The CEO of Pro-Motion, an award-winning experiential marketing agency trusted by Disney, the NBA, Citgo, Walmart, Snapple, TBS, and Energizer shares about the importance of brand experiences: building connections in a digitally cluttered world
How do you get the attention of your ideal and likely buyers in the digitally cluttered world of mass-marketing and online advertising?
On today’s show the CEO of Pro-Motion, an award-winning experiential marketing agency trusted by Disney, the NBA, Citgo, Walmart, Snapple, TBS, Energizer and more for over 30 years. He just wrote a book called “Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World”
He’s been featured in/on Adweek, CMO.Com, Forbes, Inc. and many more and is super fun, smart guy
ACTION ITEM: In what area are you creating an experience to stand out apart from the clutter?
Be intentional about your sights, smells, sounds, etc
On today’s show, branding experts. Steve Randazzo shares with us how leading companies, America’s leading companies, are able to build brand experience. They’re able to build connections in a digitally cluttered world with face to face marketing. What they’re meeting with people face to face. They’re meeting with their customers face to face. You see, Steve Randazzo is the CEO of pro motion and award winning extreme actual marketing agency, trusted by Disney, the National Basketball Association, Citco, Walmart, Snapple, TBS, energizer, and countless other major companies. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for your mind to explode.
On today’s show, we are interviewing Steve Randazzo. Steve, welcome onto the show. How are you?
I’m doing great, clay. Thanks for, uh, thanks for having me.
You said, you know, Steve Randazzo, you’re kind of, you’re kind of a big deal. Uh, you’ve worked with the NBA Citco, Walmart, Snapple. Ah, can you share with the listeners what you do for a living? So I think a lot of listeners are kinda that, maybe they’ve heard your name before, but I’d love for you to share with the listeners what you do.
Sure. Um, well I have a marketing agency called promotion and we help B to B and B to c brands grow. And we do that all through experiential marketing. So everything that we do for our clients is face to face. So we, we love to bring in, uh, um, other tactics like social, uh, social media and PR and things like that, right? We either outsource that or we, uh, utilize our brands, uh, in house agencies or out of house agencies, but everything we do is face to face.
Now your company has done it a very well, very successfully. This isn’t a, uh, a Hackett business idea. You guys have had a history of, of success, but I’d like to start off if we can at the bottom and kind of like the beginning of your career. I mean, what, what was life like growing up for you and when did you decide that, you know, hey, I want to be a marketing do?
Well, I grew up in the suburb of St Louis a man and I live in a suburb of St Louis currently. Um, yeah, I had a pretty simple upbringing. You know, we grew up hardworking America. My Dad was a salesman in the auto parts industry, was a homemaker, you know, went to public schools. I got an older sister or younger brother. Um, so yeah, I’m the Middle Kid. Um, I had a really great childhood, you know, lots of, uh, lots of great memories. Um, you know, lots of kids in the neighborhood in actually clay. We used to go outside and play back in those days.
No way without a hello.
I know it’s hard to believe, but we did, we’d go out and we’d play, kick the can and hide and seek and play baseball every single day. Um, and I just, I was really lucky. My Mom and dad, you know, really provided me a great foundation, I think for where I am today. Um, so, you know, I feel pretty lucky about that.
Now. You, uh, you know, is starting to gain some traction there at some point. I think a lot of our listeners, they, they listened to a guy like you and they go, oh, he’s on Mt. Awesome. And I’m terrible. I’m just getting going. When did you first get some traction coming? Tell the listeners about the humble beginning. When did you first start it would maybe, what was your first legit job where you started to get some real traction?
Sure. Well, someone once told me that you have until you’re 35 years old to figure out what do you want to be when you grow up. So, um, I started promotion when I was 31, so I was a little headed ahead of that curve. But I really believe in, and I tell kids today, I, you know, I was fortunate just yesterday, my, my daughter, my oldest, a kid just graduated from University of Missouri. Um, so, you know, I’m in a great mood. Technically I just got a raise. Um, so I, I till kids her age all the time, don’t put stress on yourself. You know, you just go out and resume, build and figure out what you like and you know, when you’re in your mid thirties, then all of a sudden then you really need to be where you are, where you, where you really are enjoying yourself and you need to go out and then, you know, take on the world. But I started my first company when I was 12. Um, you may have heard of it. Steve’s lawn service.
Oh No. Yeah. Oh, he’s nice.
And so I cut lawns and you know, and, and that’s how I made my money. And I remember I paid like $10 for my first lawnmower and I went out and I cut lawns and that’s what I did. Um, so I’ve kind of always been driven, um, to have my own company and, and you know, I always knew I wanted to go to college. Um, my first real job was when I was 16. I worked at McDonald’s and most kids today would have no interest in working at McDonald’s. But I got to tell you, it really was the foundation to teach me about how to work in a team environment, how to get things done. They were amazing.
Check your training video. Yeah. Had to
take before you went from the fry station, you know, over to the, the drive through. And it was a really great foundation for me. And you know, it really wasn’t until probably, I guess my, my third job had been an edit added about eight years I guess, where I really got clarity about when we wanted to be, when I grew up. And I was at Ralston Purina at the time. So you know, now it’s Nestle Purina, but I don’t have a lot of fun. I learned a lot. I realized that corporate America wasn’t for me. You know, when I, when I got offered the job, I thought, Oh wow, big company, this is going to be amazing. But I really didn’t feel comfortable there. So when I was there, I started my second company in and that was called SJR promotions, which is basically my initials. And I did events at local fairs and festivals for some local companies here in St Louis. And so, you know, I did that on the side. I did that, I worked in weekends and that’s when I, I really Kinda got the bug and I said, you know, events really where I where I want to be
now, didn’t you get the Gig to help run the x experience in a professional baseball setting?
What was that?
Straight out of college, straight out of college. I got really lucky. Um, there was an opportunity, the Kansas city royals, I was in Warrensburg, Missouri, which is about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City. And I played baseball in college, so I always was interested in, in, in baseball. And I had an opportunity, they had, they had an opening and I went after it and the marketing department and they eventually hired me. First they told me I was too young. It said that, you know, we never hired anybody right out of college. And I just was very persistent. And so I grew into that position to run all the stadium atmosphere at the Kansas city royals. And Yvette was 85 and 86. So in 85, the royals won a world series against my cardinals. So it was tough to be in there, but a are tough be in there with my cardinals lost, but my profession won. So, uh, it was really great and it was the greatest two years that I, uh, you know, that I could ever expect coming out of college, but it’s not a job I’d ever want to do again.
Yeah. If I can to, I like to talk more about McDonald’s and I want to get into your book here now. McDonald’s. Um, I, I want the times I work with clients and they’ll say they’ll Kinda, you know, people, people as a culture, we joke about, do you want fries with that? You know, we always joke about as a Colton, that’ll be funny if your life doesn’t go well, you’re going to be asking, do you want fries with that? And I, what am I clients Kinda made that quip. And I said, let me tell you something about that question. The fact that they had convinced an army of people to cross sell or to up sell French fries, you know, to billions of people. That is impressive. I mean, I, I know a lot of small businesses that can’t convince their team to every single time. Ask that question. I mean, what did, what did you learn about branding and sales at McDonald’s because that, that place is awesome.
Well, I think the beauty of McDonald’s is they’re the same. No matter if you’re in St Louis or if you’re in California or if you’re in Beijing, you’re going to get the same type of experience. You’re going to get the same type of product and good, better in different, they are extremely consistent. They know who they are, they know where they’re heading, and they are consistent every single day, every single interaction. And so I think that’s what is really made them so successful. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’d like their burgers or if you don’t like their burgers from a marketing standpoint. And from a branding standpoint, you have the same experience when you walk into any McDonald’s.
Okay. Now let’s talk about your, your new book here to tell the listeners out there that the title of your New Book and what inspired you to write it.
Oh Gosh. The book is called brand experiences and building connections in a digitally cluttered world. Um, you know what, I’ve been talking about writing a book for 10 years. My family probably got bored of me saying that my staff definitely got bored of me staying there and it was kind of my someday task, you know, that, you know, someday I’m going to write a book and a, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. So about 18 months ago, I finally, I walked in one day and I said, today’s the day we’re going to start writing the book and we’re going to put a plan together. And boy, we, we just, you know, we worked in, in, in, you know, I wrote the book, but boy it does take a village. There’s a lot of people who helped me, you know, get the book done and get it accomplished.
Um, you know, in 18 months it, it was like a really big priority. At times. It was not a priority at all at other times, depending on how busy we, we, you know, we were, and, and if it got crazy, I just put it on the shelf and then picked it up again. Um, and also there’s, it’s no coincidence the first time my kids are both off to college, I get it done. So instead of going out to, to, you know, hang out with them and do their events and, and, you know, participate in their world, um, they’re both off to college and, uh, you know, now I’ve got time and, and you know, we got it done. So I feel really great about it. Um, I really wrote it for three reasons, so I wrote it to educate, to inspire, and then also to give back.
So on the education side, you know, I want to educate people in our industry, unfortunately. Um, you know, there’s only like a hundred schools out of universities out of, I don’t know, 20,000 or something like that that even talk about event or experiential marketing in their curriculum. So I want to educate people on, on our industry and what it can do for the brands. I want to inspire people to learn more and then to talk to somebody about how potentially our industry could help them grow their brand. And then on the give back side, um, big brothers, big sisters of eastern Missouri. I’ve been involved with them for 15 years or more and it’s a great organization here, here, this wonderful work. And so for every book sold, dollar goes to big brothers and big sisters and, and um, you know, just like I said, I’m really proud of that, uh, the work that they do and my relationship with them. This really great people, that organization.
Well, I, I bought a copy of the book and I’ve got the book of the Digest in the book. Now, Andrew, do you know, do you know if we’ve left an Amazon review yet? And if we haven’t buy another one and leave a review right now. We have to, we have to do it. It’s very rude of us, Andrew, to buy a copy of brand experiences and to not leave a an Amazon review. So if we haven’t done it yet, let’s check on that and let’s get after it now. Okay. So you see your book is filled with examples about how big companies get it right with their experiential marketing. Could you give us the listeners just a little sample, a little snack pack of what they can find in the book, maybe a few brands or stories of companies that have created these awesome experiences.
Sure. But you don’t have to be a big brand. I mean, a lot of the brands we work with, a lot of the brands that you mentioned in your intro are big brands. You know, and you know, the big brands are, are, you know, have been in our industry for awhile. What’s really cool about our industry right now is there’s a lot of challenger brands. And a lot of smaller brands who are struggling and trying to figure out how do I engage consumers? And they’re, they’re realizing that, hey, we need to get back to kind of the basics and we need to do hand to hand combat. And we’ve, you know, we’ve got to think about, uh, think about, uh, Barnum and Bailey. I mean, you know, they kind of created this industry, I dunno, a hundred years ago or whatever it was. Um, you know, and everything they did was entertainment.
It was face to face and, and you know, that’s the way they grew their company. Um, I can give you a couple of examples of, uh, a couple of clients that we work with. Obviously we’re proud of all the relationships, but I’ll give you a couple of the names are definitely gonna resonate with your, with your listeners. Um, the first one I guess, let me throw out, uh, Disney, we’ve been basically working on and off with them since 2008, so, but about 10 years. Um, mostly in the parks division. Um, you know, we love Disney. What a great brand. We had our first opportunity to work with them. We were so excited and we’re still excited today to be able to work with them. Great people, you know, they got tons of fanatics all over the world, but we mostly do mobile tours for them.
So we develop and manage a mobile experience that we take from city to city. Um, we did a program, uh, I’ll go back a few years is 2010. Um, you may remember back in 2009, President Obama came out and he said, and, and I think it was maybe one of his State of the Union and he said he challenges everybody out there to give back to their favorite charity or organization. And you know, that that statement really resonated with our friends at Disney. Um, so they got us involved in and, uh, you know, we promoted this initiative with them. It was called, what would you celebrate? Um, and the concept of it was just basically that encouraging Americans to donate eight hours of their time, um, to one of their favorite charities. And if they volunteered, then they would get a free admission ticket into one of the parks, either Orlando or Anaheim.
And this program was crazy successful. Um, it was so much fun. We traveled actually a team of Disney entertainers and they were called the janitors. They were an in park entertainment group and we traveled them all over the country. And there were three guys that were dressed as painters and construction workers, kind of, you know, there, um, you know, to go out and clean up the city and paint pink, you know, the buildings and help the schools and things like that. And they played homemade percussion instruments, you know, like trash cans and paint buckets and saw horses and stuff like that. I’m trying to visualize, you know, the, the photo of, of them in front of the White House where, where we had one of our events, but you know, they basically would go out, they make loss, lots of noise everywhere we went. And, and you know, they had this rap song.
So we took those guys all over the country. Um, and we would, we would do multiple events each day. Uh, in, in each city there where we go. So we were at time square at one time. We were, like I said, the front of the White House, we’d be in malls, we’d be in street corners. We basically would go wherever tons of people were. Now it looked like these were, you know, hey, we’re just, these are pop up events. We would just pop up. But the reality is these were all, all organized. They were all planned. We had, you know, permits in each city to be where we’re going to be most days,
100%. How many people were in this band, this make shift band of handmade differentiators.
There are only three of the janitors. And then we had anywhere from 20 to 30 brand ambassadors that would follow them at an event. And they would be the ones who would actually interact with the crowd before and after the janitors would do a couple of their songs. Um,
and each percussionist would make their own drum of handmade drums and things to bang on.
It was, it was, you know, like, you know, the one guy had a trashcan and he would literally bang on the side and the top of the trashcan. Another guy had paint buckets, you know, like it was five gallon paint buckets. You see it like home depot. I have a cow bell cow bell here for you. Exactly. Yeah. One guy did have a couple of the, the, the guy in the front who, who did the SIG and cut a cow bell goofy, but it would, it, it stopped people, you know, people are going on their normal day and all of a sudden we would just pop up and do this event and they all stand and they’d watch and they’d clap. And then we’d talk about, you know, the fact that if you would go out and, um, volunteer your time, you could get a free day of Disney. And in 67 days, 1 million people signed up on that program to give back. Yeah. So he just didn’t, you know, little over, over two months, Disney generated 8 million hours of service all throughout the country. And most of it was done with families, you know, so families, you know, wanting to go to Disney so they’d get together and they go out and to give back to the community. What a great thing to teach your kids.
That deserves a holy [inaudible]
oh my cow.
Okay. Now, Steve Randazzo, I want to ask this because we have so many listeners out there. I’d say you don’t have the half million listeners. I would say, well over half of the people that I’ve met at business conferences or talked to or interacted with or our team has, are small business owners. Where do most people get it wrong? Where do most small business owners get it wrong when it comes to building brand experiences?
Well, I think, I think there’s a lot of people out there that are, are focusing too much of their efforts in, in the social world, digital marketing. And you know, we, we spend a lot of time doing digital also. Um, but I really think getting face to face is really key to any size business. Um, again, because there’s so much clutter out there. Um, you know, here, here’s my best example of, of, of the clutter. Let’s say, you know, you, you go stand on an overpass, um, on a, on a busy highway and you see cars just flying by and you know, you see the Camry, you see the tractor trailer, you maybe see the Volkswagen bug, whatever it happens to be, but you know, couple of hours later or a short time later, you’ve completely forget about those cars. But let’s say you have an opportunity to go sit in a car and you know, let’s say it’s, it’s that same Camry and you get to sit in a Camry and you get to smell, which it smells like in the Camry and you get to feel the seat now comfortable to see this and you get to take it for a ride and you feel comfortable at it.
Well, you start building this experience that, that consumers now they really understand your brand. They have this Aha moment that I get it, you know, you’ve told me all these things, I got to experience your brand and now I get it. And that’s what’s really missing is, you know, it’s some of the simple things when you go to a mall and there’s, there’s a restaurant and they’re standing out in front of the restaurant and they’re handing you samples. I mean that’s, that’s an engagement. You’re cutting through the clutter there because maybe the people at the food court next to you or you know, we’re just all sitting behind the counter but be able to get out in front of the counter and engage people and, and talk with them and have them experience your product. That’s what we just need more of it, you know, it’s just, it’s so much more effective than trying to shotgun approach and, and you know, get your message out to thousands or millions or whatever it happens to be. Not many brands are successful in that.
Wait, wait, wait. Are you saying that I, if I’m a business owner I would have to talk to people and not just go on Instagram and shoot messages at people and Facebook at people and tweet at people. Are you saying me as a human business owner should meet other humans face to face? Is that what you’re advocating?
Yeah, I remember that comment. I said we used to actually play outside.
Oh, it’s controversial. This is pretty offensive. This whole statistics changes everything. If you’re out there today, I encourage you, you gotta go pick up this book here, brand experiences now. Now, Steve, if somebody picks up brand experiences, building connections in a digitally cluttered world, uh, what are a couple, you know, give us kind of list some bullet points. What are some things they’re gonna learn if they get this book?
Oh Gosh. Well, I hope it’s just going to open their eyes to maybe a concept of maybe a strategy that they hadn’t considered before. Um, you know, I hope it’s, you know, you read it. It’s a simple read. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s not a textbook. You don’t, you know, there’s no glossary of terms or anything. It’s pretty much written the way I’m speaking today. It’s very conversational, but it gives people the opportunity to see how other brands are building their brands through experiences. Um, you know, we’re not trashing digital marketing, we’re not trashing, uh, trade shows. We’re just saying that if those are working for you, that’s wonderful to track it. Yeah. If they are track it to make sure they are, but if they’re not working for you, you may want to try something different and getting face to face with your consumer.
I had a VP of sales say this to me the other day. He goes, when does it not a good thing to be face to face with your customer? Because seriously, this is a no brainer. Um, so you know, there’s a chapter in the book about going where the ducks are. I think it’s chapter two, and it talks about going to your consumers or your customers at the right time, at the right place when their right frame of mind, because then they’re open to that engagement. And I think that’s so important that, you know, you catch them at that right time and you catch them, uh, when they don’t realize that you’re selling to them because you’re just being a human talking to another human. And it again, it breaks through all that clutter.
You, you, uh, I want to interview you for like, I want this to be like the Braveheart of interviews where it’s like three hours into the interview, we’re yelling freedom at each other. I mean, this, I love interviewing. You have such great energy, but we have so little time. So I will have two final, just quick ultra fast Steve questions. So here we go. You are the marketing master and you are given a billboard or a text message, let’s say a text message that you could send to everybody. Okay? You get to send the text message to everybody in the world right now. Boop. Send and a for the, for the low, low price of $0 million. No, you’d have to pay for the text credits. Okay. You can just set it up. Uh, and, and there’s no, we’re not gonna violate any federal regulations by texting people without their permission. We’re going back to the 80s here, but somehow we have text technology. So what would that message say? What, what’s the message you want to communicate out there to the thrive nation?
Well, I think that human engagement is extremely powerful and it’s, it’s important for everybody to get away from that flat computer that we hold in our hands every day and we’re, we spend so much time there, just get out and be a human and engage other humans. And it’s amazing what you can learn when you’re face to face with someone.
So, oh, this is this thrive nation, that right there is hot and we’re going to give Steve, we’re going to give you a 14,000 mega points for that to knowledge bomb and a knowledge problem exceed the mega points and you get a unbelievable prize right there. Now my final question for you is a, you come across as sort of a [inaudible] centric guy, meaning that centric is a, I don’t know, any effective marketing. I think most marketing is ineffective. A, you’re very east centric with your marketing. You break out of that color as a human. We’ve interviewed so many cool people like Wolfgang puck and John Maxwell and everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, Kinda like their superpower that allows them to be successful and other people think it’s kind of weird. So you don’t have to share it with share with us about, about a rash that you can’t make go away or something. But what does an idiosyncrasy that you have that you think has allowed you to become so successful?
Oh my gosh, that’s a cool question. Um, I hear this a lot. I’ve been accused, and this would mean my mum would still says this to me today, but I’ve been accused of not accepting good enough. Um, I hate settling for less than what I expect or what I want. Um, you know, my, my mom’s, you know, it’s like, you know, when is good enough enough. And I’m like, I always say, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten there yet. Um, I’ve got really high expectations for myself and you know, and, and others around me. Um, you know, our first client was Anheuser Busch, you know, being a St Louis Company, that was like so cool too. To walk in there and go walk out after several meetings with the, with the relationship, the beginning of a relationship that lasted for 14 years and it was amazing. But I learned about quality standards from Anheuser Busch when the Bush family was in charge of that organization.
Mr. Bush taught me to make sure every event, every single first impression, every single engagement, every truck tire had to be perfect, not really good. It had to be perfect. And it, our world perfect is really hard to achieve. Um, so that’s what we’ve, we’ve, we’ve kind of like accepted that with every single client we have, you know, in 24 years, years later, that’s got to have something to do with the fact that we’re still, we’re still here and we’re still getting to do what we love. Um, but just, you know, we just don’t settle for good enough. You know, good enough isn’t good enough.
Well, I know that am I this? I know that my questions are not good enough for you, so I’m just going to hang up on myself to make it easier for you, but I appreciate you for being excellent with your answers, my friend.
Oh, you know, there’s a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. I can’t believe that, you know, we’ve already blown through our time, but if you want to do that three hours, let’s do it.
Are you serious? Will you do it? Will you do a marathon show with me? I would love that. Yes. John, put it on the notes. We’re doing a marathon interview with the marketing wizard, thrive nation. You heard it here. It’s going to happen. Get your minds ready to get out of the pin, the pad and get ready to go into the Dojo of Mojo with Steve OSHA. This guy is going to, he’s the [inaudible] of marketing. I just can’t even handle it is so good. Thank you for agreeing to do another interview. That’s so awesome.
Play out a lot of fun today. Thank you so much for calling me today.
Alright, you take care. And without any further ado, we’d like to end each and every show with a boom. And so here we go. Three, two, one, boom. Like a winner.