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Brand ROI: How a Bloody Razor Blade and Some Balls Turned Into Millions of Dollars in Work

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

You To Have Balls To See a Brand ROI

You’re nuts if you aren’t investing in branding. And if you are, you must have the balls to stand out from all of the eunuchs in your space. When thinking about brand ROI, your biggest risk may just be not taking any risk.

Let me share a story.

How Risk Can Be Rewarding

A few years ago, we were sent an RFP for a rebrand of a large, independent insurance brokerage. Normally I hate responding to RFPs and the fact that it was from an insurance agency only made it worse. It sat on my desk for over a week unread, until an employee encouraged me to do so. She had a friend who worked there and she assured me it wasn’t your typical RFP.

She was right. It was very clear that they were looking for an agency to help them completely dismantle their mundane brand and replace it with the kind of brand that we call, a Spotted Zebra™ brand.

The RFP was practically begging for an agency that could help them build a fresh, out-of-the-box expression and cost was not going to be the deciding factor. In the insurance industry, risk is managed – not sought out. But this brokerage knew that creating a brand that was full of personality and different than all of its competitors was necessary, not risky.

This was a very large project, potentially worth several hundred thousand dollars. They sent the RFP to over 15 agencies throughout the country and now I was determined to be the agency they selected. Problem was, because of how long I waited, I only had one day to respond.

They insisted that their brand must stand out from the pack, so I decided that we needed to connect at that same level. As I drove home that night (half-hour drive), inspiration overcame me as I spoke into my phone, recording all of my crazy thoughts, phrases and imagery that I wanted to put into the RFP. The next morning I grabbed one of my designers and told him to clear his schedule because I needed his help to get all of these thoughts and images on to paper. It was time to get to work!

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Our RFP Created OMG Brand ROI

I’ve got to tell you this was the most fun I’ve ever had with an RFP response. It was unlike anything I had ever created and was so provocative that even my partners questioned my sanity as they saw what I was putting together. Safe? Not even close!

With minutes to spare and my head still spinning, I sent off our response.

I was betting on the fact that every other agency would respond with a standard, soulless RFP, so I suckerpunched sameness with a bold, ballsy RFP that blew Holmes Murphy’s socks off.

The brightly colored cover featured a razorblade dripping in blood with the brash headline, “We Hate RFPs. We’d rather slide down a razorblade naked into a pool of acid.”

brand roi

What followed was additional snarky and attention-getting content like, Your brand sucks like a bad vacuum cleaner and the riskiest move, Your brand must have balls. And a final personal message from me that read, P.S. By the way, your brand has balls, they just haven’t dropped yet. Exactly the kind of funny, head-turning, prickly attitude Holmes Murphy was looking for.

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In the end, it was the personality and attitude of our own brand that landed us the project and separated us from our competitors. Exactly what I hoped would happen. Taking this calculated risk has directly resulted in millions of dollars of work for our agency—from the initial engagement with our client, additional rebranding work from referrals they sent our way, and several other companies who have seen the powerful branding work we did.

I was told after the fact, that not everyone on the decision-making committee appreciated our RFP. In fact there were a few that were offended. I expected that. But I also knew that if the final decision-maker was the one who wrote the RFP that I would win in the end—thankfully, I was right.

The risky move paid off — big time.

So, my advice to you? Stop playing it safe. Don’t be like everyone else in your space. Take a risk. Have some personality. And, for crying out loud, have some balls!

Eric Groves is the Founder and Creative Director of Flying Hippo Brand + Digital. Should you decide it’s time to take your brand to another level, please reach out for a free consultation.

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