It is always satisfying when you get to do what you love. One of the greatest pleasure’s we know as a group of like-minded souls is when we are out on location, pulling a story together.
Earlier this year we had the challenge and pleasure to bring to life the stories behind Total Wine & More’s Winery Direct program. Who wouldn’t turn down the chance to spend 10 days in Napa interviewing and filming what are effectively the rock stars of Californian wine making. But I guess that is the rub, how do you do justice to a request like that with limited time and limited resources?
Intelligent collaboration is the way we do things and bringing together the right team for this job was, for us, theory in practice.
Five days, 10 vineyards, and what felt like an infinite number of products to capture, to do justice to this request was only going to be achieved if we thought differently about things. Just creating content was never going to be enough. Today we seem to live in a world where content is king, but that isn’t enough, less really is more. Rather than just flood the world with more things, we need to create better things, we need to connect with consumers on an authentic, sincere level.
On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers, these emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more – everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do. So, deploying emotionally – connection-based experiences can help drives significant improvements in business outcomes.
At LO:LA we seek out and engage with the emotionally connected customer. The Brand Storytelling Report 2015, commissioned by content marketing agency Headstream, revealed that while 80% of people (UK adults) want brands to tell stories, 85% of them can’t remember a good one.
So, we’re constantly looking for ways to relate. To us it’s about holding up a mirror to consumers and letting them know the story starts from and with them.
“Show customers you know them and show them you care”
This then became our mantra for how we went about capturing our content. To deliver on this we strive to be as authentic as possible. We believe that having a nimble crew is not only cost effective for the client, it’s also improves our ability to be authentic. When large crews show up talent has a tendency to feel overwhelmed, especially when they aren’t hired talent. The winemakers we interviewed were relieved when they saw the size of our crew and more relaxed. Nothing was scripted, just a list of questions tailored to capture the topics we needed in the cut. We were able to move around from vineyards, tasting room and barrel rooms, capturing product still photography, b-roll and drone footage within a few hours.
Having a nimble crew was a huge advantage for us as well. We were able to cover two wineries a day. Even on days when we drove from one wine region to the next, we delivered on the ask. Each location had unique elements we wanted to identify and capture. With walkie talkies in hand, we would split up and scout the best options and quickly get set up for the interview. Meanwhile, our photographer set out to capture product stills. Very passionately, we were amazed with what he was able to pull off with very little direction.
Creating content is a labor of love. Having trust as a team instills trust with the interviewees and the client. Being open to all suggestions and working with a team that shares your passion and strives to deliver the best result is how we deliver on our promise of intelligent collaboration.
As the marketing landscape changes around us, it’s good to look for inspiration in unusual places. Inspiration can be found in life-changing historic events and experiences.
In 1804, Napoleon was crowned the Emperor of France and established himself as Europe’s dictator and is widely considered a tactical mastermind.
But the aspect that interests me in this particular victory is Napoleon’s invention and use of the Corps system, an assembly of small armies that have everything they need to engage an enemy: infantry, cavalry and artillery. These armies of 10,000 to 40,000 men march together in close proximity — no more than 10 miles apart — and could, at short notice, assist each other in fighting an enemy. At a predetermined time and location could come together to provide overwhelming fire power and defeat whomever stood against them.
The Power of Small Teams
In 2013, Gallup released a report called “The State of The American Workplace” which showed that smaller companies have more engaged employees. In fact, 42% of employees working at companies of 10 employees or fewer are engaged at work, compared to only 30% of employees engaged at larger companies. We can equate these 10-person companies to 10-person teams.
A recent Forbesarticle shared one of Jeff Bezos’rules, or philosophies, at Amazon: if a team cannot be fed by two pizzas, then that team is too large. The reasoning is quite straightforward and basic. More people requires more communication, more bureaucracy, more chaos, and more of pretty much everything that slows down projects, hence why large organizations are oftentimes pegged as being so inefficient.
FAST COMPANY ARTICLE:
But beyond the virtue of smaller, fully-functioning teams is the magic of decisive leadership.
Smaller teams move faster, iterate at a higher frequency, and provide greater innovation for the company. The Volkswagen Golf GTI, one of the most well-known hatchbacks in history, was created by a team of eight. A little appreciated fact is that many of today’s largest technology companies created their first successful products with teams of fewer than 10 people.
This point is illustrated by J. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University. His rule of thumb is “no double digits.”
Hackman has said, “Regardless of the exact, magic number, the idea of working within small teams is believed to help diminish various innovation killers like groupthink and social loafing. There are several other benefits for working in small teams like more effective communication, greater trust among team members, and less fear of failure”.
MIT SLOAN ARTICLE:https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/get-things-done-with-smaller-teams/
It’s Napoleon’s example of what we call ‘intelligent collaboration’ and ‘nimble thinking’ that inspires us at LOLA; the notion that you don’t need everything in great depth, but rather the ability to adapt with just the right understanding of everything that is needed to solve a problem. A network of similar organizations with specialized knowledge can be called upon at the appropriate moment, but not necessarily at the beginning of a project.
For any brand, a network of agile, nimble, and skilled people is essential, but the art of bringing to bear the right person at the right time requires a set of lateral moves coming from a more creative mindset. Giving clients this ability is something we strive for.Our goal is to help brands develop efficient, simple and extremely effective solutions. Napoleon’s tactics for winning the battle of Austerlitz is a sure shining example of just that. Sometimes to shape the future you have to look to the past.
Brand president: ‘It’s an all senses immersive experience’
As the leaders of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar discussed how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the brand’s first restaurant, chef-partner Kevin Monahan said he wished he could give guests an inside look at the inspiration behind the Chef’s Table menu.
That included telling people about his grandma’s Fig Upside Down Cake, a special dessert on the carefully curated menu.
“If people can just talk to my grandmother about why she’s so passionate about the dish,” Fleming’s President Beth Scott said, recalling Monahan’s suggestion.
Fleming’s, whose parent company is Tampa, Fla.-based Bloomin’ Brands, took that idea and rolled with it.
Earlier this month, Monahan’s wish came true when the flagship restaurant in Newport Beach, Calif. debuted a new immersive “Taste the Future” dining event for guests. The 360-degree behind-the-plate experience is reminiscent of Disneyland’s defunct Circle Vision “America the Beautiful” attraction. The wall-to-wall multi-camera movie gives diners an inside look at local suppliers — from Baja California fisheries to Napa Valley vineyards.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar chef-partner Kevin Monahan.
Monahan and other artisans narrate stories about each coursed dish.
At the inaugural Taste the Future event, the dining room “theater” walls projected an aerial view of the picturesque Baja California coast as guests were served a striped bass dish. Waves crashed against rugged, rocky shorelines. A school of sea bass blanketed the screen.
The visuals and Monahan’s narration give diners a glimpse behind the plate: “I am inspired by the people who are dedicated to their craft,” he narrates. “When I learned the story of the sustainable striped sea bass farm in Baja, I felt like the coast was calling me. It was meant to be part of this menu.”
Scott said the goal is to “transport guests to the time, place and season that their food is from with sensory surprises throughout the five-courses.”
When a Wagyu ribeye medallion with roasted root vegetables is served, the film shows chef Monahan using his expert knife skills to cut the delicate vegetables. He can smell their freshness, and he relays that to guests in the voiceover.
“It’s like eating a plate out of the garden,” he said.
Sanjiv Gupta, operating partner at Fleming’s in Newport Beach, acts as the host of the evening. He often tells a story about the wine paired with each meal.
The striped bass dish, for example, is paired with a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc. The screens show the rolling hillsides of Mondavi’s Napa Valley vineyards.
Gupta, glass in hand, tells diners the legendary story of how the famed vintner created and coined the dry, barrel-aged Fume Blanc.
Gupta, who along with Monahan was awarded Fleming’s Partners of the Year in 2018, also gives tasting notes to guests. In the fourth course, a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Daou in Paso Robles, Calif. is paired with the Wagyu dish.
“It should be luscious and silky to your mouth,” Gupta says.
Taste the Future is not just a Disneyland-style visual show.
It’s also a sensory experience that brings “storytelling to the next level,” Scott said.
At the center of tables, draped with starched white tablecloths, is a box filled with items diners can touch or smell. Each item has ties to the dish they are being served.
The first course, for example, is Alaskan octopus (left) served with a squid ink reduction. In the box, diners can touch a piece of the white coral used as a home for the octopuses. Diners can also grab a few slivers of mesquite wood, the same kindle Monahan uses for the second course: smoked tomato soup.
“It’s an all senses immersive experience,” Scott said. “It is a creative way to do farm to fork in a different way.”
After fine tuning the system for several months, Fleming’s in Newport Beach debuted the first event Aug. 1. The chain plans to offer the experience, which cost $200 per person, once a month. The next one is scheduled Sept. 7. Fleming’s declined to offer the captial investment.
In addition to the monthly events, Fleming’s said it is open to create a customized experience for private or corporate events. It could be a curated Paris-themed birthday with a French-inspired menu and a visual journey throughout the City of Light.
“We are letting it take a life of its own,” Scott said.
And, for now, she said the immersive experience is only available at Fleming’s in Newport Beach, founded in 1998 by veteran restaurateurs Paul Fleming and Bill Allen.
There are no plans to roll out Taste the Future to the rest of the 69-unit chain, which has been busy upgrading older venues.
The Fleming’s in Newport Beach is among a handful of restaurants that have recently been remodeled to “deformalize” the look of the dimly-lit steak house, Scott said.
Eight remodels will be completed in 2019. The changes include adding more natural light and “getting rid of the dark smoky club atmosphere,” she said.
Is Fleming’s trying to attract a younger demographic?
Not intentionally, Scott said.
The idea is to be more relevant by providing guests of any age the kind of experiences they are looking for today, she said. That philosophy is what led to developing Taste the Future, an attempt to turn “fine dining” to “fun dining,” Scott said.
“People want something that is more fun and interactive rather than getting steak on a plate,” she said.
Contact Nancy Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven
In the 2005 film War Of The Worlds, Tom Cruise’s character, Ray, is being a bit of a jerk to his estranged son, Robbie, who is being a jerk right back. In an effort to bond, Ray decides to take his son and daughter outside to throw a baseball around in the backyard.
During their conversation, Ray says to his son, “Haven’t you heard? Between me and my brother, we know everything.”
Ray’s daughter then asks, “What’s the capital of Australia?”
Ray says, “That’s one my brother knows”.
There’s a simple genius at the heart of that joke: you don’t have to know everything.
With the rapid rate of change of technology and with it, the constant shape shifting of social media and influencers, there’s increasing pressure to be something of an expert in all the things, all the time. But the saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” cautions us all, drink deep or not at all. Of course there’s a simple alternative to having to know everything, surround yourself with people from different disciplines and different ways of thinking, and talk to them.
It takes the pressure away and allows you to focus on what you do well. At LOLA, we like to call it Intelligent Collaboration.
I’m sure everyone has an idea of what collaboration is, but I’ll tell you what it’s not. Collaboration isn’t just saying nice things about other people’s ideas while you quietly push your own agenda. Being nice while working in parallel might feel like collaboration because, in theory you’re working on the same project, but in reality you’re not building a stronger solution — you’re potentially destroying it.
Right People. Right Time.
Collaboration, like insights, should be at the heart of any project, and though it’s a liberating creative exercise, it does benefit from throwing some process around it. For instance, let’s say one of your team, has an idea for a client and brings it to you. As a group, you’d want to throw it around and ask, “Is the idea viable? Have we done it before? Is the client predisposed to this kind of thinking?”
Then you should push and prod a little, and try to poke holes to see if the idea is leaking. If it seems robust, expand on it as a group and challenge the team to think about what it might look like if it were a campaign, a Superbowl spot, an outdoor billboard, or a digital ad on Facebook a YouTube pre-roll. Do all this to figure out if the idea has legs. How big can it go and how little can it be and still make sense? You don’t want to run to the client with a pie in the sky idea that could never work in the real world.
Next, bring in your subject matter experts. Sure, you can google anything, but what you want is an expert opinion — an outside influence. Doing this doesn’t change the big idea, instead, it opens it up to other possibilities.
At this point you want to be open to following the expert’s lead into other areas. The process of collaboration let’s you adapt and evolve, and leads to a solution that you can sell with conviction, safe in the knowledge that you could actually pull this off.
“Well, duh”, I hear you say, and it sounds a bit simple, a bit obvious, it’s because it is. So why aren’t we all doing it?
Well, some clients are cautious by nature and want the agency focused on the day-to-day. Fair enough, it’s their money. With that in mind, before pitching a new idea, you want to arm yourselves with the best information and make sure your argument for this brave new idea is compelling. We do this by collaborating from the start. The more we collaborate, the better we can ballpark what the investment will need to be and show what the results could be.
Take the risk away and it becomes a return on ideas, not just a return on investment.
Leave Your Ego At The Door.
Just remember, true intelligent collaboration isn’t just about outside opinions; everyone has an opinion, some more helpful than others. However true collaboration means you’re going to have skin in the game. Don’t swoop in at the 11th hour with information the team could’ve used three days ago. Get involved. Run the risk of your idea not getting up. And be ok with that. Be part of building something you couldn’t have thought up by yourself. You might even impress yourself.
Realize that there are a million jobs out there that only require effort from the neck down. No matter what your role in this industry, you’re in an industry that actually wants you to think and rewards you for doing it well. Think about it, you’re solving problems — with your brain! That’s rad. You’re making things that never existed before. Why would you not collaborate? Seriously! The odds of getting to something truly great are stacked in your favour if you have smart people to bounce ideas off of. Anything I’ve ever been awarded for came as a result of working with a team of brilliant collaborators.
Management and creatives alike need to recognize the benefits of collaborating for the sake of their own careers. Only then will they become more valuable in an industry that pays them to think and create. I say, collaborate or die. Ultimately, as creative problem solvers, “the more, the better, and the different” we can think, the more successful we will all be.
GRRRL Clothing, working with creative agency LO:LA, posted Instagram videos calling for an end to racism, body-related bullying, domestic violence, sexual assault and inequality. One video opens with a voiceover saying: “When we told you ‘no,’ that should have been enough. When we say ‘stop,’ you stop.” To get that message through, the women in the video leave messages behind at stop signs in downtown Los Angeles.
Here are four ways brand marketers and agencies can thrive in 2019, according to LO:LA’s Nick Platt.
Move over ‘disruptive,’ ‘innovative,’ and ‘smart content.’ For the more culturally savvy, even the word ‘bespoke’ can shuffle to the sidelines for the moment. Right at this very moment, the landscape isn’t just shifting, it’s in a bit of a freefall . . .
The US government is currently shutdown with no apparent end in sight. Markets have suffered the worst December since 1931 (that’s The Great Depression, a pretty bleak moment in economic history). And a lightning speed, relentless news cycle seems to lie in wait for major (and minor) brand fails.
For brands and marketers to simply ‘pivot’ just won’t cut it. In 2019, ‘nimble’ is the new black.
To use Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word, ‘nimble’ is defined by “quick and light in motion, agile” and “marked by quick, alert, clever conception” and “responsive, sensitive.”
So, to be clear, we’re not just talking about being cheaper and faster with a consideration of spend. We’re talking about adapting a new process to meet the challenges of a new year.
Here are four ways that brand marketers and agencies alike can be nimble and thrive in 2019:
1. Be intelligently fast
With attention spans and news cycles being what they are (re: incredibly short), knee jerk reactions that sacrifice smart thinking for speed can get brands and their agencies in trouble. Fully consider potential outcomes, both positive and negative, before going to market. Establish checks and balances that must be met, and give your team or agency enough time to do it right.
2. Tighten up your team
The old model for brands and agencies saw layers upon layers of team members collaborating on a single project. And while I’m all for being a team player, keep your team tight. A smaller team is more streamlined, which means less room for miscommunication, mistakes and mayhem. It also helps with being intelligently fast, too!
3. Read. Watch. Listen. Repeat.
Here’s where the “responsive” and “sensitive” definition of ‘nimble’ comes in. Depending on who your brand or campaign speaks to – are you reading what they read? Watching what they watch? Listening to the music/podcasts/audiobooks they are? If not, someone on your (tight) team can be charged with being the eyes and ears on the ground. Getting into the mind of your consumer has always been standard practice, but in a landscape that is increasingly multicultural across race, religion, sexuality and how people identify – it’s never been more important. And once you’ve read, watched, and listened? Do it again.
4. Admit defeat, but don’t stay defeated
In all of this nimbleness and moving quickly, mistakes will be made. When that happens (and it will, trust me), own up to them in an authentic way. The brands that listen to their consumers when they’ve messed up, honestly admit their mistakes and learn from them are the ones consumers respect. Which leads me to . .
Everyone remembers that iconic scene from ‘The Matrix’ when Neo finally becomes the man and hero he was destined to be. He simply took what he already knew and improved upon it. He didn’t try the same thing over and over hoping for different outcomes. I’m challenging brands and agencies to do the same. Take what you know, all the Big Data and research and A/B testing and focus groups and previous wins and fails and evolve. (And if Keanu Reeves dodging Agent Smith’s bullets in a black trench and a crazy backbend isn’t the definition of nimble, I don’t know what is.)
As part of the “The Better Neighbor Project,” the LO:LA Agency recently teamed up with our client Garden Fresh for an inspiring volunteer day at Feeding San Diego. An affiliate of Feeding America, Feeding San Diego works to connect people with food and end hunger. The organization works with 16,000 individuals who dedicate their time to help feed more than 485,000 children, families and seniors in need every year.
How did you get started in advertising? What’s been your career road map?
I started in advertising at the age of 19 in London, when I left school all I wanted to do was draw. I wanted to find a job that allowed me to make a living out of my passion, and I was lucky enough to do so. Over the last 30 years, I worked my way up from intern, to Executive Creative Director, to Agency owner. All that time it’s been about connecting with people, creating work that truly resonates with people. Our mantra at LO:LA is that everything is “Made with Love” and I’m proud to say that that resonates in everything I’ve done and that we do.
What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
Being open and transparent about how you feel, about the work or a situation or a problem we have to solve for. Being myself and being honest have been great guides for developing more interesting and effective solutions.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I so love making great work. The actual process and craft of creation are things I have always loved, and I really believe that the newness of getting a new challenge and then creating to work to meet that challenge keeps me constantly motivated – it never gets old, you know? After all, this job beats working for a living.
What excites you most about this industry?
So many things! Off the top of my head, I’d say the convergence of technology with the immediacy of access to information, storytelling, the changing role of brands in people’s lives… are all exciting. Navigating this always-evolving industry for our clients is more exciting than ever!
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
In advertising, we’re all creatively driven, and the industry continues to evolve as technology and how we interact with each other changes, so with so many variables, I don’t think I can make an accurate prediction on where advertising will be in five years.
But what I’d like to see, and what we’re trying to accomplish at LO:LA, is making sure that the work serves our clients and the people that they’re trying to reach in a more human way. We’ve stopped talking at each other and have finally started talking to each other. I’d really like to champion the humanness of our industry and see where that goes.
What advice do you have for emerging professionals just starting in advertising?
Be a sponge. Soak in, and soak up, different types of media to see how things work. Be tenacious, be true to yourself and never give up.
What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?
Winning a ThinkLA creative award for our creative work on the Toyota Camry.
Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?
It’s an honor to be part of this community. I look forward to learning, collaborating and contributing to the creative industry. Together we are stronger. Cheers.
Love and happiness are human necessities and should be at the root of everything we do. In business and the workplace, it’s easy to lose sight of those values for the sake of revenue and quantity over quality. But not for LO:LA (London: Los Angeles). Created in 2017, LO:LA is a creative agency with native roots in London, nurtured by the vibrant, collaborative culture of Los Angeles. The agency is fueled by the mantra “Made with Love” and guiding client partners towards the “Pursuit of Happierness.” Their client partners include Cycle Gear, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, GRRRL, Halo Circus, Souplantation, Sweet Tomatoes, The Creative Coalition, and Total Wine and More. We sat down with Founder and CEO Nick Platt to learn more about his award-winning agency.