Since I launched Musser & Company in 2014, our work has been given to 2 Presidents of the United States, Fortune 500 CEO’s, all 32 NFL owners at the Super Bowl, Hall-of-Famers and professional athletes.
As a relatively young company, I am often asked by others in a rather incredulous tone, “How do we do it?” As I think about the influencers who have received our work and the doors we’ve opened, there are two key approaches that we have found particularly effective when trying to make an impact on a big-league influencer.
The Heart Strings Approach
The first approach is what we call the “Heart Strings” approach; making an impact on someone by incorporating unique information about the individual into a tangible product. Most of the people we design products for already “have everything” and can buy anything, so demonstrating that you understand their unique personality and interests is more valuable than any monetary price tag.
A great example of this approach is when the Baltimore Ravens commissioned Musser & Co. to design one of our signature Message Boxes for Under Armour CEO, Kevin Plank. Through reading numerous articles and watching interviews, we learned information about Mr. Plank’s journey from a walk-on fullback at Maryland where he was called “not big enough or fast enough,” to becoming the CEO of Under Armour.
We incorporated 7 unique things about Mr. Plank into the gift design; including a photograph from the first Fight for Children night Mr. Plank helped start with a close friend who passed away from cancer and a photo from his Maryland football days with the quote “Not big enough and not fast enough - only needs to be smart enough.” Mr. Plank was so touched upon receiving his gift from the Ravens, Musser & Co. was later hired to create donor gifts for a University of Maryland fundraiser at Mr. Plank’s estate.
The Homeric Approach
The second approach is what we like to call the “Homeric” approach. Like the blind poet who specialized in telling stories that made imaginary characters come to life, business people have the same opportunity to turn a lifeless product into a powerful story book. This can be achieved by incorporating creative messaging and contents into the product design; creating a “wow” factor and driving your point home in an unforgettable, tangible fashion.
Unfortunately, most companies today turn tangible products into promotional items and “swag.” By simply slapping their own logo onto products and sending the items to prospects, clients and employees, these companies are missing the opportunity to tell a compelling story that will stick in the recipients’ brains forever.
It doesn’t matter how nice the “widget” is, if the product doesn’t communicate a well-thought-out message, it comes off as thoughtless advertising.
An excellent example of the Homeric approach can be seen in a campaign Musser & Co. executed for the Washington Nationals. The Nationals wanted to started conversations with 140 C-suites in the greater D.C. area. Working with the Nationals marketing team, we designed a custom Message Box with call-to-action messaging designed to convince C-level executives to bring their clients to the ballpark.
The exterior of the Message Box was laser-engraved with the messaging, “In baseball and in business, there are three types of people… Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” The interior of the box was engraved with the text, “Make It Happen At Nationals Park.” Each box also included a game ticket, a personalized note from the VP of sales, autographed baseball and infield dirt.
Out of 140 prospects who received the boxes, 110 responded and 40 face-to-face meetings were set within a month. Out of those meetings, the Nationals won 4 multi-season suite deals (MLB suite deals are typically 5-10 years commitments; $100K+ per year). Although these numbers may seem surprising, people have even reported receiving response rates as high as 100% with strategic gift campaigns like these.
There is no exact formula as to when to use Heart Strings or Homeric approach, but we have found a couple general guidelines:
- The Heart Strings approach is powerful if you are trying to genuinely build a new relationship without any strings attached (pun intended) or you already know the person well and want to further strengthen the relationship.
- Using the Heart Strings approach to market or sell something can come off as disingenuous and manipulative.
- The Homeric approach is effective when the design and execution are equally excellent. You can design an incredible package with clever copy and contents, but if it is delivered to the wrong department or there isn’t sufficient follow-up, it’s unlikely you will see the desired results.
- The Homeric approach is quite effective for opening doors with prospects, but should be used when communicating with employees, clients and the media as well (no one wants to receive the same company t-shirt or coffee mug all the time).
As mentioned, there is no exact formula – you may even use a hybrid of the Heart Strings and Homeric approaches if the situation warrants it. Go with your gut, if nothing else, the recipient will be surprised to receive something that stands out from the rest of the clutter in the digital age!
President and Founder
Musser & Company