Today Melamed Riley is fielding a ragtag team of linksters in the 2011 AAF of Cleveland Golf Outing. After sitting out the last couple of years due to a lack of in-house golfers, we decided to not let that stop us this year. We’ve been working hard. Figured we deserved to play hard. Besides, it’s a Scramble. With four whacks at every shot, someone is bound to hit a decent (or even miraculous) shot, right?
Well, at least I thought it was going to be a Scramble when we signed up. Yesterday I was informed that we were actually going to play a Best Ball format. @#*! That changes everything! Each player has to play his or her own ball all the way from tee to the cup, and then just the lowest score on the hole of the foursome is recorded.
This made me think two things. One, our score is going to be horrible. And, two, we are way more used to making a Scramble work. It’s much more akin to how we work in the agency biz. We don’t handle every “shot” or facet of the job ourselves. We are each responsible for pieces and parts. An account guy might tee up a project, but he isn’t responsible for getting it in the hole by himself.
Also like a Scramble, in our agency, a good shot (or idea) can come from anybody. Additionally, there’s that feeling that the whole game is NOT riding on your shoulders alone – that there are other talented people on your team that have your back. Yes, here at Melamed Riley, we excel at the Scramble.
Can you tell I like golf? I do. So much so, I like using it to view other parts of my world off the course. (For instance, where I park my car is only about a 9 iron from my office.) But this whole Scramble mode of working just dawned on me. It fits. It’s what we do. And it works! Unlike this Best Ball baloney we’re about to embark on. Pray for rain.
Melamed Riley recently worked in conjunction with one of our clients to conduct a survey on relationships between customers and sales representatives. The results, while not surprising, explain that the IDEAL sales representative is one who:
1. Communicates with them on a regular basis.
2. Shows integrity defined as honest and trustworthy.
3. Provides knowledge through training and support.
These three categories alone accounted for nearly 98% of all responses. While this may not be all that surprising, when the survey was conducted with sales representatives, pricing and product quality began to increase significantly. That is, the sales representatives thought that the pricing and quality of the products played a much more important role in their relationships with their customers than it actually does.
All of this got me thinking about the account service role in an advertising agency. Looking at how the role of account service is described by various sources online, I found the following phrases repeated time and again.
“The conduit between the client and the creative department.”
“First line of contact with the client.”
“Sufficiently aware of the client’s needs and desires.”
“Handling budgets and managing costs.”
“Keeping the work flowing into and out of the agency.”
“Understanding client’s core business.”
While the word “relationship” did surface in many descriptions, it was usually preceded by the word “working,” as in “establishing good working relationships with clients.” Sure, these are all important aspects of an account service position, but they really are just the table stakes, the price of entry. Most of these fit into response #1 above, communication. We are in the communications business. Of course we should communicate with our clients on a regular basis. We wouldn’t have clients for long if we didn’t.
But what about the #2 and #3 responses? Don’t these same words that describe the IDEAL sales representative also describe the REAL role of account service? Of course they do. I’m not saying we don’t have to do the stuff listed above in quotes, but providing clients with knowledge, strategic thinking and solid recommendations – and doing so with honesty and integrity – are paramount in ensuring the agency and client relationship remains strong. These are what differentiate us. These are the things that elevate us from vendors to trusted partners in the eyes of our clients.
Heck, the more I think about it, these are also the traits that make any of our relationships strong. Just think about how these things can help everyday in all of our business or personal relationships.
Like so many other creatives, I enjoy looking through vintage advertising and packaging design for inspiration, and often, for a few laughs. With the lovingly crafted illustrations, the ridiculous product claims (“They’re happy because they eat LARD!”), and the tons and tons of hopelessly old-timey body copy – what’s not to love?
Well, perhaps there’s one thing. The children. The creepy, ruddy-faced, overenthusiastic children. I wasn’t around when these ads hit the rags, so I can only guess that young people, over time, have evolved into slightly less creepy beings. Otherwise, how can you explain the surplus of menacing youngsters in the advertisements of yesteryear?
Like this adorable little psycho, for example. Look closely at the direction of her gaze. I’m pretty sure it’s not the freshness of the bread that’s got her so excited. She’s looking directly at the knife. Sleep with one eye open, mom.
And speaking of sharp things …
Oh look! This infant has a razor. Can’t see what could possibly go wrong here. It’s a safety razor! Shave yourself, baby. Just mind the jugular.
Also filed under “bathroom accidents” …
You know what makes me want to buy soap? Toddlers in agony. For that good, clean feeling, no matter what tragedy is happening in your washroom.
THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU, THE POWER OF CHR- oh, you’re just listening to your tiny records, Cindy Lou? Sorry. You were making that “possessed by a demon” face again.
They call him Ginger. Then they beat him mercilessly while all the other children look on and laugh.
Bill and his friends from the Second Sole Running Group taken just before the event.
Our own Bill Roddy just finished a trail running event called the Buckeye Trail 50K this past Saturday. From what I gather it was a grueling 31-mile run on an out-and-back course from Brecksville to Peninsula consisting primarily of single track trail. The course composition includes rocks, downed trees, roots and stream crossings. Oh, and did I forget to mention up and down some major hills? The course includes approximately 2,500 feet of elevation gain and elevation loss. Sounds fun, eh? Actually, it does sound like fun to me! I hate running, but love mountain biking. Seems that trail running is exactly like mountain biking but without the bike. Hard pushes uphill and “relaxed” down. I’m intrigued. So I ask, Bill, what is this all about? Bill graciously decided to answer some Qs of mine (with very short notice) to help us all understand what it takes to be an off-road trail hound.
1. So what is this all about?
Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend toward running ultramarathons. What’s an ultramarathon? Well, it’s any distance beyond a full marathon (26.2 miles). So ultramarathons can be 50K, 50 miles, 100K, 100 miles or longer. Anyway, this trend has made entering these events quite difficult. Because the courses are typically single track, the number of runners must be limited. The Buckeye Trail 50K is no exception – this race sold out all of its 175 entries within a couple days. The race has been run now for 18 years and is considered to be a challenging one, not only because of the tough course, but because of the time of year it’s run. Since it’s run in mid-July, the temperatures can be extremely hot and humid making fueling and hydration extremely important.
2. What is needed to compete in one of these events?
What you absolutely will need is a pair of trail running shoes, shorts, shirt and socks. But when you’re running longer distances and for extended periods of time, you’ll also want to have some additional nutrition such as gels and electrolyte tablets to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated, cramped or running out of gas. Because the distances between aid stations tends to be longer during trail runs, it is advisable to carry a water bottle or two. Another highly important requirement of this particular event is that each participant perform at least three hours of volunteer service by either working on the trails or helping out at an aid station for another race event. It’s a great way to give back to the sport that has given us so much!
3. What turned you on to trail running?
I’ve been running trails a little bit for the last 3-4 years. However, due to the distance to the nicer trails, I don’t get to hit them as often as I would like. While most of my miles are done on roads, there’s something different about trails – being out in the woods and seeing nature at its finest. It’s actually quite a relaxing and tranquil experience. This year, a number of friends from the Second Sole Running Group committed to sign up for the Buckeye Trail 50K. There were eight of us who ran, four of us for the first time at this distance. Every one of us finished and earned finisher’s medals and shirts.
4. How did you train for the BT50K event and how did you do?
Because I had spent a lot of winter and spring training for the Toledo and Cleveland marathons, I was already in pretty decent shape for running longer distances. What I wasn’t in shape for was the difficulties that I’d experience running trails. So starting in early June, myself and others from the group hit the trails once a week to start getting used to running trails as well as familiarize ourselves with the race course. The trail runs in training ranged from nine and 24 miles during the eight weeks leading up to the race.
I usually go into races with multiple goals. For this race, my goals were to #1 finish, #2 finish in less than seven hours, #3 if everything goes perfectly, finish in six hours. My finishing time was six hours, 57 minutes, 10 seconds. I met two of my goals. I’m very happy with the result but know that I have plenty of room for improvement.
5. Would you do it again and if so, when is the next one?
There are a number of these types of trail races in the area, so it’s possible that I would do another 50K and even the Buckeye Trail 50K again. If any of our readers are interested in learning more about trail running and the excellent races we have right here in Northeast Ohio, they should check out the Western Reserve Trail Running or the One World Trail Running websites.
And for those who are interested, in less than two weeks, the 2011 USATF 100 Mile Trail National Championship will be run at the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run on July 30-31. Readers can learn more or check into volunteer opportunities at www.burningriver100.org.
Customer service has entered a new realm of immediacy with the continued growth of social media. Consumers are online talking about and sharing their experiences with friends. They could be praising or venting about a brand online whether or not a company chooses to acknowledge or address it. An analogy I like to keep in mind about the social media consumer discussion is that proverbial tree falling in the woods. You may not hear it, but it doesn’t mean that it didn’t fall. With the ability to instantly share anything with a click of a button or a touch of a screen, the customer experience has never been more important.
I would like to share a recent experience I personally had with the power of customer service via Twitter. About four weeks ago, I purchased six pairs of shoes from DSW.com for my bridesmaids to wear in my upcoming wedding. I was so excited to have finally found the perfect shoe after searching for months. When they finally arrived, I was ecstatic and loved them even more in person. Soon, all of that excitement evaporated when I had my bridesmaids try on their shoes and discovered that a few pairs seemed to be stretched out and falling off the girls’ feet. Talk about a deflating moment! If you have ever planned a wedding, you know that little problems such as this are the last thing you need. My first instinct was to call the local DSW stores here in Cleveland. They were very sympathetic, but the only help they could offer was to have me call the DSW customer service center since my shoes were only available online. So I followed their recommendation and called the DSW customer service line. I was deflated yet again when I found out their customer service call centers closed at 7:00 p.m., and it was now 7:45 p.m. So in desperation, I decided to reach out to @DSWShoeLovers through Twitter, which started the following interaction:
You can see the frustration in my tweet. I know there are worse things happening in the world than my bridesmaid shoes not fitting, but in that moment it was a nuclear disaster in my life. @DSWShoeLovers responded in less than five minutes. I quickly emailed the address they provided and began corresponding with two lovely ladies named Mandi and Kerstin that same night. They quickly took control of the situation and told me they would work with their warehouse department first thing in the morning to resolve the issue. Even though they could not fix the problem that instant, it was good to know that someone had acknowledged my issue and was going to handle it. I followed up with a tweet of relief and thanks:
They promptly emailed me at 9:05 a.m. the next morning to give me an update on my problem. Over the next week, I continued to correspond with Mandi and Kerstin, who stayed in constant contact and kept me updated as they worked to resolve my issue. They truly went above and beyond and made me feel like my problem was a priority. Never once did I need to contact the call center to speak to someone. In summary, they have resolved my problem completely. They have sent replacement shoes to a local DSW store here in Cleveland, so I do not have to re-order or re-ship anything. I even received this lovely surprise in the mail about a week ago.
Let me tell you I am now a true DSW Shoe Lover – I even plan on buying a pair of fabulous DSW shoes I have been eying for my big day with my DSW gift card.
Customer service via social media is building or breaking brands daily on Twitter. Consumers are using Twitter as an outlet for brand praise or brand bashing. Brands that choose to embrace this medium and coordinate their customer outreach appropriately are thriving and becoming industry examples. Of course, there are also companies out there that are becoming “what not to do” examples.
Here a few articles with examples of the good, the bad and the ugly of customer service on Twitter:
A man dressed in a gorilla suit standing curbside promoting a wireless store was attacked last week in Strongsville for no other apparent reason than simply wearing a costume. His attacker was a person sporting a banana costume, clearly pre-meditated hijinks – possibly even orchestrated by the wireless company themselves. I would never condone violence, but I have to admit the irony is comical in a knock-knock sort of way. Let’s set aside the gimmicky aspect of this kind of advertising and concentrate on why people love to harass mascots! Whether you’re a mascot for a sports team or the Liberty Tax folk, there’s a chance you’ll get hit on, literally.
What provokes people to be furry haters? Perhaps, it’s that their lack of peripheral vision makes them an easy target. Or, since it’s a padded costume, one could assume a blow to the kisser would be painless. Maybe it’s sheer curiosity of who’s behind the mask. Could it be their perma-grin, paired with a proud, almost cocky demeanor. Or maybe it’s knowing a costume slows one down, so retaliation is unlikely.
Regardless of the reason, let me tell you it’s no fun being on the receiving end. I once volunteered to be the mascot for my high school during a football game. It was my first and last time. Let’s forget for a second that the costume was made for someone 6’0” and I was maybe 4’11” at the time. Try to imagine a wolverine-slash-Shar Pei mix. The costume was not only musty, but hard to maneuver. If something wasn’t directly in front of my eye holes, I was a sitting duck. Even with my cheerleader bodyguard, undomesticated middle schoolers continuously tried to pull off my head.
Sadly, this may be one profession where getting harassed is part of the job description. Considering there is a “mascot” in front of just about every store, it doesn’t look like these types of sales shticks are going away anytime soon. I guess the only thing left to do is dust yourself off and get back up.
Do any of these corporate mascots make you want to go bananas?
In this 1940 archival photo, Melamed Riley employees gather for a spirited game of table tennis. In those days, the team played on a makeshift surface, as most proper table components were sacrificed for the war effort.
As Nicolewrote about earlier, we play a competitive brand of table tennis here at Melamed Riley. Don’t worry, clients, we’re not engaged in hours-long, multi-match epics when we should otherwise be making magic on your behalf. No, we squeeze games in during lunch and during our late-Friday TGI4 celebrations. Here’s the thing: What some may see as well-mannered frivolity, I actually see as a time to recharge my creative battery and keep my wits sharp. But it’s not just a keener state of hand-eye coordination I’m after. I’ve discovered that the more I hone my table tennis game, the more it’s shown me about my chosen craft – design. With that in mind, here are five illustrations of my point:
1. Experiment: Experimentation plays a large role in my table tennis game. Mostly out of necessity. I’m by no means skilled in the “folks you see playing on ESPN” sense, but trial-and-error and trial-by-fire has forced me to make the most of what’s at my disposal. Plus, with one or two people always on the other side of the net, I’m taking shots from all angles, which has taught me to seek new ways of doing things. New returns. New serves. New strategies. If, as a designer, I’m not doing the same thing, I’ve failed myself as a creative person. Trying new things and taking your work in exciting – and sometimes uncomfortable – new directions is a mandatory facet of a life in design. Sometimes it takes a screaming backhand down the line to reinforce that message.
2. Take risks: If you sit back and play conservatively, sure, you score points, but you rarely win. And to know me is to know that I’m not conservative. Why tap it over the net and give your opponent a chance to fire back a return when you can hit it as hard as you can, aiming right for the back corner of the table? When I’m working out options for a design, if I’m not bringing at least a few looks to the table that surprise and maybe even shock me, I feel let down. There’s enough boring design already out there in the world. Why fuel that fire? Why not work hard – within the system, even – to push boundaries? The most interesting stuff happens on the edges, anyway.
3. Avoid hubris: Sometimes, there’s a shot before you that looks so easy. It’s just hanging there, high in the air, waiting to be sent back down with authority. You rear back and try to hit it as hard as you can. And you miss. This happens probably two or three times during any given match. Stephanie and I have taken to calling these missed opportunities “hubris shots,” because, by definition, you’ve begun to think so highly about yourself that there’s just no way that YOU would ever miss so easy a shot. But you do, because you’ve let your head get too big, something that can definitely happen in the creative realm if you let it. The worst thing that can happen is resting on your laurels when something good happens. If you did something good, savor it and move on. If you don’t, you just end up missing easy shots.
4. Practice makes perfect: The more you play, the better you get. The more you design, the sharper your skills are. Pretty simple. The key thing with both is the need to stick to it and keep working even if you personally feel you’re not performing at the level you’re seeking. As motion graphics designer Nick Campbellhas said about design and frustration, “Just the fact that you know it doesn’t look as good as it could is really what makes a good designer. Don’t fret if your work isn’t up to your standards. That’s a good thing. That means you’re always struggling and trying to be better.” I draw this lesson about table tennis as much as I do design. But, like Campbell says, the important part is to keep working at it. My game has improved exponentially since I began playing here last year. So, too, have my design chops – when I remember that the more I do it, the more I learn and the better I get.
5. Teamwork: Sure, spirited singles matches are fun, with folks flying all around the table wearing each other out. But, at Melamed Riley, we prefer doubles matches. In fact, when I’m by myself in a singles match and not at the side of Nicole – my doubles partner – it’s a weird feeling. The table tennis version of twins being apart from each other. I prefer to design as part of a team, too. Which is why I feel so fortunate to work here, because when we tackle big projects for our clients, we work together like no place I’ve been. Playing doubles table tennis quickly teaches you to know so much about your partner: Their strengths. Their weaknesses. How best to function together under pressure-packed circumstances. Same goes for the approach we take to projects – everyone working hard at what they do best to get the job done.
To the untrained eye, our table tennis matches may look like nothing more than a bunch of well-meaning-but-poorly-skilled ad agency types blowing off steam while blowing off work. But that’s why the untrained eye is untrained, isn’t it? To me, each game offers the chance to get better, learn new things and work as part of a team. Tools of the trade aside, the benefits of a competitive game appear eerily similar to the benefits of tackling a big design project: Getting better. Learning. Teamwork. Who knew there was so much to learn from hitting a tiny, white ball around?
With everything from plentiful sunshine and a cool lake breeze to the crackle of the grill and sparkling explosions that light up the night sky, it couldn’t have been a nicer weekend to enjoy the July 4th holiday here in Northeast Ohio. As we took the time to celebrate the freedom and independence of our great country, it was also the perfect opportunity to enjoy some favorite summer pastimes. Sure, everyone has their own traditions. But there’s something about this American holiday that captures the essence of summertime fun.
While we were enjoying friends, family and fireworks, iconic brands were hard at work reminding us that no summer celebration is complete without their products. From what’s on the grill to what’s in the cooler – even what’s up in the air, brands play a huge part in our summer fun. And what a better time to remind us what a big part these brands play in our annual summertime activities than Independence Day. As I went about enjoying the long weekend with family and friends, I encountered several iconic brands that give you the feeling that summer is in the air.
Pepsi’s summertime spot suggests that Santa takes a holiday from his workshop – and Coca Cola – during the summer.
Checking Facebook to see what your friends are doing for the holiday? They could be posting photos of their cookout thanks to a promotion from another summer staple: Ball Park hot dogs.
While not an American brand, Corona’s long-running campaign is synonymous with a summer day at the beach.
Brands can even be found hovering above our summertime sporting events. Anyone at yesterday’s Indians versus Yankees game would’ve been treated to a visit from the Goodyear blimp.
Target gives us a glimpse of all that’s fun about summer in this latest spot.
What brands made an appearance at your summer celebrations?