Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm betting on Crayon like I bet on Jaffe 4 years ago

Crayon is “a new marketing company” launched by Joseph Jaffe, Shel Holtz & Neville Hobson of For Immediate Release fame and C.C. Chapman. I’m proud to say that if I wasn’t Joe Jaffe’s first client, I was certainly his biggest in his first year when he left working for “the man” and hung out his own shingle. At the time, I was working in MSN as Managing Director of Industry Marketing and Relations. Joe was instrumental in working on a project we called “Interactive Marketing Best Practices”. At the time, the Internet ad market was still in the tank and those that were starting to understand the power of Internet-based marketing needed some guidance on how best to use the array of tools available. Joe did a terrific job of not only creating much of the content (despite the fact that he wasn’t initially the project leader) but also doing yeoman’s work to travel the country and deliver the content that was very well received. It was one of the efforts along with the Cross Media Optimization Studies led by MSN & Rex Briggs and the Universal Ad Package (i.e., ad size standards) also led by MSN (Yahoo was also a key driver) that were critical in turning around the Internet ad market.


Joe was ahead of his time then and he still is. While Joe is certainly a talker/thought-leader, having worked with him, he’s also a doer. For those companies smart enough to hire Joe and his team, I’m sure they’ll get value. I don’t know Shel, C.C. or Neville but I’m certain Joe would only surround himself with people of his caliber. Joe doesn’t suffer fools (or at least not for long). One of the nails in the coffin that solidified my leaving Microsoft was seeing how Microsoft had evolved from a company of ruthlessly focused strategists/doers to having more and more corporate suckups that were threatened by (or jealous of) people like Joe. One of the people I worked with at Microsoft had worked with Joe at one of his agencies where this guy worked on a more prestigious brand than Joe probably because he was an effective suckup there too. He had a chip on his shoulder about Joe as Joe was well on his way to becoming an industry thought leader while this guy had only honed his suckup skills during the time Joe was building his reputation in the industry. This guy had the fantasy that MSN had made Joe a thought leader. While I’m sure it didn’t hurt to give him visibility, Joe was going to be a thought leader sooner or later regardless of what MSN did.


The Crayon Manifesto sounds like Joe talking. If you are considering working with Crayon, it’s worth reading the manifesto a few times. I would give Joe only the highest recommendation professionally and personally. Here are a few excerpts from the manifesto.


1. We are shape shifters. Winning in today's ever changing and volatile landscape requires versatility, flexibility and the ability to morph on demand and as needed. We are a different kind of company that mashes-up a combination of consulting, agency and advisory services. We'll also do windows and serve tea if required.


2. We are not superior and we are not subservient; we have strong and defined points of view and we look for clients of similar ilk. We want to be challenged and we want to challenge you. We're not yes men or women and never will be. If you can't handle the friction, passion and intensity, we'll gladly refer you to another company.


5. If you're still with us at this stage, you're still far from the comfort zone of convention. We live and die by our ability to generate the kind of prolific thinking, original ideas, differentiated strategy and key insights that you need to be and stay competitive in this business. We also demand to be compensated accordingly. Performance-based pricing is not an option; it's a necessity.


7. Our culture is one which not only believes in risk-taking and experimentation, but embraces it as a vital part of our DNA. We would rather beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. Our team is individually and wholly empowered to make their own decisions and to take matters into their own hands. What doesn't kill us will make us stronger and you better.


8. We are biased in some matters and unbiased in others. Our master is the customer; our master is the truth; our master is change. We fully intend to bias against the status quo and represent the road not taken with 110% of our minds, bodies and spirits. If you need a compartment or label, then consider us media or communications biased and conversation or solution neutral.

-- You have enough yes-men telling you to tweak the status quo."
-- You can't take incremental steps and expect an exponential result


10. Talent (together with vision, culture and creativity) is ultimately what differentiates us from the shop next door. If you have new marketing blood pumping through your veins and have the kind of passion, intensity and originality that is waiting to explode upon impact, inquire within. There will never be a "no vacancy" sign hanging on our door. And we'll never downsize, rightsize, leftsize or upsize based on the flavor of the month or the direction the wind is blowing. If you're a square peg, we'll cut you a square hole. If the role isn't defined, we'll create one for you. It's that simple.


13. Following on from this, is the power and importance of direct and honest conversation and communication. e-mail sucks. It's ambiguous, lacks personality and encourages political shenanigans. We discourage "cc" and we outlaw "bcc" We try and call it like we see it, and if that means ruffling a few tail feathers along the way, so be it. If we can foster a culture of integrity, truthfulness and conviction, we believe it will naturally spillover to consumers and reflect accordingly with the brand.


Crayon is the first company to launch in Second Life. I have to admit that Second Life is something I don’t “get” yet. I’m sure I’m like others who don’t get it in that I have never been into video games and I don’t have enough time to do what I have passion for in my First Life let alone a Second Life. All the same, I think highly of John Zdanowski who recently took on the CFO role for Linden Labs (owner of Second Life) and if it’s something that Joe Jaffe takes seriously, it warrants attention. At some point, I’ll have to dig into it and learn more.


As an interesting side note, what a screw-up by Crayola to not “own” the word Crayon! This is the 2nd company I know of using the “Crayon” brand name (the other is in stealth mode so I can’t describe what they do other than it is completely different than this Crayon).

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