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  • Writer's pictureRobert Cassard

Wild ideas, part one.

Chicago, Illinois—1893. The World's Columbian Exposition was looming and so was a 264-foot-tall metal wheel designed by George Ferris. It was an idea as wild and crazy as Gustav Eiffel's tower from a few years before.

Despite the naysayers, it proved to be an engineering marvel..and very popular. It fit 2,160 riders at a time, and cost 50 cents to ride—twice the price of a ticket to the fair itself. It saved the fair from financial ruin.

Cut to Grand Rapids, Michigan—1982. The President of Johnson & Dean Advertising took a chance by hiring a new college grad named Robert Cassard as a junior copywriter at a salary of $13k a year. The executive team asked the whole staff for ideas to "freshen" their largest account, Meijer Thrifty Acres, which then owned 40 stores in the upper midwest.

I proposed a wild idea: to have vendors pay additional fees to participate in a customized series of co-branded TV and radio promotions. I suggested sweetening the deal with special end-cap placement in stores.

The program, called "Meijer Means Business," doubled Johnson & Dean's revenues that year, and radically increased Meijer's brand exposure, helping speed the company's expansion, which now encompasses over 200 stores.

I scored a whopping $2k raise that year. (That's why I work for myself now.)

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