Marketing is broken.
Advertising agencies are outdated.
We did something about it.
A global CMO bought the advertising agency he worked with. His name was Adam. Adam didn’t want to do “normal.” Normal was superfluous, short-term wallpaper. Normal was a marketing potato chip with no real substance or consciousness. Normal didn’t deepen the brand. Or align with business strategy. Normal did not support exponential growth or long-term vision.
So Adam, a history geek and economist, codified “How challenger brands catapulted themselves to sector leadership.”
This became Market Invention. Adam wrote a book about it. Market Invention is Merit’s satisfying, hearty meal.
What We Do
- Market Invention strategy and activation
- Brand redevelopment for challengers
- Omni-channel creative development
- Primary and secondary research
- Strategic business consultation
- Launches of funded start-ups
- Brand origination for M&A
- Real-time digital analytics
- Full stack development
- Public relations
How We Work
We are sector agnostic, working on everything from luxe fashion to rockets.
We have high omni-channel creative ideation standards, and fit and finish execution.
We employ multiple AI-based marketing tech platforms (used for good, not evil).
We lead with strategy because “measure twice, cut once.”
We play nice with others, such as in-house departments.
We focus on the future while we take care of the now.
We tell the truth and do what it takes.
This Week at Merit
- Value propositions for a Cyber Security client
- EV and E-mobility video series production planning for an Automotive client
- Brand identity and standards development for an Energy Efficiency organization
- Press release writing and media relations for a Technology and Manufacturing client
- Website development for an Outdoor client
- Website development for Medical Services and Mental Health organization
- Strategic planning for Non-profit Advocacy client
The Marketing and Advertising Industry is Failing Us.
I always wanted to be in the industry. I value creative. I value strategy. I value technology. And when you combine the three, something magical happens. But somewhere along the way of Super Bowl commercials, inbound campaigns, programmatic buys, shopping carts, and social media, we lost our way – and our credibility.
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Data: If You Can’t Buy It, Own It.
While the reasons I love data are many, ultimately what I find most compelling are the insights that it unlocks. These insights are wonderful little nuggets of information that help to improve products and services and reach audiences with the same set of beliefs and values. Data in combination with these insights allow us to continually measure and refine, get smarter and do better. Which is kind of our jam.
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Nike, and the Responsibility of Market Leadership
Most people are unaware that there are Emmys for advertising. Yes, advertising is alive. Not dead yet. It has just grown up to be the adult in the room of marketing. The 2021 Emmy for best commercial is executed with artful precision. It lives in context of all the tectonic cultural shifts that the pandemic exposed, yet, is timeless. It incites emotion. It has a point. And it sells something other than shoes.
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Have you had your shot of resiliency yet? If our CEO survey is any indication, the “can-do” spirit is still alive and well. As cultural Venn diagrams representing now and the near future collide — COVID, FLU, ELECTION, BLM — resiliency seems to be many CEO’s medicine du jour.
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COVID-19 CEO Survey Findings
Back when COVID-19 was in its diabolical toddlerhood, circa May 2020, Merit asked CEOs from a diverse pool of sectors about their perceptions of COVID-19, and how they were tangibly handling its impact. These were not P&G, Google, General Motors CEOs, but CEOs of arguably the most important strata in the U.S. economy: small to medium-sized. Mostly, we heard from CEOs at businesses under 200 employees.
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The Confidence Market
Thanks to COVID-19, we’re all relearning how to do the things we were once experts at. We’re relearning our relationships and how we interact. We’re relearning how to be a customer, teacher, CEO, marketer, sales executive, investor, etc. And with everything happening so fast, the relearning curve is extra steep.
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Toothfish: The Origins of Market Invention
There are a million books out there offering advice on marketing strategies, sales, and advertising. And much of the advice isn’t terrible for what it is. Most of those authors — like the majority in any industry — think in terms of the legacy market.
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Creating Demand in a New Market
Creating demand is understood as a general objective when launching new brands, products, and/or services. Demand generation, however, is more of a new age concept that serves as a comprehensive long-term plan aligning marketing with sales/services. Demand generation strategies make or break Market Invention as digital transformation rises.
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Megatrends: A Cultural Movement
Here’s a situation familiar to anyone in marketing: you’re approached by a new client with a failing brand. They don’t understand why their message — so compelling in their minds — is met with apathy from potential customers. Desperate, they turn to consultancies for help engaging the consumers who just don’t care.
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The Process Behind Disruption
Disruption might be the biggest business bandwagon of all time. But ask most people what their idea of disruption is, and they’ll stare at you with a blank look or start rattling off a set of disjointed ideas.
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Market Invention and Advocacy
Should there be “profit” in “non-profit?” This direction was given to me by one of my favorite CEOs I’d ever worked with — for multiple metropolitan YMCAs and a stint with the YMCA of the USA. “I will spare no expense to look cheap.”
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Cognitively COVID: CEO Guide to Fear
What might be the hardest part of being a leader? The expectation of fearlessness, as in the whole “fearless leader” facade. Crushing, isn’t it?
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What is Market Invention?
It’s the fundamental law that fuels the rise and fall of markets. In practice, Market Invention is the process of creating and maintaining market dominance by leveraging insight, strategy, experience, and expansion to pivot out of the legacy market and into a previously untapped space.
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Adam Vasquez, CEO
One of one.
Adam is the founder of Merit. The father of Market Invention. A true believer in Karmic Capitalism. And with his forward-looking gaze, he’s seen a brighter future for business and humankind. Now, he’s here to bring truth to all.
As the first economist to fully identify and describe the process of Market Invention in actionable marketing terms, he wrote the book on the subject — quite literally. Toothfish is the codification of the immutable laws that govern markets, and more importantly, how to break free from the constraining beliefs that no longer serve the greater good. With this universal knowledge, he’s been able to create billions in market value for organizations in North America, Europe, and Asia. But his ultimate goal isn’t merely shareholder value, it’s to bridge the gap between large enterprise control and an inclusive and sustainable economy for all.
Adam holds a Master of Science in E-Commerce from University of Maryland, a Master of Business Administration in E-Commerce from University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts from Randolph-Macon College in Studio. Adam is also a member of several non-profit boards.
Adam’s Industry Experience: Software, Crypto, Cyber Security, Transportation, Automotive, Insurance, Professional Services, Food and Beverage, Tourism, Higher Education, Non-Profits, Banking, Financial Services, Home Furnishings, Luxury, Electronics, Defense, Aerospace, Marine, Government, Logistics, Manufacturing.
Chief Operations Officer
Alex Rhodes, Chief Operations Officer
The goddess of collaboration.
And with her mythic powers, Alex does what others can’t. She’s cracked the code on how to bring everyone together (and she still won’t tell us her secret).
Leveraging her 15+ years of research, strategy, branding, digital and public relations experience, she fearlessly leads the Merit team in building impactful, integrated marketing programs. In her role as Chief Operations Officer at Merit, she unites her industry expertise and strategic knowledge of the client needs with unparalleled day-to-day communications and organization. The end result is optimized agency processes and infrastructure, built on collaboration, and ready to deliver powerful, innovative solutions for Merit clients.
Worship her. We do.
Alex has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Penn State University with a minor in Public Relations. Alex also serves on the The Foundation for Enhancing Communities Marketing and Communications Committee as well as the Children’s Miracle Network Advisory Board.
Alex’s Industry Experience: Food & Beverage, Transportation, Automotive, E-sports, Wine and Spirits, Shopper Marketing/Retail, Technology, Manufacturing, Finance and Banking, Industry Associations, Energy, Government, Healthcare, Non-profits, Travel and Tourism, Defense, Aerospace, Professional Services.
Chief Financial Officer
William Hallgren, Chief Financial Officer
Curious and then some.
William is obsessed with finding out how things work, what’s behind the numbers and seeing the big picture come together.
Over his career in financial leadership, curiosity has fueled him every step of the way. He asked how healthcare could be better and answered his own question by starting his own company. He’s witnessed broken business processes and built better ones that drive real results. But through it all, his inquisitive nature has created new possibilities.
At Merit, William ensures we steward our resources so we can capitalize on opportunities for ourselves, our clients and our partners.
Curiosity is always the answer. It’s time to ask different questions.
William has an Associate of Science from the Consolidated School of Business. He specializes in analysis and reporting, project management, financial forecasting, training and development, recruitment and continuous process improvement.
William's Industry Experience: Insurance, Healthcare, Startups, Staffing, Manufacturing, Human Resources, Technology, Consulting, Finance, Banking, Mergers & Acquisitions.
Chief Strategy Officer
Denise Kohnke, Chief Strategy Officer
Fear is the mind-killer. Good thing she’s fearless.
Denise has boldly led brand development for more than 100 organizations over the course of her storied career. By using the mystical principles of persuasion, a healthy dose of megatrend influences and loads of business savvy, she sees the path to an organization’s vision — and just as importantly — has the guts to see it through.
Denise was a former agency president, client-side marketing director and EVP of Strategy and New Business Development at a respected 200+ person agency. On top of that, she’s an award-winning copywriter and author of the fearlessly honest book, All of the Other Marketing Books are Crap.
Denise’s Industry Experience: Food & Beverage, Transportation/Automotive, Wine & Spirits, Shopper Marketing/Retail, Technology, Manufacturing, FinTech/Banking, Industry Associations, Government, Healthcare, Medical Products & GMOs, Non-profit/Advocacy, Travel & Tourism, Destinations, Professional Sports, Fashion & Luxury Brands, Restaurants, Health & Wellness, Professional Services, Higher Education, Cyber Security
Chief Creative Officer
Steve Drifka, Chief Creative Officer
The work. The work. The work.
Steve is a relentless idea man. And for over 20 years, in agencies big and small, with budgets large to non-existent, he’s worked to turn big ideas into needle-moving executions for his clients.
He’s worked on brands in nearly every industry, from sports drinks to sports cars, from healthcare to health foods. And through it all, Steve has maintained a ridiculously high bar for both the conceptual idea and production value because it all matters. Steve’s creative output and leadership regularly produce stunning executions that solve business problems.
And it’s not just us talking about his work. The creative industry is talking about it, too. To date, his shelves include most of the major creative industry awards such as Webby, Cannes, One Show, and Communications Arts among many others. Steve has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Design from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.
Steve’s Industry Experience: Apparel, Food & Beverage, Automotive & Motorcycles, Leisure & Entertainment, Travel & Tourism, Healthcare, Higher Education, Insurance, Pharmaceuticals, Sports Marketing, Consumer Packaged Goods, Tools & Home Improvement, Non-profit/Advocacy, Cyber Security, Finance & Banking.
Chief Technology Officer
Travis Knutson, Chief Technology Officer
Silicon-Valley smarts with a Midwestern accent.
Travis and technology are intertwined. He’s the type of guy that was coding websites and hacking where he shouldn’t have at age nine. But now he’s been reformed (mostly) and using his powers for good (entirely).
Most technologists focus on, well, the technology. Travis is an anomaly. By integrating the business side of technology in all that he does, he’s able to ensure return on investment, measurement and analytics, best practices and rigor in evaluating new innovations. He also has extensive search engine marketing experience across multiple sectors to boot.
Travis holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Graphic Design and a Minor in Computer Science and has won web design awards that include: Communication Arts Webpicks, Awwwards Nominee, National Silver ADDY Award, Webby Honoree, WMA Web Outstanding Web Site
Travis’ Industry Experience: Bicycles & Bicycle Components, Motorcycles, Marine Sports and Racing, Apparel, Printing, Financial Services, Banking, Higher Education, Radio Broadcasting, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Tourism, Non-profit/Advocacy, Professional Services.