I’m a CEO and I Just Did a Shirtless Photoshoot (I Think the Result Will Make You Smile)
What else can you do when product models can’t work because of COVID-19 quarantines?
My name is Mike Nemeth, and I’m the founder and CEO of a small 12 person custom team apparel company in Columbus, OH. And now also a male model.
Fun is important to us — and especially important to me. But it’s not fun worrying about keeping everyone employed — so, like many businesses, we started offering our customers masks to help them (and help our revenue).
But there was a problem: Because of the quarantine, we didn’t have any models who could wear them for the product photoshoot.
At a small company, the CEO has to be willing to do everything. So I modeled them myself. And then I asked the question, “Can we have fun with this?”
I clearly answered yes.
Masks are kinda weird, if we’re being honest. And they’re strange because they stop us from seeing each others’ facial expressions.
How do you know when someone is smiling (or not), if they’re wearing a mask?
I realized that our masks should communicate our values of fun and happy — so if you see someone wearing them, maybe you can’t see their face but you can assume they’re smiling.
And now more than ever, it’s important to have some fun and smile.
Here’s what else I’ve learned:
No one wants to buy a product they need.
I’m fascinated by the mask supply and demand problem that is playing out in real time. No one can accurately predict how many masks are needed and every manufacturer that is even remotely connected to a sewing machine is now making masks.
Important to note — I see two entirely separate categories —First, the urgent need for regulated and licensed PPE products for health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID fight. Second, our focus, the distinctly different need for everyday citizens and employees of corporations to begin wearing masks as we emerge from quarantine.
As for the latter, I don’t think a typical citizen is thrilled about wearing a mask when they go out grocery shopping — and certainly not thrilled about wearing something that feels clinical and scary.
So let’s make it fun.
We opened up our service to allow people to make their own masks. Surprise — we found that our customers were as sarcastic and fun as we hoped.
I’m going to make a guess:
If a mask makes someone smile, they’ll be more likely to wear it.
Nobody likes somber Coronavirus marketing
Somber music, since [insert date] [insert brand] has been there for you. In today’s uncertain times, we’ll continue to be there for you. [please buy our stuff.] We’re in this together. [please buy our stuff.]
I tune that out pretty quick. and I think most people do too.
I’m a fan and student of a different kind of marketing.
One of my favorite business books is ‘Marketing Outrageously’ by Jon Spoelstra.
Jon took over as President of the New Jersey Nets in 1993.
Was the team great? Not really.
But he hired sumo wrestlers to play basketball on the sidelines during game breaks (seriously).
When someone didn’t renew their season tickets, he mailed them a rubber chicken with a letter that said ‘Don’t Fowl Out.’
Fun (and memorable) efforts took their attendance from worst to first.
So how can we break through the sad trombone of Coronavirus marketing?
With a ridiculous photoshoot.
It’s ok to have fun at work. I insist.
Humor at work isn’t just for fun. Some really smart professors at Stanford argue that it’s ‘an under-leveraged superpower in business’ — and I agree.
We made ‘Have Fun’ one of our five core values at Emblem.
“Have Fun” is a focus for Emblem, because it’s a focus for me.
It was an awesome experience and honor to work with their team on the case study — they chose to start the case study with an excerpt that succinctly sums up my perspective on life, business, and marketing custom face masks.
I carry a card in my pocket at all times with my life’s purpose written out: “make life more enjoyable for others.” When I need a litmus test to decide what projects I pursue, I just look to that card.
Business has to continue. And that means marketing has to continue.
Authentic marketing should align with a company’s core values. And one of our other core values is ‘Kick Ass.’
Our small team needs to Kick Ass and win some business to not only survive, but thrive during this challenging time. Since 2018, you’ve trusted us to deliver you great clothes and custom gear. In today’s uncertain times, we’ll continue to be there for you. We’re in this together… damn it! How did I slip back into cliche Coronavirus marketing?
Quick. Another absurd picture to get back on track.
My purpose of making life more enjoyable for others has its roots with a comedy newsletter I started at West Point a month after 9/11. I remember some of the same opinions then — that life will now forever be serious — nothing will ever be fun (or funny) again. But obviously, it’s during any tough time that fun and humor are most important.
I hope that everyone can find a way to have a little fun with the absurdity of returning to work with a new accessory. I hope that sad Coronavirus marketing vanishes as fast as we hope that the virus does. And I hope that you consider adding ‘Have Fun’ as a part of your next big project. If you need a male model, my rates are surprisingly affordable.
About the Author: Mike Nemeth is the founder/CEO of Emblem Athletic — a small Columbus, Ohio based company that is on a mission to deliver 10 million smiles through kick-ass custom fitness gear.
Emblem recently expanded into custom face masks because their purpose is to help every team look and feel great — and now that includes masks. For more information, please visit www.emblemshield.com
Mike is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned his MBA from The Ohio State University. He’s endured a handful of other startups in a variety of industries, including design, nanotech, and apparel. To book him for modeling work, please visit his LinkedIn profile for more information.