Monthly Archive: March 2010

Perpetual Beta

Beta is the tech industry’s term for “not quite finished.” In order to get their products to market, hi tech firms aggressively launch, then release new versions of their products as they improve them, via internal learning and external feedback. Hence, Windows 7, Mac OS 10 and so on.

For tech companies, perpetual beta is the desired state of things. I think other industries, media and marketing in particular, can learn from this example. Like technology, media and marketing are fluid and change is swift and constant like a river.

One of the changes I can relate to is the unwillingness found in some of the better agencies to refer to themselves as ad agencies. TBWA\ChiatDay, for instance, calls itself a media arts lab.

Lee Clow explains:

We have to re-think what we call media. Media used to be simply a way for brands to target consumers, but today, media is the way that people are engaging with the world around them. Really, media is just any space between a brand and the audience. And in fact, I believe the best brands will become media themselves: the places, spaces, experiences people choose to spend time with. Already, the Apple stores are a media experience, and iTunes is serving millions of songs, podcasts and playlists – all media of the brand. And others like Nike, adidas and Virgin are shaping their brands to make themselves a medium through which people experience their lives.

Bonehook is a creative services firm. “Ad agency” doesn’t work because it’s not broad enough to encompass our work as content developers.

Bonehook makes ads, but we exist to tell stories. We tell brand stories, via traditional advertising and content marketing and we develop our own media properties. The two go hand-in-hand. Perhaps that will change someday, and Bonehook will morph to reflect a new reality. I’m good with that.

Friends First

I was talking to a friend recently, a fellow entrepreneur, and I said I’m really focused on finding the “right clients” right now. He said, “the right client is the one who writes you a check.” Believe me, I appreciate that point-of-view and recognize the kernel of truth in it. Without capital, your enterprise grinds to a halt and soon enough you’re out of business. That’s how it works in the real world. Yet, there is more to the story, and more to pursuing new business than the transaction itself.

Bonehook exists to help friends (new and old) build their brands and grow their businesses. Therefore, we seek client-agency relationships where both parties make an investment in one another. In the best of cases, agencies and clients grow together and become successful together.

I’ve spent many years working for clients that made products or marketed services I don’t care about or believe in. That may not be the political thing to say here, but it’s true, and I’m a big believer in letting truth, not politics, guide my decisions. Here’s the deal, I have no interest in allowing that kind of thing to pollute these waters.

It’s important to stand for something–something other than making money. When you do, a certain percentage of people will no doubt recoil, but others will find common ground with you. And that’s the point. I’m perfectly willing to repel some in order to find the kind of business partners that I’m truly excited to go to bat for, day in and day out for many years to come.

The question that remains is where to find these partners, and I suspect that will always be the question. So far, the answer has been to find them among existing friends, and via introductions to friends of friends. That’s a strategy that has only just begun to play out, but I’m already aware of the need to reach beyond these comfortable circles to make new friends.

But how? Will I find like-minded people that might become clients someday at industry events and conferences? Yes. Will I find them in online networks? Yes. Will I sit next to them at one of Portland’s community tables and engage them in conversation? Yes. In fact, if you’ve read all the way to this point, please take a second or two to introduce yourself in the comments here, via email or on Twitter. Who knows, we might soon be friends.