Captains of Industry Featured Among Top Leading Agencies in Boston

On March 30th, Captains of Industry was named a leading Boston agency, recognized for our hard work in advertising, branding, content marketing, creative, design, and production. This announcement is the result of many things: our multi-talented team, our results-oriented approach to our work, and – most importantly – our amazing partners.

Our recognition as a leading agency comes from Clutch, a leading research firm that analyzes more than 7,000 agencies around the world. Their platform accounts for more than one dozen hallmarks of a successful agency, including past experience, team size, awards, and industry recognition. Most importantly, the firm on the relies on each agency’s clients to offer an in-depth review of the agency-client relationship through an extensive review process.

To help Captains of Industry become a widely-recognized leader on Clutch, three of our clients have spoken with Clutch. In each review, the clients speak about our services offered, the results of our engagement, and what makes Captains unique. So far, we’ve maintained a 5-star score.

Here are some of the highlights from our reviews on Clutch:

“It really felt like the Captains of Industry team members were consistently bringing their full selves to the job. Shooting on-site with them immersed me in the world of a creative. We were pleased with their overall ability to deliver quality results.”

“I consider them friends as much as business partners. That closeness is one of their greatest strengths, as it allows them to challenge their clients in order to devise the most effective solutions. In my experience, agencies can be focused on their paycheck and satisfying clients, therefore don’t challenge ideas on a regular basis. Captains, however, will stand up for an opinion they feel is important. We don’t always agree, but we’ve often trusted them enough to make a directional shift because they were willing to put their reputation on the line.”

As we continue working with Clutch, we’re exciting to hear additional client feedback and continue to rank among the leaders of Clutch’s research.




Researching the Chief Executive Challenger

Our clients are wired to break the status quo. So, it naturally follows that the most important audience to our clients is often the c-suite. In order to be effective, we know upfront that a research commitment to tracking the strategies, mindsets and motivations of business leaders today is vital.

A key priority of our Strategy & Research department is to keep close tabs on the c-suite, and the decentralization of power that’s occurring across it. To us, this is the elusive “Chief Executive Challenger” (CEC). These individuals represent the most influential game-changers in business today. They operate from the inside out, and every organization has at least one.

Through Captains’ own qualitative research sessions across clients, (plus studies from Quartz and PWC) we found that the CEC’s ability to extract valuable information from all the noise online is a daily challenge, and advantage. Their methods to discover and exchange insights through curated knowledge networks are critical to success. And that’s where organizations have a real opportunity: shape conversation with purpose and collaborate with extreme precision.

Over the past year Captains has done a significant amount of research with CEC’s, so we created this infographic on the Chief Executive Challenger to aggregate some of our favorite data-points from our cross-category research. Enjoy! View Larger Resolution.

Doing Good Is Good For Your Business: Communications Tips for Framing Sustainability to Consumers

sustainable marketing campaign tips

“Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century (and it’s also the right thing to do.)”

The above statement was from a different time—five years ago, to be exact. BICEP, Ceres’ business division, was working on a campaign* to rally the private sector to influence public sector action on climate change. BICEP opted for a no-nonsense sustainability marketing campaign and message about the economic benefits of sustainable business (of which the above sentence was the opener) and a shareable medium (a digital Declaration of beliefs). Within months of launching, hundreds of CEOs of companies from Mars to Starbucks to GM signed, shared, and even replicated the Declaration. It made it to Washington and into President Obama’s speech at Georgetown University, ultimately providing the President with ample political cover for pushing through legislation to limit fossil fuels and consequently supporting businesses with responsible agendas.

I’ll say it again—what a different time we live in today.

The good news is that this statement is no less true than it was five years ago, and that sustainability commitments—of the environmental, social, and economic varieties—have become embedded into modern business practices. The bad news is that the rift between the public and private spheres means that receptivity to a sustainability-centered agenda at the national level is unlikely. Now, it’s imperative that business leaders double down on talking the talk as well as they are walking the CSR walk to influence the ultimate power player: the American consumer. After all, the conditions are perfect. 63% of Americans are looking to the private sector to take the lead on sustainability going forward, and 87% are ready to support the businesses that step up.1

Borrowing from our work with Challenger brands in the clean energy and social sectors as well as best practices from the consumer brands that we admire, here are some high-level tips for furthering your sustainability-driven value proposition with communications.

The best way to talk about sustainability may be to not talk about sustainability at all.

64% of consumers who would otherwise be your evangelists will ignore the entirety of your communications if they include difficult-to-understand terms.2 After decades of overuse and misuse, “sustainability” is one of those terms. While basic education can help to fill the understanding gap, showing what sustainability means to the consumer speaks even louder than the word. For example, GE and Unilever are two heavyweights that integrate impactful proof-points around their sustainable innovation and food waste reduction programs directly into product communications and packaging.

Prioritize your sustainability marketing campaign around the top 10 emotional triggers.

A recent Harvard Business Review study3 surfaced hundreds of motivations that drive purchasing behavior across industries. In particular, 10 “high impact” motivators significantly affected customer value across all categories—and all are emotional triggers. Communications around corporate sustainability efforts don’t need to be ‘corporate’ to convert. Case in point: our recent work with MIT to market their sustainability initiative took an intellectual argument—capitalism as the engine for sustainability—and brought it to life in a conversational, power word4-filled narrative that conjured a cleaner, fairer world and compelled our audience to buy into MIT’s solution to get there.

Be okay with being real in communications.

Most Americans today just want a reality check—in fact, 90% of them say that it is okay if a company is not a perfect, as long as it is honest. Patagonia has long been heralded for a brand-level commitment to “radical transparency” and nowhere is this clearer than in the Footprint Chronicles. Launched in 2007, the multi-year campaign reveals stories of the company’s work to create a sustainable supply chain, and the practices—good and bad—that go into each of their products. Today, the Chronicles are woven into the shopping experience, inform product improvements, and fuel customer engagement. Proof that being real has business benefits (and it really IS the right thing to do).

Speaking of, there has never been a better time to be committed—as a business leader—to doing what’s right. And there’s never been a more important time to keep the conversation around sustainability going. Here’s hoping that this provides a bit of inspiration to keep moving in the right direction.

*Captains served as marketing partner to BICEP on the Climate Change Declaration.

Ted Page presents at the Clean Tech Open

On June 27th, One of our Founders & Principal, Ted Page, presented a talk on clean energy branding and marketing at the Clean Tech Open’s East Coast Academy. Ted was invited to talk about storytelling for clean energy companies – focusing on how startups like those in the Clean Tech Open’s program can better tell their story to get funding, new customers, and build market share. Ted spoke during a full day of presentations from clean energy and sustainability leaders, providing valuable information to help promising clean energy startups develop their products and successfully enter the market.

Ted provided several examples of Captains work—including a valuable comparison of wind company branding and marketing strategy—and shared some important strategies and frameworks for clearly communicating value to potential partners and customers. After the presentation the audience of clean energy startup founders shared their questions and concerns on building their own brands, and joined in some group critique of example pitches, energy website design and messaging, and company naming.

In addition to Ted’s presentation, Captains has two of our leaders currently acting as mentors for the Clean Tech Open. Ted Dillon, Managing Director is advising QBA on marketing strategy and audience development. Zoe Moutsos, Group Director, is working with COMPANY on storytelling and marketing strategy.

Clift Jones addresses energy executives on the importance of brand strategy

energy executives on branding

On May 16th, our President & CEO, Clift Jones, presented and moderated a panel in front of several hundred of the country’s most prominent energy executives. At DNV GL’s Energy Executive Forum in Orange County, CA, Clift discussed the importance of communications and brand in the energy sector.
In his talk “Your Next Customer: Building a narrative-driven brand strategy,” Clift shared his perspective from having worked with large multinational organizations/corporations like General Motors, Anheuser-Busch, The Gates Foundations and dozens of consumer brands like Converse, Cadillac, (RED), Palm, and TIAA-CREF. According to Clift, “In a space ripe for re-invention, a strong energy brand can be a strategic weapon for engaging the newly-empowered energy consumer. It can mean the difference between keeping your customers, and losing them to new and unexpected competitors.” After the presentation, Clift moderated a panel of energy executives discussing how customer communication and brand perception will help some companies stand out, and cause others to fail.
DNV GL’s Energy Executive Forum brings together energy executives from utilities, renewable energy, Internet of Things and energy retailers to discuss the future of energy. The conference centers around energy Convergence – or the dynamic shifts occurring in the energy landscape as new technology and new products allow the energy consumer to have a voice and choice like never before. According to DNV GL, bringing executives together under one roof for open dialogue and debate is the best way for energy companies to innovate. Executives spent three days in Orange County. Other presenters included Apple, Gap and Tesla innovator George Blankenship (credited with inventing the Apple store), Carole Barbeau, President of Energy Advisory for DNV GL, and Lawerence Makovich, Chief Power Strategiest at IHS.

Keep Your Marketing Campaign Messaging Simple

(#5. The messaging tips series)

“To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion.”
-Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is often cited as a great example of brevity that resulted in extraordinary memorability; especially when compared with the speech given by another orator that day, who ran on for hours (I forget his name). Lincoln’s address was two hundred seventy eight words. But what if his speech was boiled down to 10 words or less—the length of most 21st century messages and taglines? This is not an academic exercise. The need for simplicity is central to all great messaging, borne out by research that shows that too much information overloads audiences. I’m not saying that we should do away with longer narratives. There is a place for depth. But in an age when people pay attention in short bursts, if at all, they need a short message that pulls them in. Once they’re with you and paying attention, they’ll be more receptive to hearing your whole story.

Nike says Just Do It. Apple says Think Different. Coke says Open Happiness. None of these brands have the luxury to give a speech to customers. Even relatively brief company names end up being shortened by their customers (Dunkin’s, McD’s).

While most marketers recognize the need for short messages, not everyone understands how to pack a lot of meaning into a few words. The Heath brothers, authors of great books on messaging such as Made to Stick, say that we need to be “masters of exclusion.” That means cutting out anything that doesn’t get right to the core of the message. The core is the heart of it. The thing that is absolutely essential.

As just one example, I had the opportunity to create the brand for a company called Deepwater Wind. They’re an American offshore wind energy developer. At the time we were building their brand, Cape Wind was struggling to gain acceptance for their offshore project (still are, actually). The Captains team saw that the main objection to Cape Wind was from shoreline residents who did not want to look at the wind turbines. What Deepwater Wind brought to the table was offshore wind turbines that could be located far out to sea where they couldn’t be seen by beachfront homeowners. This helped us form the core of the message for the Deepwater Wind brand: that people would not object to their offshore wind projects because they wouldn’t have to look at the turbines. So our umbrella message (in their case, a tagline) became “Clean energy is just over the horizon”. We also designed their logomark so that it didn’t feature a wind turbine. It’s not a coincidence that Deepwater Wind will be the first company to build a wind farm off an American coast.

So, here’s your assignment. Below is the full text for the Gettysburg address. Today, you are Abraham Lincoln’s Director of Communications, and your job is to first write down what the core idea of his speech is. You can start with one sentence, even a long one. When you think you have it right, work on coming up with one short message that has all the meaning of the core message baked in. Remember, I’m not asking you to ditch the Gettysburg address. It’s one of the greatest pieces of writing of all time. But if you only had a few words, what would you say? If you get it right, the Civil War will be won by the Union. If you get it wrong, the Confederacy wins. No pressure.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Check out the fourth post in the series: Messaging Tip #4, the Power of Surprise, or Messaging Tip #3.

Harness the power of surprise for your messaging

Marketing Messaging Tips Series #4

“We can use surprise — an emotion whose functions is to increase alertness and cause focus – to grab people’s attention.”
-Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick

Picture for a moment a scene from your ancestor’s distant past. Let’s call him Grug, an early human living in a cave in France. Suddenly a giant bear leaps into Grug’s cave, rising on its hind legs and baring its razor sharp fangs. Grug sprints out of the cave immediately. The others don’t respond as fast. They have become bear lunch. But Grug goes on to lead a full life, living to the ripe old age of 29—long enough to sire many children. All of us in the modern world are descendants of Grug and others who were wired to sit up and pay attention when surprised. This trait is common in all modern human behavior.

In books such as Made to Stick, the Heath Brothers describe the process of surprising people as “breaking the schema.” A schema is simply the expected normality of something. An orange looks like an orange. If an orange had antlers it would break the schema.

Messaging – Tofu of the Written Word

Considering that the tendency to be surprised by unusual things is so ingrained in us, it’s amazing how many companies launch marketing campaigns with messaging that is downright dull. In fact, most messages are the tofu of the written word, a kind of bland background noise. For you and your company, this represents a big opportunity to leap out of the background and bare your claws.

Most advertisers are pretty good at this. Which is why commercials tend to feature something surprising in the first second – a talking baby, a giant jug of Kool Aid crashing through a wall. Or Donald Trump saying, well, anything.

But unexpectedness can also be used to make a simple message—a few words—wake people up. Coke had a successful seven year run with a campaign theme that consisted of two words that don’t ordinarily go together: Open Happiness.

Try Simple Messages

Surprising messages can also rely on simple statements of fact. A campaign to end gun violence in America ran an ad with this shocking headline: “Last year, handguns killed 48 people in Japan. 8 in Great Britain. 34 in Switzerland. 52 in Canada. 58 in Israel. 21 in Sweden. 42 in West Germany. 10,728 in the United States.”

To introduce the Rolls-Royce in the United States in 1959, classic ad man David Ogilvy didn’t need a flashy commercial. He simply did his homework and discovered a startling fact, which became this headline: “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” In its own understatedly British way, this message is just as unexpected as a talking baby. Thousands of new Rolls-Royce owners agreed.

Later in my series of marketing messaging tips, I’ll share some insights into the creation of another surprising message: “Climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century”. But first things first. In my next post, I’ll talk about the need for simplicity and clarity in your messaging.

Want to hear more about our content and copywriting experience? Reach out for a conversation.  We’re recognized as a top content marketing & copywriting company on DesignRush.

Remember, you’re always talking to one little buckaroo.

Messaging Tip Series #3

When Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers” fame was starting out, he asked children’s TV cowboy show personality Gabby Hayes how he managed to create a personal connection with children even when he was speaking to millions of them at the same time. He responded by saying that he always remembered that he was really just talking to one little buckaroo.

Think about this. Too often, when people speak in public, they say things like “I’m sure all of you are wondering…” But there is no all of me, there is only me.

So we have to start by understanding that while our message may have to appeal to millions of people, it does so one person at a time. Which means your message needs to be very direct and tailored to a specific audience mindset.

Part of achieving this kind of directness is stylistic. In a speech, or TV appearance, looking directly at the person you’re addressing (like Mr. Rogers did) goes a long way towards building trust and establishing a personal connection. It’s not a coincidence that the idea of “being evasive” is used to describe someone who’s hiding the truth—they’re literally looking away, or using complicated phrases that evade understanding.

Another way to talk with just one buckaroo is to speak and write to them based on a deep understanding of where they are. Usually the “where they are” aspect is about someone’s belief system,which I’ll address in detail in a later post. But it can even be where they are physically. For example, this billboard Captains made for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, with the headline “If you were homeless you’d be home by now,” stopped people in their tracks because they felt, in a visceral way, what it must be like to live out on the streets.


In this case the second person pronoun—YOU—lent an added level of directness to the message. Of course, talking with one little buckaroo is only effective when it’s combined with other key aspects of the messaging craft—like the power of surprise. For more on this, stay tuned for my next post.

How to write good copy and great messaging

Before I can begin to describe how to gain more of a Jedi Voice in your marketing, I have to start at the beginning (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) by defining what messaging actually is.

Messaging is all about Words Crafted to Convince.

A message can take the form of an ad headline, campaign tagline, or an umbrella message for a brand that sets the stage for all its marketing. Great messages that may come to mind are Apple’s famous “Think Different.” Or Nike’s “Just do it.” Or the ad theme that launched Federal Express on its path to global domination in shipping, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

There are also less obvious messages from marketers that perhaps are all the more powerful because they don’t take the form of ads. If something is part of an ad, our defenses may go up; it’s another thing to block out. But Amazon’s subversive, brilliant message of “people who bought this book also bought these other related titles” has done more to drain my bank account than any ad campaign.

All of these messages came about because teams of people thought very deeply about how to craft them in ways to quickly convince their audience of their unique value. Once you know the secrets, of course, you can not only create your own great messages, but easily decode messages you see on a daily basis. A popular brand’s tagline is “no soap gets you cleaner.” Translation: every other soap gets you just as clean.

The need to craft words that convince is vast. In fact, if you added up every industry where convincing was central to success, it would be the largest industry ever. Here’s a short list of the top industries that rely on messaging to convince people:

  • Advertising
  • PR
  • Law
  • Politics
  • Sales
  • Consumer product retail (online and brick and mortar stores)
  • Lobbying
  • Telemarketing
  • Religion
  • Dating sites

In my next post, I’ll share the first of my messaging tips, brought to you complete with a brown cardigan sweater. None other than Mr. Rogers, one of the greatest TV personalities of all time and a master storyteller. If it works with King Friday, it will work to sell your global brand.

This is the second post in a series. You can read the first post—Messaging can give you the jedi voice, also by Ted Page.

Messaging can give you the Jedi Voice

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
brand messaging tips from Obiwan and the Jedi voice

One of my favorite things about Star Wars has nothing to do with light sabers or death stars. It’s the Jedi voice. How the fully trained Jedi can use The Force to get others to do anything they want. It seemed so cool and powerful. The Jedi didn’t need to pull out his light saber, at least not so frequently. He just had to speak, a sci-fi special ops technique if there ever was one. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that in real life?

This amazing power has nothing to do with science fiction and everything to do with the words and images we choose when crafting our messaging. In other words, how we tell a story about a particular product, service or cause will mean the difference between success and being obliterated by the Death Star. And make no mistake, the Jedi voice has been perfected by the Dark Side, making it all the more vital that we use it for good. As just one example, Frank Luntz, author of Words That Work and other tomes on messaging, advised George W. Bush to stop talking about “Global Warming” – which sounded threatening, and instead call it “Climate Change.” What, me worry?

Messaging from the Heath Brothers

The great news is that there has been a tremendous amount of research done that shines a light on why some messages work and others do not. The Heath brothers, Dan and Chip, have done us communicators a great service by unlocking the DNA of great messages. Their books, including “Switch” and “Made to Stick” provide actionable learning on the power of messaging.

But the Heath brothers are not the only ones who hold the secrets to effective storytelling. In my twenty years of helping companies create messaging, I’ve discovered these secrets in sometimes unexpected places, and from remarkable people – like Mr. Rogers, T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), and John Cleese.

The Messaging Tips Series

This series of blog posts is all about sharing these secrets with you in ways that will help you grow your business, champion a cause, or even convince your spouse to buy a particular car (“Honey, this is the car we’ve been looking for”).

It’s all up to you. But I do hope you do something good with it; the world could sure use your help right about now.

In order to make this knowledge easy to use, I’ve structured the posts in two parts. The first series of posts will highlight some of the key insights into the science and art of messaging. This will be followed by a real world example of how this knowledge was put to use effectively ­­– an umbrella message platform that successfully rallied over 1,400 corporations, including Apple, Nike, GM, Intel, and Starbucks, to urge Washington to finally tackle climate change. What if you could put your words in the mouth of the President of the United States? Is knowing how we did that worth your time?

Stay tuned.