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Company leaders: Don’t be afraid to get silly and have fun

Posted on Categories BrandonomicsTags

Cultures that engage and empower employees aren't dry and dull; one of the best ways to encourage positive behaviors and beliefs in your people is to have fun with them. Gene Gray, President at Innovative-IDM, shares the story of how a little silliness with a buzzer turned into a company mascot and a constant celebration of their customers.

Robin: Hello and welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, and inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies. I am Robin Tooms, VP of Strategy at Savage Brands, and my guest again is Gene Gray, President at Innovative-IDM. So Gene, I’m so glad you’re back on Brandonomics.

Gene: Well, thanks for having me. It’s been fun; I’ve enjoyed it.

Robin: Well good. I’ve had so much fun as well, learning all about the great internal culture that you have there at Innovative. And one thing I found kind of interesting is that your company has a mascot.

Gene: Yeah.

Robin: And I find that kind of fascinating. So it’s a buzzard; why is your mascot a buzzard?

Gene: We never really intentionally had a mascot and we certainly didn’t pick a buzzard randomly, you know? So we were a small company back in 2007, 2008 – and we’re still a small company – but we had some great growth goals and we knew that in order to do that we needed to really take care of our customers. And not only take care of the ones we have, but we also needed to celebrate the new ones that it would take to help us grow. So we said okay, here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to build this big light tower with these multicolored lights and we’re going to have this big pull on this buzzer that we’re going to sound off every time we get a new customer, and then everybody’s going to jump up and high-five, and it’s going to be a party. It’s going to be fun! Our No. 4 goal is to have fun.

So we said all right, let’s do it. So we’re going to do this, these are our plans. Later that day we get a new customer but we didn’t have time to do any of this, so Jesse – Papa Buzz as he’s now called – Jesse Simental sends out an email and he says, hey, bar the door and hit the buzzer; we have a new customer! But he didn’t spell it “buzzer.” Somehow auto correct helped him out and it was “bar the door and hit the buzzard.” So from that day forward, we’ve affectionately referred to our new customers, our customer events — they all carry the trademark of Buzz the buzzard. And we even have a stuffed buzzard – we have 24 stuffed buzzards, and it’s just symbolic of a new customer. So it gives us a fun way to help us visually, symbolically recognize new customers, and there’s rules about how you handle Buzz. You’re not allowed to do certain things with him. You can take him to parties, he’s been to Vegas, you know, you can check him out to take him on vacation.

Robin: But he’s your customer.

Gene: Oh yeah. You can take him with you to vacation and take pictures and put him on our blog, but it was our way to have some fun and make sure that we celebrate new customers. And interestingly enough, to this day, the way we help a bigger footprint company stay smaller is to send out an email, we call them Buzz alerts, and they automatically go out to every employee every time we get a new customer.

Robin: Well, I love that you embraced that.

Gene: Sure.

Robin: I love that he’s now your constant companion to help that keep front and center every day. It’s wonderful.

Gene: Yes, Buzz the buzzard. We have the No. 1 buzzard, he’s in my office. They all look very similar; it’s a tight family of buzzards. But it’s neat and the reason is simple, right? Everybody wants to have a company, everybody wants to, you know, in their company they want to grow them, but we have to embrace our goal to have fun.

Robin: Have fun. Thank you so much, Gene.

Gene: You’re welcome.

Robin: That’s wonderful. This has been another edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies.


Innovative-IDM is an industrial automation and controls company with distribution and manufacturing locations in both Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston, and with sales and field service technicians across the southern U.S. They are committed to legendary customer service.

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