Rob Dalton: Brand Therapist

Rob Dalton, friend and colleague, talks about his long career in the advertising industry, his product line, his new book, and his current career as a “brand therapist.”
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Rob Dalton

President, Dalton Brand Catalyst

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Although Rob didn’t come up in the advertising industry of the Mad Men era, remnants of that culture still remained, where people drank with their coworkers every night, and were married to their work. Rob realized he had to quit that lifestyle when he sort of forgot his kids’ names.

At age 35 Rob decided he wasn’t going to work for “jerks” anymore, and now works out of his Minneapolis base, just for clients and products that feel good to him, that make the world a better place.

Rob has reinvigorated his career with work as a “Brand Therapist” for companies in the B2B space, and has distilled his career’s knowledge down into a book.

Rob also used to have a product line of personalized party products called Write on Riot that used to be sold in stores like Target and Wal-Mart


IVAN STEGIC: Hey Everyone! You’re listening to the TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight, and sometimes more often, to talk about technology, business, and the humans in it. I’m your host Ivan Stegic. My guest today is friend and colleague, Rob Dalton. Rob is President of Dalton Brand Catalyst and has been leading that company, in one form or another, for the last 20 years.

He is a speaker, an author and refers to himself as a brand therapist in his work at Dalton Brand Catalyst. I’ll be asking about that moniker later. We’ve worked together on projects for shared clients, and TEN7’s first brick and mortar office space, back when that was a thing, was a sublease from Rob. It’s been a long time. He’s also imitated a velociraptor in that office, enamoring himself to my then three and four year olds as That dinosaur guy in Dad’s office. [laughing]

Hey Rob, welcome, it’s going to be fun talking to you today, I think. [laughing]

ROB DALTON: [laughing] Well, thank you for being here. I feel like I should roar instead of speak back to you. [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] I actually had the roar in the podcast notes for a moment, but I took those out, because I wasn’t sure either. [laughing]

ROB: [laughing] I still do the dinosaur thing.

IVAN: Yes, and I’m sure that my now teenage kids when they see you will ask you to do that if the opportunity arises.

ROB: Yes, instead of a funny haha, it would be more funny and peculiar to them.

IVAN: Well, they still refer to you as that guy in the office that does the dinosaur. [laughing]

ROB: [laughing] Oh good. That makes me feel good.

IVAN: When I think of you though, I think of a well-experienced, well-versed professional who cut his teeth on the advertising industry, kind of in the eighties and the nineties. You’ve often talked about the Mad Men era before when we used to have coffee at the ping pong table in the office. I don’t think I ever asked you though, what did you actually want to be when you were growing up?

ROB: I love this question because it gives me a chance to honor somebody. I was not a great student throughout my school career. And about the time I was going to graduate from Southwest High School in Minneapolis, my prospects were pretty grim, because I was not really college material. But basically across the board pretty bad grades, I got good grades in English and in art, and I loved playing guitar with my friends, and life was good. It’s just that I wasn’t on my way to a career that would probably be above minimum wage.

But, about a month before graduation, my English teacher, Sarah Sexton, started the class with a series of questions. I can’t remember them verbatim, of course, because that was many, many years ago, but she would say stuff like, Who thinks that they would love to paint a soup can and become famous for that? Or, Who thinks they would like to create the next Pink Floyd album or After the Gold Rush, and a bunch of hands go up. And, Who would like to author the next Breakfast of Champions or, pick a novel from that era, and more hands went up, And, Who would like to be the coolest photographer in the world? Who’d love to make movies? Who wants to make the next Godfather?

She got everybody in that room raising their hands, including me, and she said, All of those things, you can’t all be Neil Young and all these Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol, because those are crazy long odds. But if you raised your hand and you want to do those creative endeavors, you could go into advertising.

That was a life changing sentence for me, where I had no place to go after high school, and that sentence gave me this idea that, You know what, I love all of the things, all the creative things she was talking about. But back in 1973, that wasn’t what colleges were looking for, I’ll put it that way.

I went to a technical college that happened to have one more opening, and started just a couple weeks later. A couple weeks after graduation I was back in school learning to be an ad guy. I didn’t think about it growing up, but that moment where Sarah Sexton brought these questions to the table, it was like, Oh, I absolutely have a place in this world. It’s just that I’m sort of born to be a creative, and like I said, it changed my life.

IVAN: What kind of art were you interested in at the time?

ROB: I really did love pop art, and I wasn’t an “art student” per se. But I would say, and again for those of your listeners who are a little older, we as high school kids would collect album covers. A lot of my friends have framed album covers on their walls. But so much of my exposure to art was through music and through those album covers.

IVAN: Did you paint?

ROB: Yeah, actually I did. I loved doing watercolors. I never considered myself a really good artist. I became a good artist when I was in school. One of the first things that came out of one of those teachers' mouths were, We’re not going to teach you how to draw, we’re going to teach you how to see. It was profound. All these things were just hitting me on an almost daily basis that I love this business, I love all of the aspects of it, and I love the way creative and critical thinking work, and when you work together with people, it’s incredibly satisfying.

IVAN: It really is. It’s all about the people at the end of the day, isn’t it?

ROB: Yeah, it really is. I’ve had such an amazing career being able to collaborate with people like yourself and music writers, film producers, amazing talent. It’s just been a gas.

IVAN: So, you spent some time in, I think you said, technical school, then you got your first job thereafter. Where was it at?

ROB: My first job was at a studio called Don Bean Studio. In fact, it was on the third floor of an old building near downtown, and you walk up the side door and he had painted a beanstalk that started at the ground level, and on the ceiling walking up about 50 steps, you just followed the beanstalk to the top of the studio. And we all worked up in an attic, about seven of us.

IVAN: And I would guess that would be the mid to late seventies then? So, right after the Mad Men period, you know, you see Don Draper on TV, and then that evolves into the sixties and seventies. Would you say that’s the heyday of the advertising industry?

ROB: The Mad Men era was really about manipulating people, and really, really, bad behavior. My teachers at the technical college all came from the Mad Men era, and they would come in and long for the days where you could drink three martinis at lunch, and somebody would tape a marker to your wrist and set you up in your chair to make it look like you were still working. [laughing] And they’d just bemoan the fact that those days were over.

About the time I got into the business, it had transferred into a serious business, and you couldn’t work the mornings and be hung over all afternoon. Those days were kind of gone. That said, the culture didn’t die off right away. You were still expected to go out, boozing it up, more nights than not at the end of the day. People didn’t go home at the end of the day, they went out for drinks with their friends in the ad business.

IVAN: How did that behavior and that culture influence you and how does it form what you do today as a professional?

ROB: I think it helped form what I want out of life. To make a long story very short, I was so wrapped up in the business that I wasn’t around to raise my children. And so I was gone so much that, and we’ll get into that when we maybe talk a little bit into my history. But I basically had to stop playing a role like that where, you just sort of hang out with your working buddies all the time. But on a more serious note, I would say that a transition happened, where after the Mad Men era got over, it left a little bit of a void but it was replaced with a creative renaissance.

So, it wasn’t so much in that by the mid eighties, by about 1985, it wasn’t the lure of having drinks with your friends, it was the lure of trying to be the best agency and the best creative in the country. And, I had the wonderful opportunity to work at some amazing agencies. Where in fact we all got a chance to build creative reputations that were really well-known across the country.

But that creative renaissance I think sort of took its course. And when people ask me, because I am older, when people say, What was it like to work in 1985 or 1990? I’ll say that we honed our skills so that we really understood how to apply a story to a brand and to a product that was either exquisite or outrageous. We learned how to avoid that stuff in the middle, because we knew nobody paid attention to that.

But we didn’t just think like creative people. I think we thought like creative people plus trial lawyer, because if you took away the cleverness quotient, we still left our audiences with something so compelling that it was really hard to not engage, to not go out and buy that product. It was an amazing way to be raised in this business. Minneapolis was the epicenter for this type of work, where it was creatively brilliant, and I had the good fortune of working up and down the hallways from people that I was practically afraid of, because they were so crazy smart.

IVAN: You were at Martin Williams and at Fallon and at Young and Rubicam?

ROB: Yeah, after Don Bean I went to BBDO in Minneapolis. which for me was more of a conservative agency. I was very, very excited to be a hot art director, and that wasn’t going to happen at that time, at that agency. And Martin Williams was my next job, and that was my entry into being into award show books, and it helped me move along to Fallon about a year and a half later. Again, at Fallon we were very, very steeped in producing the very best creative that could be done. It was a fascinating time.

IVAN: You talked a lot about how you were creative and trial lawyer, and how you really had to look at exquisite and outrageous products. It must’ve been hard back then to be able to create all of this art and work, and then not be able to have instantaneous feedback. And to have to wait until products were actually selling more, or businesses actually hired months down the line to see how effective you were.

I’m guessing that that was hard because in today’s world, you put an ad on Facebook or Google, and you could see immediate reaction, and you adjust and change and there’s data. I can’t imagine what it was like creatively to wonder if you were effective or not.

ROB: It was a different time. Things weren’t measurable, or they weren’t immediately measurable. Sometimes I would find out from clients that, You're still our agency, because we are selling products, and if we weren’t selling products, we would just fire you. It was like caveman times, where you got no details, and so you couldn’t really course correct. Well, it wasn’t quite caveman, but it was hard to know what wasn’t working and what was, unless you did an A-B or A-B-C test, where you had different messages going out, and you could test which messages were resonating. But still it was a long lag time from the time you launched the ad until you got the response back.

IVAN: I suppose you can maybe do some sort of focus group testing?

ROB: You could, but there’s also a downside to focus groups, that anything that’s unfamiliar or anything that is outrageous or exquisite, typically does not do well in a focus group. I’ll give you an example. I didn’t do this ad, but it happened, I think Jarl Olsen was the writer of this ad when I was at Fallon. It was for an insurance company, and insurance companies, now everybody’s trying to be the funniest, Geico and Liberty, Liberty, Liberty.

IVAN: I love that. I love Liberty. That thing gets in my head [laughing] I can’t stop singing it. I’m never going to use them, but still I love them.

ROB: The earworm is wonderful. So, this is a printout, a long copy printout, but it was when whole life insurance became a sort of outdated product. The headline for this ad was, Your Whole Life is a Mistake.

IVAN: [laughing] What?

ROB: That’s the headline, Your Whole Life is a Mistake, and so you read the copy and it would say, times have changed. When you bought that product it made total sense, but here’s what’s changed out in the marketplace and in our economy, and there are better ways to amass money and protect yourself. Brilliant ad. People would throw up in their mouth if they saw that in a focus group. They’d go, You can’t do that, you’re insulting people.

So, you had to be careful with focus groups because they would warm up to the stuff that they’re familiar with, and if you’re familiar with it, that means people are not going to pay attention to it in the marketplace.

IVAN: You know, that actually reminds me of a New York Times article I just read on Oatly. You know the ads? I don’t know if you’ve been seeing them around town, at the bus stops and in the papers, and I haven’t seen any online.

ROB: They’re very obscure.

IVAN: They’re really obscure, and they kind of try to make Oatly look like it’s like, I’m here, come and get me if you want. But they really are trying to sell their product, and it turns out oat milk’s really bad for you. It’s full of highly refined sugars, and this article in the New York Times was saying basically it’s like the Diet Coke from 20 years ago, whatever it was. So, have you seen those ads? What do you think of them?

ROB: I think they’re self-serving. They’re self-indulgent. This is just me talking. Other people might love them, but I don’t like aloofness. You can tease me with a headline, but then give me the answer, don’t make me work for it. So, it didn’t work for me, because it’s asking me to work too hard.

IVAN: I hear you. I couldn’t understand them for the longest time, and then I started talking to Suzie, my wife, about it, and we’re like, We don’t get it either, what’s going on? Then this article came out. And I’m like, I think I’m with you, don’t make me work too hard for those.

ROB: And also right now, there’s so much chaos going on. Our heads are already spinning, I don’t need superficial stuff on top of it.

IVAN: What do you think the most controversial client you ever had was?

ROB: I think probably, I can’t remember the name of them now, but they’re a division of Honeywell, and they made bombs. Aliatech.

IVAN: Alliance Tech Systems.

ROB: Maybe that’s it. I think they maybe make navigation devices and things like that now. But at the time they made bombs, and I was still very young in my career, and I just did what I was told, sort of. And then when I went on my own, after I left Fallon, I freelanced for several years, and I would go to different agencies across the country. I didn’t know what I was walking into.

The beauty of building a national reputation is people want you and they hire you, so that was great. But oftentimes I would show up in New York, or name the town, and they’d say, Here’s the project. One of them was from a telecom company, and they said, We need to let new customers know that the rates have gone down a lot from maybe a year ago. So we could beat people competitively on our rates. But we need to get our old customers and retain them and get them to resign up for the old higher rate.

It was another one of those moments where I went, I guess I worked on it for a few days. But it made me want to take a shower. It’s like, this is just wrong. So, I remembered being 35 years old, getting thrown into all these situations, which could be very exhilarating. But one day I made a decision that I was going to not work for those kind of people, not work for those kind of products, and I was not at all work for advertising awards. And it was very liberating. I said I wasn’t going to work for jerks anymore, and I was worried [laughing] that I wouldn’t have enough work to do. But really, there’s not that many jerks out there. You get two a year maybe. There’s a lot of really wonderful, fun people out there.

But over time, I’ve had the chance to steer my career and only work for products that feel good to me, and they tend to be products that make the world a better place. So, I’m not in those situations anymore.

IVAN: That’s great.

ROB: That’s really wonderful.

IVAN: So, after you freelanced, did you work again for an agency or was it at that time that you thought, Okay, I have to start my own agency?

ROB: It was my working and being gone so much, like when I mentioned earlier that I kind of forgot my kids’ names, [laughing] that I decided I need to stay home.

IVAN: I think one of them’s Claire.

ROB: Yes, one of them is Claire, and one of them is Alex. I’ve got them written down on a piece of paper in case you were going to quiz me. No, I love them deeply, and I have very close relationships with both my kids. But when they were little, I was gone a lot, and so I thought, I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to stay home and I’m just going to freelance and get what I can get right here in Minneapolis. And Target became a huge resource for me, the Target stores.

That gave me time to also develop other clients. And my freelance company grew busy enough, so I felt like, okay I’m working 80 hours a week again. So, I hired Jennifer Russo, out of Martin Williams, and she took on a whole lot of that work. And then very slowly but surely, it just evolved into a full fledged ad agency.

IVAN: And you called it?

ROB: I think when you were in my space it was Dalton Advertising or Dalton Creative. Dalton Creative. And it sort of evolved into an eight or nine person agency, and we used to get eight or nine freelancers going on the outside of our walls, and it was really fun.

IVAN: You kind of started the agency and grew it in a way that’s similar to the way that I started. Because, I really started TEN7 by myself and worked until I was working 80 hours a week as well, and then hired someone. It’s interesting how, sometimes the circumstances are just right for a product or a company to launch, and sometimes it’s not.

ROB: Right. And I think our stories, I love the stories about how somebody invented something out of their garage, or some dramatic thing happened to them, or lightning struck. Our story is more of just a natural evolution. But I’ll speak for both of us, it gave us an opportunity to work out a lot of the bugs, and learn that we’re in service businesses.

IVAN: Yeah, you’re right about working out the bugs. Definitely.

ROB: Yeah, and you do it at a low level with just you or you and a client and an employee, and then you’re ready for primetime after that.

IVAN: So now it’s a company you’ve evolved past having as many employees as you had a while ago, and now you call yourself a brand therapist. I’m wondering if you have a couch for me to sit on? What does that mean?

ROB: I do sit down over here, and there’s a box of tissues in case this gets, sort of sad, you may get a little weepy. I didn’t name myself that. I actually had a client who called me that. Here’s what happened. Over time, having done advertising that even though it was hard to measure some of the responses in short time, it overall was work that got traction. And that reputation led me to some opportunities, where a company or two, I think the first time this happened was a company down in Mankato. And they had some issues where the marketing was sort of going sideways. They weren’t getting the traction they wanted. And so they started creating a lot of background information, branding information, and it was Brand Essence Wheels. And all sorts of stuff that helped them understand who their audiences were, what they were looking for fears, desires, that kind of stuff.

Somebody from maybe 15 years ago, somebody from that project called me and said, Can you take stuff on paper and show us what it looks like when it converts to an outward facing, customer centric message? It was a fascinating project. I did it many, many times over with many different pieces of information, because there’s a lot of different variables that go into marketing. Sometimes it’s the same message with using four different emotional triggers to deliver the message. One might be fear based. One might be love based. One might be power based. One might be prestige based. There’s a lot of different ways to basically serve up an idea.

And I did it, the company was basically off and running. They went, Okay, we know now how to focus in better on what our customers and prospects really want. And then now they knew also how to articulate that in a way that felt really good to them.

So, when that project was done, the guy who hired me grabbed me for a cup of coffee later, and he said, I do this Brand Essence Wheel stuff all the time, but I’ve never seen anybody come in and convert it to something that was pretty stellar, customer-centric messaging. And he suggested, he goes, You could do this for a living. And I went, That is a very big gift. [laughing]

Because it was so much fun. I had done hundreds and hundreds of headlines and layouts over the years, and this was something new. This is taking people in trouble and helping them right the ship. So, I realized that I could take the last chapter of my career, and instead of picking at my watch, waiting for it to be over, I could totally reinvigorate it. And in doing so, one of my customers when I showed up for a meeting yelled down the hall, they said, Rob, our brand therapist is here! I went, I like that.

So, it’s great when you’re sitting next to somebody on an airplane and they say, What are you do? I say, Oh, I’m a brand therapist, And it’s like, What? What’s that? If I said I’m a brand consultant, they couldn’t wait to get back to their book.

IVAN: Yeah. What a great story of how that evolved. I just love it.

ROB:There’s so much luck involved.

IVAN: Yeah, it’s just so serendipitous sometimes the way these things work out. And so, you have a book out, it’s titled “Power Up your B2B Branding and Make Your Competitors Hate you in 35 Days.” Having known you for a decade now, that’s a title that is totally Rob Dalton, and especially the subtitle. That’s totally on brand for you. Did that come out of the work that you’ve just described as the brand therapist title that you have?

ROB: I think so. What I really didn’t mention too much though is when I’m acting as a brand therapist, it is really more of helping people look at different paths on how to find success again. And so, a brand consultant really does look for, I’m going to find ways to get you addicted to me, and then I’m going to do the work, and I’m going to try to get this gig to go as long as possible. Brand therapy is much more of a nurturing, sort of let’s find a path and equip you and empower you so you don’t need me. So, I want to be obsolete as quick as possible.

There are companies that can pay me $24,000 to be with them every step of the way, and I love it when that happens. [laughing] But a lot of people don’t have that money, but a lot more people have $24, so I thought, I’m going to write a book that can be a really reasonable entry point into the basics of what brand therapy is about. So, that was really the motivation behind it. I am at a point in my career where not only do I want to work with clients who basically want to make the world a better place, I’m in a place where I can be more of a giver.

I put out a lot of LinkedIn posts that are little snippets of advice and there’s no commercial at the end of it. One series I just finished now, which is in the book, was just a series of the six most common barriers to marketing success, and then a couple little hacks on how to fix those and how to work with those. So, the book really is a way for me to give back to this industry that has been so good to me.

IVAN: And how do I get the book if I want a copy of it?

ROB: Any online bookseller, Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Probably Amazon is the main way to get it. I think it is about $24.00. I make about 17 cents. [laughing]

IVAN: That’s excellent.

ROB: And people will say sometimes, they’ll say, How are the book sales going? Because it’s only been out a little over a year. I’ll answer and I’ll say, It’s not really about book sales. It’s really about legitimizing what I do and what I’m all about. And if I sell books, I’m a happy guy.

But if I don’t sell books, it was still a really important mission for me to put this stuff down on paper, because in not that many pages, I’ve condensed about 40 years of a lot of wisdom gained by other people, but nevertheless a lot of wisdom in really usable form. So the book has a lot of brainstorming sessions and how to stuff in it, and you can get there without me being at your side. My motivation hopefully is a little more altruistic than just another way to make money.

IVAN: And you’re also speaking, you have speaking engagements now as well. Well, a little limited because of the pandemic, but you had started that.

ROB: Yes. The speaking engagement, it’s a fascinating thing to do. To get in front of people and tell them stories. Basically I don’t know too many companies that feel like, Our marketing has so much traction, and we are reaching the audience we want to reach, and we have no issues trying to get great work through our system. It just doesn’t happen that way.

So, for somebody to sit and chat with me for an hour and walk away with notes of five or six things they can do when they get back to work the next day is satisfying for them and for me. I’m not a keynote speaker kind of guy, I’m more of a workshop kind of speaker guy. I mean, I do some keynote speaking, but the mentality is more of a Can we just talk.

IVAN: You’re a therapist!

ROB: Yeah, I am more a therapist. And you know therapy is a lot about listening, but you can’t do that when you’re at a podium. So, I can tell them stories that most of the time people are nodding going, Yeah, you know what, you sound like us. You sound like you know what we’re going through. And then I spend a lot of time talking about how to mitigate or solve some problems along the way.

IVAN: Have you been able to do anything during the pandemic virtually?

ROB: Yes, in fact the last talk that I gave, the president of the National Speakers Association happened to be in the audience. So, afterwards, and this is kind of how things work, you give a talk and then four or five people come up, and they want your card, which leads to work. So, she came up after I was done and she said, I really want you to give this talk to our speakers. Every one of us kind of runs our own business.

And so it was set up for me to do another speaking gig with a bunch of speakers from the National Speakers Association. And then the virus hit, and everything got cancelled. So, I called her up and said, I have not done a completely virtual workshop like ever. Would you mind gathering up like six people, and I’m going to do this as a freebie? But what I want is two and a half hours of their time to do a virtual branding workshop? And we will get about 90 percent to where you need to be as far as instructional stuff. And then I’ll work with each person one on one out of the six people just to get them over the finish line. It was an amazing experience. They got hugely involved. The six people met for about four or five, six weeks afterwards once a week.

Yeah, they just tore apart all the instructional stuff. With the program, I had worksheets that they could download. Then I did work with the individuals later, and it turned out to have a good response. It’s like I can provide that service for a fraction of the cost, and the outcomes were really, really positive. Really good. So, I have proven that it happens, but I decided I’m going to give the world a little bit of a break and not try to promote that, because we have a lot of stuff on our plate. And, here’s something you don’t know, is I am moving to Denver in about three weeks.

IVAN: Oh, you are?

ROB: Yeah.

IVAN: Wow, and does your son live out in Colorado?

ROB: Yes. And that’s really the driving force. More important than my son is my little three year old grandson.

IVAN: Congrats Rob.

ROB: Yeah, I know, he’s adorable. So, part of life has sort of gotten in the way a little bit, but I wanted to get far enough along with this experiment to see if I could do online workshops. I think doing it in groups of about six was really good, ‘cause then they interacted a lot with each other. Everyone of them, I think, felt like they got a lot of value. And like I said before, the price point can be really, really low and affordable for a lot of smaller companies, individuals.

IVAN: Yeah, they say that between six and eight people is the perfect size for any team. So, it’s not surprising that six participants in your workshop was a good size. Well, that sounds like a lot of fun, going to Colorado. Are you bringing Squeegee with?

ROB: Squeegee moved back to London where my daughter lives.


ROB: I know. Good thing I had these tissues next to your therapy couch here, cause it makes me so sad. [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] That’s the best name for a pet ever. Squeegee.

ROB: I know. She just had a birthday a couple days ago. [laughing]

IVAN: [laughing] Oh, that’s great. I did want to ask one last question before we wrap up. And I remember when I first moved TEN7 into the office space that we shared back in 2010 and 2011, we did some work together on something called Write on Riot. And I remember laughing uncontrollably with you on all the things that came out of our sessions working together on that stuff. I wonder if you’re ever going to resurrect that. Maybe you can tell our listeners what Write on Riot is. Give us an update.

ROB: Yeah. So, they know the spelling is W-r-i-t-e, like you write on stuff, and during a recession where marketing and advertising kind of took a little bit of a break.

IVAN: [laughing] A little bit of a break. [laughing]

ROB: [laughing] Yes. We all remember when that happened. I am not a sitter around kind of person. If I was to meet a bunch of friends on the beach, and they wanted to sit around on the beach, I’d be the one who is going to walk for seven miles up and down the beach while they sat. So, when advertising slowed down a little bit, I stayed just as busy by kind of inventing this idea that I had turning it into a little company. Write on Riot is party products that you’d be required to personalize.

So, like those big red cups that people put out for big parties, a lot of times they’ll have a marker in there and you put your name on it. So, my cups would have a statement on them, and you would personalize it. An example was, a New Years Eve themed cup didn’t say, My name is blank. It said, At midnight I want to kiss blank. And so that’s how you knew it was your cup, if you put it down on a table with a bunch of others. But it grew into a lot of other products, and I’m really proud to say that within about 18 months of the idea, we had products on the shelves of Target and Wal-Mart, which is pretty crazy. It was an idea that was sort of a good first blush.

The part that you were talking about, the online aspect of it is, everyday I started my day, getting out of bed brushing my teeth and thinking, Either there’s a news item or some trivial dorky thing that I can put out there for people to respond to and just have fun with it. One of them was, I would make stuff up like, A new camp up north opened, and it’s there to appeal to over-privileged children, rich kids. And our job is to name it. And my favorite name that was submitted was Camp I Wanna Gucci. [laughing]

And, sometimes it was simple stuff like, Dog plus Beatle song equals. And then people would write in things like, Old Yeller Submarine [laughing]. You know, stuff like that. It was incredibly clever, clever people out there. But they had a chance to sort of have fun with the company.

Over time, advertising got busy again, and then, quite frankly the Target and Wal-mart people, I generated a lot more stuff, and everything that I felt had a little edge to it, everything in other words that was funny, they kind of killed. And so this is just a hobby thing for me, and I thought if I can’t have fun with it and put out the products that I really like, then I’ll just walk away from it.

IVAN: What’s the point?

ROB: Yeah, and that’s what I did.

IVAN: Well, good for you that you can have that kind of ability to do that, especially on a hobby project. You want to do things that give back to the world, and that are positive.

ROB: Exactly. Exactly.

IVAN: Yeah. Well, it’s been awesome talking to you and going down memory lane a little bit there and learning about the whole advertising industry and the history that you had. And what an incredible gift that Sarah Sexton gave to you at the end of your high school career.

ROB: Yeah. Thank you. Actually it was so fun to catch up with you too.

IVAN: Thank you so much for spending your time with me.

ROB: Alright.

IVAN: Rob Dalton is the President, brand therapist and all around good guy at Dalton Brand Catalyst, where they help growth minded, B2B brands get the marketing they deserve. You can find him online at

You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at And if you have a second, do send us a message. We love hearing from you. Our email address is [email protected]. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thanks for listening.

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