This small agency did an about-face on a product launch in record time: Living on the Edge
When we started Exverus four years ago, our mission was to build a different kind of agency: one that was agile and adaptive enough to solve a company’s “weirdest” marketing problems by tackling assignments that a typical media agency wouldn’t touch, ones that require hairpin turns and tight timelines of growth-stage brands.
Our model was built for flexibility; we opted for a month-to-month bespoke office instead of a corporate headquarters; we recruited talent equally fluent in brand strategy, digital media and traditional media planning. Even so, we didn’t know how weird the problems could get.
Heading optimistically into 2020, we’d started work with our new client, Swedish brand N!ck’s Ice Cream, on a dream assignment, a splashy product launch of Swedish-style better-for-you ice creams already hugely popular in Europe, in the US.
But the news out of China started mentioning a virus, and by early March we scheduled a work-from-home “test day” for our team and IT systems “just in case” we ever needed to manage campaigns remotely.
On March 19, the mayor of Los Angeles issued a “Safer at Home” order.
On March 20, we were back to the virtual drawing board, alone in our homes, restarting the N!ck’s plan from scratch. The retail distribution plan was suddenly in doubt. Consumers were uncomfortable going to the grocery store, and any ice cream on shelves was flying off within hours without advertising.
We realized that while we’d designed the agency for the future, that future had changed overnight. It was our weirdest problem and biggest challenge yet—developing Plan C, for COVID.
So, with unpredictable retail distribution, we planned to launch N!ck’s direct to consumer, bought online and shipped to homes within 72 hours. We replaced geo-targeted, brand-driving media with national direct response media featuring aggressive calls to action. Printable, in-store coupons became online order codes. These new media tactics also meant new creative. Our partners at Meaningful Works enabled significant campaign and messaging shifts within a matter of days.
We learned a few lessons the hard way. The speed of information was so fast that our team and the client’s team weren’t seeing the same data when making decisions, initially creating confusion and slowing us down. We knew we had to adapt our working model.
To keep pace, we instituted twice-daily client status calls. We optimized all of our planned budgets based on sales data. We eliminated lag times by working in real time with the creative team at Meaningful Works to test new messaging and offers. We got unprecedented access to the client’s first-party sales data and streamlined other data access between our two teams. We stayed in constant contact with our clients and each other, and requests for access, scopes of recommendations, and speed of approvals that would have felt like overkill a month ago suddenly seemed perfectly normal. We celebrated the first 1,000 orders with a virtual ice cream party.
In two weeks, we pivoted N!ck’s media to a fully direct-to-consumer campaign, driving orders on N!ck’s newly minted e-commerce site. Sales exceeded expectations and KPIs busted benchmarks. Another lesson learned: even during a pandemic, or especially during a pandemic, people still love ice cream.
The experience reinforced that our “new agency model” must continually evolve, and that we’ll never really be done reinventing our business.
After all, we’ve always liked weird problems. Why stop now?