Marketing Goes “Boink”

Lessons from a little boy and his tiger about trust, taking risks, innovating and enjoying the ride.

Growing up, I always identified with the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes. I probably still do to some extent. Their adventures taught me many important lessons about life. I learned about embracing the fleeting moments of joy, the pain and heartbreak that come with death, the importance of fostering a rich imagination and that despite the fact that I have a wife and two daughters, I will never understand what goes on inside a girl’s head.

Every day I have to get up and go to school. Nothing ever changes. It’s just school, school, school. But not today. Today, I go for the gusto. – Calvin

The longer I work in the digital marketing world, the more I have come to realize that Calvin and Hobbes is actually a fantastic metaphor for a healthy agency / client relationship.

The role a good digital agency is to innovate, to go careening down a hill like Calvin on his sled; not knowing exactly what waits for us at the bottom, only that it will be a new and exciting ride and that everyone will come out better for it on the other side. It’s the job of your agency to experiment with seemingly reckless abandon — we wouldn’t be much good to you if we didn’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that an agency should just throw itself blindly down a hill with no idea of what’s at the bottom. You see, Calvin had Hobbes. Hobbes kept him focused. He reigned in Calvin’s wild ideas when necessary, asked if Calvin had run it by his mother (read: legal department) and then gleefully jumped on the back of the sled with him.

The best clients are the Hobbes to the agency’s Calvin. They expect the crazy ideas, and anything less is disappointing. But, the most important thing to remember about Calvin and Hobbes is how they always worked together. They were friends, partners and co-conspirators. They trusted each other implicitly. Sure, they disagreed from time to time, but they knew that each other’s best interests were always top of mind and they never really put themselves at risk. Sure, Calvin was the crazy one, but Hobbes was always there to encourage the crazy.

And Hobbes, like any engaged client, always kept Calvin on his toes. Calvin had to always be ready and never get comfortable. Because when an agency gets comfortable, they get complacent. That’s when the boring work happens. The work that may get the job done, but isn’t exciting anymore. Every agency requires a good pouncing every now and then.

“Everybody seeks happiness! Not me, though! That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” – Calvin

As Koch employees, we have all been challenged to innovate. To challenge the status quo, embrace change and redefine what the “best” is. Just like Calvin, we should all be striving for something better. Our leaders, and even more importantly, our customers expect it of us, even if it’s a little scary at first.

Which leads us to that scary hill known as digital marketing. It’s a landscape that’s constantly evolving. It’s not enough to just have a website or a Facebook page anymore. Every day, a new opportunity comes knocking and it’s up to us to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. In this ever-changing world of digital marketing, every business needs a trusted partner; Hobbes needs a Calvin to be successful.

Marketing is changing. This past holiday shopping season, mobile sales accounted for nearly 26 percent of all sales. That is an increase of 49 percent over the past year.1 Digital marketing and engagement, particularly in mobile, is here to stay and companies have to keep up. Companies must leap over the edge and embrace the technology to reach their customers where they are now.

So what does your digital marketing strategy look like? How is your company reaching out to the nearly 77 percent of consumers who research products and services on their mobile device?2

Koch Creative Group is uniquely positioned to understand your specific business needs. Whether its traditional marketing or digital, we are able to find the right mix of crazy ideas that accomplish your goals and still live up to high expectations.

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!” – Calvin

We’d love to get together and explore with you sometime. Give us a shout.




mosherAs KCG’s interactive director, Justin Mosher is responsible for anything with a pixel, from building websites to creating digital publications, and from crafting social media strategies to providing consulting services. With 10 years in the digital space, you’ll always find this self-admitted techie exploring the latest and greatest to find opportunities for our clients. After a long day behind computer screens, Justin looks forward to unplugging with a hearty beef stew and time with his wife and two girls.

What is branding?

To truly understand branding, explore how branding first came to be. The term “brand”  literally came from the mark cattlemen would put on their cattle to identify each heard to distinguish their unique position in their competitive marketplace (as a former cowboy, I love this). Anyone who has ever seen a John Wayne film understands how competitive the cattle market really was back in the day.

Examples of common cattle brands (some even with their own language) include:


That same concept of branding still exists today. The traditional cattle brand has been replaced with a logo and companies use them with the same purpose; replacing leather with media.

The difference today is how much more the word “brand” means. It’s no longer simply a mark to identify ownership. The brand is what you stand for as a company. It tells your unique story, it defines your competitive advantage, it reveals your personality and it inspires the masses. Hopefully.

The assumption above indicates the company controls the brand. Marty Neumeier offers a different opinion and shatters the mental model for most brand managers. In his book “Zag,” Mr. Neumeier writes:

What exactly is a brand? HINT: It’s not a company’s logo or advertising. Those things are controlled by the company. Instead, a brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” He goes on, “It’s not what you say it is—it’s what THEY say it is. The best you can do is influence it.

When I first read this, I had to disagree. I mean, everything I knew about a brand was that the company had complete control and told us what the brand was.

But the more I thought about it, it started to make sense. I have my own feelings about what a brand is, based on personal experience and those feelings do not always jive with people with which I interact.

A great example of this occurred during my college marketing classes. The professor was playing a word association game, saying a brand name and asking the class to say the first thing that came to mind. When she said Mercedes, my immediate response was “crap.” The reason for this was personal experience—no, I did not own a Mercedes in college—but my dad owned one when I was in high school and that thing was in the shop more than it was in our garage. Needless to say, the professor was not impressed with my response, but it drove home Mr. Neumeier’s point.

The key phrase at the end of his excerpt is this: “The best you can do is influence it.” I completely agree and think it is the main differentiator between companies doing branding well and those doing it poorly.

Why should you care? Well, if the only thing a company can do is influence the brand, who do you think is responsible? Yes, you.

A company’s employees, the people on the front lines, are the ones who have the opportunity to influence the brand on an hourly basis. Your actions and behaviors are a constant reflection of the brand—from face-to-face interactions, to phone conversations, to emails—what you say and how you say it reflect back on the brand image. It might seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but it can have a profound effect on how your brand is perceived.

If you don’t know what your brand represents, ask your marketing manager. They should be able to help clearly visualize the brand. And then, it’s up to you to help live it out every hour of every day.

Charlie_Wells Working in marketing for over 7 years, Charlie Wells enjoys the challenge of brand strategy, particularly pulling insights from customers and consumers to develop smart, effective work. Between stints in advertising, he spent a total of 5 years in the restaurant business managing and running different establishments. When Charlie is not at his desk at KCG, he enjoys kayaking, camping and losing video games to his almost-5-year-old son.