This equation is music to my ears: creative > production.
That’s a lesson from our latest podcast guest, who works for a pretty well-known brand himself, and is going up against some of the biggest media and production budgets in the world.
Hear how creative, strategic ideas can win when going up against massive competition in our latest episode.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“We run the scientific method. Hypothesis. Experimentation. Observation. Analysis. Optimization,” Aron North told me in our latest podcast episode. Great minds think alike. North’s approach is almost identical to Step #6 of the Landing Page Blueprint.
Listen now to hear Aron North, Chief Marketing Officer and Commercial Owner, Mint Mobile, discuss allowing for failure (when you follow the scientific method), trusting your gut, conducting a job interview with every single person coming into the marketing department, and more.
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Some lessons from North that emerged in our discussion:
If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t trying hard enough
This actually started with a marketing professor in college and his statement was “If you haven’t been fired at least once by the time you hit 25, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
North has now systemized smart failure with his team at Mint Mobile.
Trust your gut
In his initial job interview, he asked why Taco Bell didn’t have a lobster taco. The answer, “there isn’t enough lobster in the ocean to support a permanent menu item.”
He had never worked anywhere with that kind of scale. And it ended up messing with his decision making for the first few months. He couldn’t stop analyzing and over-analyzing every decision. He was almost paralyzed.
His boss sat him down and asked what was going on. He explained how he could see even the smallest of decisions he was making had big-dollar impacts. She challenged him to get that out of his head and focus instead on what he really needed to trust –– his gut.
Creative > Production
Some of Mint Mobile’s best-performing ads are the simplest in execution and richest in concept. Epic Slides was its first TV spot with new owner Ryan Reynolds. It is quite literally Reynolds taking the viewer through a slide show.
The team also created ads using stock photography that achieved strong performance. Ads that cost $39 for stock, a made-up PowerPoint, flipping an ad upside down and calling it new –– have all been derived off a single brand insight wrapped in a strong creative concept: “We don’t spend money on X, so we can continue to give you Premium Wireless for just $15/mo.”
North also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with in his career:
Tom Wagner, Principal, The Wagner Consulting Group, and Adjunct Professor, University of California, Irvine: All great creative begins with a strong consumer insight
Wagner is the head of the Mint Mobile Customer Insights Team. One great insight the team helped uncover is that customers want an unlimited mobile data plan as a security blanket because they’ve been burned in the past by other mobile carriers. North and his team used that insight to create a customer-centric unlimited mobile data plan.
North keeps a physical book that is a catalog of compelling advertising and other breakthrough work he has found. He uses this inspiration to help him solve problems and find insightful inspiration.
North’s journals he uses to catalog inspirational marketing and advertising
Another place North looks for customer insights is Reddit. North, along with Rizwan Kassim, Co-Founder, Chief of Strategy & Finance, Managing Partner, Mint Mobile, are in Reddit daily interacting with customers to get instant feedback – five minutes after an email drops in customers’ inbox or a notification comes out they can see customer reactions.
Dave Ryan, Founder, Owner, Ryan Partnership: F.B.N.A (Free Beer No Assholes): When North was at Ryan Partnership, Ryan used to sign corporate emails, memos, etc. with FBNA. North remembers the first time he met Ryan and asked him what it meant. It has helped shape the culture North helped build at Mint Mobile.
During Covid-19, the team has done several things to try to still bring the “Free Beer” ethos to employees who are working remotely. For example, David Glickman, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Mint Mobile, discovered that three-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer might have been impossible to find during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, but 90-gallon jugs were readily available. So, the team bought giant jugs of hand sanitizer, repacked it into smaller containers, and sent care packages to the homes of employees.
Another example was having Amy Schwan, Head Chef, Mint Mobile, deliver meals to employees’ homes when the team went to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
George Dewey, President, Maximum Effort: Fastertizing
Fastertizing is a portmanteau of “fast” and “advertising.” George Dewey is Ryan Reynold’s creative partner, and Maximum Effort is Mint Mobile’s agency. North has learned about the importance of speed and relevance from Dewey’s and Reynold’s work with social media.
For example, actor Dave Foley tweeted about wanting to be in a Mint Mobile ad. The team jumped on the opportunity. A script was written, Foley was filmed, the commercial was edited, and it went live – all within 24 hours.
Headline Writing: How a junior marketer beat the CEO’s headline by 92%
How Marketing Skills Are Helping Employee Recruitment and Satisfaction: 3 quick case studies
500 Mangled, Stretchy Rubber Guys: Make sure you have the right marketing partner for your super creative plan – Podcast Episode #3
Creative Inspiration: 9 mini case studies of marketing campaigns and business ideas sparked by unorthodox inspiration
This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
Not ready for a listen just yet? Interested in searching the content? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our conversation.
Daniel Burstein: This equation is music to my ears. Creative is greater than production. Remember that creative is greater than production. That's the lesson from today's guest, who works for a pretty well-known brand. You've probably heard of it. And yet he's going up against some of the biggest media and production budgets in the world, literally.
So, it's great to hear that creative can win because after all, you mean if you're a marketer or entrepreneur, this is the core asset we have to offer the world our ideas, our creativity, He's also going to share stories from what he's made with lessons like if you aren't failing, then you aren't trying hard enough and trust your gut. Plus, he'll tell us what he's learned from the people he's collaborated with in his career. I want to welcome Aron North, a Chief Marketing Officer at Mint Mobile. Thanks for being here, Aron.
Aron North: Thank you, Daniel. Good to see you.
Daniel Burstein: So, I'm going to do just a quick rundown of your LinkedIn, just a few, cherry pick a few things, so people know who I'm talking to. I saw you were a Vice President and Account Director at Young & Rubicam Brands. You worked on a special advertising project for Pizza Hut, sounds interesting. Director of Advertising & Branded Content at Taco Bell. And now you're the Chief Marketing Officer at Mint Mobile. But you also told me you're the commercial owner. So, what does that mean?
Aron North: Yeah, I have a really, really interesting sort of career path to here. And what that means is so Chief Marketing Officer standard accountabilities, you would expect. But the Commercial Owner within our group means that this is the single person in the organization who is responsible for growth, responsible for sort of healthy growth, I should say. It is profitable growth and what are our strategic plans? How are we pricing? Where are we moving with the product to service the brand?
But I guess if you had to boil it down to something very simple, being both the Commercial Owner and the Chief Marketing Officer, I'm often faced with the question of who wins. And the two audiences I'm trying to make both when are the consumer and the company?
So many times, when we do initiatives whether they be a promotion or a new product launch or a new business line. I'm guiding the decision making and having lots of conversations with our team about what the impact will be to the consumer or the potential consumer, and also how it will impact the organization, which has been a really, really exciting growth opportunity for me in my career. Because oftentimes as marketers we only think about the customer and we're less concerned about the org or the entity. And here you get to do both, which is really phenomenal.
Daniel Burstein: I think there's a lot we can all learn from you because, you know, sometimes when I hear marketers complain about, oh, they didn't get this budget approved or that approved, you know, a lot of times it is because they aren't taking that other perspective. Like, I feel like as marketers we're good at marketing to the customer, but internally we do a poor job, right?
And not just trying to market and sell our ideas, but to truly understand the people like the key decision makers in our organization, A Chief Financial Officer, what's their day like? What are they going through? Like what do we need to do to serve them to get to get these things approved? Right.
Aron North: That's absolutely and I work hand-in-hand all the time with our Chief Financial Officer and our CEO because the decision we're making as the brand continues to explode and growth, have large consequences and large ramifications, hopefully always on the positive side, though.
Daniel Burstein: Hopefully. Well, and it's interesting, you also said healthy growth cause stay tuned. We're going to talk about a mind bogglingly large growth number at one point if you read MarketingSherpa we have a lot of growth numbers. This one is mind bogglingly large. We're going to get to that. But first, let's go through some of the things you made earlier in your career.
You know, as we talk about here, we as marketers we’re pretty fortunate, right? Like I've never had any other career job, really. But I know it seems like if you're an accountant or a dentist or all these other jobs, you don't really walk away having made things and having that feeling. So, let's talk about some of the things you’ve made. And this first lesson comes from really from I mean your education, you know, walking away from it. You said, if you aren't failing, then you aren't trying hard enough. How did you learn this lesson?
Aron North: Yeah, this is a lesson from college and it's a long topic for me, but it's stuck because the point the professor, the marketing professor was making was, there are times in your life where risk is more acceptable early in your career you can fail. Right? The consequences are individual for the most part. It's going to have an impact on maybe your current opportunity, something you're working on, etc., etc., etc. But later on in life, when you have a mortgage and a family and all these things that like really sort of intimidate you a bit and want you to have to take on less risk. My professor was saying, if you're not pushing the bounds and if you're not failing, you aren't going to the edge. You aren't going into the unproven, the unknown, the untried.
And that is a real miss because in marketing, a lot of what makes us special is the fact that we're willing to go out and try something that had never been done before to go take a flier on a program right, it's worth it, because if you never do, you'll never know. And I think that's sort of a counter to this. And it's really critical that as marketers we're on the bleeding edge, a lot of times of communication, storytelling, the ability to be in front of the customer. So, I preach to my team that it's okay to fail, and I actually push very, very hard that we are constantly failing. I set aside a component of my media budget to make sure they know the team knows this money is allocated to the unproven, the unknown, the untested. And what ends up happening there is even with the low success rate, right? Even if 10% of your budget is there and only 10% of it hits, which is basically 1%, that 1% can be absolutely transformative.
So, I love getting involved with the alphas and the betas in the new things that have never been done or pushing volume or spend to a new uncharted level. I love doing that because we're always approaching it with what can we learn? How can we be better and if we fail, because it's a small piece of our budget, and because we're willing to take risk and because it's been there from day zero, we don't feel the negative impacts of these misses. They've always been part of our business but boy when we hit one. It gives us the green light to scale and that I feel is one of the ways we've been able to grow this brand so quickly is our willingness, willingness to take risk.
Daniel Burstein: I think that's beautiful for two reasons. So, one, you know, we really have a culture of experimentation. We teach through our content and people would ask me, they're like, well, how does that really work in practice? Because that's kind of scary. And then just a quick shout out to our CEO, because Flint McGlaughlin he did this awesome thing very publicly, once. We’d run a test, just a simple email test, it was an invite for something. And the brand-new writer, fresh out of school, I think tested against our, you know, our CEO's headline and the writer won.
And the great thing was we had this big event at the ARIA in Las Vegas right before this event, he’s right about to go on stage. So, I wanted to give him a hard time because he was a very confident speaker., and I was like you think you're so great teaching all these people about email marketing. Look, our new guy, Paul, just beat your test. And what he did surprised me, and he was like great. He's like, get me the slides, that's my opening. And his opening was whoever wants a refund, here is a test I just ran, and, you know, the new guy just beat me. What better way as a marketing leader, what better way to teach your company? Hey, it's good to fail. You got to go out there and try something new.
But I think one other thing real quick, when you when you mentioned that, they see it, this venture capital guy I was interviewing, I was asking him about that, about how failure works. He’s like look we’re expecting to fail and that kind of seems like what you're telling me, right? Like we're expecting to fail because what happens is when we succeed, it's asymmetrical, right? We’ll fail, we’ll lose this, we’ll lost that here. But when we hit it, we hit it big. And it sounds like that's what you're talking about. You got to plan to fail some so that you can sometimes get those Grand Slams.
Aron North: Right. And my team knows how I feel about failure. If they're listening, they're probably already rolling their eyes. But I always say we've got to fail fast, fail forward, fail smart and fail cheap. Those are sort of my contextual framework or that is my contextual framework for how you fail. Because if you really think about that, a failure is not a failure because you've gained learnings.
And yes, we may not sort of explicitly state it, but we run the scientific methods. So, hypothesis, experimentation, observation analysis, optimization, we are doing that at a speed and cycle rate that is unheard of. If you're not going to allow failure as part of that, that model won't work.
Daniel Burstein: That's cool. And I mean, I got say it's just more enjoyable, you know, oh.
Aron North: It's so fun.
Daniel Burstein: One thing being in marketing I don’t know you've ever felt this way, Aaron, but we felt like, you know, there's those egos in the room and so when you go in and you're into any room, whether you're talking to business folks or going to agency, you're talking clients, there's this feeling like you've got to know everything and you've got to go there. You've got to give them the answer. It's got to work. But having that feeling like you said, like, hey, let's set up a hypothesis and let's I've got this crazy idea. I get crazy ideas all the time, right? That's what creatives do. I got this crazy idea. It's a hypothesis. Let's try it out. Let's see what happens.
Aron North: Oh, absolutely. And for us, the ideas come from everywhere. So as our group has grown, not only do they come from the marketing team, but they may also come from the e-commerce team, the media team. Ideas surface from all over the place. So, we love it. We encourage it. And, you know, it's been one of those things where new folks, it takes an adjustment, right? If you're if you're a seasoned vet, you come here that is a very different approach than most are used to. You don't see the big multinational conglomerates embracing risk, right? They have a lot to lose. They're very protective of what they've built. We're young, we're scrappy. We're willing to risk and take risk because the upside is so enormous. And I encourage it.
Daniel Burstein: And let me ask you about hiring for that, because I don't know. I think we're going to get into hiring a little later. And we did an article about that, some of your recruiting practices at Mint Mobile which was very cool. But you know, something I've seen when I would interview – one of the most illustrative of questions would be, you know, tell me about a time you failed, tell me about mistake you make, you know, that sort of thing.
And seeing how people reacted and even to the point on Glassdoor, there was one woman I interviewed who every failure story was more like how really kind of the Art Director failed, the Designer, always someone else never quite her. And I kept pushing to try to get that failure story. Even on Glassdoor, I finally got the review of like, why does this guy keep wanting to talk about failure? It's a job interview. I want to talk about my successes. So how do you do that in your interviews? How do you kind of search for that right type of person who's okay to take a more hypothesis driven approach?
Aron North: Well, I think first off, I like to really simplify the interview process. I let folks know right up front that, like, we're going to have a conversation, so sort of diffuse the tension out of it. And I like people who are sort of self-conscious. And if you're telling me how perfect you are, you're already not a good fit for us because none of us are perfect over here. We make mistakes constantly, and that's okay because it's a family and we're people and we encourage each other, and we try to lift each other up.
But when you're interviewing someone, you can tell in how they answer, not just what they answer, but how they answer. I think one of the neatest things is to understand what decisions did you make that led to failure? Was it early? Was the hypothesis incorrect or was it the application of the experiment or whatever you were doing a program that got? And what I like to understand is, it’s not where was the bad decision, but where was the decision made that led to an unsavory result? And if you can't really answer that, that's a problem because now you can't diagnose where the issue is.
And that's really what we're looking for, is people who have obviously good ideas, and a large volume of ideas that are high quality. But you have to be able to go back and be critical of yourself and understand what decisions you made that led to an outcome you didn't want. So that way that's the optimization piece, like it's okay to get a bad result, but if you can't optimize, that was a wasted test.
Daniel Burstein: Great. Let's switch gears a little. Let's talk about when you were earlier in your career, you were on the other side of that interview. You were getting interviewed. You said a lesson was trust your gut. You kind of learned this early at Taco Bell. So how did you first learn it in the interview process there and then and then working there?
Aron North: Yeah. So, I had I was leaving the agency world, so I had spent ten plus years agency side. And as everybody who's ever worked in an agency knows, an agency is really a consultant, if you will. You're outside. Your job is to present the best creative solutions you possibly can for the business challenge of your client. The client makes the decision. You make the recommendation When I transitioned to Taco Bell, that was a big transition because now you are the decision maker. And in my interview with the CMO at the time, David Evans, I asked, why don't you put a lobster taco on the menu? It seems obvious to me, being a Southern California guy, lobster tacos are popular. You should do this.
And he was an Aussie, he goes mate, let me tell you, I'm an Aussie and we love the ocean. There ain't enough lobster in the ocean for Taco Bell. And that sort of made my head explode. Because I heard it, I didn't understand it. So, I asked more questions like, What do you mean? And he said, to support six weeks of a promotion at Taco Bell, we would fish the ocean dry of lobster.
And that was, I never heard anything like that, right. And I ultimately got the job and I got to work there. And I saw it multiple times. Like Taco Bell changed from Mexican inspired Rice, which is sort of an orange rice to a white rice with cilantro in it. The organization had to go a year plus in advance and cut deals and negotiate with farmers in the central valley of California because there wasn't enough cilantro on the planet to meet the demand of Taco Bell's rice.
So, that happens, and you start to get this sense of scale. You're like, holy shit, if I make a bad call here, this is got millions of dollars written on it, either right or wrong. Like it's insane. The company the day I joined was doing 5 billion a year in sales. So, you begin to question your decision-making ability very quickly when that happens. Well, at least I did. Because I was used to being an outsider or a person who provides a recommendation. Now, I was making the call on decisions that were seemed massive and I stopped trusting my gut. My boss hated that, and she was incredible. She really pushed me hard to go, look, we've hired you because you're a good marketer. We're going to help turn you into a great marketer, but you've got good instincts and it's important you trust those instincts because if you question them, you're really questioning the root of the idea. And really what's scaring use the potential bad outcome. Don't be afraid of that. Make the right call. Trust your instincts. Sure, you might need to do some more diligence before you make a formal recommendation because the impacts are big, but don't abandon what you instinctively feel is right, because that is bad for a marketer.
And that has really served me well I mean, I did that all my career beforehand, but just the scale of the decision making was so big. I was questioning myself and she really ground that into me and from there I've taken that and really brought that with me in my career.
Daniel Burstein: That's interesting. So how do you kind of balance that with the discussion we just had, the discussion we just had, you know, hypothesis driven, look at data, I would say and outcomes and the trust your gut, how do you kind of balance those two.
Aron North: Well, if you remember when I said failure's absolutely okay, provided we're failing smart, fast, forward and cheap, okay. We don't put 100% of our media budget into risk. We put 10% of our media budget into risk. We're willing to, or I should say we have an appetite for that 10% to be volatile. We don't have an appetite for the entire business to be volatile. So, what I'll do is I'll look at a hypothesis and I'll say, what kind of scale does this have and how big of a scale are we willing to work on now?
But I'll give you a perfect example. Like real Life, we run Mint Mobile as a direct-to-consumer business. Everybody knows direct to consumer business you've got CRO conversion rate optimization. We've probably got anywhere between seven and ten tests going on at any moment. The scale of those tests varies. The things that are higher risk go to a smaller audience. We want to get learnings and stable data, but we're willing to take more time because the risk is higher. Things that seem low risk will bring in a larger audience and get through it faster. That way we can apply the learning if there's something there. So, I think this is where being the CMO and the Commercial Officer comes in, it's like, what's the potential upside? And downside of the decision and how big do we want to make it as a result of that?
Daniel Burstein: That’s great and you know another place trust your gut comes in. One of the earlier podcast interviews I did was with Michelle Burrows, who's also a CMO, and she was talking about, you know, where she really struggled to trust her gut, especially lately was with hiring because it's been so hard, you know, hiring to bring in the right people that sometimes she’d just be like, you know what, we have the need. Let me go for it. Let me hire. And she said, you know, what happens is two months, three, you have two, three months of wasted time and it's like, boom. Now, you know, I probably should have trusted my gut and kind of waited for that that right person.
Or on the flip side, you know, coming into new organization like you just talked about was like, okay, there's that you know, one person or two people that don't fit with the team, an underperformer or don't want to shake up the team. Then when she ultimately didn't trust their gut and did it, it's like, wow, the team like exhaled and said, oh, that person was the clog kind of thing kinda messing everything up. So how does the trust your gut bit come into hiring? So it sounds like you do have a very kind of personal conversation based hiring where I'm guessing get a real feel for that person.
Aron North: I do. So, this is, healthy or not, it's a decision I've made and I've stuck with, and that is I interview every single person who's coming into the marketing department, period. It does not matter if this is your first job or if you're a 25- or 30-year veteran.
It's really important to me that the dynamic within the group be phenomenal. I'll interview people who are so sophisticated and so smart there is no chance, there's no way in hell I can understand what they do. And I tell them that right up front. Hey, just so you know, Daniel, I'm interviewing you today and we're going to have a conversation. I know you are a mobile device analytics expert in this software package. You could lie to me this entire interview about your technical ability, so I'm not even going to ask you a technical question. Let's talk about, like, how you work, how you make decisions. And tell me a little bit about you, because the one thing that is incredibly special here at Mint is that, and it's so cliche, but I could go on for an hour and give you firsthand stories of how we're not just coworkers and employees. Like we're the marketing department in particular, because this is a group, I'm very well invested in is a family.
And there are times where some of my employees have had children. And I know that my wife and I, when we had our child that first two weeks was crazy. But like somebody brought us a home cooked meal and we were almost in tears because there's only so much Taco Bell you can eat when you're a new parent and fast food. So, I did that for one of my employees just because I could tell they needed it and sure enough, brought it over. Look, it's nothing fancy. It was meatloaf night at my house. So, you know, we brought a second meatloaf over, but when she started crying In joy, I'm like, Look, it's okay. We get it. Like, I was there. We want to help you, but please don't think about work. You're on maternity leave. Just wanted to make sure you're taken care of. And I see that among all of our teams.
So, I'm looking when I interview people for people who can bring that to, you know, to the team. And I think Southwest Airlines said it best. We hire nice. We can teach people the operational components of loading a plane or these other things, but we want to hire Nice. So, I want to hire people that I want to be around. That are amazing people who have the right sort of lens on business and the lens on family. And then, well, you know, you're going to have enough technical acumen to do the job, but we'll teach you our way. But I want the right I want good, high-quality people first.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I love that because you know, what really strikes me, I've always felt in the interview process, sometimes we spend more time with these people than people we've made marital vows to, you know what I mean. Then people we’ve helped make. So I think it's really so crucial and important that the type of people you work with. So.
Aron North: Yeah, and you know, I've had teams come to me and say we're all green. This is a go. it's air and rubber stamp it. I meet the person, and something doesn't sit with me right. And we've made calls where I'm like, let's I don't know, I've got a red flag here and that's your gut and your instinct. And I always let the team make the final call. It's not my job to say no. It's my job to go, Hey, there's a yellow flag here. You have my support if you think it's right. But this is a person who we just need to keep an eye on because I'm concerned about X, Y, and Z. And I'm not right every time. I'm happy to admit mistakes, but I've got a pretty good close rate on like identifying if a person is going to be a good fit or a bad fit for the team.
Daniel Burstein: You know, I think one reason it's so good to get that right team for everyone to, but I would say, if you don't mind, I think it's kind of like a David brand versus the Goliath. Is that an okay way to talk about? Yeah. And so, this is one reason I love this next lesson you talk about is, creative is greater than production.
And I love this because for any brand out there going against bigger competition, sometimes it can feel harder to go against these giant budgets. Where, you know, maybe there's no need to be as effective because they're just everywhere and they've got the biggest spokespeople and, you know, the Super Bowl ads and the crazy productions. So, what have you learned about, how did you learn this lesson that creative is greater than production?
Aron North: Yeah, and the antithesis that is, is if you can't play good, play loud, right? Because that's a lot of what you see in our sector. I mean, we are going against gargantuan companies. These are like you look at their 10K’s and their 10Q’s and you're like, Jesus Christ, these are massive, massive entities. So, yes, when we started this, I mean, when you build a brand, you start with nothing you have zero customers. So, we started at zero like I was here for day zero. What we had found and look, we're young high growth company, Ultra Mobile, our sister brand. When I joined the company, the reason I was recruited here was that Ultra was the fastest growing private company in America in 2015. I came on board in 2016 and you know, growing Ultra, but also how do we start this new thing.
So, you don't start with a massive budget, you start by testing and learning. And one of the things we learned right away was that to cut through the noise, we had to be provocative, and we had to push creativity. The approach we took was we positioned our brand as an outlaw archetype and for us, that gave us from a positioning standpoint the permission to speak out and speak against the space. So we took a very disruptive tone.
We pushed against category norms, we used profanity early on and we would our mascot is a fox so we used to bleep out Fox, and it just look like the F-word. And then afterwards we would always say, but we said Fox or we said Foxing and I had to test it. I needed some way to cut through and it worked.
So, to me, that was really exciting because we started to push against any creativity or language or creative was cutting through to the point where the brand had really good success. Its first couple of years and went into phenomenal success after that. But we were Super Bowl buyers, by the way, I bought a Super Bowl spot, so this is pre-Ryan, sort of crazy. Mint was testing television work for the first time. We went out and shot a three-package piece of work. So, campaign with three different executions. I knew I had something special in two of the ads. All three were good. Two were like, Oof, this is gonna get, people are going to react to this. The first spot was called Finger Dipping, where you had folks at a party and they were sticking their fingers into dip and like it was, it was so, oh, that's not right. And that really tapped into a pure insight that we had. And the insight was people that can't believe our product can be any good for 15 bucks a month.
And we were literally hearing back from the consumers that that can't be right. There must be a mistake, so we took that human truth and put it into our work, and we did it in a way that was so over the top and creative with people putting their fingers into dip, a gentleman taking a shower in a shower that was made out of carpet. So, carpet showers. And then the third and final one, which was our Super Bowl spot, was chunky style milk, which is just about the most repulsive thing you ever seen that we put on the largest national stage we have here in the US, which is a Super Bowl ad. And that was, now that was an instance where it was incredibly high risk, high reward, and that was one that I put my name on, but I had data to back it up. So, I was willing to take that risk because I had run finger dipping, I had run carpeted showers. So, I knew or had an idea what would happen for chunky style milk during the Super Bowl. But none of those were high production ads. They were all shot in one group, and I saved that one spot for Super Bowl.
We probably spent I mean, I don't even I can't even tell you what the ad ended up me in production dollars, but it had to have been under 100,000 bucks. And I can guarantee you most of the Super Bowl advertisers spent more on that in music or licensing or talent than we had for the entire production. So, we were ranked number one most memorable ad in the Super Bowl. People told us it was gross, was disgusting, but the thing we knew was that it was memorable.
So, for me, this brand has always had creativity over production. And with the introduction of Ryan Reynolds Ryan buying the business and becoming an owner, that team is all about creativity over spectacle, which is really, really fantastic because it aligns with what we're doing and it allows us to, quite frankly, do work that is so much fun because the idea is so good and it's not, okay, we're going to go out and get Guns and Roses, Appetite for Destruction, and that's how we're going to open the spot, which I have done before. You know, it's not. And then we're going to have fireworks and explosions and this and that, which I have done before. You know, it's it's we're going to build a character. We're going to have a neat idea. We're going to do something so different. Nobody's going to expect it. We're going to recycle an old ad; we're going to turn it upside down.
That's it. We're going to turn the ad upside down and rerecord the VO (voiceover), like, these are the things we do now because they're so neat and interesting. And I love it because our customers are on board, they get the idea, right? We don't spend money on spectacle. That way we can save that money and bring you premium wireless for 15 bucks. We spend our money on narrative and storytelling and having fun, and I think people appreciate that about the brand.
Daniel Burstein: Yes. So that's really key and I wanted to touch on that. So, when you said you try to be provocative and stick out there, and I think something that comes to mind for me is like the GoDaddy ads, which, which maybe there was a good value proposition or point behind them. I might have missed it at the time, right. Or I think of there was a famous Microsoft launch with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates. I don’t know if you remember that one. And I’m a huge Seinfeld fan, I just really didn't understand how them shopping for speakers. I don't even remember what they were selling.
So, but what you talk about when you talk about these provocative ads, there's a value proposition and a strategy behind it, right? They said we don't spend money on X, so we can continue to give you premium wireless for just $15 a month. I mean, is that where the ad starts? And then you're like, okay, what's a provocative way to communicate that?
Aron North: Yeah, and I think it didn't start that way. It was just sort of a natural progression. We also keep things very light and very simple, you know, for us all, great creative, like this is something I preach constantly, and I spend a ton of my time on writing a brief, a creative brief and our creative briefs under 50 words total on the whole brief.
We have a really, really excellent template that I'm very proud of. Sort of was created or founded back in the Taco Bell days, and I've kept it with me because it is so good because there's not a lot there. And what I believe is that all great creative is born out of an insight into me. An insight is a universal human truth. It is not an observation. I mean, that's actually one of my big questions I ask marketers is tell me the difference between an observation and an insight. Because they are different. But if you have a really, really solid human truths going into your work, you don't need spectacle. You just deliver the truth to the customer. And it cuts through.
And we've found that to be a phenomenal thing for us. I mean, we're doing ads with $39 stock photography in them, and that's part of the ad is like why is there $39 stock photography of a snowman with sparklers for arms? We're not really sure, but hey, tis the season and you know, it saved us money on this so we can do this. It just sort of it happens naturally and it feels right. But it's all born on that human truth, which is customers believe you get what you pay for, right? And we have to break that human truth. That's really what we're setting out to do.
Daniel Burstein: That's great. I love the word human truth. Right? Because, I mean, my favorite quote, the best description I've ever heard about advertising is the truth well told, right? So, but it starts with the truth. So, let's talk about how you get there. Kind of shift into some learnings you have, some lessons from the people you collaborated with.
You mentioned Tom Wagner. He's the principal of the Wagner Consulting Group and an adjunct professor at UC Irvine. You said you learn from him; all great creatives begin with a strong consumer insight. So how do you work with Tom and what other ways do you work with to get to those human truths? To kind of start there.
Aron North: Yeah, Tom and I just for those listening. So, you're not like how does he get all this from this person? Tom and I work together at Taco Bell. Tom built the consumer insights division at Taco Bell, had the pleasure of working with him for a number of years. When I left and started Mint and we were working on Mint, I used to take the train down to San Diego and go see Tom and spend a day with Tom.
And Tom's not a telco guy, which I love, and Tom's a big fan of outside-in thinking. So, we were able to really pressure test and think through some of the strategic decisions we were doing. And Tom always wants to be you know, like, start from the outside in, right? What does the consumer believe? Right? What type of insight is it? Because there's four types. Let's identify that. Then, let's solve for where they are, right? Start with the customer first. Don't start with the company. Whether it you know, you could talk about marketing, you could be talking about products, services, but if you start with the company, you're solving for an internal stakeholder. If you start outside, you're solving for the external stakeholder of the customer.
Almost every time it's better to start outside, solve for them, and then make it fit within the inside construct. I know it can't work every time perfectly, but at least there you're solving for the customer want, need, desire. You start internally, you're going to start making products that service the business, but maybe not a consumer want or need. And I think you can extrapolate that to communications quite easily.
If you want to sell a message, perfect example. Unlimited, Mint sells unlimited. We launched it a couple of years ago. The marketplace is not asking for another unlimited plan. Everybody's got one, right? Like it's just, come on, but what we learned, and this is something I think that's transformative for our brand and our business, is that customers want unlimited as a security blanket. They also don't want to get because they've been burned, right? Like in years past, when I had minutes, I got this $400 bill one time, so I'm scared forever. Well, some of the carriers, they're predatory on that fear. Right? Okay, cool. Mint’s going to do different. So, we took that security blanket and the fear of overpaying, and we architected the marketing into our unlimited plan, which we call Unliminted. Okay.
So, what happens with Mint is you buy the unlimited plan, you're using it for three months, and at the end of your three months, we actually send you an email that says, Daniel, thank you for being a Mint customer. We've been looking at your usage and you only use eight gigabytes of data a month. You don't need unlimited. We're recommending you pay us less going forward. You move to our more affordable ten gigabyte plan, which will save you $10 a month off of what you're already paying us. And if at any point you need more data, you can always upgrade and we'll pro-rate the difference. Super consumer centric all outside-in thinking and our unlimited plan launched with this concept, and it has been phenomenal, and we knew the marketplace didn't want unlimited or want another unlimited plan. So, we had to do something different.
And that to me is an example of how you start outside in. You listen to the consumer and that drives products, messaging, all that stuff. So even though all great creative begins with the inside, I think product and service can begin with a strong consumer insight, and it gives you the opportunity to put the marketing into it because I believe the best marketing is the stuff you don't have to put on TV. The customer finds it and they're like, oh, this is amazing. I got to tell someone. And we see it on Twitter, we see people take that email and put it on Twitter. And go, Who the F is doing this? What company tells you to send them less money? And we build loyalty through that.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's disruptively strong customer service. That's, that's beautiful. Let me ask you this, because you know, something we talk about frequent this podcast is you are not the customer, right? So, for many, I use the example, you know, when I started out, you know, one of my first jobs as a copywriter in an ad agency, I was writing for properties in Vail Valley and Bachelor Gulch Village. I didn't have an understanding of, you know, I was just fresh out of college and didn’t have an understanding what it was to be like, a titan of the universe who own these things.
But yours is kind of a unique product in that we're essentially all customers of it. And, you know, we've written an article before with marketers. Where do you get your inspiration?
And one that really struck with me was one marketer he talked about. You know, I was playing on the floor with Hot Wheels with my nephew and then it gave me an idea for how to communicate about like crash rates in California for like a law firm. I just wonder, like, as you know, it sounds like you're doing some great outside research for that outside and thinking to help understand the customer.
But what did you and your team and like as your own personal experiences that ever play in? Because that's a great example where we get into work, right, and you get into maybe some giant company think oh this is a unlimited plan and you're just kind of selling it out there, but you don't stop and think like, wait a minute, do I need the unlimited plan and what would I want as a customer, which is beautiful. I'm just saying wait a minute, you don’t’ need that, you're overpaying. So, has that ever come up, you know, in any of your kind of personal experiences or your teams personal experiences?
Aron North: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I, I am old school. I'm showing you, but I know we're on a podcast. I keep a book of notes. I have had one of these my entire career you know, I've had multiple, but I take compelling advertising work that I feel is insanely good. And back in the olden days, I used to cut it out of a magazine and put it in here. Now I'll take a screengrab, I'll do something, but I try to keep a catalog of work that I feel is just really breakthrough. And it could be any category, but I'm looking for people who are solving problems in ways I hadn't expected before.
But when it comes to, like, where do I go to fish for really great inspiration? For my brands, I go to Reddit, believe it or not, Reddit is incredible. So, Reddit to me is a social media platform where you can have a healthy conversation, which I don't think the others are sort of predicated on healthy, productive, constructive conversations. And Reddit can devolve quickly too let's be honest, but we're in there. Myself and one of our co-founders, Rizwan, were in there daily, and I'm in there mixing it up with the customers. I'm reading, learning, understanding, what are the issues, what are the opportunities? I get in and add clarity where I can, but we start to see things there. You know, you can start to see trends emerge. And in conversations people are having because everybody's very transparent and I'll get in and ask questions and we use that as direct input into shaping what we do future forward.
We got, I mean, I can look at the almost six years of history of this brand and combine both Reddit commentary along with sort of internal customer surveys and see how there is a direct correlation between the two. And you can see the actions we've taken as a company to better our product, service, offer, everything based on that. And then you can see the conversation shift in these mediums, which it's real fulfilling and it's real immediate, which is incredible because a lot of times for research, you've got to wait till the next research cycle. Or are we getting the people who have seen the stimulus. You go to Reddit and man they're giving you feedback 5 minutes after the email drops in their inbox, or after the notification comes out and it is positive or negative, you can have a dialog with them and it usually doesn't devolve into vulgarity and you know, you're just some corporate shill and, you know, whatever colorful language they want to apply.
Daniel Burstein: So that's really interesting. So I definitely and anyone listening, I think something that's super helpful is even if you're in B2B going on to whatever forum is for your organization, going onto social media, you know if you’re B2C a lot of time to Yelp or Google reviews there’s so many places where you can see these days the thing we used to try to figure out two or three decades ago, that water cooler talk that neighbors talking to each other. They're doing it right now publicly on social media and on the Internet. You can listen. But you're saying I haven't gotten this far. You are actually. Are you interacting as Aaron from Mint Mobile with them or are you just kind of passively listening to their conversations?
Aron North: No, like so yesterday there was a post somebody celebrated their five-year anniversary, which always perks my ears up because we're about to hit six years old. So someone who's been with us from the from the start, they posted the email campaign, or the email noticed that we had congratulating them on five years. Somebody else commented that they love the marketing we do and love all the writing and this and that and they wish they could work here.
We I jumped in and like well, what do you do? Because we've got a lot of openings. And then all of a sudden, the conversation just exploded. It was like, are you kidding me? The CMO is actually in here reading this stuff and like is looking for work. As it turns out, the person is a writer. We don't have any writer openings right now, but I said, Ping me on LinkedIn and just tell me you're that person because it's got their username. I don't know their real name. Tell me you're the Redditor and you know, I'll let you know when that copywriting role comes up so you can apply for it. But I'm in there every single day are co-founders in there almost every single day. It's just something we do, so we keep a pulse on the business.
Daniel Burstein: That's great. I feel like probably a lot of C-Level executives feel like they don’t have the time for that. So, do you time block that? How do you how do you make the time to do that? And it seems like a very high priority for you.
Aron North: I'm doing it right. No, just kidding. I'm not doing it right now. Know it's look, you everybody's heard of the cliche. Find something you love. You'll never work a day in your life. I'm a workaholic. I'm addicted to this thing. I love it. It's been so much fun for me to build this brand and see it grow that, quite frankly, I can't stop so if I have 5 minutes, I'll just go to Reddit real quick. It doesn't take much. I mean you got the phones and laptops and everything, you just go, you read two or three, and then maybe there's nothing maybe there's something. Quick comment and then I'll come back later. So I don't time block, but if I can get five or ten minute increments, I'll just go check it like I would check the news.
Daniel Burstein: All right. Great. So, you mentioned five years almost about to hit your six-year anniversary. So over five years. 90,000%, I believe, is the growth number. Congratulations. That's gaudy and amazing.
Aron North: It doesn't seem real. Okay. I fully admit to those listening who are like bullshit, bullshit. Yeah, I get it, I get it. I, I have to pinch myself when I see what's happening because it doesn't seem real, but that is the real growth number. And Ultra, our sister brand one, like I said earlier, the fastest growing company in 2015 on the INC 5000. Mint may have been disqualified from winning that contest because it was a subsidiary of the holding company, and we were disqualified. That may have been would have happened which is why we haven't submitted for that growth mark again. But yeah, it's insane.
Daniel Burstein: Well here here's why that's phenomenal. I mean obviously it's phenomenal. Here's another reason it's phenomenal. I want to get into one more customer insight. You you're mentioning to me is this is not whitespace. This is not you know; I was fortunate earlier in my career to work with VMware and virtualization software. New, new space growing like crazy, right?
You are in a very bloody market. It's not like there's tons of new people all of a sudden need cell phones. So, I wanted to talk about one other insight you had into customers and that at first you mentioned it was almost too cheap. I think the price was too cheap. Which is very kind of goes against that gut feeling we would have it, let's make it as cheap as possible. People know that what a cell phone is, and I think that's why you did what you did with your advertising right. Is that correct?
Aron North: Yeah. When we started, like many startups’ entrepreneur, we believed in bootstrapping, right? So Ultra was the flagship brand so much of the organization was focused on Ultra, a small group of individuals. We're working on Mint, and it was really hard at first, and the customer response was very much it can't be any good at that price, and that was really hard to swallow.
And so, we ended up running a test, you know, no risk, no reward. We ran a test where we did all kinds of things. We changed the positioning of the price. We changed the presentation of it, and then we raised the price. Of all the testing we did we found that raising the price increase the velocity the most. And when we talked to the customer, the noise was still there. How can it be any good at $15 a month? But it certainly wasn't as loud as it was when the price was lower.
Daniel Burstein: It's a great insight, great reason to be testing and experimenting. Yeah.
Aron North: Look, I understand the laws of economics in that, you know, price and demand curves. I was astonished, shocked floored to see that raising price had the inverse effect. And it was, it was like nothing I had ever heard of before.
Daniel Burstein: I think that I'm glad you bring up economics because one thing I've kind of always learned in marketing, you know, we learned in Economics 101, supply and demand and all these things. And one thing I've read a lot in my career, it's helped with behavioral economics. But we have Dr. Dan Ariely speak before, it’s types of people because, you know, I always felt Economics 101, it assumes rational thinking based on customers and based on all of us. That like, okay, supply and demand will just, you know, kind of work out because we're all rational actors. We're not rational actors as human beings and customers, and that is something we as marketers have to learn.
Aron North: Paying seven bucks for a water over coffee grounds. That's not rational. You know, like there's so many things that don't make sense, but I love it. It's just, yeah, the marketplace doesn't always follow what you would expect. So, I think that's part of the reason why you've got to be open to failing, because you want to be pushing against these boundaries.
Daniel Burstein: Let me ask you something else. As we talked about that massive growth, I mean, everyone it's hard for everyone to hire talent right now. You're growing quickly. I'm sure you're bringing in a lot of talent and I want to talk about someone earlier in your career who really had an impact about building a culture where someone would want to work. Dave Ryan, who is the Founder and Owner of Ryan Partnership, you said FBNA was what he would sign every email, every memo with. And so, tell us, what did you learn from this FBNA? Was it mean? How did you first learn about it?
Aron North: So, imagine starting at a new agency, which for my agency people probably every 18 to 24 months they're doing this. You get in there and you know, young account director, excited getting to know the team. I was in a satellite office, Dave was in our Wilton, Connecticut HQ, I was in Los Angeles you’d see the emails come through, you'd see the memos come through.
We were working on a new business pitch, maybe four months, six months into my tenure there and we had finished our rehearsals. End of the day, everybody walks down the street, was at the bar drinking beer, having a good time, relaxing, and I sat next Dave and I asked him, I'm like, Dave, I got to ask you, you keep signing all these emails, FBNA, what does that mean? And he just like he’s told the story a thousand times. He goes oh, free beer, no assholes. And I'm going, whoa, what was the owner of the company? Just tell me FBNA is free beer and assholes. And what does that mean, Dave?
And oh, the explanation is beautiful. So free beer represents reward. If you work in an agency, you know there is no 40-hour week. There is no open weekends, like you grind at an agency. His point was because we grind, and we work so hard. There needs to be immediate rewards of what we do. And if you've had a long day and you need a break, there will always be cold beer in the fridge just go have one. Right? Free beer. The reward side loved it.
Secondarily is no assholes and sort of dovetails right into the explanation. He's like with those rewards because we work so hard. Part of that hard work is because we are an agency. We are outside these companies we work with; we're partners with them. But we're getting beat up all the time. We've got competitive agencies. We've got to deal with vendors, we've got procurement, we've got this, we've got that, we've got all these challenges. The absolute last thing I am going to do is hire an asshole in this company. So now you've got to deal with somebody internally to make your life more complicated. Free beer no assholes. And I was like, my head exploded. I mean, this thing left such an imprint on me that like, I've carried it my entire career. I love telling this story. I love telling it in interviews today because that's really why I interview everybody is. I want them to understand this is a no asshole environment and we're all one team and we're working together. And I love the idea of rewarding your employees immediately, whether it's recognition or a free beer, whatever it may be. But I also love the fact that we protect what we're building here internally.
And that thought of protecting the agency when you carry it to the organizational side, it creates this culture where just people are good to each other, they help each other, and we're pushing things forward. And yes, there's healthy conflict. There's disruption because of this conflict, but it's always meant to push the business forward. And that is amazing because you cannot live in this world today and not have, you know, conflicting points of view. How you work through those conflicting points of view is everything today.
Daniel Burstein: For those listening and you can't see Aaron. Aaron is wearing a ball cap and while he's telling the story, so he actually turned the ball cap around because I feel like it reminded him of a younger, cooler self who is living this FBNA lifestyle.
Aron North: All right. That's now go back to normal.
Daniel Burstein: Let's get moving forward again. All right. But okay, so we talk about we talked about the no asshole part, right? How you trust your gut and kind of how you interview and get that in there. So how do you now the free beer part, when we did the article with you, it sounds like a pretty cool campus. A lot of I don't know perks there for employees, but you know, this weird COVID era we live in with. How have you been rolling on that free beer part?
Aron North: Yeah, there's a ton. So, we do them within the department and within the organization. Our company, it's happened to me, this isn't the third time in my entire career this has happened where I've caught lightning in a bottle. So, at Ryan, Ryan grew when I was there, I got hired. There were seven people in that satellite office. There were like 77 when I left.
So, to see an office explode like that is special. At Taco Bell, we went from 5 billion in annual sales our first year to 9 billion when I left. So that kind of explosive growth, these things are very, very rare. This company has this magic right now, and I think it starts with the leadership team such a good, solid group. We listen and care. It’s a privately owned company, its founder run, if you will. The two founders are still very much into the business. And we do things that are just right to do by people. So, the free beer component, when the pandemic hit, we increased the frequency of our town halls. We used to do them in person, do them quarterly, and we switched to weekly because the employees were very, very concerned. What's going on with the company. How are we doing So we did that, and we were very transparent with the teams.
But those can get kind of boring. So, we started bringing in trivia. So, we use Slack as a tool within our company. And we have these town halls where everybody dials in on a phone, everybody's on mute, but also everybody is in a in the same Slack channel. And we'll do sort of like a “Win Ben Stein's Money,” if you remember that game. But we call it David, our CEO's money. So, they're Ultra Bucks and we do trivia and you've got a beat, David, to the answer. And David doesn't know the question. So sometimes like we're constantly giving rewards, but beyond that, we're also making sure that the employee is set up.
I think some of this is a recognition of we're not in this, this is a bold new workplace. So, when we told everybody it's time to work from home, we made sure everybody had high quality chairs, solid Internet connection, microphones, lights, whatever. At the beginning of the pandemic, if you remember, there was a toilet paper shortage, a hand sanitizer shortage, masks were in high demand. So, our CEO is sort of like a super freak genius when it comes to this stuff. And we realized or he realized you couldn't get sanitizer in 3OZ canisters. But if you wanted to buy a 90-gallon drum of sanitizer, those were everywhere.
So, David, we created sort of like this employee care kit where in our office, we had some employees basically mask up and glove up and the whole thing. And we used at like a transfer, it was like a pressurized tube to take the 90 gallons of sanitizer and put them into a sort of like individual handheld things. We bought tons of masks, we had masks made, and we just sent them out to the employees. We did things like we have a chef for our campus she cooks lunch and breakfast and snacks for all the employees. Well, everybody's at home. David's genius again, we don't want to lose Amy. Amy is amazing, but there's nobody to make food for in the office. So, David says, well, what if we take what she's great at, which is prepping meals and instead of prepping lunch for hundreds? What if we switch her deliverable to she's going to cook dinners for families of five and then swing by the office any point throughout the day, and there will be a take home dinner for you and your family.
So, Amy's happy. Amy still gets to do what she wants as the chef. The employees still win. Like, it's sort of like those win-win things. And that's something our company is doing all the time to try and make sure that even though this sort of catastrophic, cataclysmic pandemic is happening, we're always trying to do right by the employee, even if it's something as small as a care package being sent home or tweaking what Amy does so people can get a home cooked meal. And I'll tell you, there's a Google sheet that has these meals. And when she posts like, Hey, I just posted dinners for next week, you can watch you know, you used to see in the office, everybody run to go get donuts or whatever from the from the kitchen. Now you see people flooding into these Google sheets, putting their names in on the slots for dinner. And they think, you know, you can do little things like that. All the time as well as bigger recognition, and call outs in public forums, because you got to be this is a world where it's a recognition-based culture now, we're firm believers in that. So, we're constantly bringing the free beer to the party.
Daniel Burstein: That's great. And let me tell you I'll tell you one quick anecdote, because I think some big companies really dropped the ball on COVID. So, one of my neighbors works in IT for this huge fortune 500 brand. And he is telling me, you know during COVID, he’s like man my back's killing me. And I was just at his house, and I was like wait a minute, where are you sitting and working? And he was sitting on this Rattan chair? And I said, why don't you get your chair from your office? And he was like no the facilities closed. No one could go in there. So, I end up grabbing him a chair from our warehouse and give me one of ours. And he's like, changed his life. His back felt better. But I got to ask you real quick, did the chair budget end before it got to you? Because you were showing me like you sit on like a bench.
Aron North: No, no, no, no. I well, the truth is, is I like to move. So, I have a very beautiful, comfortable chair outside. And I live in Southern California. So, it's 72 almost all the time. And I like to be outside. You're catching me in the quasi-dining room/living room/playroom for our son. So, there's basketball hoops and footballs, Legos and stuff in here.
Daniel Burstein: But that's a great lesson, actually, when you start working at home I realized, you know, I thought that I worked in my office a lot, but I really moved around because I had all these meetings and when the meetings went to Zoom you got so tired and, you know, your shoulders got so tense. And that's one thing I started doing too like, okay, in the morning, I'll sit outside, I'll go sit here, I'll sit there and really move around.
Aron North: The thing that I love the most is when somebody says, let's have a call. I'm like, Oh, call in, super in. Like, I'll, I will be walking around the neighborhood.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, yeah. Stop with the video call. Sorry, I'm making you do a video call right now. Right? But stop with the video calls. I like to just get on a call I have a pond by my house. It’s just great to look at nature for human instead of a computer.
Aron North: Well, I'll tell you, the pandemic has changed everything particularly the way we work. And I you know, I have seen some of the questions, so I know one of these is going to come up. I can share with you how speed has totally transformed the way we work.
Daniel Burstein: Let's talk about that next. Yes, actually, I was going to ask about, so you mentioned the last person you learned from is George Dewey, the president of Maximum Effort which is one of your marketing agencies. And this idea of fastertizing, what is fastertizing?
Aron North: Well, I've got to make sure I say it right, because I always use it. But it's I think it's fastertizing.
Daniel Burstein: Fastertizing
Aron North: Right? It's fast advertising, fastertizing. But so this is something that Ryan, and so George is Ryan's writing partner, business partner. The two have worked as a team for many, many years. George is the president of Maximum Effort which is our agency. He's also got a background in copywriting. So he was an agency, an ex-agency guy. He actually led the business on one of our competitors.
Now, this is long before MINT ever existed, but he's got wireless in his background which it makes this so much more fun. But they are big on creative overproduction. So, character over spectacle. And for them, speed and relevance is really, really important. And obviously Ryan is an actor and a movie star. He's got as well a huge social media influence and he's incredibly dialed in on Twitter, very, very savvy, fun and witty.
But when you operate in that world, speed is a necessity. Speed is not sort of something you want to have to do things right. You have to do them quickly. And I have learned so much from them on speed. I can give you a very good and relevant example that just happened, I want to say, in the last two weeks, but I can't even pin it down because we work so fast. It seems like it might have been six months ago.
But Dave Foley, who is an actor, some of you may know him from news radio, tweeted, I’ve seen all these Mint Mobile commercials. Boy, I'd like to be in one, or something like that I can't even remember the tweet now. I didn't see it, but it came from Dave, and it tagged Ryan or Mint or something. And I get a call actually, I got a text message from George. It's like, hey, can you talk real quick? And I am like yeah of course. I'm on the phone. He's like, I'm on my way to set right now. Can you approve this script via text message? And I'm like, what are we shooting? What are you talking about? And he's like, Oh, well, this tweet just came out like 30 minutes ago, and we've reached out to Dave.
We're going to be filming Dave in the next hour or two because we happened to have a different shoot for something else going on over here and where he can meet it set. Now, I was like, wait a minute, there's a tweet? You've got a script? We're shooting today, it's airing tomorrow? And like, you've got to be like, in today's world that spot was shot, cut, delivered and live inside of 24 hours, which I’ve have never seen anything like it. It's amazing. It's fun, it's so cool. But you end up working differently. Like we work through SMS. I have never in my agency days, or my taco bell days approved scripts over SMS. You know, we're making these decisions, but they have to happen at such a rapid pace. You've got to change the technologies you're using. You've got to change your approach.
But again, we didn't do some big giant production. Dave's in a chair. Dave's talking about how he saw the commercials and he actually switched and he's like, hey, actually being in the commercials, great. Holy smokes the service is phenomenal, too. I already made my first call, so we are like wait you did all this and those and he’s on the service all within an hour or two.
But I think that is so new. And so, part of the world today that that is a big piece of what we do. And I think, I'm trying to think of the takeaway, because the takeaway is, you know, it's okay to bend and break the rules you've established for how you work. Like, don't be afraid of failure. There's a lot of things sort of wrapped up into speed and able to get marketing out and at a rapid pace.
Daniel Burstein: Well, I mean, I think there's another beautiful takeaway that we've learned from you so far is the amount where you are trying to listen to and learn from your customers. I call it customer intimacy, where you want to just really know them so well. I mean, I know David's somewhat famous, but he is still just a person out there tweeting about your brand and you know, you guys were right on it. I think that's beautiful. It always boggles my mind and drives me nuts. When I get an email. I actually got one. I won't mention the name for a very big cell phone company. The other day, and it was a no reply email and I had replied to it is for business service. I replied to it and I just got to, you know, undeliverable back and it's like drive me crazy when brands treat their customers that way.
So, I think one beautiful lesson also is just really being that intimate with your customers. I mean we learned a lot from seems like a small detail. I think it's you providing chairs to your employees during COVID, to telling your customers when they can buy less from you. So the big question I have to leave you with at the end with all these things that, I mean, we've gone all through the universe of what marketers have to do today. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer? What do we need, what qualities do we need to be able to do this?
Aron North: That's a great question. If I'm looking at a high-quality marketer or a person that I want on my team, I'm looking for several things. Like obviously listening, you have to be a good listener. You have to be able to like also be honest with yourself and understand that you're not going to know everything and that you're going to make mistakes like sort of this self-identification of knowing that like marketing is an art. Like, it combines science, but it's an art. Not everything is going to work. You got to be okay with that. A good listener, sort of like self-awareness. I love creativity, so I like marketers who like to think and come up with ideas and be idea builders. One of the things I like to do is ask people if you're killing an idea, well, what kind of feedback did you give? Did you kill it completely, or did you give constructive feedback in a manner where the idea is not dead?
It can be resurrected if it's going to take a different approach, because I believe the idea graveyards should be almost empty because there's typically a good, really good nugget somewhere in there, and it can be part of a new idea or an idea on its own. So, I love creativity and I like tenacity. I mean, there's a lot of no in marketing. There just is you get shot down and denied and turned down all the time. All the time. You got to be tenacious. You've got to be one of those down seven up eight kind of people. I get knocked down seven times, but I'm getting up eight. You got to be good with that.
And those are the people I like to work with because it's never a complete failure. It's always like a fail forward, fail and learn, and like we'll solve this pushing through, particularly when you're going against gargantuan competitors. Like you have to be excited about that kind of stuff. I typically don't hire wireless people. I don't think maybe two in the marketing department, three, but I'm not looking for people who have deep, rich knowledge and wireless sector. I'm looking for creative thinkers, creative problem solvers, smart folks who want to be the dumbest person in the room. Like, that's what I'm looking for, people smarter than me. So that way when I get to be around these folks, I get to learn and get better.
Daniel Burstein: And that's why this job is so fun, too. I mean, what other industry are you in where you get to be that creative right? Where you get to reach out to Dave Foley and try to get in a film ad, that’s awesome.
Aron North: Yes, it's so awesome. It's the coolest job ever.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you so much for your time, Aron. I've learned so much.
Aron North: Yes, thank you. This was absolutely real fun, so I can't wait to do it again.
Daniel Burstein: And thanks to everyone for listening. I hope you learned a lot.
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