Grow is turning 15! As we prepare to celebrate our anniversary this month, we’re reflecting on how our time spent working at Grow has shaped us. Although each of us came through a different path, we’ve all loved being part of a truly nurturing, team-focused culture that has taught us so much.
No goal is unachievable with the support of a great team. – Jen
Leading from a place of integrity, transparency and authenticity is always the right approach. – Laura
Every person, no matter your role, has a voice and is an integral part of this team. – Taryn
Nothing is unsolvable—there’s a way, you just haven’t thought of it yet. Best of all, you don’t have to come up with it alone. – Tami
There is no such thing as a bad question! Sometimes I find the answer just by saying it out loud. – Emily
Always do your absolute best, and allow yourself to be inspired by those who work alongside you. – Sarah C.
Failing at something (especially spectacularly) is the best way to grow as a person and truly appreciate the next time you succeed. – Sarah L.
Don’t be afraid to speak up—your voice has value and you might inspire others to speak their minds too. – Ali
Nobody is too busy—it’s just a matter of priorities. – Beth
Push yourself because no one is going to do it for you. – Chelsey
Don’t be afraid to look at something from a different angle because you just might find a better solution. – Abbie
It is important to be flexible and open…while unexpected shifts can feel overwhelming, they typically move things in a positive direction. – Anna
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Use what is available, adjust to new conditions and you will succeed. – Shari
Always make space for creativity—whether getting outside or trying out a new activity—you never know what new ideas of inspiration will come your way. – Neel
At the end of the day, it’s all about attitude and perspective. We get to choose how to approach situations and with positivity and pragmatism, all things are possible. – Kara
Our program managers, ready to ruffle some feathers around the office.
Employees are an often untapped audience who, with the right engagement, can become a powerful force to spread brand messages and create positive change. Within our own four walls we recently experienced the impact of a simple, clever engagement to shift our habits around energy usage.
Grow is a participant in Step Up and Power Down, a partnership between PG&E and the cities of San Francisco and San Jose leveraging behavior science to help businesses reduce energy waste. For four weeks, our office was invaded by a duo of giant rubber chickens as part of the Power Down: Unplucked! campaign to encourage coworkers to unPLUCK their devices when away from their workstations and at the end of the day. Team members who forgot to unplug would return from lunch to find a squeaky rubber chicken on their desk, placed by a coworker as a helpful, playful reminder. To test out the behavior change campaign firsthand, Grow dove headfirst (beakfirst?) and here’s what we learned.
Step outside your comfort zone.
At first blush, encouraging employees to divide into teams and plant rubber chickens on a coworker’s desk to remind them to power down their devices seems like something out of a late-night comedy sketch. But in reality, the fun, quirky program gave employees a break from their routines and spiraled into an all-office activity, with cries of “Oh no, I got chicken-ed!” comically breaking up the workday. Everyone was keenly aware that it was also in service of the larger goal of reducing energy waste in our city, which kept the momentum – fun with a purpose.
Our winning team who won a fried chicken lunch!
Let’s get personal.
Based on employee engagement research, team members want to be invested in their company and interact with their coworkers. Power Down: Unplucked! offered just the right amount of playful competition to engage employees, keep teams motivated and build brand advocacy from the inside out. Each team found their own ways to engage in the competition, from the hawks who kept an eye out for a plugged-in idle laptop to the conservationists who snapped off their power strips every single time before heading out to lunch. Engaging employees at every level helped them feel connected to the greater whole, resulting in enthusiastic evangelists, ready to share their experiences with their networks.
Keep the momentum going.
Although we officially completed our internal campaign a week ago, the good habits seem to be sticking! From employees remembering to turn off their power strips to pod leaders affixing “power down!” reminder post-its throughout the workspace, so far, Power Down: Unplucked! has had a continued impact on our team’s behavior while also fostering connections between teams. We’re so excited to see how small businesses across the Bay Area engage with the Step Up and Power Down campaign to save energy and boost company morale at the same time.
P.S. Although our original two chickens are being donated to an animal shelter, Doug the Frenchie had his very own chance to help out with the campaign before it wrapped. Check out our epic video here (and turn up the volume!) to see what we mean.
Outside Lands may have ended on Sunday, but we’re still reliving all the awesome fun of this year’s festival. We could spend all day rehashing the excitement, but if we had to pick only a few highlights…
Photos via Instagram
It was authentically SF.
From stilt-walking artists to psychedelic interactive art displays, San Francisco’s creative (and wacky) spirit was out in full force during the festival. The food options were a cross-section of Bay Area favorites, from Azalina’s curry chicken nachos to Rich Table’s porcini doughnuts with raclette cheese to vegan ramen from Itani Ramen.
Left: Interactive art display by TooFar Media; top right: Tito’s camper lounge; bottom right: Steamer Trunk Bar presented by Hendrick’s
Buzzworthy libations were flowing.
Outside Lands was blessedly free of watered-down beer or sketchy margaritas—instead, guests visited a full-scale beer garden with craft brews from all over California, not to mention Wine Lands, with pours from over 40 local wineries, including Claypool Cellars (yep, that’s Les Claypool’s label). Those looking for something higher-proof sought out Cocktail Magic, tucked away into the forest and offering options both shaken and stirred.
And as if that wasn’t enough of a variety, several brands elevated the experience for festival-goers with themed spaces, such as Hendrick’s classic steampunk-inspired gin joint and Tito’s laidback camper lounge.
Top left: Castland by Google Chromecast; top right: YouTube Creator, Arden Rose, receiving face jewels at The Get Cast-Ready Station; bottom left: guests inside the Castland experience; bottom right: GIFs Cast to the stage screens
Brands brought their A-game.
Castland by Google Chromecast drew crowds with hands-on demos with Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, a sensory-packed GIF experience with some guest GIFs Cast directly to the big stage screens for their moment of fame, a face jewel and temporary tattoo bar and special appearances by Outside Lands favorites, The Knocks and Major Lazer, in addition to YouTube Creators, Jenn Im and Arden Rose.
Top left: Stubhub Sound Stage; top right: The House by Heineken; bottom left and right: The Arcade by PayPal
Along with offering hair chalking and flower crowns, the Stubhub Sound Stage was a “festival within a festival,” hosting surprise mini sets by bands like Haelos, Rogue Wave and Fantastic Negrito. Another favorite was The House by Heineken, which kept us on our toes with pop-up shows, namely the Bay Area’s very own E40. The Arcade by PayPal provided guests with the opportunity to play old school arcade games for prizes, bringing them back to their childhoods, while their heated patio was a perfect way to escape the cold and still enjoy the music.
Photos via Instagram
The beat goes on.
Although the food and drink is always a draw, the music was truly the hero of the weekend. Major Lazer killed it with an experiential performance, while LCD Soundsystem was an enormous dance party. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem delighted the millennial crowd with a slightly raunchy, grown-up version of Sesame Street, featuring a motley crew of puppets jamming out covers of songs by the Beatles, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Band and The Mowgli’s.
Peaches got up close and personal with her fans in a spontaneous crowd-surfing moment, while Zedd and Radiohead infused dynamic light shows into their sets, illuminating the park and enhancing the overall festival experience. Lettuce had the most talented drummer we saw all weekend, and wowed the crowd with a few awesome solos. Whatever you jam out to, you could find it at Outside Lands.
Posing with Diplo during Major Lazer’s special appearance at Castland
Here’s to another outstanding year of our favorite festival––we’re already counting down the days until next year!
Once every year, the top leaders of experiential marketing gather at the Experiential Marketing Summit to identify emerging trends, share insider best practices and review award-winning work from the industries biggest brands. After three action-packed days, guests come away inspired with new ways to better connect with their consumers.
Read on for seven of the most intriguing, surprising and downright inspirational quotes we heard at EMS 2016.
1. Everything is an event; everything done well is an experience. – Peter McGuinness, CMO, Chobani
Your story isn’t just what you tell people—your actions, over time, are what truly craft your identity. Regardless of the opportunity size, every brand experience is a vehicle to tell your brand story in a premium way. Whether it’s a B2B trade show, internal cultural event or a consumer pop-up, impactful engagement marketing delivers the brand message consistently across every touch point in unexpected, yet intentional ways.
2. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Period. – Adam Hartner, VP of Consumer Engagement, Pepsi
Just like a healthy relationship, culture is something that needs to be nurtured and maintained over time. Grow knows that emerging and heritage brands alike need to stay relevant by being on the forefront of trends and evolving with the times. However, the best brands evolve while staying true to their core ideals, values and beliefs.
3. I saw how experiential engagements can really make a brand connection. More than you could ever do just on social, more than you could do in advertising communications…We came [to the Super Bowl] not to make noise, but to make connections, and we did both. – Mark Viden, VP of Brand Marketing, Dignity Health
It’s impossible to overstate the value of the live experience. Human beings are primarily emotional creatures, and once an emotional bond with a brand is formed, the outward ripples are endless. When a brand provides an opportunity for an audience to make a genuine, emotional connection, it amplifies its brand message, boosts consumer engagement and creates authentic advocates for life.
4. Agency partners are king. – Adam Hartner, VP of Consumer Engagement, Pepsi
We couldn’t agree more. When it comes to agency partners, the whole is more than the sum of its parts—in other words, 1+1 = 3. Sitting at the table together with strong, like-minded partners empowers us to push boundaries and build stronger, healthier brands through live experiences. Throughout EMS, brands lauded agency partners as the secret sauce behind their best activations. Partnerships based on trust increase accountability and maximize budget impact, resulting in a successful experience.
5. A short-term engagement will fall short of the mark. Think of your event as a stepping stone to the next connection point in the consumer journey. – Kai Witbeck, Event Marketing Manager, LEGO
The conventional, linear consumer journey traditionally used to manage brand engagement no longer holds. Instead, it’s a continuous ecosystem, and it’s essential to think through how to maximize a consumer’s experience at every touch point of their journey with you. Instead of a tightly-controlled, one-dimensional peek into a brand’s image, brands that are authentic and porous inspire consumers through a multifaceted, reciprocal relationship and allows them to drive the conversation.
6. Respect the influencer, or fear the output. – Enuri Acosta, Lifestyle Communications Manager, Cadillac
If you focus on engaging authentically and truly connecting with an influencer at their level, they’ll feel genuinely inspired to share through their own channels, resulting in an organic, powerful brand advocate. In the past, we’ve invited influencers to engage in one-of-a-kind experiences that cater to their own unique talents, passions and interests. By learning how to speak to them and finding out what they really need, brands can inspire participation that feels organic, deeply personal and authentically memorable.
7. Start with what you want people to leave with. If you can marry that with the intent of your business goals, your path will be set. – Stacy Lambatos, Senior Director of Global Event Marketing & Strategy, AOL
You have to start at the end to determine how you want to begin. The first thing we ask our clients during a kickoff is “what does success look like?” Once we know the end goal, our priorities fall in line. Are we driving overall brand awareness? Building advocacy? Or is it all about ROI? Not all priorities can sit side by side, so identifying a clear end game gives clarity when making choices.
Fresh from our travels to Austin, the brand activations that had us buzzing were the ones that were all about us. Rather than deliver the same experience to many, these brands found ways to deliver their messages in a manner that was also profoundly personal.
Gatorade Fuel Lab
At the Gatorade Fuel Lab, we were taken on a progressive journey that ended in a sleek locker room, where we experienced a new product that has yet to hit the shelves and received custom water bottles we had created via an interactive touch screen from our own “personal” lockers.
Budweiser Beer Garage
The highlight of the Budweiser Beer Garage was a 4D Immersive Reality trip that transported guests to the iconic St. Louis Brewery – from smelling the hops to touching the wood chips to feeling the brisk chill of the freezer. An app to ship a Budweiser fridge directly to your home closed the loop in a clever way.
IBM Cognitive Studio
Starting with your custom drink waiting at the Cognitive Cocktail Bar to riding a stationary VR bike to controlling robots with your brain, IBM expanded the ways we use our minds (and robots!).
Refinery29 School of Self Expression
Refinery29’s School Of Self Expression blended old and new school elements to take attendees on a journey of the self, including a thought-provoking classroom session that truly wowed us.
We’re still reeling from all the action of Super Bowl 50, which descended upon the Bay Area, bringing with it over 1.1 million people to Super Bowl City – a nine day showcase for the city of San Francisco.
The city-within-a-city was packed and the air was buzzing with pre-game excitement the entire week leading up to the Big Game. Since it was a mere 15 minute walk from our headquarters, we were lucky to visit and explore the experiential mecca, which featured all the top brands who brought their A-game to Super Bowl City.
Here are our top 3 take-aways:
Stand out from the crowd with thoughtful design: between large-scale light projections, vertical gardens and two-story shipping container structures, it was a marriage of brand-right presentations and intentional design that won over people’s hearts.
Have something for everyone: from die-hard football fanatics to families with kids of all ages, democratic engagements that appealed to the masses attracted the most attention and offered a memorable experience to everyone who visited.
Make it worth the wait: with over 1.1 million people throughout the course of the week, there were inevitably long lines. Experiences that were worth waiting for kept folks moving through the lines efficiently, letting them know what to expect inside.
Full disclosure: we are so proud and honored to have worked with Dignity Health in bringing their Hello humankindness campaign to Super Bowl City and helping them spread humankindness on a national stage. And, if we may, IT WAS FREAKING AMAZING!
Here’s to San Francisco hosting many more Super Bowls to come!
At Grow, we’re a team of creative dreamers. While our ideas often flow fast and furious, we’ve certainly been struck by the occasional creative dry spell. When these moments pop up, we don’t panic—inspiration is often (literally) just around the corner. While there’s no secret formula to becoming more creative, we’ve accumulated a toolbox of tips and tricks that help us find our groove. Read on for some of the Grow team’s most trusted ideas to break through your routine and find your own creative spark in the year ahead!
• 4 Simple Tricks to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing Again, Fast Company
• How To Keep Your Team Creatively Inspired, CMO by Adobe
• Creative Slumps: 5 Ways to Snap Out of It, Fortune
• Feeling Creatively Drained? Do This, Women 2.0
Get inspired in 2016 by incorporating one (or all!) of these tools to get back in touch with your creative side. As our friend Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.” Duly noted.
The Grow Team
Grow’s culture values giving back in many ways, whether it’s by gifting each team member one full day a year to volunteer their time for a cause of their choice or by supporting contributions to the Grow team’s favorite nonprofits on #GivingTuesday. We’re board members, hands-on volunteers, creative organizers and passionate advocates. From supporting the arts to combating poverty to fostering kittens, the causes are as varied as the members of our team. Collectively, we hope our efforts help to make our world a little bit better. Here’s just a handful of the ways we’ve gotten involved in 2015.
Writing by Writers: Tami is on the board for Writing by Writers, a nonprofit co-founded by Pam Houston, which produces workshops across the country that bring amazing teachers and students together to further develop the craft of writing. As an avid writer herself, providing opportunities for aspiring writers to pursue their art is near and dear to her heart.
Habitat for Humanity: Neel spent his volunteering day helping to build homes for underprivileged families in the Bay Area. Being from India and having seen firsthand the level of poverty and lack of shelters available to the less fortunate, he feels impassioned to give back in this way.
East Bay SPCA: The East Bay SPCA relies on people taking in cats and dogs to avoid illness in the shelter, socialize them before adoption, give them a break from shelter life or live comfortably at the end of life. Kelcy, a current foster parent for kittens, is thrilled that one was adopted last week!
ArtPoint: Growing up in San Francisco, Sarah had the privilege of visiting fine arts museums with her family. She joined the board of ArtPoint, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco’s young professionals’ organization, to help make art accessible to young people across the Bay Area.
World Vision: Alyssa, whose heritage is Armenian, wanted to keep one less child in Armenia from going hungry. She now sponsors a child through World Vision, an organization that empowers children and families to break the cycle of poverty.
Friends of Laguna Honda: As one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the United States, Laguna Honda provides critical services to seniors and adults with disabilities. Laura loves being on the board of an organization that does great work to enhance the lives of these often underserved San Franciscans.
UC Davis (We Are Aggie Pride): We are Aggie Pride is a student-run organization that raises money to provide emergency funding to students to help with rent, books and any other costs that are difficult to cover when trying to make it on their own. Nicole absolutely loved her college experience at UC Davis and wanted to give back to students who have to cope with the rising costs of a college education.
We’re looking forward to even more in 2016.
The Grow Team
We love to kick off the holiday countdown with our new favorite: Giving Tuesday (thanks social media for not being all selfie all the time)! It gives us all a chance to double down on contributions to nonprofits that are near and dear to our hearts with a matching donation on Grow. Although we could write a novel about all of the worthy causes we love to support, we wanted to highlight seven groups that we are especially excited to give to this year.
Best Friends Animal Society: For over 30 years, Best Friends has been committed to ending pet homelessness by running the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals and working with shelters nationwide to increase adoptions and reduce kill rates in animal shelters. Tami donates her time and resources to help Best Friends achieve their goal, most recently traveling to their amazing Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah to volunteer.
Heifer International: Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty while caring for the earth. Donations go toward placing farm animals with needy families (and make a great holiday gift in a loved one’s name!), providing long-term sources of nutrition and resources. Gabrey is donating to Heifer International because of their impactful work and for the sustainability behind their model.
East Bay SPCA and San Francisco SPCA: The entire Grow team has been touched by San Francisco SPCA. Several of our team became “foster parents” to a sweet kitten Patra (now happily adopted!), and Kelcy recently added two cuddly kittens to her family from the East Bay SPCA. Kelcy is donating to support their medical services, foster programs and a new “fospice” program to bring care and joy to animals in their twilight years.
GirlVentures: GirlVentures’ mission is to empower adolescent girls to develop and express their strengths through working with them during the transition from childhood to young adulthood. As the mother of an almost-ten-year-old girl, Cassie is a strong supporter of cultivating leadership skills in young women to help them reach their full potential, she loves GirlVentures’ strategy of drawing on every girl’s natural strengths.
Haight Ashbury Psychological Services (HAPS): HAPS is one of the very few remaining nonprofits that provides essential mental health services on a sliding scale to the Bay Area community. As a former psychotherapist and current board member at HAPS, Sarah donates her time and resources to ensure that counseling services are available to all who need them, regardless of their financial or life circumstances.
Charity: Water: Right now, 663 million people worldwide are living without clean water—that’s almost 10% of the world’s population. Charity: Water works to bring sustainable sources of clean water to those in need. As a child, Neel traveled to countries across the world where families don’t have access to clean water. Witnessing water insecurity firsthand was an eye-opening experience, and is why he’s donating to Charity: Water.
Produce to the People: Many San Francisco residents live without easy access to fresh, nutritious food. Produce to the People is dedicated to providing fresh food to SF residents via community gardens, food education and the creation of green jobs for youths. Ali became passionate about these issues while growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, living only 20 minutes from a food desert, where the jarring discrepancy between those with food security and those who relied on convenience stores for nutrition was apparent.
Meow there, my name is Patra (as in Cleopatra), and I’m just going to say it—my regal name becomes me. My glossy black coat and slim figure are a nod to my namesake, but I’m more than just a pretty face. My purr goes on forever, and I’m known as the best cuddler south of Union Street. I believe in honesty and direct communication—the only games I’m interested in involve chasing shiny toys around in circles. My ideal date would be stalking a fluffy pink ball followed by a Netflix and belly rub marathon.
One thing that’s hard for me to share is that life hasn’t always been easy for me. I didn’t have a family for the first few weeks of my life, which made it hard for me to come out of my shell. But after the San Francisco SPCA brought me to a week-long life coaching seminar (ok, cuddles and playtime) with my friends at Grow, I’m a whole new kitten and am ready to settle down with my soulmate.
In an effort to shed light on the importance of fostering Forgotten Kittens to facilitate adoptions and open up space in local shelters, Grow partnered with the SF SPCA to pilot a new program, Office Cats. Forgotten Kittens refer to slightly older kittens who didn’t have as much engagement during the first few weeks of their lives and, as a result, are initially more shy and fearful of people. Since many people visiting shelters make decisions based on how interactive and interested the animals appear, being shy can be a real hindrance to finding a fur-ever home. Placing these kittens in friendly, secure foster environments—such as the animal-loving house of Grow—helps them learn to come out of their shells so they can attract potential adopters while freeing up much-needed space in shelters.
Since Patra arrived at Grow on October 19th, she has transformed from a shy, anxious kitten into a confident, affectionate, playful ball of fur. As Gwyn Johnson at the SF SPCA explained to us, “having a consistent, calm environment with lots of attention is all that most kittens need to gain confidence.” The Grow team of animal lovers knows how much a pet can enrich your life, and Patra’s presence at Grow is no exception. We’re going to have a hard time saying goodbye to her, but we’re so excited to find her a loving, permanent home!
If you’re interested in setting up an Office Cats program at your company (trust us—it’s worth it!), reach out to Gwyn Johnson at the SF SPCA at 415.522.3542 or email@example.com.
Patra here! I’m writing to you now from my new home, where I’m currently curled up safe and warm with my new family watching the rain fall. I’m so grateful to have found my forever home, but I can’t stop thinking about about all my friends back at the SF SPCA who are still waiting to be adopted. Visit the San Francisco SPCA’s website to find your purr-fect match!