The employees at JMP Creative in Santa Ana, California get frustrated and grumble like at any other company. But it’s hard to be angry when fun things are happening all around you. Employees are surrounded by aliens, pirates, skeletons, pinball machines, thousands of toys, and $40,000 worth of reference books on any subject imaginable. "When a 20-foot dinosaur is being delivered, it’s hard not to smile," says company president, Jim McCafferty.
All of this creates an environment to stimulate new ways of thinking and creativity, because that is what JMP Creative sells--ideas.
McCafferty realizes that these days every company has access to the same tools, materials, and information. "The competitive key is being able to apply all that information in new and different ways," he says. Creativity, he says, will become the differentiating factor among businesses because nothing --not even computers -- can replace human creativity. With only 38 employees, JMP Creative competes aggressively with significantly larger companies, pleasing clients such as Pepsi, Chevron, Kodak, Texaco, the major movie production studios, and fast-food chains like KFC and Taco Bell.
Many great marketing ideas come from dry-erase boards and board meetings, but JMP Creative goes for that extra edge. For the really important product designs, promotions, advertising campaigns, or marketing strategies, employees and clients meet for a mind-blowing, high-energy session of idea generation called Nitro.
During Nitro sessions, the already creative environment is intensified, and monkeys, alligators, stuntmen, guard dogs, magicians, or martial artists might show up at anytime to shock participants into different ways of thinking. Rooms are transformed into a carnival, tailgate party, or girls’ slumber party, complete with greasy finger foods and beanbags.
Psychologists, teachers and mechanics might be invited to join heads with marketing specialists and engineers to focus on a specific seed concept. Out of it all, the project is born and recorded in the form of two books, one thick with the bulk of the ideas and a second thin book with the best ideas to be taken forward.
Up to half a million dollars might go into one of these sessions, but the ideas in that second book make it all pay off. Manley Toy Quest hired JMP Creative in 1999, and after a Nitro session, JMP came up with the packaging, promotional hooks, and interactive surprises for Tekno, the Robotic Puppy. Tekno became one of the top selling toys of the 2000 holiday season.
JMP Creative celebrates such cases of success--when the company does well, employees are rewarded with year-end bonuses. McCafferty reports extremely low turnover and zero debt for his private company.
McCafferty has invested a significant amount of time, money, and real estate to provide a creative environment with Nitro blazing the way. "How many people are going to be creative in a stuffy office building?" he asks.
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