I’m a big fan of small, local businesses. Heck, I own one. I can confidently say that if every TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday, Dollar General, Massage Envy, Lady Footlocker, and Justice store on the planet closed their doors tomorrow, I would not shed a single tear. It’s the little guys I worry about.
About half a block from the Ostrom Creative World Headquarters is a placed called Tony’s Barber Shop. I must have walked by it a thousand times in my lifetime, always stopping to admire the stuffed beaver and other dead stuff in the front window–my favorite being the mongoose and cobra frozen in mortal combat. On one recent morning, that hypnotic mongoose was enough to pull me in and get my hair cut. At a little before 9:30, I was the first customer of the day.
Owned and operated by second-generation barber Ed Zembryck, Tony’s has been in its current location for 55 years. Tony was Ed’s father. He doesn’t have big screen televisions or free Wi-Fi. Ed doesn’t cut hair wearing a referee’s uniform. There’s no “concept”…unless you think a barbershop frozen in suspended animation for 55 years is a concept.
Ed cut my hair and we chatted, mostly about hunting. Ed said he had lived a sporting life. We talked about pheasants, ducks, deer, and walleyes and the states of their respective populations. Ed’s conclusion was that things just aren’t what they used to be. The haircut and the conversation lasted just shy of an hour…or about twice as long as it would have taken at the Sporty Sport-Cut franchise. It was a little slice of Mayberry heaven. I’m clearing an hour on Thursday mornings on every fifth week for the foreseeable future.
Long live Main Street…and Ed Zembryk.
I can still remember when my older brother brought home a cassette of The Cars’ self-titled debut album. It was 1978. It didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard. The Cars were weird and I really liked them. The other day I was sitting, waiting and reading Good Housekeeping in an Urgent Care facility (it’s a long, uninteresting story) and noticed the background music; it was the Cars’ Good Times Roll. It occurred to me that in 2015 The Cars are no longer weird and no longer on the edge.
As marketers, we know the edge is where it’s at…the middle blows. Unfortunately the edge is always moving. We slide to the middle, if we stay stationary—a little less interesting, and worse, a little less relevant.
Staying out front is hard work. It requires two virtues that seem somewhat at odds with each other: discipline and disregard. It takes discipline to keep throwing away the safe stuff and it takes disregard to keep ignoring the blank stares, the pregnant pauses and the sound of crickets when the edgy ideas don’t connect.
So if you’re a client, be happy your agency pushes you with creative that makes you a little uncomfortable. Remember to be kind (or at the very least constructive) with your criticism. They’re doing the job you hired them to do.
If you’re a creative type, keep pushing even if you get the occasional beat-down. It’s the price you pay for a job that lets you drink at your desk while you cruise Pinterest.