November 2012

It’s been a year of milestones for Prophet, and two of the most significant have occurred in recent months with the acquisition of two firms that help us advance our business and growth strategy. Each acquisition serves to deepen our capabilities and roster of talented people, while enhancing the thinking that sets us apart from the crowd and helps us better serve our clients.

This issue of our newsletter is largely dedicated to profiling those who are helping us move forward while enriching our culture at the same time: Brian Hankin and Brad White, our new partners from (r)evolution, and Phil Rampulla and Mitch Lawin, who come to us from Material Group.

Enjoy, and stay tuned as we continue to evolve!

Quick Links:

(r)evolution Acquisition: When Similarities Attract

The Material/Prophet Equation

An Inspiration-Driven Approach to Innovation

Recommended Reading

In the News

Spotlight on Speaking

(r)evolution Acquisition: When Similarities Attract

They say that opposites attract, but in the case of (r)evolution and Prophet it was the similarities that clinched the deal. In August, (r)evolution, the 14-person, Atlanta-based brand, marketing, and innovation strategy consultancy became part of the Prophet family.

“Even before founding (r)evolution, I had known and respected Prophet. When we decided to investigate the idea of joining a larger company, Prophet was at the top of our list,” says Brian Hankin, (r)evolution’s founder.

“We had talked to other firms, but it was immediately obvious that of all of them, Prophet was the right match,” adds Brad White, (r)evolution principal and now a Prophet Partner. “Among other things, our values and Prophet’s were the same…some were articulated by us literally word for word, and others were very close.”

More than that, their philosophies, capabilities, and competencies were also aligned – from the dedication to performing as “indispensable allies” to clients, to a highly collaborative culture, to an ability to work cross-functionally in order to design and activate strategies in support of clients’ business growth.

It was clear that Prophet would provide (r)evolution with a larger platform for growth, while (r)evolution would play an important role in helping Prophet broaden its footprint in certain practice areas, such as innovation. "We’ve been successfully helping companies innovate new platforms, products, and services for the past nine years. Combining our skills and experiences with those of Prophet brings an entirely new set of capabilities to our combined client organizations,” notes Hankin. 

(r)evolution has become known for the exciting new product launches that its problem-solving approach helps generate. Its rapid prototyping methodology involves partnering with client teams to develop “ugly early” ideas during initial stages of client engagements. It’s a means of getting a wide range of solutions on the table (as “ugly” as they might be) for people to react to. 

With this iterative, consumer-led process, the number of prototypes is winnowed down over time. Each iteration becomes increasingly better at providing valuable articulated and unarticulated benefits. “Because the end user has been involved throughout the process, it enables clients to get to market much faster with a quality offer,” according to White.

He adds: “It’s really an aspect of design thinking that gives us a more comprehensive way of approaching problems. And it’s not only useful when applied to tangible products. It’s also a good way to accelerate the development of meaningful strategies, ideas, and messages.”

One of the product launches that used (r)evolution’s methodology was Colgate’s Optic White toothpaste, the brand’s first entry into the cosmetic toothpaste market. (r)evolution helped with product development and commercialization, all based on a platform of insights gathered on customer segments and their oral care needs. The product is considered one of Colgate’s biggest successes in the last decade.

(r)evolution also worked to revolutionize the thinking at a major pharmaceutical firm, helping them think “outside the pill” in devising business models to meet broader patient needs. They proposed to address the area of pain management, which would have entailed the firm building a portfolio of pain treatments, pharma and non-pharma, become more “whole health oriented.“ This work helped align existing marketing efforts to patients and re-orient the client’s way of thinking to one of “owning” pain management as a broader category.

Work like this has helped establish (r)evolution’s reputation and fostered solid client relationships. Yet White is excited at the prospect of further stretching professionally as doors open to new and expanded client relationships. 

“One of the most important aspects of the Prophet way that we have embraced is its highly collaborative nature. It leads to much better outcomes when you’re leveraging the expertise of as many as three or four partners who’ve worked on similar problems for other clients,” he says.

At the same time, Hankin and White hope to maintain some of the benefits of a smaller organizational structure. They may never be able to push for a simpler expense reimbursement system. But they do think they can help maintain an environment where people at all levels are given multiple opportunities to take on new learning and responsibility. That mindset is, after all, just one of the similarities that brought (r)evolution and Prophet together.

The Material/Prophet Equation
Executive Producer Mitch Lawin and Creative Director Phil Rampulla founded The Material Group in 2010. Two years later, they discuss what their company's acquisition means not only for Prophet, but also for our present and future clients.

What is your philosophy when it comes to digital?

There’s a common sense answer to that which bears repeating because people tend to forget. Digital is not its own silo and can’t be thought of as an end-all, be-all. It’s one of a series of touchpoints that perfoms in harmony with the brand in interacting and engaging with consumers. Too many are still of a mindset that they’ve "gone digital" if they’ve put their commercials on YouTube.

Why does that persist?

Well, digital is a fairly new piece compared to the rest of the marketing mix. People still say they don’t get it. I don’t have much patience for that. Do you use email? Are you on Facebook or LinkedIn? Then you get it. You don’t have to be able to write code to get it. It doesn’t need to be that complicated.

And how does that attitude manifest itself? 

Well, we like to think that we make tools that help our clients embrace the brand in a digital world. Tools that make people’s daily lives more interesting. Or help them do things better. Take American Family Insurance’s online auto insurance quoting tool. It was a brutally long and mind-numbing process. There was no way to save the form and come back to it. Halfway through, you found out you needed your car’s VIN number. By the time you went to the car and back to get it, the browser had timed out and you had to start over. Our analytics showed where the drop-off points were, which we fixed, and we did some prototyping with online user groups. The new tool was exponentially easier to use, boosting American Family Insurance's annual online purchases from 8 percent to 38-42 percent.

How do you see Prophet standing out in a crowded field as it continues to expand its digital presence and fluency?

You know, the iPod was not born from a digital seed. It was born from someone saying, “What if?” and then did what it took to navigate the idea into a reality. We will continue to stand out by helping to bring the big “what if” ideas to life by bringing clients into the fold and collaborating with them, just as we do with each other. By being a valued partner and dependable voice in an unpredictable, chaotic environment. By not just saying we’re experts at what we do, but by walking the talk with our work. 

Tell us about some of projects that have allowed you to stretch and walk that talk.

We helped Coinstar, owner of Redbox, reinvent the photo booth with Star Studio. The real-time, interactive studio lets people use backdrops like “world tour” or “rock band” and “edit” the shots. We wrote all the software and developed the concept from the technology and creative to the hardware, helping create an experience that works almost like a ride within the booth. It’s rented for weddings and other events and has really taken off. Coinstar has nine in Los Angeles and is currently expanding its market.

We worked closely with the Electronic Arts’ Tiburon office in designing the visual presentation layer for the Madden 13 release, which speaks to our strengths and skillset in digital design. There are all sorts of nuances that you have to be aware of, and specialized skills developed to design in the digital ecosphere. We brought those into play for the Madden game, leading the concepting and visualization of the interface, look and feel of the menu system, and rethinking how to navigate within the game. It’s uncommon for customers to review video games from a branding or design perspective, but there were reviews for Madden 13 that specifically called out the improved presentation.

How do you describe the culture that’s characterized your environment and work, and how do you see that fitting with Prophet?

We are scrappy, resourceful, motivated, talented, potent, and nimble. We all love what we’re doing, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously and hope to retain our quirky, edgy way of looking at things. That’s helped us be successful. While Prophet may have a different sensibility about certain things, at the core, it’s all about how we both think about people – our own and our clients. We’re in 100 percent lockstep there.

An inspiration-driven approach to innovation

Few will argue the role the ideation session plays in the innovation process. Yet, thinking more broadly about the role that inspiration might play throughout the innovation process can lead to a fundamental change in how the process looks and, equally as important, feels.

Partner Phyllis Rothschild tells how Prophet’s inspiration-driven approach to innovation comes to life through our five-step Aspire to Realize process. Read the full article here.

Recommended Reading 

Brand Archetype Models: A Guide to Positioning Strategy
By Michael Dunn and Joseph Gelman

Finding That "Moment of Truth" 
By Maria Tazi

A Tough Market Brews in the Coffee Category
By Joerg Niessing and Philippe Knupp

In the News

Achim Wirtz joins Prophet as a Partner in Zurich.

Jill Orum heads Prophet's Insights Team out of Chicago.

Scott Drummond joins Prophet as a Partner in San Francisco

Spotlight on Speaking

Society for Marketing Professionals: THE Marketing Event 2012
November 9 - New York City, NY
Prophet Creative Director Peter Dixon will attend and present as part of the Leaders on Leadership panel. 

Conversation Society
November 15 — London, England
Prophet invites you to an evening of cocktails and conversation with members of our London office and BBC news presenter Ben Brown. For more information and to RSVP, please email kkelly@prophet.com


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