Brenda Garrand - Doesn't Pull Punches on Creative Breakthrough

So I attended the Second Wind Creative Juice conference today and it was great.  And it reminded why I got into this business (communication and marketing) in the first place.  I didn’t get into it to manage people or the numbers to make sure we can afford to keep all our people working here at Notre Dame.

No, I got into this business because I love telling stories.  I tell stories about everything and I used to get paid to tell stories.  But that changed when I got to ND.  It was more about figuring out the numbers and the people and structure and less about the creative.  Even though my boss would constantly remind me that it was about creative.  I was just too caught up in trying to fix our budget and business model.  Hopefully, this new year (July 1) the business model will be corrected once and for all.

But this conference has really brought me back to that focus.  And, hopefully, it will continue.  But enough about my thoughts on this.  What I’m excited about was one of the talks (all the talks were great but this one is more directed at my clients and not so much at me and the agency).

The presentation right after lunch was by Brenda Garrand, Principal, Garrand & Company in Portland, ME.  She owns a great little agency and it was on the Ad Age’s list of “Best Small Agencies.”

Her presentation was Breakthrough is All that Matters: Learn how techniques like PR,
product placement, social media, gaming and brand-focused content can help
brands, both old and new, break through and gain a foothold in a complex world where consumers call the shots.

She had a number of stats (I’m so sick of stats on internet use – I think they are all overused and overblown) to explain how complicated the world had gotten since the days of yore (three channels, Life Magazine and the golden age of radio).

Example of stats:

86% of people skip TV commercials.  Put the logo in the middle screen.  It is so recognizable.

44% of direct mail is never opened.

93% of US adult internet users are on Facebook.  164 million in the US – women 50+ fastest growing.

57% of internet users search daily.

70% of links searched are organic.  60% click on the top three links.  SEO is very important.

But then she told how the world of communication and marketing had gone back to its roots and that a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGH will still get people to pay attention.  She gave examples of Mini Cooper, Apple, Burma Shave, VW bug, etc…


What makes a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGH? The right eyeballs and a reason to give a crap.  Well, not her exact words, but damn close.

She gave an example of their work at Neocon with Versteel.  They hired a team of men to dance with their client’s chairs (mimicking a flash mob – see above).  While not a lot of view on YouTube, Versteel was the talk of the show and had people waiting every 20 minutes to watch the dance.

Now when you find that idea that will work on the right eyeballs, how do you make sure they will find the right eyeballs?

Here’s how her agency does it.

  • Mass Media (it still works but you don’t have to burn all your budget – do your best to find where your specific audience spends time)
  • Earned Media/Events (this is the biggest growth part of her agency – and it has the most ROI – she was very excited about this part and gave lots of examples on how good PR and Event Planning can bring crazy high results)
  • Branded Content (getting your brand on more than just your product)
  • Social Media (nuff said there)
  • Shared Branding (Starbucks/Lady Gaga release of her new album)
  • Packaging and point of sale (environmentals – getting the experience right when people are ready to purchase – think Apple)

So how does this relate the world of higher edu communications? Well, here’s how I see it.

We need to spend a bit more time on creative and on where we are going to place your creative.  The cookiecutter approach is used because it’s cheap and there’s too much to do.  But you know what?  There’s always too much to do and without a good creative and placement, we just wasted the little time and money we had anyway.

I hope this rant stays with me when I get back to the office.

What do you guys think?  Am I just crazy about wanting to concentrate on the creative?  Just like the good old days.