Chiat/Day’s UBU campaign for Reebok in the 80’s had a big impact on me. Granted I followed the agency’s every move as a student and ended up interning at the Venice complex while in college, but 20 years later, that creative is still my ‘bully on the playground.’ It taunts me, dares me and pushes me… to be authentic.
Recently, I got the chance to ask some very special clients to do the same.
They needed an internal branding piece that would get employees psyched about the company’s new direction. They wanted to shed a stale ‘personality’ and show off a fresh forward thinking model. After some conceptual back and forth that wasn’t showing signs of progress, I opted to pick up the phone for a good ol’ fashioned heart to heart. I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t scared as hell doing this, I was, but I was more afraid of living with the regret of not having said something, doing something safe, and watching them fail.
I talked about taking a position that cut through all the b.s. that typically gets thrown around in these sort of pieces. The copy I scribbled down was brave and new and something she’d been dying to scream out in the workplace but hadn’t been able to articulate.
It was a position she knew, without reservation, that her company had to adopt to stay competitive and attract new talent.
What transpired over the next month and a half was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. We became partners. The back and forth was engaging and respectful. The enthusiasm became contagious and before I knew it, players from L.A. to Bulgaria were jumping on board. We successfully re-branded the internal culture of a major international brand.
Because the concept drove a sword through this company’s cultural demons and the copy was written from the heart. It was real. It was honest. It was authentic.
The transformation in their operation has given people a voice. It has invigorated a work force with a reason to show up and give a shit. I’m a big believer in empowerment, in making the work as personal as it can be. It needs to mean something to the individual because we’re not really employees are we? We’re human beings that are yearning for a purpose.
A company armed with great people will do great things. A company that hands out directives, with no regard to the work force, is destined for an uphill battle.
To your success!