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  • Positive Polarity Podcast

How The Weaponry is combining customer insight with humor to make compelling advertising


Adam spent his childhood in Vermont, where he was raised on maple syrup and snow. Following graduation from high school he attended the University of Wisconsin, where he studied psychology, journalism and cheese curds. He also captained Wisonsin’s Big 10 Champion track and field team.

Adam started his advertising career as a copywriter at Cramer Krasselt working on iconic brands including Reddi-Wip, Ski-Doo, GNC, Snap-On, Briggs and Stratton and Case IH. His next stop was at Engauge where he ascended to the role of Chief Creative Officer, winning work with such well known brands as Nike, Coca Cola, Nationwide Insurance, Wells Fargo, UPS and Chick-fil-a. Publicis Groupe acquired Engauge in 2013 and folded the agency into Atlanta-based Moxie, forming a 625 person marketing powerhouse. Adam remained at Moxie until 2016 when he left to launch The Weaponry.

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How The Weaponry is combining deep customer insight with humor and human-connection to make compelling advertising

Hey, Dave, Melinda here, positive polarity, podcast. Hope things are going awesome for you. If you don't have a seatbelt on right now, I highly suggest that you do it because these next few minutes will be highly intense. And if you're listening and you can't see us, I got a guy that's got here almost as long as mine, probably longer. I didn't measure, and I'm not going to, but I'm super stoked to have Adam Albrecht, the founder, and CEO of the weaponry. How are you today?

Great Thank you for having me. Oh my gosh. I'm super excited.

I've invested some time doing some research on this guy, and he's real. So, I want to jump right in with you, Adam. I want to understand what is The Weaponry for people that don't know that term?

Yeah, so the weaponry is an advertising, an idea agency. We work with the, with co with companies across North America, coast to coast and all. And we do everything from television to Twitter. We're a full-service ad agency, but we call ourselves an idea agency because often what clients end up coming to us are questions about challenges that are well beyond advertising and marketing.

When you talk about an agency, I mean, what set you apart right away was that word idea. And maybe it's implied for many people in that situation, Adam, but I also think to separate yourself, that's a pretty cool way. Was that intentional for you to jump in, to use that word?

Yeah, absolutely. I come from the creative side of advertising, and so my trade is coming up with ideas. And so, I remember years ago talking to CEOs of our clients before I started the weaponry, and I said if you ever need help thinking about X or Y or Z, we're happy to help.

I remember them saying, never thought about that before. We never thought about turning to our agency, which we turn to for so many other ideas, turn to them for help with product ideation or developing internal programs or overcoming, say, a channel issue within their own company. Why would you, well, we're good at that. I mean, you bring good thinkers into any kind of problem, and we will bring your ideas because most advertising and marketing challenges are our problems that we're looking to solve. The same process to get to great ideas will get you two great ideas with really any business area.

Thanks for sharing that because I think there's probably like many people when they hear marketing advertising, they hear anything like that. Their wall goes up, and if they're a typical entrepreneur, they're going to go; Adam, I appreciate it, but I can do that on my own. You probably run into a lot of people that think they can do this on their own. So adding that whole idea piece to that, that's what we do as coaches. We come alongside people and help them weather with their blind spots. Maybe, they don't know what they don't know. So when you're sitting across from somebody and they're like I love what you do, but I got this. How do you walk them through to maybe check-in and ensure that that is the right way for them?

I am a free sample kind of guy that when someone says, Hey, no, no, no, we've got this. I said I'm sure you do. I'm sure you thought of things like X and Y and Z and how you could and how you can expand that. And inevitably, they'll be like, "I didn't think of that." Or I did think of that, but I tend to think of the next piece. I just love ideas, right? I just love coming up with new ways of approaching problems. I love bringing new life to products, to services, to writings, to everything. And when you start feeling new ideas, especially when you're helping them, and you give it to them for free, they'll get their spoon out, and they will shovel that stuff in.

And so then at some point when the conversation's over, you walk away, they remember that. I have given them not only a free sample but an audition of how we work together. I've proven some value immediately. And in some ways, when people do those things for us, we feel a bit of indebtedness to them. They helped me out. You served up a bunch of free things here, and that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to sign up to be a client or customer, but it does mean that they feel like, Oh, I would love to be able to help you in some way.

So, I'm going to challenge people listening because when they heard free, either the brakes went on or the wall went up or they were about to change the channel because we don't like to give stuff away free. Even from a sales training perspective, I'm like, my brakes almost went on. And then I start thinking about the value add, and I'm like, man, that's brilliant.

And I can say, as a business owner, in this situation, I was so worried about that. 2% of people that were going to take advantage of me right. On my free stuff that I just negated the other 98% that fall into your spot. What do you do when you encounter somebody who thinks this is too good to be true? Or why are you doing this? I mean, there's got to be some like, okay, where's the hook?

I think that my approach is to give. I follow a Jeffrey Gitomer. He's got a great, great saying that that is the heart of his philosophy: people hate to be sold, but they love to buy it.

So I always take a stance that I'm happy to offer and share, but not ask for the sale. I'm happy to help any way I can, but yeah. But really, I like to leave that on the other side. And I think that there, and I think that there are the people who I work with, who I, who I engage with, recognize that I didn't. Yeah, that I wasn't trying, I wasn't trying to sell, but I was, but I was almost so enthusiastic about their puzzle. Right. It's a little bit like they've got someone's got a puzzle on their, on their table. And I came over for dinner, and I'm like, Oh, you work on this puzzle.

Like, yeah, I can't find this piece. And when you stand there, like, Ooh, what about this? Is this the one? And you're like, Oh, maybe that is the one. And you just are, and they see your enthusiasm for problem-solving. You don't have to help solve the puzzle. If you give me $10, I'll look for two or three pieces. It's a different mindset. I tried to come to life with everyone. I encounter it with enthusiasm for helping. Through that enthusiasm and through that mindset of just trying to give an added value, I found that I get back more than I, more than I give.

That's awesome. And it's evident, I mean, on your LinkedIn profile, it says that you've done over 500 blog posts.

We try and help people, especially now, and it's like from a sales perspective, how do you keep your pipeline filled? And to your point, when you're talking about adding value, I mean, one way you add value is by taking the ideas that you have and helping other people find ways to implement them. That's right. I mean, how in the world do you come up with all this, these ideas in this content?

I mean, that just 500 is even for me, it is like, Oh my gosh. I mean, I may have 50. And I feel like that is like exhausting to get to 50. How in the world did you do that? And where did you, where's all the inspiration come from?

So this is a great area to poke at here. And I'll say that when I first started the weaponry, I started a blog at that point, but I started in Atlanta, but when I moved to Milwaukee, I joined a CEO round table through a Cosby group through the, through the MMAC one at the very first session, very first meeting I attended, there was a guy there who was talking about the mathematics of influence. And he said that he was a mathematician and his company had done an analysis on the number of pieces of content you put out, each month as an example, and the relative return, people are getting on that.

Our numbers show that you have to post more than six or more times a month to have a significant impact. If you did less than that, anything between one and five was the same effect, but there was a magnified effect that they saw mathematically after you got to six posts per month. And that point, I would say I was probably doing one, one, or maybe two posts a week. It was probably between four to maybe six posts a week at that point, or sorry, a month, four to six posts a month. Okay. So really didn't get into that number, that, of that impact that he was mathematically referencing. Sure. So, and so I said, all right, well then I'm going to go to two posts a week and make this my half.

And so I did, and immediately I saw a change. I mean, the next month, I got twice the viewership twice the leadership as I had before. And as I tried to, then when I got to the point where I said, let's see what else I can do to ramp this up a little further. I recognize that in addition to my Tuesday and Thursday posts, which I've recognized with really the best routinely, the best days for me to post Tuesday, I added a Sunday morning post. And at that point, I maxed out. You have three posts a week is about as much as anybody wants with me. And, and I try and put considerable thought into my posts. So it's getting into a habit, right.

You're getting into a good habit of saying every these three days I will put out a blog post, no matter what, then do the math on that three Oh three posts, times a hundred and a hundred, sorry, three posts, times 52 weeks. And you've got to know yourself 150 posts in one year.

Wow. And that's so cool. I mean, again, I'm hearing people going through seriously, come on in this situation, Adam, how can we possibly invest that much time? ? And that's where it's like, I agree. I'm at that spot where it's like, you almost can't afford not to try to, depending on what your goal is. And let me ask you that. Did you have a specific goal that you wanted? I mean, there are so many vague things, Hey, do this, and that'll happen. Did you have a very specific goal that you were trying to achieve with all these posts?

Well, let me just back up and say that that there's a price to pay for everything in life. So I get up, and I write the first thing at first thing in the day, every day is writing, is writing my blog. Okay. So I'm up at six, I'm writing, I'm writing by six, 10, and I write for an hour or sometimes an hour and a half, sometimes two hours to start. Right. And that is, that is five days a week, if not six. How do you grow yourself? How do you go from, I'm a salaried employee to I'm the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company? It takes work. You put in the effort, and I got to tell you, I enjoy it.

But, it has become a habit. So I don't think about it as hard work, but imagine that by the time most, most people are getting to work at eight o'clock, I've already, already booked put in two hours, of important work that, spreads good work. So when you asked me, what was my, what was the impetus for this? There, I'd say that three things influenced my blog, and the first is that when I started the weaponry, I thought this was a good story in my advertising idea agency. I thought that telling the story of how you go from a salaried employee for 20 years to be launching your own business was an interesting story to tell.

And I had tried, or I'd started a couple of different blogs before that, but I was looking for something good in media that I could that would continue to inspire. So that was, so that was part of, I thought it would be a good story. The second part, though, is going back to Jeffrey Denver in his book, the little black networking book. And he said, it's not about, it's not about who it's, who knows you. And by putting out a podcast, like you're doing Dave putting out the blog like I do putting out an editorial column, you're able to reach far more people than you would be able to reach one-on-one so. So what I figured was that by putting out this content, I would be able to reach people I wouldn't have a chance to have to, find, have a conversation with regularly.

And that has certainly been true then. Instead of talking with one person a day or ten people a day on a day, like today, I could reach hundreds of thousands of people. Sure. And so, and so then the, but the third thing is that during the process of, of launching my own business, I dealt with the challenge that so many people deal with, which is how do you make that switch from the, from the salary track of working for someone else for 20 years to working for yourself. Like I had, I had clients who said, we'd love to work with you. Would you start your own business?

So it was crazy, right? So I'll try and come back to this, and I'm not. But the reason I started the weaponry because I had two former clients call me the same day while I was at work in my office in Atlanta. They didn't know each other. They didn't know they were both calling me two hours apart and saying, Hey, I'd love to work with you again, but I don't want to work with your current agency if you think about starting your own business. Yes, I would. But then I'm excited, right? I'm starting my own business. And I knew that two clients weren't enough. So I quickly make calls to other former clients, and within a week or so, I had five clients who said, if you do this, we have worked for you.

That's so cool. So, you'd say, all right, I have five clients who said, do you start your own business?

I knew what track I was on. I knew what I wanted to be on, but I didn't know how to make the switch. And then, one day, I read a blog post or in a blog post from a friend of mine in Atlanta who was an entrepreneur.

And the blog post was 10 things. You'd do 10 things you don't need to do to start your own business. So I read this, and it was basically lowering the bar on everything, right? So you don't need a lawyer. You don't need any more until you have money, right. Make some money. Then you need your lawyer. You don't need a business plan. They lowered the bar, but the one that unlocked everything for me was number seven. It said you don't need to quit your job. And so I thought that is exactly what I needed to hear.

It said I encourage you not to quit your job day job fund your startup. Hold onto that. As long as you can, until you, until you literally can't do both at the same time. Sure. And that was exactly what I needed to hear. That was the key. And the lock turn, the door opens. I'm like, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to start moonlighting. Right? I'm going to start. I looked over my contract, and it didn't say anything about not serving other customers. It said that I couldn't take any customers. I couldn't take any clients. And I couldn't steal employees. But so I started working. I started working nights and weekends and lunch hour and commute and all that. It suddenly all and before long, all of that was completely full.

I was generating revenue, significant revenue to the point where I couldn't do both jobs anymore. And so then at that point, it was so easy to let go of the day job and take on, let me think because essentially I've built my safety net. I built my room. And so the fact that that blog post unlocked, what has, what has been the greatest, really the greatest experience of my career made me want to give back and made me want to say, there are other people out there who want to do what I've always wanted to do and are stopped because they don't have the answers to this. And if I can be like, if I can walk in with my blog post, like a janitor with a big brain, what'd you got what'd, you need, you need to figure out how you do the money thing, the client thing, the inspiration thing, there's a plan, the networking thing. I got brains for all of that. I've got a key for whatever you are looking for. That was fun and exciting to me. And I really enjoyed being able to provide an opening for others.

That's so cool. And thank you for sharing that. And we end up in the show, and we talk about the intersection between business growth and personal growth. And so you hit it right on the head because if I'm able to unpack that with people, there are so many different ways to start a business, I'm completely opposite of you. I had another business that was doing about 10 million in sales. We had about 22 people on our team, and I sold that, and I remember selling it. And on a Tuesday afternoon, I'm sitting in a restaurant, and the guy's like, so what are you going to do now? And I'm like, Oh my gosh, like I got nothing to do. Right. So the guy who bought it from me said, well, I'd like, he was my partner business partner. And he said I'd like to bring you back on as a consultant.

And I'm like, okay, first of all, you didn't listen to me when we were partners. And that's kind of one of the reasons that I'm getting out of this. So I don't want my first partner, my first client, to be someone that doesn't listen to me. So I turned that one down, my second client comes along, and they hear I'm available, jump in, and they don't pay and go out of business. So I'm like over two in this situation, Adam, so completely different. So whoever's listening. And if you're at that crossroads, there is no right or wrong way what works in this case for Adam may not work for you. And what works for me may not work for you guys.

I think that's so pluggable to be able to understand what's going on in your surroundings, and it's great that you were teachable in that because I run into a lot of people that they can't learn from anybody.

And that's so hard for them to start a business because that's probably, if you can't learn from somebody next to you, or if you can't learn from a customer, you're going to really have a hard time building that business up. So I've always tried to take the apprentice mindset. I'm trying to learn as much. Yeah. I try to act like I don't know anything. And I tried every situation. And because of that, I learn a ton and I, and I share with others.

Well, I want to kind of put some face paint on, and I want to put on my camel gear because there was another part that I really dug about businesses, war. And I love the fact that it says to out-think the competition. And I know right now that those probably are not really high on people's, whether it's the pandemic, whether it's the economy, you can blame whatever you want for your business, where it's at the end of the day. I'm not seeing many people invest much time on talking about thinking about or considering the competition.

So that's why I think this was so unique. And I want to unpack the business is war concept. When you wrote that, what was the thinking behind that?

Well, I'll go back to this that I have competed in some as Mathletics, in my youth and in, in high school and my, my junior year, my junior year in high school, I was new England champion and the discus in high school, my senior year. And I was feeling good, right? Like I felt like I was Rockstar and was, imagine how great I was going to be my senior year. And then during the football season, I thought I'd be playing college football.

And during my senior year in college, I tore my ACL practice after the third game and had my knee reconstructed. Eight months after knee reconstructive knee surgery, I defended my new England championship in the discus. I broke the state record in the New Hampshire state record in the disc. And the record stood for 12 years. And so I went on to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and I threw the discus, and I threw the hammer and the 35-pound weight, and I had great, great success, great team success. And then I graduated, right?

Many college athletes and so many high school and college athletes, when their athletic days are done, don't know their identity anymore. They don't know that they feel lost without that, without athletics and competition. I never felt that way. Dave, as soon as I graduated, I went into, I started approaching my career in our approach business, the same way I approached athletics. Right. I think that business is the ultimate competitive sport.

Right. Cause we're playing for money. Every client hires ad agencies because they either want to take advantage of something. They want to take new territory, or someone's taken their territory, someone's eating their lunch, and one's eaten there, and they want to fight back.

The idea of the battle of business comes both from my athletic background and from what I have experienced throughout my 20 plus years of advertising and marketing. I was ideating for my name, of the business sitting in my house in Atlanta, and I write I'm writing this long list, and I write down the weaponry and immediately feel it right. The weapon we've got that sounds strong. And it sounds strong. It's not aggressive. The idea of having all the weapons in one place, and that's what we offer. We offer our clients full service, advertising resources. And so I love that, but I also loved the whole mindset of this.

I loved that. It made me feel aggressive. And the startup process is going from telling a lot of lies to making those lies come true. And the name itself gave our team swagger from day one. And it intrigued people to say, tell me more. I want to hear more about this business.

What is this? What does the weaponry do?

A couple of years ago, we flew to my teammate and flew to India and went through immigration customs at 2:00 AM in India. And they said, what is the weaponry? Do you have weapons with you?

So it has always brought intrigue. It has always brought interest. And what we find is that we attract like-minded people, clients who were saying that is the mindset that I have to see, we want to win, and this is war. We need someone who's going to go to battle for us and understands how serious this is. We attract customers like that. If we lose customers or opportunities where people don't like that mindset. Sure. You're never going to be your customer anyway. If that kind of aggressive mindset isn't for you, then yes, we are not for you.

That's so cool. I kind of played off of it in my mind, and I'm thinking, who would I want in my foxhole? And if your name or my name don't come up pretty close to the top for our clients in my mind, I feel like we haven't done our job because I'm not somebody in my foxhole when there's a problem or none. And I haven't served in the military, but I have friends that have, and I tell you what the military surely understands this is life and death.

And our business is life and death, especially when you think about the competition and business being war. So I'm assuming your kind of in that foxhole with a lot of your clients in this as well.

Absolutely. And I think that that's what they love about us because we jump in there as if we are on the front lines with them. We want to be the first one the first ones throwing heat and always looking for great opportunities to help in any way.

We love a crisis. I got to tell you that there are many agencies who, when you call them and say, Hey, we've got something that's kind of a short term, short turnaround, or quick deadline. Like, well, we can't do that, our process requires us to require three weeks for this and two weeks for that. And another four weeks. Ours is the opposite. We are in the social era, right? Shit happened so fast that if you can't respond at the speed of social, your opportunity vanishes before you got to jump on it, and the threat will overtake you before you were able to respond.

You tell us what needs to be done, what time, and you have to deal with. And we will find a way. Right now, I've never once told a client that we didn't have time for what they needed. We say these are the parameters we are given, right? Yes, we have a defined process. We have a very well-defined repeatable process that gets you to the ultimate answer, but life doesn't always work like that business doesn't always work like that. Sometimes, you have to put things in going into the passing lane and say, we need to get there very fast because an action is more important than perfection.

When I looked on your website, it said creative ideas, excellent customer service, and fun experience for all.

Consistency is the key to branding. It is the key to clarity and messaging. And I start every company meeting by stating our goals and saying we will be successful if we do these three things right. If we do these three things, we offer excellent creative ideas, great customer service, and a fun experience for everyone involved because that means that we're giving people the ideas they needed. We're leading them the way they want to be treated.

I'm curious what your, what's your favorite topic to blog about?

Optimism. I write about entrepreneurship. I write about business. I write about marketing and advertising, and creativity. I write about networking, and I write about all kinds of things. But for me, the idea of optimism, I try to bake into everything. And if you've got something that is going wrong in your life, or you feel like you're not doing as well as you should, this is exciting because there's room for improvement.

One last question, before I let you go here, Adam, if you had a tip of the week, what would that be for people listening?

I love the idea that in life, there are two mindsets. There's the host mindset and the guest mindset. Any situation you walk into, you get to play one of those two things. Often, we choose to play the guest mindset, which means that we aren't the ones to initiate the action. We aren't the ones to initiate the conversation. We aren't the ones to make other people feel welcome. But if you change that mindset and say, I will always, or as much as possible, adapt a host mindset, then what you, then what you become as a host to the world, right?

So whether you at someone else's dinner party or you are on a subway or in the middle of the desert, play host and make them feel welcome. Initiate the conversation and make others feel like they belong and that you are interested in them and want to help and serve them.

For me, that is one of the key ideas that most people don't think about that can make a major difference in how they impose their enjoyment of life and the opportunities they open up for themselves.

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