During business conferences, we deliver the S&A elevator speech more than a few times. Tight spaces, tight timeframe. Our Chief Brand Officer Jennifer Brocker always wishes she had more time to tell our story. Which got her thinking. What if we had the chance to get in an elevator in Burj Khalifa and push the button for the top floor? Talk about a vertically integrated opportunity.
Floor 1: “Top floor, please.”
After exchanging hellos and “What brings you to Dubai?”, we get to the so-what’s-your-story portion of our upward-moving dialogue.
Floor 3: “I’m a creative director at a branding agency called Stephens & Associates.”
It’s a really fun and interesting way to make a living. (Thanks to depictions of ad agency life in Mad Men and movies, it’s a great way to conjure up an image.)
Floor 17: “No, we haven’t done any Super Bowl ads, we actually specialize in business-to-business marketing.”
We’re not a giant consumer agency. We built our agency around the philosophy of working closely with a select number of clients so we can do a deep dive into their business challenges.
Floor 33: “We call ourselves The Brand Whisperers.”
Years ago, we listened in on a renowned horse whisperer sharing his philosophy on the approach he uses to connect with horses and change their behavior. Observe the horse in its natural surroundings. Gentle persuasion is more powerful than force. The full language of communication is clearly expressed if you know how to interpret it. Tap into emotions. It’s not about how much pressure you put on; it’s about how much you take off. We realized his principles and techniques are very much the same as those used in effective branding and communication. It inspired us that day and it still inspires everything we do to this day.
Floor 52: “We’re all in.”
We believe branding is business, so we don’t just want to make things, we want to make a difference. We do our best work when we get to know every part of your business or product. If you’re getting coffee in our office, you’ll overhear some unexpected conversations – the molecular weight of an active ingredient, the complexity of the pet food global supply chain, the finer points of loan amortization. The other day one of our clients actually said, “You’re so much more than an ad agency.”
Floor 61: “We know animal health and pet care better than anyone.”
Over the last 40 years, we’ve helped launch, reposition and redefine a lot of brands and companies in the animal health space. We’ve worked on products for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, pigs – even bees and orcas. It’s a wonderful reason to come to work every day. Chuck Stephens, the owner of the agency, grew up on a dairy farm so he’s been around the animal health business long before we were a business.
Floor 77: “Did you know there are fewer than fifteen $100 million animal health brands out there?”
We’ve helped launch and build several of them. We’re really proud of that.
Floor 82: “We also know health and beauty, specialty financing and doctor/patient relationships.
It’s funny. Through client referrals, account expansion and strange twists of fate, our expertise has grown – we understand everything from what drives men with hair loss to insurance agents wanting to buy a book of business. It’s a diverse mix, but they share the same marketing challenges. You’ve got to understand their decision-making process, identify their spheres of influence, know their pain points, tap into their emotions and deliver relevancy. It’s so much fun to figure out.
Floor 96: “That’s why we’re research evangelists.”
We are true believers in the power of discovery. We always think about what we don’t know about the customer and the market, and then we do everything we can to find the answers. In a world of channel proliferation, marketing noise and demand for ROI, you can’t afford NOT to uncover every insight and nuance. One of secrets of brand whispering is understanding that everything you think you know may change with the very next brand.
Floor 101: “Did you see the movie where Tom Cruise was scaling the outside of this building?”
It’s even more terrifying in person!
Floor 130: “Our
client relationships last longer than a lot of marriages.
Not to mention this elevator ride.”
The way we see it, brands are long-term relationships built on integrity, trust and fun. We work best with clients who believe the same and want the same kind of relationship with their agency. Our average client tenure is 12 years. I think this metric says the most about who we are.
Floor 163: “This is my floor. I wonder if they provide oxygen along with the coffee.”
It was great sharing an elevator with you. Here’s my business card. Give me a call.