Thursday, December 24, 2009

One little, two little, three little India posts

[Editorial note: Black Sheep Leader of the Flock, Aimee Woodall, took a two-week trip to India in search of business inspiration and personal affirmation. Over the next few weeks she’ll explore her discoveries on Shear Creativity. Enjoy!]

I embarked on this trip with nothing but my die hard, love-and-live-what-I-do attitude and the determination that the next two weeks would be a completely profound experience. My 15-hour flight provided ample opportunity for me to contemplate the possibilities and make plans to seize every ounce of value from this exploration, but nothing could prepare for what would come. This account of my experience is a compilation of a complete absorption of a place I could have only imagined in my dreams – every observation – every sight, sound and smell (okay, I grew tired of the smells pretty quickly) is here, and I hope you gain as much insight as I did. Besides having one of the most incredible trips of my life, here’s what I learned:

My experience: It's the little things that count.
Business translation: Small, sweet gestures can make a big impact.

I knew going into this I would witness the kind of poverty I’d only seen in National Geographic magazines and documentaries. Yet, what I found was so much more than I expected. Street corners were filled with beautiful wide-brown-eyed children begging for food, and even as I acquiesced with rupees here and there, I knew I couldn’t rescue them all… or even one of them. BUT, what I could do was make them happy. So, instead of giving them money that they then passed along to someone else, I bought a bag of caramels and gave them pieces of CANDY instead. And you know what? I’ve never seen a happier child! I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience than bringing a moment of joy to a little kid who has seen so few times of pure exhileration in his life. I’ll never look at candy the same way.

LESSON: Give them cake. Or candy or maybe just a phone call or note in the mail to let them know how you care. I’m talking about clients. While we may get paid for our big ideas and grandiose presentations, it’s showing that we are aware of their feelings and share in their triumphs and letdowns that solidifies a relationship. Sometimes it’s just the little things.

My expereience: I’m not hungry, but I’ll eat.
Business translation: They don’t need it, but if it’s good, they’ll buy it anyway.

When I left for India I thought I was in trouble. I’d had Indian food in Houston a couple of times, but never really enjoyed it. And I love nothing more than food and eating. So how was I going to get along for two weeks? Would I enjoy the food – or have a constant rumble in my belly? Ohhh, quite the contrary. While some may have worshiped at the temple, I was worshiping the food. Even sitting here writing this blog I’m craving it and wondering if there’s anything on this side of the Pacific Ocean that will remotely compare to the things I devoured in the east. Parathas. Samosas. Biryani. Dal… I could go on and on. I ate (I guess this is not entirely unusual for me, but still) even when I wasn’t hungry. Just because the food was SO. DAMN. GOOD. My fellow travelers learned not to bother asking, “Are you hungry?” because the answer, I assure you, was always, “I could eat!” And I did. I’m pretty sure I should have been charged extra for the weight I carried home on the plane.

LESSON: The point is that a good product or service can become addictive. Maybe you don’t even NEED it, but it’s so freaking good you can’t pass it up. And that’s the goal of any good marketing campaign. Make them believe they need what you have to offer through expertly phrased copy and carefully executed public relations tactics and advertising, and your audience is sold. Conversely, it’s often a struggle to convince potential clients that marketing is necessary… many times they think they can handle it themselves or want to have total control, but in reality, it’s best let the professionals do their job. You’ll see.

My experience: I can now sing three songs in Hindi.
Business translation: Repetition creates memories.

There’s very little American television in India, which was probably for the best. I didn’t spend much time with the tube on. But, when I did… just for the sake of noise and “entertainment” while getting ready to leave the hotel, or while attempting to sleep off the jet lag… I noticed something. Indian producers (at least on the channels I was watching) run the same content over and over. And over. Whether this is their choice or the Bollywood folks’ footing the bill, I’m not sure. Probably the latter, but regardless… There are three Bollywood flicks playing (or soon debuting): 3 Idiots, Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year and Pyaar Impossible. And I know each of the trailers and music videos by heart – because I saw them probably close to 350 times during my two-week stint. I don’t speak a lick of Hindi (well, maybe six words), but I can sing you three songs and a recite a few catchy movie trailers start to finish. And, with my Texas accent, it was quite humorous for the locals. What can I say? I was meant for the stage.

LESSON: The obvious take-away is that there’s something to be said for repetition. I mean, I have no intention of seeing those movies, but I sure as hell can tell you about them. And, like it or not, that’s good advertising. Keeping it catchy… maybe even annoying and, if you’re lucky, funny… so much so that it sticks in their heads and won’t let go. That is the key to any great campaign. Go for it! Find something latches on to your customers, and repeat!

Next week I’ll continue with more of my India life lessons, but for now, enjoy the holidays and consider what I learned on my trip. Another lesson to keep in mind: hand sanitizer. Until next week, over and out.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's the most wonderful commercial time of the year

Trees. Decorations. Food. Families. Traditions. Carolers. Peace. Of course these are all important parts of the holiday season. But, amidst all the hustle and bustle, we can’t lose sight of what’s most important.


And really, we wouldn’t have presents without something even greater than all of that.

Commercials.  How would we know what to buy?

Holiday advertisements are like the marketing play-offs leading up to the Super Bowl of television commercial airing, which is, of course, the Super Bowl. It’s the time for all retailers far and wide to spread their message, show their potential customers how their products will add meaning and romance to their holiday and remind us all how important it is to make lots of purchases.

This year is no exception. In fact, we’re pretty impressed with quite a few campaigns going on right now.

GAP – Gap has always had a knack for seasonal promotion, and their ads really haven’t changed much over the years. What was once flat-front khakis is now plaid button-downs, but they’re basically still the same people dancing around an empty room. Only what’s great about this year is the ‘Holiday Cheer’ theme they have going featuring actual holiday cheers. You know, as in CHEERleaders. It’s clever! They even have a cheer factory and few viral videos which are pretty great. Maybe we’re a sucker for rhymes, or maybe we just like organized dances and those adorable little girls with boots. Whatever it is, it’s a great way to sell holiday spirit without the sap.

TARGET – It’s hard to put our fingers on what makes these ads so fantastic. It’s just dry humor and awkwardness at its best. No cheese. No predictable storylines. And yet somehow they get their point (save on  gifts at Target without sacrificing quality) without sounding pushy, saccharin or irritating. This is truly a modern, funny campaign.

LEXUS – Normally we hate car commercials. They tend to be over-glorified, unrealistic and pointless. But the December to Remember campaign is pretty good. It’s sentimental without being TOO mushy, and the videography is interesting. It’s just a nice holiday commercial that speaks to the brands class and elegance.

BURGER KING – This one is phenomenal. Recognizing that no matter how great their food is, nobody wants a cheeseburger as a gift, they are suggesting you give them to the people you care about LEAST. There’s nothing we appreciate more than a company that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and this takes it to a whole new level. Loves it.

And then, there are the losers.

Jewelry commercials – It’s been said before, but these are the worst. Kay…  Zales… whoever else is out there that makes diamond-studded heart-shaped necklaces. Stop. Your products are dated and so are your commercials. You’re going on the naughty list until further notice.

Do you agree with our holiday commercial assessment? Do you have any other favorites or naughty list contenders? Let us know!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

5 things Black Sheep did this year that we’ll probably do again next year

Everyone knows about New Year’s resolutions. Gross. Talk about totally disappointing yourself. We are NOT going to do it. Instead, we’re focusing on the wonderful things we’ve done, and we’re vowing to keep on doing them. It’s not that we’re perfect, but it’s easy to lose sight of what really makes a company unique, and we need to be sure to hang on to those idiosyncrasies tightly. You too can learn from patting yourself on the back and making an effort to not change a bit.

Here are the things you can expect from us next year.

1. Being perfectionists. Like I said, we’re not perfect, be we know what we want, and we’re not willing to compromise. Our logo took nearly SIX MONTHS to come to fruition, and it’s not because we work with slow designers. It’s because deciding on a logo was like picking out a prom dress. A lot of them may fit, but you know when it’s “the one.” The color’s perfect, it’s not like everyone else’s and it totally speaks to your personality. Everyone will be jealous. And that’s exactly what happened with our branding.

2. Ignoring the riff-raff. When you’re the one doing things a little differently, people are going to pay attention – and that’s a good thing. But with all the hype and praise, you’re going to encounter derision and what we like to call “hating.” And that’s okay, because it means you’re doing your job. Don’t let bad press or snide comments set you back. Haters are going to hate! Soon, the dust will settle and your antagonists’ animosity will subside… if they’re smart. Take it from the Black Sheep – we don’t give a s#$t what people say, and we’re much happier for it.

3. Keeping up with the Jones.’ No, we’re not trying to one-up the neighbors, but we are always staying informed. News, pop culture, politics, music, books, trends – you name it, we learn about it. It’s part of our daily routine, and it makes us better at understanding the people we’re trying to reach out to – the general public! What are other advertisers doing? Does it work? Would it work for our clients? Maybe! Staying aware gives us more brainstorming power, more fresh ideas and it guarantees we’ll sound smart at cocktail party. Which is totally clutch.

4. Networking. Meeting new people is obviously an asset to a business – it’s how we meet people, get referrals and make connections. It also allows us to participate in all the fun local events and be aware of the different scenes throughout the city. We’ve met so many awesome lads and ladies this year, and we’re definitely looking forward to keeping those relationships and building new ones. Seeing our faces in the social section isn’t so bad either.

So what do you think? Are you going to forgo the New Year’s resolution this time? What will you be doing in 2010 that you’re already doing? We can’t wait for 2010 and exploring all the new and exciting ways we can do what we do best – be ourselves!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It was a beautiful day for a protest

Well, well, well. We did it. The big Little Bigs protest we’ve been hyping happened today, and we are stoked.

The air was crisp, the sun was out, and Black Sheep hit the streets with our signs in our hands and our mission in our hearts. We walked straight up to Little Bigs at 11:30 (to beat the crowd), set up camp and let the mushroom slider we miss so much guide the way.

We were met with friends, followers and media (thank you, EVERYONE), but when Bryan Caswell, the chef and brainchild behind Little Bigs appeared on that patio, we knew we had won. He admitted, in so many words, that he too longed for that ooey gooey mushroom slider, and in an effort to appease the masses, he
would bring the Portobello back on a limited basis.

We’re calling it a victory.

So, how did we manage to pull this off? It wasn’t easy (okay, it wasn’t really hard either). It took a clever angle, a lot of support and some really awesome Sharpies.
If you’re planning a protest, here are some things to keep in mind.

TALK IT UP. We were fortunate enough to have some gracious writers from local outlets get excited about our cause and write a few words about it. We got people talking and engaging – and whether they had good or bad things to say, the point is they paid attention.

WEATHER. Again, we were fortunate that the storm allegedly hitting Houston tomorrow didn’t decide to get a head start. If you’re planning such a dramatic event, make sure the weather is bearable for the people coming and those passing by. Oh, and wind. It makes sign holding and positioning kind of difficult, so if you can find a protected area, use it.

GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT. Whether you’re holding signs with funny phrases or dropping sound bites for the press, it’s a good idea to know what you want to say and how you want to say. The protest today resulted in a lot of questions from strangers, Little Bigs patrons and reporters, and if you follow in our footsteps, you’ll have a similar experience too.

LET THEM EAT. It is highly recommended that you feed your fellow protesters. Emaciated participants can quickly lose energy and spirit if they’re deprived of nourishment, plus, it’s a good incentive to get people involved. Who wouldn’t hold a sign in exchange for a delicious lunch? Not us.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON. Maybe you didn’t have as many people show up – even we were expecting more. Maybe your signs were stolen by a homeless person. Maybe your crazy protesting caused a traffic accident on a major thoroughfare. The point is, when it comes to protest, you can’t let the little things get you down. As with any event, things will happen, so roll with the punches and have a good time.

Our protest today was filled with a range of protesters, some protest professionals and some riot rookies. What about you? Do you protest? Will you? Share your experience with us in the comments below!