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posted by Cathy Monetti Oct 31,2017 @ 02:35PM

A Storied Past: 30 Years of Riggs

 It has been 30 years since I first opened the doors of C.C. Rigg’s, more years than I had been alive at that time. (Okay. Wow.) I look back now at that 27-year-old with great affection realizing what a naïve, idealistic young girl I was, recognizing all these years later the great gift in making that kind of leap when I didn't know any better. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, as they say, I had no clue how complicated and risky and unpredicatable running a business would prove to be.

Day One was October 19, 1987. It will go down in history as Black Monday—so named due to the dramatic dive of the Dow Jones—the greatest single day drop ever, and a turn of events a more knowledgable entrepreneur might have interpreted as a sign. It was lost on me. I don't remember the news even registering, to tell you the truth, my focus so narrowly zoomed on the one sure-bet client giving me enough confidence to open those proverbial doors. 

And so I sat at my Bell Office Furniture used metal desk, straightened up the set of newly sharpened pencils, and picked up the phone to call Anne, the marketing director for the client I planned to recruit. "She's no longer with the company," said the operator on the other end of the line. "The entire marketing department was 'dissolved' over the weekend."

I kid you not.

I don't remember what I did next. Sat in stunned silence for a minute, I am sure. Then probably I got up and served myself a large Diet Coke.



 circa 1987


Those first years were tough. I was single, then a newly wed with a husband who supported my crazy idea and the resulting business in a quiet but beautiful way. For the life of me I don't know how anybody in the ad business made money in those days. In addition to the requirements of sound strategy and great creative the mere development of the ad executions was incredibly time and labor intensive. We used drawing boards and radiograph pens and t-squares and press type. If you needed an image you drew a sketch, then hired a photographer or an illustrator. If you wanted to test color for an outdoor board you put tissue paper over the thing and colored it in. I created my own accounting system: every payment I received I split between two checking accounts. Into one I put every dime I owed on behalf of clients, and I paid those bills immediately. Into the other I put the "profit" out of which I paid the agency bills. I never mixed the two and as archaic as the system was I am proud to say it established a wonderful and important precedence. To this day our agency has never used client money to pay anything but their own bills.

I also didn't pay myself a regular salary, at least not for the first few years. I believed it to be a smarter business practice to put that money away in the event the agency needed it. It's a practice I counsel against strongly these days when I talk with new entrepreneurs, a terrible practice that sets up an unrealistic and unsustainable model.



at our 10th birthday party 


It was tough, but the rewards were great, too. The first to come along was a sweet high school student, Julie Smith, who called out of the blue to offer her free services as an intern willing to do anything to get some advertising experience. This included emptying the trash, she noted on the telephone, "and you don't even have to pay me." I had not considered adding any type of employee at that time—even a free one, and certainly not a high school student—but Julie's infectious enthusiasm won me over. She remains one of the brightest lights in my life.



Julie's joy is infectious. See? 


We enjoyed success, too. A little billboard campaign we created for Dutch Door Artists Supplies won gold and then Best of Show our first year in the Addys, something we never dared dream in a market with big reputation agencies that had big budget clients. We were particularly proud the work was honored since it represented more than good creative—it established an uncompromising ideal that to this day has been our standard. I had woken up the day the campaign was to be presented to the client with the knowing feeling my recommendations were not right. I called my dear friend and freelance art director Tim Burke very, very early and asked him to meet me at the studio as soon as he could get there. "I know the pitch is today," I said, "but the work isn't right and we're changing it."


van gogh.jpg

 Can you spot the press type?


So many people with incredible talent and great dedication have been a part of our story since those early years. It takes my breath to consider it. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 78 or 79 folks are Rigg-ers past or present, not including the many interns for whom we don't have viable records. The aggregate number feels surprising since our staff numbers have, by design, remained relatively small. I look over that list with awe and remember what each and every person brought that pushed us forward. So many gifts. So much grace.



 Lisa, Tim, me, Julie: the early years' C.C.Rigg's crew


It is the thing I am most proud of, if you will indulge me that, more than the work for which we are known, more, even, than the honor it has been to serve exceptional clients who have trusted us with both their investments and their businesses. We have hired well, by and large, knowing beyond knowing that the best thing an entrepreneur can do is be brave enough to surround herself with people who are smarter and more talented than she is.

This goes doubly true for my beloved business partners. I am neither kidding nor exaggerating when I say I truly believe each and every one—individually—is the secret to our success. (I do realize that is not possible. And yet.)

Teresa Sarvis Coles, who was the answer to a prayer I didn't even know to pray when she stepped in and took the reigns during the years I was geographically removed from the business, whose smarts and vision took us from creative boutique to bonafide Mar Com agency, whose little idea became big CreateAthon and who serves as the program's grand champion today, who in every personal and professional way is my heart and soul;



two girls with some big dreams 


Kevin Smith, who literally knocked on the door as a recent college grad and talked his way into a job that didn't exist, who brought us our first Big Client, who had his sights set on NYC and spent those years away reminding us what a special place our little agency was, then returned bringing everything he learned, whose gift for strategy is beyond comprehension and who, without fail, elevates our standard;

Ryon Edwards, the finest person I know, the most generous and patient and kind coworker I know, the most talented designer/art director I know (quite possibly in the universe), who always—always—delights and surprises with his other-worldly talent and sweet, sweet spirit;

Tom Barr, the incomparable Tom Barr, who is In Charge Of Everything and makes it all look effortless, the ultimate juggler of 10,000 things and still always has time and an answer, money man, spreadsheet man, my I-can't-survive-in-a-world-without-him-and-wouldn't-want-to man, thank you Tom Barr.



my people: Tom, Teresa, Kevin, me, Ryon


And I must mention Michael Powelson and Katy Miller, both with their own superpowers, both providing so much support and smarts and doing their jobs so well they have given me the grand, grand gift of stepping back a little, opening my life a little to some awesome new experiences and challenges.

I am also deeply proud of my insistence that we evolve as the years have gone by. I always think of Riggs as having shape, a literal shape I can see in my mind's eye, and I can visualize it morphing from this to that as we meet changing market conditions or changing client needs. This matters whatever the type of business, I believe, but never more so than in an industry dedicated to understanding and anticipating trend. To still be around, and relevant, and independent, 30 years later is a testament to this commitment to change, I think, to re-thinking and reconsidering everything every single day.



before we cutted and gutted the Yugo (and painted it purple)


and attached it to a billboard 


This is a business for young people, there is no doubt about that. How grateful I am to those who populate the WECO building as Rigg-ers today. We have never had a more talented, cohesive, supportive, and yes—loving--group, not in all the years, and that's saying something because we've had some mighty strong teams. I thank each and every one of you from a place of deep affection.



 Riggs Partners today


It has been a lovely, bumpy, joy-filled ride, and I am humbled to my core when I look back to see the 30 years all lined up, pretty maids in a row.


 sign today.jpg

How grateful I am.



posted by Teresa Coles Dec 01,2016 @ 03:10PM

Gain the secret weapon to building successful brands

Now that I have your attention, here’s a pop quiz. Pick one:
The most successful organizations — and their subsequent brands — are those that:

  • Have a multi-million dollar marketing budget
  • Have a culture that is synonymous with their brand promise
  • Have a diversified portfolio of products and services.

If you picked #1 or #3, let me know how that works out for you. While #1 is reserved for the Cokes and Targets of the world, many business leaders are disciples of #3 and are convinced that their success is dependent on diversification (also known as “we specialize in everything”).

If you picked #2, you’re a step ahead. Whether you’re an international retailer, a regional manufacturing operation, or a professional services firm down the street, your brand will only achieve its potential when everyone in your organization is part of a culture that is fully aligned with your external brand promise. That’s the mark of a healthy, leaderly and responsible brand.


Back in the day, this was referred to as “building brands from the inside out.” While this concept still rings true, its executional requirements have evolved significantly. In the past, it was good enough for business leaders to talk about the fact that the company needed to deliver a customer experience that was “on brand.” In some cases, they went so far as to provide customer service training to teach employees specific service standards.

Fast forward to a day in which consumers’ knowledge, expectations and control are growing by the moment. This begets an environment in which the internal flaws and service shortcomings of an organization can pop to the surface at any time, exposing a gap between inner organizational reality and the external brand promise.

Moreover, we know for a fact today that employees are more and more discerning in their choice of employers and in their expectations surrounding that experience. They need to know what the company stands for. What it is setting out to do in the world. And what their place in that mission looks like. This is culture building, which is the direct route to operational excellence and a brand that is truly believable.

Look around, and you can see the direct connection between well-defined cultures and their highly distinctive brands: Apple vs. Dell. Southwest Airlines vs. United. BMW vs. Cadillac. These are organizations that understand the power of aligning culture, business strategy, and external brand marketing. They are not three linear business tactics. They are one collective strategy.

The good news is that entrepreneurs get this and are building businesses from the ground up based on this trifecta. But how do leaders in established organizations harness this imperative when there are so many competing initiatives going on in the organization?

Start with a vision.

This is not the benign statement at the top of a document in a matted frame. This is real vision, as defined by leadership and reinforced every day in language, tone and demeanor. It’s the Northern Star of the organization, and the CEO is the flag bearer.

Establish brand values.

These are not words like “integrity” or “commitment” or “quality” that sit right underneath the vision and mission statements on the aforementioned document. These are actionable, teachable and distinctive behavioral standards that let employees know what their brand stands for and what it’s striving to become. Employees need to understand how this journey benefits them and what their direct responsibility is in contributing to the organization’s vision.

Connect brand values to the business strategy.

Successful companies use these shared brand values to power its business operations, enhance innovation and set the business apart from competitors. It stands to reason that if everyone in the organization is united by and held accountable to actionable brand values, operational effectiveness is sure to follow.

Execute brand marketing that demonstrates all of the above.

When a company’s organizational health and business strategy are in complete alignment, a resounding brand promise can ensue. This promise can be easily internalized by staffers, because they understand it’s a reflection of them, the culture they’re part of, and the business strategy they help to execute every day.

*This post was originally published on Columbia Regional Business Report

posted by Michael Powelson Oct 26,2016 @ 08:18AM

A political ad you can learn from (believe it or not)

Everyone hates election season. But I’m not sure anyone hates it more than advertising creatives. In addition to the usual indignities that put most all of us off our respective lunches, political campaigns subject the ad professional to a host of more specific crimes. They inflate the price of media. They stoke public cynicism to a point that it can carry over onto even the most ideologically neutral brands. And then there’s the simple fact that political ads are, as a rule, terrible.

Grating, unimaginative, and insulting to nearly everyone’s intelligence, most campaign commercials defy all principles of creativity. They shout. They pander. They lie. They take shortcuts no self-respecting brand would dream of because, unlike brands, they have only short-term objectives and media war chests large enough to bludgeon audiences rather than doing the conceptual work of winning them over honestly. And we all get dumber in the process.

That’s why my vote for Biggest October Surprise goes to the fact that a senate candidate in Missouri has made one of the best spots, political or otherwise, I’ve seen all year.

Take thirty seconds:



Yes, this may be the last post I’m permitted to write in this space. Not only did I just encourage you to view a political ad, I just encouraged you to view a political ad about guns.

Easy now. Rest assured, I have no interest in your opinions on gun control. Nor does this piece have any intention of advocating for either side of that complex issue. As proof, I need only confess my own convoluted stance — one that I’m sure both camps would find equally contemptible. On the one hand, I own a handful of rifles and shotguns for sporting use and a handgun for home defense. On the other, I’d sooner join the Church of Scientology than the NRA and see no reason why a civilian such as myself should be able to possess the type of militaristic weapon that Kander poses with in his ad.

None of that is particularly relevant. But hopefully it ushered the ideological elephants out of the room so that we can get to the real point. What Kander’s ad can teach us has nothing to do with its content and everything to do with its execution.

Kander felt that an opponent had mischaracterized his relationship to firearms simply because he supports background checks. But rather than counter with the usual hallmarks of the category (blood-and-thunder voiceover, overwrought imagery), Kander fights back in a calm, confident voice. He speaks straight to the camera, albeit with one unique twist: He faces the lens through a blindfold while expertly assembling the AR-15 he carried as a lieutenant in Afghanistan.

The performance is at once understated and unforgettable. His words are simple, finely sharpened nails. His action, a hammer that echoes long after the thirty second mark.

The takeaway for marketers illustrates what good creative directors have preached for decades. Kander didn’t tell viewers who he was and where he stood. He showed them.

Ad Yoda Luke Sullivan likens this distinction to the advice of Miss Manners who famously noted, "It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help."

Where Kander’s good qualities begin and end is not for me to say. I don’t know anything about Missouri politics. I don’t know if he should be in the Senate. I don’t know if he’s a good guy or just a good actor. But I do know I’ll be thinking about the standard his commercial set for every project our creative department works on in the near future.

Next time a communication opportunity arises for your business, (be it on TV, the web or social media feed), remember Kander. Push yourself and your team beyond the single dimension of telling and into the impactful territory of showing.

After all, customers vote with their dollars. And no business can afford to leave them undecided.



posted by Will Weatherly May 11,2016 @ 04:28PM

A CliffsNotes on CX

In case you haven’t heard, it’s all the rage in the marketing world right now. In fact, just last night our local AMA Columbia chapter hosted an event dedicated to the topic. 

Palmetto Health's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Todd Miller discussing experiential marketing at the AMA Columbia meeting on May 10.

CX = Customer Experience

I suppose the abbreviation originated to play off its fancier-sounding cousin slash mentor-discipline in the tech world, UX (user experience), while cleverly facilitating a natural extension of the company C-Suite… the CEO, the CMO, and now the CXO.

CX began building noticeable buzz around 2011, the same year the CXPA was founded and the same year the world lost a man who had become synonymous with customer-centricity. In fact, it’s the very mantra of Jobs himself, and variations by other big business mavens like Musk and Bezos, that seem to have fueled the movement.

“Start with the customer.”

Over the past few years, CX has manifested through the formalizing and operationalizing of that creed by thought leaders whose backgrounds are often in customer service or the aforementiond design field of user experience or human-computer interaction -- both of course dealing with the needs of humans. 

Now, what’s all this got to do with marketing? Well, everything obviously.

A Tale of Three Paradigms

Marketing has changed. It’s not what it once was. It used to be a rehearsed monologue brands delivered from a stage loudly and clearly to target audiences with attention to spare. 

#1 - Always On 

But today, the marketing conversation is multi-channel and multi-directional. Social media, customer reviews, online influencers -- these force brands to keep on their toes every minute of every day. 

#2 - Smartketing

Data mining, lead scoring, and automation have fused sales and marketing, making mass-personalization and "funnels-of-one" the growing expectation of consumers as their relationships with brands become increasingly digital.

#3 - Template-ification

With brands and media channels now crowding the marketplace, it's harder than ever to get audience attention, and it's easier than ever to look and sound like every other brand out there. 

All About Intentionality

In my 2014 post, I mentioned that every touchpoint is an opportunity. CX is rooted in this idea, recognizing that in a crowded market and media landscape, some of the best differentiation with the greatest ROI happens during and immediately after the sale. Great customer experiences do not only drive loyalty, they also drive the kind of marketing long-known for being the most trusted in the marketplace -- word of mouth.

Using data, collaboration, and communication, the CX field is unifying traditionally siloed business sectors like sales, marketing, customer service, and operations to hone all possible consumer interactions into effortless, delightful, branded experiences. 

Baby Stepping Your Way To Great CX 

Baby Step #1 - Read The Effortless Experience or Outside In

Baby Step #2 - Consider whether your company is really, truly standing on a strong enough brand promise or distinctive point of difference.

Baby Step #3 - Get to know your customers' perceptions of and interactions with you -- persona interviews, surveys, and journey maps are the appropriate tools here.

Baby Step #4 - Identify the most critical touchpoints you have with your consumer.

Baby Step #5 - Carefully, conscientiously craft these touchpoints into memorable moments that accentuate your brand.  

posted by Julie Turner Apr 18,2016 @ 02:04PM

NEW WORK: Crafting a Digital Toolbox For a Construction Leader

Who knew construction and creative strategy had so much in common?

In the building trades, surprises are often expensive and time consuming for clients. When you’re sweating bullets over a multi-million dollar project on a tight deadline neither variable is particularly welcome.

Our client McCrory Construction is one of the most respected builders in the Southeast. One reason more than 90 percent of clients choose to work with them again is the ability to prevent those unexpected surprises and hurdles. Quite simply, the work they do before the build has built them an uncommon reputation. Fortunately, we can relate.

As communicators, we’re big believers in the value of the "before-you-build" focus. The magic of the creative process isn’t just the ideas generated by it, but what’s used to power creative engines, too. Discovery isn’t just a line item on an invoice; it’s the necessary investment in making a relevant, sales generating impact on your target audience.


mc_before_after_web.gifClick to view the new 

developed with Mad Monkey


So rather than simply create a new, responsive web presence to refresh their longstanding brand, we took the deeper dive and strengthened their market position in the process. Enter McCrory Construction; Nobody's Better Before You Build.



Click to visit @McCroryConst














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