Reason #1: Big Risks, Big Rewards

An elephant stomps on carpet

We’re finally at reason #1. Don’t wait any longer. Call me now.

Anyone willing to put zoo animals on carpet — that’s someone who takes big risks for even bigger rewards.



When I originally came up with the idea back in early 2009 to put a rhino on carpet, I approached colleagues and higher ups and let’s just say the first few conversations were ones that included questioning my sanity. Even after making the business case, working with veterinarians to assure the animal’s safety, testing product under the worst possible scenarios and more, doubt remained.

There was an extraordinary effort to assure that Michael Cheek got “credit” for everything.

Of course, “credit” in this case could have turned to blame had anything at all gone wrong. At one point, I recall distinctly putting my job on the line for the success of the 2009 SmartStrand Rhino Challenge.

Everything did not go perfectly, as any good project manager would tell you. Web cameras went down. A tropical storm blew through Birmingham forcing Ricko the Rhino inside for 72 hours straight, which meant significantly more poo than testing and a slightly more agitated beast. And I learned a lot more about the male Black Rhinoceros and where you don’t want to put branding for web cams (and when you might want to shut cameras off).

Point your smartphone at this and call Michael Cheek

The pros outweighed the cons and we did it again in 2010 — as you saw in the video — with elephants, camels, a rhino and 40,000 humans. As you could read in the by the numbers entry (reason #6), the return on investment in media value alone was tenfold.

I don’t jump out of airplanes or climb up rock faces. The closest I get to death defying is a good roller coaster or sushi. However, to dangle a great idea out over the edge of consumers and urge them to come see, watch, learn and then buy — that’s the kind of risk I do.

Can you think of any better way to explain to consumers — or the more challenging, stuck-in-a-rut retailer — who’s convinced that the tried and tested old nylon carpet is the best way to go? Put a wild animal that produces 40-pounds of crap a day and weighs a few tons to stomp on it and then see if it comes clean.

The complexity of pulling that off but the simplicity of the message is what made that campaign work.

I will bring such to my next company. The best is not behind me. It is ahead of me. My head is simply bursting with ideas and as I get to know a company and the brands and products and/or services that compose it, I will bring all my brainpower to bear on it.

You’ve heard of a brainstorm? I don’t brainstorm. My ideas marinate and bubble up, erupting finally like a volcano and continuing on to form something new.

Big risks. Bigger rewards. Massive potential realized.

Published by

Michael Cheek

With more than 20 years of communication experience, Michael Cheek offers solid marketing expertise, especially in the digital frontier. He currently resides in Georgia but he's open to relocate anywhere the opportunities take him. Learn more at You can follow him on Twitter at and see more about his professional experience at Reach him via e-mail at

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