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#CSinterviews Graham MacInnes and Jackson Murphy, Co-Creative Directors and Founders of Pound & Grain

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How did it all start and how have you got to where you are today

JACKSON MURPHY: It’s certainly interesting how it all started.  It was a total accident of Graham and I being placed beside one another at work, just by dumb luck we had to sit next to each other and started working together and haven’t stopped, more or less for a decade. It was really in the first three or four weeks that we were working together that we communicated easily and could handle the constant barrage of each other’s insults. If we didn’t annoy and challenge each other on every project, it probably wouldn’t be a successful creative partnership.

GRAHAM MacINNES: We’ve also always had the entrepreneurial drive.  We enjoyed working for other people but didn’t love it, and there was always the feeling that every day was our last day on the job. Throughout our careers, and with our two other partners, we found people that had that same spirit and when we all worked together, great things happen. That’s what we based Pound & Grain on.

 

Which projects that you’ve been involved with are you most proud of? 

JACKSON MURPHY: One project in the protoplasm of our DNA was YYoga – that was our first major website at Pound & Grain, pitching against other local agencies.  We won out against more established, more credible and more prepared groups than we were at that time. YYoga was a great client with real challenges and issues of people not being able to use their website.  Within a 90 to 120 day period, they went from an old website that didn’t function and didn’t get users to what they needed most – people looking at their yoga schedules and being able to reserve classes. We quickly transformed the website – making it easy to use. Little things like putting the schedule right up on the front of the website forced a kind of focus allowing us to make sure that every piece we put on the website had a purpose. For example, we made sure that the website worked just as good on people’s phones as it did on their desktops.

The results of, both the users’ feedback that they gave to YYoga, and to the amount of people we connected to the schedule and people finding YYoga, just went through the roof.

In the long-term, it’s been a calling card of our company.  It’s still something that we talk about in our pitches and something we’re really proud of because we helped the company build something valuable.

GRAHAM MacINNES: Also, our project for ‘Buy Local Eat Natural’ was the same – the client really wanted to create a way for people to engage with the local food producers in their community. We created a platform to celebrate these people and engage with them, both the producers and the consumers, and make a connection between the two that wasn’t there before.

The project was really multifaceted.  It required updating their website to highlight the producers and consumers, to tell stories about these people and the ingredients that they create, how to get people to go and buy apples that came from their backyards, as opposed to somewhere 20,000 kilometers away, and create an app that allowed people to find local food around them from anywhere.

Initially, they didn’t come to us with a prescriptive of what they wanted to do. They came to us with their current marketing or business challenges and they looked to us holistically as to what we could do to ‘blow it out of the water.’

JACKSON MURPHY: That’s what’s really exciting to us. When clients like ‘Buy Local Eat Natural’ have a real challenge like getting people to buy more local goods and buy more milk for the B.C. Dairy Association, the fact that they set up a program and allow a content marketing solution to get people to do what they want is pretty exciting and a novel approach to providing value to people because a fair number of our projects are supported by providing utility to people. We look at every aspect and say, “Will the user actually use it this way?  What’s the point?  Is there a way that it could be done simpler, easier, better?” That’s what is ingrained into our Pound & Grain DNA.

 

What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career so far?

JACKSON MURPHY:  It’s important to have a unique story and work hard – we definitely like giving full credit to Gary Vaynerchuk, because he likes the “hashtag hustle” – he’s always working late and is always about hustling for that next thing.

When Graham and I started working together, one of the first things we did was start work earlier and waking up earlier. We found we got a lot of traction just by starting to show up at 7:00 AM and have almost two hours of uninterrupted time for drinking coffee, avoiding meetings and phone calls – you just get to work.

GRAHAM MacINNES: This helped us fight above our weight class in the clients and projects that we take on because our clients know we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently?

GRAHAM MacINNES: The most interesting thing was this year’s South By Southwest – it was a drastically different experience from last year’s.  It seemed like last year, everywhere you walked there was someone marketing to you – there was a booth, there was a party, there was free stuff, there was a street team, and this year it felt almost void of that. Sure, there were still parties and lots of participation, but it wasn’t as overwhelming this time.  Perhaps people felt that they spent so much money last year, and didn’t get any traction, that they shouldn’t even bother this year.

 

If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be? 

JACKSON MURPHY:  We wished we’d started Pound & Grain earlier – in a couple of weeks it’s Pound & Grain’s 4th anniversary, and how we’re building the company is interesting. We have more people working for us and we’re working on increasingly bigger projects.

We spend a lot of time talking to and meeting with creatives. Most creatives are people working at an agency and have a dream of starting their own agency.  Maybe they’re watching too much Mad Men, but it’s always the same old story: “We could do this better than the guys above us.”  The show might be encouraging people to start their own agency, but the reality is there’s no shortage of opportunities for people to be entrepreneurial in this business. Not a lot of clients can afford giant agencies anymore. It’s obviously easy for us to tell younger creatives to just go for it 4 years after taking the plunge. However, if we’d started a couple of years before we’d be in a greater position today.

 

If you could work with anyone on a project, who would it be and what would you do?

JACKSON MURPHY: I would love to work with Wes Anderson, the film director.  Having just seen his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, just getting a chance to build assets, a website, anything within his crazy, weird, quirky world would be a lot of fun. It just seems like building a website within a Wes Anderson world would have to be uniquely interesting. I’m not even sure if phones work the same way or if an app would function in his world, that would be a challenge.

GRAHAM MacINNES: If you look at Tesla, they are the first ones that have started to explore the giant screen interface in their cars. I’d love the opportunity to sink our teeth into something like that and make people’s lives better.

JACKSON MURPHY:  How about those fancy home monitor systems? It controls the lights and can basically do everything in your home, but it’s run on some Windows 95 interface and looks terrible. In the same way that NEST has cracked smoke detectors and thermostats, it would be great to makes people’s lives easier and beautiful at the same time

 

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