Erik Hofstetter from Creative Visions Talks All About Marketing
December 21, 2017
Erik Wolf: Hello and welcome to The Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor podcast. Twice a month our group gathers over breakfast in a swanky meeting space overlooking the Denver University hockey arena to share our knowledge, share connections, and do business. And twice a month we’ll be talking to DEA members on this podcast and posting them for the world at Denverexecutiveassociation.com. My name is Erik Wolf and I’m with the digital marketing agency, estound, where we serve small to midsize business owners in Denver and around the world. My guest today is Eric Hofstetter with Creative Visions, someone who also knows a whole lot about marketing. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was a character on Mad Men.
Erik Hofstetter: Thanks for that Erik.
Erik Wolf: I’m here for you. Erik was the kid who grew up and watched TV for the commercials not just for the shows. He got his first job as a designer back in high school working for the Yellow Pages and doing creative for both small and multimillion dollar companies. He worked his way all the way up from paste-up artist to art director and then studio manager before starting his own agency in 1990. Erik and his team have successfully completed more than 13000 marketing and advertising projects since then, both locally and nationally for companies like Big-O Tires, Coca-Cola, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, (I will not try to say that five times fast) and he works with smaller firms as well Welcome Erik.
Erik Hofstetter: Thank you. Appreciate you having me.
Erik Wolf: Well we’re glad to have you here and we are very honored to have you as our first Trusted Advisor podcast. So, first of all, tell us about what you do at Creative Visions and what your company actually specializes in.
Erik Hofstetter: Well Creative Visions is a full-service marketing company. So if it has to do with marketing we do it. Now I know that encompasses a large field. But the truth is we do it all. So whether it’s branding or writing copy or directing photography, putting together a campaign, direct mail, working with organizations such as yours to put together online marketing or websites, you know we’ve done it and can do it.
Erik Wolf: So there are obviously a lot of companies that do a lot of different things in the marketing arena. What’s the one thing that you would say, “Well hey this is our space. This is what makes us different.” What’s that for you?
Erik Hofstetter: Well we try not to be like other agencies. What have been called advertising agencies in the past, which are now calling themselves a number of different things because I think with all the changes that are going on in the industry they’re honestly trying to find themselves. A lot of them try to do two things first. One, they try to be creative and by being creative they think they’re being successful and that frankly isn’t always the case. Secondly, I think a lot of them create works, design campaigns, those kinds of things with the idea of winning awards or obtaining accolades from the industry, kind of like Hollywood pats themselves on the back. At Creative Visions, we really don’t do that.
Erik Wolf: You have won absolutely no awards.
Erik Hofstetter: Well it’s funny you say that because when I was very young, I actually won graphic designer for the state of Colorado. There was actually a competition for Vocational Industry Clubs of America and of all of the high school designer designers at that time, I won state and I went to Kentucky to compete for the national championship.
Erik Wolf: So that means you don’t get a varsity jacket or anything and it probably doesn’t help you date girls.
Erik Hofstetter: You get no girls in the process.
Erik Wolf: But still, that’s pretty cool.
Erik Hofstetter: Yeah, it was very cool. It was actually an honor. And so you know when I first started in the business, companies and those kinds of things that I was working for did win awards. We won a number of different awards. But my focus wasn’t on that. It was primarily in doing work that I thought was effective. So when I started my own company, Creative Visions, we really didn’t enter our work into these awards because that really wasn’t the objective. You know the objective has been and always will be to get the highest rate of return on investment from our clients and to create work that is effective. And it was funny because I think it was about six years ago or something, I had a bunch of staff members kind of corner me and forced me into entering our work into an awards thing. So I was like, OK well if you guys do it then fine. But I’m hands off. Just enter what you want to enter and let’s have fun and you know go to a party and a dinner basically was the idea. So you know we went into this thing really not having much association with this awards network and club. But we walked out of there winning four awards and people were looking at us like who are these guys who came out of nowhere and won these trophies, won these awards. I think there were like two or three first place and then another one that was a third place or something like that. So I felt really good about it. But after doing it once, we didn’t really have a desire to do it again because it just seemed like a self-promotion. And I have a hard time thinking that what we’re being compensated for from our clients should be used to self brand-ize. You know we focused on the work and that’s what we do best. So since you start to create divisions in 1990 we’ve been in this period of just constant upheaval in the advertising and marketing space.
Erik Wolf: So a lot has changed in the last 20 years and we could probably spend this whole time probably just discussing that. But as somebody who came up in traditional media and coming up at a time when print was king and now things have changed a little bit with the advent of digital, where do you see traditional media and how are people using it intelligently.
Erik Hofstetter: That’s an interesting question so I actually have a question for you Erik. What do you consider traditional media or traditional advertising?
Erik Wolf: Traditional media would be anything print media and anything mass media including billboards, radio, television, newspaper, and magazine, mail.
Erik Hofstetter: Good. Good. So is the internet traditional media?
Erik Wolf: In my mind, the internet is not traditional media and I think that one of the mistakes that people make with it is trying to treat it like traditional media where it’s just something to slap a logo on.
Erik Hofstetter: Sure that could be stated for any type of advertising or marketing medium.
Erik Wolf: And so where do you see the role of all of the stuff. How are businesses using all of that traditional and print profitably now when there’s so much focus on online. How do you take somebody’s marketing objectives and apply that to print and make them money?
Erik Hofstetter: Because well you’re talking to somebody who actually started, boy when I think about where I started. In the fifth grade I had a newspaper route. What I used to do, I used to get up early and roll newspapers together with a rubber band and Sundays were brutal because you had all the sections in it. You know I was barely strong enough to get those things thrown onto the driveway and so forth. And these newspapers were filled with ads. On Sundays you had inserts you know where people were selling cars, Macy’s was selling clothes and those kinds of things. And all of this took space. And so I was introduced to that at a very young age that me as a newspaper boy, I was actually part of their marketing network by getting that out there. Now as I started to get an education, I mean you could say the first traditional job that I got in the industry was doing advertising layouts for the Yellow Pages. I don’t know if you remember what the Yellow Pages were.
Erik Wolf: I actually do remember the Yellow Pages.
Erik Hofstetter: That’s right. So I used to do ad layouts for local small businesses or multimillion dollar organizations that had national campaigns in the Yellow Pages that were spending tens of thousands of dollars monthly on just local distribution adspace for Yellow Pages. Now they don’t even exist. And I saw that transition occur through the 90s, I saw that actually happening. And because of that, we pulled a lot of our client’s revenues that they spent in Yellow Pages away from that because we saw the oncoming onslaught of what that meant because it was going to be a waste of money to invest in that any further. Now when a person says traditional advertising honestly, I’ve got to kind of snicker a little bit because I think of like the Goodyear blimp. Is the Goodyear blimp traditional?
Erik Wolf: There are nods in this room. I would have I would have said that that’s traditional it’s a floating billboard to me.
Erik Hofstetter: Ok but who else does it besides Goodyear and MetLife and who else?
Erik Wolf: And it’s not the blimp, it’s not terribly popular. But the blimp itself is part of the brand now.
Erik Hofstetter: Right. And does it work for them?
Erik Wolf: I would say it does work for them because you do you see, I mean on the rare occasion that you see a blimp, to begin with, you say the Goodyear blimp.
Erik Hofstetter: Sure. So you know as a marketing person I would ask the question does it work or not. And the truth is I don’t know. But let’s assume that the Goodyear blimp does work for Goodyear. Goodyear sells tires. What the heck does a blimp have to do with tires?
Erik Wolf: Oh exactly and I think that what you just said is perfect and that does it work?
Erik Hofstetter: Right. Exactly.
Erik Wolf: And I think that when you’ve got folks and I imagine that you have a lot of similar conversations that I have. We lean in our business towards digital and that’s just sort of what we do. I don’t make any digital is better type of things. It’s just what we do. But the digital stuff is everywhere. To the point where clients come and they say, “Well you know it looks like it’s time for us to put some serious effort behind Snapchat.” That’s something that I’ll usually sort of squash and say I think you’re somehow both early and late to that party.
Erik Hofstetter: Sure. But are you looking at Twitter now?
Erik Wolf: No, I mean truthfully in terms of the social networks the only things that I care about are our Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Erik Hofstetter: But I would guess that it kind of depends on the product that you’re selling and the target audience you’re after because if you’re looking at Snapchat and you think of a target audience, if you have a product or service that’s going to appeal to that particular market segment, then Snapchat might make a lot of sense. Just as pushing a blimp above a stadium full of rabid fans, made a lot of sense for Goodyear at some point. Right.
Erik Wolf: It’s the Goodyear blimp still a thing?
Erik Hofstetter: Yeah it is. In fact, you’ll see it run on their TV spots right. Let’s just assume the Goodyear blimp is successful. I’m not saying it is, but let’s assume it is. That Goodyear blimp then should be rolled onto their website. I mean when you go to their website you should see the blimp and you could see where if it is really successful, if it makes a lot of sense, maybe an entire campaign could be built online around the Goodyear blimp.
Erik Wolf: Oh absolutely.
Erik Hofstetter: So then this old time marketer starts to look at the Internet and say the Internet is traditional marketing, it’s traditional. I mean at some point, there was somebody in radio broadcasting that said this television thing is never going to fly. You know there were people that when the movies went to actually having sound, there were a lot of people that felt like sound was never gonna make it in the movies because it took away a person’s own innate ability to create their own voices in their head. Much like you read a book. And I’m sure there were those that thought that movies were going to end books for all time. But the truth is that marketing is fluid and the mediums that it is on is always fluid. I’ve got a friend who’s very very successful in the digital world and he took me aside not too long ago and said, “You know the end of the cell phones coming.” Now that’s a pretty bold statement. The end of cell phones coming. What does he mean by that? He means that the Internet will surround us. So instead of being linked to this one particular point at which you obtain all your apps and those kinds of things, the world around us will become the Internet. Now that sounds crazy, it sounds too far out there but I’ve got to tell you.
Erik Wolf: It’s not that far out there. We’ve got Internet thermostats now, we have internet refrigerators now. We have, I mean we’ve got refrigerators that will tell you on your cell phone whether you’re out of beer. So we’re definitely headed in that direction. I am going to I’m going to reel us back in a little bit. How did you start your business?
Erik Hofstetter: Well I was just that kid that rather than paying attention in class like I should of, I was doodling. So I was like the kid that sketched a lot and just drew things and that kind of thing. And I just always had a passion for good design and art, aesthetics, and so forth. And I actually had this point in my life where in high school I had to make this decision because I had an interest in architecture. Just the forms and design that architecture brings are very similar to those found in graphic design and advertising and so forth. The constructing of something and to solve a problem that builds a foundation but is also aesthetically appealing. And I found out the amount of college and math and those kinds of things that are required to become an architect and quickly realized that maybe I could be a graphic designer. So I just started as a humble graphic designer and then people liked what I did. They liked the logos that I developed and the layouts that I came up with and that kind of parlayed it into writing a headline here or there that was better than what the client gave me. And so that kind of just rolled into me being too busy to actually doing layouts myself to become an art director. So I told other people what should be done and so forth. And gave them expectations where I learned to become a full fledged creative director. And it’s just been a process of learning through experience bout what works and what doesn’t work. Through it all I would say that I always knew that some designs were better than others. I always knew that there was some marketing that was better than others. I’m reminded of the old Volkswagen ads that were these famous ads where they’d have a Volkswagen floating in water or turned upside down or you know those kinds of things. As you mentioned, I’m one of these, maybe I’m straight out of Mad Men or something like that. But you know those guys they helped create an industry. And they also help create the country we know today through advertising. I always loved that stuff. And so I started to apply in the work I did. And one of the things I became fascinated with was why do some things work and others don’t. Why does some advertising work and some doesn’t? Why does a certain budget placed one place doesn’t work in another and did a bunch of research into this. Call it a self education, an observation of being a part of focus groups and all kinds of stuff. And I realize that when it gets down to it, effective marketing is finding out what the potential customer or client needs or wants. And then placing that in your marketing so that those people become interested in your product or service. If you do that with a twist of a bit of mystery because everybody loves a good mystery. So if you create a mystery, you’re going to create interest, which is going to lead to potentially selling.
Erik Wolf: Can you give us an example of one instance where you guys did that super successfully for a client?
Erik Hofstetter: Intelligent office has been a client of ours and they were looking to increase their sales on a local level in the Denver metro area.
Erik Wolf: Intelligent Office is a co-working and virtual office type of facility correct?
Erik Hofstetter: Yeah exactly. I mean in essence, the idea being that whenever you call a phone number you’re going to get a live receptionist and that live reception has the ability to route their calls to whomever within your organization you may want it. It allows a company to not have a front desk secretary. And they provide a number of different other services as well. But they in essence wanted to get their name out there more in the Denver metro area. And this was again several years ago. But they had a question about their market messaging. Because they had the phone reception service, they had office space that they could lease, they could help manage your company and so forth. And you know their list of services was like two pages in length it was an incredible amount that they brought to the table but they just didn’t know what they wanted to say. And what would create interest. They were also looking at their pricing structure and they were thinking that the CEO of the corporation was actually thinking about cutting back costs because they felt like their costs may be the one thing that was preventing them from getting more business. So we conducted, we have a proprietary product called an LMR which stands for local motivational research and this is a product which obtains the key motivators from your potential targeted audience. Find out what they need regarding your product and service. And we found a number of different things from the Intelligent Office LMR that we conducted. One of which was that reducing their costs would actually be a net deficit. That if the costs were reduced it would look like there was less value. And further we found that putting the price up front actually was something that people appreciated and wanted to know. So what the president was planning to do in terms of reducing cost in a hope to obtain more business would have been the absolute incorrect thing to do and trying to cover that up would have harmed them even further. We put it out in the forefront and we said basically that you could have a real live receptionist’s for about a buck a day. So we place that into a Better Business Bureau, 10 foot by 10 foot display booth. The Better Business Bureau had this convention where they brought all these people in and so forth. I think there were about a hundred different organizations with booths there at this business convention that they were having. And some of these booths were large like 40 by 40 and that kind of thing. By taking the market research we conducted and placing it within the booth as copy and as visual impact, visual design. They were the toast of the convention. The chief complaint from the client after that was from the two women that were running the booth saying that they could never sit down in essence because there was so much interest in the booth and basically the traffic flow surrounded the convention center but there was always a large contingency around that one booth and that is because we found the key marketing messages and impactful designs that appealed to those people that were in that space and that was the small business owner. They won top booth of the convention. So that’s just one example of several dozen that I could give regarding how we take what we find as market research and apply it to marketing, whether they be traditional or not, and make them effective. [5:03.4]
Erik Wolf: That’s an awesome story. Thank you for that. One of our roles with the Denver Executive Association is we call ourselves trusted advisers right. So I’m going to ask you to be the trusted adviser right now and give us one quick tip: What’s the first thing that you would tell somebody who’s looking to hire somebody in your industry?
Erik Hofstetter: Look for passion. That’s where I came from. Formal education doesn’t do it. I mean a person either has a passion to be a good marketer or not. It kind of comes from the heart. So that’s what I would look for.
Erik Wolf: That’s a great one. Well thank you for joining us. Can you tell us how we can get in touch with you.
Erik Hofstetter: Sure you can go to our website which is Cvisions.net. Or you can always give me a call at my office which is 720-482-7954.
Erik Wolf: Thank you so much, Erik and thanks for joining us today on the Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor Podcast. We will see you next time.
Erik Hofstetter: Thank you.