Zeus Jones believes brands are defined by what they do, not what they say. Modern brands are guided by purpose and built on experiences. We've been building a company from the ground up to deliver on this belief through strategy, creativity, design and digital expertise. We're proud to be doing it in collaboration with many great brands.
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Welcome! Here you will find essays on technology, trends and our take on making things work. Beyond that, we post design examples we love, and other cool stuff we find.
If I asked if Americans are anti-science, you’d probably reply, “Yes! They deny evolution and the big bang regularly!” So yes some Americans are anti-science.
But the people who buy expensive food in America are not the demographic that I typically think of as anti-science. They are the privileged class, the over-educated class, the wealthy class. They are the people who couldn’t imagine feeding their children a fast food french fry. The kind who might keep a whole meat freezer in the garage for their paleo diet. The kind who only eat heirloom tomatoes and fear ever ingesting pesticides.
They think far and wide about what to and not to eat. They read books by people like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. They have campaigned for regulation and labeling of organic, “natural,” antibiotic-free, GMO-free foods. Food is not an afterthought for these people.
And I think all of that is great, except for my suspicion that a lot of this culture is primarily driven by emotion. Overall, what they want is a feeling from their food. They want it to feel pastoral, to feel old-fashioned, to feel simple, and most importantly pure. They don’t want to be puzzled by their food. They don’t like words like “tocopherol” even though it’s just a chemical name for Vitamin E. They don’t want to eat grains because cavemen didn’t and what’s older must be better right?
So while we are busy desiring purity and naturalness and trying to eat like cavemen, on a large scale we are desperately requiring massive innovations and scientific breakthroughs in order to deal with these confounding numbers. And it’s likely that some of those answers are going to come in the form of genetic modification, and lab-grown meats, and all kinds of things that don’t conjure farmers of yore.
I’m not saying it’s bad that we are demanding food become purer and grown with more integrity. That’s necessary somewhat, today, to whip food companies into shape after some of the scary production methods they’ve gotten comfortable using over the last century. But in the long-term, we need to make sure we don’t have an anti-science mentality when it comes to food. Simpler is not always better when it comes to solving fast-approaching global hunger problems.
From a marketer’s point of view, it’s worth it to challenge people to think more broadly about the systems surrounding the food products they’re consuming. Show how you are thinking in the long term, not just how well you can follow trends and demand. I love Chipotle, and I think their new commercial is beautiful. But I’m skeptical about the way they’ve drawn a line in the sand between purity and the rest of the industry. Let’s try to appeal to people beyond just their emotions and fears, but to help them understand how these problems will be solved, yes, with science, in the long run.
From a consumer’s point of view, deciding how to eat is a struggle. Obviously you don’t always want to start deciding how to feed your family by thinking about the long-term global food climate. You just want to pick what’s healthiest, and usually that is going to be organic, fresh, local food without antibiotics and suspect junk in it. Eating mostly processed foods isn’t something that anyone should have to do. But it’s worth acknowledging that the food available to us isn’t as black and white as it seems, and not everyone has access to the healthiest foods. Food companies have to solve problems at a massive scale, and it’s worth having an open-mind as we face a complicated future.
A few months ago we got a call from Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak asking if we would collaborate with his team on a print ad campaign. Generally speaking, print advertising isn’t something we do around here — Zeus Jones’ philosophy about the role of marketing is fundamentally different from the traditional agency world — but this project was pretty unique.
Following the May 2013 passage of legislation that provides equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in Minnesota, Rybak wanted to proactively showcase Minneapolis as a destination city for loving gay and lesbian couples who are ready to take the matrimonial plunge but aren’t empowered to do so in their home state. For starters, he wanted to strategically place ads in regional cities like Chicago, Madison and Detroit, inviting out-of-staters to savor both the fruit of our legislative progress and the talents of our local wedding industry.
Zeus Jones has a history of outspoken, tangible support for equal marriage rights. On that basis alone, we were eager to help. But if we were gonna defy our steadfastly modern approach by working on a print campaign, we wanted to make sure it had meaning beyond the page and reflected our larger belief in the social movement behind the law.
Simply put, we think support for same-sex marriage rights isn’t just a political position. It’s a value held by real working people all over Minnesota — some mildly, others more passionately. A lot of those people have decades of experience making great weddings happen. So if we’re going to invite people from other states to come into our community on that basis, we want them to see the faces of actual men and women who not only support marriage equality but also live and work in the service of loving connections every day. Many of these folks are positively elated about the new law, not just because it might mean more business and more income but also because it gives them a chance to do what they do best for a previously marginalized group of people whose love deserves the same level of ritual and recognition.
The choice of the first-person statement “I Want To Marry You In Minneapolis” as a de facto tagline is intentional. Every person pictured in the ads has a personal story and a set of values they bring to their craft. Mayor Rybak is the one making worthy PR waves, but it’s hardworking wedding-industry pros who’ll be delivering on his invitation and living up to Minnesota’s collective promise of support. (One of those pros is photographer Leslie Plesser, with whom we’ve been proud and happy to collaborate on this project among many others.)
Of course, we also feel strongly about the parallel impact that a campaign like this can have on public discourse. People in every state should be talking to each other about marriage rights. If a Minneapolis-based florist, caterer or wedding photographer can help to spark those conversations, we see it as one more way our local community is supporting the interests of same-sex couples everywhere.
I am frequently tasked with explaining how products work. That means understanding what kind of research went into a product, what kind of thought went into choosing the materials that make it, what kind of quality and safety measures surround it, etc.
And that has changed the way I assess everything I see, hear and consume. And it has generally made me more optimistic.
For example, I generally assume that the meat in Taco Bell products is fine. Taco Bell may not have 100% grass-fed, free-range beef going on, but they’re doing their due diligence to make sure that beef (or beef product) is consistent in flavor and safe to eat. And that’s really what you’re paying for, isn’t it?
The other thing I have started to think about is how many goofy commercials are out there using elaborate metaphors to explain what their product does. For example, in a Tide Pods commercial, they show a tiny futuristic laundromat opening up inside of your laundry machine, with tiny little people personally removing all the stains for you.
When I see something like this, I picture a team of corporate lawyers shaking their heads. They do not like the insinuation that the stain removal capacity is as good as someone personally dry cleaning a product. I have started to automatically be able to point out not “false” advertising but lightly stretched portrayals of just what a product is capable of doing. And usually these stretched portrayals of what a product can do happen in these silly metaphor commercials.
Which makes me wonder why they still exist.
In reality, I’m sure the chemistry and innovation behind the Tide Pod is way more interesting than this cute storytelling I am seeing on the TV. I’m sure hundreds of hours of R&D went into coming up with that thing, and designing it to work optimally in the package it’s in. I would rather hear about that.
I understand why many advertising campaigns center around these cute, entertaining metaphors. There didn’t used to be a channel (the Internet) where consumers could sit and read for hours (or minutes – still longer than a TV commercial), about how a product works. Companies just had to say, “Trust us, there is innovation here, here’s some analogy for you so you can know it does what we say it does.”
But now you can provide that information for consumers. And I truly think they want it. Sure some people just want Go Daddy-style ads that say, “there’s girls with cleavage, buy our stuff,” but I think consumers are for the most part both smart and interested in learning more.
And leaving that gap between what you’re actually doing and what consumers know about what you’re doing can be dangerous. In an absence of transparency, they will go ahead and assume that what you’re doing is way worse than what you’re actually doing. Or, they will start to demand things out of their products that they don’t necessarily understand are unsustainable. And people will go ahead and demand unsustainable products forever as long as they have no clue how products are developed or how a supply chain works. And companies will generally go ahead and keep supplying them.
So let’s story-tell around more of that less sexy, more information-based stuff. Companies are already doing a lot of research on the supply side. Consumers are doing research on the demand side. The more we can connect those two processes, provide transparency and educate consumers on products, the more we can build a sustainable economy.
I was lucky enough to get invited to talk at Cannes with a bunch of other fine folks. The subject was innovation and agencies. In particular, why can’t agencies innovate and what can they learn from innovation companies. This is a modified version of the talk I gave.
I think many women have the same basic experiences with the magazine world:
1. You grow up loving magazines, learning about makeup, fitness, life experiences, relationships, whatever from them.
2. You discover men’s magazines and realize that the scope of them is a lot more broad. For example, there are articles about planning your stock portfolio regularly. This discrepancy of content feels insulting to your intelligence, and your life plans. But it feels too late – you have been trained to think more about how to properly apply under-eye concealer during the formative years of your life.
3. You realize that men’s magazines are not a safe harbor, but are in their own way very sexist. (Read this if you don’t believe me.)
This article very well articulates how frustrating the world of magazines, and moreover, professional writing, can be for women. One of her main conclusions was that women’s magazines used to be up to very high standards, but when they started integrating advertisements, things changed. The advertisers wanted their ads to be integrated with content about clothes, makeup and weight loss products, and thus the content started to lean heavily in those directions. This is all true, although not exclusive to women’s magazines.
The classic criticism of the advertising industry is that it purposely lowers women’s self-esteem to sell them products, and it creates a false sense of beauty that they have to aspire to. While this isn’t something I’m going to argue against – I don’t think it has to be an inevitability.
A scene from Mad Men comes to mind here. Peggy is charged with making an ad for cold cream, and she reaches the insight that the cold cream application process gives women an excuse to stand in front of the mirror and look at themselves, something she believes women just like doing. Not out of any particularly pathetic tendency, but just because it helps them get in touch with themselves and feel more beautiful. Her writing partner, Freddy Rumsen, continually insists that her approach is pointless, and that they should hit hard on implying that the product will help women land a husband.
This was an interesting scene to me because it showed how a lot of the advertising that has changed women’s culture, and the editorial content surrounding it, was created by men who didn’t always have a Peggy around to say, “No, that’s not how women think.”
I don’t think it’s necessarily a sinister plan against women, but more a result of a system created before women had much of a voice in the matter. To be positive, I think there are many factors that are leading away from advertising having such a negative affect on women’s editorial content (and on their egos in general).
1. More Women Working in Advertising
A lot of women work in advertising now – but there are probably still a lot of ways that sexism remains in this industry. For example, many of the customer profiles we use are generalized types of people that exist as a result of a gendered world, whether created by it or created in opposition to it. Having more women working in advertising means more empathy, ideally, so that the content is more meaningful and less, well, stupid.
2. More Anthropological Understanding of Consumers
Lumping types of consumers into one broad category and reflecting what that looks like is still common in many types of ads. For example, many car ads aimed at women are like, “I love indie rock music and adventure! I’m a woman who loves this car!” But this isn’t the future of advertising. Because we have a lot more resources in culture to reflect what people are actually like (social media, blogs, etc.) and the means to analyze that more deeply, we can start to ditch the old customer profile in favor of more sweeping examinations of a product’s role in culture, as well as the customer’s.
3. The Death of the Print Ad
Print ads used to be the meat of people’s advertising portfolios, but now they have to compete with massive digital strategies, cultural initiatives and participatory platforms like The Pepsi Refresh project. What did you remember more this year – the Dove Real Beauty Sketches or any print ad you saw for makeup? Probably the former. Magazines and the ads that support them are no longer the sustainable business model they used to be. Many are desperately tailoring content around the advertising demographic as a last-ditch attempt to stay profitable, but I’m skeptical about the efficacy of that strategy. People read magazines for their unique point of view, which is why Monocle and Vice are doing just fine.
It will take awhile for women-targeted editorial systems to change. In the meantime, we as the people putting out brand messages can be dedicated to being more conscious of the way we’re affecting the media channels that shape women’s lives. We can hire people who resist one-dimensional portrayals of women in the work they’re doing. We can push for strategies that further the content people’s 12-year-old daughters are reading in interesting, useful ways that will make them grow up to be stronger women. And we can listen to women more often.
Last year was kind of a meh year for music, but 2013 has been pretty amazing. I gathered our favorite songs at Zeus together into a playlist for anybody to listen to, so check it out. (Update: Here’s a Spotify version, for those that don’t have Rdio. Thanks Mike!)
Here are some of our favorite albums out this year, in some kind of order, maybe.
Do you live Uptown? Do you have a pet? Do you plan to head to Open Streets MPLS on Sunday June 23rd and hang out? Then we urge you to bring your pet and visit us at Zeus Jones. (Only if your pet is comfortable and safe going outside, of course!)
We will have local photographer Leslie Plesser on hand to snap free portraits of anyone who shows up with their pet. All the portraits will become part of a website called Pets of Lyndale, which will showcase the many lovely people and pets that we get to see strolling around our neighborhood on a daily basis.
We at Zeus are major pet-lovers. You may have seen our staff profile of Waffles, who is one of the many dogs who work with us here at Zeus Jones. A lot of our work here is pet-focused, as many of us are working with Purina every day.
We’re also big fans of Open Streets, which brings people out and about on Lyndale Ave. as well as 3 other major Minneapolis roads in the next several months. That’s why we recently worked with them on a new identity and website. Check it out!
This is the talk I gave last month at my mum’s festival in London. It was inspired by a comment she’d made that water is not only the source of life, but is also one of the only substances that supports and sustains all the life that come into contact with it. I thought that this was a particularly beautiful idea and also quite sad too, because the vast majority of things that our lives depend upon do not support or sustain the life that come into contact with them.
In particular, while almost everyone on the planet depends upon business, no one would argue that business supports the life that come into contact with it.
But, there are signs that business is changing, and in ways that make it more fluid, more human and more like water. So the idea was to try to show how, through changes in the ways businesses market, compete, organise and structure themselves both internally and externally, that business may actually be heading in the right direction. That it is becoming more fluid, more supportive and more human. That it is learning how to flow.
All in all, the talk went over quite well considering the majority of the audience were scientists and social activists. I didn’t get stuff thrown at me and people made nice noises at the end.
We’re always hosting design student tours at Zeus Jones. I remember these tours when I was a student being pretty fun and inspiring. The most memorable was when I got to visit Spunk. I just remember how cool I thought their work was and how amazed I was by the brands they worked on from their tiny warehouse district office. That’s how I remember it anyhow and those guys still do killer work today.
These tours are a great way for us to share some of our work and the thinking that goes into it. While it’s fun to show off the work that you’re so proud of, I think it’s also important to give students some insight into the business. It can be a scary time when you’re pulling your portfolio together in your senior year.
We’ve got a tour coming by today as part of the AIGA Portfolio 1 on 1 weekend and this time around I asked all our designers a few questions that I thought may be bring forth interesting insights for people. Here are their responses, along with some links for you students:
“I wish I knew how many moving parts there were besides just ‘design’. There are so many roles that I was pretty oblivious to.”
“I wish I would have concentrated more on the design and worried less about the restriction of actually producing my work. You don’t need to be a developer or book maker to be a great designer. Learn to create great mock-ups so you can spend more time on type, visual hierarchy, UX and other design skills.”
“Being strategic in how you approach a problem and how to effectively communicate an idea is just as important (maybe even more so) as aesthetics.”
“There’s a huge design community to tap into. You can participate through the web, social and physical events. Connect, talk and learn from others.”
“How fast you need to work. You don’t have two weeks to do a project. You may only have 2 hours.”
“Take your projects to the next level rather than just stopping at what was assigned to you. Demonstrate killer craft but also your ability to see the bigger picture and how different parts come together.”
“Your portfolio is never finished. Quality over quantity – your book is only as good as the weakest piece. Don’t apologize for anything in your portfolio. If you feel you need to apologize, redo it or take it out completely.”
“Have a diverse portfolio. A range of both print and digital work will offer you more opportunities. You’d be surprised how many students have zero digital work in their books.”
“Don’t limit yourself to school projects. Show your best work whether you made it in class or just did it for fun.”
“It should have a flow and not just feel like you put 10 of your best projects together in a book. Break up the experience to keep the viewer engaged.”
“Make sure that your work is buttoned-up enough to get useful feedback, but be prepared to edit/reprint what you made. I remember some people weren’t willing to revisit their projects and wasted great feedback.”
“Be open to critique – it’s the only way you get better. Take the feedback you get and put it to use in your portfolio. Network and stay in touch with the people you meet.”
“Ask for honest feedback. If everyone is nice and tells you your work is great, they’re not giving you the constructive criticism you need.”
“This is a subjective field so don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t like your work. You will probably/hopefully learn and grow as a designer more in the first year of working than you did in all four years of school.”
“Don’t make excuses for your portfolio. If you don’t believe in your stuff, why will the person reviewing it?”
One other thing I like to emphasize in our tours is that there’s tons of inspiration and resources available online. We collected a bunch of links for you:
Inspiration - don’t be afraid to study other designers’ work. Here’s a few of our favorites places to get inspiration:
In the interest of helping you succeed at being awesome and getting an internship at Zeus Jones, we put together some quick tips to help give you an edge.
1. Don’t be sloppy
Pay attention to the details. This advice applies across the board, but I can’t tell you how many people actually misspell “Zeus” in their submissions. If you can’t get something as simple as the name of our agency correct, how can we trust you not to make mistakes in your work?
2. Choose wisely
Choose a brand that not everyone else will choose or a brand to which you can bring a totally different perspective. It also helps if you have personal experience with or passion for that particular brand.
3. Put time into not just the work, but the concept
One of my art professors once told me, “Hard work creates its own aesthetic.” What he meant by that was that hard work is obvious and tangible in the end product. Hard work doesn’t necessarily mean pencil-to-paper time (or mouse-to-screen time). The concept phase is equally as important and definitely shows in the end product as well, so spend time buttoning-up your idea before you start your creative work.
4. Show an idea in depth, but also the wealth of ideas that you can create
Execute the hell out of your ideas. Every year we have candidates that come up with really amazing thought-starters but don’t develop them. On the other hand, we have people that develop one idea in great depth. Comparing these people is like comparing apples and oranges. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. However, the people who really stand out are the people with great ideas who also bring them to life in really tangible and exciting ways. And by this, I don’t necessarily mean visuals. One of our candidates last year blew us away by writing a letter from the CEO of Best Buy to their customers. You can check out her entire homework assignment for inspiration.
5. Take former interns’ advice
Last but certainly not least, some meta advice straight from the mouths of last year’s successful intern candidates:
From Claire, mentioned above:
“Think about what YOU would want to see a business do that would be interesting and cool and amazing, and then come up with a bunch of ideas of how to make that happen. Pick out the best ones and then examine them – figure out what they say about the company’s values.
In the end, what you really want is to tell the story of how you could make those values a reality and communicate them to the world. Your original ideas might still work for that, but you might also need to come up with entirely new ones. Don’t be afraid to include stuff that seems impossible – it’s about changing the way people think, and sometimes that means taking risks.”
From Rachel, another former creative intern who was also hired in 2012:
“Research Zeus Jones – see what we have done, how we have done it and where it can be improved or where it rocks!
Take a look at culture – what is happening, what are people interested in, which sites and apps and experiences are trending.
How can your idea not just fit in, but be it’s own culture shifter?
Share your wild and crazy awesome ideas – nothing is too far fetched.
Follow through on an idea – a summary is only a starting point – how does this idea work across a whole company? Customers? People who don’t care about this brand?
Research your company – a solid amount of Google searching can give you insight into the brand you cannot get from your own head. Research can flesh out your idea, and help you see where the company could really improve.
Also look for traits, culture or values that are ignored and should be highlighted.
We are not about ‘polishing the turd’ – be real and transparent about your company – what do they have to offer, what are they passionate about, where do they need to improve? Honest experiences resonate with humanity far more than fake interactions. We can smell it.”
And from Becky, intern from 3 summers ago and current staffer:
“Don’t try to pander to what it may seem like marketers want: glitz, glamour and crazy, expensive stunts. Instead, let your inner geek steal the show. If you loved anthropology or global literature in college, bring that perspective to the table. We like deep thinking, not the superficial stuff. Also, show us what else you do. We like to hire well-rounded people.”
Zeus Jones has never defined itself a “digital agency” and our work often combines digital and real-world activities. More and more, the kind of work we do is being thought of more broadly as “always-on” marketing that uses digital at it’s core.
In the last year we’ve gotten much better at defining the role of an “always-on agency”. And these two graphics have helped us tell that story. (You can enlarge them by clicking through to the source image.)
The first – though not perfect by any means – describes the fundamental differences between campaigns and always-on. Always-on isn’t just “surround” or an extension to campaigns – it’s a completely different discipline with different roles, processes and success metrics.
Campaigns vs. Always-on (Click through to source to enlarge)
The second chart shows how we describe the role of digital in doing this kind of marketing. Because content is such a key component of always-on, we need a system that is more than just a container – we ought to be using our digital assets to help us create content and involve people in what we are doing too.
Always-on Digital Ecosystem (Click through to source to enlarge)
And you can see that’s exactly what we do. We take constant input and inspiration from many, many sources. We look for creative partners and co-creators (many of them from outside the agency/design/marketing world) to help us make compelling stuff. We publish that to our hub and serve it up to our social communities for reactions and feedback. We figure out how to use all of our available assets to distribute and evaluate what we make. Then finally we build on the best ideas and potentially build platforms, campaigns, products, etc around them.
At Zeus, we are major soccer fans. During the World Cup, a lot of us had the game going constantly on second monitors or TVs while we worked. That’s why we were thrilled that the local soccer team, then called The Minnesota Stars, came to us to work on their branding. They had just switched from being owned by the North American Soccer League to private ownership, and they saw this as a chance to make their identity mean more to Minnesota.
Picking a New Name
The team wanted to change their name to something that all Minnesotans could rally behind, something that would bring diverse groups together to celebrate a home team. That’s why they changed it to Minnesota United, an inclusive name that celebrates our state.
Creating a New Look
We also redesigned all of their uniforms, from what they wear on the field to their warm-ups. Rather than just putting one designer to work, we wrangled all the designers in the agency to imagine what the team’s new identity could look like. We started by examining sports design amongst U.S. teams, and saw a lack of differentiation. Looking at European uniforms, we saw more effort to make the design represent the community that a team belongs to.
We decided to do the same, and whittled our many design ideas down into one that centered on Minnesota’s iconic loon, which has an active, aggressive nature that we thought was inspirational for a soccer team. The design also incorporates a star to tie to their past, as well as a blue stripe to represent the Mississippi river.
The primary typeface was based on a typeface by Eric Olson at Process Type Foundry, whose creations we’ve admired for years.
We hope that the newly branded Minnesota United goes on to do great things.
See what people on Twitter are saying:
I love a soccer rebrand…and a large “bird” with red eyes. bit.ly/102aXzN
One of my favorite oddball super geniuses, the French semiotician, Freudian psychoanalyst and insanely rich business consultant Clotaire Rapaille, is famous for his observation about Americans and cheese:
“In America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don’t want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag.”
This sentiment says a lot about American food culture in general. Historically, we have liked our food safe, simple and consistent, above all things. We have generally been divorced from the growing and sourcing of our foods, and prefer processed foods that have been scientifically engineered to have addictive thresholds of taste.
But things are changing in America, and we have, in a sense, entered an era where we are ready for our cheese to be alive once again. It took us awhile, and necessitated the invention of the Internet, but the new, enlightened consumer is here to stay. Today’s consumers have a newfound willingness to understand what things really are, and a desire for authenticity in what we do – and what we eat. Just like we are starting to want our cheese to be cheese, we are also starting to want our Italian food to be Italian.
I started thinking about all of this when someone told me yesterday that Olive Garden is suffering. How perfect, I thought. A downfall of Olive Garden would be perfect evidence that there is a certain type of karma at work with today’s new enlightened consumers. This type of consumer has traits that are often attributed to millennials in the Power Points that companies go through behind the scenes, but I think that they have affected baby boomers too, or anyone who has figured out how to use the Internet. Here’s a short summary of the traits that apply here:
1. They use the Internet to spread and learn about companies’ reputations.
2. They are more acclimated to cultural diversity.
3. They desire authenticity, in their own cultures and in their experiences of others’.
4. They are easily bored and constantly want new stimulus. This translates to being relatively adventurous with food.
In my opinion, Olive Garden committed a few “sins” in the eyes of this type of consumer.
1. Olive Garden has come to be the butt of a joke in ‘foodie’ culture
Marilyn Hagerty’s review of Olive Garden was hilarious to people because no one takes Olive Garden seriously anymore, and it was funny to see someone doing that. My friends may eat there out of nostalgia every now and again, but make sure to let everyone know they are only eating there ironically. It’s associated with safe, fatty comfort food more than any real idea of what Italian people eat like.
2. Olive Garden simplifies another culture in a way that we are uncomfortable with.
My comic friend once pointed out that taking an Italian person to Olive Garden on a date to offer them their own cuisine would be just as stupid as taking a Brazilian person to the Rainforest Cafe. Enough said.
3. Olive Garden has bad karma.
They’re the first to admit that part of the reason their sales are down is because of how they reacted to Obamacare. To absorb the raised payroll taxes, they slashed many employees’ hours back to part-time, which ended up hurting their bottom line even more because it just made them look like jerks. Companies could get away with this type of thing 30 years ago, when the Internet did not quickly make harsh business moves spread across culture and end up on the Colbert Report.
They continue to embarrass themselves by blaming payroll taxes and negative media coverage for their loss of sales, rather than look to the way they are operating first and foremost. If they did, they might see that their negative reputation is keeping mindful customers at bay in the short term, and that their brand of food is doomed in the long run.
Americans are finally waking up, and that means a lot of things for businesses. For now, it means endless breadsticks just may not be enough.
As creative partner Christian Erickson sometimes says, advice from Zeus Jones might be the opposite advice from what people at other agencies would give you. We have a relatively flat structure, we insist that everyone take a multidisciplinary role and much of our work is digital. But I think processes like ours are cropping up in other agencies around the world and a few of our observations can’t hurt.
1. Don’t feel bad about wasting time on the Internet. This is as important as school.
All of that time you are spending playing around on the Internet is actually very applicable to working in a job like mine. Explore it all, and actually care. It’s essential to understand these platforms as a user and not just a bored marketer being like, “That’s a thing people do.” Understand the emotional reasons why people use Facebook. Understand the cultural resonance of Reddit. Spend a week Photoshopping an embarrassing collage of your best friends. Download random iPad apps and use them to draw, animate things and organize your life. In a way, you’re studying web design and user experience by being your own focus group of one. Don’t be afraid of breaking things or doing things wrong.
2. Create a body of your own work that is yours alone, all about what you truly care about.
We get a lot of applications from people that are very polished but feature only group projects and collaborations. This usually makes me wonder how much of the work the person applying actually did. When it’s clear that people have their own passion projects that they spend hours working on in their room at night it’s easy to see what they’re about and what kind of skills they possess.
3. Realize that your schoolwork is not the most interesting thing on the planet.
It’s great to work hard at school and be passionate about what you’re learning. But academia and schoolwork can absolutely overwhelm your life while you are in the middle of it, and it can make people very myopic. It’s great to mention your thesis or whatever at a job interview, but I’m always wary when people roll in and start ranting about a very niche academic subject that has clearly kept them away from the real world for 6 months. Have internships that actually get you into offices and making things other than what you want to make yourself. Your career will likely involve working on things other people dream up. Learn to be interested in those too.
4. Don’t worry too much about guarding your Facebook and personal life.
Here’s the truth. Employers totally stalk your Facebook, your blog, your Twitter. But this industry is fairly relaxed, and it’s usually just to see if you’re a real, genuine, cool person. If you keep your image guarded and buttoned up, you may lose out on the chance to connect with people online. Jobs like mine are very collaborative, so people want to find people they resonate with and truly like. We don’t care if you’re drinking a beer on Facebook. We drink beer here.