Challenge = Opportunity with Cayenne’s Sam Burn

Written on August 17, 2023

Within challenge comes opportunity. That sentiment is at the core of the next phase of Cayenne Creative and our client efforts. Our own Sam Burn recently chatted with Shelby Harris of The Birmingham Business Journal to discuss the growing influence of AI, workforce challenges and finding our footing as an agency in an ever-changing digital landscape. 

Q: Looking ahead to the next several years, what do you expect to be the biggest challenge in sustaining revenue growth?

A: First, we are seeing and responding to a shift in need. In addition to driving demand for our client’s products and service, we are also answering their need to build more attractive and resilient cultures by not just repurposing marketing spend to recruitment but refocusing messages on our client’s purpose with messages that attract both new hires and new consumers.

Second, it is clear to us that the hiring crisis is not a temporary inconvenience but, instead an endemic and systemic one. For that reason, we are also seeking out and working with groups that are trying to solve for the root causes of of workforce dilemma, like The Alabama STEM Council who is taking on the complex and long-term solve of developing a future-proof workforce. And third, we are leveraging our consumer-centric marketing experience to develop innovative and new, fresh

ways to recruit and retain employees. The conventional rules of established recruitment marketing groups are just not as effective as they once were.

Q: When it comes to your industry’s local growth, what’s one key trend you’re watching closely and why?

A: One key trend we are watching closely, probably like everyone else, is artificial intelligence. While many people are afraid of this emerging technology and how it will interrupt the status quo, we are finding ways to utilize this technology to advance our business, drive efficiency and enhance our creativity. At Cayenne, instead of viewing AI as a threat, we are looking at it as a tool to help us be more creative. From the onset of social media to the rapid expansion of the digital marketing eco-system, we have been in the eye of disruption storm for all of our 18 years in business. 

From the beginning of desktop publishing to launch of the iPhone we have seen past threat and found opportunity for better work and better results. We are approaching AI the same way. Two key balancing factors on our radar are the creative potential and the legal/trademark risks embedded in AI.

Q: What do you expect of your industry’s local job market in the next several years?

A: There are historic staffing shortages in the health care, skilled labor, education and food service industries, plus more I am likely less attuned to. These industries are in straight-up crisis. But from crises emerge creative solutions. There are several groups thinking smart and working hard to solving this problem that I have great confidence in, specifically, the Economic Department Partnership of Alabama. In addition to the work they do to bring jobs to Alabama, they are doing some very innovative things like the Alabama Experience, ALEX, to attract workers our state.

I’m also impressed by the responsiveness of our local academic institutions. University of Alabama at Birmingham’s, nursing school is constantly making pragmatic adjustments to their program to meet the changing demands of the health care industry. Jefferson State Community College is reshaping their curriculum around our most pressing needs and turning potential workers into actual workers in an incredibly efficient and effective manner. 

To solve these various crises will require a combination of building from within and recruiting from afar. And because it is a systemic and nationwide problem, I think major employers — particularly in the manufacturing segment — will become increasingly more involved in workforce development.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in your company’s growth in recent years? What strategies have you used to address it?

A: The biggest challenge in our company’s growth in the recent years has been wrangling the ever expanding digital ecosystem. A new technology, tool or data source emerges almost daily. Larger multinational media buying firms have the benefit of scale and are able to hire deep teams to vet and optimize emerging technologies without raising cost to their clients. Small and mid-sized companies have three choices: raise their cost, evacuate the space or outsource to the low-service, disconnected media giants. None of those are good.

We maintain strategy, audience knowledge and client accountability locally and have the have an extension to our team that can continually and effectively address the growing complexity of the digital media landscape, and do so without the spending minimums imposed when outsourcing to the media Goliaths. Until things change again, and they will, we have avoided checkmate.

Q: What has been the biggest workforce development challenge facing your industry? What has your company done to adapt?

A: The biggest workforce development challenge facing our industry is the move to remote work. At Cayenne, we understand that creativity is a full-contact sport — we need to be face-to-face to collaborate, ideate and brain storm. During Covid, we learned we could function working remote, but just because we could, does not mean we should.

This interview was originally featured in The Birmingham Business Journal July 6th, 2023.