2015: Year of the Puma.

What an amazing year it has been over here at Williams Helde. Our world moved at the pace of a puma and has no signs of slowing down. With all the challenges facing a marketing agency today we have successfully continued our 46th year of making a positive impact on the world. Thank you to everybody’s moms, our loyal clients, our trusty vendors, the media, and all the friends and family that are rooting for us. We could not do it without you. And, to everyone that has ever taken a chance on us by either working here, recommending, or hiring us… a big fist bump to you, too.

The Draft. This year took us to fresh places with new faces in leadership. Joining our team this year and rounding out perhaps the best team in the business, was Phil Chin, Director of Partnerships and Marketing. Phil ensures success for our emerging and new business clients. We added two Creative Directors: digital master Sue Boivin, from T-Mobile, and copy/strategy pro Craig Motlong (check out his ‘Next MacGyver’ television pilot). These three join Becky Busby, former client turned client advocate, and John Young, winemaker, recording artist (check out one of his songs) and head of technology on the leadership team. Needless to say we have a lot of energy moving into 2016 and some lofty goals for our clients’ success. With our Draft and preseason training fully complete, we look forward to working our way to the playoffs one game at a time.

Midseason: Finding our stride. Besides having a world-class team in place, the one thing I am most proud of is our self promotional work around the Active Explorer audience. This year we produced a 48-page printed field guide to the active explorer. (Click here if you dont have a copy yet.) Along with this field guide we also reset our stake in the ground in terms of advocacy, education and inspiration for active healthy lifestyles. We even added a core value: BE ACTIVE. This work has become an internal bonding force as well as a mission for our team and how we approach our clients’ solutions. I never would have guessed what a motivator this would be. Look for us hitting the streets, trails and fields with even more on the active healthy messaging in the coming year.

The wins: we have made a difference in the world. We’ve inspired better oral health for millions of people worldwide with Philips Sonicare, not to mention the crowds of white confident healthy smiles beaming out there with Philips Zoom teeth whitening. We helped thousands of people live active healthy lifestyles and shed extra weight with Nautilus and Bowflex. And I’m not sure if we can claim lives saved, but our safety campaign (Ready. Safe. Go.) for Alaska Airlines makes us feel good to know we are helping with the most important thing an airline can do. We got our tech on and launched a site for startup VRstudios that has amazing business-centered tech applications that will take VR beyond the gamers IRL (in real life). And we are making lives easier across North America for PayByPhone with a campaign launching in February.

We are always learning, and here’s a few insights from the year.

  • Everybody’s thinking about consumer journeys but nobody is addressing the non-linear, non-sequential behaviors of buyers.
  • We’ve found out we prefer to work on solving business problems, not the business problems of winning the business.
  • Working with other agencies, and even holding companies can actually yield some really good work for clients, and it is nice to see the trend of AOC (Agency of Collaboration) growing.
  • Technology continues to bring fresh ideas to the table, especially in VR.
  • Brick and mortar retail, hotels and dealerships need help. The independent owners need fresh ways to promote your brands and add value for themselves. Stay tuned for some exciting innovation here from us.
  • There is serious passion around the active explorer mindset, so much that it’s hard to tame and focus at times. Everybody wants to participate in the revolution. It’s that aspiration and passion that drives us forward, and it gets us out of our desks at 3pm everyday for Movers and Shakers, which can range from a simple plank exercise to a run around the block.


As the schedule for 2016 is still being written, I’m excited to see where we get to play next and hopefully the streak of the puma carries on.

The Perfect Time to Reach Your Customers

As winter drives us inside, it’s easy for anyone, even the most devoted Active Explorer, to lose touch with the rhythms of the outdoors. Cycling to work might become a quick drive, or a hiking trip may be sacrificed for a weekend with central heating and a favorite TV show.

Despite the weather, brands can still communicate with customers who fit this Active Explorer persona: the consumer who relentlessly pursues improvement of both their body and mind.

We know that even when these people are driven indoors, they don’t stop exploring. They’re inquisitive by nature and open to brands that share their values. Some stay indoors and make grand plans for longer days. Some rise to the challenge of harsher conditions, reveling in the adrenaline rush. Even when they look like they’re standing still, they’re thinking about their ski equipment, or poring over maps for their next big trail.


The “offseason” is the perfect time to inspire your customers with an idea. During a retailer lull in March of 2015, The North Face launched the “I train for” campaign. It appealed to their loyal core audience: people who live their lives in North Face gear, but it also cast the net wider. It asked people to imagine themselves in the gear and describe who they were and what they do. Inspire your Active Explorer consumers to be imaginative. Help them to catalyze their ideas with your brand identity: become a part of their plans.

Join In

One of the hallmarks of the Active Explorer is their connection to communities of people like them. Not only do you need to inspire them, you need to talk to them where they are. Active Explorer communities, or tribes, are living things; they’re full of people sharing information, recommendations and more—they’re effectively helping each other plan adventures and build goals. Right now, June campsite reservations are going on sale in Washington, and we’ve already got campers trading tips for the best sites. They might be unboxing your products in video reviews or shopping in a brick and mortar location, but your customers are always talking. Find out where these tribes thrive and join the fun.

Create Opportunity

As we know, the Active Explorer audience is willing to pay more for quality – and the Ford Motor Company knows it. They’ve just staked their claim to being the car company for the “Swiss Army Life” – building an automobile that stays with their customers through several life stages, over ten years. Winter is the perfect time for fresh starts, big ideas, and new cars are a big part of those plans. Ford’s being smart by reaching their customers when they have a lot of time to consider their options, and start to align their cars with the values of the Active Explorer.

Everyone’s an Active Explorer when it’s 72˚ and sunny. The trouble is, on those days, everyone’s too busy to hear your message. Take some time this holiday to craft your message to your best customers at the moment they’re most likely to hear it. If you need some pointers, we’ll be sitting by the fire, planning our next trail run. Just give us a call.

If you haven’t read our Guide to the Active Explorer, it makes a great stocking stuffer for your whole marketing team. Click here to order your free copy.

Prepare for Active Explorer Season.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re gearing up for rainy season. Shorts are going away, rainproofing is a priority, and we’re looking for the perfect gear to keep our stuff dry from the storms the North Pacific sends our way.

It’s the perfect time to study the Active Explorer.


If you don’t know who the Active Explorer is, you can catch up here. In a nutshell, it’s your most educated and affluent customer, looking to improve their bodies and minds. Active Explorers are seasonal creatures. We love the summer sun, but a little wind and rain isn’t going to keep us off the trail. Our passions are yearlong and nationwide.

Seasons are what keep us grounded. We look forward to the change. We search for fresh apples and fall harvests in the Farmers’ Markets, make a list of hikes that feature fall colors, make sure the tread on our tires can handle a little mud. Our minds are open.

That’s where you come in. When people’s minds are open, you can make a new first impression. Take these three steps to prepare for a whole new customer mindset:

Explore your ecosystem. No matter what you’re selling, you’re not selling in a vacuum. Look at your adjacent products and services to see if they’re offering something you could complement or supplement. For example, if you’re a hardware store, help your Active Explorers find ideas to build a place to store their gear for a long wet winter.

Hiking-Shoes-588x391Get ideas from outside. Take note about how other products and services take advantage of autumn. Automobiles, coffee shops and department stores all have deep-seated reasons to offer new styles, flavors and fashions. If you’re a bank, an insurance agency, or a fast casual restaurant, what could your pumpkin spice be?

Retell your story. If you’re an established business, it may be easy for your customers to forget why they loved you. Every once in a while, you need to remind them. One of our favorite examples is Brooks, a century-old shoe company that decided to focus completely on making the best running shoes in the world. Not only did their customers take another look, but so did everybody else, making them one of the leading specialty running shoe manufacturers in the world.

Another article on brainstorming. This one will have you taking flight.

There have been numerous articles written on brainstorming. Too many. In fact the term itself actually bothers me. It implies some sort of magical brain explosion that just plops out when you gather people in a room. But there is magic, creativity and incredible value that can happen when you believe in the power of bringing people together with diverse viewpoints to solve problems.

For many years we employed a fairly standard creative process; AE talks to clients, writes brief with strategists, briefs creative team, and then sells their ideas back to client. There is a sequential and logical fashion to this and it worked swell for the first 40 years of our agency’s history. There were problems lurking beneath the surface, though. It was wasteful, for one; lots of back and forth between teams, rounds of revisions and typically a lot of great creative left on the floor because the account team isn’t behind it. The process created divisions between the account and creative teams and left the account team with no ownership of the creative. The creative teams either became order takers or tyrants depending on whomever had more power in the selection of ideas.

It’s hard to describe the magic that happens when a team loses their inhibitions, trusts each other and works together to solve problems. The results are outstanding; fewer rounds of revisions, more ideas that are on strategy; quicker, ready to market ideas and less obvious, yet more producible results. Teams come together and everyone understands and owns the strategy. It flattens the hierarchy and lets all the talents shine, not just those of a supreme creative leader. The benefits are amazing. We call this process Flight.

Five basic principles for Flight-like thinking. 

  1. Truly believe and embrace the fact everyone is creative. I have heard so many times by folks that are not technically on the creative team that they are not creative—only to see their idea rise to the top and get produced. Leave job descriptions at the door and listen to everyone.
  2. Come prepared. You can’t pick ideas off trees, and you can’t expect ideas on demand. Most people’s brains are working in the background of daily life and by priming the thoughts ahead of time you have planted the seeds of brilliance. Start with sending everyone a pre-read, then have a short 15 minute briefing together before the ideation session begins. And if the ideation is falling flat don’t be afraid to postpone and come back when people have had more time to germinate.
  3.  Define the problem. Really define the real problem. Trying to figure out what you are solving is the most difficult and most important task at hand. Be aware of the obvious and the discreet. Have a robust discussion to talk through all the possible angles.
  4. Make sure your sessions have structure. Start with a warm up exercise and then employ a tool or specific way to get ideas shaped (unless you are utilizing narcotics-which is not recommended). Freestyling can become unpredictable and forces people to go obvious routes.
  5. Create a clear decision process. Decide on the best way to evaluate the ideas as a group and stick to it. Try evaluating wearing different hats. Be open to directions that nobody had envisioned going, and don’t let the most senior or loudest voice in the room have the most votes.

Our 45th year of business was spectacular

2014 was a spectacular year for Williams Helde and our clients. What an amazing business we are in! This year brought forth lots of change in the industry, new clients, transitions and loads of success. I can honestly say that nothing is business as usual and there is no lack of boredom. After 45yrs in business there is no need for a mid-life crisis.

Moving on up: Welcome to Belltown

The biggest change we made was moving physical locations. While the beginning of the year had us in temporary housing in Ballard, in the spring we were able to purchase and move into our new location in Belltown. This move has been beyond physical, as it brought forth a new mindset, fresh thinking and allowed us to actualize our dreams of Flight. Flight is our creative process and the new open layout allowed us to think better together and create a truly harmonic process between creative, technology and account teams. It is a true joy to see everyone in the agency invested in marketing, problem solving and creative development.

After all this is a creative business. In addition to getting more ideas that are better, faster, it has truly driven engagement and better ideas for our clients. Additionally, we were able to bring about 30 original oil paintings from Jim Williams out of storage to inspire us everyday.

Meaningful work

We are fortunate to have such great clients that work with us. We are lucky to be involved with bringing products to market that truly make our lives better. The year started out with the full rebrand and re-launch of Harry’s Fresh foods. Hundreds of scrumptious packages rolled out across the nation with our new branding .

From there we moved on to rolling our perhaps the most important campaign of our lives by creating a safety program for Alaska Airlines which we named Ready. Safe. Go.

We also crafted a number of important programs for Alaska including the launch of their self tag program,

and their new onboard experience. For Sonicare we transcended the globe and launched new products, inspired and educated Dental professionals and brought superior oral hygiene to the masses.

And, speaking of dental products, in a bold move we were able to create a truly unique campaign for Tokuyama in a flat category.

And these are just a sample of the 522 projects we completed in 2014. We are proud of all our clients for trusting in us and creating work that adds value to the world. And we are very grateful to all our suppliers, vendors, freelancers, and partners that help us do amazing things.

Perhaps the most innovative piece we created however was our intellectual around the consumer decision journey. As we launched the Mobius cycle it shone a light on how and why we do what we do, and it validated our assumptions that people are smart and marketing is more important than advertising.

As we move into 2015 we are excited about all the possibilities that exist and our place in the world. Be on the lookout for fresh talent, more technology, big ideas, more FLIGHT, more Mobius and a fresh take on our Active Healthy Lifestyle audience focus. Our 46th year is looking pretty bright.

How the Mobius Cycle cleans things up

Below is yet another example of how the path to purchase is no longer a sequential or linear journey. The purchase funnel is dead, long live the Mobius Cycle™

Lucy is aware that her dishwasher is old.  She suspects its performance is declining; glasses seem a little spotty, a little filmy, and she hasn’t changed detergents.  It could be that her husband and daughter are loading the machine poorly or, more precisely, that they are overloading it, as they often do.  But, given the appliance’s age, Lucy doubts that’s the whole story.  She’s worried about her dishwasher now though, if pinned down, she couldn’t tell you exactly when the worry started.  In Mobius terms, she hasn’t reached the conception stage and is nowhere near consideration.  Various influencers have given her impressions of some brands.  Of course, in the case of the brand she owns, she’s in the experience phase.  Brand/product is out there, for the various makers, as it always is.

Lucy begins to pay more attention to dishwasher advertising, on television and in magazines.  She takes more notice of brands and models she sees in her friends’ homes.  She asks one friend, specifically, how she likes the model he owns.  In the store for something else, Lucy decides to walk through the appliance section ‘just to take a look’.  She is accumulating influencers.

Then, one breezy Sunday morning, the night after a dinner party, Lucy’s dishwasher breaks down.  It stops functioning.  It looses water all over the kitchen floor.  This is a conception moment, for certain, but in terms of instigating the purchase of a new dishwasher, it’s not a done deal, not yet.  Lucy’s called a repair service, just to get an estimate.  Maybe it’s a cheap, simple repair and she won’t have to replace.  She spends Sunday in consideration, accelerating her research into new brands.  She emails a couple of friends, seeking their recommendations (the friends are in experience phase).  She goes online to read reviews, finds a staggering variety of sites on which she can do this.  She’s taking into account design, availability, all sorts of factors.  Influencers are coming at her, almost faster than she can process them, changing her perceptions of some brands, hardening her perceptions of others.

Monday, the estimate comes in, high but not too high.  Lucy’s still not sure whether to repair or replace.  She asks for, and receives, a recommendation from the repairman as to what brand she should choose, if she replaces.  His recommendation sends her back online, searching, as does the recommendation of a colleague with whom she’s shared her dilemma.

To re-cap, it’s Monday afternoon and the brand/product is out there, influencers from all the various brands are piling, Lucy is in full-blown consideration, despite conception still not being 100% resolved.  Lucy figures she has two days, three at the most, before everyone tires of washing the dishes by hand and/or eating out.

Sometime late on Tuesday, various influencers, including the products of others’ experience, gathered by Lucy in her consideration, finally kick her into full conception.  She decides to replace and, perhaps with the aid of a purchase accelerators and direct response drivers, makes a purchase.

Is this the end of this considered purchase cycle?  No.  Mobius never ends.

Lucy, having made her purchase, has entered into an all-new experience phase.  Influencers like post-sale service and other communications from the manufacturer, will shape that phase (as, of course, will the actual functioning of the product itself).  She will, when asked, comment on her new dishwasher to friends and colleagues.  She may write a review or post something on social media, contributing influencers to other consumers who, having had their conception moment will take those influencers into consideration.  Eventually, this next tier of consumers will make their purchases, enter into their experience phases, and contribute influencers to still another round of consumers who will take those influencers into consideration and . . .

See?  Mobius never ends.  The considered purchase cycle never sleeps.  And neither can marketers, not in this modern, multi-media environment.

Brand/Product.  Influencers.  Conception.  Consideration.  Purchase.  Experience.  It’s a lot to manage, enough to seem overwhelming at times.  At Williams Helde, we break it down into these six segments.  And we break these six segments down into still finer components; understandable, fine tune-able components.  All of these components, all of these segments—managed, measured, and fine-tuned—form one comprehensive, holistic marketing strategy, built for you, to lift your brand/product above the competition.


Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

For years, marketers have used the funnel model to explain considered purchase behavior and the flow of product information. This model worked fairly well during the days of mass advertising and media-centric agencies. It has its strong points as an explanation: it’s tidy, logical, and linear. The cycle it describes has a clear, defined beginning and a clear, defined end. It also has its weak points as an explanation: it’s tidy, logical, and linear. The cycle it describes has a clear, defined beginning and a clear, defined end. Consumer behavior, no matter what we wish, is seldom tidy, logical, or linear and the considered purchase cycle, now more than ever, has no clear beginning nor even a clear end.

The funnel also requires mass advertising to top-load a huge number of leads, most of which go nowhere. It assumes mass media in a multi-media world.

Here at Williams Helde Marketing Communications , we loved the funnel. We used the funnel. The funnel, like eight-track tapes, rotary dial land line telephones, and those old cameras that required flash powder and a photographer hunched under a black wool blanket, was great in its day. It was state-of-the-art. We have fond memories of it. So it pains us to say it, but its time has passed.

The funnel is dead. Long live the Mobius Cycle

The Mobius: An Ear-y Tale of the path to purchase

In our last blog post, we looked at a case study, an actual instance of the Mobius Cycle at work, the real-life path to purchase for a pair of real-life consumers.  We’ll do that again today but, in today’s example, we’ll be looking at a case where the purchase is not optional (no matter how badly Mike and Nicole wanted that RV, they didn’t truly need it, though a successful marketer might make them feel that way) and the cycle, while it still falls under the heading of considered purchase, has a good bit more (ahem) urgency to it. Read more

The Open Road: A true story of a path to purchase

We have been spending a lot of time recently looking at how and why people buy. We have been digging deep and dissecting what goes into the consideration and subsequent purchase. You may have seen our prior postings on the Mobius Cycle™ . It’s a non-sequential purchase cycle. This non-linear consumer journey, as I’m often telling people, is not something we dreamed up here at Williams Helde; it’s something that’s out there, happening, right now, with your consumers. We’ve just coined the terminology to define and explain it, so that we can help you devise a strategy to thrive in this, the new reality.

To illustrate just how complex and difficult marketing has become and how accurately Mobius Cycle™ describes the lifecycle of a considered purchase in the current environment, allow us to present you with a case study, a true story: (we changed the names to protect the innocent) Read more

A New Look at How People Buy: Introducing the Mobius Cycle.

People are smarter than ever before. As customers, they don’t fall into a nice, easy segmentation anymore, and the purchase path is no longer linear. And with an endless amount of resources, information and influences, they’re being stimulated in more ways. Nowadays, people can interact with a brand at any point within the purchase lifecycle. Not to mention, there has been a major convergence of paid, owned and earned media to add to the decision process. In fact, mass media is no longer the driving factor in awareness and brand perception. And even “new” media is no longer considered “new” ­– it’s all just media these days. For advertisers, this means that those influences we tried to control for so many years need to be rethought as marketers.

Introducing our latest creation: The Mobius Cycle.

Read more