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2017. Just look at what’s ahead.

This is a good time to stop, reflect, and take stock of how far we’ve come before plunging into the year ahead. I’d like to start by thanking all of our amazing clients, talented staff, dedicated partners and legions of friends, family and supporters of Williams Helde. Without your support we could not carry on for our 47th year in business as an independent agency. Thank you for helping make our mission to create meaningful change through exceptional communication.

Speaking of change, 2016 was a year full of it. Through a shifting world and a divided election, Williams Helde negotiated that change as best we could, using the guiding force of our core values and having a staff that cares about our clients and always tries to do the right thing. As 2017 begins, we’ve made some changes that have helped prepare us for challenges to come.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-3-40-28-pmStarting Up: One of our major initiatives was to create a division of Williams Helde designed to help startups launch themselves into the stratosphere: Active Labs. The creation of Active Labs forced us to focus on the essentials and foundation a company needs to effectively market itself. We consider this startup a success, having created brand foundations for bright young companies like i1Biometrics, Lulabop, and Samaritan.

Feeling Conscious: We also jumped head-first into something we’ve believed in for years: building Conscious Businesses. By becoming part of the founding board of Conscious Capitalism in Seattle we are helping businesses become driven by a higher purpose than simply revenues and profits.

16-3126_hygienist_shineon_thankyounoteImproving Lives: In 2016, we were fortunate enough to help launch a number of global projects for Philips. From connected toothbrushes to a campaign that celebrates the daily heroism of hygienists, we’ve helped communicate how Philips supports dental professionals and their patients. We also had the opportunity to build campaigns for Philips healthcare, through their Respironics and Ultrasound divisions. We’re proud to play a small part in helping improve the lives of millions around the globe.

We’ve been improving lives in other ways, too. If you haven’t downloaded the
Pay-By-Phone app, check out our campaign and get it on your phone right away. You’ll never park the same again. Also, our work for Nautilus and Bowflex went worldwide, inspiring a healthy active lifestyle for thousands of people.

Celebrating Culture: Inside the agency, we took steps to work better together. From monthly lunch and learns to making Processed with VSCO with m5 presetour own wine to studying improv, we worked (and played) hard to get closer as a team to deliver a seamless experience for our clients. We completely redesigned our website to reflect the spirit of adventure we all share. Not only did we win our first Addy for our in-depth exploration of the Active Explorer, but we continue to learn a lot about this ever-striving psychographic through our proprietary Active Explorer User Group – just ask to see our special reports on Food and Travel.

Looking Forward:  Like I said, it’s been a year full of change. And in 2017, that change looks like it’s going to accelerate. This year, you’ll find us uncovering more insights about Active Explorers, the best customer you never knew you had. You’ll find us working with the most exciting new startups in the Puget Sound ecosystem. You’ll find us more focused on building conscious brands that make a difference in the world we live in.

It’s an exciting time to be at Williams Helde. Thanks for being part of it. We look forward to building something amazing together in 2017.

Sincerely,

mwsig

Marc Williams

Love is Served: Food Gets a Little Emotional.

“[Food] makes you think of happy times. It warms your heart.” – Active Explorer, anonymous

kzwp2iiyxma-toa-heftibaAfter years of studying the Active Explorer, one of the most loyal and dynamic psychographics in marketing today, we’ve learned one thing: they never cease to surprise. After tracking down every food trend, from meal delivery services to sous vide cooking, that affects this adventurous group, we finally sat down and asked them a few questions about how they think about eating.

And it comes down to honesty, authenticity, and family.

The most important value for food companies, from restaurants to retail, among Active Explorers is honesty (24%). A close second was family (21%). We were expecting more exploration values to pop, like originality (2%) or innovation (1%). Maybe even adventure (2%) or discovery (1%). But no. AE’s may be pushing the envelope on self-discovery, only not when they’re hungry. The biggest values after family were ethical (9%), respect (7%) and caring (7%).

“Comfort food to me is the meal you cook after you have completely ruined a meal you were going to try.” – Active Explorer, anonymous

xksrpuh0vzo-yvonne-lee-harijantoFood is comfort, and comfort means food. That’s what our User Group played back to us. They rely on it to warm them during spells of cold weather (29%) and ground them after stressful days at work (16%). But you don’t need to be sad to reach for the mac and cheese: comfort food is what AE’s reach for when they’re in a good mood (13%) or when they’re in the mood to celebrate (11%). In short, comfort food is “fresh, fills you up, and makes you feel loved,” in the words of one respondent.

Ultimately, this is what food means to Active Explorers. It’s an emotional connection to friends and family. It’s a place to feel safe and warm. It’s a place you leave every morning, touch base at lunch, and return to at dinner to share stories, build memories, and express love.

No matter whether they’ddzyotzunbk-eaters-collectivere cooking for themselves or going out to eat, food occupies a special place in the mind of the Active Explorer. It’s a beginning and an end to the day, fuel and sustenance, an expression of honesty and family. It’s where they start and where they inevitably return. It’s a place called home.

Active Explorer Restaurant Chains: A Top Ten List

Tried and true. With a dash of spice.

e6hjqab7uea-dan-goldThat’s what our Active Explorer User Group told us they preferred when they went out to eat. Not in so many words, mind you. In general, Active Explorers are the most likely to crave culinary adventures. They love learning to cook new things, explore new restaurants, and taste dishes they haven’t tried before.

But not always. When they responded to our survey, they revealed that their default setting was a little closer to home. When deciding to go out on the spur of the moment on a Saturday night, nearly half (44%) of Active Explorers choose a sit-down restaurant close to home.

But which five sit-down restaurants were the most likely to be chosen by Active Explorers? Drum roll please…

  • Olive Garden (11%)
  • Chili’s (10%)
  • Applebee’s (9%)
  • Outback Steakhouse (8%)
  • Cheesecake Factory (8%)

The fact that these were national chains wasn’t surprising; this was a national survey. What’s interesting is who was left off the list. No Denny’s, Red Lobster, Buffalo Wild Wings, or TGI Fridays – names you’d expect to be competitive in this race.

When we dug a little deeper, we noticed something our winners had in common. Each of them has recently emphasized a value in their marketing that olivegarden575-calpromostrikes a chord with the Active Explorer. For example, Olive Garden has recently hit “fresh,” “healthy” and “gourmet” pretty hard. Same with Chili’s and Outback.

When it came to fast-food restaurants, we learned even more. Here are the top five finishers:

  • McDonald’s (10%)
  • Panera (9%)
  • Chick-fil-A (7%)
  • Taco Bell (7%)
  • Chipotle (7%)

Panera and Chipotle are perennial Active Explorer favorites, so it’s not surprising to see those place well. But we were curious to see what McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A were doing right. A lot, as it turns out. All three have spent a great deal of marketing emphasizing their fresh, local, bold new menu items.

mcdonaldsbillboard2Even McDonald’s has made a big push in the Pacific Northwest, sourcing their fries from Washington farmers and putting up billboards that connected the McDonald’s brand to a sense of outdoor adventure.

What else did we learn? 1 in 4 Active Explorers said that spending time with family and friends is the best thing about going out to dinner. About the same number said the best thing about going out to eat is not having to make it themselves.

Active Explorers are, at their heart, explorers. But as we learned from our travel survey, they also like coming back to a place they feel comfortable. In the food industry, that’s where fast casual brands are making their biggest gains. There’s always a place for known quantities that are trusted brands, are convenient and reliable, but also consistently provide new flavors or refreshed menus.

Put all the Active Explorer learnings together: buzzwords, restaurants, food trends and lifestyle: what does it all mean? Let’s talk about that next week.

Active Explorers Go Out to Eat: Food for Thought.

shutterstock_222631798_editSome of the world’s most adventurous, experiential people?

When it comes to food, they often choose the tried and true.

That’s just one of the unexpected, surprising, and insightful results we learned from our Active Explorer User Group. Conducted in late September and early October of this year, our survey included 433 respondents who fall into the Active Explorer psychographic – one of the most loyal, educated, and growing consumer segments. These are people evenly distributed by age between the ages of 25 – 65+, 40% earn between $100K- $150K household income. Many have a 4-year degree, and one in four have a graduate degree.

We asked a wide range of questions about how these customers think and feel about the food they eat, in restaurants and at home.

Did you know…

  • Nearly 20% buy organic produce when available? (We thought that would be higher.)
  • That 75% workout most days, or at least a few days of the week? (We thought that might be lower.)
  • Nearly 40% dined out 3-5 times last month and nearly 20% dined out over 8 times last month? (We didn’t know what to think, but that’s good stuff.)

Here’s what really surprised us. We gave our people a pop quiz. What do you do when it’s Saturday, and you have nothing planned for dinner?

Our respondents told us that 59% of them planned to go to a restaurant for dinner rather than choosing to make something at home. We could see that. These people are seekers, adventurers, the ones who want to try that new place on the corner.blogicons_food-02_720

But of these respondents, 83% would choose a restaurant they’ve been to before, instead of trying something new. (That’s higher than we expected. By a lot.) That tells us a lot about how food connects with Active Explorers. Even though they’re a demographic most likely to try new experiences, when it comes to restaurants, their loyalty kicks in hard.

Of the 41% of Active Explorers who said they’d break out the pots and pans on a Saturday night, 85% plan the meal before they go to the store and 81% make a grocery or shopping list for it. This suggests opportunities to reach them while they are deciding at home and in planning mode — even at the last minute. They have good reasons to cook at home: cooking/preparing food at home helps AEs have control over what they are eating (20%) and it helps them save money (20%). They also believe that it has higher quality ingredients (16%).

As you’d expect from a demographic that likes to learn, Active Explorers report that their interest in cooking exceeds their skill level. 31% rated themselves a 5 for skill, while 38% rated themselves a 5 for interest.

What can we infer from these results? That when it comes to food, decisions are made well before the time to make them. That the opportunity to influence comes far before the moment of purchase. And maybe restaurants need to balance the thrill of something new with the comfort of the familiar.

blogicons_food-03_720But we’re just getting started. In our next post, we’ll explore the emotional and rational triggers that inspire Active Explorers to choose what they eat – and it’s more interesting than we thought.

Stay tuned. See you next week.

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.

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.

REQUIEM FOR A FUNNEL

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