F vs F race car hero

The Next 15 Minutes or the Next 15 Years?

September 8, 2020

When it’s your birthday at FUEL, it’s your day. You get to choose lunch and a movie. This tradition goes back to our founding in 2001. I don’t remember the name of the first movie, but we found it to be a great, inspirational way to celebrate our team members, so it remains to this day.

A while back, it was Bill Bollman’s birthday. He chose pizza and “Ford v Ferrari”. While there are many interesting take-aways from this movie, one thing that resonated with me was the way Henry Ford II was introduced in the story.

During his first appearance in the movie, Ford II (known as The Deuce) shuts down the assembly line. Surrounded by his executive team, The Deuce challenges his employees to stop just working at Ford, but to start thinking about Ford in the bigger picture.

The Deuce rightly points out that breakthrough ideas were everyone’s responsibility, not just the guys at the top. But it went deeper. He was challenging them to look forward, not just to their next task, but the next decade and beyond. Whether this actually happened or was just part of The Duece’s character development for the big screen is immaterial.

Why does any of this matter to the rest of us trying to build businesses and/or make them more successful?

FUEL has been in business for nearly 20 years. When I’m meeting a new client for the first time, the one question that most often comes up is, “Why FUEL?”

To me, it’s simple: At FUEL, we’re looking out for the next 15 years, while more traditional marketing communications efforts are too often focused on the next 15 minutes.

What exactly does that mean, especially in the age of short attention spans? It means the foundation – the very core of your brand – matters.

If a company is in a hurry to “WOW!” its customers, it can net short term gains. Just light the fuse and watch the fireworks. That will get everyone’s attention for about 15 minutes. Then they have to come up with the next big show of shiny objects 15 minutes later.

Rinse and repeat, as they say. It is a great model for driving up huge media budgets and it works. But it’s also a very expensive way to sell products and services while neglecting the most important thing you want from your customers: their loyalty.

Over the past 19 years, we’ve established the “15 years” model for the companies who already know this, or for those who’ve come to realize the “rinse and repeat” model isn’t working for them.

How does FUEL approach making a client more successful? First off, we take a longer and more holistic view of brands. We consider all touchpoints – not just the ones that fall into the realm of short-term goals.

We know that each and every touchpoint is brand experience, no matter how large OR small. We evaluate them based on some science, a lot of experience and perhaps even a little intuition. Then we work with our client to start considering them as one whole that must be visually purposeful, must be in common language of the market channel, be a consistent experience no matter the touchpoint and probably most important, it must be authentic and honest.

The result? FUEL-aided brands steadily grow and prosper while their competitors struggle, lose market share and occasionally retreat in full from the market category where they were once competitive.

I know all too well from my former life on the client-side that the shiny object can become an obsession. I also know firsthand that the pursuit for the next 15 minutes of attention can be addictive. It’s a high energy approach that can be successful, too. But it can also be expensive and more importantly can burn out those who are on the roller coaster ride that the next 15 minutes of “WOW” will bring.

Most successful brands have learned that while there must be short term goals, looking out for the bigger picture and the long term are solid strategies for building customer loyalty and long-term relationships.

It also helps to drive down overall marketing costs because there are a lot of wows needed to get through a twelve-month business cycle.

The next time you’re in a hurry to push a series of ads through creative and out through the channels, step back, take a deep breath and ask what will your brand look like after the next round of fireworks are over?

And what was the cost?

– John M.