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Finding The Strategic Opportunity

Well, here we are, somewhere in the midst of a global Pandemic.

I, for one, didn’t see this coming, and even if you did see this new world on the horizon, it would have been hard to predict the real ramifications for your life, your job, your business. And with regard to this post, your brand.

As a country, we have dealt with many challenges over the last few decades and one of the lessons the past has taught is that challenging times can also afford amazing opportunities. While it is tempting to get caught in the weeds of the daily business-related fire drills caused by the Pandemic, I would challenge you to try to find space in your psyche (and your calendar!) to think about the once in a lifetime opportunity you now have to really make a meaningful connection with your customers.

Now this may sound self-serving coming from a brand strategist, but I truly believe that there has never been a better time to take a step back and evaluate your overall brand strategy.

Just think about all the potential questions about your brand and business that you must have for your customers at this time. Things like:

  • Is what we are saying still relevant today?
  • How are our customers feeling? How is this impacting them?
  • How have their behaviors changed?
  • How are they feeling about you vs. competitors at this time?

I can think of 100 more, and I am sure you can too.

And if you don’t believe brand strategy is critically important right now, like any good strategist, I have done my research on the topic, here is just a sampling of the conversation:

 

“COVID-19 will change all of us. The key is to understand and analyze the human insight behind the changes, and which of them will stick.”

~ Ipsos, The Role of Research and Insights in COVID-19 Times, 4/29/20 

 

In the PwC CFO survey, nearly 71% of business leaders from companies with more than $1 billion in revenue said they view this crisis as an opportunity to emerge stronger — particularly related to product and service innovations.

As businesses and brand builders, we are all (I’m going to say it) going through this together. Sorting through the madness, Zooming until you can’t Zoom anymore and trying to solve the near-term problems that are very likely filling your collective plates. But successful brand strategy is about really challenging yourselves to take a step back and not only think big picture but be open to doing things differently, if you need to.

The world around us, the world around your customers has and will continue to evolve and the importance of staying connected, of considering where you are strategically has quite literally never been as important.

But don’t panic. With the right strategic thinking and the right partners, your business’ next winning streak could be right around the corner.

In the meantime, here are three things we would suggest you do now to get ahead of this opportunity. These are steps we take all the time when we are creating, or in this case, re-optimizing, the brand foundations of our clients:

Keep it authentic:

Talk to the internal people at your company, not just the senior leaders but a mix of new members of the company as well as the more seasoned employees from a mix of disciplines. Ensure that as the pandemic has taken hold, that they still feel the same about the brand foundations. If they don’t, it’s time to consider two things: Do you need to shift your tone or strategy, or do you need to ensure that they understand how your brand really works in this new version of our world? We have worked with clients to develop solutions to address each of these needs but what is most important to keep in mind is that if the people that make your company run don’t believe in your foundations, it will never feel authentic to your customers.

Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions:

It has never been more important to talk to and listen your customers. At Full Contact we have clients that are doing better than they have ever done before and we have others that are still navigating their way through these tough waters. BOTH of these kinds of companies need to ask their customers or their customer-facing employees the tough questions about why and how their behaviors have shifted during this time. Monitoring and tracking customer input will help you pivot quickly, make those that are loyal to you feel heard and appreciated, and most importantly help you pave your path forward.

Closely monitor the competitive landscape:

Believe me, I know it is hard enough to stay on top of the day-to-day list of to-do’s right now, but keeping a close look at the competitive landscape is critical. Many of the brands you have watched in the past may be completely changing their story. They could be trying to ride on your business’ successes and claim to offer the same as you; they could be talking about a new innovation or option that you could consider for your own brand, or they quite simply could have dropped out of the conversation all together – giving you the opportunity to steal share.

Above are just three of the many things we think are important when thinking about the best way to strategically navigate through these world-changing, business-changing and life-changing events.

Hang in there.

“Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak.”

~ Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers)

 

Bringing the Sizzle to D’Angelo Social

Nothing satisfies social media scrollers like some hearty, meaty, hot-off-the-grill goodness.

When you’ve got the biggest, meatiest, tastiest sandwiches around, sometimes the best thing to do is let that delicious grilled goodness speak for itself. And by speak, we mean shout from the mountaintops.

With a robust social media presence, we’re building appetite appeal and brand affinity by showcasing meaty, mouthwatering sandwiches in all their grill-tastic glory.

     

Still We Grill

Through some weird and challenging times, we reminded folks looking for the comfort food they know and love that we always keep the flame lit for them.

EveryDAy Heroes

We launched the EveryDAy Heroes initiative to to help feed & fuel essential workers at medical facilities all across New England. By encouraging D’Angelo fans to nominate their local healthcare heroes, we provided over 1500 meals at 50 hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Results

13% Increase In Instagram Followers

17% Increase In Instagram Engagements

7.4% Average Instagram Engagement Rate

*The industry average engagement rate is 3–6%

Pitching through a pandemic.

This past February our agency, Full Contact, decided to pitch the Massachusetts State Lottery. A few short weeks later, the world changed. We were hell-bent to make the most of the pitch process anyway.

On Thursday, March 12th we organized a small in-house video shoot at our agency to help bring our pitch ideas to life. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the second to last day anyone would be willing to venture out in the downtown Boston area for three months. It was great that we finished the shoot, but that Monday our doors were closed. The pandemic had arrived here, and we didn’t know how, or if, we could finish all the work we just shot.

On Tuesday, I got a phone call from Full Contact’s founding partner Marty Donohue who asked, “do you think we can finish this from home?”. What he was really asking was, do you think we can finish this pitch remotely and still have it be great? At that point, we had strategy, media, and creative in various forms. We just had to figure out how to bring them all together without physically being together.

We had to remain open to figuring it all out – despite our closed doors and despite the fear and chaos of a global pandemic. It was going to be a huge change, and we had to be proactive about adapting to it. But also, we didn’t have a choice. We had already invested so much in the client and the ideas – there was no going back. And now, the clock was running out.

If there was any reassurance during those final weeks leading up to the pitch, it came from having been in this situation before. Sort of. It was never anything like navigating a pandemic, but over the years we’ve always challenged ourselves to figure it out. Take what we have and find a way to make it great. When you’re limited, it’s an incredibly uncomfortable thing to put yourself through – until you do it so much that you become good at it. Then, eventually, it becomes an asset.

Getting through that pitch was uncomfortable, and at times, overwhelming. Several of us on that pitch team have kids, but I’m not sure any of us were more overwhelmed or uncomfortable than our Senior Art Director, Ellie Fusco. Imagine being in the middle of a pregnancy, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a pitch. Or as comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes about having a fourth child; “Imagine you’re drowning… and then someone hands you a baby.”

The idea of finishing the pitch remotely was daunting enough. But there was Ellie, working through the weekends, working until 2 and 3am, night after night. She was drowning in pitch work. Now add to that the existential layer of bringing a child into this new world of dangerous uncertainty. That’s no joke. That’s beyond remaining open. Or figuring it out. That’s straight-up relentless. Witnessing her do that was an inspiring reminder of what we’re all capable of.

So, as everything around us came to a grinding halt, we worked tirelessly. By the end of March, Marty had delivered the physical copies of our final presentation and the pitch meeting was held shortly thereafter as a Zoom call – a first for everyone. The presentation went better than rehearsed and when it was done, virtual drinks.

We felt confident about the work, but we felt even better about how we found a way to get it done and make it great. That’s how it goes – the more effort you put in with the time and resources you have, the better you feel about it. That’s a big part of what it means to go Full Contact. And when you do it, like Ellie did, you have no regrets because you feel it in your gut; you made the full effort.

Or is that the baby kicking?

Either way, we’re really excited to work with our newest client and we can’t wait to meet the newest member of the Full Contact family.

Only the Essentials.

For a lot of agencies and production companies, the dynamics of social distancing have created considerable challenges and even barriers to making new work. The entire process has needed rethinking – from the creative concept all the way through post-production.

We’ve been able to create new work for our clients safely by getting back to basics. Here’s how we did it.

Our New England Honda client is directly connected to the global supply chain of auto manufacturing, which means that if there’s a disruption, they feel the impact almost immediately. We spent much of March doing what many agencies did – we prepared a lot of response ideas and communications plans. Then, as a phased reopening began across New England, it was important to announce that the Honda dealerships were now open and ready to safely get back to business.

The assignment was to create a broadcast and digital message that simply conveyed, we’re open. But the real challenge was, how do we do this with everything that’s going on right now? Our creative approach had to make sure we were limiting all personal contact. That meant single talent, open location, minimal crew, and safety first.

In other words, only the essentials.

   

Video, audio, lighting, makeup, talent, and a director. OK and maybe a producer. That’s seven people total. The simplest possible approach for the simplest possible message. No creatives on set, no client, no account team. After the shoot, we edited, color corrected, and mixed remotely. The entire process was extremely efficient and came out great.

So why not do this every time? Of course, clients can’t un-see this level efficiency and productivity once it happens – and they shouldn’t. But what they also see is the value of every function that goes into a production. It clearly reveals what they get and what they don’t get. It might be talent, a specific location, wardrobe styling, editing, music or any number of ingredients that add up to the most important thing; a message that makes an emotional connection. At the end of the day, if we’re conveying the right message, and if that message hits home with our audience, it will have been a good investment.

Whether the budget is big or small, finding and recognizing the value is important for all of us. After all, no one will ever want to pay for something they don’t want. At Full Contact, we practice scaling down as effectively as we scale up. It makes us more useful to our clients, more marketable in our ever-changing industry, and in the end, more essential.

Here it is – a fresh, feel-good celebration of openness that couldn’t be simpler.

 

Time to put away the brand sanitizer

Yes it was the right thing to do, for brands and agencies alike.

Take a pause, focus on the big picture, help out any way we could. Soothe, not sell. Provide comfort, not copy points.

It really did feel like we were all in this together, which has been awesome and effective and no doubt helped flatten the curve and save lives.

Now comes the grand re-opening of America. It will be eventual and methodical, but it’s already starting, and it’s going to be a remarkable thing to experience.

And we, as brands and agencies alike, have a tremendous opportunity to help everyone get back to whatever normal is sooner than later. How? By getting back to the business of setting brands apart.

For almost three months in the marketing world, we were not just all in this together, but many were using the exact same script…and imagery…and piano score.

And while there were some outstanding exceptions (Apple, Nike, Old Navy, Burger King and CVS to name a few), there was a lot of pivot parity too.

It’s okay. There were way more important things going on at the time. It’s been phenomenal to watch brands and agencies step up and DO things that really matter to people. It’s been even more phenomenal and gratifying to be a part of that, as anyone at our agency can attest.

But now what really matters to people is getting their lives back.

We can be on the forefront of helping them do exactly that. And if we do, we unleash the most effective stimulus package of all: the awesome power of the American consumer.

If there was a Pent-Up Consumer Demand index, it would be off the charts right now:

  • According to a recent IPSOS study, 58% of consumers miss going out to bars and restaurants.
  • This week The Wall Street Journal reported a sudden revival in consumer interest of buying and owning their own car. Also “Buy A Car” google searches are higher now than they were pre-pandemic.
  • Redfin reported that homebuyer demand, after plummeting by one-third in April, is now also above pre-pandemic levels.

The states are reopening, and literally hundreds of millions of consumers have been waiting at the front door­ – waiting to get back to their favorite restaurant, to the beaches, to play, to work, to shop inside a store and to spend their money again.

And yes, of course the caveat here is to do it all in a safe and manageable way where we respect each other’s need to remain healthy.

But when consumers do suddenly have the freedom to get out there and spend in droves, employers will have the ability to hire in droves. Spending rockets up, unemployment levels plummet, and once again there is a supply for all the demand that will be out there.

So, how can brands and agencies play a role in creating this self-induced consumer stimulus? By leading the way with optimism and fresh new insights that connect consumers back to their best selves, or perhaps a slightly new and different version of their best selves.

By creating work that breaks through rather than blends in. Consumers are done with the blending in, where so many messages sound exactly the same and say little to nothing.

Time to say something better, say it differently, make people laugh again, make people desire again and happily reconnect them to their individual hopes and dreams.

These past few months have been quite the palate cleanser across the marketing world, a sea of sameness the likes of which we have never experienced before. Now we have a golden opportunity. The slate is clean and the page is blank. People are looking for something new and fresh and different to enrich their lives, to make them happy again.

It is the right thing to do, for brands and agencies alike.

 

 

 

Boston Private Resonates With Relevance

As Boston Private guides its clients through the changing financial landscape, the WHY of Wealth campaign rings especially true. In this latest extension, they show their clients once again that they continue to look deeper and understand what’s truly important in their lives, especially now. These simple, powerful messages translated to digital video, display, in-branch, and out of home.

   

   

Illustration work of FC’s own Adam Proia

As resident Creative Services Manager, Adam provides a window to his work as an illustrator.

“It’s meant to make people laugh and keep looking.”

When Adam Proia puts pen to paper, it’s usually inspired by something that actually happened. He points out, “I like to pull from everyday life situations and I usually mix in some monsters and magic. Also, I think beer guts are funny.” But it’s the creepy-funny playfulness in his work that grabs us. His college design professor described it as fantasmagorical, and while totally absurd, it somehow manages to be strangely relatable. Adam finds those real, awkward details in our lives and amplifies them through his vibrant, fantastic characters.

 

 

Adam is the Creative Services Manager at Full Contact

You can find more of his work at https://adamproia.myportfolio.com

New England Honda goes festive

In our latest work for New England Honda, the Around here, we Honda campaign takes on the holidays.

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