Using improvisation and comedy to unleash your company’s message and branding

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Advertising, business advice, free business advice, Hiring Consultants, Hiring Contractors, Marketing, Priorities

When Hewlett-Packard was about to launch their Windows 10 line of notebook and desktop computers they were scared. Not because they were worried about competition or the quality of their devices but, because of the horrible reaction to their prior line of computers due to Microsoft’s shockingly bad Windows 8 software. In order to create the right marketing message for their new line of computers they knew they needed serious help. This was no laughing matter. So, who did they turn to? A bunch of comedians.

HP turned to a San Francisco based creative agency called Funworks. Funworks brought in a team of comedians skilled at improvisation techniques to hold a “fun workshop” with HP’s top product managers. Founded by Paul Charney, a veteran creative agency executive and founder of the San Francisco comedy troupe Killing Lobsters, Paul and his team help companies express their issues and discover their most compelling messaging points by fostering an environment of open conversation based on improvisation techniques where ideas flow freely when everyone simply says “yes” and “and”.

In this episode of Bay Area Ventures I speak with Paul Charney and Funwork’s Creative Architect, Erica Fortescue about his company and their award winning commercials.


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We discuss the psychology of what makes a company and its products memorable and why humor is sometimes the best medicine, even when trying to convey a serious message. We learn what a fun workshop is and what takes place at one.

Paul talks about why he started Funworks and how it is different from other creative ad agencies. He talks about the challenges of moving from a practicing creative person and comedian to being the CEO of a team of other practitioners. What are the trade off and what are the rewards for being a leader.

Erica shares her knowledge on the neuropsychology of messaging and how humor can be used to convey a serious message while maintaining the prestige and authority of the company being represented in the creative message.

Of course we also hear Paul and Erica share their view on the Bay Area Way of business. In their practice they have dealt with startup to Fortune 50 enterprises in the Bay Area and across the US. In the Bay Area, in particular, they talk about how companies staffed by 20 to 30 “something” employees are sometimes more difficult to help because they just don’t understand their true identity as an organization. Often in these cases they are called in by the company’s Board of Directors to help figure it out and craft the right message and persona for the firm.

So, how did HP conquer their fear of whether or not Windows 10 would scuttle their latest offerings? By creating Circle of Trust. See it here: Funwork’s Windows 10 Launch Commercial for H-P

This episode was recorded on May 22, 2017 on Bay Area Ventures on SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School. For a list of upcoming and past guest information click on the Show link above.

Hiring Contractors – Part 1

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in COO, Hiring Consultants, Hiring Contractors, HR

Independent Contractors or Independent Consultants are people who do work for your company who are not employees, corporations or LLCs. Hiring independent contractors is attractive to startups because it allows them to quickly bring on talent without the headache of setting up payroll and benefits. Independent contractors also make it easy to bring people onboard for as long or as little as needed without worrying about employment laws that apply to hiring and discharging of regular employees. Without the added expense of benefits, matching FICA payments, and perhaps even office space and equipment, independent contractors can offer real savings and cash flow benefits to a startup organization.

But there are some legal pitfalls to hiring independent contractors that most startups (and many established companies for that matter) don’t understand. This post is the first of a three part series that helps to explain some of those potential pitfalls, so that you can make an informed decision before hiring an independent contractor. Read more…