Our series, People at Play, highlights the creative minds who fuel PlayNetwork –
a little bit of wisdom & insight, a little bit of rock & roll, straight from our teams.
Who :: Craig Carman
What :: National Sales Director
How :: For the past 20 I have been helping major brands in retail, food & beverage and hospitality enhance the customer experience through music, sound, video and scent.
1) You started working at PlayNetwork shortly after the company was founded in 1996. What was it like working at a small Seattle startup in the early 2000s?
In 1999, I was officially on-board the PlayNetwork team – my timing was impeccable, as there wasn’t room for any more people in the crammed office space located on the second floor of a small building under the Space Needle. After all, by this time they had continued to grow and now had 12 people working for the company.
When we moved into the new building in Redmond in January 2000, we couldn’t believe how much space we had to call our own! That didn’t last long; in mid-January we held a training session for 32 newly recruited employees. And by the way, recruiting 32 team members during that time was remarkable. This was during the height of the dot-com boom. Anyone with talent looking for a new gig could write his or her own ticket. But even in those early stages of growth, we had something special. Something that couldn’t be explained. Sure, we had proprietary technology and services that changed the industry, but it was more than that. The people were something special and it was contagious. It was the beginning of a culture that still exists today.
One of my fondest memories was our first strategic planning session. We had about six us of in a room. These were seasoned professionals that knew this industry inside out. So how did we start? By writing down on a whiteboard every single thing we could think of that was wrong with this industry. PlayNetwork’s entire go-to-market strategy was built around solving the problems from that list.
I left PlayNetwork at the end of 2007. My time there was truly the most rewarding, fulfilling and exciting part of my entire career. My love for the company, its people and its culture never changed. My passion for this industry never wavered. I watched PlayNetwork continue to grow over the years since leaving. The growth was impressive, but what amazed me the most was how the company continued to evolve and even reinvent in anticipation of trends in the marketplace. They always seemed to be one step ahead of the client need. After 6 years of following different pursuits, I wanted back in the industry and as far as I was concerned, there was only one company doing it right.
After returning to PlayNetwork last year, I was so delighted to find that the culture and the Guiding Principles of this organization had not changed. Even through extraordinary growth the culture remains preserved. It’s great to again be a part of it!
2) What trends have you seen recently out in the field? How are these affecting the industry as a whole?
Actually, I’m finding more and more that if it’s a “trend” our clients are somewhat hesitant to employ. What they really want is something unique. Something that has never been done before. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, if brand X is doing it we don’t want to do it. While we have launched many campaigns built around engaging with customers through music, social media, augmented reality and other interactive technology, it’s really the cutting edge first-to-market success stories that are most exciting. The amount of customization that we are doing is unprecedented. The demand is high. Thankfully, I have many amazing innovative and creative people behind me as well as the technology to pull it off!
3) How about one of your favorite client stories? What did you learn as a result?
I remember the first huge RFP we were invited into. It was for the largest retailer in the world at the time. We closed off the conference room with a big sign that read WAR ROOM (COMPANY X PLANNING ONLY). Our IT geeks pretty much invented a unique playback software just for them. We insisted on hand delivering the RFP and this top-secret software application. We purchased a Halliburton stainless steel briefcase. This is the briefcase seen in 100s of Hollywood movies and the same briefcase containing the launch codes the President of the United States would use to order a nuclear strike. We dressed our chief Music Supervisor in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, hat and sunglasses. He entered the company’s corporate headquarters with the briefcase hand cuffed to his wrist. Maybe a little dramatic, but today we provide our services to every store in their chain.
What’s interesting is that PlayNetwork approaches every opportunity in similar fashion even today. You have to be different, creative and bring value to the relationship. Every client is different. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all product. In this ever-changing industry you have to think outside the box and be ready to offer something they’ve not heard of before.
4) What do you do when you’re not out in the field promoting the PlayNetwork brand?
I have two passions: golf and drumming. As they say, “do what you like to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I actually did both of these for a living at one time. I was a professional drummer in a band touring the US for seven years and later a PGA Golf Professional with a head pro gig in Florida. Today, I stay involved with both.
I’ve been filming drummers for the past several years. It’s work in progress that I hope will eventually be a full-length documentary. Through the process, I’ve had the opportunity to hang with, interview and film many of my drumming heroes…David Garibaldi, Dennis Chambers, Anton Fig, Sheila E, Mike Clark, Lenny White, Alan White, Steve Smith, Ricky Lawson and others.
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