Interview with Jason and Patrick from BrightBox Brand Marketing
(Jason Arcemont is a branding king, implementing proven sales strategies to lock in high margin deals. Patrick McDonough is the design master, a brand design leader with expertise in most imaginable mediums. Jason and Patrick started BrightBox Brand Marketing in 2007, turning $2000 into several million in only a few years and making the Inc. 500’s List of the fastest growing companies. Most recently, BrightBox merged with fellow Inc. 500 player Pop Labs, the world’s fastest growing digital marketing group. The merger established a full service brand incubator and marketing powerhouse capable of securing accounts with any client in the world).
Cristian: Hello gentlemen. Very nice to meet you, and welcome to www.entrepreneurship-interviews.com. You started a business that has since made the Inc. 500 List of the 500 fastest growing companies, coming in 230th overall. Tell me about BrightBox.
Jason: BrightBox was a product of hard work, creativity and strategic thinking. For the first month, I was out selling like crazy to bring in marketing contracts with clients and Patrick was cranking out designs nonstop.
Patrick: We paid ourselves the first month actually. Since then, we’ve won awards, and built some really great brands. Our design staff used to be just me; now we have a whole team of smart, capable graphic designers.
Cristian: Many companies your size start off with big budgets. What was the budget?
Jason: $2000. We had to get clients fast.
Cristian: I think there is quite a crowd in the market. What would be your elevator pitch?
Jason: At some agencies, creative is king. Writers and designers drink creative acai berry juice, eat creative starfruit, and create in creative workspaces adorned with Andy Warhol images. After seeing their work, you first say “Wow, that was crazy creative!” followed by “What about the strategy?
Other firms are full of hyper-smart MBA minds who can recite the first 99 digits of Pi and use the word “synergy” while making air quotes – and they don’t appreciate when you laugh at that. They may talk a good game, but you’ll never feel it. And neither will your prospects, your customers, or your clients
BrightBox is a brand marketing firm. Here, strategy drives creative and creative advances great brands. Brands that connect with the head and the heart. Brands that spark action.
The BrightBox team is made up of multi-disciplined brand marketing, design, production, and communications professionals who have worked on the agency and client sides, in both non-profit and traditional corporate arenas. We have worked with B2B and consumer companies spanning nearly every industry, from small entrepreneurial ventures to Fortune 50 corporations.
We research. We listen. We explore. We dabble and tinker. We test. We help find and share your story. And we generate results, over and over.
Cristian: By the way, your customers, do they usually have an elevator pitch about their businesses? How important is to have an elevator pitch?
Jason: You need to be able to explain what you are in a few words. BrightBox is brand marketing.
Cristian: What are the most notable differences when it comes to branding between small, medium and large companies?
Jason: In some ways it’s the same. You have to create an emotive product or service no matter what, but what space you occupy also makes a huge difference.
Patrick: With a brand like Riazul Tequila, we had to make them a premium label. No matter what market share they actually had, we wanted to make them a brand with a big image. Our design campaign helped them look bigger than they were. Riazul was the official tequila of the Houston Rockets.
Cristian: Can small companies really think about branding? They usually just struggle to get a logo done.
Patrick : Not on my watch. We always provide A+ work. We have an A+ company and we want our clients to know they are getting the best we have to offer.
Jason: You’re never too small to brand. I encourage people to build personal brands. Give speeches. Get involved in different businesses. Keep a current social media strategy. Push your ideas onto the net. Write books. Whatever you can do, brand it.
If you are at a company and have no personal brand when you leave, then you take nothing with you. But if you have a company with great individually branded people, you lose the symbol when you lose the people. So whether it’s a giant corporation or just one person we are talking about, you have to brand.
Cristian: And on the other hand, as companies get larger they tend to have problems communicating the same message from customer support to the CEO. How can you help a large company deal with what you could call “a bad day at customer support?”
But when it comes to our customers and their service toward their own clients, many of them already serve their client base well and merely need help on the branding side. Many of the companies we represent really do care.
Patrick: Customer support for us is a combination of sales and personalized service. Our clients have us in their cell phones. We try to encourage other to do the same thing. We hired a project manager, Casey Franceschini, who has been great on the customer service end, a real powerhouse. She has taught our clients a lot of her skills.
Cristian: A lot of marketing companies become some sort of jack-of-all-trades. What’s your take on this?
Jason: That works for some companies but not all. We actually diverged our brands into a brand family, with InkBox, ShowBox and BrightBox. InkBox is our printing brand. ShowBox does exhibits and trade shows, and BrightBox is the branding arm. They are all highly successful.
Even if you do it all, you should keep your brands as relatives, not one giant mutant.
Cristian: You now have 50+ people on staff and recently merged with online marketing and social media giant Pop Labs. But how did things work when you began? How does a fresh company make its way through the first months of bills and checks to pay?
Jason: I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and Patrick is a world class artist. Between the two of us, BrightBox took off really quickly.
Patrick: I think the experience really made a huge difference. I’ve been a creative director for a long time. We also have had some great personnel that have made a huge difference in our rise to the top. We brought on a graphic designer for a while, and all of us just worked in coffee shops.
Cristian: Exciting times?
Jason: Fairly exciting. I like this better though. There’s nothing like building a great, successful brand.
Cristian: What about your customers? Can you name a few?
Jason: In addition to Riazul, we represent Ranch Hand Truck Accessories and Envi Heating.
Jason: Those are the brands we created to diverge our categories. When people walked up to us and asked what we did when we were first starting out, we told them all kinds of things. Then we started saying “branding.” That separated us.
Cristian: By the way, how do you measure the importance in having a strong brand? How can a company calculate that investment in branding pays off?
Jason: I think now you have to have a brand to survive. There is an intuitive aspect in that you know you need a real image to thrive. There’s also a results-based aspect, though. We want our clients to get sales, to see the capability we have. Check out our case studies to get more of an idea.
Patrick: Look at any large-scale product. They know what they are doing. They mold themselves if they need to, or create everlasting brands so they have continuous business recognition.
Cristian: What are the most common branding mistakes?
Jason: Not representing anything. For example, using generic slogans like, “It’s the one.” One what? Call yourself something clear. The King of Beers. The company that saves you 15%on your car insurance.
Patrick: One of the biggest design mistakes is opting for graphics that look cool without regard for whether or not those graphics represent what they are supposed to represent. You can’t just make designs look pretty and say you branded the right way.
Cristian: What about online reputation? Nowadays it takes one upset customer and it might look that all web is full of complaints! What should a company do if a customer takes his anger online?
Jason: Don’t be a jerk! There have been quite a few marketers and PR people who have lost their jobs recently for messing around online and acting terribly toward customers.
And watch your social media channels like a hawk. Take down any pictures that make you look drunk, mean, or otherwise inappropriate. College students should be especially careful.
Cristian: How did the crisis affect marketing investments? Is it a good idea to cut marketing expenses? Or is there a way of becoming more effective?
Jason: Downsizing your marketing budget to save money is like stopping a clock to save time. You can’t survive without marketing. It drives sales, PR and human assets in a positive way.
Patrick: We have actually thrived over the last few years because we have gotten results and our clients have had to stand out to be relevant in the crowded, ever competitive market. Business has gotten tougher, but that difficulty rests mainly with companies that lack a brand. Our business trades in brands, so we are fairly resistant to turbulent markets.
Cristian: In-house versus outsourced marketing. Which one is best and when?
Jason: You know, ShowBox once had a Norwegian client with a great brand overseas that simply needed a carbon copy model of its current exhibit to save on shipping costs. ShowBox produced a perfect replica of the model right here in Houston, so we saved them the cost of shipping a HUGE booth across the Atlantic. By going international, the company got the job done.