Why the worst disasters can bring out the best in brands.

Why the worst disasters can bring out the best in brands.
Photo credit: Rick Wilking, Reuters
A man and his dog wade through the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston.

After Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, Tide’s Loads of Hope program rolled into town with a fleet of trucks filled with Whirlpool washers and dryers. The 2005 disaster left thousands homeless with little more than the clothes on their backs, but Tide provided relief and offered free laundry services for families in need.

Similarly, when residents of Flint, Michigan were unable to drink tap water for fear of lead poisoning, PUR sent scientists, faucet-mounted water purifiers and replacement cartridges to the city. "We are a company that is in a unique position to help because we have a product that does eliminate 99.0 percent of lead, and that's the PUR faucet mount system. And we thought this would be an opportunity to make sure we are able to help people in a way that only we can," said Sharon Robustell of PUR, in a prepared statement.

While southeastern Texas begins its long recovery from the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey, Gallery Furniture is giving shelter to thousands of displaced residents. The Houston-based chain store has transformed two of its locations into temporary housing for victims of the historic tropical storm, offering food, beds and restrooms for anyone in need.

Brands big and small can excel in a crisis, adding depth to consumer relationships that may trump purchase barriers like price and convenience. This is particularly true when the brand cause aligns with the brand promise, product or service.

PetSmart, for example, is giving $1 million to help animal welfare agencies working to rescue, relocate and care for pets that have become homeless due to the storm. The company is also donating supplies and pet food. United Airlines is giving bonus miles to members who donate to disaster relief organizations providing aid to Texas, and FedEx has committed $1 million in cash and transportation support to deliver supplies and medical aid to victims.

Consumers expect more from brands than profitability.

Don’t wait for disaster to strike to find your brand’s corporate responsibility. Being socially responsible comes with the territory. In fact, today’s consumers expect it. 

According to a global study by Havas Worldwide and Market Probe International, 73 percent of consumers believe that brands have a responsibility to do more than just generate profits. Companies that do good may be more successful when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

In a study by Morning Consult for Fortune Magazine that tested out this theory, nearly two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents (ages 18 to 34) were at least somewhat more likely to work for a company that gave to charity than one that did not. Older generations aren’t quite as corporate-philanthropy-disposed, with 59 percent of those between the ages of 35 and 44, and 47 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 reporting values that align with Millennials.

How to find the right cause for your brand. 

There are endless ways your brand can make a difference. But what makes sense for you? CEB Iconoculture suggests the following:

Focus on the cause. Consumers will follow. Patagonia values sustainability. To prove it, they launched a campaign on Black Friday to discourage consumers from buying a popular jacket on the busiest shopping day of the year. The “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign encouraged consumers to reconsider consumption and embrace sustainability. The brand proved its sincerity by illustrating its commitment to recycling and environmentally-conscious practices. Patagonia loyalists and wannabes understood.

Do what you can with what you have. Whirlpool is more than just a manufacturer of washers and dryers. The brand gives people confidence that they’re ready for work, school or play. That’s the essence of the Whirlpool Care Counts program. Kids are more likely to skip school when they don’t have clean clothes. So, the brand is helping keep at-risk kids in school by installing washers and dryers in underprivileged schools.

Want another example of a brand that’s discovered an ideal philanthropic match? Check out Consumers Energy Generation Genius.

4 tips for tackling negative online patient reviews.

4 tips for tackling negative online patient reviews.

We’ve all been upset while waiting a little longer than expected in a waiting room. We’ve all had a negative experience, or two, with an office manager or billing specialist who didn’t make things right. We all know someone who questioned that doctor (you know, the one with the freezing hands) for disagreeing with a Google diagnosis and Google is always right, right?

It’s experiences like these that cause patients to take their anger out on their healthcare provider through online reviews. As of March 31, 2017, Yelp has had over 127 million reviews with 6 percent of those (about 762,000) being health-related reviews. An apparently, they’re well read.

According to Healthgrades and the Health Management Academy research 60 percent of Americans are reading online reviews about physicians. Millennials (75 percent), parents (71 percent) and highly-educated consumers (73 percent) are even more likely to consult online reviews.

If you haven’t yet, search one of your practices or practitioners on either Yelp or Google. If nothing comes up, lucky you! You can get ahead of the pack by establishing your own Yelp page for your practice. If something does come up, maybe it’s great, but sometimes… ouch.

So what should a practice do when Negative Nancy spills her story online and threatens to damage your reputation? Here are a few tips:

  1. Take them seriously. If you have multiple patients all saying the same thing, do something about it. For example, if you encounter multiple negative reviews about the front desk representative along the lines of “Jan at the front desk was rude, inconsiderate, and ignored me for 10 minutes as I stood there waiting to sign-in,” have a conversation with Jan. Re-train her to have better customer service skills. Create a new check-in process that doesn’t involve relying on one person. Your reviews are telling you where problematic areas may be, so look at them as an opportunity to improve.
  2. Don’t let one Negative Nancy ruin your day. Let’s say you have a high rating on Yelp/Google and lots of positive reviews. According to Yelp 17 percent of consumers pay attention to the quantity of positive reviews you have versus the amount of negative commentary. If one Negative Nancy posts a poor review, message that person privately and apologize – even if it wasn’t your fault. Choosing to apologize to the dissatisfied patient and letting her know she has been heard and acknowledged might just solve your problem. She might even give you a second chance.
  3. Respond when appropriate. Online reviewers just want to be heard. If Positive Polly is showing you lots of love, thank her. It can only make her image of you more positive which might influence other users. Approximately 90 percent of users on Yelp say positive reviews are their main deciding factor to influence their buying decisions, or in this case, choosing your practice. If a Negative Nancy is referencing a time of day where you know your practice was super busy and short-staffed, apologize and explain how hard your employees were working to see everyone as efficiently as possible while providing the most compassionate care. If a positive or negative review clearly states the patient’s name either in their actual review or in their profile display name, respond privately. Responding publicly may violate HIPPA and no one wants that, or to be safe, consult a legal advisor to help you determine the most appropriate response.
  4. Be proactive. Today’s healthcare consumers are shouldering much more of the costs associated with their care. Copays and high premiums have a way of making long waits and lack of urgency all the more excruciating. Take stock of your office operations with an eye on the patient experience. Are they being nurtured and cared for at the same level that you would demand for your own family? Work with your team to map out an efficient and thorough patient journey. Good reviews will certainly follow.

For more on managing user generated content, see Critical resource or just critical? Tips for docs to deal with Yelp’s fortified UGC.

Weekly Recap - August 19, 2016

Pinterest has finally launched promoted video pins. How Pinteresting? The social network ran alpha tests with 12 partners and found that promoted videos delivered “significant brand lift metrics.” But what kind of videos will have the most pull among consumers? According to crystal balls at Adweek, the future of video will be personalized. And who knows? It might not be blocked on Facebook anymore. Read here. 

DETAILS, please

Promoted video: video ads come to Pinterest. Promoted Video ads are video ads with the Pinterest touch, as they also contain featured pins, which are aimed at encouraging users to take action after watching the videos.

The future of video will not be televised, it will be personalized. A personalized video advertisement laser-focuses on a customer's interests with far greater precision than traditional video advertising.

Why Facebook is blocking ad blockers. Facebook last week began rolling out an update to their site’s code to nullify ad blockers like Adblock Plus, stressing that ads are how the site makes its money.

Meanwhile back at the RANCH

As a woman owned and operated business, we know a thing or two about empowering all women in the workplace (men too). Take a look.

Why your business should empower women in the workforce. Throughout the past two decades we have witnessed great advances for women in the workforce. But there’s still lots of room for improvement.

THE Topic of conversation

Women. Get research and tips on how women shop, and who they'll trust with their money. Download our free whitepaper "How women buy, and what it means for your marketing plan."


Like what you see? Share the Brogan Recap.

Why your business should empower women in the workforce.

Why your business should empower women in the workforce.

By now, you should have seen or at least heard of the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. The campaign not only challenges stereotypes, but inspires a culture that accepts women without limiting them.  

But, good thing too, this isn’t new. Throughout the past two decades we have witnessed great advances for women in the workforce – the first female board of director to Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and now the first female presidential nominee. But there’s still lots of room for improvement. Take a look:

  1. The percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped to four percent within the past year.

    Of the 29 companies added to the list this year, only one had a female CEO. Just one. While yes, some females retired last year. Some businesses merged, downsized or changed their structure so they no longer fall under the Fortune 500 category; the one female is incredibly surprising.

  1. Women need to reenter the workforce.

    Have you seen the Nancy Meyer’s movie The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro? The film follows DeNiro’s character, a 70-something-year-old man who reenters the workforce as a senior intern at Anne Hathaway’s character’s digital fashion startup. If you haven’t seen the movie, Wunderlich Kaplan Communications has and has applied this program to their business model. According to Dara Kaplan, president and partner, “That movie was kind of an aha moment for us.” Posing the question, “How many times have we witnessed our friends, unable to dive back into the workforce after several years at home?”

    Although in the movie, the company hired all ages and all genders, Wunderlich Kaplan Communications’ program hires women over 40 that are looking to change careers, jump the corporate ship and reenter the workforce. Why only women? Wunderlich explains “It’s estimated that there are upwards of three million women with advanced college degrees trying to reenter the American workforce. It was clear this was who we needed to focus on.” How inspiring is that?

  1. It can be done.

    As a woman owned and operated business, we know a thing or two about empowering all women in the workplace (men too). Founded in 1984 by the fabulous and fearless female Marcie Brogan, and are now led by the dauntless and dedicated Ellyn Davidson, Brogan & Partners strives to create an empowering and inspiring workplace and culture.

    Whether we are energizing our employees on our Mystery Trips, pampering those who participate in manicure Wednesdays, or walking to (virtual) far away locations during our Fitbit challenges (or on Tracksuit Tuesday), Brogan & Partners is constantly creating an inspiring workplace and culture.

For more trends and insights, sign up for our Brogan Weekly Recap. And you’ll get what’s new and next in the world of advertising.

Brogan team straps on wearables for a little healthy competition.

I can’t sit still.

I’m looking for excuses to trek upstairs and parking further away from the office. Yesterday, I marched in place while blowing my hair dry. This morning I cha-cha’d at the stovetop while scrambling eggs. My husband smirks. My daughter rolls her eyes. The cat hides. I double-tap my Fitbit.

All this newfound energy is the direct result of a little healthy competition at work. Ellyn, our managing partner, recently threw down a four-week fitness challenge. Those who log 250,000 steps get a check towards the cost of a Fitbit or similar device. Rack up another 120,000 steps over the following two weeks, cha-ching. Another little bonus. There are also weekly incentives to get us moving to the tune of 70,000 steps a week.

Talk about happy feet.

Turns out, our little office competition is part of a big trend. Corporate services is one of Fitbit’s fastest-growing areas of business. Target, Adobe and BP are using the fitness trackers to help improve employee health and cut down on healthcare costs, according to CEB Iconoculture research.

In Arizona, the Local Government Employee Benefit Trust is banking that increased exercise could lessen their most expensive health issues, according to a story in Nogales International. Workers in six counties will receive Fitbits and meet with medical professionals to better their health.  

As part of its Team Member Wellness Initiative, Target in 2015 provided all U.S. employees with a free or discounted Fitbit and hosted activity challenges to create a healthier corporate community. One team competition rewarded the highest performing teams with a share of $1 million to benefit the local wellness nonprofit of their choice.

Competition doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Some creative Fitbit users are finding ways to rack up steps by attaching them to dogs, power tools and electric fans or even by giving the device a spin in the dryer, according to a recent article in Fortune.com. In some instances, cheaters are motivated by prizes. But in other cases it’s simply contestants’ competitive spirit run amuck.

So far, the Brogan Fitbit challenge has sparked a lot of healthy conversation and smart ideas. Like, how about we take this meeting for a walk?

Want to know more about wearables mean for the healthcare industry? Check out our blog “Everything marketers need to know about fitness apps and wearables.”

Weekly Recap - February 5, 2016

weekly recap

We know the Broncos and Panthers are ready for the big game this Sunday, but are brands? Adweek sat down with creative directors from across the country and identified five key trends to look out for during Super Bowl 50. Social media will also be on the field. Remember the Super Bowl blackout a few years ago? Twitter is prepared. They recently announced they will be bringing a new timeline to over 23 countries. Why? Because consumers are very trusting with social platforms. Even when it comes to financial advice. So if you want the extra point, stop treating this audience like acquisitions and try nurturing them instead, especially when it comes to email marketing. Ready? Hike.  

DETAILS, please
5 creative trends you’ll likely see when you tune into Super Bowl 50. Here, top creatives predict themes we're likely to see when football's biggest event celebrates its golden anniversary.

Bringing Tweets to more people around the world. Twitter is rolling out a home timeline to people across 23 countries who visit the twitter.com homepage on their mobile devices.

Nearly half of social media users trust Facebook friends for financial advice (Infographic). For all the cynicism surrounding digital security, financial institutions have ranked among the most trusted online. Millennials and digital natives are particularly drawn to online and mobile banking.

The nonprofit’s guide to email nurturing for membership retention. Many nonprofits fall victim to a common marketing trap: they pour efforts into acquisition, while ignoring existing members. What gives?

Meanwhile back at the RANCH
We’ve been busy tracking Barbie’s new look, tuning into Millennials, boosting SEO and creating an inspiring workplace. We were also curious about the popularity of financial apps. So we blogged about it.  

The evolution of the Barbie brand, from then until now. To help every girl feel like they could truly be a "Barbie girl," Mattel debuted 23 new dolls, representing eight different skin tones, 14 facial structures, 22 hairstyles, 23 hair colors and 18 eye colors. What does this mean for the brand?

Want to reach Millennials? Tune in to radio. Really. Some clients are dubious when we recommend radio these days—particularly when they’re targeting a young audience. Do Millennials even use the car radio? Do they listen to local stations? Yes and yes. Here’s why.

How to create an inspirational workplace and culture. What does it mean to inspire? To refresh, motivate and stimulate. What if your workplace was able to achieve all of these things?

5 reasons why consumers use financial mobile apps. It’s no secret that mobile is hot right now. But, what’s with all the financial buzz?

11 easy ways to boost your website’s SEO. In the digital age, search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing technique on almost everyone’s mind, because almost everyone wants to appear on the first page of a search result. But only 10 can.

THE topic of conversation
Women. Get research and tips on how women shop and who they trust with their money. Download our free whitepaper “How women buy, and what it means for your marketing plan.

Like what you see? Share the Brogan Recap.

How to create an inspirational workplace and culture.


What does it mean to inspire? To refresh, motivate and stimulate.

What if your workplace was able to achieve all of these things? It may seem too far-fetched, but it's actually quite easy to implement. All it takes is integrity, amusement and a little cake to create a workplace where employees thrive.

Healthy, honest culture
Culture is crucial to an inspiring workplace. It shapes your work enjoyment, work relationships, as well as work processes. It represents who you are as a company, and it's evident in the individuals who make up your team. People equal culture. So hiring the right people who are passionate about their work, committed to the mission of the company and loyal to their fellow teammates is the best way ensure a healthy culture.

Honesty being the best policy, open-communication is quintessential for building a supportive environment. At Detroit-based mortgage lender Quicken Loans, all new hires attend ISM’s Day, an in-depth orientation that focuses on the company’s core values and what they stand for. It’s about immersing employees in Quicken’s culture and challenging them to rethink common ways of doing things by providing tools that one would need to sustain a positive, uplifting outlook inside the workplace, as well as outside.

Work hard, play hard

As important as it is to work together toward common goals in the office, group activities outside the office are not only fun, exciting and unique but are sure to boost company morale. When employee appreciation is shown in different and more creative ways, it’s easier to keep that positive energy and productivity flowing. At crowd-sourced marketing firm Crowdtap, employees are treated to monthly massages, group surf lessons and beach days as a way of saying thank you for their contributions.

CHG Healthcare Services, one of the largest healthcare staffing providers in the US, has implemented a Fun Room for employees. From throwing darts to arcade games, a foosball table and TVs, employees can take breaks together and enjoy downtime on-site in a lively and enjoyable environment. Happy employees equal happy clients!

CHG Healthcare fun room

Photo Credit: Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune

Make it personal

Remembering birthdays and work anniversaries are simple ways to show employees they are valued. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine and not personally interact for days on end. It’s nice to take a break and celebrate with your team by having everyone sing "Happy Birthday," or better yet, enjoying some cake and ice cream along with it. It really is the little things that cause the most enjoyment, isn’t it? Eloquest Healthcare prides itself on celebrating the big moments in their employees' lives. The company provides gift cards for employee's anniversaries and birthdays. In the event of a marriage or birth, the company provides a $100 gift card.

When it comes to creating an inspirational workplace, honesty, having fun and making it personal help to build a strong culture. Teammates help to motivate, playtime helps to stimulate and cake on your birthday is simply scrumptious.


To celebrate our creative director's birthday, we surrounded her with all of her favorite things: cupcakes, cosmos and Dr. Oz. Happy birthday week, Laurie!

Posted by Brogan & Partners on Thursday, January 21, 2016


When people are smiling, feel encouraged and are genuinely appreciated for what they contribute, the productivity possibilities are endless. And that is something truly inspirational.

How is your workplace inspiring? Tell us in the comments below. Meanwhile, catch up on how you can be a rock star at work, with this blog here

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3 tips to get back into work mode post holiday.

Holidays are great. Family. Friends. Food. A little time away from work to recharge. It’s all good. But all that revelry can make it difficult to get back into the swing of things at the office.

Feeling refreshed is important when returning after an extended break (however short it may have felt). Besides the obvious turning in early and getting a good night’s sleep, try these three tips to get you back in a joyful 9-5 frame of mind.

1.  Readjust and resume… one task at a time.

Just like your parents always told you, don’t overfill your plate. The same goes for your schedule and obligations. Pace yourself on your first few days back. Remember, all 125 emails don’t need to be answered immediately. Prioritize by importance and nature and try not to feel overwhelmed by the quantity. Cut yourself some slack and take your time.

2.  Regulate and remedy… taking little breaks.

To stay motivated and positive, try splitting the workday into smaller parts. Throughout the day, I take short strolls by a lake that’s within walking distance of my office building, where I see families of deer, turtles and birds. A brisk walk in the fresh air helps to get your blood flowing and creative juices pumping. If you simply can’t leave the office, try walking around your office building to get an energy lift almost as satisfying as a cup of coffee.

3.  Reconstruct and rejuvenate… setting goals.

Goals help keep us focused and fulfilled. Goals are how we turn values and dreams into reality. They are motivational and give us something to look forward to with optimism and determination. Knowing the direction you want to go gives you clarity on what you ultimately want.

What do you want to accomplish in the New Year? What is your strategy and how do you plan to put it into action?

Ready to take your performance up to the next level? Check out "4 tips to being a rock start at work" with bonus tunes to get you motivated.

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GE mocks its brainy workforce to recruit talent and build brand.

I say General Electric, you say…

Dishwashers. Well, at least that’s what I would say. Consumers are self-centered like that. Sure, I’m aware that GE is deeper than household appliances. If pressed, I might say energy solutions or something equally ambiguous like financial services. Lightbulbs. Definitely lightbulbs.  

Such is the challenge for a global conglomerate with businesses focused on everything building and curing to moving and powering.  How does one brand such a diversified behemoth?

For more than two decades, the company operated under the campaign: “We bring good things to life.”  (Dare you not to hum the jingle.) Thanks to a considerable media budget and strategic placement, Good Things helped elevate GE to household name status, with brand awareness in the ballpark of Coca-Cola and IBM.

The creative was emotional and often patriotic, highlighting the everyday and aspirational benefits of GE products and services. GE was cast as the hero, powering late night baseball games, microwave popcorn and home videos. To do this, they used lots and lots of thematic product shots—planes, trains, machinery, equipment, appliances, technology—impressive, loud proof points. 

In 2003, the company replaced the slogan with “Imagination at work.” Didn’t notice the switcheroo? Me neither. That is, until I met “Owen” earlier this month while streaming the Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Owen is the new face of GE. And what an about-face he is.

In the commercial series “What’s the matter with Owen,” Owen struggles to explain his new world-changing job as a programmer at GE to his confused, condescending friends and family. In the “Zazzies” spot, Owen shares his good news with friends over chips and salsa, only to be upstaged by an app developer who crowns pets and people with fruit. “I’m going to transform the way the world works,” Owen gently interjects. To which his buddy retorts: “I programmed that hat and I can do casaba melons.”

In “Hammer,” Owen’s parents present him with his grandfather’s hammer to celebrate his new industrial job at GE. When Owen explains that he won’t need a hammer to write code for GE, his parents just don’t get it and dad reacts defensively. “You can’t pick it up, can you? Go ahead. You can’t lift the hammer.”  Mom faintly comes to Owen’s aid, placating more than supporting her son. “It’s okay though, you’re going to change the world.”

Owen’s friends surprise him in “Big News” with a cake and balloons to celebrate his new job as a developer. When Owen says he’ll be working for GE, his friends look baffled, even disappointed.  Owen explains. “Guys, I’ll be writing a new language for machines so planes, trains and hospitals can work better.” Cue champagne, pan over cake that reads “App Tastic News.” Clueless, scruffy-faced friend asks timidly: “So, you’re going to work on a train?”



In this campaign, GE’s talent is the hero. It’s the genius behind in the machines, technology and innovation. Owen carries the brand with Millennial gravity and sincerity, framed by a single pair of Warby Parker glasses. It’s Owen that is powering GE. Not its planes, trains and turbines. The campaign succeeds because it celebrates the human capital—the humanity—behind a great brand.

GE produced the campaign to recruit talent—the 25-34 year old variety. The call to action is “Get yourself a world-changing job.”  But it goes so much deeper than filling seats on a bus. It creates a much needed bridge for consumers to better comprehend the totality of GE’s vast and diverse empire without feeling overwhelmed. Or worse, apathetic.

It’s a simple and effective strategy for a brand that packs a big impression on the world. It illustrates that you can tell a big brand story with a single, human story.

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You know you work in advertising when...

If you work in the advertising industry, you might think no one else understands what you do every day. Does anyone spend hours scrolling through stock photography sites or social media channels as a part of their job description? Are there others who celebrate the same things as you—like engagement, clicks, views and listens? Do people outside of the industry refer to their groups of friends as "Young Millennials" and "Gen Xers?"

Ad men and women: Here are six things only you can relate to.

1. The only thing you want for your birthday is for creative to get final, final, final client approval.

2. You celebrate because your engagement rate exceeds the industry standard.

3. You spend hours looking for a stock photo of a bearded, bald man over 60, mountain climbing with his cat.

4. You’re paid overtime in Pad Thai.

5. You ask your web developer a question and the response comes back in HTML.

6. You’re ecstatic that you finally finished putting together the 348-page client deck.

Have something else to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below.

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Want Millennials to thrive at work? Follow these 3 Fs.

Gen Y, Gen Next, Screenagers... Whatever you want to call them, Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015) get a bad rep. Deemed as high-maintenance, self-absorbed narcissists who are lazy and greatly distracted, it’s easy to assume this generation is, for the lack of a better term, indifferent.

In reality, Millennials are anything but. They're highly educated, continuous leaders who are natural collaborators in search of more than a paycheck from their jobs. Success for Millennials is defined more by personal satisfaction than material wealth. This generation is driven by inspiration, connection and purpose, but also desire freedom and room to grow.

millennials in the workplace

This is critical insight for employers who wish to harness their creativity and passion. Millennials won’t be content with the same old HR bag of tricks. Millennials thrive in a culture built around three Fs—feedback, flexibility and function. Follow this framework to help ensure their productivity and overall happiness in the workplace.

Millennials crave feedback.
As ambitious as they are, Millennials crave feedback and coaching. It not only helps to keep them engaged, but also feel like their work is worthwhile and their efforts are being recognized. Open, two-way communication is needed to make employees feel like they matter, that their work is valid, and that their contribution, however small, is both valued and rewarded.

According to CEB Iconoculture, Millennials look for weekly communication—not just quarterly check-ins. While this can be time consuming for busy supervisors, 15Five, a startup built to encourage employees and managers to give feedback to each other, suggests adopting procedures such as online platforms and weekly email check-ins to make regular communication easier.

Millennials need flexibility.
Based on a survey conducted by CEB, flexibility ranks high on the list of workplace motivators for Millennials. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents say having a job with flex time and the option to work remotely trumps a higher paycheck. This confident generation wants to develop their own skills and passions outside of work, investing their time acquiring skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally.

They want flexibility in terms of where and how they work, as they covet work-life balance. As technology has evolved, it’s become easier to work remotely, so it’s increasingly easier for employers to accommodate flexible schedules without compromising results. Millennials are hard-wired with an “anytime, anywhere” mentality. They don’t believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but rather by the output of the work performed.

Milennials find joy in function.
Millennials are passionate about their purpose and significance. By providing opportunities to do meaningful work and influence positive change, Millennials will feel more inspired to produce creative work. According to a survey conducted by Qualtrics, 37 percent of young employees say that working on challenging projects is what they like most about going to work, while another 15 percent value the "opportunity to make a difference.”

Want to learn more about Millennials? Download our free whitepaper “8 Rules of Marketing to Millennials.”

15 secrets of an advertising creative director.

Ten years ago, when I first became the creative director at Brogan & Partners, I wanted to know the secret to being a good one. After all, I’d worked with some of the greats over my years at Leo Burnett, Campbell-Ewald and Brogan. The biggest secret I discovered was that despite having great mentors, like Bonnie Folster, I had to find my own voice. I had to learn to sift through piles of ideas and find the diamonds, and listen to the little voice inside of me guiding me on which campaigns to kill and which campaigns to fight for.

So whether you aspire to be a creative director one day, seek to be a more well-rounded agency exec, or are a marketing director on the client side who wants to understand the creative process better, here are the 15 secrets I have discovered so far…

  1. Go big or go home. Advertising is too expensive to be quiet and safe. If you want to break through, you need a big idea. It was true 100 years ago in this business and it’s still true today. The only difference is that integration over multiple channels is even more important, as there are so many more channels in the communication mix.
  2. There a million ways to carve an apple. The number of creative solutions to any given problem? Infinite. And if we had all the time and money in the world, we could explore every one. But we don’t. We have timelines and deadlines. So we have to accept that the work we create is the best we can do given those parameters. And it’s usually a darn good apple.
  3. Brainstorms are great but genius is a solitary business. I read a great article about the Rise of Groupthink. It seems that for the sake of efficiency and the desire for cooperative teamwork, committee brainstorms are on the rise. Now, as a creative, I love a good brainstorm. When they are done right and you get the strategy, goals and background information beforehand, and everyone comes with ideas on paper, they are wonderful. But Edison didn’t invent the light bulb in a meeting. The brightest light bulb moments aren’t pulled out of thin air, they are born from deep, deep solitary thinking. Letting your mind wander, capturing stream of consciousness ideas and unlocking the flow by association and inspiration. That is how big ideas are born.
  4. It’s better to play in a sandbox. If you think a blank sheet of paper inspires creativity, think again. It needs boundaries. Research. Insights. Strategy. Knowledge. Parameters give creative people a field on which to play. Without them, it’s like drifting in a vast sea with nothing tangible to grab on to.
  5. Know your audience. It’s not always you. As a middle-aged female who works on a lot of healthcare, I can often relate to the subject matter and target audience. But other times, I have to channel a teenage male, or a CEO, or a disabled veteran. The more you know about your target audience (what they think, want and feel) the more you can speak in a way that emotionally connects. They are not a demo. They are real people.
  6. Don’t go in the front door. The obvious solution is not always the best solution. Anyone who has worked with me knows I use a technique called mind mapping to generate ideas. I put the simplest thing I am trying to say in a circle and then draw legs from it—thinking of all the different ways to say or show that message. I make sure I am covering every angle, from the back door to the side door and from the window to the chimney. The more “ins” you have, the more ideas you can get “out” of it.
  7. Think with your heart, not just your head. You have to make an emotional connection with your audience. And you won’t if you just talk about you, you and you. I equate it to making friends at a cocktail party. You have to be empathetic. You have to be relatable. And only once you make that connection can you go on to create a relationship.
  8. “Me too” advertising leads to mediocrity. There is safety in sameness. When you blend in, don’t rock the boat and steer clear of risks, you may not get fired, but then you may not be promoted either. Every brand is unique. Every brand has something different to offer. Finding that competitive differentiator leads to more brand authenticity. And it can lead to greatness. Learn the 3 rules to creating an authentic brand.
  9. A campaign can’t get very far without “legs.”  Great brand campaigns should be able to live for 3-5 years. And there are iconic ones that live for decades. I always look for campaigns that have a lot of legs. Campaigns that can go on and on, across mediums, and have the potential to evolve over time. So beware of one-offs. Stick with the big ideas.
  10. Walk away from the work. Hang it all on the wall and literally take 10 steps back. (And if you have time, sleep on it.) Which designs pull you in? Which copy calls out to you? Which makes you feel good? When they are all on the wall together, the best ideas rise to the top. You have just a few seconds to get someone’s attention, so this is a good test of stickiness. Sometimes as a mini focus group, in determining the agency recommendation, I call everyone from the agency in to review concepts and give them a sticky note to put on their first and second choice. Of course, you can’t vote for your own idea, and you can’t vote if you bear no resemblance to the target audience.
  11. Put ideas in recycling, not the trash. Never throw away a good idea. Or bad idea. Sometimes they can be resurrected later or inspire others. One of my earliest ideas as an intern at Brogan sat in my portfolio in storyboard form. When I came back to Brogan in the 90s, an assignment came up, and I was finally able to produce the commercial “Room of Smoke.” It was a finalist at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. A few years back, I also was able to resurrect an old “Secondhand Smoke” radio concept for our client, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which we turned into a video as well. Lesson: good ideas stand the test of time.
  12. Uncover the unexpected. It’s gold. If you want to break through, harness the power of juxtaposition. So many humorous spots use this technique.  Like Evian Roller babies or Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius Campaign. When you see something unexpected, your mind is curious to understand what’s going on. Comedians understand this. It’s why Amy Schumer is so funny. She says the unexpected.
  13. Trust your gut. Trust the experts. Looking at a script and imagining the final commercial takes a leap of faith. It takes trust. I read a great article about the democratization of creativity, and with the advent of iPhone cameras and apps like Instagram, everyone fancies him or herself a photographer/director/ designer. But like doctors and lawyers, advertising creatives are professionals who went to schools and learned things like visual hierarchy, history of typography and digital UX, and they win awards for their creativity. So when you are judging an idea, trust your gut. But also trust the ones around you who are the experts on whatever the subject matter is.
  14. Read between the lines. As a creative director, I attend a lot of client meetings. And I’m proud to say I’ve become very close friends with many of our clients. But while part of my job is presenting the creative, a bigger part is listening. I have learned to test the temperature of the room, read between the lines and feel what may be left unspoken. It is in those telepathic moments, if I anticipate their needs, I can make our clients feel understood. Ultimately, it makes both the work and relationship better.
  15. Don’t just be a creative director, be a teacher. Some creative directors I’ve worked with were gruff on the outside, but softies on the inside. Others would ignore you, and then days later, still ignore you. So there are geniuses and jerks. I am a nurturer. And I think all of us in advertising who’ve been blessed with being able to work so long in this amazing industry need to pass on our knowledge to other generations. For many years, I was a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge I could. And still I am soaking up new ideas, trends and mediums. But when you can squeeze in the time, squeeze out a little bit of your knowledge and share it with someone. It feels good.

I hope you soaked up some insights about what it’s like to be a creative director. If you have any other insights you’d like to share, please do.  I still have room in my sponge of a brain to absorb them.

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