Category: Happy client

The Thingnamer Sleeps With Clients?

No. I don’t.

But I’ve been asked if I do with some regularity, and while it’s all in fun (I hope,) I find that when I ask other creatives if they get similar lines of questioning their answer has always been something like, “No. But I gotta ask, dude…  ARE you?”

During the unveiling of a new ID kit for a husband and wife business team just this week I was again asked if I’d gotten a concept by sleeping with a spouse. And it was the wife asking if I was sleeping with her husband.

So, I’ve got that going for me.

Two things seem to consistently precipitate the question. First, we have a stable of improbably big clients that no one can figure out how we land. And second, our work tends to communicate an intimate understanding of our clients – as though we might’ve gotten the idea from pillow-talk.

Regarding our ability to land clients, I’m not sure exactly what Stokefire’s success rate is on pitches now, but I’m guessing it hovers around 80%. A couple years ago we were over 90%. But, as fun as sleeping my way to profits might be, I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot less successful using any organ other than my brain to close deals. Our secret is that we only go after projects and clients that we know (and can prove) we’re ideally suited for. Sure, we might win more business overall if we went after everything put in front of us, but the wasted strategic effort and insight is something that I can’t stomach. We put a huge amount of effort into our proposals, so I don’t like to see them go to waste.

As for sleeping with clients to get better creative concepts? I’ve never tried it. I get results by putting the client under seriously uncomfortable pressure while I’m building their brand. I challenge their stated beliefs and test their commitment to their principles. It’s like Seraph from The Matrix Reloaded said, “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”  Every one of our break-out successes on behalf of clients has come from pushing past what they said they wanted to expose a deeper truth that they couldn’t previously express or were perhaps even trying to hide. We build the brand on that newly exposed, raw, and unchanging truth so that regardless of what challenges lay ahead for our clients, the brand’s foundation will remain strong and stable enough to surpass them.

Great branding work does require intimacy, but only in a pants-on kind of way.

So, no, I did not have sexual relations with that client.

Our PCA Work Named “Best Overall” by Construction Industry

Yep. The Portland Cement Association received top honors in the industry for our strategic and creative work on their Hey Asphalt campaign that included the advertisement above amongst other elements such as billboards, trade ads, and websites. How cool is that?

No, wait. Don’t answer that. Allow me.

Ahem. It’s VERY FREAKING COOL! Fist-bumps all around!

Our own press release will hit in the next day or so, but until then you can chew on CWA’s broad release:

CWA Names Winners of 2011 Marketing Communications and Website & Electronic Communications Awards

Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:30am EDT


The Construction Writers Association (CWA) announces the 2011 winners of
its annual Marketing Communications Awards and Website & Electronic
Communications Awards. The awards will be presented at a grand awards
dinner on October 25 during the 2011 CWA Annual Conference, CONNECTED
2011, in San Antonio.

The annual awards spotlight superior communications efforts by
construction-related individuals, corporations, associations, advertising
agency/PR firms and publications. The Marketing Communications Awards are
evaluated on editorial content, graphic design and effectiveness in
achieving stated goals. 

"The CWA Marketing Communications Award honorees are selected from a
highly competitive pool of submissions from talented professionals across
the country," said Aaron Chusid, chairman of the Marketing Communications
Awards committee.

    The 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards winners are:

--  Portland Cement Association, Best Overall-Other
--  Performance Marketing, Best Print-Ad
--  ARTBA, Best Radio-Ad Campaign
--  WSP Flack & Kurtz, Direct Mail Campaign, Best Corporate
--  Marketing Strategies & Solutions, Best PR-Special Event

The Website & Electronic Communications Awards are evaluated on
content, design, effective technology aspects and meeting stated

"Effective websites and electronic communications continue to increase in
importance for manufacturers, dealers, contractors, associations and
publications in the construction industry," said Patti Flesher,
chairwoman of the Website and Electronic Communications Awards committee.
"The CWA awards provide industry-wide recognition for work that
successfully engages an online audience."

    The 2011 CWA Website & Electronic Communications Awards winner is:

--, Blog Category

The Construction Writers Association (CWA), founded in 1958, is a
non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a
forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications
professionals in all segments of the construction industry to connect
with other professionals and enhance skills through education. Visit our
website at Join us on LinkedIn, Facebook,
and Twitter.

For more information contact:
Deborah Hodges
Construction Writers Association

Copyright 2011, Market Wire, All rights reserved.


Congrats to Bruce, Patti, Brian, Doug, Aris and the rest of the PCA team. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment with some bubbly.

The Value Value Pricing Model: Pay LESS for the Best?

Posted by:
Tate Linden

There are all sorts of books on pricing out there. If you’re a consultant, a designer, a strategist or other consultative service provider – there’s a tome filled with pricing models that factor in cost of goods sold, value to customer, return on investment, profit margins, industry trends, and countless other stuff that’s quite obviously important to consider. But the one thing I haven’t seen?

A pricing model that gives the client an incentive to select the direction advised by the hired expert.

After many years of consulting, I’m beginning to notice that clients are extremely hesitant to take whatever the most promising path forward (as seen by the consultant, and often agreed to by the client) may be. For some reason , selecting the best advice (or if you’re coy and try to bury the strong option in a list, “Option 3”) is something that clients resist.

While hourly consulting agreements can factor in the additional work necessary to create strategic plans and execute less powerful options, they tend to be difficult to position because many clients want fixed costs. So…what if it was baked in up-front? What if we had contracts that said we’ll research an array of options, and if the *advised* option was selected a discount was guaranteed?

I’m uncertain if this is a viable model, but it’s intriguing to me. I’m sure it could be gamed by consultants who just want to sell work they’ve already done for another firm that didn’t choose to use it.  Or it could be that the consultant would just put a crappy option as their first choice (though that’s got some major risks if someone actually chose it.)

Namers? Designers? Strategists?

Would you be willing to give a 10% discount (or some other number) in return for the knowledge that your best work is more likely to see the light of day than a Frankenstein’s Monsterish amalgam of three different ideas that would just take up space in your portfolio?

There are a handful of times where an absolutely stunning concept couldn’t move forward. But if I’d said I’d take less to get that idea implemented *after* having developed and delivered the creative it would’ve sounded desperate.

If you’ve tried it, how did it go?

And any clients – or potential clients – reading the blog… Is this something you’d consider?

How about you aim that thing somewhere else?

Posted by:
Tate Linden

In the branding and advertising industries we’re supposedly hired as partners, experts and advisors. When the cost, time, and quality are dictated by the client to the agency that relationship is killed. We instead become supplicants.

I’ve learned I can’t run an agency without ensuring I’ve got a backbone. Agencies that truly supplicate themselves to the client are doing themselves and the clients a disservice. We cease being partners and become the paintbrush or the pack-mule that delivers exactly what the client wanted to see before they even knew we existed. We allow them to stay within their walls and execute the ideas they already have rather than helping them break out of what they see and think every day. That’s great if they’re experiencing unprecedented success, but typically they’re not when they knock on our doors. I understand and agree that the client ultimately should call the shots, but we’re supposed to help them aim and find alternative weapons to shoot.

Think about that. When a client dictates cost, time, and quality they’re basically aiming their weapon (that you’re supposed to be helping them aim and shoot) at you. They prevent the development of all the stuff that leads to success (like strategy, brainstorming, and iterative processes) by eliminating the time and money that is needed to enable it. In these instances the definition of quality is twisted to mean “what pleases the client” rather than “what will lead to success.” The project, even if it makes the client happy near-term, ends up in trouble because the trusted advisor wasn’t trusted to execute the job using the processes they’re comfortable with and something inevitably gets missed.

Great brands and campaigns come from a relationship of trust that has the agency working behind and with the client rather than in front of and for them. If an agency isn’t trusted to exist behind and within the defenses of an organization, and can’t be trusted to represent the clients best interests while candidly and visibly controlling at least one of the three critical aspects of the project (time, cost, quality) then that agency isn’t worth hiring. And agencies that find themselves in that situation after signing a contract need to think hard about whether the project can lead to success.

How often has your agency worked in front of and for a client? How many times has their focus been on your tactics and processes rather than on the strategies you bring that can get them to their goals? For us we’re finding that the frequency has gone way down. But early on it was almost constant.

How have you (or will you) turn(ed) around these relationships to enable you and your team to produce the work that gets the client where they want to go rather than what the want to see and hear?

Answer that and you’ve got a successful agency.

In response to the article Agency Decisions: Good Morale Or Bad Clients? By Branding Strategy Insider

How’s This For Placement?

I suppose if the pothole was physically consuming the bus shelter it might’ve been more impactful.

Pothole? Meet Advertising.

It’s tied to a few dozen bus shelters and a couple billboards in Minnesota.

Should turn into an interesting conversation…

How Do You Get People To Care What Their Roads Are Made Of?

Quick. The last three roads you drove on – were they made of asphalt or concrete? If you aren’t in the paving or construction industry I’m fairly certain you’ll only be guessing.

My unscientific survey of road knowledge (and when I say “unscientific” I actually mean “SERIOUSLY unscientific”) revealed that quite a few people don’t realize that there’s a difference between the two materials. I heard variously that concrete is what asphalt is made of, that asphalt is what concrete is called when it is used as pavement, and occasionally that they’re two very different road materials. (The last one is true.)

The fact is that the average consumer or driver has little incentive to learn the difference. Paving decisions are made without the input of Joe and Jane citizen. Learning about initial costs, life-cycle costs, rolling resistance, hardness, rutting (but not the animal kind), and the like is just not something that people are inclined to do if they don’t get to put the knowledge to use.

Interesting tidbit: One way to determine if you’re on an asphalt road? See any potholes or worn down ruts where your tires typically roll? Asphalt.

…and suddenly you think you may just care…

And that’s kind of the point.

The truth is that when people find out what the actual differences between concrete and asphalt are they, in fact, DO care. And many care a lot. Enough to talk about it.

You may not realize it, but you probably spend a lot of time talking about pavement. When was the last time you got stuck in traffic due to road work? Tell anyone about it? Chances are good that you were complaining about asphalt without realizing it. (Trust me – the math works on this one. Given concrete’s longevity in combination with the number of asphalt roads in America you’re likely to endure about 47 asphalt-related traffic jams before you find one from concrete.)  And when it comes to traffic jams from construction and the potholes that bring the construction about it is pretty clear that people are ready to vent. We’re not wanting to vent about the people doing their jobs – we’re wanting to vent that the jobs have to be done at all. Shouldn’t pavement hold up to stuff like tires and weather?


Perhaps that’s why there’s been so much buzz about this sign and campaign we developed for PCA (full disclosure – Yep, they’re a client, in case you missed it)  Minnesota Public Radio, and WCCO (a CBS affiliate) have produced their own pieces on it. USA today and World News picked up PCA’s press release.  And the paving and construction industry has been talking about it. Heck – even locals are buzzing.  Why? Because the billboard is placed over a section of I-94 that is currently undergoing its third resurfacing since the 1990s. And because the sections being resurfaced are asphalt.

So, how DO you get people to care what their roads are made of? Ask the Portland Cement Association. Because they’re doing it.


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