The MadAveGroup Blog
Scott Greggory, Chief Creative Officer
For more than a century, The Cleveland Press was a daily newspaper.
It was the first of many owned by the influential E.W. Scripps Company, later known as Scripps-Howard. The Press was recognized for its journalistic excellence and, in the mid-1960s, was named one of America's 10 best papers by Time Magazine. And when I was growing up in the 1970s, The Press was delivered to our house each afternoon.
Yet, even with its rich history, its impact on the city and the hundreds of articles I read about my beloved Indians in its sports section, one memory of the newspaper stands out above the rest.
Each October, on the Friday before Halloween, the paper published a gift for the kids of Cleveland. It was the pumpkin pictured above, printed across two full pages.
Every year around trick-or-treat time, we'd see that familiar fold-out taped to windows and storm doors all over town.
Displaying his smiling orange face was a tradition as important as any associated with Christmas. I'm not exaggerating when I say the pumpkin seemed like an old friend who paid us an annual visit.
He was a unifying symbol of our city, linking us together, house to house and across neighborhoods. He was something we looked forward to; something we had in common.
So, when I saw The Cleveland Press pumpkin on a Facebook page a few weeks ago, I was immediately taken back to my youth and memories of that funny grin peeking out from homes all around town. One person who commented on the post wrote that, when he was a child, The Press pumpkin was the only Halloween decoration his family ever had.
It was just an image on a piece of newsprint. Yet, more than forty years later, that pumpkin still evokes powerful feelings for me and - I've no doubt - thousands of others.
What if your brand were the source of a wonderful memory like that?
I'd bet the people at The Press didn't set out to create a local tradition. My guess is they just wanted to surprise their readers that first year. Then, the pumpkin caught on. When you start with intent that pure, your efforts are likely to mean more.
The idea is not to sell something; it's to give of yourself for the joy of others, in however small a way. (Here's another example.)
Fulfill a need. Share your talents. Print your pumpkin.
After Norm Macdonald died on September 14, 2021, praise for the writer / comedian poured in from all corners of social media.
And one thought appeared more than any other: there was no one else like Norm.
Talk show host Conan O’Brien: “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered.”
Comedian Whitney Cummings: “Norm is the pinnacle of originality.”
Actor / comedian Steve Martin: “One of a kind.”
Comedian Sarah Silverman: “Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. He was derivative of no one.”
Derivative of no one.
What a compliment. It’s an acknowledgement that Norm was not only a different type of thinker, but that he also had the courage of his convictions.
In an industry that’s filled with sound-alikes, sequels and a desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Norm dared to be his own type of creator. He made his individual art, presented it unflinchingly and signed off on it proudly.
Did everyone get Norm or find him funny? No. But he didn’t need total buy-in to be successful or influential or lasting.
And you don’t either.
MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown often expresses this idea: "I'm okay if we actively alienate 25% of the audience. I'm okay if we don’t appeal to another 50% of the audience. I just want our agency to stand out and be meaningful to that last 25%." Because, like Norm, we’re not for everybody, whether you’re a prospective client or a potential employee. And we’re not willing to change our unique perspective or culture simply because “that’s not how everyone else does it.”
What about you and your brand?
Are you unafraid to be yourself, whether it’s in how you market your company or the type of work environment you encourage?
Are you focused enough for your brand to be strongly associated with one quality as Norm was? If not, the benefit you provide might be watered down or too generic to stand out as memorable. As a result, yours may not be the first name that comes to mind when your audience needs what you sell.
Are you cultivating what’s unique and special in your team members? In your ongoing brand story? In your marketing touchpoints? In your customer relationships?
Are you bringing your singular personality and humanity to your work each day and looking for new opportunities to apply them? Norm did. And because of that, the world will be talking about him for a long time to come.
Written by Jerry Brown, Chief Executive Officer
Some folks have a loose definition of winning.
Here’s how we look at it.
Winning begins with a genuine commitment to a goal and can only be realized with a sincere, focused effort to fulfill that commitment.
That means putting in the hard work, learning from your mistakes, demanding more of yourself and those on your team, even when it’s uncomfortable.
It means caring about what you make so much that the world won’t ever see it until it meets your standard.
Winning is not about finishing first, making the most money or living in the tallest building.
And, as nice as they are, trophies and plaques don’t define winners.
Winning is giving everything you have to the people who depend on you; the people who look to you for leadership and inspiration. Winning is raising the bar, setting the example, day after day after day.
Winners don’t quit - ever - regardless of the nature of the obstacles they face.
Not everyone is a winner, not by any definition.
True winners understand that.
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
On June 12th, 2021, friends of MadAveGroup joined us in our on-site social club for a night of food, drinks and live music. We're hoping to grow the MadAve Music Fest into a larger outdoor event. Until then, enjoy the video below.
Each month, I have the opportunity to provide input on marketing-related questions for the Forbes Agency Council. This blog post features a few of those thoughts. It's the fifth in a series on content creation.
Question: Positive emotions associated with a brand make consumers more likely to trust and purchase from that brand. What is one thing marketers can do to create an emotional connection between a brand and its customers that builds such a positive association in their minds?
Answer: Use your advertising to give freely to potential customers. Deliver valuable, applicable information about your product category and related topics with the intent of building trusting relationships before people even walk through your door. Resist every urge to focus on "you." Instead, use your ad content to make your audience's life - and their buying decisions - easier.
Question: According to research from BrightLocal, “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” If applicable, how does your business “nudge” clients or customers for reviews?
Answer: Most people are flattered when asked to share their opinion. It's a compliment to be told "I value what you think." So, when we know clients are happy with the experience we've delivered, we ask if they'll provide feedback. We encourage our clients to ask for input from their customers as well, and then make it easy for people to share their thoughts via links to Yelp and other review sites.
Question: With so many brands turning to inbound marketing, consumers have become inundated with an overwhelming amount of content. With so much saturation, what's one way for a brand to create differentiation in its content strategy?
Answer: There's only one you and, especially if you're the face or voice of your brand, you are your own differentiator. Don't be afraid to let your true personality and perspective show via your online presence. Your style may not be for everyone, but those it does attract will likely be longer-term consumers of your unique content and, ideally, what you sell.
Question: What are your main "go-to" resources for drawing inspiration for your work (i.e., industry publications, mentors, etc.)?
Answer: I grew up in the 1970s, but always idolized the announcers and copywriters of the ‘40s and ‘50s. I often reference their work with mine: the rhythm, the word choice and what now feels like charming humor. I also love Stan Freberg’s advertising. And when I re-watched the 1970 Crocker Bank “Wedding” spot recently I found it inspiring in its concept and sincerity. So, try looking back to look forward.
As a marketer, you may look for feedback and advice from senior members of your team, the trades, social media groups, or even a personal mentor. But, after reading this post, we encourage you to think back to one of your earliest sources of wisdom - your dad.
In celebration of Father’s Day, we asked a few members of the MadAveGroup staff to share some of the business-related lessons their fathers imparted.
“My dad had lots of advice for me growing up. The thought that sticks with me most is ‘a job worth doing is worth doing well.’ He gave work his all, and he’s the reason I’ll work late to get something completed as it should be. He’s why I push through when I’m faced with challenges.”
April’s dad, Bill Zitzman, is a retired tool and die maker who was with Chrysler for 20 years.
Steve recalls two lessons that have had a big effect on how he approaches life. “When I was a little kid, my dad said, ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ That sentence has made more of an impact on me than any other I’ve heard. It’s stuck in the back of my brain ever since.”
The elder Evert also reminded his son that “’the world doesn’t owe you a living.’ It was his way of saying you’re responsible for your own lot in life and be grateful for anything you receive.”
Steve’s dad - also a Steve Evert - is a semi-retired commercial tire sales rep and entrepreneur.
“If you’re on time, you’re late. Be early or don’t be there at all.”
Gwen says she still carries her dad’s words with her to this day and applies them to her work. “I’m always early for in-person or Zoom client meetings because I constantly hear my dad’s reminder in my head.”
Terry Brassell, Gwen’s dad, is a Regional Sales Manager at Silverback Supply.
“My dad always pushed the value of a great education,” said Cassandra. “When I was in high school, I mentioned my interest in marketing and he became my biggest advocate. My dad set up personal meetings with college professors, went on campus tours with me and even attended my orientation.
“Then, the constant learning opportunities began. My dad would point out weak TV commercials, point-of-purchase signs and billboards and say with a smile, “That’s why a good education is so important. If I ever find out you do bad marketing like that, I’ll call your job myself and tell them to fire you.”
Cassandra’s dad, Paul Kaegi, is an AVP & Sr. Credit Analyst at Premier Bank.
Account Executive Victor Tehensky’s dad, Joe, reminded him to “always be a leader, not a follower.”
“Only look up and forward, not backwards. You’re not going that way.” That’s the advice Jim O’Bryant gave his daughter Susan Harris, our Fulfillment Manager.
And CEO Jerry Brown’s dad urged his son to “always question everything. Don’t blindly follow or implement something if it doesn’t make sense to you.”
How did your dad encourage your business or marketing goals? Did any of his advice change the course of your life? Is it still a foundational idea for you today?
Happy Father’s Day.
In April 2021, the Wall Street Journal reached out to BusinessVoice, our Caller Experience Marketing agency, for insight into On Hold Marketing.
The Journal’s May 20th online article, “How Companies Make Sure You Don’t Hang Up When You’re on Hold,” explained the different options available to companies, from “music, marketing and informational messages, humor, silence and an option to get a call back.”
Writer Dan Weil quoted our founder: “Businesses with successful hold programs ‘look at it as part of their overall marketing plan,’ says Jerry Brown, president of BusinessVoice, a firm that helps companies create those programs. ‘You have to look at it not just as a selling tool, but more importantly as a customer experience tool.’”
Weil noted that, “if customers are calling to make a purchase, there is no harm describing products and prices, industry pros say. But it very much depends on the type of company. For certain services, a softer branding message is more suitable. ‘If I’m calling Apple to buy something, I would expect to hear about products,’ Mr. Brown says. ‘But if I’m calling a nursing home to talk about whether my mom might go there and I get hard-sell marketing messages, that’s not so good.’”
The Funny Angle
The article also referenced BusinessVoice’s unique use of Humor On Hold.
Weil wrote, “[BusinessVoice client] Binkelman, an industrial-parts distributor based in Toledo, Ohio, has taken the comedic route for its on hold customers. Callers to Binkelman are often put on hold, and the company wants to keep them entertained. It’s about finding humor in products that aren’t sexy - bearings, belts, hoses." (Listen to a sample here.)
“Some outsiders might find a few of the jokes off-color, but the company’s customers love them, says marketing manager Rebecca Conrad. ‘We’re in a mostly male industry, where guys like NASCAR and Bud Light,’ Ms. Conrad says. Customers often call just to get put on hold, so they can hear the jokes, she says.
"A recent example: 'Thanks for calling Binkelman, where we’re changing lives with our pioneering approach to male-pattern baldness,” the voice says. “We slice ContiTech Insta-Grip 300 Push-On Hose into thin strips to make fun toupees that look and feel like the mane of a real donkey. Choose from three colors and four scents. Then, just staple your new rug into place and blammo! People will like you again. Ask for the Binkelman wig shop.'”
Learn more about On Hold Marketing and the value of BusinessVoice’s multi-award-winning Humor On Hold.
"I never called him Don," remembered Creative Consultant Bob Seybold. "He was always authentically Bink."
That's how we all knew Don Binkley. He was Bink, one of our original recording engineers.
He was a part of our family for a long time - through two buildings, lots of growth and many advancements in studio technology. More than 17 years total.
"Bink was a perfectionist and he made everyone’s work better," said Creative Consultant Andrea Poteet-Bell.
Bob agreed. "He was conscientious about his work. If there was ever a question about a script he was producing, Bink would reach out in his gentle, self-effacing way to make sure that he was doing it right."
"Bink was so sweet. He had such a tender heart and would do anything for anyone," said Client Relationship Manager Courtney Buczkowski. "And he loved his family so much. He would talk about his kids all the time and just beam with joy."
Over the years, Chief Creative Officer Scott Greggory recorded at least 5,000 On Hold Marketing productions with Bink behind the board. "I always knew Bink cared about what he was doing. I could trust him to do great work, represent us well and provide our clients with the best product possible. He was solid."
EVP Fulfillment Valerie Likens recalled a time she provided a quick voiceover for Bink. "He recorded me laughing in between takes, then emailed that audio clip to me. He labeled it ‘Val’s Reply to Most Requests.' I still have the clip."
A Musical Life
Bink was also a working musician. In fact, aside from his family and friends, he loved nothing more than writing, recording and playing music. He was a talented singer, guitar and bass player who entertained countless people at area clubs, bars, weddings and corporate gigs for decades.
He was perhaps best known as one half of the longtime duo Dan and Don. Dan O'Connor, Bink's musical partner of more than forty years, is a former MadAveGroup employee and still a dear friend of our agency. "Every time we worked together," Dan said, "I just felt better at the end of the night. Music allows you to harmonize and vibrate together, so even if one of us had a bad day, we'd start to sing and the rest of the night would be wonderful."
Dan said that Bink made a point of connecting. "He always wanted to reach out to help others and care for people. From day one, we were brothers, and over the 40 years we were together I saw him as a wonderful gentleman. I was proud to be considered his friend."
"Everyone loved Bink, especially my family," said CEO Jerry Brown. "He spent hour upon hour with my sons discussing, playing and recording music. Whenever you'd see Bink play, you’d think he was playing just for you. He'd flash you this sly smile or eye contact, or he'd play a special riff - those were his ways of showing his appreciation. Bink was a sensitive sweetheart."
"Bink and Dan played often at a bar I worked at 25 years ago," said Nikki Brown, Director of the MadAveCollective. "On Fridays, when I had a few tips, I would run over to the stage, throw a couple bucks in their jar and request 'Southern Cross' by Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was always the highlight of my night. When I began dating Jerry [Brown], I didn’t realize that he, Dan and Bink were pals and co-workers. It was a nice surprise. Jerry and I would go see them play almost weekly and, without fail, Bink would sing my song for me."
He sang for a lot of people.
Bink passed away May 9, 2021 following a fight with throat cancer. He was 66.
He leaves a wonderful legacy: a loving family, more friends than you can imagine and a life spent making music for the joy of others.
What else is there?
Along with many pictures of Bink, the video above features the last song he ever recorded. It's an original piece he called "We Will Meet Again."
"Jack," the work our team created for Binkelman Corporation, begins with an interview with a donkey and continues with several unusual segments.
"Hold It!" is a game show parody brought to life for Lakeland Auto and Marine.
Listen to the winning productions in the videos below.
The Communicator Awards is an international awards program that recognizes big ideas in marketing and communications. The show is overseen and judged by members of the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, an invitation-only organization of leading professionals from various forms of traditional and interactive media.
So, when long-time BusinessVoice client Binkelman Corporation asked us to apply a funny sensibility to their corporate videos, they knew what they were getting into.
We produced four quick videos for the industrial parts supplier, touching on their general capabilities, hose products, recruitment efforts, and the future of their customers’ industries. Take a look below.