The Egotist Briefs: BFG Founder and CEO Kevin Meany

By christinewatson / / A native New Yorker, with a stint as a CA surfer kid, Kevin was a candidate for a Ph.D in psychology before deciding to turn his penchant for mind molding to marketing. Kevin established BFG’s headquarters in Hilton Head, SC where he continues to prove that great brands can be built through innovative ventures like new media, interactive and experiential promotional programming. ——————– What does BFG stand for? It actually depends on who you are… Some, particularly those immersed in digital and video games, like to believe it was inspired by the fictional weapon referred to as the BFG9000, in the DOOM game series. I don’t mind that, although in that case “ BFG” stands for “Big Freakin’ Gun.” Some think it’s represents the initials of our key people, but I can a assure you that’s not it for that would result in something like “MMSKVMKH.” With some research you may discover what BFG actually stands for, but for now let’s keep everyone guessing. Of course, “Brilliant, Friendly, Geniuses” works as well. What sort of new thinking have you brought your clients that that you’re most proud of? I’m most proud when we can help clients discover something new or unexpected about their brand or market. More often than not a few critical insights around the product and or consumer drive the big idea. I think our new work for the State of South Carolina Tourism account is a good example of that. We have developed a marketing platform for South Carolina that leverages the undiscovered parts of South Carolina to encourage exploration of SC’s hidden gems, history, outdoor offerings and local charm found along the back roads and in the towns, large and small, across the state. This fall the initial campaign will use barbecue as a creative hook, shining a spotlight on this iconic food to which South Carolina has inarguable bragging rights. The campaign is anchored by paid advertising; an immersive, all-things-barbecue micro site (going live in September); a virtual South Carolina Barbecue Trail; an enhanced, interactive social media strategy; and a complementing public relations effort. What excites you creatively these days, outside of work? That’s a tough one because I don’t work—or at least I don’t consider what I do for a living to be work. On the side, I have always enjoyed photography, and currently have several long-term digital photography projects underway. But first and foremost, cooking is my creative passion when I’m out of BFG mode. My kitchen is my favorite place. Menu planning, shopping for the perfect ingredients, prep, cooking and the sharing my food with others is a huge reward. Today I get regular requests from friends, family and our children to recreate dishes and meals we shared more than 10 years ago with them – and I am pleased to oblige them. Whether it be a traditional brisket done low and slow in the smoker, with a roasted corn salad and Asian slaw or something more inventive… ever try roasting radishes and tossing them in a balsamic reduction? Add some fresh herbs, or feta, or whatever. You can do that at home in less than 45 minutes and it’s awesome… and don’t forget a nice bottle of Pinot Noir or a Grenache. I don’t use cookbooks, so at the request of family I’m writing down my recipes. Maybe I should create a cookbook? We understand you’ve studied psychology. How does that pay off in this business? Some of the parallels are obvious. Understanding human behavior and searching for insights into consumer motivation, loyalty and adaptability is core to what we do. In graduate school, much of my time was spent studying human behavior, reviewing research, getting comfortable with statistics and working with a diverse group of people — most of this can fold right into the work we do at BFG. I also, spent time at the Jersey City Medical Center counseling adolescents and adults who presented with emotional, psychiatric, and behavioral issues. But for me the game changer occurred when I was assigned to work in addiction treatment services. At the risk of getting too philosophical, when I embarked on my career in psychology I was intent on controlling things around me. I believed there was a certain order to the universe and I worked to maintain it. My life consisted of a regulated schedule everyday starting at 3 AM when I would arrive at a United Parcel Post facility for work. Afterwards I would go on to class, then work as an intern at the hospital, go home and study, and start all over the next morning. Academic life was very controlled and predictable. However, working in addiction services, I experienced a world I had only read about. In that position the only thing certain was change. I learned quickly to focus on the present, and not require that my plans work exactly as I demanded. An existential view for sure — in that we ultimately have no control, and when our plans bring unintended results – and they often do – all we need do is reevaluate, accept where we are in this moment, and start anew. No lesson, has aided me in building BFG more than this one. What sort of work is out there you wish you’d though of? I love the unexpected and advertising that surprises and entertains. Last night when I saw “Snuffy The Seal” disappear in a Shark Week promo I laughed out loud. Then again, I thought Superbad was a great movie. More seriously, I really enjoy the DirecTV work that Grey has done over the past year, it makes me smile. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves. The IKEA work that Ogilvy and MEC have been producing is well done and nicely integrated across multiple platforms. What’s one piece of advice you’ve made sure to follow throughout your career? Don’t fall into the trap of following one piece of advice – ever. How would you like BFG to be different, five years from now? This industry is changing so rapidly, I don’t even attempt to plan three years out. Although, I believe content and context, along with community development will continue to be a growth space for organizations like BFG. I also imagine, we’ll continue to evolve our office network, which has become an asset in that we’re learning everyone doesn’t need to be under the same roof. We recently overhauled the technology side of our business, and for the first time we have a Director of Creative Technology. My drive is to build a relationship between creative and strategy and IT, and make sure everyone working with clients at BFG understands technology. I think it’s obvious that technology will have a place in every client work stream as consumers continue to adopt mobile and adapt to a the tech-enabled world they live in. So my guess, we’ll have multiple offices with deep generalists, we’ll be technologically enhanced and creativity will be still at the heart of our value system. Personally, what do you wish you would have or could have spent more time learning? On a personal level I wish I had learned how to play the piano, as well as Joe Sample does. Unfortunately, I can barely peck out chopsticks. I am, slowly learning to be a better faster writer, but that’s an ongoing struggle. I wish I could spend more time learning about wine, but just drinking it is fine. Lastly, technology is a constant learning experience whether I like it or not. Just the tech-based acronyms tossed around meetings on a daily basis are almost enough to make me actually take piano lessons; UNIX, LINUX, VPN, AIX, HTML, HTTP, VBscripts, BDA, SQL, CMS, IVR, VOIP, iOS, .NET, TCP/IP, FTP, SNMP, RSS… really? What’s the biggest event most epic memory you’ve created? We do produce a lot of memories through our event and experiential work, and it’s always fun to hear about it when it’s least expected, even years later. For example, about 10 years ago we coordinated a live sky dive by Captain Morgan onto the lawn area in front of the main stage at the Bumbershoot Music Festival in Seattle, WA right before a main act went on stage. Of course, it wasn’t actually the Captain doing the sky dive, but with a little bit of theatrical magic, everyone thought it was the real Captain Morgan. That jump was an awesome stunt, that supported the key brand proposition which essentially was when the Captain arrives the party goes to the next level. I know that today there are still people out there drinking Captain Morgan talking about the day he actually jumped out of a plane and landed among a crowd of thousands. Recently, in Austin, TX at SXSW I found myself in a bar speaking with some consumers about the things they had experienced at SXSW, and one of them started reminiscing about an Adult Swim event they had participated in a few years prior in Florida – that event for Adult Swim was created and produced by BFG. Some of the digital experiences we’re creating, are memory makers as well – our work for Coca-Cola on the Mello Yello brand is definitely in that category.