JMP Jump Starts Creative Process

Concept development group takes an organized albeit off-the-wall approach to inventing new products and promotional strategies.

Imagine starting your workweek by making balloon animals, watching a frog race or playing a spirited game of Pictionary.
Staff members at Santa Ana, Calif.-based JMP Creative, a concept development company, have done all of the preceding on the company’s “Monday Fun Days.” The activities are designed to do much more than just help JMP employees ease into the weekly grind. It’s all part of the ongoing commitment to maximizing creative output among the animators, inventors, industrial designers and various marketing types on staff at the company. The JMP team also includes professional trend hunters, who work aggressively at identifying trends — well before they hit the mainstream.
Creatively strategic thinking is the company’s stock and trade. Clients tap into this creativity in a variety of ways. Some contract with JMP to orchestrate elaborate ideation sessions for their own employees. Others hire the company to work under the radar screen as a “secret resource” on product development.
“We invent products in a way that fits the needs of the customer,” says Jim McCafferty, CEO/president of the company.
Some of JMP’s methods seem unorthodox, if not off-the-wall. The company’s ideation sessions have incorporated everything from carnival games to extreme sports as well as appearances by special guests ranging from behavioral psychologists to a chimpanzee.
The activities may appear to be wacky, but, in reality, they are carefully conceived and structured in way that McCafferty and the JMP team have determined will best stimulate a creative thought process.
“You’ve got to have ways to make it fun and exciting to really take your thinking in other directions,” says McCafferty.
Major clients
The 14-year-old company has a client roster that includes retailers, toy makers, food and beverage companies, and a very extensive list of quick-service restaurants. Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Subway are among the foodservice clients for whom JMP has developed kids’ meal programs. One of last year’s most visible projects was a “transmorphing” Hulk cup for 7-Eleven that tied into the major movie release.
Toys and collectible products bearing the creative imprint of JMP have sold more than a billion units, says McCafferty.
JMP has done some work in the candy category — particularly in the development of unique candy dispensers, and McCafferty says he’d like to do more.
“Now we want to aggressively move into the category,” he says. Novelty/interactive candy is “low-price-point entertainment,” he reflects, adding that JMP’s experience creating kids’ meal toys has made the creative team “extremely good at doing low-cost novelty.”
“We’re looking at the category,” he continues. “I think there are a lot of assumptions that can be broken.”
McCafferty is a big believer in breaking out by breaking some rules. One of the keys, he explains, is doing the rule breaking without going so far that the product fails to address the needs of its target audiences.
McCafferty also believes the candy industry would benefit by being more up to speed on leading-edge trends.
“With candy, you may want to look at the fashion industry and know that certain colors are going to be hot next year,” for example, he notes.
Marketing magic
McCafferty is a former magician and illusionist, with a career track that includes performances on television and in Las Vegas.
Friends in the advertising industry started seeking him out to help them add some zip to ideation sessions. “It turns out that magic and marketing have a lot of parallels,” he says. “It’s about making you believe and attracting your attention.”
Eventually, he decided to form his own business, and today JMP Creative sprawls over 10,000 square feet of space located in several buildings in an industrial complex that appears ordinary and unassuming on the exterior.
Inside, however, the visitor will find everything from a toy room stocked with thousands of playthings to a conference room designed to resemble a space ship. The JMP facilities also include a giant think tank capable of handling brainstorming sessions for groups of up to 50 people. It’s completely wired for video and sound.
There also are high-end computer graphics work stations, sophisticated audio immersion tools to facilitate brainstorming sessions, and — just for fun — a games arcade that delivers a dose of creativity enhancement and/or stress relief via a round of Donkey Kong or classic pinball.
Beyond the concept
JMP’s creative process doesn’t stop with concept development. Thanks to its on-site prototype workshop, the company has the capacity to turn ideas into reality.
JMP’s expertise also extends to developing promotional programs. And that’s an area where McCafferty is convinced that the candy industry could be doing a better job.
“You want to promote your products in new and different ways,” he emphasizes. “The market can be a lot bigger than the moment of impulse at the store. You’ve got to get people talking about your products — to create a buzz.”