New Take on an Old Lesson from 35,000 Feet


I held the precious “mini-mag” comp in my hands as we headed to Chicago for the big pitch at Pepsi the next morning. Seated across the aisle from me our executive leader, Wendy, had one good (or perplexing) question after another as I briefed her. No matter what came at me, I was sure the clients and other agency partners were going to love our pitch and creative approach to addressing their “moms” in the audience.

This Was Content – As Far as I Knew It

I was the confident client lead for my unit on this pitch, we were ready, and we had the full arsenal of Meredith’s media brands and reach behind the idea. What Wendy was challenging me to think about – setting creative aside for a minute – was who really was the audience, were we really set to reach them and what was the offer or benefit to them in engaging with the program. As I fumbled through my explanations, she stopped me with a merciful head shake and then took the time to explain the order and weighting of impact on direct marketing effectiveness – List / Offer / Creative. I thought, “Wait, content is direct marketing?”

I learned, over a Pepsi, that “List” is factor one in terms of how well selected, targeted and focused your “file” and distribution is to your target audience. Next, that “Offer” was essentially the hook for the audience (a value, benefit, coupon, etc.) along with a well-crafted call to action. Lastly, if you had the first two elements set right, your wonderful “Creative” had a fighter’s chance to make an impact as part of the whole.

I still had a lot to learn, and the next several years with Wendy and our Meredith Integrated Marketing team of strategists and creatives would shape the strategic marketer I wanted to become.


New Order, Same Proven Concept

At Empathy/CX, we’re setting off into clients’ creative content and experience engagements with our own updated perspective on the axiomatic lesson Wendy taught me long ago. We believe that today’s customer-centric, multi-channel content experiences should work like effective direct marketing is meant to.

  • Empathy is the new List: We start with insight and framing the audience’s needs, wants, desires in context – with Empathy Framing and Audience Definition. This includes list development, personas, user profiles and clear views to the customer/audience journey.
  • Utility is the new Offer: We ask, probe and shape the brand’s offer to the audience – the inherent relevance, usefulness, timeliness and overall added-value of the particular content and experience to the customer. It’s the “WIFM” from the audience’s perspective.
  • Experience is the new Creative: Out of empathy and utility framing comes a tight brief with business and audience objectives, key insight, RTBs, and guidance on channel considerations. Led by Creative, the team goes to work on the idea(s). The experience idea is born, developed, nurtured and set off into the world to meet the customer where (channels & platforms), when (cadence, journey, lifecycle, moments of truth) and how (formats & types) the customer chooses to engage and act on the content.


What’s in a Logo

We thought hard about how and what we wanted to say about ourselves with our visual identity and logo. What meaning did we want to convey to our audiences. A wonderful, seasoned designer with heart for story, type and iconography led us to a happy place of beginning.

In color, we aimed to engender trust and transparency, growth and harmony in relationships, and ambition in our cause to serve clients’ businesses and their audiences.

In Gotham, we wanted to feel fresh, clean – contemporary and optimistic.

With our “arrow” icon, we wanted to bring our three prongs of Empathy, Utility and Experience to the point of meeting the audience with purpose and intentionally designed creative content experiences. In the end, the intersections in our action-oriented approach to a venn resulted in what Bob Ross would call a “happy little tree” embellishment. If you look close enough, you see “CX” embedded in our visual.