Conversations with Innovators — Q&A with Diane Seimetz Duncan of Launch Agency


THE CONVERSATIONS WITH INNOVATORS BLOG DISCUSSES NEW INNOVATIONS, BIG IDEAS, DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES, AND THE THOUGHT LEADERS, INNOVATORS, REBELS, ENTREPRENEURS AND TRAILBLAZERS THAT MAKE ALL OF THIS POSSIBLE.


 

This week we are talking with Diane Seimetz Duncan, co-founder and principal of Launch Agency.  Diane is an award-winning consultant experienced in helping start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike achieve success.

 

Diane, tell us about the founding of Launch Agency. What drove you to leave a large established firm to risk it all on a start up?

In 1999, my partner Dave and I were creative directors at a large advertising agency here in Dallas.  While our accounts were great, they were large, with lots of layers and often moved at glacial speed when making business decisions. Then came the dot-com bubble, where entrepreneurs were calling the shots and businesses were moving at lightning speed.  We’d been the “launching” team for years at the agency, rolling out new snacks for Frito-Lay, creating the first marketing campaign for American Airlines’ AA.com, opening the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and many others in between. Now, flush with VC money, everyone with a good idea seemed to be launching something! I got a call from a friend (brilliant serial entrepreneur) who had the notion to start an online grocery delivery service, similar to WebVan on the west coast, and Peapod in the north. We moonlighted for him, developing the strategy and advertising for the business, called Groceryworks.com  In a matter of months, the campaign – based on the “fun fruits” and veggies conceived by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann – was exploding the business, and formed the basis of what would become ours: Launch. We went on to launch Match.com, Hotels.com, relaunch eatZi’s Market and Bakery, and others. We spun off from the big agency in 2003, and are celebrating our 14th Launchiversary this month.

I noticed on the company’s website, you refer to “brand stories.”  What’s the meaning behind that?

In business parlance, case histories.  Ours center on a consumer insight uncovered, which informs the communications strategy. This strategy serves as the foundation for the marketing plan and creative work we develop in partnership with our clients. We have a proven process for the above, and each “story” breaks open how that process delivered results for the brand and its company.

Today, there many advertising and marketing agencies to choose from. What makes Launch Agency stand out?

Subject matter expertise and success metrics.  With 50% of all new ventures failing the first year - and 95% throwing in the towel by year five - beating the odds is a job for experts. Among the three principals, we have over 100 years of launching and relaunching experience with fast-growth brands, mature brands, and businesses who understand launching is something you do every day to stay ahead.

Where do you see digital media going in the next three years?

Mobile usage far exceeds mobile marketing spend (vs. other media) right now; that will begin to shift as businesses become more comfortable in their understanding of that “screen.” Also, a move from big data to big insight; thanks to the rise of business intelligence dashboards (a la Domo and others), we can now track activity across all digital channels (as well as some offline channels) and optimize messaging and media as we learn what’s working and what isn’t – which can now happen virtually real time.

Does Launch Agency have anything new on the horizon?

We recently launched another HeadSpace Dallas – a creative/digital co-working community in Far North Dallas.  It’s an incredible incubator for innovation.  We have a roster of really talented members, and frequently invite thought-leaders from a variety of industries to share what’s new in their space.  That keeps us very busy!

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time entrepreneur starting out?

Lay a strategic foundation for your business, centered around the needs of your customer/client. Entrepreneurs often operate on gut instinct and mother-in-law research. Operating off facts and data, especially at the start, is critical.  Apply discipline, focus, openness to new ideas, and superlative execution and you have a fighting chance of bucking the odds aforementioned.

What’s your “one thing” that most drives your professional success?

I cherish the relationships I have with clients and partners.  They fuel my passion for the work I do, and to succeed on their behalf.

 

Diane Seimetz, co-founder of Launch Agency

Creative Director and Strategic Planner Diane Seimetz launched Launch in 2003.  The business started as an “intrapreneurial” effort inside one of the southwest’s largest ad agencies, where she worked on such clients as American Airlines, Frito-Lay, Pace Picante Sauce, Bank of America, JCPenney and Subaru of America.  The concept was hatched back in 2000, when she and partner David Wilgus took on a moonlighting gig, helping a friend roll out an online grocery delivery service – a first for Dallas.  Groceryworks.com was an instant sensation, recognized for its fun fruit and veggie faces on billboards and trucks across town.  In less than a year, the company enjoyed 85% awareness among consumers without the use of television.  This caught the attention of Procter and Gamble, who flew down to interview the team to learn more about their "secret sauce," that enabled them to build a brand so quickly in such a large, expensive market.  Inspired, Dave, Diane and eventually a third partner took that secret sauce and turned it into a business three years later. The agency went on to launch the Paris Hotel Las Vegas, the most successful opening in the city’s history; dating giant Match.com; Hotels.com; relaunch eatZi’s Market and Bakery and Sam’s Club, which enjoyed 16 straight quarters of growth.

Today, Diane’s passion for fast-growth brands and the business owners who love them continues. She serves as a lecturer at the SMU Cox School of Business MBA program for Entrepreneurial Studies, and her perspectives on online marketing and marketing to women have appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Washington Times.  She’s also been featured on national and local radio programs, sharing marketing best practices for small businesses.

When she’s not dreaming up new campaigns or overseeing her newest venture HeadSpace - a creative coworking space in North Dallas - she is busy with husband Doug Duncan, four Millennial kids, five kids of the four-legged variety, a budding bath and skin care line, serving on the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County and with her church, Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.  Her favorite bedding plant is phlox, because it smells sweet and sounds funny.


For Conversations with other thought leaders and innovators in the financial industry, see innovator Kirk Bowman of Art of Value and innovator Jennifer Green of Burns360 .

For more information about related legal issues, read our Professional Services industry page.  


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