With Digital Surgeons, you’re likely to hear a particular phrase quite often: “We Design Demand.”
Surely, it means demand in the form of sales for our partner brands. But, it doesn’t only mean sales. It can’t, especially when there are so many things we do behind the scenes as brand consultants to help our partners. One day it might be a brand articulation to develop the voice and vision of a business, and the next it may be us advising on a CSR program that will help take a company into a cleaner, more sustainable future. Whatever it is, you can’t always easily track demand in the form of sales, but surely we’re increasing some form of demand for those companies with our efforts.
Then, there are the classic cases of creating campaigns that both raise awareness and drive people to stores (digital and/or brick & mortar) to buy the product. With those, demand is designed, clearly and effectively. You can see it, and you can feel it. (It looks like money and feels like winning, BTW.)
For those that buy online in this digital world we all enjoy, our CEO, Pete Sena, likes to say, “Sites & social are modern day shelves. CPG brands spend millions on packaging forms and designs that break out of the sea of sameness on shelf. Brands that do this across their digital channels win.” And we like winning with them.
Of all those creative campaigns we’ve created over my years at Digital Surgeons, one stands out specifically — both for its highlights and its horrors.
It started like so many campaigns in this industry. We were a day away from the pitch for Jarlsberg Cheese, and we had plenty of “big ideas,” but nothing that would be the one thing that Jarlsberg needed to solve their real challenge. The greater team continued to ideate, but three of us (Jimmy Burt, Inessa Yusupov, and myself) broke off and left the office, rebels that we are, boldly claiming we’d be back with pitchable ideas by 5pm. Oftentimes, it takes some divergent thinking to succeed. Surely, we couldn’t know we’d have those ideas in time, or if they’d be any good, but in times like these I find it’s best to just not think too much.
11am: Cedarhurst Cafe, New Haven, CT — 25 Hours Until Presentation
Conversations unlock creativity, so we began with a quick riff, not pitching ideas but merely talking about our experiences with the product. What did it make you think about and feel? What memories do you have with it? What does it make you want to do?
No one pitched, or tried to package ideas. Instead, we just chatted, and dug deep into the emotional connections we had with Jarlsberg. We merged creativity, conversation, and curiosity to unlock hidden demand behind a product.
For myself, I thought about visiting my dad and how he didn’t want to cook that night, so we ended up hanging out in his kitchen, snacking on Jarlsberg while sipping Jameson whiskey. It was a rare little moment between us that was somehow made better by being both simple and memorable. A kitchen counter, some cheese and a drink, and we were free to focus on catching up. It was the best little moment, and it made me tear up a little thinking back to it.
Great campaigns come from an expression of great thought and feeling, and so these moments and connections of mine were captured in a shared document, as was everyone’s.
Then, we took a break.
12pm: Geronimo’s, New Haven, CT — 24 Hours Until Presentation
With some lunch and margaritas, we cleared our minds and hearts of the work. Overwhelming one’s self is never a clean or clear path to solutions. Sometimes you have to shut off to let your subconscious work for a bit. And, a good margarita always fuels ideas. That’s just science.
1pm: Cedarhurst Cafe, New Haven, CT — 23 Hours Until Presentation
Back at it, we had our long list of both functional and emotional connections to Jarlsberg. Now we needed to form it all into concepts that could drive emotion, action, and demand for Jarlsberg fueled by what we felt earlier in the day.
Each of us worked within that shared doc, forming memories into phrases, taglines, and handles. What sticks in your brain? What inspires further thinking and tells stories in just a few words? How do I say it better?
While we consolidated memories and connections and formed them into concepts, we could easily rely on each other, asking for guidance and clarity. Does this make sense? How do we make this more clever? Would this make you buy cheese?
Within that doc, you could see the others working, so you knew you could never take a break. There were ideas to be uncovered and everyone wants to be the first one to find them, and with each new idea shared, it inspired and sparked further thinking. We were a creative idea machine working full blast, designing demand in our minds so that we could change a brand’s future.
Then it was time to actually turn our newly-formed ideas into something worth pitching — something this amazing legacy brand deserved to truly connect with once world again.
3pm: Digital Surgeons Bat Cave, New Haven, CT — 21 Hours Until Presentation
With a massive document of all our ideas and thoughts collected, we began simplifying and processing everything into a few strong ideas that we could hopefully sell.
Our goal was three by 5pm, so we divided the ideas and notes amongst ourselves to again work independently. Amidst it all, each of us had to be able to pull out at least one good idea, or so we hoped.
And so we sat together, side by side by side, writing up a storm, hoping whatever was ending up on the page would be pitch-worthy.
5pm: Digital Surgeons Blue Conference Room, New Haven, CT — 19 Hours Until Presentation
We didn’t even have time to read back our ideas, but we now had twelve(!!!!) ideas we felt were worth pitching. We would very soon find out we were wrong when we presented them to our founder, leader, & CEO, Pete Sena.
We wrote twelve ideas, but only three were ready for the client, which was good enough.
We had our ideas that would bring consumers to Jarlsberg — we knew it.
9am: Inessa’s Desk, New Haven, CT — 3 Hours Until Presentation
To bring our three ideas to life, we had to visualize them for the Jarlsberg team through some show-stopping, storytelling design. The best way to do this for any brand, anywhere, anytime can be simplified into two steps:
Hire Inessa Yusupov.
Get out of her way.
I’d like to say I did something, but I didn’t. I sat back, watched, and let her take control, and she immediately captured the soul of each idea, leveraging their classic Nordic-inspired brand system, yet pushing it forward slightly in a few new directions that would appeal to the younger millennial audience they were after.
** Keep in mind, it didn’t actually take her mere minutes and hours to create entirely new looks. She actually had weeks to think and plan — to study their existing design systems and explore new possibilities with en entire team of brilliant designers & strategists — but I never like the truth to get in the way of a good story!
We now had visuals to go with the ideas. Boom.
The Winning Idea:
38% of Jarlsberg consumers say their family and friends influenced them to make their first Jarlsberg purchase. So as millennials and Echo Boomers – aka elder millennials – enter the peak ages of relationship development, where rituals about family life and cuisine are re-established, we want to ensure that they’re reminded of Jarlsberg, its great taste, and the pleasant memories and emotions they associate with it. After all, cheese isn’t just functional, it’s emotional.
With it comes experiences, memories, and nostalgia. It’s not just food, it’s life! It connects us as people, friends, and family over something as simple as a snack or a meal. It brings us together for memorable moments, from big recipes and parties to small personal ones as we chat and relax. From the romantic to the fun, from the memorable to the mundane, a good cheese can move someone. It can comfort them. It can connect us to our past. It can transform a meal and a moment. It can make us smile.
No matter what, no matter where you are or who you are, cheese, and especially Jarlsberg cheese, makes any moment better, because…
Life’s Best Served with Jarlsberg
Every Day Forward
That was nearly two years ago, and we’re still expanding the reach of the Life’s Best Served campaign and each metric continues to show we’re truly designing demand. Sales are up, distribution is strong, and household penetration in key demos continues to rise.
But, despite all that stuff every brand seeks, there’s something else that’s special about it all. We’re not just designing demand in the form of sales numbers. We’re doing the right work with the right clients in a way that creates real customer lifetime value. We accept and turn down work based on these parameters.
There’s something more at play here — something powerful that continuously fuels and powers the work. It’s the demand created between our team and our clients — the demand & desire to work together continuously, the demand & desire to trust one another, the demand & desire to help each other win, the demand & desire to push further, think harder, and create more through a strong working relationship.
On this topic, our CEO Pete Sena said, “When brands approach us with new project briefs I always urge them to focus on the right goals. Profit and sales aren’t goals — they’re results. I’m proud of my team for how we always look deeper and instead of throwing things at the wall to see if they stick, they take their time to craft the right message for the right audience, to unlock the results that unlock lifetime value. Sales is a result not a goal.”
Through Jarlsberg — and more importantly, our client partners — I see “Demand” mean so much more than sales. It’s the passion, energy, and dedication that drives one to demand more from one’s self, each other, and the work. It’s designed daily in how we work, and communicate, and build upon an ever-growing campaign and brand.
When you form bonds between teams, and rely on one another, you do more than collect a check, you strive to grow a business and help them, individually, succeed in their job. It goes beyond a brand and a consumer. It’s all of us, all of them, and all of the people out there, coming together around a single thing, creating demand around it by finding the true, lasting impact it has on all of our lives. And loving every damn minute of it.
That’s us designing demand.