BFG’s Kevin Meany on The Importance of Listening, Conversations and Relevant Content

Kevin_MeanyKevin Meany is founder and CEO of BFG, an independent, creative communications agency that delivers seamless storytelling and consumer insights to companies. The Makegood recently spoke with Kevin about breakthrough insights, consumer relationships, and the importance of relevant content.

The Makegood: Kevin, you founded BFG 17 years ago. Today, you are leading a truly integrated marketing force with a passion for bringing brands’ purpose to life in creative ways. What aspect of today’s communication inspires your passion the most?

Obviously, communication 17 years ago was very different, with digital being the primary change agent today. But, what inspires me today is exactly the same thing that inspired me 17 years ago. The hunt for that breakthrough insight, creation of a simple brilliant idea, proof of concept and smiling clients.

The Makegood: For your clients, you conduct millions of consumer engagements every year. How do you manage a continuing engagement?

Today’s tools make it far easier, albeit more complex while maintaining a continuing consumer engagement, versus 17 years ago. As you might expect, goals vary by program, but in most consumer engagement programs our ultimate goal is to build a relationship and maintain an open dialogue with the consumer. The strongest relationships often result when there is an actual one-to-one encounter with one of our field agents at retail or an event.

In the perfect world, the consumer relationship is maintained at a very local level. For example, in some of our programs a consumer may receive a text message or email from the actual BFG Field Representative they were originally engaged by. That can be very powerful, building brand trust and loyalty. However, social media can also be very powerful, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or another tool.

In any case, whether it’s an actual person to person engagement, or a digital encounter, BFG’s Rules of Engagement are the same. In summary they are; show personality and be true to the brand values, be responsible, be relevant, listen and learn, recognize loyalists, spread the word, measure results and adjust as needed, and perhaps most importantly, follow the “dinner party rule” (don’t just talk about yourself, engage and listen and have fun.).

The Makegood: Kevin, you are proud of the interactive campaign you’ve created for Mello Yello. How did you discover the consumers’ insights and what advice do you have for companies being active in social media?

We spend a lot of time listening to consumers. In the case of Mello Yello, we discovered early on that there was already a huge underground love for the brand. We didn’t need to start anything. We simply embraced what was out there, and nurtured it with relevant content in the right context. My advice for companies active in social media is just that. Be active. Social media is not a one way street. It’s a conversation, it’s social. Take heed of the rules above, and get engaged with your consumer.

The Makegood: You’ve been advising BFG clients like Coca-Cola Company, Warner Brothers Entertainment, Hanes Brands and Snyder’s-Lance Brands, but you are not for big media buy. Why is that and what do you recommend instead?

Since day one at BFG, I have never been a proponent of big media as the ultimate solution. Certainly, if the budget is available, and awareness is the goal, big media can be a powerful component in the mix. However, big media reminds me of that huge college lecture hall where the professor delivers the information. Some students listen and some don’t, and it’s all very impersonal. After the lecture, students go on to study groups, or even meet with the professor one-on-one, and that’s where the real learning, deep understanding and passion for the material takes place.

As it turns out, you don’t even need to go to the lecture to get an A in the course. Rather, it’s the sharing with friends, the back and forth Q & A, your research and the conversations you have with others that truly immerses you in the topic.

The Makegood: How do you retain top talent and what do you think is most important for today’s workforce of Millennials?

We are fortunate in that we have a hugely talented core team at BFG, and our turnover rates are lower than the industry averages, that I am aware of. I believe there are a few reasons for this; our creative culture, the fun high energy brands that we work with, the diversity of brands and categories we work in and the opportunity to actually work on an integrated campaign at BFG. Combined, these factors make BFG special.

Attracting talent always remains a challenge. There is one attribute great talent has in common; an innate curiosity. A desire to discover and create. With so many exciting opportunities for digital and new media talent available today, it is extremely easy for talent to move around and sample a range of work experiences and continue their personal discovery. At BFG we hope to provide a great work place and the environment where great talent can pursue and realize their passions.

The Makegood: What trends in communications will we see coming in the next three years and how is BFG prepared to stay ahead of the curve?

Over the next few years “Mobile“ will grow in marketing importance as consumers increasingly inform themselves on the go. And that means “Responsiveness” becomes ever more important. As a result we’re very focused on mobile app development, and responsive website design and production. Mobility also means that, “Visual Language” will become critical. Think about the success of Instagram, YouTube, the popularity of infographics and the desire for the quick read, 140 character limits, and how video and pictures dominate Facebook and most online communities. As mobile grows the desire for impactful graphics, pictures and video will grow. This all means great graphics will rule, and writers must focus on thoughtful brevity. Lastly, relevant “Content” will continue to be of critical importance, but “Context” will become as important. So we are investing heavily in consumer insights and discovery – understanding our consumer better and better will ensure we deliver relevant content at the right time.

The Makegood: Thanks, Kevin.