Tim Washburn, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Nomadic, is no stranger to galvanizing opportunity in a crisis. His agency was founded during the recession of 2008, and managed to grow and flourish, building an incredible portfolio that garnered Nomadic the award for Ad Age Small Agency of the Year in 2014. Still kicking ass in 2020, the agency continues to thrive on this momentum and its human-centered approach to digital marketing.
AIGA Arizona was curious to get Tim’s mindset as a seasoned creative with proven experience for navigating economic panic, while maintaining a creative fire and focus for client solutions.
Here’s what he had to say about navigating COVID-19 with clients:
What do you believe the top priorities of your agency are right now?
“For Nomadic, our main priority is the health of the business. That’s not just to say we’re protecting revenues or short-term profits. Our success is generated by something far more valuable, and that’s the people, the culture, the process, [and] the morale. It wasn’t easy, but when Nomadic was founded and built through the recession, we recognized that crisis was simply not the time to shoot yourself in the foot and start implementing wildly conservative cost cuts. The health of the business stems from its ability to serve its clients. It’s what we’re here to do. Our top priority is to keep that value intact. The rebound will happen. And when it does, we’ll be there to offer creative ways in which our clients can capture as many lost dollars as possible. That work has already begun over here.”
How have you been able to inspire your own creativity and/or your team’s creativity during these odd times?
“One of the main things we learned during the recession was that strange times expedite new trends. For us, back then, those big trends took place in digital marketing. We noticed it and prioritized our ability to deliver the latest value in digital for our clients. Our creative inspiration is fueled by the chance to take advantage of the new opportunities that will emerge during—and following—this pandemic. If we can stay focused on the opportunities and be here for each other, then we’ll have the best chance to take on something that we may not have done before. That’s what inspires me. This time of social-distancing and quarantine does not mean that our constant chase to be better needs to go on pause.”
How do you define the societal role of creative professionals at a time like this?
“We who work in the world of marketing services have a unique opportunity right now; we’re able to reach and engage millions of people through the brands we serve, specifically across the always-on digital channels that consumers are flocking to right now. So we have the ability to deliver messages of hope, happiness, and kindness via content we create and the actions we take. In doing so we can play an important part in balancing the fear-inducing updates and imagery that flood our feeds and channels. Brands have the power to feature and promote the best of humanity, which tend to emerge during a crisis like this. And it’s our obligation as creative professionals to show them how. Not just to suggest they do it, but to proactively take them ideas that are worth putting out in the world.”
Have you learned anything new during quarantine? Be it something about your company, yourself, or any new skills at home?
“If anything, this time has confirmed that the investment in people and culture drives the businesses, more than anything else. We care to nurture that, so when a crisis happens our team is there to support each other and our clients. The more accepting we are as people and businesses of the inevitability of these moments, the more prepared we’ll be as a family of leaders to make it through. As far as the new skills at home, same story. Nothing new aside from more time taking calls from my patio in this beautiful weather, more time watching movies with my family, and more time biking.”
Focusing On Humanity
Nomadic agency’s success is a result of a mindset on people and culture. Washburn has led his team by emphasizing humanity in three distinct ways: having real conversations, using words that matter, and remembering the human experience. For example, Nomadic strategist Katie Hughes explains eliminating the word “customer” and replacing it with the word “people” can create a more personal and engaging connection:
Talk to a Friend. The good news is there’s no “right” way to market to humans. Just like in life, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea—and that’s okay. View those who you’re hoping to entice with your product as potential friends; you want to learn their needs, desires, hopes and dreams, rather than addressing them like a number, dollar sign or, possibly worst of all, a target. When in doubt, take off your marketing hat and simply try having a conversation, literally.
Use Words that Matter. Look, we’re all guilty of using buzzwords—chasing the “meaning” behind them, like a dog to a bone. But in reality, people don’t speak like that; they don’t care about our journey maps or proprietary algorithm, our machine learning or omnichannel presence. They just want to know if we can help them or make their lives and routines a little easier. The quickest way to do that? Start using simple, colloquial language—and then check out this Fast Company article for tips on removing jargon from your vocabulary.
Consider the Human Experience. While artificial intelligence and chatbots have enabled brands to speak to more consumers, answering their questions or addressing issues without the cost of a customer service representative, your buyers still crave human interaction. Move beyond marketing that is only rational and logic-based, and work to understandyour consumers people on a deeper level. What are their desires, fears or needs? How can you best position your brand, or design your product, to better serve them? It’s no wonder that some of the last decade’s most successful brands were industry disruptors, solving a people problem other brands hadn’t considered.
About Tim: Tim Washburn is co-founder of Nomadic, a digital content agency and an AdAge Small Agency of the Year, which currently serves a national client roster including Ubisoft and The Walt Disney Company. View his LinkedIn here.
Focusing On Being Helpful
Three qualities to keeping a professionally productive mindset during this time is the focus of a recent talk by Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun, Marketing Mentor: being helpful, being flexible, and being grateful. Ilise offers regular coaching and tools to help creatives develop and deploy marketing for their services. In this video, she also reminds us that we have a role in helping our clients manage the uncertainty and the anxiety it produces.