NEMO lives Youth Culture. From its roots as a three man shop in Portland, Nemo has grown into an internationally recognized marketing/design firm, with multi-million dollar clients like Nike, HP, ESPN, Fuel Television network, Smith optics, Bell helmets, Timbers MLS soccer, Salomon and Timberline–to name a few.
When asked that makes NEMO different, Trevor says “We never make ads: advertising is fake, it’s clutter, and it’s ignored by most. We touch people through art, we communicate emotions, we engage in genuine conversation, we create real experiences that real people will find interesting, inspiring, useful and memorable. We make the cash register ring, without trying to sell anyone.”
With respect to all the recent “label” discussions about agencies, NEMO eschews labels. They become whatever kind of agency they need to solve problem. I like that.
To everyone who wonders about the future of agencies and whether they’ll stay around NEMO says “We are paid for having vision (we see the invisible) and a Point of View (we can explain what it looks like, what it means, and why it matters). ” In your face, cynics.
What was the aha moment when you realized “our company needs to be doing things differently than we have been”?
Is there ever one defining AHA moment? To be relevant in culture and in business, you need to have AHA moments all the time. We live in the age of change. So, the big lofty AHA may arrive and it’s very subtle. Growing up in action sports, you’re intuitively aware of nuances and you’re constantly moving. You see everything in a shifted paradigm: what can I do with this? What can I make here? What line can I take? This awareness is hardwired into a lot of the people at Nemo and it helps us tremendously; you learn to recognize change in the world and how to creatively embrace it, how to be curious and provoke the new. Our clients constantly look to us to help them see the invisible opportunity and create an impact with it.
What books are on your nightstand or great blogs on your Google reader?
The book that is literally on my nightstand today is “Built to Last” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. One of the dangers in this industry is defining your success and what your stand for through your clients, rather than having a great sense of your own core ideology. As for blogs and such, I am ADD. The snack-sized bites coming through my Tweedeck are in the same vein as things you’d find on the Hitch blogroll.
Give me an example of marketing you think is brilliant and why.
The world I came from, “marketing” was a dirty word and something not to be trusted. Marketing meant fake. The real impact came from the people and brands that were all about adding to the culture: Participating, connecting, and celebrating a lifestyle. I use that filter to judge what we call “marketing” today. Is it real, is it making real change and are people feeling it? Favorite examples are the iPhone, really centering around product as message, and the Obama campaign. The simple slogans of Change and Hope, the use of a logo mark, and the social media was game-changing.
We’ve all read that the pitch / RFP process is broken. Many agencies aren’t even interested in competing in pitches. Do you see an alternative to this process?
I am going to make a Mad Men reference, please forgive me. Season 3, Episode 7. Don Draper is called into talk with Conrad Hilton in his Presidential suite. Conrad asks Don to take a look at some mock up of ads he has on the coffee table.
Conrad- “What do ya think”
Don- “I don’t think you would be working in the Presidential suite if you worked for free.”
Conrad, surprised- “This is friendly”
Don- “Connie, this is my profession, what do you want me to do?”
Conrad smirks, taken aback that Don didn’t just roll over and give him the free advise he desired.
Conrad- “ I want you to give me one for free.”
With a poetic pause, the camera pans low and looks up at Don as he pulls a smoke and lights it with a cool guy style. The camera pans back down to an illustrated mouse dressed in a top hat, and a marker rendering of the exterior of the Hilton Hotel. Don exhales. In a confident straightforward response, he replies.
Don- “I don’t think anybody wants to think about a mouse at a hotel.”
Conrad Hilton is startled and dazed. Don has earned Conrad’s respect and is asked to symbolically sit at the table with him to discuss the advertisements, peer to peer. This is an opportunity we as agency people are asked to do in the RFP process yet we give away our spot at the table by giving our service for free. I think many of us have read Blair Enns “Win Without Pitching” and there are some insights in the work that help the community of agencies to commiserate as victims about how unfair the RFP process can be. We can’t control the world but like Don Draper, we can control our reaction to it.
Let’s look at the RFP process from the client side and see where we as the agency can have our own Don Draper moments. The average relationship between agency and client is about 4 years. What that means for the client is that they are not practiced or even up to speed on what agencies are out there, who is a good fit for their band and even practice on how to “court” a great agency. Like Mr. Hilton, the client can be a bit unsure and wants to avoid what Enns calls Buyer’s Remorse. They don’t want to hire the wrong firm. They ask the agency to pitch free ideas because the execution is very literal and makes it easier for them to compare agency to agency. I get it. What Nemo has done is set up a routine or process around qualifying the lead.
- Is this client a good match for Nemo? Nemo is an Action agency and it makes sense for a client to come to us to us for our expertise. A Hotel like the Hilton might not be a good fit for Nemo however a resort like the Black Pearl resort in the Caymen Island would be a good fit for Nemo, http://www.blackpearl.ky/
- Budget. If they are not willing to go over a scope of work and budget then they are showing signs of a bad client and we would put up a red flag at this point. If they have a small budget, we ask to work around an actual contest of pitching. Our margin gets sucked up in handing out free work when there isn’t more money to offset the pitch once and if we win the account. $500k is a budget that pitching starts to make sense for Nemo. Smaller than that is a project and handled differently.
- We ask whom else are they asking to pitch. I am not sure why all the secrecy around this topic but it is fair to know the landscape. If a client is asking for something for free, I want transparency of who else is on the short list. This is because if we perceive any of the competition is a better fit for the client’s needs, we are the first to endorse their service and save ourselves all the expense and inefficiency of pitching.
- If the client has a smaller budget and the work lines up and the client is still in the “Buyer’s Remorse” mode, we suggest doing a small, real project to see how the relationship works first hand. We have also done in depth case study reviews to help clients understand how we have worked with other clients and how we might work together.
- We try to have the actual stakeholders present rather than just the marketing department. The territory is not the map.
What does the agency of the future look like?
The agency model I see reflects our vision of what Nemo was born to do. Fast, smart, passionate and well connected. We keep our core team full time to insure our branded look and service, then ramp up around them with experts and freelancers when needed. There are so many talented creatives in the market; it makes managing a business much smarter. We can hand pick a SWAT team of experts to tap for consulting in short bursts. Hollywood works this way.
I also see the best creative agencies contributing more to culture; making their own brands and content, taking more risks and sharing the rewards, collaborating and experimenting. Who wants to play?
What do marketers need that agencies are not giving them?
Marketers need their agencies to offer emerging rates for services that they want to grow into. The old cliché states that you can’t get the job without the experience and you cant get the experience without the job. Your agency understands your brand and with the ability to expand that service you both win. For an example, if you were an interactive shop, extending into a social media service wouldn’t be a huge leap of faith. It is fair to pay that firm less for them to gain the experience on your brand and in return you as the marketers get a deeper service at a discounted rate. A win-win for both parties.
Who do you admire and why?
Amelia Graves. She is our 5-year daughter. I guess I am getting to maturity to be able to observe her world and how she might see it. She is imaginative, curious about the world, she lives in the present with no concern for the future, she has no concept of money, she breaks out in song and dance with no fear of being ridiculed. When she plays with her toys, she is lost in an endless imaginary world. My selfish side wants to bottle that energy up and use it to further my agenda in the real world of constantly needing to invent more creative for clients. The other side of me admires this innocence for what it is and knows that she can own that space and time.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” - Pablo Picasso