Why Business Owners Should Watch the #XMass Jammies Video

By now you have probably heard of the Holderness family and if not we suggest you Google them after reading this post. They are the creators (and stars) of the now famous #Xmass Jammies video and founders of The Green Room, a digital marketing company located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The #Xmass Jammies  video is a holiday sensation, putting a new spin on an old idea. Much like Shutterfly did for (or to) the traditional photo album (read this article on Shutterfly’s innovative approach), the Holderness family has done to the traditional holiday card, holiday family photo card and the even more detailed ‘year-in-review’ letter.

In 3:38 minutes of time, they sing and dance their way through an engaging review of their accomplishments as a family in 2013. They also manage to promote their digital marketing services in a tasteful and engaging manner while creating an unforgettable product. But above all else here are five reasons why our team loved the #Xmass Jammies video and why we believe other companies should adopt a similar approach to their marketing.

They Tell a Story

The rise of social media provides the best opportunity for companies to take a fresh look at how they market their brands. New platforms emerge each and every day while the big ones (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) still provide ample opportunities for companies to get their messages out and logos in front of millions.  These platforms also provide an opportunity for individuals and companies alike to become storytellers and according to a recent Forbes article, this is the here and now of marketing.

Demonstrate Their Expertise

Team Holderness did a wonderful job telling their story through video which, oh by the way, just-so-happens to be what they do for a living. While not everyone will be able to tell their story through their product offering, demonstrating an expertise in a creative way (hosting a seminar at an unusual event and recording it) not only demonstrates an ability to think outside-the-box, it also demonstrates a willingness to be different and to reach people through different methods.

Get Rid of the Fear

Just how many husband and wife duos would actually rap their way through a video in their jammies for the entire world to see?  We’ll bet that not too many would be that comfortable. However, there’s an authenticity to the Holderness video that pulls the viewer in, as if they can totally relate with what they’re saying. This has more to do with their ability to overcome the fear of being authentic in the eyes of their peers, than it does in their ability to create a video. Any company can hire a marketing firm to record a video but it is up to the company and their employees to figure out how to promote the business and its culture through an authentic story.

As today’s marketplace continues to evolve so must our efforts to reach our consumers. Experimentation, getting personal, shedding fear and being bold in our efforts are fast becoming today’s norms so if your run a business don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.



Utilizing New Channels to Create Unforgettable Experiences


Dinner’s on Joe.
Illustrated by H.P.Riggs, JR.

In today’s ever changing environment it is important for companies to separate themselves from their competition by creating unforgettable experiences for members of their community (customers, vendors, friends, etc.).  The Disney empire was built on creating “wow” moments and every company strives to do the same. Wow’s are what keeps them coming back and are the cornerstone of customer loyalty. This month, while working with a local insurance agency, we came up with a unique “wow” moment for his company that we believe we should share.

The agent, we’ll call him Joe, works for a large and reputable insurance company. His agency, franchise of sorts, is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River and his target market are the more than 20,000 residents residing in the three towns close to his office.

His agency is relatively new so Joe and his three employees continually seek unique ways to separate his firm from his competitors. We meet monthly to discuss his approach and to brainstorm on how he can improve his business without breaking the bank. Among the many ideas we discussed the following stood out as the most creative.

During our conversation Joe mentioned that he wanted to figure out how to work more closely with a local and very popular cheesesteak / pizza shop in order to gain exposure. The shop is located within walking distance of his agency and the owners recently gave Joe their business. Up until this point he has considered trying the traditional tactics including the ever so  popular “place your card in the bowl and win a lunch” contest. But today, a new idea emerged.

From now through the end of summer Joe will sponsor two pizzas per weekend to be delivered to anonymous customers within his target area. He will pre-pay the pizza shop and allow them to randomly select which customers (delivery only) will receive the surprise pie. Here’s how it will work and why it is a great idea.

Customer A calls on a friday night for a pizza to be delivered to his/her home. When the food arrives the driver simply tells the customer that the pizza is complementary of Joe, a local local insurance agent, who wants to build his reputation throughout the community. A pre-printed “thank you” card will be placed on the top of the box inviting the recipient to “thank Joe” on his company’s Facebook page and telling them to enjoy their meal. A simple yet powerful gesture.

Here’s why it will work.

  •  People love surprises, especially ones that save them money.
  • Eating is intimate and so is insurance. A natural yet subtle connection.
  • It screams community. Isn’t that what it’s all about.
  • The pizza shop also looks good so they will begin to sing his praises.
  • If he can successfully encourage people to talk about it online and thank him on his Facebook page then he will begin to reach people in those places every company wants to be.
  • It’s out-of-the-box, inexpensive, emotional, an experience, and fun. In other words, a homerun.
  • It’s nice.
  • It employees a new channel in the B2C relationship. Engaging the pizza shop to creates a new and unexpected carrier (literally) of his message.

There are few details to be worked out, including debriefing the staff at the pizza shop so they are clear in their message and making sure we get the responses we need, but nothing too challenging. The best part about it is the cost – we estimate an annual investment of $1,200 – $1,500.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and we will certainly keep you posted.

Inside the Creative

One of the biggest challenges I face is a commitment to process – but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. In fact, I strive for it because I often look past it. It’s a fault of mine that I continually work on.  I also understand that I may not be alone.  Innovators, “big picture” thinkers and everyday people often have trouble sticking to process.  However, it’s important to always recognize the value of process and what better way to examine process than through the eyes of an artist.

I caught the following sequence of paintings on Facebook and was instantly taken by the imagery, the dedication, and of course, the process.  The paintings were done by Dan Reed, an artist in the Philadelphia region who focuses on automotive paintings.  His gallery can be found here.

Shortly after seeing the paintings I reached out to Dan to see if he would discuss his process with me in hopes that it would shed some light on how to refine my own processes. The interview is located just below the presentation and sheds some light on how, perhaps, the creative process isn’t unlike the process by which we approach our own projects.

1. How do your drawings, or visions, first appear? Are there certain elements that trigger inspiration?

In a way that’s a loaded question because practically every painting  was derived from its own inspirations. However, I can point to a  couple of paintings in particular. The painting “I Can Make It”  (see website) was inspired by my desire to incorporate trains into some  of my classic automobile themes. I didn’t want to repeat what other  artists have done – specifically having a car and train racing side by  side. I gave it some thought and came up with the idea of having the  driver of a car attempt to outrun the train through the crossing. Its  a dynamic scene and led me to create another in that series “I Can  Make It II”. Both paintings caught the attention of a top automotive  magazine, Hemmings Classic Car, and they featured both paintings last  summer which resulted in orders for prints from all over the country.
There’s another painting which had an interesting start. My 1955  DeSoto painting (see website) was inspired by the roof of a neighbor’s  barn roof. Not the roof specifically, but the extreme contrast I saw  one day between the bright, sun lit roof against a deep blue cloudless  sky. I knew I had to incorporate that contrast into a painting so I  made sketches as soon as I got home. The extreme low vantage point in  this painting was determined by the fact I needed the bright sunlit  building to be backdropped against a deep blue sky. The byproduct of  this vantage point resulted in a very unique view of the car itself.

2.  Can you walk us through the creative process?

Once I have a vision for a painting I begin to make sketches. This  allows me to get the ideas out of my head and on paper before I forget  it. In a way, the sketch stage is the most creative part of the  process because this is where the composition, color, and format of  the painting are really determined. A canvas is never even placed on  the easel until I know what’s going to be on it.

3. Do you ever feel like giving up?

Yes. Every day…………………. Kidding:) Actually, not often.

4. Are there any “failures” along the way and if so, how do you  overcome  them?

I don’t want to talk about failure. NEXT QUESTION!…………Kidding again:)
Regarding the painting process itself, any failures are typically very  minor – nothing that can’t be touched up once the paint dries. This is  another important factor of the sketch process. If I loose inspiration  at the sketch stage I wouldn’t move forward to the canvas. I only put brush to canvas once I have confidence in the composition of my sketches.

5. How structured is your creative process? do you employ timelines  or is  it more or less an evolving process?

The creative process is not structured – not in a time-line sense. I  don’t employ time-lines in the traditional sense by having certain elements of the painting completed by a certain time. I will give a client an estimated completion date and keeping to that date simply means staying disciplined to the overall process and the time it takes to follow through.

6. Is there ever an end goal for your paintings – meaning, how do  you  envision there life once you’ve completed them?

As for a long-term goal? No. If the painting is commissioned, the long  term expectation is that the painting will remain with the owner for  the foreseeable future. If its a painting I create for myself, the  intent is to produce a line of prints that can be sold through my website and at automotive events throughout the following seasons. The original paintings are offered for sale as well.

7. Do you think there are parallels in your creative process that  would  resonate with how non-artists approach projects in their  everyday life?

There certainly can be parallels in the creative process with other  non-art activities. To pinpoint what I do on a daily basis and draw a  parallel with another person’s activities, I can’t answer. However, I did  work in the corporate world for 12 years, in the engineering field. In a broad sense, you have to be self motivated and have a good work ethic. These traits will serve a person well in the corporate world or being self employed. Funny side-line; I had a friend tell me when I left my day-job to paint full-time that her husband “could never work from home. He needs that boss-over-the-shoulder as his motivating factor.” I think creativity is a mindset and therefore I’m not quite sure how you would teach it. I’ve worked with people who were very good at executing a given task, but once that task was completed they came to a stand-still until directed to do another task. Others seemed to have the ability to extrapolate from that task and move onto other related projects. The selling and marketing of artwork takes a certain amount of creativity as well. You can create the most outstanding artwork, but if nobody sees it you can’t sell it. Being a self employed artist means you have to wear many hats. For many years while working in an engineering testing lab I essentially had one job – test and evaluate the company’s products. I didn’t have to manufacture it, market it, create profit/loss analysis on it, sell it or ship it. When your on your own you have to do it all. And that too takes some creativity.

8. Would you say there are more creative outlets, opportunities for   individuals to create, than there were 5 years ago? If yes, what  does this  mean for the everyday person who is interested in  advancing their career.

My answer to this question is time sensitive. My answer could change  again in 2-4 years. For me personally the opportunities were more  plentiful 3 years ago mainly because the state of the economy. I bill  myself as an automotive fine artist and my lifeblood are the car show events. When the economy tanked in 2009 corporate sponsorships for some of the top tier events (know as Concours d’Elegance shows) dried  up. Some shows were dropped from the 2009 and 2010 calendar years,  which directly effected the number of exhibition opportunities.  Without those potential customers my request for commissions dropped  off as well. Not all is doom and gloom though. I never stop working  and there’s never a day I don’t have something in the works. When my  commissions drop off I just shift to creating more work of my own  ideas that I can then produce a line of prints from. Having a greater variety of prints to sell  helped to offset the lost income from private commissions. Not only  that, I can continue to sell the prints year after year and when things pick up I’m just that more prepared to take advantage of it.  One thing can be said for starting any business in a down economy – yes, it will take a bit more work, but if you can succeed now you’ll do great when things improve. I began painting full-time in 2005 when I had months worth of backlogged work in the pipeline. Things were easy and humming along. Then came 2009 and it seemed people just stopped spending money overnight. I had to scramble and think fast, be more creative, and adjust my thinking a bit. One thing I do better today is keep more money in reserve so I don’t get caught off guard. Seems so common sense and yet it eluded me when times were good.

Innovate & “Amplify Human Imagination”

This morning Vijay Govindarajan of the Harvard Business Review posted a fascinating blog on innovation entitled Reverse Innovation at Davos. The article examines how innovation in developing countries is contributing to unprecedented growth and what that means to their rich, developed counterparts. At the end of the piece  Govindarajan challenges “Western multinationals” to begin to shift their focus, resources and power to these emerging markets suggesting that a failure to do so will result in missed opportunities.

This article reminded me of seeing Gary Hamel deliver a keynote  at ASAE a few years back on “The Future of Management,”  which focuses on the need for organizations (nonprofit and for-profit alike) to think and act differently in order to succeed.  At the heart of his argument was the notion that organizations need to continually innovate and revisit their strategies through new and often very different lenses. This, he suggests, often means redesigning and challenging longstanding management models to accommodate for a new approach to doing business.

It’s been two years since I saw Hamel’s presentation but his message of  “strategic renewal” and a belief that every member of every organization can play a role in “continually generating hundreds of new strategic options” has always stuck with me.  With that in mind, and on the heels of a very enlightening piece from HBR, I found this presentation and thought I would share it for review.  Comments on favorite slides are listed below the presentation.

*This presentation was put together by Mark Sniukas.  His presentation can also be viewed here.

Slide 12 – Strategic Renewal  – Over the past few months I’ve been involved in several board meetings where the teams have reviewed their strategic plans through an innovative lens.  Meaning – they’re taking a look at the gaps in their plans to identify opportunities to develop new ideas, products, and processes.  This, I believe, is a product of strategic renewal.

Slide 13 – I’m not crazy over the repetitive use of the word “strategic” but I do like the idea of rebooting. In my opinion you can reboot just about everything.

Slide 14 – “Continually generating hundreds of NEW strategic options” – this is great.

Slide 28 – Continually reinforce the belief that innovation can come from anyone.

Slide 40 – Amplify human imagination.

In this day and age everyone is afforded the opportunity to innovate.  Leaders, teams and organizations alike should be taking full advantage of it.