Unlike its flashier counterparts on Madison Avenue, The Anderson Group, a strategic marketing and communications firm, is located in an old stone farm house amid the rolling hills of Sinking Spring.
With the tagline, “Think big and deliver bigger,” the small, award-winning firm co-founded in 1987 by Linda and Mike Anderson, is happy to call Berks County home.
The firm has a roster of national and local clients in a range of industries, including Armstrong, Spectrum Brands and the Pennsylvania Bankers Association.
Linda Anderson, owner and brand strategist, has guided the company over its 32-year history, helping it evolve and stay relevant.
An Exeter Township native, she originally wanted to be a doctor and pursued pre-med studies at Penn State, but realized she preferred writing about health care. After a switch in majors and schools, Anderson majored in telecommunications at Kutztown University, which redirected her life path. She met and married her husband, Mike, and together they formed what became The Anderson Group.
Lehigh Valley Business: So does it matter that The Anderson Group is not an agency on Madison Avenue or in a city like Philadelphia?
Linda Anderson: It really doesn’t. It forces everybody who’s here to stay conscious of where those agencies are, and about new tools and new experiences. It’s not as natural as walking down the street in New York, but we’re used to it and it doesn’t stop us from competing with those companies for the business.
LVB: How has the business changed?
Anderson: We kind of went from being a more traditional advertising agency to a brand marketing communications firm about seven or eight years ago.
Branding was not that well known and easily confused with something a marketing department does superficially. I probably spent the better part of 25 years now understanding how impactful it can be to be applied, understood and embraced by an organization. As we start to look now at how all these different channels, the mechanics of communicating to employees, customers and prospects, it’s never been more necessary for an organization to see itself as a brand and function as a brand and all the good qualities and outcomes that come from that.
I still spend as much time as possible with clients helping them to look at it, refine and enhance it. It used to be that as years went by, like every seven years you almost had to look again at your brand and say, are we still relevant? Today, that timeframe is more like every two years because things just move so quickly. That’s how we got started in branding and that was a very, very new and not always a popular concept.
We’ve weathered seven or eight recessions. We really we had to take our own advice, which is how do you continuously stay relevant? How do you continuously look at what is it you’re there to accomplish? What problems do you want to solve for clients and for your community? How can you leverage what you do well and what you need to do more of to continue to be successful at that? What value do we want to create and what experience do we want to deliver?
We really have been evolving. We went into other services and the digital world and are now getting into the data world and combining that into the mix.
We recently have become a preferred provider for a network of consultants nationally so that we can start to integrate true expertise in related fields and offer our clients the opportunity to have experts in operations, quality control, logistics, sales, consulting and leadership development.
LVB: What is a brand?
Anderson: There are probably thousands of definitions of it. The one I use with clients is it’s a combination of two seemingly very simple things: What value do you want to create? And what experience do you want to deliver? Value being what is it that you’re trying to solve and how will you solve it better so it’s a value? And experience, as in what is the outcome of that to the customers, to employees, to the community, to the planet? What’s the experience? And constantly looking at how you increase your value, improve your experience and the opportunities that lie within both of those as you search to and seek to sell to bigger and newer problems.
LVB: Like flooring. You have a client that want to sell its new floor product. And it’s made with diamonds.
Anderson: This is an indestructible floor. So, what’s the problem? Floors with high traffic. I would start with the Armstrong floor brand and what its intention is. This is an example of how they provide flooring for your lifestyle. At work, what is the expectation? It’s expensive, time consuming and horrible to have to move everything and change the floor. So you want to buy it right the first time. It’s expensive, you want to be able to put it down and make sure it stays down for a very long time. Indestructibility is almost unheard of.
Our job was to demonstrate just how indestructible it was. But how do you do that in a way that doesn’t say, hi, we’re a heavy-duty flooring?
We actually put it into a situation where it’s exaggerated, it’s amazing what this floor can take. The target audience for this ad was highly-trafficked areas, so offices, train stations, the White House grand foyer. Think about places where it would have to take a lot of beatings and constantly look as fresh and perfect the next day.
The tools that you use to get to the place where you know it’s going to resonate isn’t just about creativity. It’s about understanding the business, it’s about understanding the customers who need and want that product and why. It’s about understanding communications and channels and where to put those dollars to maximize the effect and the impact. Marketing, branding and communications has been an art and a science but never before has it been so true.
LVB: Can creativity be taught?
Anderson: Absolutely. There will always be people who are naturally more creative than others. But it depends on how you define creativity. My husband taught creativity for years. We are all creative. We may not apply it every day. The difference here is that our creativity is looked at every 15 minutes. The way in which a group like ours works is thinking of the value of that time for what you’re doing. If you’ve got a project, say you’re putting together a new section of a website, you’ve got X hours to do that. So you’re thinking about how do I call on creativity on demand, produce it and deliver it on time?
LVB: What’s the worse advice you’ve ever been given?
Anderson: The worst advice I could possibly think of was, don’t try. I’ve heard that in almost every change and evolution we’ve done with the company. Don’t do it. Don’t try. Why bother? Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. I wonder now had I not listened what else we would be doing. I understand caution, but to me, don’t try was the worst advice I’ve ever been given.
LVB: What are your plans for the company next year?
Anderson: We’re plotting that all out now. We definitely want to build upon our relationship with the financial services area. As we capitalize on our partnership with our new network, we’ll continue to explore and look at new technologies that support our analytics products and services. We see huge opportunities for growth in the areas of data and business intelligence and helping organizations manage change.
In terms of creative services, we’re looking to capitalize on the industries we’re in but I think we’re open to exploring one or two new industries. There’s a certain comfort level in working with someone who already knows your industry, but it can be hard to create real transformative changes and create a real impact if you’re preaching to the choir. We’d like to apply our skills to a new industry, we just haven’t picked it yet. I definitely would like to think we could continue in health care or wellness communications. The health care industry is in many cases in a transitioning stage and it may not be their highest priority.