SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

Coming up with creative ideas requires input from the world around us and uninterrupted time to concentrate. With that world sharply limited and kids needing more attention, how are we supposed to concept? The answer, ironically, is to get creative.

“SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER.” 

From kids finishing school and heading to camps to grown-ups finding inspiration in the great outdoors, summer is a chance to relax, have fun and recharge your creativity. The sunny season is typically full of pool parties, baseball games, and music festivals but this year is a bit different.

Virtual school, as weird as it was, provided some loose structure to our days and gave us a few activities we felt contributed to our children’s prosperity. Now, with many camps and pools closed and families shying away from other summer activities, children have more free time and less to do. Naturally, they turn to their parents for help.

Balancing the needs of our families, our careers and ourselves has never been harder. The tug of war we are experiencing can force us to compromise. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that Youtube is educational so you can spend three hours working through a thorny brief, or perhaps you put all your conference calls on mute so you can play dress up with your kids.

Maybe there’s another way through the madness. Accept that you have a new partner in crime. The good news is that they’re amazingly creative but maybe not so great at sticking to the brief. (Did you know LOL dolls also need to manage their blood sugar?)

Here are a few ways to integrate your kids into the creative process.

THE INTERNET IS (SOMETIMES) A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

We all noodle about on Chrome while working but as parents we’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Internet (and gaming consoles and smartphones, too). Channel the need for screens into something that can inspire rather than distract.

The Getty Museum Challenge motivated people to recreate art using three objects lying around their homes; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City allowed their security guard to take over Twitter to not only educate our children about the “Wild West” but provide some much-needed entertainment for the adults; and sites once used for events have included educational programming in an online format.

UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF U2.

U2’s frontman Bono was on to something when he said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Sure, your parents may have yelled at you to “turn that music down” while doing your homework but research shows certain types of music may help with creativity. It has been found that “happy” music can help people better perform creative or “divergent” thinking.

Additionally, music for many of us offers therapy and stress relief. From balcony concerts that make us feel remotely connected to our neighbors during isolation, to primetime television sing-alongs, music serves as a release from the day-to-day stresses in life and a way to safely keep us connected with others. So, go ahead and get “Lost in the Woods” with your daughter.

“IN A TIME OF TEST, FAMILY IS BEST.”

This Burmese proverb offers a lot of insight into how external sources aren’t the only to inspire – some of the best creative sources exist inside our own home. The partner we chose in life might just be our strongest ally.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to use our creativity in unique ways, to see a pile of pillows, blankets and couch cushions as a castle is design thinking. Maybe listening to music together can lead to discussions on current slang and trends. Teaching your little one how to draw might just help those rusty storyboard skills. Taking time to engage and play games with your children can actually lead to tangible business ideas – just ask Travis Scott about the power of virtual Fortnite concerts.

There’s no one right answer but start by taking breaks to build a marble run when asked. Have your kids tell you a joke (“What do you call a pile of cats? A MEOWtain!!!!) and get out for a hike and really listen to what they say (they have some very weird ideas about the world). Being more in tune with their needs and giving your mind the ability to wander could actually help to challenge and push our creativity to new limits.

Maybe taking a cue from our children will force our brains to use our imaginations in a new way. As hard as this is, let’s find ways to use this new-found time with our families to make something amazing.

 

Commentary provided by Kate McGuire

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER? old

SUMMER’S HERE. DID THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE JUST GET HARDER?

Coming up with creative ideas requires input from the world around us and uninterrupted time to concentrate. With that world sharply limited and kids needing more attention, how are we supposed to concept? The answer, ironically, is to get creative.

“SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER.” 

From kids finishing school and heading to camps to grown-ups finding inspiration in the great outdoors, summer is a chance to relax, have fun and recharge your creativity. The sunny season is typically full of pool parties, baseball games, and music festivals but this year is a bit different.

Virtual school, as weird as it was, provided some loose structure to our days and gave us a few activities we felt contributed to our children’s prosperity. Now, with many camps and pools closed and families shying away from other summer activities, children have more free time and less to do. Naturally, they turn to their parents for help.

Balancing the needs of our families, our careers and ourselves has never been harder. The tug of war we are experiencing can force us to compromise. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that Youtube is educational so you can spend three hours working through a thorny brief, or perhaps you put all your conference calls on mute so you can play dress up with your kids.

Maybe there’s another way through the madness. Accept that you have a new partner in crime. The good news is that they’re amazingly creative but maybe not so great at sticking to the brief. (Did you know LOL dolls also need to manage their blood sugar?)

Here are a few ways to integrate your kids into the creative process.

THE INTERNET IS (SOMETIMES) A BEAUTIFUL PLACE.

We all noodle about on Chrome while working but as parents we’ve developed a love-hate relationship with the Internet (and gaming consoles and smartphones, too). Channel the need for screens into something that can inspire rather than distract.

The Getty Museum Challenge motivated people to recreate art using three objects lying around their homes; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City allowed their security guard to take over Twitter to not only educate our children about the “Wild West” but provide some much-needed entertainment for the adults; and sites once used for events have included educational programming in an online format.

UTILIZE THE WISDOM OF U2.

U2’s frontman Bono was on to something when he said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.” Sure, your parents may have yelled at you to “turn that music down” while doing your homework but research shows certain types of music may help with creativity. It has been found that “happy” music can help people better perform creative or “divergent” thinking.

Additionally, music for many of us offers therapy and stress relief. From balcony concerts that make us feel remotely connected to our neighbors during isolation, to primetime television sing-alongs, music serves as a release from the day-to-day stresses in life and a way to safely keep us connected with others. So, go ahead and get “Lost in the Woods” with your daughter.

“IN A TIME OF TEST, FAMILY IS BEST.”

This Burmese proverb offers a lot of insight into how external sources aren’t the only to inspire – some of the best creative sources exist inside our own home. The partner we chose in life might just be our strongest ally.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to use our creativity in unique ways, to see a pile of pillows, blankets and couch cushions as a castle is design thinking. Maybe listening to music together can lead to discussions on current slang and trends. Teaching your little one how to draw might just help those rusty storyboard skills. Taking time to engage and play games with your children can actually lead to tangible business ideas – just ask Travis Scott about the power of virtual Fortnite concerts.

There’s no one right answer but start by taking breaks to build a marble run when asked. Have your kids tell you a joke (“What do you call a pile of cats? A MEOWtain!!!!) and get out for a hike and really listen to what they say (they have some very weird ideas about the world). Being more in tune with their needs and giving your mind the ability to wander could actually help to challenge and push our creativity to new limits.

Maybe taking a cue from our children will force our brains to use our imaginations in a new way. As hard as this is, let’s find ways to use this new-found time with our families to make something amazing.

Plant-Based Meat Ready To Boom or Bust

PLANT-BASED MEAT READY TO BOOM OR BUST

COVID-19 has reached the U.S., dramatically changing the American lifestyle. As cities across the country shutter bars and restaurants while establishing “shelter in place” orders, grocery stores’ shelves are emptying at alarming rates due to skyrocketing demand as analysts wonder if the beef and pork industries can keep up.

As the pandemic puts pressure on the supply chain, there’s speculation that plant-based meat options could be ready for another big moment.

In their 2018 “Year in Food” report, Grubhub identified plant-based food as a trend that was rising in popularity. Investors had put more than $13 billion into U.S. plant-based meat companies in 2017 and 2018, which coincides with consumers pushing for both healthier and more sustainable diets. 

Then in 2019, plant-based meat had its first big moment when seemingly every Quick Service Restaurant lined up one-by-one to release a new plant-based menu item. Burger King had the Impossible Whopper, Taco Bell the Oatrageous Tacos, KFC premiered Beyond Fried Chicken… even Little Caesars started selling pizzas with plant-based sausage. While there were substantial questions if plant-based options at QSR were anything more than an industry-wide limited-time offer, (LTOs are a common activation used across the restaurant industry to drive short-term appetite appeal and trial) plant-based meat is better poised for growth at grocery.

According to a January 2020 survey by Gallup, forty-one percent of Americans have tried a plant-based meat product at some point, with more than half of those who have tried it agreeing that they’re very or somewhat likely to continue eating plant-based meat products as part of their diets. The emptier-than-usual grocery store shelves suggest that the 41 percent of people who’ve tried plant-based meat products could increase when consumers are presented with fewer options than usual while looking for available protein options with acceptable shelf lives.

Another key finding from the January 2020 Gallup survey is that the most likely factors that lead consumers to eat plant-based meats are health and the environment — two factors that should stay top of mind with more people than ever as the world responds to a global health crisis. If more people are thinking about the key factors that drive plant-based meat consumption, it’s another reason that we could see the number of triers increase.

Last, look at the wallet. It’s common for consumers to cut expensive foods from their shopping lists — like red meat — during a recession. During the 2008 recession, low-cost sources of protein like nuts, eggs, and legumes found their way into more people’s diets as they looked to save money. As the stock markets tank, record numbers of Americans apply for unemployment, and analysts predict a recession — let’s face it, meat is expensive. If industry analysts are correct that plant-based meat will soon be less expensive than conventional meat options, it could be plant-based meat products that are finding their way into more shopping carts of shoppers looking to save some money at their dinner tables.

Then again, if manufacturers don’t find efficiencies in the supply chain and plant-based meat remains as expensive as traditional meat options, it probably won’t capture the low-cost, protein-on-a-budget shoppers. And what if consumers turn to food as a way to cope with stress — and we know that people have a reason to be stressed about jobs and the health of their families — we could see increases in comfort food purchases, possibly at the expense of plant-based meat. While so much is still uncertain about how our new normal will look once this pandemic passes, only time will tell if plant-based meat is ready to boom or bust.

This article was originally published on Food Dive’s website, April 14, 2020.

Embracing Our New Work From Home Lives

EMBRACING OUR NEW WORK FROM HOME LIVES

At Kickdrum we regularly mix working from home with our standard office routine. But staying in place for COVID-19 has taken it to the next level. With no more hitting the gym, grabbing dinner, hanging out at a coffee shop or basically going anywhere we’ve had to figure out new ways to stay sharp and be productive. Here are some things our staff is doing to maintain their mental health in these strange, stressful times.

Alex Bragg
Maintaining my fundamental routine while being flexible to what’s happening in the moment is what keeps me balanced. Getting up, dressed and started at the same time as always? Yes. Giving myself permission to set work aside for a moment when my kids are laughing about something on TikTok? Also yes.  I’m also killing it on Season 20 of Diablo III.

Dan Whitmyer
Watching what’s happening around the world and not knowing what’s coming next definitely has me feeling some stress and anxiety. I like to use physical activity as a way to combat that. My goal during the crisis is to get 10k steps each day, which I’ve found is about 572 laps around my living room.

Jason Schmall
I have three school-age kids and while second grade is a snap, I’m spending a lot of time relearning middle school math in an attempt to be useful to my fifth grader. Do you know how to divide fractions? Thanks to youtube, I do.

Kate McGuire
I’m currently out on maternity leave, and having a two-month old and a 3-year old in the house is keeping me incredibly busy. In the midst of the daily chaos, my husband and I have committed to a 30-day yoga challenge to incorporate a little tranquility into our lives.

Tim McCort
I’ve learned that in order to get a good night’s rest, you have to stop reading the news about an hour before bedtime. Maybe four hours before…

Kyle Ebersole
Every time the news makes me anxious I embrace baking as a new way to calm down. I now have enough baked goods to run a pretty legit school bake sale.

So pick up a new exercise routine, call some friends, or get a book you’ve been meaning to read (don’t settle for the crummy Netflix adaptation!) Whatever you need to do to get through the days and weeks ahead, we support it. From all of us at Kickdrum, be kind to each other and stay healthy.

Watching the Super Bowl as the only ad nerd at the party

Football

WATCHING THE SUPER BOWL AS THE ONLY AD NERD AT THE PARTY

As a person who works in advertising I am legally obligated to have an opinion about the Super Bowl commercials, and I do, but this year I watched at a party with a bunch of people who don’t work in advertising. The place was filled with kids playing, dads grazing the dip selection, and moms grouped near the crockpot occasionally peeling off here and there to stop a toddler from tumbling down the stairs.

I watched the commercials, but more interestingly, I watched the people watching the commercials and here’s the thing…they didn’t. To them, they were just breaks from the football game – a good chance to resume a conversation, manage a conflict between kids or consider having a second cookie. It painted a pretty clear picture about how people think about brands, which is mostly that they don’t.

My Twitter feed is filled with strategists and CMOs, who were focused on nothing but the commercials. They breathlessly recounted the wins and losses for each spot and brand, while admitting they “weren’t really paying attention to the game.” They’ve now listed their top 10s and rated them all on a 5-star scale.

Meanwhile, at the “regular people” party the attention was all over the place, including, very occasionally, on the commercials. Here’s what I saw: People were excited about the new Top Gun movie, Lego Masters looks like a fun new show and people looked up when they saw Martin Scorcese in a commercial but were confused that it was for Coke. Aaaand that’s pretty much it. It was a good reminder of the role brands play in people’s lives, which is very little.

Our party broke up just after the crescendo of the evening – the halftime show – the only part of the evening that everyone at the party truly focused on, then I watched the rest of the game at home.

The Chiefs mounted an exciting comeback and I really liked the Amazon Alexa commercial. A simple joke, produced to the nines – nice job.

Commentary provided by our very own Jason Schmall.

Ending the Timesheet Time Suck

ENDING THE TIMESHEET TIME SUCK

If you pay your agency based on billable hours, how much time do you think you spend each year arguing about scope, disputing overages and worrying about how many agency people are dialing in to a meeting? How does that compare to time spent on actual work?

The awful truth is that timesheet administration takes more time than you realize and the impact on the work product is bigger than anyone ever lets on.

Earlier in my career, I worked for a large New York agency that required me to meet with a “business analyst” each week. Her primary job was to tell me where we were spending too many hours and where we needed to cut back. Guess where we always needed to slash hours? 

CREATIVE TIME. LITERALLY, THE WORK PRODUCT OF THE AGENCY.

It became my job to limit how much time a creative team could spend on a problem. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually uttered sentences like, “We only have 34 hours left on this project, so please work quickly,” or “Only record 34 hours on your timesheet for this project.” And, I was downright depressed by how much work I saw my colleagues put in above and beyond what they were “allowed to” in an effort to bring the best possible work to our clients. 

Today, an entire hours-tracking industry has emerged, completely dedicated to supporting the billable hours model at agencies with software that provides timesheet tracking, productivity reports, under-earned/over-earned reports, etc. It’s created a belief system that agency value can be measured exclusively on spreadsheets.

But getting to a great idea is an iterative process, filled with false starts, almost-great ideas, edits and redos during the journey from brief to concept. The focus throughout has to be on pushing through to a breakthrough idea, not sticking to the budgeted hours.

THE IDEAS ARE THE WHOLE POINT OF AN AGENCY.

That’s why we only price ourselves on a project basis. It gives us more freedom to focus on the problems we’re solving, protects clients from financial surprises and fosters a better agency-client relationship.

Sure, there’s always the risk we priced it wrong but the reward is being treated as a valued partner instead of an overpriced vendor. If we invest a little time here and there, we believe it’s always time well spent.

What it means to be a drummer

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DRUMMER

Rolling Stone recently put out a list of the top 100 drummers of all time.

We have a lot of thoughts on the list, but there is one drummer, ranked #5, deserving of a full-on blog post:

Robert A. Reeder / The Washington Post

HAL BLAINE

When we saw his name, we were happy to see him so high on the list.

Way above flashier names with questionable talent. (Ahem…Steven Adler.)

Because Hal Blaine knew what it meant to be a drummer.

He did whatever the situation called for.

If a simple, steady backbeat was the order, Hal could do it.

If a show-stopping solo was needed, he could do that, too.

He didn’t need to be the center of attention.

But he had all the talent to be that, and more.

Instead, he did most of his best work as a session drummer.

Defining the sound for dozens of different bands on hundreds of albums.

And then often teaching the touring drummer how to play their own songs.

He says it best in the article: “I’m not a flashy drummer. I want to be a great accompanist”

So if you were wondering why we named ourselves Kickdrum.

One of the answers is Hal Blaine.

Earning perspective

EARNING PERSPECTIVE

Advertising is an industry that can famously get all wrapped around itself. We create things that look like ad campaigns, then we evaluate the quality of those campaigns versus other campaigns. We see a great campaign and challenge ourselves to make our next campaign even better. And sure, that’s useful to a point.

But from regular people’s perspective, the competition isn’t other ads. It’s everything. The entirety of life is competing for their attention. So you’ve got to find inspiration from places that aren’t just other kinds of advertising.

That’s why when Kickdrum heads out for inspiration, we look outside of marketing courses and ad festivals. Our social feeds are already chock full of stuff other agencies are doing and “industry-relevant” articles. We want to be inspired by how people outside of marketing are getting people to listen to what they have to say, bring them together to tackle their cause, and get them to take action.

At the Cusp Conference in Chicago we heard from, among others, street poets connecting with young men in need of direction, environmental activists transforming the clothing industry, the woman who wrote Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls, and a guy who plays the clarinet with whales.

We want the work we make on behalf of our clients to be effective when stacked up against real-world competition. When we hear people outside of marketing talking about how they communicate, we always learn something new.

It’s comfortable to pontificate on Twitter about marketing as an academic concern, but our job is to reach people in the real-world. To get that perspective you have to make yourself step outside of the marketing sphere.

You’ve got to earn it.

Posts-Increasing sales is not your marketing objective

INCREASING SALES IS NOT YOUR MARKETING OBJECTIVE

At some of the talks we give to business groups, we like to ask the audience a question: “What’s your marketing objective this year?” The only answer ever given is “increase sales.”

Sure. Yes. Of course.

When the CEO asks the marketing team what their objectives are, it’s easy to say “driving sales through the stratosphere,” and send a now-smiling CEO on her way. No one is going to argue with making “increased sales” a goal. (Except, apparently, one start-up ad agency in Ohio.)

But increasing sales isn’t a marketing objective. It’s an outcome.
In fact, it’s the outcome. When marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, customer service, and logistics all meet their objectives, sales go up. Every business is built to grow, and every part of that business is working towards that goal.

Marketing’s contribution is vital. It’s the part that can create, change or reinforce a consumer behavior. A good marketing objective should explain what behavior will be influenced and how that change connects to sales.

And to do that, you’re gonna need to do some math.

Think about it. The CEO is allocating her budget based on the overall business objective of increasing sales. The head of manufacturing has numbers that justify an ROI for that big-ass machine he wants. The head of logistics has numbers that explain why more warehouse space will increase efficiency. And then the marketing director shows up and asks for more money to get more Facebook likes.

[Facepalm]

Increasing Facebook likes might be worth investing in but a business case has to be made. And it can be. A marketing objective is connected to the business objectives the same way that a new machine is. It requires a little due diligence when it comes to understanding conversion rates and data, but the only way to get a respectable marketing budget is to use concrete language backed by numbers that the CEO respects.

Then there’s always the ace in the hole.

When the head of manufacturing projects the ROI of the new machine and the head of logistics projects the ROI of added warehouse space they are both counting on getting more customers.

And that is going to take some marketing.

Killstorm your way to marketing brilliance

KILLSTORM YOUR WAY TO MARKETING BRILLIANCE 

You need to get your team quickly aligned and excited about a brand-new, breakthrough strategy idea—time to schedule a Killstorm.

No, that’s not a tragic misspelling of brainstorm. It’s what we call our process to rapidly evaluate, eliminate and generate ideas. (We didn’t mean to name it that exactly but it was said once in a meeting and, well, here we are.)

The basic idea is that instead of gathering together to generate a bunch of quick ideas from scratch, we bring a wall full of rough ideas to the meeting and the brand team comes in and starts pulling down the ones they don’t like, debating the ones they do and, interestingly enough, coming up with a few new ones along the way.

By the end of about an hour, we’re down to two or three that the room has embraced and decided to move forward with.

The response we get a lot is

WOW. THAT WAS WAY EASIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

Yup. There are a few reasons for that.

First, it is definitely way easier to react to ideas. Criticizing existing ideas is a more familiar mode of thinking for most people and getting from 20 ideas to two is a nice quantifiable objective that everyone can work together to accomplish.

Killstorms also eliminate internal political dynamics. Since the agency folks wrote out all the ideas in the room, they feel a lot freer to level criticism without worrying about hurting the feelings of their co-workers or being wrong in front of their boss.

And it gets to better thinking, faster. The early ideas are all up on the wall, so time isn’t spent discussing minor variations of the same idea. That’s not a criticism of any given group’s creativity. Typically, the first ideas you have tend to be the same as the others in the room because everyone’s coming at the problem with similar inputs. Instead, the time is spent making those ideas better or spurring new ones.

A Killstorm isn’t right for every situation but we fervently support challenging conventional wisdom for the sake of better, faster work–even if that means resorting to violence.