Scene: Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Factory owner Montgomery Burns is addressing staff.
Mr Burns: Effective immediately I am closing the plant and moving all operations to India.
Factory worker: Does that mean we’re losing our jobs?
Mr Burns: No, no. Your jobs are safe. They’ll just be done by someone else in another country.
[The Simpsons, Season 17, Episode 17]
Driven by the USA's financial crisis in 2012, three advertising creatives from the United States agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky took on the issue of the country’s unemployment and the decline of US-based manufacturing. Admen Dave Schiff, Scott Prindle, and John Kieselhorst were joined by top creative Alex Bogusky to launch the marketing and branding agency Made Movement from their local coffee shop. And 18 months and 30 extra staff later, the Made Movement founders addressed a New Zealand audience for the first time via a live stream from their headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. The following outlines the October 18 discussion, which was held in AUT University's new Sir Paul Reeves Building. It attracted an audience of advertising and marketing professionals as well as academics in an extended Q&A session. (Scroll to the bottom to watch a recording of the session.)
What makes Made Movement different from other agencies in the US can be summed up with their core proposition – “we make work that creates American jobs”. Armed with this single-minded goal, Made Movement claims to represent a culture shift in branding, where they have made a conscious decision to only support smaller producers of locally made goods. The aim here is not to boost export markets. Nor is it about flying the tattered flag of “Buy American Made”. Their business model aims to encourage a culture of preserving and growing US jobs, promoting fairer labour practices and protecting the environment through a reduced carbon footprint, “improving things globally by manufacturing locally”.
Alongside the agency’s marketing and branding activities, Made Movement initiated Made Collection, an e-commerce site where customers can buy quality US-made products, and in the process creating more US-based jobs. The agency’s Chief Creative Officer, Dave Schiff stresses that strategic ‘curation’ is critical for Made Collection: “You need to have a point of view, be fashion-forward, progressive, inclusive, and offer well-made products”. Someone in the New Zealand-based audience wondered whether their product range might be pitched too high for ‘middle America’? Schiff claims that the contemporary US market has come a long way from the days when people who supported Made in America were ‘rednecks’. Consumers, he says are sophisticated, tuned in to quality and when it comes to locally sourced and produced goods, demand the best the USA has to offer. They are also aware of provenance and the value of contributing to the economy; this gives people a real incentive to buy, he suggests.
Not outsourcing production usually means higher prices for primary goods and manufacturing, leading to large ticket prices at the retail end. Whether American consumers accept higher prices for premium goods was not discussed in detail, other than how ‘keeping it local’ affects marketing strategies. Schiff says, “Having no money forces you to be disruptive, forces you to think, forces clients to buy your work” and keeps the agency on their toes. Made Movement agency creatives are constantly asking themselves, “What can we do digitally, what can we do ‘guerrilla’?” Schiff observed that often the marketing spend is worked out ahead on an annual basis with a set package. But the reality is that clients don't know what they want from month to month in terms of marketing budgets. Made Movement clients can pick and choose, as well as adjusting on the fly what they need at the time. This means that they get “a small package with a big spectrum of capabilities”.
And what might ‘local investment’ mean for New Zealand branding and marketing?
The concept is not new here, with the launch in August 2013 of the Waiheke Island chapter of the UK’s Totally Locally campaign, and 100% New Zealand Design and Manufacture having already gained support in the New Zealand fashion industry. We also use the word ‘boutique’ a lot to describe a range of services and primary production offerings, and we place emphasis on producing sustainable, craft-based goods sourced locally. To some extent this is influenced by New Zealand’s small market size and relative physical remoteness, rather than the need to address social or economic concerns.
Could the Made Movement model become standard practice, at least in the US? Dave Schiff is counting on it: “When our business model has become superfluous, then we’ve achieved our aim”.
The Made Movement event was sponsored by Made Movement, StopPress, AUTv, Nothing Else and AUT Enterprises Ltd.