Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel Log - My time in tights.

     The trick, in my job, is to be remembered.  It's great when you can be positively remembered, but to just be remembered sometimes works as well.  I'll do a little background on my job to help everyone understand this better. My current title is Regional Sales Manager, and I work for a tortilla company in their Foodservice division. So I sell tortillas to restaurants, but not to grocery stores and I manage some commissioned employees that we call food brokers.  I also do large presentations to foodservice distributors and frequently participate in their trade shows.  My current region extends from Northern NJ up to Maine in the U.S. (8 states), and Ontario and east in Canada (5 provinces).  So you see there is never enough of me to go around, which is why you need to be remembered when you work in a market or with a broker or distributor.  My brokers have 30-50 lines like mine, so it's a competition every day as to whose line they will work.  This is a story of how, one year, I motivated them to sell more using a little creativity and a $79 Superman costume bought off the Internet.

Dr. Stale
The hard part of the work was done for me when our marketing department launched a pretty creative broker promotion and created the superhero they called "Missxon Man" (I exed out the 2nd i in case I am violating company policy).  Missxon Man (MM from now on) was a traditional superhero who fought the evil villains related to bad tortillas, IE The Crack, Dr. Stale, and Frostbite.
They launched the promotion in the beginning of the year with a pretty cool comic book and it came with financial incentives to sell our products more than the others, but it became apparent to me, almost immediately, that it had a major flaw.  It was 10 months long. Now I love my brokers, but they are not immune to this shortening attention span thing happening to everyone. I blame the Internet, well except for my blog. I have trouble keeping their attention for 10 minutes, 10 months was presenting an unusual challenge.  Unusual challenges call for drastic measures, so I Pay-Pal-ed my way into a full Superman suit and a pair of tights.  That's when MM really came to life.

     The MM on paper was not going to get the job done, but if the character was more vibrant I thought I could work with it.  I envisioned doing my sales meetings in full costume and then sending out small videos on a 6-8 week basis reminding everyone of the character, ergo reminding them of the promotion.   The videos had to "pop" though, so I put MM in everyday settings, like he was just a regular guy, who happened to also be a superhero when needed.  I thought they could relate to that. In preparation for my role, I grew my hair a little longer. I'm a sucker for a low maintenance, military style cut, but that wasn't going to allow me to play MM with a Superman curl in front.  I then dyed my hair.  I love my gray, I earned every bit of it, and I hate the notion of "faking" my looks, but again, for art, I sacrificed.  I did shape up a little, but I also made sure to buy a Superman costume with a padded foam insert to put some muscle where my chicken wing, beer, and no exercise diet had failed to put it previously.  I packed my suit in my suitcase (you should have seen the looks from the airport screeners) and headed out on the road.  Let me paint you a picture of the presentation that I would do....

I would start by standing in front of my brokers (average room size of 20) in business casual clothing.  I would fire up the in-focus projector and launch a spreadsheet of their sales numbers.  The groans would immediately follow as they anticipated a 45 minute presentation as dry as your mother's stuffing on Thanksgiving.  Shortly after I started, I would receive a pre-arranged phone call, answer it and beg their indulgence as I stepped out of the room to take a quick call.  As one of them continued presenting, I would rush to the bathroom or nearest storage room, strip down, put on the costume, grease my hair and put the curl in, put the company logo-ed shirt on over the S emblazoned chest plate (it matched perfectly in color), and get ready to re-enter the room.  At a convenient spot in the presentation I would throw open the door, burst back in with cape flapping behind me, and loudly announce " Hold on Citizens!  This looks like a job for Missxon Man!!"    It would stun every room.  How often, in the course of your business, has a costumed superhero burst in to save you from a boring presentation?  It was the same for them.  I would continue to do the presentation in full costume, for the entire 45 minutes (FYI foam costumes tend to build heat, so make sure to do this in air conditioned offices if you ever consider doing this).  I delivered this presentation in Boston, Albany, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and NYC, and in every case, at the end, came the requests to pose with Missxon Man for pictures.  I wanted them to remember, but now they wanted to remember that day too.  It was an unqualified success, but I was just getting started.

My Fans in Toronto

     Before my hair turned back to gray and before I cut it, I filmed several short videos highlighting MM in an everyday setting, discussing the broker's progress on the promotion, and a different aspect of the promo.  They were usually shot in one or 2 takes, purposely filmed poorly to make them appear more like home movies (Think Blair Witch project).   I then would send them out at intervals, with a recap of how they were doing against the rest of the country, and they competed like they hadn't before.  At every update my group of brokers would be far ahead of the pack, and even by mid-year it was clear that they were collectively performing better than all other parts of the country. At our mid-year meeting I was recognized for the accomplishment with a movie-sized poster that hangs now in my office.  It features me, in full costume, in pose and is done up like an advertisement for a MM movie.  It's a nice reminder of the efforts I made and the result. 

The Poster

The end of that year brought the now anticipated result of a first place finish for my group and more accolades for me.  They awarded me a crystal trophy for my efforts and the marketing department created a nice video that showed highlights of my films. Thus ended my time in tights, and the costume went into storage.  The only challenge I face now is how to turn this long winded, self -serving blog, into a powerful message?  How about this?

Is my job so different than yours, or life in general?  Aren't we all presented with opportunities each day to excel or to relegate ourselves to mediocrity?  Don't we want to set good examples for our children and have them look to you as their Hero? 

Nolan's idea of MM
You see, the story wasn't about me, it was about my brokers.  Each one of them who performed, banked some serious cash for their efforts but more importantly, stepped up when called, and exceeded all possible expectations.  I may have worn the tights, but they were the true heroes in this story. They saw the challenge, faced it head on, kicked it's ass and were rewarded handsomely for it. 

Me?   I'll have to settle for being remembered.

On that note, below are some of the videos if you care to peruse them.  The first is one what I put together, the 2nd is the one the marketing folks spliced before they gave me my award.  FYI, the 2nd one ends at 1 minute but the music goes well beyond that.  Enjoy.  (MM)


torcon said...

Bill, that was INCREDIBLE!!! Truly a great way to engage a wide array of stakeholders - outstanding!!! By the way, does Mission Man do kid's birthday parties and bar mitzvahs?

Anonymous said...

"And they're all delicious." hahahahahahaha I remember that was one of several lines you said that day that Ben and I had to leave the room for, to keep from cracking up and ruining the take! lol

cdyarger said...

Too bad it was not a cash prize, though! You know, for therapy for the boys! Can you imagine your DAD wearing tights? No, just kidding!! We all know how awesome you are honey, and we love you for your creative efforts and hard work! Great blog!!!