Making the Most of Breakfast with Ted Sarandos
As mere 30 year olds starting our own firm, we didn’t have enough gray hair to be trusted with valuable brands. We still sometimes look back and marvel at how our first big rebrand client, Byerly’s, entrusted us with removing the lines and wrinkles in the brand identity and retail experience of this much loved community grocer.
The balance of respecting heritage and relationships while seeing greater potential is central to how we help brands refresh themselves. And, central to this approach is the concept of trusted relationships—understanding how they are formed, examining when trust is actually earned, and respecting the ripple effect they can have in generating new and interesting relationships with others.
We’ve made it our mission to achieve exceptional work through the building of long lasting relationships. When you consider the intangible value and highly subjective nature of the creative work, it’s been a necessary evolutionary skill we’ve adapted, learning to leverage the trust we establish in our client relationships to help them avoid the pitfalls of fickle trends or inflexible points of view.
This goes back to the definition of great design and just also happens to define great relationships as well; long-lasting. Great design resists the urges and pressures of time by retaining its value and relevance. An example of great design: the Red Wing Shoes 875 boot is still made in America, designed here. Examples of a great relationship: Charles and Ray Eames, an iconic pair whose chairs you’ve likely rested on sometime in your life.
Great design and great relationships have more than just longevity in common. In design, the two hallowed words, form and function are tossed around to articulate philosophies on what makes a design “good.” We proposed a third leg to that stool: purpose. When a design has no clear purpose, intent or mission, failure is likely. Similarly, when the individuals in a relationship have no aligned clarity on purpose or goals, failure is imminent.
This brings me back to the a colleague and I had breakfast with Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix. (Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Just having breakfast with Ted Sarandos!) I’d like to tell you I just texted him a link to my Calendly, but the opportunity required a bit more intention. I bid on a meeting with Sarandos through a celebrity auction site called CharityBuzz. Price: $3,750, which went to the charity of Sarandos’ choice. Seemed a reasonable price to pay: Sarandos headed up content for the streaming service before becoming co-CEO. He was responsible for green-lighting House of Cards and so many other binge-worthy Netflix series. He’s one of the people celebrities thank when they get on the big stage to accept an Oscar or an Emmy, which added more than a touch of gravitas to our meeting.
We met for breakfast in Hollywood. He was dressed affluent casual, and I was just about as nervous as I’ve been my entire life. His demeanor calmed me, and we quickly entered a casual conversation about how we consumed content and some of the new original series he had recently approved. We talked about the history of Netflix and his passion for the art form that led to this approach to original content.
At the time, my Minneapolis agency, Capsule, had a client who was developing original, movie-length content, and this was the warm up conversation. We learned that Sarandos and his team were reviewing hundreds of ideas weekly from many sources and had a large appetite for being pitched truly creative ideas. I’d like to think our conversation went Sarandos making good on a charitable obligation, and the beginnings of a genuine relationship was established on a shared purpose: finding inspired content and stories to develop and share.
Our scheduled sixty minutes went long past as we talked about the future of entertainment content, creativity, the influence of media, and so many other areas. His parting insight was that the most rewarding stories are those hidden in the crevices of our global culture. As we got up to leave, people came out of the woodwork to hand Ted a script of thank him for putting in a good word. It felt like we had met someone influential.
Since this memorable breakfast, our team at Capsule has started put a few ideas in front of Sarandos. Nothing has struck the right cord yet, but we remain optimistic. The relationship started off with a shared purpose: allowing great creative content to perform on a larger stage. Stay tuned!
Like a tried and true pair of Red Wing boots that we know will get us wherever we’re going, trust contributes to relationships in our lives. That starts with the design of a great conversation.