Mixology – A tender crash course in NYCA’s grow! culture

May 13, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA vibrates on the edge of the ocean. We put the agency’s roots down here to be close to our core customers. Encinitas is our home; known for sun-dazed walks along the beach, awesome surf spots called Swamis and the Boneyard, cutesy eclectic retailers displaying their wares and social consciousness. We made sure to put ourselves far from the city and the hum-drum, conventional thinking of the ad agency world and land in a neighborhood where the hairdressers take cigarette breaks while thumbing through People magazine, by the hardware stores, and a diner, the kite store (never saw one of those before but it makes sense when you’re on the ocean), indie sneaker store, used-car lot, Self-Realization center, French bakery, dry cleaners. We’re with the people, and that keeps us in touch with reality – something I’m not convinced most agencies are and the cause for many of the misses in their work. It’s hard to relate to people when they look like ants from the 47th floor and you’re cooler than thou.

Being far enough to be close puts added pressure on us because if we are to fulfill our mission of growing every client’s business in the marketplace, we must be — and remain –current to what is happening in their businesses. We must be stimulated by each other, by our clients, their products, their customers, their competition, the industries, the mediums, the marketplace, the technologies and more. That’s why Michelle, our president and chief planner, invented Mixology – and I love Mixology! It’s 1 hour every other week around 4 pm when we have guest innovators come visit our beach shack to share what they have been tinkering with, what they have learned. These generous experts jolt us. We learn, we apply, we grow!

Last week we had an engineer from Apple in to show us the marketing uses of the iPad (he was kinda cooler than thou but in a real way). We’ve had people from Yahoo!, Facebook, musicians, loads of media companies whom I think are the real night crawlers searching for connection between message and audience – thanks for that! And we have hosted technology companies and a dream interpreter and nutritionists, futurists, and bakers opening us to the new, the effective, the failures. We have focused the SoCal sunlight on our own NYCAers who recently shared breakthroughs in TiVo: we experimented and crushed the projections on this campaign! Lisa showed us how in PowerPoint our ideas can be more powerful and useful in meetings.

We are a contradiction to conventional approaches, a connection with the ever-changing present – a culture that has ourselves on the edge and in the middle to make sure we are inside the customer’s heart and mind because we are so out there. The dichotomy is NYCA, and we are comfortable with the oxymoronishness.

We are the sharpened teeth of New York and the tradewind vibes of California. We work in harmonious chaos, comfy and danger-filled days, mashing up science and mysticism, instinct and data, music, pictures, words and silence; we are the fathomless open mind of the Pacific Ocean and the social technology revolution that is happening in mobile now.

My favorite cookie growing up was a black and white: 50% vanilla frosting, 50% chocolate frosting. I would eat from the edges into the middle, side by side, leaving two pieces at the end – each purely themselves — and then smush them both in my mouth for the ultimate flavor mélange sensation. That’s the taste of NYCA.

Mixology is that. You gotta come by and check it out. Let me know if you want to teach or be taught – either way you learn. Both sides working distinctly and in unison, like a black and white cookie.

Being there means your brand cares.

March 23, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

A client looked me in the eyes this week and told me, “Michael, it’s better to be fast and wrong than slow and right.”

I think it was directional in nature. Still, it was quite a statement. It’s conceding that the speed needed to move at in today’s business environment is reaching a pace of acceptable recklessness.

Woody Allen said something like, “99 percent of success in life is showing up.” Not sure if it’s exactly how he said it, but you get the point: you don’t have to be perfect, just raise your hand and be counted all the time. That’s harder these days as there are so many places to be.

Reminds me of how my mother forced me to go to kindergarten even when I was absolutely dying from excruciating, intolerable, at-the-doors-of-death-pain with a tummy-ache. I didn’t do much schoolwork that day but the important part (to my mom and teacher – you can say, my customers) was that I was marked present. And being there, even physically wounded, counted more than being fully mentally present.

Today’s marketing environment is a great deal about brands being here and there. And these days, with the proliferation of .coms, social sites, applications, and meet-ups, there are so many more parties where one needs to be seen that you could well show up underdressed. What’s a brand to do?

The perfectionist’s motto, “measure twice, cut once,” has become: “cut, oops, cut better, oops, cut, repeat constantly, just keep cutting.”

Why such a rush? Is it worth it? Our successful customer is saying “Yes.” Because consumers have a seemingly all day and night hunger for content and they demand to be served promptly and frequently with constant feedback and the occasional coupon.

Like any close and good relationship, brands and consumers don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Mistakes are overlooked and, because we do move so fast, they are forgotten in a matter of several tweets.

Are we saying that quality isn’t as important as quantity? This makes me queasy but I think so. Quantity is taking precedence because touching all those touch points means you’re there for me in all these places, all the time, and the sum is: you care.

Now, of course, some mistakes are more grievous than others. Be sensible as you speed along, but keep that speedometer pressing on the red as we head to another party at which to be seen.

When he protested that Macintosh wasn’t ready yet to launch, Guy Kawasaki was assured by Steve Jobs, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” They launched and they made it better on the run. Quite a run it’s been.

So here’s the dress code: even if slightly untucked here and there, make sure your brand shows up. Often.

In other words, “Get your business out of bed and get out there right this instant or else!”

Just like momma said.

They killed my great big idea – I should give them a raise!

January 25, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

I had a great idea – no really, a big, rare, juicy one. It was clear, unique – it was an app for cripes sakes! And for a client who is innovation focused!

I ran to the digital producers, “Get your heads out of your cloud computing and get on this faster than now!”

They did their wireframes. Had some questions – actually doubts: cost, timing.

“I don’t care how much money,” I said, “This is a great idea – do it, now!”

They brought it to strategy and they did some research on the target and had reservations. Actually they thought it was a good idea but not in coordination enough with the rest of the work we were doing.

“Go renegade with me!” I called, charging in no one direction.

They brought in media and they did some data digging – interesting idea as it was the target would be insignificant.

Dead. They killed the idea because it wasn’t a grow! idea.

Lucky me, lucky clients.

I trust you with my life

January 20, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

I read that 40% of the people who get a diagnosis from their physician will doubt the doc if their social network friends question it. Now, I like second opinions like I do another slice of cream pie but will this undermine the medical attention one gets? How about when people start taking advice from their Facebook buddies and start exercising more than the doc wants and have a heart attack?

And if this happens with someone who has gone to medical school, what happens when you are buying light bulbs from the hardware store and ask your peeps what they think of the sales associate in overalls’ opinion that 60 watts is the way to go?

People trust other people because those people are like them. Comfort is healthy when not numbing. This is a new shift; it used to be comforting to know that the person you were being advised by was different from you. Doctors would wear lab coats to show they were medically superior and perhaps cleaner. These days, fewer physicians wear those coats. Overalls once showed that the hardware salesguy was more serious about his handcrafting; that’s why he had all those places for his tools on his jumper. Now he is either in a costume or seen as a bad dresser. Uniforms in stores are rarely seen and if you took off the associate’s name badge you couldn’t tell the customer from the patient from the tool guy from the doctor. They’re just people talking to people. This puts pressure on the information over pomp — which is a good thing for all advice takers.

Still, expertise needs to be questioned in order to be trusted. I still check the fine print on the diplomas when waiting in the examining room for the doctor.