campaigns being the center of folk’s marketing budget, we’re dealing with small screens.
You’re dealing with a hundred and forty character limits. You’re dealing with different methods of delivering messages, social media, etc, that maybe aren’t as conducive or don’t require the delivery of a tagline alongside the core messages of an idea. In some cases, if it’s a banner ad for example, it’s just too crowded. You don’t need to stick another line of copy on there. The name’s enough. People are able to experience it in context.
The second piece is that, often, brand communications are found in a commercial context that encapsulates what a company does and is trying to communicate. If you are searching on Google for x, y or z, it is the algorithm that will get you there, not some fancy tagline that is designed to express clearly what the name of the company and what the brand of the company is trying to accomplish. The addition of context particularly in the digital realm and particularly on mobile, provides a release valve where you may not need a tagline to get your message across.
The third thing that we see is reducing the necessity or the frequency of tagline development is, brands today are about values, about personalities, maybe more than product differences and core feature identifiers. Some of the greatest taglines in history, and we’ll go through them in a minute, where really built upon one feature based point of interest. ‘Great taste, less filling.’ ‘Where’s the beef.’ These are classic taglines that were really used as positioning ladders to get across a core differentiable element. The fact that brands are communicating at a level more of values and lifestyle, larger thematic approaches makes at least that type of tagline a little bit less appropriate and related.
Lastly, and before we move into answering that question of should we or should we not, brand has gotten more flexible. Consistency still matters a lot obviously when it comes to message and color and personality and tone, but there’s also a strong emphasis on brands not trying too hard, not delivering an imperative to their audience, not top down.
The fact that social media and other elements have made the brand conversations more of a dialogue than a dictation or an imperative has made it so that taglines often come across as being a little bit too eager. You don’t see fashion brands that are designed to have this mystique, ever really taglines. It’s fashion brand x, ‘providing the best shirts,’ you don’t see that. it just doesn’t work.
The brand nature of the dialogue today and the way strong brands are built and constructed are with flexibility as well as with authenticity. Taglines, may to a degree, rob that, if not well executed.
These are reasons why taglines seem to be less important, but now to the fundamental question and the topic and the title of this One Big Idea, which is do we need a tagline? The answer of course is situational and it depends. I think there are four primary reasons to think about. In terms of a checklist, if the answer to these questions or one of them is yes, then maybe you should consider developing and using a tagline as part of your identity – either locked up with it or in a prominent place alongside of it.
The first is does the name of the brand require some degree of modification in context that advances a position? One example, and there’s a ton of them, that’s close to home here is Finch Brands. We have a tagline that’s ‘Building brands for the real world.’
What we wanted to do and accomplish through that and the reason we developed a tagline was that the name Finch Brands doesn’t necessarily say exactly what we do nor does it define, by itself, what is distinctive and memorable about us, what makes us different. The use of a tagline is that next level of positioning detail alongside a name that isn’t as directly descriptive, was an important and is an important part of our brand expression at Finch.
I think you can think of a lot of different companies. Some have proper names. Others may have names that are more general, where a tagline is used to deliver a more specific and descriptive message, while also advancing a core argument of the brand. If the name needs additional description and modification and it exists in a context that doesn’t automatically have that built in, a tagline is worthy of consideration.
The second thing to think about are taglines that evoke a feeling. One of the most famous is ‘Just Do It.’ Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. The name in and of itself didn’t mean anything. Then again, Nike starting in track and with marathon runners, did have a context surrounding what it was doing, but Nike wanted to advance a system of belief and a feeling, a personality and Just Do It was a way of expressing that.
One category that does this, I think, very well actually is the insurance category. Some of the best known and best regarded taglines come from insurance. ‘Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.’ ‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.’ ‘Nationwide is on Your Side.’ These are enduring taglines that, yeah, they lean into the category of service or product that’s being offered but they’re designed to evoke a feeling that is central to brand differentiation and identification. The second reason to consider a tagline is if you really find it to be competitively relevant to evoke a distinctive feeling or personality. A tagline may be a good way to do that.
Third, and I think very importantly, is a tagline has the ability to herald a shift in brand strategy. Two examples from our recent past. Fathead, known for vinyl wall graphics of various types, started originally, at least was the core of their advertising approach was, life-sized NFL wall decals. When we were working with the brand it became clear both from our research as well as what they were doing, that Fathead was a lot more than life-sized NFL wall decals.
First of all it wasn’t just NFL. It was across the sports world, across the entertainment continuum with a fully integrated custom offering so you could have your daughter’s soccer team or anything else. Certainly the licenses were extending into Disney princesses and other characters. The brand was a lot more than the context in which consumers held it, that was largely of Fathead’s own making.
Their original tagline was, ‘Real Big.’ When we began to work with them and as a brand strategy and communication strategy shifted more in the direction of promoting the full diversity of the line of offerings that fathead could bring to market, in addition to just different characters and different images, Fathead had a ton of different sizes. The Real Big product was the one with which it was most intimately associated, but Fathead was a lot more than that.
In fact to drive the business forward it was important that the marketplace understand that Fathead was more than about life-size wall graphics, because how many places can you really put one in a house? Maybe you have a so called man cave where you can put three or four that’s dedicated to watching sports or whatever but most people don’t have that. It was important that the marketplace understood that Fathead wasn’t just about this, really high intensity but exclusive product application.
The tagline had been Real Big, as noted, but then as the brand strategy shifted, and as we helped Fathead shift the brand strategy, the tagline shifted into ‘For Real.’ It was Fathead, For Real. The idea there being not about size but about the vivid nature of the graphics and how they were represented and delivered across entertainment and athletic franchises and across product sizes and formulations.
A small shift in tagline from Real Big to For Real, heralded a shift in brand strategy and in communications emphasis. It was a very good use not only of a tagline but an example of how a tagline can help shift brand strategy. The company name wasn’t changing, the brand equity was a tremendous asset for Fathead, but they just needed to contemporize it and shape it in a way that helped the business grow. A tagline was indispensable to that.
Another example, is, we’ve talking about it on this podcast before, ThinkGeek, ecommerce purveyor of licensed and home grown merchandise for the geek in all of us, was really undergoing a major shift at the brand strategy level. Again, not changing name but at the brand strategy level it was shifting from this out of date perspective of a geek as a pejorative term of a socially awkward, inwardly focused person living in a parent’s basement and communicating with a small group of folks over a game of dungeons and dragons.
That was the old version of geek. The new version of geek was embracing this moment of sharing and community and Comic-Con and all these things that had made ‘geeking out’ the verb of choice to describe going deep with your passions regardless of whether they were traditionally geeky or not. In addition to the rebranding at the visual identity level and everything that came along with it, we shifted the tagline.
The original tagline had been ‘Stuff for Smart Masses.’ Emphasizing that old school version of geek as being smarter than everybody else and snarky. It was a play on smart asses, smart masses, but the new tagline which was designed to really usher in this era of geek as a verb, geek as a high social currency, very active community driven reality, became ‘Join in. Geek out.’
It was a subversive nod to Timothy Leary for those who got it, although I’m sure most in the target market didn’t, but Join in. Geek Out. was welcoming. It was about sharing. It was about geeking out and going deep with the things that you love. That was another example from Finch’s recent past of using a tagline to cement a meaningful shift in brand strategy.
Then the last checklist item of should we have a tagline or not, is do you have a core benefit that you need to underline that is essential and fundamental to what the brand stands for and the basis on which folks in the marketplace may want to choose it over its competition?
Some examples from history of this, although some still exist, is ‘Burger King, Have it Your Way.’ Customization of the whopper and the entire menu at Burger King was a major competitive benefit, worthy of underlining and representative of differentiation. ‘McDonald’s, Billions and Billions Served.’ The same old thing, Burger King, Have it Your Way, was a tagline that was helpful not only to again underline something fundamental about the brand choice but also as a way to send vibes about the personality and the welcoming nature of what the brand sought to embody.
Another one again, at the product level is ‘Bounty, It’s the Quicker Picker Upper.’ It does it faster, a core benefit within the product proposition was solidified, extended, and made ever more memorable and accessible through the use of a tagline.
Another one, interesting historically, that also maybe heralded a brand shift was Verizon. ‘Can you Hear Me Now,’ ultimately became the tagline for Verizon mobile and if you recall, Verizon was formed out of the merger in I guess, the mid probably late nineties of GTE and Bell Atlantic. These were two old line phone hardline long distance phone companies dealing primarily with long distance calls from landline phones within houses. The markets were changing. The companies merged. They took the bold step of creating a new brand, Verizon, to identify this new organization, in part because the marketplace was moving in a direction of mobile and they saw that, and neither of those brands really stood effectively for mobile. Or for technology for that matter.
They were basically public utilities was the way the marketplace perceived them and once Verizon was rebranded as such and it became clear that mobile was a dominant present and future nature of what the company was seeking to accomplish, Can You Hear Me Now became of way of underlining the strength and supremacy of their mobile network.
Can You Hear Me Now, was taken directly from many of the early and continued frustrating conversations that one would have with their mobile device as they reach the level of roaming or when the tower was a little bit too far away. As a memorable and potent and functionally important tagline, Verizon Wireless’s Can You Hear Me Now, of course backed up by a lot of dollars and a campaign and everything else, was a really effective way to underline a core benefit of their offering. We’ll leave it there.
Suffice it to say as noted that taglines may be less in favor and in fashion in our industry than they used to be for a variety of valid reasons but at the same time brands can benefit extensively and meaningfully from the adoption alongside their identity of a very effective tagline and again, those four things to think about are:
1. Do you need a tagline to modify and describe what your company does for a name that maybe doesn’t do that alone?
2. Do you need your tagline to evoke a feeling or a strong brand personality as in the case of just do it or State Farm is there or you’re in good hands with Allstate, etc?
3. Can a tagline be a helpful part of the arsenal to herald a shift in band strategy? Like Fathead going from Real Big to For Real or ThinkGeek going to Join In. Geek Out?
4. Or is there still a core benefit that really animates the brand and crystallizes the choice that you want to emphasize? Can You Hear Me Now, the Quicker Picker Upper, Have It Your Way, etc?
With that, thinking around taglines we’d love to hear your feedback as always on this and everything that we do. We’ll sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.
In this week’s episode, we host Mitchell Reichgut, Founder and CEO of Jun Group. With over two decades of applied experience, Mitchell explains how advancements in mobile and digital media are transforming the way brands communicate with consumers. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | RSS
Mitchell Reichgut: In all the years that I’ve worked in digital media, I have never seen anything like the rapid and complete change that mobile has brought.
Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Thank you for joining us for this week’s interview with Mitchell Reichgut, who’s the CEO of Jun Group, a New York based but with offices all around, a real pioneer of ad tech with an advertising platform to help brands get their messages across in the new world.
Mitchell’s going to take you through his own career, but, interestingly, began on the art direction and creative side in a traditional advertising environment at Grey, obviously, a well-known and cherished name in the American advertising landscape, but quickly gave way to a fascination with digital, as he was there in the early days of designing the first websites that brands like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters and others put into the marketplace in the mid-90’s.
From there, shortly thereafter, he was at Bates, which was also a well-known ad name, running really the digital and what they called the interactive side of the house there. For the last almost 15 years, starting in his house, founding Jun Group, and he’ll take you through the growth of the brand. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO and founder of Jun Group.
Here we are through the wonders of Skype with Mitchell Reichgut, who’s the CEO of Jun Group in New York and wherever he happens to be any given day. Thank you for joining us, Mitchell.
Mitchell: It’s a pleasure. Glad to be here.
Bill: Good. We’re grateful for your time and for your insight. Perhaps a good place to start would be a bit of discussion about your own career journey, which has been a fascinating set of positions that you’ve had. We’d love to hear a bit more about some of the milestones, if you don’t mind.
Mitchell: Not at all. Happy to talk about it. I started my career as a creative guy. I was an art director in advertising. I was fortunate enough to be able to create print ads, television commercials, and outdoor ads for some big brands early on in my career. Quite by accident I fell into this thing called, ‘Internet web development,’ in 1993.
Bill: That’s early.
Mitchell: It is. I built the very first website, not by myself, but with a great team, the very first website for the Wall Street Journal, for Reuters, for Rodale Press, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and a number of other brands back then. It was really fun.
I did a bit of a tour of Silicon Valley as it was all just starting. It was a thrilling time, really just halcyon days of change, and wound up running the interactive group within the United States for a global ad agency then called Bates Worldwide.
I was in my late 20’s by then, and it was a dream job. I stayed there for four years. It was wonderful. Toward the end of it, it got to be a lot of New York advertising stuff, where it was a lot of pressure. I had a wife and two kids by then and a house and a mortgage, and I decided it would be a good idea just to leave.
Bill: Right. Very responsible decision-making; right.
Mitchell: Exactly. My wife was great about it, really supportive. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career at that time. It was a bit of a crisis for me, because I had achieved what I wanted to achieve. I didn’t want to go back to advertising.
It’s hard to believe, but internet experience at that point was almost like a black mark on your resume. This is post 9/11 now, right after the Web 1.0 crashed, so I started Jun Group out of my house. I did so as a way to earn a living while I wanted to figure out what to do next.
I had never had any dreams of being an entrepreneur, no ambition to start my own company, and yet when I did it, I found that I really liked it, and I just kept doing it. I learned some important lessons, that fear and pain are wonderful motivational tools, gets you right out of bed in the morning.
I’ve just been doing Jun Group ever since, and that’s really it.
Bill: What a story. I think sometimes the accidental entrepreneur is the most compelling story, as opposed to today, people coming out of business school knowing that that’s what they want to do and looking at white spaces on a board and all this data. What a great story. Here we are. ‘Jun’ means ‘Truth.’ Tell us a little bit about the development of the company into what you all are doing and focusing on today.
Mitchell: Sure. Early on, as I said, I was just trying to make a living, so I did the stuff I knew how to do. I did advertising. I did brand development and brand strategy. Anyone who’s worked in branding knows that it’s all about finding that kernel of truth within the organization that you’re working for.
I’d studied Kung Fu for most of my adult life. I once met a guy, a Chinese guy, who said his name was Jun, and it was spelled J-U-N, and I asked him what it meant. He said, ‘Truth.’ I never saw him again, but eight or nine months later when I started the company, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great name for a company that is going to do brand strategy,’ and I’ve just kept it all this time.
Over time, as I decided to become serious about running the company and really growing it, I didn’t want to just be an advertising agency. Back then they used to call it, ‘Integrated advertising.’ I met my now partner, Corey, who was at Sony, and he started telling me about peer-to-peer, which at the time Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa was 60% of the internet’s bandwidth, and that was our first distribution platform. Then we, together, had this vision of taking a file and getting millions of people to see it, and that was the birth of the modern company.
Bill: Obviously, when it comes to creating value in the enterprise, the ad agency business or the brand consulting or agency business that we’re in, is services-driven. You have growth. You throw people at it, and it’s a growth challenge. In terms of the platform work that you’ve been doing, how has that evolved, and how do brands today fit you into their roster of key relationships?
Mitchell: It’s funny, because the technology’s changed about a dozen times since we started, but our mission hasn’t really changed all that much. Our promise to our clients is that we will get millions of people, the right people, to engage with your content.
We’ve been doing it over social media. We’ve been doing it over mobile for a number of years and across channels. The technology is less important than the delivery of the goods.
When our clients use us, they know that it’s simple to understand. They know that we’re honest people and that we’re going to put their best interests at heart and really deliver for them. As much as the landscape keeps changing and the technology keeps changing, and all this stuff is dizzying, really the core tenets of the business have remained the same all these years. We say everything about our business changes except our values.
Bill: Right. Right. That’s helpful. Speaking more generically, beyond obviously the experience that you’ve had, being part of the tip of the spear as the web was forming, as a commercial enterprise beyond just information and CompuServe disks in the mail and whatnot, AOL disks, how has the shift from what at the time was overwhelmingly traditional, then broadly digital or integrated, to use the word that we’ve heard a lot and that you mentioned earlier, and now obviously mobile has changed things yet again. How has all of this shaped the way that brands communicate and engage with those they seek to attract?
Mitchell: In all these years that I’ve been working in digital media I have never seen anything like the rapid and complete change that mobile has brought. It has absolutely fundamentally changed the internet. It has changed culture in general. It’s changed the way we communicate. It’s changed the way we interact with one another and interact with computers. It’s actually staggering.
I think the results of what’s happened over the past 24 months are only now really starting to become appreciated by brands and advertisers. If you think of a mobile phone, that is for most people now the first screen, and it functions completely differently than any other computer that’s ever come before it, so I’ve never seen anything so dramatic.
Bill: At the same time, you also spoke about the primacy and eternal nature of values. I would imagine when it comes to great brand communications, regardless of the platform, that there are some common denominators, regardless of the form of media. Is that still true, or are all the rules different than they used to be?
Mitchell: I can answer that in two ways. One, absolutely, it’s the same as it ever has been. Number two, there really is a big shift. It’s the shift that, I think the promise of digital is that we can finally leave the Wanamaker story behind us.
Just for those who don’t know that, famously, a man named Wanamaker said, ‘Half my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.’
Bill: John Wanamaker, by the way, a Philadelphia-based department store magnate, so we’ll take some regional pride in that quote, but continue. Sorry.
Mitchell: That’s right. You guys are in the Wanamaker Building, aren’t you?
Bill: We’re close. We’re actually seven or eight blocks from the Wanamaker building, which is now a Macy’s. We’ll see how much longer.
Mitchell: Yeah. There you go. The internet’s changing that too. In that way, I think what we’re slowly starting to see is brands demanding business outcomes instead of media outcomes. In other words, I give you half a million dollars. Okay, great. You can show me this number of impressions, this many views. They want to see how did it affect my sales. We’re just beginning to be able to deliver on that, which is really exciting.
Bill: No, absolutely. It used to be, to the point about Wanamaker, things like 800 numbers and coupon redemptions, were the traditional way for folks to try to tie in some degree of accountability, but reach and frequency only goes so far. Ad equivalency, on the PR side, only goes so far, and to have all of these tactics that have built-in metrics, all the way up to clicked and transacted, is a powerful answer for those of us in the marketing realm who have often over our careers faced that question of ROI.
Mitchell: I tell you what, it’s the promise, and the actual delivery can be somewhat different, because it’s worth noting that right now Google reports 46% of online video is not seen by a human being. The AMA (American Marketing Association) says that ad fraud will cost the industry 7.2 billion dollars this year, so it’s not all sunshine and daisies.
Everybody in black jeans and a blazer in ad tech says that they’re going to deliver X, Y and Z to the right person at the right time, etc., etc., but there is a lot of shakeout that still needs to happen in this industry to really fully realize the promise that, I think, is what we all want to capture.
Bill: No, absolutely. You look at YouTube. You look at pre-roll in general. We talk about the connection between new media, so to speak … not really new anymore … and traditional media. You see oftentimes if you look in your pre-roll, it’s a TV campaign that’s been re-purposed. It’s a cheap way, you’ve produced it already, etc.
With the explosion of mobile and digital, what’s your outlook on traditional? I know, a bit outside the lane, but where you started, traditional media and the role of new, and what we would call old media, in terms of getting across key messages and overall brand values?
Mitchell: It’s funny. I think all this ad fraud has been great for television. Television CPMs are going up. Advertisers can’t put enough money into TV, because they know what to expect there.
I think the ad tech community has let them down to the extent where they really don’t trust it, and they shouldn’t with numbers like the ones that we quoted earlier, and there are several others. Everyone always says TV is dead or whatever. Personally, AM radio is something that I listen to all the time, and I think it’s still a really powerful, viable medium. I think traditional media is going to be A-OK.
Bill: No doubt. When it comes to content, and you mentioned ad fraud. You mentioned other threats to this value proposition that either come from inside or outside the mobile and the digital marketing realm. What are some things that are working really well? You talk about video in some cases not working, but the biggest trends you’re seeing in terms of best practices on the content side of the types of content that’s breaking through in this new alignment of publishers and sources that consumers can access from anywhere.
Mitchell: It’s interesting, because somebody at our company framed 2016 this way, and I think it’s really adept. It’s a battle between opt-in and auto-play. If you look at what Facebook is doing, it’s auto-play; right? You see all those ads that appear in the stream of someone’s social profile as you breeze by on your mobile device, and that’s been enormously successful. They’ve captured a ton of market share using that tool.
Yet there’s a whole school of thought, of which our company is a part, by the way, that doesn’t believe in that. I don’t like interrupting people. I think that if you look at younger consumers, they demand not to be interrupted. We can talk about ad blocking [for hours].
Opt-in, how do you present ads to somebody in a way that’s non-interruptive? We’re big believers in what’s called value exchange, where you get something in return for your time. We’ve seen results of that for years. I think you’re seeing the great battle between those two schools of thought this year.
Bill: Right. It used to be, with the history of this thing and the golden age of television, all these shows were brought to you by … and that was the implicit, A, it was obviously fresh and new, but it was implicit that this is what kept the medium free was because advertisers, and then you see moves in the direction of product placement. Now as technology is, there’s all sorts of new-fangled issues related to opt-in and everything else. When it comes to pioneering new forms of unobtrusive, yet effective, media approaches for brands, what are some of the core principles that you counsel your clients to embrace as they think about content?
Mitchell: The first thing I tell them is to fish where the fish are. What I mean by that is, I mentioned this dramatic change. One of the things that’s changed so much is the customer journey, the consumer journey. Not too long ago, in 2014, it started with a Google search that led you to an HTML page. You hyper-linked to another one and another one and then back to Google. That really is a small percentage of what happens now.
Ninety percent of what goes on in a mobile device happens in an app. That journey is completely different. In-app advertising is critical to success. Apps are not editorial-style websites. They’re just totally different. To understand the moors and the culture around apps is to understand your user and to have a much better way of contacting that person.
Bill: You talk about obtrusive versus unobtrusive and opt-in versus auto-play. Just in my own traipsing about through the apps that I value, the games that I play or whatever, there seems to be, it’s certainly clear that people haven’t figured this out, or that some have but many have not. You see folks who have the advertising approach for an app, for example, where it pops up and it takes you right to the app store. All the technologies that have been created, as you say, around ad blocking, etc. have been positioned as allies of the consumer who does not want to be interrupted.
When we look at the future, we’ve talked about the incredible changes that mobile has wrought, obviously going back earlier in your career and mine, the changes of just basically the commercial internet, that those were created, and none of us can perfectly see the future. What’s next? Is it another era, or is it individual changes as we all catch up to this?
When you and your futurist colleagues of Jun Group are helping counsel brands for how to get ahead of these things and to get ready for what’s next, what are some beliefs that you have about what’s going to happen and how the future will unfold for all of us in this industry?
Mitchell: I think you can look really clearly around right now and see the future taking root in the present and these dramatic changes still continuing to happen. If you said the word, ‘Television’ to a guy like me even five years ago, it was a physical thing that lived in my living room with a little cable box under it. You say that to my kids, they have no idea why I have that thing hanging there.
Television is a style of content for them that they can enjoy over any device they wish whenever they want to. If you just look at that one facet of what’s going on right now, you see the television transforming into the internet. That is an enormous massive change. You look at the way people communicate with one another, especially … I have two teenage boys, and you watch ten of them in a room, all of them on their devices, talking to one another over their devices. It’s absolutely amazing.
Bill: Right. Yes.
Mitchell: It’s just phenomenal. The cultural changes, the way we interact with each other, the way we interact with brands, it’s changing before our eyes. If you take these things that you see in the present and you project them just a little forward, it makes for a future that’s really exciting in some ways and a little sad in other ways and still hard to predict. I can’t tell you the next Snapchat that’s going to pop up. I don’t even understand that fricking thing.
Bill: You’re not alone. Not alone.
Mitchell: There was a wonderful article, if anybody’s interested, in BuzzFeed about that several months ago, where a 30-year-old was tutored about how to use Snapchat by his younger sister who is a teen. I watch my kids on Snapchat, and it’s a whole different thing.
That kind of stuff is unpredictable, and yet the larger media trends and social trends, I think, don’t happen as quickly as everyone thinks they do. Apps didn’t just happen. It took three or four years.
Bill: Bringing that into the workplace, yours and mine, you built a company here. As you think about creating workplace culture and team alignment, there are, as we experience too and our clients do also, there are generational forces that shape what the workplace is like, that shape how folks expect their professional careers to unfold, and what they need to feel actualized in the workplace with the company that they may have chosen.
As a Gen-X-er like me, looking at those teen boys sitting around the sectional, looking at how they’re interacting … You didn’t say it, but I will. I’m completely befuddled and in many ways scared for the future when you look at something like that, until I can talk myself off the ledge. Key principles that you’ve employed as you built your team and your culture that may have to do with the multi-generational workforce and changes in expectations that that brings?
Mitchell: It is a real challenge. The latest generation of people to enter the workforce right now, they are wired left and right, up and down. They bring a skillset that is unbelievable. They are often rather entitled, I think, in general. They have a high expectation set that we’ve not seen in the workforce before.
What you have to do is find the work ethic and the passion, because the skills and the talent are almost baked in. You find people that are passionate about what they do, and you can really hit a home run. We’re so proud of the team we’ve built here. We work really, really hard to make sure they get the support they need and the understanding they need and the tools they need. Then we just sit back and learn from them, honestly.
Bill: Natives in the technology, no doubt. Do you think, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot … I don’t know what the answer really means or if it even matters, but as an intellectual exercise, when folks … We’ve always thought young people are knuckleheads, whether it’s millennials today or back then when we were the knuckleheads, and the generation above us thought we were knuckleheads. Will folks today, understanding the different realities of how they communicate and all that that means in terms of social styles and work-styles, when they reach that next phase in their career, in their life, and they begin to mature and see the future a little bit more, will they become a digital version of what we became, or is there something fundamentally different about younger generations today given what they’ve grown up with and what comes naturally to them and the expectation that that creates?
Mitchell: That’s a great question. I think there’s something fundamentally different. I think that when you look at people that have grown up with cell phones and grown up with digital media in a way that you and I did not, they function in a different way, and they have capabilities that are just beyond the stuff that you and I have.
Snapchat is perhaps the best example of that. If you watch a teenager use Snapchat, it’s actually scary. In a space of three to five seconds, they can answer eight or nine snaps. That is a skillset and an understanding and a state of being that I’m never going to accomplish and probably you won’t either.
I think that our job is to harness that as much as we can, and that’s what we do here, is learn from these guys as much as we can and direct that energy and that passion that they have and that expertise in ways that are beneficial. The stuff that you and I can teach them is, ‘Hey, if you send a paper thank-you note to someone, they’ll actually remember you.’
Bill: Right. Right. I get a lot of eye-rolls around here. My kids are three and five, so they haven’t quite figured out how to roll their eyes, but they’re going to get ready for Dad talking about the good old days. In that spirit of the path that you followed, that you took us through and from being on that, the vanguard of website creation for various entities that were figuring it out, and you were figuring it out too, coming from a design background, all the way through to what you’ve built it at Jun Group. Any words of wisdom that you’d like to share with those who’ve been inspired by the path you’ve taken, beliefs that have served you well that are core to who you are as a business person as well as a leader?
Mitchell: Oh, yeah. It’s funny, because, and you referenced this earlier, starting a company now is a hip and cool thing to do. I will tell you a quote from AC/DC, ‘Folks, it’s harder than it looks.’
Bill: The philosophers of our modern age; right?
Mitchell: Exactly. I forget who it was, one of my early bosses, said, ‘You have to give advertising everything that you’ve got, and if you don’t give it, advertising will take it anyway.’ If you want to start a company, it’s quite simple. Just don’t stop. Just give it everything you have. The temptation to quit, to feel sorry for yourself, to just wilt, is overpowering at times. It’s a simple principle. Just keep going.
Maybe the corollary to that is, you head off in a direction that’s almost always incorrect. There are very few people that see the future of their company and get to the right place. Even Zuckerberg famously made some big changes. People that are successful do those two things. They just keep going, and then they make the changes that need to be made at the time that they need to make them. Neither of those two things is easy, and running a company is not easy. If you’re looking for an easy life, don’t start your own ad tech firm or any kind of firm.
Bill: No doubt. Thank you so much, Mitchell, for your time and your insight. We’ll close with this, unless I lie and something else comes up, given how you answer it, but when you think about how you’ve evolved as a leader, and you’re at a point and your company’s at a point where clients are coming to you often, I think, with palms up, likely expecting and seeking expertise and counsel in areas that they may not have a great deal of comfort, and I would imagine those in your workforce, that may be a new experience for them, or one that the date on their birth certificate may not indicate that they would have this level of expertise and be sought after the way that they are.
One of the challenges, I think, at Finch … ‘Challenge’ isn’t the right word, but one of the things that people who join our team need to get their arms around pretty quickly, even though they may not feel like experts, they’re being consulted for their expertise, and often the product becomes us. It’s different for somebody who may have started their career in retail or as a brand manager at a CPG company or whatever, they weren’t the product.
This is a long, rambling way to ask the question, are there particular leadership lessons or team development lessons for folks who on your team are in a client interaction situation, who are really being relied on to be both client satisfiers but also experts and trailblazers and ideators and creatives when it comes to helping clients supercharge what they’re seeking?
Mitchell: Yeah. Over the past several years I’ve come to value the idea of clarity. I think that when you can provide clarity for anyone, whether they realize it or not, they’re so grateful. Clarity does not come easily. It takes a lot of thought. There’s a particular thrill that comes with solving a problem, whether it’s an internal company problem or a client’s problem.
Yeah, the folks that we have here who really run our business every day on the account services side, on the sales side, on the operations side, they’re making big decisions. These are young people, frequently that millions of dollars ride on their expertise and their decision-making. Part of the reason that they chose to come here is because we entrust them with that, and there’s nobody more capable.
Alongside that comes some pressure, and that’s not always easy to deal with. You just made a mistake that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s not an easy thing to have on your head. Yet, that’s how you get better, by facing those demons. I think as I’ve grown as a manager, that’s one of the things that I’ve learned is important, is helping people cope with the pressure that comes along with success. Success looks great on a television show. In real life it’s not always easy.
Bill: To your point, there are probably moments … You said just keep going. I think another thing is don’t look down. When you’re up at the top of the cliff, they always tell the climbers not to look down. When you’re in a situation like this where you’re being called upon to direct, whether it’s a lot of money or manage a key relationship or whatever, there are moments when the gravity of that rises up, wells up within you, and you are either fueled by that, or you’re petrified by that.
Either way, both of them are natural. Yeah, to your point, in those moments of awareness and those moments of having to rise to meet the moment or the situation, it probably helps to hear what you like to share with folks at those important times.
Mitchell: Yeah. You have to show them how to do it. That’s not something you can tell someone. When a client is really upset, when something’s gone wrong, when you’re having a problem, how are you as a leader going to react? Are you going to be calm? ‘Okay, let’s think this through,’ or are you going to lash out at someone or blame someone? I think that it is the key lesson I have learned is coping with that fear, that pain, that thing that we all wish we could avoid, and yet it’s so integral to our success and our health really, is coping with that kind of stress. You have to embrace it. When you do, it makes you feel better.
Bill: No doubt. Perfect place to stop. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group. Founder, entrepreneur, digital pioneer and visionary, thank you so much for your time and insight, both about your own career and the things that have helped you grow, and also just about the industry that everybody watches and is in, either as consumers or, in your case, certainly in our case, to a degree, as practitioners, so much change, so many fascinating ideas, some of which amount to nothing, others of which absolutely change everything. Thank you for your time and being with us.
Mitchell: Gosh, it was such a pleasure. Any time. Thank you for having me.
Bill: Thank you, Mitchell, for your time and insight. The work we’re doing here at Finch is, I guess we would call upstream often. We’re focused on the strategic and creative elements of how a brand connects with its audience and how it defines who its audience is and how it puts forth what it values and how it seeks to be perceived. For our clients and brands across the world, the downstream conversation includes how to get these messages across, both in terms of selecting the right platforms and putting forth the right content.
The digital world has changed just in my own career, first of all, it was created, and it’s changed so much and within one-, two-, three-, four-year increments, everything we thought we knew is different. There are parts of the toolkit that remain standard for winning brand communications no matter the media that’s selected, but there are other things that are equally vital that, again, change with every new innovation. Mitchell’s perspective and insight on that, I think, is tremendously helpful, as our listeners think about how their own brands and careers can take shape in and around digital and particularly mobile. We really appreciate your time.
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The post The Truth About Digital: Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group appeared first on Finch Brands.