Designer Spotlight: The Heavyweights

A design might be pretty, but without simultaneously improving sales, profits and reputation; John Luginbill wants no part of it. His employees know that too. The owner of the 19-year-old The Heavyweights in Indianapolis, has even more marketing mantras up his sleeves.

Here’s one: “What’s measured, grows. What’s measured and reported grows exponentially. When there is transparency around numbers, companies are transformed,” he says.

To grow a company’s numbers, Luginbill is poised to pull in the heavyweight. “We augment our team with heavyweight subject-matter experts,” he says. Since you can’t be an expert in everything, he makes sure he is talking to someone who is. After all, the same copywriter isn’t equally qualified to create compelling packaging for Allison Transmissions as they are for African American haircare products—or even Latina haircare packaging, for that matter (an example right out of The Heavyweights client book).

“You can’t assume that just because you know how to sell packaged goods, you can know the idiosyncrasies of talking to a community,” Luginbill says. “You have to bring in heavyweights that have resources, knowledge, information and experience to do the idiosyncratic work.”

The Heavyweights also are featured in the Workspace column of the November 2010 Issue of HOW. Get the Design Annual now.

With the firm’s work split one-third each for healthcare, consumer packaging and opportunistic options, always evolving is required. That is exactly what Luginbill is doing with his latest push, the “Move Up and to The Right” plan—a pre-set, eight-week marketing campaign.

The average time a marketing agency is with a client has dropped from 14 years to four years in less than a decade. Luginbill doesn’t like losing clients that force him to layoff or drastically reassign his roughly 20 employees. The new push is a fixed-priced, boxed system that gives Luginbill a set contract with a fabulously efficient timetable that has companies flocking to him. “In effect, we are like a campaign factory,” he says.

The plan also creates excitement in the workforce. It is one thing to win a big contract, but then just cranking out production every day for three years gets old. Fast. Luginbill has a team resizing over 300 magazine advertisements a week. “You think the employees are getting out of the bed in the morning going ‘WooHoo?'” he asks. “They are like old-school oarsman shackled in the bottom of the boat.”

But now there is excitement, says Luginbill.

An efficient Heavyweights staff is really about building profit for the client, which leads to another Luginbill mantra: “Good marketing builds brands, great marketing tied to numbers builds factories.”

Tim Newcomb is a freelance magazine writer and newspaper editor based in Western Washington.

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