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Amanda Brinkman

Amanda Brinkman

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Trendsetters: Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe Shows How a Meaningful Content Program Can Reinvent a Brand and Drive a Revolution

Amanda Brinkman is not one to shy away from a challenge.

As the Chief Brand and Communications Officer of Deluxe Corporation—a century old company known originally for check printing—she had to change the perception of the brand as it evolved to an extensive business services company, while continuing to honor a landmark anniversary. (Plus, Deluxe had a brand awareness of less than 1%, and its advertising efforts were outspent exponentially by competitors.)

So Amanda Brinkman make two leadership moves that are now among the modern hallmarks of good marketing—she turned to her customers to see how she could impact their needs, and she explored how Deluxe could make a meaningful difference to its customers by championing an issue that's authentic to the brand.

The result was indeed a revolution—a small business revolution.

Brinkman certainly knew that the majority of the company's customers are small businesses. What unified the Deluxe offering—whether its legacy check printing or new business services—was that the company has been a proud champion of small business since 1915. As she crisscrossed the United States to talk with business owners, she also learned first-hand that each business had a compelling story to tell. And in a world awash with content, there's no question that compelling stories can be powerful marketing tools.

She also recognized that in the wake of the past recession, small businesses collectively shouldered much of the burden of the economic recovery and kept local communities vibrant. More than 50% of the employed population in America works at a small business, while entrepreneurs and small companies have generated more than 65% of net new jobs in the past two decades.

What touched Amanda Brinkman most deeply, though, was that small business owners were often putting themselves on the line to create something personal, local, and meaningful—largely driven by the power of the human spirit to do good and succeed. So Deluxe decided to celebrate the passion and drive behind every successful small business by telling inspirational 100 stories for each of its 100 years in business, and start the Small Business Revolution.

Deluxe partnered with Austin-based documentary film company Flow Nonfiction and produced 12 mini-documentaries, 88 photo essays, and a full-length documentary on the state of small business in America.

Amanda Brinkman admits that their biggest surprise was how quickly the movement gained momentum. We were touched by the gratitude these businesses felt. It was wonderful for them to get in the spotlight, and to earn a lot of media for them—whether through local business journals and newspapers or through social media. So many people shared these notable stories online. Not only did we gain notoriety for these incredible companies, but there were so many happy aftereffects in terms of business growth."

She also notes that the focus on content was a smart and economical move, particularly against competitors with bigger budgets. If we were to use our media budget to buy straight paid media, we would be a whisper in a hurricane." And now people are starting to associate Deluxe with small business success.

The project didn't end there. Brinkman sees the Small Business Revolution as a new platform for Deluxe with opportunities to build on each year's success with authentic, new approaches. In fact, Deluxe has upped its commitment to business growth on Main Street by awarding a $500,000 makeover to one small town, and showcasing the revitalization through a web series this fall.

The company received nearly 10,000 nominations from towns throughout the U.S., and finalists competed in a vote this May during National Small Business Week. After more than 180,000 votes, Wabash, Indiana was named the winner of the $500,000 revitalization from Deluxe. (Silverton, Oregon was runner up.)

When discussing the project, Amanda Brinkman adds, My biggest takeaway is that as marketers, we can hold ourselves accountable for doing good, and we can do it in a big, authentic way. We can do something good for the lives of real people that can still impact business results. Every brand is capable of that."

Amanda Brinkman joined Minneapolis-based Deluxe in January, 2014 as Vice President, Chief Brand and Communications officer and member of the Executive Leadership Team. Before joining Deluxe, she was Vice President of Brand and Creative Services at Allianz-- also in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her prior experience includes Vice President of Creative Services at UnitedHealth Group, Director of Business Development at Fallon, and Account Management at Campbell Mithun.