Explore Communications turns 21 years old in July. We can finally drink, hooray! Haha. I fear our newly started company Instagram is a little party-heavy and business-light, but hey, we are who we are! We like to mix our play with our hard work.
When I tell people I started this company over twenty years ago, they say “Wow, you are really old.” And then I realize they mean me, Brett, not the company and I ponder another July birthday (mine) that confirms that I am indeed old. The good news is I still feel like a kid. I really do. I love my job and I love my life.
A common follow-up question to the news of Explore being nearly 21 years old is about how I got into media/advertising in the first place. Well, that’s a good story. You know how someone might say, “Tell me about yourself,” and the clever reply is either, “I was born a poor black child,” or “It all started in Kindergarten…”, and there are chuckles unless the asker has never seen the movie The Jerk in which case it gets awkward fast? So yeah, how did I get into media and advertising you ask? Well, it all started sometime around Kindergarten. For reals!
My sister is a couple years older than me. We got along well for the most part as kids. Our first childhood home had a family room with two couches that had amazing cushions for all kinds of fun and wild games that our mom always tried to outlaw. The large seat cushion was one giant piece that made for a great acrobatics mat. The back cushions made excellent sparring devices or barriers to high-jump.
What in the world does this have to do with how I got into media? Wait for it…
My mother did not authorize nor condone usage of the family room furniture as playground apparatuses nor weapons of mass destruction. In a sort of compromise, we agreed to stop rough-housing on the couch partitions if we could still use them to build stuff, like really cool forts. My mom is good at choosing her battles so we got the green-light to build shelters with the couch cushions, pillows and blankets.
Perhaps it was the influence of the family outings to the local flea market or simply our future destinies (is that redundant – future destiny?), but for whatever reason, one day we built two merchant stalls. We decided we’d sell stuff to each other. Being in Kindergarten and second grade respectively, neither of us had any money so we raided the Monopoly game. Being in Kindergarten and second grade respectively, neither of us had anything good to sell so we took on marketing’s greatest challenge light-years ahead of ourselves and decided to sell each other a commodity. Was it bottled water? Banking services? Nope. Something much more accessible behind our father’s bar. Poker chips!
You see where this going now, don’t you? Our tiny brains were full of big ideas. First off, we had to name our game of entrepreneurship. We held no focus groups, did no brainstorming, nor did we seek outside counsel. We brilliantly came up with the perfect name: Chip Store.
Next up, we had to put values to the red, blue and white chips. Then we had to name our businesses and create signage, P.O.P., in-store promotional signage, pricing information and other marketing materials. Finally, we had to advertise. Being the rookies we were, neither of us cared much about branding and both focused on sales, sales, sales. So, we came up with incentives. Oh, those incentives!
My sister’s tiny brain was less tiny than mine. She’s still way mo’ bettah’ smarter than me today, so I have to give her credit where credit is due. My incentives were pretty straight forward. I did BOGOs. I did up-sells (buy a red with your blue and I’ll throw in a white). I even tried sampling (here, fellow owner of countless poker chips, try one of my blue chips for free and I’m sure you will come back to purchase many more).
My sister’s incentives were much different than mine. She was smart enough to consider her target market more intensely than I did and she’d offer things such as “Buy one blue chip, get a jellybean.” Her up-sell strategy was way better than mine too. “Buy a red with your blue and I’ll throw in an Oreo.”
You may not be surprised to learn my stall kept requiring expansion in order to properly house the growing inventory of chips I was acquiring from all the great deals at the chip store across the family room carpet.
Fast forward to when my sister got her first real job after college. It was in advertising. Fast forward two years later when I got my first real job after college. It was in advertising. We both leveraged our extensive experience from Chip Store into careers in advertising.
I graduated college with a Sociology degree and had no idea what I’d do with it as I was earning it. True, it makes sense in hindsight – understanding target markets and figuring out how to affect behavior. But at the time, I was just trying to graduate. And then advertising just felt right. And it was. It is.
And that, my friend, is how I got into advertising. Chip Store.