Do you remember field trip days in elementary and middle school? Was there anything better than getting to leave your desk and workbooks behind and get out in the world?
I loved it so much that I sent my kids to an elementary school that specialized in experiential education and immersed our kids in lessons that had real-world corollaries.
We’ve made sure that Origin Agency reflects this approach, as well.
It may seem counterintuitive, but we frequently tell our employees to go away. We want them to get up from their desks and go drinking, or shopping, or just go to the park.
Much of our business is developing packaging and retail displays. In order to do that well, it’s vital that we spend significant time in the stores, bars and restaurants where people actually buy our clients’ products. In this business, it’s extremely easy to get stuck in a feedback loop where you start to believe that your computer screen reflects real life. Often, it doesn’t.
We sometimes work with other industry people who don’t understand the nuances of the retail environment, especially outside of their own large (coastal) cities. They get stuck inside their own heads (or inside their limited experience) and end up creating ideas that sound great, but are completely unworkable.
Origin has several ways we battle this Ivory Tower Syndrome:
Most importantly, we conduct an extensive retail audit across the country twice a year to see what materials are really getting displayed in stores. We see what brands have momentum, not just in our home market, but in markets across the USA. From these audits, we can get a feel for trends, new production methods, retailer priorities, etc. We distill these retail photos and insights into a presentation that we provide free to our clients. We know that the more our clients know, the easier it will be to get to great work.
Periodically, we ride along with a distributor salesperson. This gives us insight into what they need to get our brands displayed. We try to make friends with the salespeople and get their thoughts before applying the marketing lens for our presentations.
We go bar hopping! We talk to bartenders. We ask about their jobs and their pain points. These discussions often yield valuable information for our clients.
When we brainstorm new projects, we try to get out of the office. Even if it’s just to go to the park across the street. New environments can inspire new ideas.
We travel. Every so often, we take an inspiration trip. Sometimes, this is to the art museum or the botanical garden. Sometimes, it’s to Top Golf. For our 10th Anniversary last year, we sent each employee on a long-distance inspiration trip of their choice. We also make an effort to go check out the retail environments and restaurants whenever we travel on business or leisure.
We discourage our employees from working long hours. We’ve all worked at other agencies where it was a point of honor to be the last one at the office at 10pm or to be the first to send an email in the morning. The thing is, those people were seldom the most effective at their job because they were usually profoundly unhappy. Happy people are much more creative.
Sure, you can Google “retail displays” or “popular cocktails”, but you won’t find information as helpful, as original or as inspirational that way. You’ve got to put down that mouse and experience the world.