My guest today is not afraid to push boundaries or take risks and is most definitely not boring.
In this episode, Dan Kelsall, founder of Offended Marketing, talks about not playing it safe, thinking laterally, and learning from your mistakes.
He also deconstructs three of his most successful campaigns and explains why spending quality time with your client should be a crucial part of your business.
It's the antidote to marketing bullshit.
Louis: Bonjour and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com the no fluff actionable marketing podcast for, marketers, marketing consultants, founders who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I'm your host Louis Grenier. In today's episode you'll learn how to offend people and create fucking good content. My guest today believes most people are crippled by a fear of being truly honest. And that in marketing that leads to boring content that no one really cares and no one really notice. My guest is the founder of Offended Marketing, which is a content marketing agency, doing things a bit differently as you might have guessed. So that's why I'm happy to have you Dan Kelsall on board. Welcome.
Dan: Hello mate. It's very good to meet you over the internet
Louis: Over the Digi-web as we say.
Dan: It sounds a bit weird that but...
Louis: So why do you believe people are crippled by the fear of being honest? Why do you think it's the case?
Dan: Because people, naturally as well, people care too much about what other people think. And in doing that, they lose sight of who is that they're trying to actually reach and talk to and they end up trying to please everybody and you can't please everybody in life or in market. So it's a lot of bollocks isn't it really.
Louis: How did you like realize that yourself? Because I think there's a bit of a personal story in your own life, right? So were you always someone who went against the grain and didn't fear what other people thought or is it something that you learned in your career?
Dan: I've learnt and I've got better at it but I don't really, you can get better at being... And all that. But I think when you're younger everybody gives a shit what people think and everyone gives a shit about how they come across and that then translates into the business world as well. Because everyone cares about what Mr. Director thinks because he wants to be able to progress and make a career out there. They don't want to upset a lady manager because it'll hamper their own progress and stuff. So it's only natural. I think my dad's very anti-establishment, a bit anti-authority.
So I think that having him in my life since I was sperm in his balls, has probably rubbed off on me a lot. Well the thing is people think, I don't give a shit about what anybody thinks, I do actually, I do give a hell of a shit about what the people around me think, the people close to, what they think, what my team think and also what my customers think as well. So I do care what some people think. Other people, I'm not going to sell to the people that are never going to spend money with me. I literally could not give a shit what your opinion is. But yeah, it's a progression. It's learning that some people might and other people don't.
Louis: And so yeah, your dad's big influence on you on my side is the same actually. It's quite funny. My dad is also very anti-establishment and never afraid to share his point of view and I've learned that from him as well. So I guess that has a big influence. Going back to content marketing a bit and mistakes companies make, right? What would you say, besides not being yourself, not being really honest with yourself, what do you think is the biggest mistake companies make with their content? What do you see as a biggest symptom of that?
Dan: Probably a lot of it is just being too safe. So that's one of the things, just producing content everyone else produces is never going to get good results. And that's just fucking common sense. I don't know why people bother doing it. If you're just going to keep putting out... "10 ways to get better with your accountancy", no one's going to read that because it's shit. And also it's been done a million and one times before so, being too safe and not thinking laterally, thinking a little bit outside the box and trying to think of things that haven't been done before because that's where the goal is. And also just producing content for the sake of producing content. I'm sick and tired of these people like Gary V that have fucking massive content teams behind them trying to get your average Joe to produce, I can't remember what you said recently, It's like fucking something ridiculous, like a thousand content pieces of various and stupid, but it's maybe not that much but it's just ridiculous. Your average Joe cannot produce that much content. And I'd say even most people aren't capable of producing two pieces of good content a week. So just fucking produce one that has impact rather than 10 that is just fucking pointless. The amount of pointless shit I see on LinkedIn, people just over post and companies just over post just because they think that is how content marketing works. Whereas content market works, on impact, it works on... You might as well have one piece of content that is standout compared to a hundred pieces of content that is a pile of shite. So that's, where people are falling down.
Louis: How do you notice when a piece of content is like the person behind it has played too safe? How do you notice when it's too safe, too boring?
Dan: No, it's too safe because nobody fucking reads it. You can tell it's too safe if it's fucking got one like after a month. And also I cannot get my head around companies that like do that and they produce one piece of content, that'll get a like off their mum, but then they'll keep doing the same thing. The first piece of content that you produced, that only got one like off your mum, that should tell you a lot about how shit that content is, so stop doing it or do something else, like learn from it, for fuck's sake.
Louis: There may be like the counter argument is you need to ship stuff to see how people react to it, right? And maybe the first piece is bad, but as you said, you need to learn from it and ship again. But I'll tell you what though, there's something I've noticed by producing content is you cannot realistically, unless you're a genius or unless you're working with people that are very good at what they do. It's very difficult to get and produce one piece of content or two pieces of content and already have a massive impact with them. You need to learn on the go, right? So how do you balance those two points?
Dan: A hundred percent. Well, but the thing is though, that learning doesn't mean that you have to produce a hundred pieces of content a week. You don't learn anything by that because you're not taking the time. Because the thing is, the important thing isn't producing the content. The important thing more often than not is the ideas and the brainstorming behind it. Yes, you should be producing content as quickly as possible or learning from it, but then it's not just about producing it. You've then got to learn from it... you with me. So their's a whole process in there, there's the idea stage and all the brainstorming that comes before it and that's got to be good. And then you've got to pick the best ideas from that. And then you push that out to your audience and then you see how that does and then you analyze what does well, whatever does well you do more of that.
Whatever doesn't do well, you just put in the fucking bin. Okay. It's not rocket science. It's the same way you develop like a tech product or something. And yet people are just completely getting it wrong. But this is what's underestimated a lot in marketing in a minute. Is there are tons and tons and tons of people that can execute technically good content. You've got loads of technically good copywriters, loads of technically good videographers, loads of technically good illustrators out there, right? Who you can say to, "Here's an idea I've got, make that look good." And they'll make it look technically good. They'll make it sound technically good. The video will be technically good, right? But it will still be shit because the idea in the first place was shit and what a lot of marketing agencies and internal marketing teams are missing is people with good ideas.
We've lost that spirit of the old ad agency world with all its flaws, with all the fucking misogyny and the drinking and the bullshit that came with it. The one thing that the ad agency world had that we are lacking nowadays is good ideas. People who can conceptualize stuff and could understand audiences to the very core and come up with stuff that really relates to them and resonates with them. And that's where the falling down is, is the idea stage. So, yeah you should be learning from stuff, but if your ideas aren't strong enough and you keep churning stuff out, and you've been doing it for six months and you never have an impact and you're not learning anything from it, there's something fucking wrong there. And it's probably at the idea stage, either that or it's at the analysis stage and you don't actually understand your audience and you don't understand what you're looking at.
Louis: From your experience. The analysis, the problem is mostly the creativity side, not the analysis part, right?
Dan: Well yeah, I mean I'd say both. The thing is, if you produce 50 pieces of content and two of them fly, that's really obvious what's working there. But sometimes it can be difficult to spot what's actually working and what's not. So people do still fall down at the analysis stage. But I still think that the ideas and the creativity is what is severely lacking in market nowadays and there's loads of reasons for that.
Louis: I like your point about the technicality of it. It is, I mean, "easy enough" to create videos and to produce them well and to have very well produced webinars and whatnot. But the value behind the actual content itself, does it actually helps you beyond just promoting your product? Does it actually help people? Is it original enough that people say, "Oh shit, this is different. I'm going to actually watch this one." So I get that. Besides those mistakes any other that you think that are very common nowadays, mistakes companies make with their content?
Dan: It's difficult. I'll tell you what another big mistake is who's leading it. And the one thing that I've noticed with a lot of the internal marketing teams we speak to and things, that they're being led by micromanagers a lot of time. And we're talking like creative directors that have been in position for 25, 30 years, right? And the more senior you get and the longer you've been in that environment and the more your lifestyle changes from being boots on the ground to fucking Merc driving, Viagra smashing, apprentice groping lifestyles. The more out of touch you're going to be with what works, right? And what audiences want to see.
So when you've got someone who's there and who is now out of touch with what works and out of touch with trends and things like that, trying to now dictate creativity and trying to micromanage the creative team into... basically micromanage them into the ground, that's where things are going to go wrong. And I see it time and time and time again. That is not the job of a creative director of a huge organization. They shouldn't be micromanaging the people are actually are the true creatives.
Louis: Please correct me if I'm wrong, but usually it happens in like those brainstorming meetings, where everyone comes in. Okay, let's hear your ideas and one person shares one idea or two ideas and the micromanager would actually just break it to them, "ah that's not going to work". And so he ends up with a brainstorming session with no fucking ideas apart from the manager's idea and it just doesn't work. Well you need to let people be creative on their own, have their own ideas, test it out until it happens, right?
Dan: Yeah, you just got to leave them too it half the time. And also that's how you get a really strong team is letting them learn by their own mistakes as well. I mean we've got a very talented copywriter in with us now who joined like two months ago and already she's just been left to do her own thing. There's no micromanager there and I think it was scary for her at first, but she's a couple of weeks in and she's absolutely flying. Her ideas are flying. She understands the audiences better because it's not me telling her what the audience looks like. She got her own understanding of it. And that's how it should happen. Micromanagement of creatives... you can manage creatives to a certain extent, but the more you micromanage them is the more you stifle that creativity.
Louis: Right. So we've talked enough about mistakes companies make now let's talk about how to do it the right way, right? Or at least your way what you've learned. The first thing before we talk about a step by step on how to break down this process, the first thing I need to ask, because I know people listening have that in the back of their head, is how do you actually convince me as a listener, I'm listening to this episode right now, how do you convince me to actually start offending some people and therefore actually being loved by some, being hated by others. How do you convince me to take some risk and to move away from this me to marketing, me to content?
It's difficult, mate, really difficult and it is something that we struggle with all the time. I mean, people sometimes think that we're just going to walk in and go, right Marks and Spencer, just all you need to put on your thing is, "Foot counselor states - Buy your food at Marks and Spencers" we're not going to go in and do that. It's just realizing that a lot of the time the only way you can prove to people that something's going to work is by getting them results and it's difficult. So a lot of times what we do now, and one of the ways that we stand out is I've noticed that creative agencies a lot of the time go into pitches, right?
With companies and with half baked ideas, even some of the biggest agencies, mate, are walking in to pitches with market directors going, "We've got a bit of an idea here that we came up with on the train. It's on a word document or something or on the back of a fucking crisp packet. I thought all of you can read that. What do you reckon?" And that's pretty much the pitching process. And what we've realized now is that if we're going to actually persuade people to take a risk, what we need to do is we need to actually do is get, I was going to say get their juices flowing but that's a fucking horrible saying. But we're going to do something with the juices. But basically we go in and we actually pitch it like an ad agency. We make sure that we actually conceptualize an idea.
We storyboard it all out, we come up with actual full campaign ideas and then we present it on pitch boards and do it properly. And if those people then steal our ideas and fuck off then so be it. We more fool us, but I think taking that sort of risk and showing them and being open with them that, "Listen, this is the sort of campaign we're talking about. This is the impact it can have and this is what we really believe represents your brand." I think that's the way to do it. And I think it's working. That old school method, putting in the effort is working.
Louis: You need to convince for people to take risks. You need to convince.. you need to take risks yourself, right? You need to first take risks in the way you pitch your ideas. And here you're talking about an example of where you would work with a client, right? But I suspect that would work the same way internally, right? Don't come in with a half baked idea, just work at it, take some risk, present it very well, package it very well. And maybe don't come in with three ideas and make them pick one. You pick just one idea yourself and you said this is it. How do you do it?
Well, you know what? Yeah, back your idea. I'm probably wrong in a lot of this as well. I always like to put forward an alternative, but maybe that's not the right way to go. Actually. And even yesterday, she sat next to me and I was just probably glaring and she's like a little Scottish Chihuahua. And she's like on of our creative leads and she's like, I'm having a big back and forth on email yesterday about... We presented one idea that we all thought was great and then one idea that we were all little bit like - nah. I wanted to put it forward as a comparison, but all the way through she was like, "I really don't want a story board this it's shit." We spent all day going back forth and arguing and actually probably she's right in a lot of ways. We should back our own horse. We should back our own idea. And if you believe in something enough, then hopefully the client or your marketing manager or the marketing director you're reporting to or whoever will believe in it too.
Louis: Yep. Okay. And you know what? Once you describe the scene of like pitching an idea to a client, the first thing I thought about is Mad Men, the way they... That's exactly what I picture. And I can see you [inaudible 00:17:01] on this is it. This is you.
Well, the thing is me, it's not even me. So we have a commercial director called Dean and we call him SpongeDean Draper Pants because he looks like he's got a massive square head, so he looks like SpongeBob. But he also thinks he's Don Draper as well. So he walks into pitches and he's like, "Hey guys, close your eyes, I want you to really visualize this and take this story." And it's that sort of rubbish. It's not rubbish Dean, your brilliant mate. But yeah, I mean, you've got to tell the story. You've got to get people bought in. You've got to wet the whistle a little bit.
Louis: Alright. So now you've pitched. I think this is the first way to convince people to take a risk, right? So they have your campaign idea in front of them and they say, "You know what? Let's go for it. I'm convinced. Let's try it", right? Now what is the process to create good content? And I know this sounds very cliche, you can hear that everywhere. I need to create value. You need to add value to people's life. We both know that sounds like bullshit. So how do you do it? What is your process to actually create content that stands out, that makes people actually buy stuff or whatever else. If you had to train someone coming in, right, to your company, a new intern or whatever, and you have to describe everything from start to finish, like the steps, what would be step one?
Dan: So an intern?
Louis: Yeah, anyone who doesn't know how you do things, you need to explain. Let's go up here.
Good question. I mean, this is assuming mate that we have a training process. They would just generally come in and we basically throw them straight into the fire and see what happens. But I mean the way that we do things is we're very, very quick. And we are, what I like to describe as a strategy second organization. So I don't believe in sitting there for weeks and months trying to define a content strategy based on fucking nothing. I also don't believe in doing that based on market research because the problem with the way that most companies conduct market research is, they go into a room of people and they ask them questions, right? And more often than not, they're leading questions. And even if they're not leading questions, people still feel obliged to give you an answer because you've asked them a question, right?
And at the part of the focus groups, they feel like they have to. And they end up just giving you false answers. They might not even feel anything about your products. And then people go away and they take all that data and they make strategies based on it and they spend months and months and weeks on these strategies. And then at the end you then execute all the content and whatever else is involved in that strategy. And then when it dives they then go, "Shit, that was really rubbish." And then they go all the way back to the start and do the whole thing all over again, which is just rubbish. Whereas actually you would never develop any sort of product like that, right? You would develop a feature of a product, you would test it with the market and based on how the market then uses that product or reacts to it, you would then create iterations based on that, right?
And it's the same with content. So what people should be doing? Well, the first thing, if you're starting a new brand that you're trying to find messaging that resonates and something that's different is you should be pushing out content and going through this process as quickly as possible to find some messages that resonate that haven't been used before. And as soon as you do that, then once you've got a message, you can start to build a living, breathing strategy around it. Because the digital world, the marketing world will be too quick to be sat there fucking around with a six month marketing strategy when you don't want it anyway.
Louis: So yeah, so the first point is the feedback is when you ask it the wrong way, you get wrong data and then you can base your strategy on wrong data and then you're pretty much fucked. The second point is to instead try to see how people actually react. Instead of overthinking it, you just push stuff out, right? Now we are missing a few steps in between, right? Because let's say I'm your new client, I want to increase sales of whatever product with content. Do you get into a room with your team and just "brainstorm" about, okay, what type of message can we create? Or do you assign that to one person who's tasked to do that? Like what is the process there?
Dan: Walk me through that again mate. So I think I've missed the question.
Louis: So if you really have to describe the very first step after you get a new client in, do you have someone goes in a room, on their own thinking about ideas and messages to test or do you get all together the entire team trying to brainstorm? How do you do it?
Dan: We get everyone together. We have a little thing in our office called... It was called brainstorm call, and now it's called Dino's lazy area because he just sits on his laptop and doesn't speak to anyone. So but we all go in there and we all just brainstorm ideas and sometimes it takes a bit of time, but generally like someone will say something or someone say someone else and it works so much better as a team. And if you've got a creative team that gels really well together and the culture's right then it, that's always the best way to do it. You don't want to fucking creative director sat there on his own coming up with every idea because campaigns will start sounding the same, tone of voice will start sounding the same. You can only be so creative and you're miles more creative as a group. Obviously, I mean, within reason you don't want to be sat there trying to brainstorm with a hundred people. It would just be a fucking disaster.
Louis: What information do you need from a client to actually be able to brainstorm? What do you like to ask them?
Dan: We do get to know them. We do sessions with the client. First was brainstorming and ideas getting to know the client and what... I think marketers need to be acutely aware of is you don't need to be an expert in a particular industry to be able to market for it, right? We market for a lot of cybersecurity organizations. I can fucking barely turn my laptop on. So I'm sure I've been hacked, I always click on those, "Want to enlarge your penis?" emails. Always click on them mate, never works but you still sign it.
Where was I? The point is we go in and we get to know them properly. Because we need to be acutely aware that they are the experts at the end of the day and their expertise, their ideas, that's the goal. That's the stuff that we can mold into something to then make it mass market to make it relatable to an audience. We're the ones that put the spin on it. That makes it interesting, that draws people in, that makes it clickable, whatever else we need it to do. But they are the people you need to... You can't just expect to take on someone in a new industry and hit the ground running. You need their expertise first. So we do that. We do the get to know the clients first, then we do the brainstorming sessions generally. Then we'll probably pitch our ideas and then hopefully someone will give us a little bit of money and we can all eat.
Louis: What information do you like to ask from the client? What do you want to know? Because you're giving a good example of, I would say cyber security, right? So a specific industry that's quite technical and all of that. What do you like to know? Do you ask about your personas and all this bullshit or do you ask for other information?
Dan: Yeah, I mean we get to know them as a person. That's one of the most important things, especially if you're building a personal brand. So we do a lot of personal branding for CEO's and consultants and things. And that's one of the things that we offer and that's all about getting to know the person. And because people aren't just interested in the fact that they are knowledgeable about cyber security for instance, they're interested in the person themselves. We'll obviously get to know the product or the service because a lot of time as well, noticed that to have outside eyes on a product or service is really valuable. Most people or a lot of organizations we find actually miss unique selling points, almost don't understand the product because they're so close to it.
So getting to know the product is really important. Getting to know the culture of the businesses is important as well. People think business culture you can just use that to sell... To build employer branding campaigns and attract candidates but actually that's not the case. People buy into cultures like people that bought into Apple's culture, it's basically a fucking cult now, right? I don't even know whether this Apple mac that I'm on now is any good. I ain't got a clue. I just I like the whole the cut of Apple's gib and that's why I bought it. It might be shit. But it's about using things like that, finding unique things about the organization, about the product, the service, the culture that we can then turn into campaigns, ideas, content, whatever it might be.
Louis: Now it's getting interesting, right? So we've been 26 minutes in this podcast and now finally we're getting to the meat of it, right? The valuable stuff. Yeah.
Dan: This is always my case mate. I waffle and waffle and then eventually you'll go...
Louis: It's alright.
Dan: "Ah finally, he's actually said something of merit!"
Louis: I'm used to it man. You're doing great. Don't worry about it. So finding valuable stuff, right? Unique selling point from the culture, the product, whatever else. How do you recognize that? How do you get - ah shit this is interesting? This is something unique. I know that might not be a process per se, but what is the attributes that make you think shit, this is something that we could leverage?
Dan: So it's a really difficult question that, because this is the other thing that we've got to do as well a lot of it is when we go and speak to the client is getting to know their audience. Because that's the one thing that we find as well is that often clients don't actually understand who they're selling to properly or they don't spot the things that will relate and resonate with that client base. The one thing I like to do is I like to spot things that are appealing en masse. I like simple things. So the more complex something is generally the harder it's going to be to market. The harder it is for it to get any interest and make decent content. So it's difficult to say mate because every industry is different. I'm not really sure how I spot it because in some stuff, sometimes we spend half an hour with clients and come up with absolute gold and sometimes we're fucking sat there all day, banging our heads against the table. So it's a difficult question to answer that to be honest.
Louis: So let's take an example, right? And you don't have to mention the name of your client or whatever, but maybe by giving an example of a past client and how you've done it, that might be helpful, right? So I mean, cyber security is an example you've given. If you are able to give an example out of it, let me know. If not, let's pick something else.
Dan: Okay. Yeah. So an example of what, how we found gold?
Louis: Yeah. How you found this unique thing that you said, shit, this is simple. That might appeal to like the masses as you said that might be very valuable.
Dan: Yeah. I mean we have a campaign coming out soon and it's not cyber security but a big telecoms firm. And we found the guy in there who is an Elvis impersonator, right? So he would go round to weddings and do an Elvis tribute act and we thought, you know what? Why don't we create on social media? Why don't we create an account and why don't we build up this guy? And get him known as telecom's Elvis. So what we've then done, bear with me mate, sounds fucking weird. And what we've then done is taken all of Elvis tracks rewritten them. So it'd be about telecoms, about the benefits of different systems and stuff. And created this huge campaign around it. It makes absolutely no sense. But had we not gone in there and got to know all these people, we would never have found Tony the telecoms Elvis and we wouldn't go have found such a fantastic campaign idea.
Louis: So tell me, how did you find out about him? Like, so you went to the client's office, you asked to meet the people in charge and was Tony in the room or was he like singing in another meeting room to rehearse for his next show? What was the...
Dan: No, Tony was one of the people we interviewed. So we were saying, "Where do you need help?" And they were like, "Well we want to do a load of paid campaigns. We want to raise the profile of our sales teams." So then we brought the sales team in and Tony was in the sales team, really interesting chat, loads of shit he's done before. Guy's been in the army, owns a few horses. And then it just came out at the end, Elvis. And then we all came back into the office and everyone started brainstorming ideas and I think Jess and Cabri came up with an idea of using this guy and writing telecoms related Elvis songs.
And so they got to work and we started to then figure out how we were going to raise this guy's profile. And on the back of that raise the brand of the telecoms company. And it was just like I say, a lot of the time, this is why it's hard to say how to spot it because a lot of the time there's a bit of luck involved really. But the more you speak to people and the longer you spend in that company, and the more you understand the culture, the more gold you're going to get out of it.
Louis: Yeah, but that makes sense and I know it's a difficult question, right? And I know it's difficult to extract insights out of it, but this example is phenomenal for the reason that it's simple, as you said, everyone knows Elvis. Therefore it's going to appeal to the masses. They are all going to know Elvis, everyone knows some of the songs. And so what I like about it is that you go all in in a sense, right? So it's not like you're going to mention, "Oh, we also have an Elvis impersonator in our team, so therefore he needs to trust us." He is the center of the campaign. He's the campaign. So you're taking the race to go as far as you can go with it, really.
Dan: Exactly mate. Exactly. And that's the biggest thing you've got to go all in. And you know what as well, there is nothing like, this is the thing that I love, is when people use their own employees in their advertising. I think it just adds that... People go on about fucking, things being real and authentic or whatever you want to call it. The best way to do that is to use the people and the bigger the organization, the more people you find that have really, really interesting stories and things that you can leverage to help grow the brand. Like I say, we're lucky to have telecoms Elvis. He's going to be a star mate.
Louis: So without giving me too many details about the clients, right. I don't want you to be in trouble. How was it to convince those folks to actually go for it? Like when you presented the idea, like what was the reaction like?
Dan: Good question. Well the client are quite open to stuff because they, they need to grow the brand, they haven't had much marketing success in the past, it's all been reliant on sales and a pretty good sales team. So they're just open to most things to be honest, they haven't actually seen the adverts yet. So it's going to be interesting because they've got a big company do on Friday where that they're doing a screening of the new adverts even though none of them... And they haven't seen any yet. So it'd be interesting but it's not a great example. It wasn't actually that hard to convince them to do that. A lot of the time we do things that are a bit dodgy.
But what you'll find is if you start off with... Tell you what, whether it's external or internal, persuading people to do things is all about baby steps. So you can't work in a tax firm and then just go in and go, "Listen guys, I think we should go post dildos through people's doors." Because everyone will go, "What are you smoking?" And it just won't work, right? But baby steps, it's all about baby steps. So it's going in and pushing the boundaries slightly every single time because the clients we've worked with where we worked with one client and we got them to deliver pies once with like 50 quid in them. And now six months later, we've got them going up on cherry pickers to offices, like 20 foot in the air with massive signs saying download our app. And they're doing stuff that's miles out of their comfort zone. So it's just baby steps. You've just got to get them to push their own boundaries a little bit each time and you'll be surprised where you are in six months.
Louis: So give me another example because this one was really good, a good example of your methods. Do you have any other example at the top of your mind.
Dan: Yeah, I mean that's the other one, that other brand with the we do what we call the projects and we've got them to do everything. We filled like... do you know Misguided the fashion brand? We filled their offices with rescue dogs. That was one of the things we tried. We them to put 3000 parking tickets on cars across Manchester, which weren't actually really parking tickets. They were adverts to download their app. We got them to do all sorts of guerrilla marketing campaigns which are going to be awesome. We've got one coming up with a big percussion band that's going to be funny... again, what I always say to clients as well is that if you're not nervous before you release a campaign, if you're not slightly nervous, then you probably haven't gone far enough.
Louis: Yep. I say that all the time. If you don't have this butterfly in your stomach before you publish something, you're it's just not risky enough.
Dan: Yeah, exactly.
Louis: So, I'd like to deconstruct another one, another of your campaigns just to see how you came to this result. So I know you've mentioned a few, like the parking tickets idea, whatever. What I'm interested in the most in is how did you get to this? And I know, again, it's a difficult question, but let's try to work it through together, right? So whether it's parking tickets or something else. Let's pick another idea and let's try to remember how you went from meeting the client, talking to customers or whatever, to have this idea. The in between those two steps.
Dan: The in between, between what, two steps, sorry mate? [crosstalk 00:36:05]
Louis: Between meeting the clients for the first time and shifting the campaign. The process of brainstorming, finding an idea, finding the simple idea. Like talk me through another moment, another story of where that happened.
Dan: I'm trying to think of one. We just did a quite a big pitch for... how do I say this without getting into trouble. Let's call them an energy company, right? Big energy company. And we were approached with the task of we're going to start a new degree apprenticeship program. And we need to attract people from a diverse background, from deprived areas because we want to show that we are not just an elitist middle class organization. And we, so we got that brief and then we had to brainstorm a way of coming up with that. Because what we didn't want to do, we didn't want to come across cheesy. We didn't want it like the Nike London adverts where it's like, yeah London we're gritty and hard and stuff because you're not... you're Southerners, you're not hard!
And we didn't want it to come across as really wet and soppy and feel sorry for these guys because they're all poor and they need a job. So we had to figure out a way of getting something on impactful campaign basically. And the process is pretty simple and it is simply just, we'll all brainstorm on the brief. We'll go out and do some surveys with the people in those areas to find out what it is they're looking for. Why would someone want to do a degree apprenticeship? Why is it important to them?
What are their aspirations? What are they proud of? And the one thing that we found when we did those survey responses of those people was that, when you're from a deprived area and when you're from somewhere that's maybe not as affluent as other areas that you're still proud of where you came from, you might not want to stay there for the rest of your life, no matter whether you break away from that and you become something you're always proud of where you came from. And especially people from those sorts of areas are very, very proud of who they are and their heritage and stuff.
So that was the focus of the campaign. And we started to build a campaign around that and we've, we found that out by like I say, by doing our surveys by getting to know all those people and get to all the audience. And we did a big pitch around the values of those people. We wrote a really impactful poem about living in the Northeast and about actually... The poem is called What If. And it was a really powerful poem and that poem will be delivered over the top of an advert in those neighborhoods filmed with the individuals that actually live there and we're going to build a campaign directly around the audience and those people. And that was the process based on the brief and that that was then all story boarded, all looked very smart. And that was going over to the client, ready for the pitch and we'll see what it does.
Louis: You see I told you had another one in you. This is another very good example. Even though at the very start you mentioned research, customer research is usually very risky because you might ask shitty question that may lead to shitty answer, yet we use these methods the right way. And when we talk about survey, how did you go about it? Did you actually go and meet those people and ask them a bunch of questions, with a camera or microphone?
Dan: Yeah, a hundred percent. That's what you've got to do. You can't just sit there and do... like I say a lot of surveys, and all that rubbish just don't work. And you got to go and get to know people. And like I say the one thing... and it's the same... And even when we've asked that, and even when we knew that was the thing, then I was spending a bit of time in a gym. I spend spending time with my mates as well. And they're all the same. And there was a few little comments like there's like weird that way. There's a few little comments where people are talking about how proud they are where they come from, how they're always, even though this is shit it, that's shit about it, I'm still proud of where I come from and we knew we were on something there I think and it's a really powerful campaign.
And actually it's the sort of campaign that is so good that if they don't take on this pitch, if it's not for them, that this is something we could probably repackage for someone else. Not the exact same but the whole thing around it. Go and go and actually get to know other people from a different area with a different company. And I'd probably still get the same results if another company is looking for diverse hires from the proud backgrounds.
Louis: And that's another signal, isn't it? When you see patterns from people who don't know each other necessarily, but they say the same thing. They share, like as you said, "The pride is the main thing that just kept coming up." To me, every time I do it, every time we do research like this during interviews or whatever, and you hear different people who don't know each other say the exact same thing multiple times, you're like, "Shit, there must be, there is something there, right? And let's dig into this. Is it something that you see yourself as well? Did that happen before in previous campaigns where you saw like a pattern or you just need to go for it?
Dan: Yeah, there are patterns. There's just a thing that would like a lot of things that have worked in the past will work again. When I talk about new ideas that doesn't necessarily mean that a good new idea can't be a rehashed old idea. There are things that will resonate with different audiences and that will work across different campaigns that's just life. And this is the other thing as well. I always say to the team that if we get... I honestly believe that some of our creative is that strong, that if we get rejected on campaigns or if our pitches don't go to plan there is actually no reason why we cannot rehash that idea. If there's a strong enough idea, we can't rehash that idea and pitch it somewhere else.
So, this is the thing, ideas are so valuable. So many people come with shit ideas that there's absolutely no reason that if when one idea get rejected, you couldn't use elsewhere. It's the same with the same with patterns. If something works with one client, that might be a way of rehashing it in some way. They'll say if you did a social campaign for one client, and I don't know what... Trying to give an example, but there's no reason you couldn't then use something similar for another client and an entirely different industry that wouldn't at all impact on your other client. You probably wouldn't even see it.
Louis: You've shared two very, very good examples and I'm sure you have one last one ready to go. Now because this is a very good way for me to extract your learnings and this is working. So do you have a third one for me?
Dan: A third example? In what context would you like me to give you an example?
Louis: So anything that again, that came from a single focus, a single thing that you noticed either from a pattern, from interviewing people or meeting someone in the organization. You just pick this one thing and then you created a demand for your campaign around it.
Dan: I mean, I suppose we went over to a challenger bank in Europe and they wanted help with their internal communications. They were really struggling to communicate because they'd grown so quickly. They'd grown from about, I can't remember, 300, 400 people to over 1,000, 1,500 now. Which means that if you grow that quickly in two years, you cannot see the problems you got. You're going to completely destroy whatever culture it was you had in the first place. And especially when those people are from all over the world, it's fucking difficult to then figure out how to get all those people to communicate effectively. And the one thing that they'd lost was that they'd lost their heads. This was a bank that had done some really edgy, impactful stuff back in the day when it first started.
So back in the day, like a few years ago, and they kind of lost that and become more corporate and more towards all banks. But then what we've also done there is that internally, they then started to use a lot of the banking jargon and acronyms and bollocks that people didn't understand and they never used to communicate like that. And the one thing that we spotted was actually you had something when you were communicating with each other as a small group, as a small team and you were using fucking normal words and you more chatty and casual and your tone of voice, like the communication was so much smoother.
Why don't we try and do that across the board? Why don't we make sure that the tone of voice guidelines, that the internal communication guidelines are all around communicate in a way that is human and simple and easy to understand. Because if you do that internally, then that's going to resonate with your customers externally as well. And the thing is that that was a weird activity because it took us a while to spot the fact that they had already been doing something early on that would actually, was actually probably better than this fucking beast that they'd created now. But that's pretty much all I can go into there mate because if I do anymore, I will get in trouble.
Louis: The moment where you notice shit, I'm going to get in trouble. I'm not going to get in trouble [crosstalk 00:46:02] It's all right.
Dan: [inaudible 00:46:08]
Louis: I'm not going to make you a say more than that, but I think the learnings here are very similar than the first two in a sense that you notice one thing, one single thing from this time the client itself and you just extracted that and then creating an entire campaign of it, which I think to be honest, if I have to learn from what you shared so far, this is it. It's like you either from the interviews, either from the customer side, from the company side, that culture or whatever. You just extract something that just seems like, okay, this stands out and you don't hold back and you just create something that you go all in with it from start to finish.
Louis: And you mentioned something else, which is step by step. So even though you might believe in this idea a hundred percent, even though you might feel okay, this is it, you still might need to go slow with the client. Maybe it's an email campaign to start with, then a few more ads, then you do guerrilla marketing then. Is that how you approach it? You start believing-
Dan: Hundred percent. Step by step. I mean, don't get me wrong, if you present a full campaign, they're really bought in and they're going to pay you millions of pounds a day and you've got to take over the entire market and then say, "Yeah, go and do it." But don't say, "I'll just start with an email campaign," because you make no money. But yeah, definitely if a client is nervous about something, just start showing them results. As soon as you show someone results, the sooner they're going to become bought in. That's the easiest way to do it. People can't argue with that. People will never argue with numbers. Never argue with numbers. If the numbers are good they don't care.
Louis: What's interesting about you, and this is how I found you out, is through LinkedIn and the posts you share that are very, very, just like you, very edgy, taking risks and going all in with your ideas. I suspect that the people who reach out to you, even if they are big corporations know that already. I'm not surprised by the fact that you're just curious like a sailor and everything like that.
Dan: Yeah, but they don't care. And the thing is like I said everyone's after being authentic. Right? I mean a lot of our stuff is inbound and it's a lot of extreme me. And those people, like you say, already have an understanding of who I am. So it doesn't really cause me any problems, but it's like I always say to people, you need to decide who you want to work with. Do you want to work with someone in a three-piece, pin stripe suit, wears too much wet look gel, brown pasty flickers and licks your arse what doesn't deliver, or do you want me who's direct and straight and a little bit rough around the edges and swears a bit, but we'll do everything I can to make sure that the stuff we do works for you and performs. And I will buy into your brand as much as you will. And that's the decision you've got to make. But the one thing I won't do and the one thing that will never happen is I will never change for anybody. I try to be unapologetically myself and that like I say, that won't change.
Louis: Yeah. Thank you for doing this man. Because it takes some guts to do it, to have this certainty about yourself and this confidence about yourself. But I think that's why you're succeeding in what you do. So thanks for sharing all of that with me. Thanks for sharing all of those examples. I just have a few more questions before I let you go. The first one being what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?
Dan: Learn that you're never going to be an expert. Get comfortable with that. Experts in marketing don't exist because marketing trends, the digital world moves too quickly for any of us to be experts. So yeah, just learn to be adaptable. Adapt at the drop of a hat. If someone says so you're really good at something, I don't care what it is. Maybe you've got a certain way of doing social media and it stops working. Change now and figure out what the next thing is. And because that happens all the time, you're never going to be an expert, but the more adaptable you are, the more you're not attached to the thing that you're doing. And you know that then went off to change and do something different. If things change the better off you're going to be.
Louis: What are the top three resources you'd recommend our listeners today? So it could be books, podcasts, anything.
Dan: The top three resources. If you want to get good at content, good ideas, read a lot of fiction. Well a lot of marketers, it makes me fucking pissed when I see these big lists, "The top 10 marketing tools that I use" and you look at the fucking company and they get no engagement. Nobody fucking cares what they write in and they're using all these fucking tools and automation this and HubSpot this. So blah, blah, blah. Yeah, it's all lovely. But if your message and your content, your ideas are shit all means nothing. Get reading and get reading fiction. Yeah, I get learn about a world, get written nonfiction, get reading science books, get reading Bill Bryson's, History of Nearly Everything, right? Get reading stuff like that. Get knowledgeable. The more knowledgeable you are, the more things you're going to find that can relate to your client. It relates to the industries that you're working within. And that means the more - the better your ideas will be and the better your campaigns will be.
Louis: I would say that too. Fiction. Nonfiction.
Dan: Yeah, fiction, nonfiction - books man. Honestly books. That's what I rely on. In terms of other tools or let's say that's pretty decent. It's difficult mate, it's really difficult. I mean we don't tend to use tools mate. We don't use tools. We use the tools that are given to us. Obviously all your pay platforms and stuff like that. I know we run analytics and kubernetes, but we don't actually use tools. We don't actually use tools. We are like I say a pure creative agency though. Get good with a pencil before you start designing digitally. Learn to draw.
Dan: Yeah, pens, books and pencils.
Louis: Books and pencils, old school. I can't draw for shit. I absolutely can not draw for shit. I need to learn. That's one of my..
Dan: Learn man. And you know what as well it's... I can't draw. My drawing are poop. There's something that's relaxing, that takes your mind away from stuff. Even if you're drawing stick figures with their willy out.
Louis: Relaxing for you, maybe not for the others who see your drawings...
Dan: Yeah, probably not. Who cares about them.
Louis: Dan once again, you've been a pleasure. Thanks for being so honest and [crosstalk 00:52:51] examples. Where can people learn more from you?
Dan: Catch me on LinkedIn. Come into the office for a pint. Anyone who is in Manchester, we've got an open door policy. Come in, get yourself a can of Stella let's debate the world and marketing and stuff.
Louis: Nice. Be careful though. I think there are a lot of listeners based in Manchester, so just as soon as this goes live, find some more beers.
Dan: That's fine, I'm never there anyway.
Louis: That's how you save easy. You not even there. [crosstalk 00:53:32]
Dan: I don't care. It's my team who'll have to deal with you.
Louis: All right man. Once again, thank you so much for your time.
Dan: No worries man. You too.