November 27, 2023

The Taylor Swift Effect

It’s difficult to come across news articles these days that don’t mention Taylor Swift in some record-breaking way. Whether it’s multiple tracks of her album dominating the Billboard 100s, concerts selling out shows – breaking Ticketmaster to the point of policy change and entirely shifting/boosting the American economy – concert movies breaking theater records in an era where the movie theater industry has been struggling to fill seats, or her dating life with football star Travis Kelce revitalizing interest in the NFL for a new demographic, Taylor Swift has become somewhat mythic in the pantheon of American idols. The simple authenticity that permeates her songs about crushes, love, and imagination have remained resonate across ages, and it’s come to the point where Taylor Swift’s presence has developed into an homage to girlhood, to Americana-core, and to the sort of long-standing powerful nostalgia that is difficult to find in an era where trends come and go faster than water.

It's difficult to know what an ordinary individual can learn from this level of superstardom. We as consumers can only marvel as spectators, enjoy her music or her shows, or simply nod passively in acknowledgement at the name if we’ve never really resonated with her material.

But what I think is interesting about the Taylor Swift Effect is that it brings to attention the power that loving a thing can not only have on an individual, but on an entire community.

America is in a period of deconstruction. Deconstruction of once long held American values, of religion, of identity, of politics, of media, of society, and the list goes on. The tentpoles of what used to easily hold our American ideologies together under a neat bow come into question daily as the world undergoes intense changes and diverse challenges. Changes and challenges that are now more visible and accessible than ever with social media and the internet. And while change is not only necessary but inevitable, one disheartening side effect of it becoming such a spectacle is the loss of belief.

The loss of belief is the loss of easily loving a thing for not only what it means to you but what it means to a collective. It’s the loss of being in awe of a symbol, and for being in awe in general. It’s a moving experience that can reorient a person in the direction of purpose and motivation and joy. But it’s also a simple experience, unencumbered with the complexity and nuance we often ask of our leaders, our teachers, and ourselves especially as media bombards us with a million new views. So, to choose into the experience of simple joys especially in an age where everything is visible, we must find ourselves indulging all the way, incautiously, wholly, and deeply into things that bring us together.

Something important to remember when it comes to the work we do, no matter the industry we’re in, the role we have, the person we are, is to enjoy and pay attention to things that cause this kind of unity and excitement. Even if you don’t listen to her music, it’s hard to ignore her impact. And maybe you don’t even like Taylor Swift, her personality, or her music. Because again, so many others do.

So, to find the Taylor Swift effect in our ordinary lives is to be excited about the shows everyone is watching at the office, to talk about the commercial at the Superbowl everyone remembered, the meme circulating social media, the trend we decided to participate in, the client everyone loved, or even the day at work where everyone was on the same wavelength. To find the Taylor Swift effect is to find anything that collectively revitalized our beliefs in what it means to find lively meaning, together. Even if on a much smaller scale.

When we all do this, we not only revitalize our personal economies, communities, and experiences, but we also allow significance to re-enter the daily grind. Maybe not at Ticketmaster-breaking-box-office-smashing levels. But levels, nonetheless. Deeply personal levels that make you remember what you like about your job, the people in your life, or the little rituals of your day.

When we do this, we allow ourselves to be excited by the value of it all, to celebrate that we don’t only exist in vacuums of lonely existential consciousness but exist among other people whose experiences are just as actual as ours. We allow ourselves to be a fan in the back row of a Taylor Swift concert, screaming about the agony of an unrequited crush at the top of our lungs among a sold-out show of tens of thousands, in total admiration that everyone out there is fully present.

Just like us.



August 29, 2023

MarTech Stack Fundamentals

A well-built MarTech stack that works together cohesively, will allow your organization to amplify its marketing efforts and achieve measurable results, while fostering collaboration, drive efficiency, and enhance the customer experience.

Building Your MarTech Stack:

  1. Identify Your Goals: Start the process by identifying your marketing goals and objectives. This will guide your selection of tools and ensure they align with your overall strategy.
  2. Core Tools: Your toolkit should include a customer relationship management (CRM) system, marketing automation platform, content management system (CMS), and analytics tools. These tools will allow you to manage your customer data, automate marketing processes, and measure performance.
  3. Specialized Tools: Your business’ needs might call for specialized technologies. These could include email marketing software, social media management platforms, search engine optimization (SEO) tools, advertising platforms, and more. These critical tools will enhance your stack's capabilities and allow you to target different channels and tactics.
  4. Integration: Ensure that your tools can communicate and share data with one another seamlessly. Integration eliminates data silos, provides a holistic view of your marketing efforts, and enables efficient collaboration across teams.
  5. Scalability and Flexibility: Your MarTech stack should be scalable and adaptable to your evolving needs. As your business grows, you might need to add or replace tools within your stack. Choose tools that offer scalability and flexibility, enabling you to adjust and optimize your stack as required.

By carefully selecting and integrating the right tools, you can unlock new levels of effectiveness and creativity in your marketing efforts.


August 10, 2023

The Remix Revolution

In the era of digital media and social networking, Gen Z is harnessing their collective creativity and technological prowess to reshape the way we engage with advertising content. The power of YouTube and TikTok has provided a sandbox platform for “the kids”, as I call them, to embrace and remix video advertising songs, creating a vibrant subculture of creative expression and unexpected content, of which advertisers have almost zero control over. The latter can be downright absurd, and sometimes even scary. (More on that later.)

But it’s not just the latest pop or rap song subject to a digital hacksaw, advertisement songs (aka jingles) and videos are transformed into something entirely new and unexpected. This process provides a sense of empowerment to the consumer. By engaging with advertising content in this way, they actively participate in shaping popular culture rather than passively consuming it. These creations have the potential to go viral, reaching millions of viewers worldwide. This virality creates a ripple effect, sparking conversations, trends, and cultural references that become a part of popular culture.

But first, a brief history:

The origin of advertising jingles can be traced back to the 1850s when businesses started using catchy tunes to promote their products. The 1920s to 1950s marked the golden age of advertising jingles with the rise of commercial radio. As television became popular in the 1950s and '60s, jingles found a new medium to reach a larger audience. Companies like Coca-Cola, Oscar Mayer, and McDonald's are among those that used jingles to create lasting brand awareness. Catchy little tunes became an integral part of commercials, embedding brand messages into the minds of viewers on a national scale.

After a slight decline on the late 90s / early 2000s, jingles are back in a big way. In the digital age, jingles have found a new life through online platforms and social media. Short, catchy sounds are used in digital campaigns (sometimes just a few seconds), and brands intentionally create viral shorts (or try desperately) to gain widespread attention.

Which bring us to power tools, and a cat.

Created way back in 2021 (an eternity for web culture), the Cat Vibing to the Home Depot Theme Song is an origin story of sorts, to an unexpected new genre. (The vibing cat itself originated in yet another video but I digress…)

It has all the critical elements of a smash viral hit:

  1. A cat (Cats in internet memes are a tale as old as time.)
  2. A cheesy corporate jingle
  3. Comedy

The video itself is hilarious. The cat’s head bobbing to the beat juxtaposed with images of construction workers and power tools makes me laugh every time, and yes, I have watched it many times over. It’s absurd.

It’s popularity among Gen Z is something a corporate marketing campaign could never achieve intentionally. (Go ahead and try Home Depot, prove me wrong!)

First of all, the video is uploaded with a straight-to-the-point tagline of “F*ck Lowes. All my homies use Home Depot.” If I was the VP of Marketing at Home Depot, I would have that quote framed and hanging in my office. I might even pitch it as the new official tagline and get fired.

But in all seriousness, here’s the magic within. Comments for this creation include:

Not going to lie, the Home Depot song is actually pretty good.”

“Why did it take me 21 years of living before realizing this song SLAPS”

And THIS gem:

“I want this to be an official ad on tv.”

Can you imagine this running as an actual ad? It would be amazing. But you can’t. The UGC aspect is the key to success.

But not to worry Home Depot, as of today the video has amassed well over 4M views. (The average video on the Home Depot official YouTube channel has about 10k views.) Clearly this is resonating.

Does Home Depot have a clue? Do they know this even exists? That nugget of information is not known to me, but it’s still here at 2 years after upload, and that is the right course of action. Leave it alone. Don’t stop the fun. The last thing you want as a brand is a negative reaction viral sensation.

The trend of remixing video advertising songs and videos is revolutionizing the advertising industry itself. Smart brands recognize the value of engaging with young audiences through this user-generated content. Some brands actively encourage users to create their own remixes and share them online, further blurring the lines between traditional advertising and user-driven content.

A Purple Monster is on a Murderous Rampage

An example of a massively viral campaign gone completely off the rails is the McDonald’s celebration of the goofy purple-blob mascot Grimace and the return of the limited-time offer, purple “Grimace Shake”.

Photo: McDonald's

In the "Grimace Shake" TikTok trend, users have created mini horror movies mocking the effects of drinking the mysterious concoction.

That’s right.

Horror movies.

I can just imagine the boardroom meeting at McDonald’s.

“What’s the status report?”

“Good news boss! Our Grimace Shake is going viral on TikTok!”

“That’s amazing. Tell me more.”

“Well, what’s trending is… kids drink the shake!”


“And then… well, this is awkward.”

“Yes, go ahead. Out with it.”

“After they drink the shake, they… ummmm… convulse and die.”

“WHAAAAAAAT?” *Boss spits coffee all over shiny conference room desk*


So, what is really going on here? Thousands of examples on the social media platform show users in a creepy scene after trying out the mysterious beverage (which is meant to celebrate Grimace’s birthday). Shortly after taking a sip of the special shake, the video cuts to the creators mimicking horror movie-style death scenes. The purple liquid can be found dribbling out of their mouths, splattered like blood all over the floor, and even oozing from their nostrils. It’s all very nasty.

I can't imagine McDonald's could have ever pictured the Grimace shake going viral quite like this.

@ruiz_alv04 via TikTok / @McDonalds via Twitter

It would have been very understandable for McDonald’s to try to put a stop to this trend immediately. Videos of customers literally going crazy and dying from consuming your product? A nightmare!

Or is it?

As a brand, what would you do?

McDonald’s did the right thing.


They sat back and watched.

With a wink and nod from Grimace himself, McDonald’s gave a sly seal of approval essentially saying, “We get it. We’re not going to interfere with this. Go forth and create you crazy rascals! Oh, and btw, please keep eating at McDonald’s!”

Full disclosure - my young son, who typically does not eat at McDonald’s, bought the shake (along with a giant burger meal) immediately when this was all happening.

McDonald’s understood that Gen Z has a particularly wacky sense of humor, and this trend was high praise. Taking an innocent mascot like Grimace and mixing it with a Stranger Things vibe is just… so Gen Z. It’s weird. It’s retro. It’s parody. And even though it’s dark and creepy, it’s playful. It’s the ultimate mashup.

The trend absolutely blew up online with videos containing the hashtag #grimaceshake amassing over 3 billion views.


With a B.

McDonald’s provided the tools - A stylized online campaign featuring a nostalgic retro character, and a weird purple shake. The creative audience provided the content. It’s very hard to intentionally plan something like this. Can you imagine a meeting where a marketing agency pitched this very idea, and promised McDonalds a billion engagements? You’d get kicked out of the room. Even when brands pay big bucks to influencers, the content often seems forced, fake. Gen Z in has a keen bs meter. When marketing content blows up organically and is a genuine positive experience, it’s the best-case scenario a brand can ever dream of.

As an “old man” Gen X’er myself, I hate to admit it but, through their imaginative reinterpretations, Gen Z has not only contributed to popular culture but also transformed the advertising industry itself. As this trend continues to evolve, it presents exciting opportunities for brands to connect with their target audience in new and authentic ways, harnessing the power of user-generated content. But as you can see, proceed with caution.

The “kids today” are indeed leading a revolution, where the remix becomes an art form and advertising becomes a source of inspiration and creative collaboration.

Now please excuse me, I gotta go... I’m suddenly in the mood for McDonald’s.

Photo: McDonald's



May 31, 2023

Design Isn’t Just Aesthetics

Something unique about working for a marketing agency is that all forms of creativity must be tethered to an objective. Here, art isn’t just expression – it’s precise strategy.

As an artist, at the very least your baseline knowledge of design, color, typography, composition, geometry, white space, aesthetics, trending styles, etc. needs to be top of class. That knowledge is why you’re getting hired. However, good design is only the foundation. You are more than just an artist. You are a marketer, a thinker, a strategist.

Aside from aesthetics, here are a few principles I employ when designing a brand:

Be Memorable

  • Solid brand identity achieves recognizability at “first glance.” Many times, brands have limited time, real estate, and budgets to pull off making a name for themselves. Every second counts. This means designs must combine elegant simplicity with complex messaging into a single punchy product. From colors, to the form, to resonating visual themes, designs must stand out. And stand out well.

Think Like a Consumer

  • As an artist it may be natural to think about designs from a solely aesthetic perspective. But designers also need to think about how a consumer may be interacting, interpreting, or remembering these designs. Consumers don’t always have an artistic eye. So, if your design is too abstract without being clear in its messaging, or is hard to read, or doesn’t resonate with the target audience, the designer may need to rethink “how can I help my audience appreciate what they’re seeing?” It may mean adjusting, simplifying, or clarifying your vision.

Achieve Multiple Goals

  • Good design should be able to juggle multiple things at once with precision. Is your brand identity elegant? Representing the industry well? Standing out against the industry well? Achieving the tone and goals of the client? Easy for other designers to utilize? Good design balances all without blinking an eye.

Designing a brand isn’t only about creativity. It’s about understanding some of the most abstract parts of the human experience and then turning them into concrete products. Good designs are beautiful. But the best designs achieve goals.

April 13, 2023

3 Reasons to Add a Small Agency to Your Short List

Businesses of all sizes can find the perfect fit in a small agency partner. Whether you’re a small to mid-sized business that needs a website redesign or a large business with a specialty project your AOR isn’t the right fit for, a small agency deserves the chance to compete for the work.  

Here are three reasons you should add a small agency to your agency short list: 

We are lean (for real)

Have you ever been in a meeting with an agency, and there is one (or more) person staring into their laptops or phones not saying a word? Here is a fun game: think about how much you are paying for that person to work on something that is not your business. It is a bummer.  

At King Fish, we are all thinkers, doers, and collaborators and contribute significantly to our projects. If we are at the table, we bring value. We do not do hierarchy. We accomplish more with less. That means your budget, time, energy, and resources go much, much further with us than with an agency with a deep roster.  

Our network is your competitive advantage

Small agencies might have a handful of full-time employees, but they can tap into a wide network of talented contractors and experienced subject matter experts to build a customized project team for each client when needed. Big agencies staff excellent creative talent, but they often lack the subject matter expertise that is critical for marketing to B2B consumers or doing the deep-thinking work required of regulatory clients in the finance, healthcare, and technology industries.  

At KingFish, we utilize our network to staff projects with the copywriters, user experience designers, and developers most qualified to deliver the best possible work for you. They are masters of their skill and understand (and often live) your business. It is a winning combination.  

We are in it for the work, not the perks

Big agencies can have their big-city surroundings, kegs, pool tables, video games, snack drawers, and open bar black-tie holiday parties. Sure, we enjoy our deck beers and concert outings — but what encourages us to come to work every morning is the impact we have on our clients’ businesses. That’s the true reward, and it shines through in how we collaborate with each other and our clients. You’ll feel the difference. 

Speaking of the work, check out our case studies for a look inside some of our favorite projects and keep us in mind the next time you are in the market for an agency. 

April 10, 2023

The Creative Process: Start With Discovery

Marketing is one of the most cluttered industries in the working world. There are thousands of companies calling on agencies every day to help sell their products and services through effective deliverables and measurable results. Over the years, KingFish has carefully crafted a five-step approach that yield just that: 

1.     Discover

2.     Strategize

3.     Create

4.     Launch

5.     Measure


One core element to the KingFish process is the first, also known as the discovery phase. It’s the foundation of our entire approach and is the point we uncover the insights that drive a company, its mission, and its marketing objectives. Along the way, this exchange often identifies holes a client did not know they had in their business and marketing strategies.  

Passion drives inspiration

When you ask someone what they love about their role, their eyes light up inevitably. There is a reason behind why people do what they do, and we see this passion come alive during the discovery phase. We see this excitement from our clients during our early conversations that shape the concepts and content that will be created throughout their campaign. Our clients’ passion sparks our inspiration. 


Knowledge fuels creativity

When we speak with clients, we want to know what makes them tick. What colors motivate them? What words would they use to describe their employees? Our creativity is fueled by each nuance of their business. 


There’s strength in diverse perspectives

A client’s perspective and knowledge of their company runs deep. When paired with our marketing expertise and unique insights — we can shine a new light on workable solutions to each marketing challenge. 

What is the bottom line? When you take the time to understand the passion that drives individuals and businesses, your purpose, and direction becomes that much clearer. 

March 21, 2023

Top 16 Reasons to Work at a Small Agency

King Fish launched in 2001. Intentionally, the goal was to stay small and manageable – for the sake of clients and employees. After 16 years, it’s clear we were correct to build a marketing agency that met the criteria we set for ourselves. From within, our team believes there are key advantages to working at firms of our size. Here’s why.

March 9, 2023

Marketing Requires End-Goal Focused Metrics

You’re confident that all the elements of your marketing campaign are aligned: the target audience, the branded message, a compelling offer, the engaging creative, and the right multi-channel outreach plan.  Now that the campaign is in market, you are waiting anxiously for the weekly reports on measurement to understand how effective it is in driving results. But are you looking at the right metrics?  And, more importantly, how are you using that information?

Getting to the heart of the campaign, marketers need to identify key metrics that lead to the quantitative and qualitative assessment of campaign effectiveness. Is my campaign working, and what can we learn to make improvements now and in future campaigns? What’s not working, and how can we validate and shift dollars accordingly? Bottom-line results are critical from an ROI perspective, but longer-term learning and insight gathering will make the marketing organization smarter, more agile, and effective in the long run, campaign after campaign.  

Tracking 20+ metrics may make for a robust measurement plan—but does each metric lead to valued learning and more informed decision-making that will support achievement of the end goal, be it sales, leads, referrals, or softer endpoints like awareness and engagement? To ensure you get the most actionable data and insights from your campaign, develop your plan by working backward through the customer journey. Instead of starting with initial observation points, such as impressions, clicks, and pageviews—all of which are viable to prove that the campaign is live and drawing attention—start with the end goal.  

This “end-goal first” approach puts the hard metrics front and center and keeps decision-making focused on achievement of the real end goal that will impact your business. Other metrics are waypoints that, when interpreted correctly, can enable you to quickly fine-tune a campaign and optimize how and where the marketing dollars are spent in order to make a larger impact over time. Rather than celebrate 5 million impressions, 34 shares, or a surge in new unique visitors to a site, marketers should be asking how effectively those impressions, shares, and unique visits are empowering prospective customers or buyers to find value and solutions they need and desire based on the content presented. What are the most telling indications for this activity, and at what point can that data fuel a reasoned decision? Clear identification of actionable metrics, not just waypoints, will set the course for near- and long-term campaign learning and success, which is what really matters when seeking to drive ROI.

January 14, 2023

Can an Agency Save a Brand From Itself?

We’ve all seen organizations — regardless of their size — make huge mistakes. Whether it be a financial institution, sports organization, or local business — mistakes can be costly, and even more so if a strong communication strategy is not put in place immediately.  

It makes us wonder, how many of a company’s customers would remain loyal — following the mishap — if the company had simply told its customers the truth? 

We’ve been reflecting on an article from AdAge by global brand strategist and self-professed contrarian Jonathan Salem Baskin. He states, “The real challenge isn't to find ways to avoid the truth or distract consumers from it (or shudder when it is revealed), but rather to creatively present it and make sure people understand it. 

This leads us to ask ourselves a more fundamental question: How can our agency help before the crisis? 

Can a marketing agency help save a brand from itself? Can we help establish a trusting relationship between a brand and its consumers? 

The answer is yes. Here’s how. 

Our clients hire us for our expertise. 

They know their product and targets. We know the other players in the market, their voice, and their perceived competitive advantage. 

Our job is to identify then leverage fresh opportunities for education, for nurturing our clients, and exploiting where the competition has no true advantage. That does not mean calling out competitor’s weaknesses but rather using market expertise to expose new benefits. 

It is our responsibility to establish a unique voice that is authentic to the client. Authentic is not a buzzword. Consumers demand it. We need to deliver. 

We need to creatively use examples, case studies, testimonials--something no customer of Equifax or Wells Fargo could ever give today--to build confidence for our client’s brands.  

A great customer experience is at the core of every brand’s mission or should be. If the client says it, make sure they mean it. 

Most importantly, we’ve got to listen. Listen carefully and call out BS when we hear it — and encourage brands to do the same. Agency relationships with our clients need to be exactly what we advise and encourage the client to have with their customers — open, honest, and trusting. 

February 25, 2022

Branding & Marketing: The Elton John Method

If you haven’t already seen “Rocketman” directed by Dexter Fletcher — add it to your must-see movie list. In addition to being an ode to Elton John’s breakthrough years, the film also doubles as a 300-level course in marketing strategy. 

Concerts, records, and visibility are the business side of the story. The music, personality, and showmanship are what sells the Elton John brand. It’s the perfect balance of the disciplines that marketers must master to succeed. 

We Take Lead as Marketing Strategy Innovators 

Marketers spend their lives with open eyes and open minds. Observing, studying, and seeking new opportunities are what make up the business side of our story. We’re not quick to jump on new, shiny objects simply because they have buzz. We explore the opportunity and rely on experience when we evaluate tactics that will best serve a brand story and marketing strategy. 

The efficacy of the tactics we implement to deliver the highest revenue return is nearly always the bellwether by which we are measured. As a result, we grab the mic and create a marketing strategy not by shine-factor, but by its ability to drive brand interest and ultimately, transactions. 

Our Design Articulates Our Strategy  

The other half of a strong marketing strategy is creative. Brand architecture matters. Voice and words are critical. But visual treatments? Those tie marketing programs together. The process of creating smart designs is founded in business objectives, which provides the spark. Talented designers and art directors nurture that spark until a creative inferno takes over, resulting in new ideas that set brands apart from their competitors. When you see an idea that clicks, you know it’s right on the money. 


Some of the best lessons come from rock-and-roll. 

“Rocketman” teaches us not to lose focus. Eliminate the noise that dilutes smart thinking and great design. You’ll find that you achieve the most value when experienced talent is driving your brand. 

Full service.
20 years and running.

We’re always down to put heads together. Reach out to kick off a new partnership.