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Watching Your Burrito

Recently we held what we call “Anchor Lunch,” wherein our staff has the noon meal together, chats, laughs, often plays trivia (from an outdated edition of Trivial Pursuit) and sometimes celebrates significant company or employee milestones. I know, I know – a bunch of creative types should be able to come up with a better name than “Anchor Lunch,” but in our defense, we’ve been busy using all of our creativity on client projects.

But I digress. For this particular Anchor Lunch, we all put in an order at Qdoba, and then our bookkeeper ran over to the restaurant and picked it up. I got what I always get – a vegetarian burrito with rice, beans and veggies, plus a good amount of salsa roja. When I picked up the burrito in the conference room we use for our Anchor get-togethers, I immediately knew something was different. As a rule, burritos from Qdoba are about the same size as a throw pillow and weigh about as much as a spare tire. As the Qdoba team makes my burrito in front of me, I can hear the tortilla straining against the sheer volume of the contents being smushed into it like a water balloon attached to the hose spigot in the backyard. I’ve never successfully eaten a Qdoba burrito without the contents exploding forth like a jelly donut after the first or second bite. That’s what chips are for – clean up duty.

This time my burrito was different. It fit comfortably in my hand. There was enough wrapper to actually enclose it. Every bite didn’t feel like an arm curl at the gym. It didn’t spill all over my shirt when I took a bite. It was neat and tidy and most importantly – smaller. A lot smaller.

Why was it so different compared to the usual spicy behemoth I love so much? Here’s my theory: I wasn’t there to watch them make it. Now I have never once told a worker at Qdoba, “That’s not enough filling! Ram some more lettuce in there like you’re stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey!” But for some reason, the fact that I am standing two feet away from them makes them feel obligated to ensure my satisfaction by packing as much food into my tortilla as the laws of physics will allow.

We find that a similar phenomenon happens with marketing materials. If you send something to be printed or televised or stitched, it inevitably comes out better when you watch over the process until the very end. Let me give you an example. We still have some clients for whom newspaper ads make a lot of sense. So we build a newspaper ad, and then we email it to the newspaper. Then we ask the newspaper to either fax or email us a proof. Now at first glance, this seems like a waste of time. After all, won’t they just send us the same file back? What good does that do?

Because even though we insist that they send us a proof, there are times that something still goes wrong. Sometimes the art department at the newspaper inexplicably grabs an ancient advertisement from years gone by, sometimes they stretch the ad until it looks silly and sometimes an industrious new designer in the set-up room adds or subtracts something because they feel that they are an under-appreciated marketing genius. Whatever the cause of the error, we get a free make-good because the newspaper committed to running the exact ad they confirmed via proof, not a slightly different version. After a while the newspaper gets the hang of it. They work really hard to get everything right the first time, because we are watching them make our burritos.

Stay involved with your marketing projects throughout the entire process of their creation and dissemination. Or if you don’t have time (or the patience), hire somebody like Anchor to do it for you. It’s worth it in the end.