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Cathy Monetti

A writer by trade, Cathy founded the firm that is now Riggs Partners in 1987 and has served as the firm’s lead creative strategist since that time. She is a voracious student of all things Next.
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posted by Cathy Monetti Sep 29,2016 @ 03:28PM

Marketing Fundamentals in the Age of Revolution

My head spins as I think of the billion ways the science of marketing has changed in the last few years. Our toolbox has become so expansive, the options so varied for creating communications and brand experiences it is as daunting as it is thrilling to consider them.

When you find yourself overwhelmed, remember this bit of good news. Some things haven’t changed—and these truths apply to every business challenge marketing can help address, no matter what the delivery channel.

Resist the urge to begin with a solution.

It’s so easy to leapfrog to the exciting (and seemingly productive) endgame. It feels efficient, and in this warp-speed competitive landscape, who doesn’t want that? We hear it often as clients come to us with their requests for specific deliverables. We need a TV spot, or a brochure, or a social media campaign. Our response is always the same. What business problem are you trying to solve?

Next, solve the right problem.

This takes hard work. It also requires that you be honest, direct and specific. Ask enough tough questions that you get a clear picture of the challenge you’re dealing with. Things like: Why is this the problem? When did it begin? What caused that? What are the contributing factors today? Is one of those the real issue here?

If you don’t go through the drill-down, you’ll likely end up with a solution that never gets at the cause, and therefore provides short-term relief, at best. It reminds me of an issue we’re dealing with in my neighborhood right now—the fact that our cove on our pretty manmade lake has disappeared since we moved in eight years ago. There’s a plan for digging it out, something about which we are thrilled. We will have water again! But it won’t solve the real problem, which is the silt that flows in every time it rains. Stopping that flow is the real problem to be solved.

Once you’ve drilled down and have identified the right problem, there’s another important question.

Is this an issue marketing can help solve?

Of course we marketers love it when the answer is yes. But so often there is other work to be done before marketing can help. Perhaps the issue is operational, or it could be a substandard product or service. Are employees informed, engaged and able to uphold the brand and its promise? If not, address these issues before spending a dime promoting or you’ll not only waste your marketing budget, you’ll also likely dig a deeper hole. As advertising guru David Ogilvy stated so poignantly: Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster. It’s so true. The last thing you want to do is spread dissatisfaction with your offering or invite customers in for a poor experience.

So the cards are on the table, the contributing issues have been addressed, and it’s time to market. Now what? There’s a lot to consider in developing powerful messaging, a plan for sharing and meaningful opportunities for engagement. But I’ll offer this vital step as a starter.

Look through the lens of your customer first. It sounds so simple, and yet most of the time this is done so half-heartedly—or not at all—much of the work that follows is off base. For most of our Riggs Partners’ clients we recommend bringing on a researcher who can get true and unbiased input from the target audience. And our goal is not to confirm what we suspected. It is always, always to discover something we didn’t already know. (That’s where the proverbial pot o’ gold lies.) When you find that sweet little nugget—that comment or recurring theme or nudge that shifts your perspective, even if just a little bit—begin there. Because now you’ve got something meaningful to work with that will resonate with the folks you are trying to reach.

Even in this age of person-to-person digital communications, developing and deploying a marketing plan is an expensive proposition. Add to this the reality that options for communicating are virtually limitless, and good decision-making becomes an overwhelming process. As in all things, when you’re not sure where to start, start with what you know. Begin with the basics.

*This article was originally featured on Columbia Regional Business Report 

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 18,2016 @ 04:56PM

Change, Nuance and Finding the Sweet Spot

A not-so-secret to success in business is the willingness to evolve. It’s been true from the beginning of time, I suspect, and I am quite sure the requirement has never been more significant than it is in the dynamic world market of today.

I believe so strongly, in fact, change has been a fundamental of our company since its founding nearly 30 years ago. It’s a practice we go about proactively—so much so that a joke around RP is how nice it would be to come in FOR JUST ONE DAY and not feel as if we were starting over.

 Oh, I am proud of that challenge.


AND SO IT IS that we’ve spent the summer talking through some newly articulated tenets for our work. I don’t have to tell you of the sea change brand marketing has experienced in the last few years; the digital revolution has not only supported the power shift, it created it. But there are subtle shifts, as well, tiny nuanced considerations that can mean the difference between well considered and invisible.

For example, it’s no surprise a well-designed brand/customer connecting point is the result of smart strategic planning. And yet it’s tempting to issue these like buckshot. There are so many options available to us today, what with endless delivery channels and proclaimed thought leadership and the prevailing belief the world waits (with bated breath) for whatever it is we have to say/sell/do.

But there is a sweet a spot.

Oh, there is a sweet spot and I encourage you to carefully articulate it. Work hard to identify the right time/place/exchange that will create a true brand loyalist—someone who will choose your brand over any other option and, more importantly, will tell others about it.

78272483_thumbnail-749515-edited.jpgA FEW WEEKS AGO we were having this very tenet discussion as we sat around the big kitchen table at the WECO. The question presented to all the Riggers was this: Give an example of a time you were converted to a brand loyalist. What was the brand touchpoint? How did it make you feel? What can we learn from it, and how can it make our work better?

I kicked off the conversation with my own story from the US Open tennis tournament. Sponsored in part by Lexus, VIP parking was available at Flushing Meadows to anyone who arrived in a Lexus or who presented a Lexus key. We zipped past the long, long line of cars waiting to fork over twenty bucks for general parking (on the outskirts of the gigantic tennis complex) and were ushered right in to a sweet spot (pun intended) near the stadium. And it was free.

The message: We, at Lexus, take care of our drivers.

Why it worked: a meaningful benefit ($20 and a great parking space) offered at the perfect time (a premiere event)

But there was also this important nuance: It was on brand for Lexus (luxury brand = VIP)

The conversation that afternoon was fascinating. The stories of brand loyalty were as diverse as our group, although many were of great customer service—a great reminder that even in this day of digital communciations, human exchanges still trump all.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? Can you remember a time a brand did something that converted you into a loyalist? 

I’d love to hear the story and share it with our team. Comment below, or send me a note to

posted by Cathy Monetti Apr 13,2016 @ 04:08PM

The First Principle of Branding

IN 1974, THE PHYSICIST Richard Feynman gave a commencement address to graduating scientists at Caltech during which he said: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that.

The speech, titled The Cargo Cult Science, is now a rather famous one in which the Nobel Prize winner makes the case for integrity over righteousness and sensationalism. As Maria Popova points out on her wonderful Brain Pickings blog, the message is “all the timlier today as the fear of being wrong has swelled into an epidemic and media sensationalism continues to peddle pseudoscience to laymen ill-equipped or unwilling to apply the necessary critical thinking.”

Pseudoscience, certainly, but I would suggest it is equally timely when applied to business or mass communications or brand building. Feynman went on to say, After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

Whoa, as my daughter would say.


THERE IS SUCH POIGNANCE to the language Feynman chose to use. I love his calling out of our head talk--the internal dialog that takes place between our true selves and that voice in our head that endlessly chatters, the one with which we debate and eliminate and calculate and conclude. This thought process is meant to lead to resolution, much in the way scientific experimentation is meant to lead to conclusion. But we should always be suspect: the voice in our head nearly always offering a limited view, an ulterior motive, a foregone conclusion with which it intends to shape outcome without our true selves ever noticing. And so it is that we come to create our own stories, our own version of the truth, based on our own limited, and admittedly biased, worldview.

You must not fool yourself, he warned students who would have the benefit of science to prove their conclusions. Let’s just imagine how easy it is to fall prey when you are talking about the nebulous business of branding.


WE ARE SO QUICK to move to communications without doing the hard work of “proving” what the thing is all about in the first place. This requires dissection, challenge, and alignment on questions that are not always easy to answer. It also requires brutal honesty, a “true self” assessment that is neither overinflated nor overindulged thanks to our own head story or the one perpetuated in the halls and social media feeds of our businesses.

These questions are a good place to start. (And keep in mind they must be answered time and time again over the life of a company.)


What is the problem we want our business to solve?

Who has this problem? Who cares about it?

How can we make a difference?

Is someone else already doing this?

Can we/are we doing it differently?

How do we prove it?

Do our employees/associates know this? Are they passionate about it?


This is not the kind of exercise a CEO or marketing director can typically sit down and knock out. Instead it takes the varied perspective and insights of people throughout an organization who come together for conversation and discovery, sometimes with a trained facilitator who can probe dark corners and encourage open discussion. Very often primary and/or secondary research is helpful, providing a more scientific, well-rounded and fact-based dimension to the process. This might include market evaluations, competitive analyses, and interviews with current and former customers, as well as conversations with prospects you haven’t successfully converted.

It’s hard work, needless to say, but healthy labor that leads to clear purpose and ultimately an honest, trustworthy brand.


AFTER YOU’VE NOT FOOLED YOURSELF, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. Perhaps this is the more powerful point, or at least the more comforting one. Because once you’ve done the hard work of building an honest brand your communications strategy will come more easily. Remember to develop and share content that reflects and demonstrates your brand’s values--particularly in digital mediums, where the ability to go direct results in a more personal interaction.


SEVERAL YEARS AGO we were working with a client whose large, established business was going through significant change. New competitors were eating into the established customer base, product lines were shifting to meet changing market demand, and leadership of the company was moving from one generation to the next. We sat through a couple of meetings during which the founder couldn’t seem to offer anything more than a list of random marketing tactics he’d like us to get right on.

We advised that given the significant change taking place, a reshape of the brand was in order. Item One would be the formation of a brand team to do the heavy lifting in answering questions simliar to those above.

“Why would I ever do that?” came the leader’s response. “I mean, what would I do if I didn’t like their answers?”

Yes, we could only say. Yes, exactly.

posted by Cathy Monetti Dec 22,2015 @ 08:30AM

Is Your Post Worthy of A Click?

I am a television binge watcher.

There, I’ve said it.

My current obsession is Damages, a crime drama that features the magnificent (and stylistically perfect) Glenn Close. It’s an indulgence I share with my 22-year-old daughter, something we both look forward to at the end of long, productive workdays that deserve a good wind-down reward. Eliza queues up the next episode via Netflix, then we both pile on the sofa, the dog between us, and commence to watching one, two, sometimes three shows a night. (Binge-watching is so addictive.)

There’s something else we do, another obsession we share even if neither of us ever acknowledges it. When we are settled in front of the TV she pulls out her iPhone to scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or to click on late-breaking Snapchat photos and videos. I pop open my laptop and respond to email, check my blog roll, click to Facebook, pop over to Twitter to see what’s been going on. Then I check my email again.

It’s embarrassing, this admission. Because very often we both spend the next Damages hour(s) with these electronic devices active and in front of us. (Very, very often one of us will ask, “What’d he say? What just happened? Rewind, please.”)


It’s an addiction, of course. That I know, because the thought of putting away my phone and laptop for the entire evening makes me very uncomfortable. How can that be, I wonder, with my daughter—my typical excuse for keeping communication at my fingertips—right there beside me?

The answer may lie in this commentary offered on NPR by Matt Riechtel, technology journalist for The New York Times: "When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline. Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You're conditioned by a neurological response: 'Check me check me check me check me.’" 

So. Without the promise of my own little time-to-time dopamine squirt, simply watching an intense, high adrenaline television drama is not enough to keep me from feeling bored. So sad.

So true.

(Hang on for a minute. Got to check Facebook.)

All this hand-wringing got me to thinking about the steady stream of communications I’m addicted to and how often the payoff is worthy of the attention the monitoring requires. And as a marketing professional, that got me to thinking about the responsibility for producing content that has real value. 

Let’s start by acknowledging there’s a lot of work to be done up front. You must first articulate your business objectives and determine how content marketing can help achieve them. Then you need to identify your target audience and know how your product/service fits into their lives. What needs do they have that your brand meets? In what ways does it do this that are unique? Where is the powerful connection? Find this space and base your content strategy on it.

Once you have this outlined, here’s a good, simple gut-check for brands committed to providing well considered content that’s worthy of the click:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Speak only if it improves the silence.” Consider this to be the Golden Rule of digital communications, as well.
  2. Think of the “target audience” receiving the information as actual human beings. Better yet, develop your messaging as if you are speaking to an individual, someone you see in your imagination as you create it. It should be someone you like. More importantly, it should be someone you respect.
  3. Will he/she be pleased when they see your offering? Is the information meaningful? Is the content helpful? Is the commentary insightful?
  4. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Resist the urge to load up a social media feed just to get your brand out there.
  5. Remember the great gift of the digital world is the ability to form community without the constraint of geography. Be a valued member of that community. Be generous. Be kind. Be interesting. And always, always, be a good neighbor.

It’s not difficult to be mindful in creating your brand’s digital communications. In fact, it’s a great relief in a world that seems to feed on the command Do More Faster. You simply need to take a moment to be sure the content you are creating and sharing is actually worthy of someone’s valuable click.

posted by Cathy Monetti Oct 19,2015 @ 10:12AM

CreateAthon, Flood Relief and Good Business

This date marks 28 years since the Monday morning I first opened the proverbial doors of C.C.Riggs, the advertising studio that has become today's Riggs Partners. It is a truth that astounds me even as I look back across the decades to the girl I was then: an optimistic, energetic, enthusiastic copywriter who wanted nothing more than to do great work for clients I admired and whose companies I believed in. What a blessing it is to be young and eager, that is the thought that occurs to me now, thousands of projects, hundreds of clients and a wealth of talented employees and co-workers later.


Something else occurs to me as well. It's the honor of doing the work itself, the trust placed squarely in your hands by those you serve in doing it. This week it will be our honor to serve eight nonprofits as we joyfully take the reins in solving their marketing and communications challenges during our 18th pro bono bonanza, CreateAthon. We'll work around the clock (AKA without sleep) from Thursday at 8am until the last presentation Friday morning. It is intense, terrifying, and exhausting to take on such a challenge and I expect these emotions will be doubly true this year as our hometown of Columbia, South Carolina marches on through the early days of recovery following last week's devastating, historic flood. Nevertheless we asked each other this question.

Could we do more?

The answer is yes. So for the first time ever, RP CreateAthon volunteers are seeking pledge donations for each of the 24 hours we’re working with 100 percent going directly to flood relief via the Central Carolina Community Foundation Flood Relief Fund. Directions and a link for donating are below.

It's a small thing, we know. But as evidenced by CreateAthon--and by the evolution of a small creative studio founded in 1989--little ideas often turn into gigantic blessings that impact the world in surprising ways.

Thanks for being part of it. Your sponsorship, or even a simple share of this post on your networks, will help so much.

CreateAthon 18, here we come!







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