Matt Gustavsen

About Matt Gustavsen

Growing up under the influence of Boston sports' teams, 80's comic book art, Super Mario Bros., and Shogun Warriors – Matt has immersed himself in world full of creative stories, imagination, and competitive challenges. Combined with over 15 years of professional experience in print design and digital marketing, Matt has a knack for out-of-the-box thinking.

Learn more about Matt

Hit by lightning, bitten by a cobra, and ridiculously popular on YouTube

Growing up, the term “bad” meant good. As in, “That car is bad, man.” The cool factor has long worn off for this term, but I’m seeing a resemblance with the word “ridiculous.” The more ridiculous something is, the more attention it receives. “Did you see that play by Steph Curry? It was ridiculous!” Or “Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was ridiculous! Best of the season!”

This trend is not only taking over your Gchat conversations, it’s also making strides in advertising, marketing and social media. For an example, we have to look no further than last summer’s viral hit the Ice Bucket Challenge. That one was so successful, it started to make pouring an ice cold bucket of water over your own head seem, well, not ridiculous.

How can you stand out amongst your competitors? Do something different and don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Put yourself at either end of the spectrum—amazing to awful—because either will be “ridiculous” and both will be memorable.

Just don’t get lost in the forgettable middle.

My current favorite piece of ridiculousness is – Kung Fury, 2015

Kung Fury is a Swedish, martial arts, comedic, short film (enough adjectives?) written, directed by, and starring David Sandberg. It has had over 15 million views in the past 20 days and it’s by far the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever watched. But not so ridiculous that it couldn’t be screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Seriously, check it out. It also got the attention of David Hasselhoff who watched the first 15 seconds of the 2013 trailer, and said, “I’m in.’” His music video ’TRUE SURVIVOR’ has also over 15 million views to help hype up the short film.

If you don’t think it’s an absolutely ridiculous piece of glorious cinema, reach out to me on Twitter (@MattGustavsen) and we’ll hash[tag] it out.

To throw it back a little bit, William Hung set the stage for ridiculousness in season three of American Idol.

The 2004 contestant gained fame because of his audition performance of “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin. His performance was not great, nor was it good. It was horrendous. But, his audition won him the support of fans, which then snowballed into three albums with Koch Entertainment. American Idol knows its audience well. The show features the most ridiculous auditions from the best and worst contestants, but never the middle ground.

Old Spice advertising campaign from 2010.

Old Spice was a well-established brand, but they were associated with elderly men and the scent of every grandfather in America. Wieden + Kennedy helped transform their brand in 2008 with the “Old Spice Swagger” campaign and even more so with “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” from 2010.

This campaign helped boost overall sales for Old Spice body-wash products by 11 percent in the first 12 months of its inception. There was nothing safe, and a lot of things ridiculous, about this change in direction. But taking that risk helped Old Spice thrive in a competitive environment.

If you’re looking to create attention for your brand, do something different. Do something unexpected. Do something ridiculous.

But first go watch Kung Fury.

8 Steps to Building a Better Creative Staff


Like a game of Chess, building a more creative staff takes time and many well thought out steps. There’s no single right way to go about putting together an inspired, productive group of people that work well together and just “get it.” There is always an element of the unexplainable—the X factor you just can’t put your finger on. However, there are some actions we can all take to foster a creative staff. Here is my formula for building a better creative team based on my experience working with a tight-knit group at HB agency.

1. Surround yourself with A-players
Start by looking for and keeping in touch with A-players. What is an A-player? This type of person is not just great at their job. That is not good enough. A-players are people you want to be around, inside and outside of work. They make you laugh, they support you, they encourage, they inspire, they challenge, they’re motivated and they deliver. This kind of talent is hard to come by, but an A-player will soon become an invaluable part of your team and what it takes to perpetuate creativity among peers.

 2. Encourage going against the grain
Great creative is not built from doing what everyone else is doing. It’s a good manager’s responsibility to encourage his or her employees to think outside the box—way outside. Start with ideas that are ridiculous and dial them back incrementally.

I remember a project where we were tasked to reintroduce a product for a well-known technology company. The ideas were not flowing and the ones we came up with during our brainstorm sessions were too conservative, until we started talking about SpongeBob SquarePants. Most of the time, ideas like this are laughed at, but typically they can also be the catalyst to creating something memorable. This sparked an idea for a successful direct mail campaign, targeting C-level Management.

3. Communicate and share with your team
I wish I could do it all on my own, but every project I have ever worked on has had better results because of communication and collaboration with coworkers. Never be afraid to ask for someone’s opinion and accept his or her feedback. Sharing what you’re working on may even spark ideas in others for completely separate initiatives.

4. Invest and educate
Invest time and money into your employees’ education and training. Showing that you care about their interests will help earn their trust and in return you will get someone who is more educated and wanting to help you and the company succeed.

We had an opportunity to work on a video animation project, but we didn’t have the capabilities in-house. I told our creative director to take the work and we’ll figure out how to do it. We invested time and money into learning and purchasing the right equipment, software and training. I fulfilled my desire to learn a new craft and the agency extended its capabilities. Success for all.

5. Challenge
Challenge your employees to move beyond their comfort zones. Place them in situations where they need to take charge, learn a new method or speak in front of an audience. You don’t know what people are capable of until they are given the space and strong push to realize their potential. And, it’s difficult to foster creativity and innovation from a place of comfort and stagnation.

6. Eat together
Our company loves food — don’t most human beings? — yet eating lunch together is completely undervalued. Spending time with co-workers, talking about topics unrelated to work is great way to bond and get closer to the people you work with. If you can, get out of the office regularly for lunch and free your mind from the usual surroundings. Collaboration in a different environment opens a new world of creative thought for your staff.

7.  Celebrate wins and learn from mistakes
It’s hard work being successful—be grateful. When you have a big win, celebrate it and let everyone in the company know what a great job they or their colleagues did. They will appreciate it, might even feel competitive, and look forward to the next challenge and celebration. At the same time, make sure you constructively assess any mistakes and issues the team faced along the way. Having an environment in which people feel encouraged to reflect on what they and/or the team could have done better will keep you from repeating the same mistakes.

8. Have fun
If you’re not having fun and you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it will show in your creative work. I look forward to coming into work every day. Some days more than others, but I make sure to always have fun. This helps those around me have more fun and encourages more collaboration among team members.

It sounds easy—make the right moves and collect your pieces, but it never is. Not everyone can win every game, and few people can do it alone. But if you stick to the right practices and choose A-player teammates, you will turn many pawns into knights.

What’s Your Story?

Why is online video a great medium for storytelling? I have list of reasons, but I would rather tell you a story of why I think it’s wonderful.

Last Christmas, I gave my wife a hard cover book filled with images from the first years of our children’s lives. She was very happy, smiling as she turned the pages, remembering events that brought us good times. The kids were interested too, clawing at the book for a glimpse of photos they might be in. Fast forward 15 minutes to when my wife unwrapped an empty DVD case. She asked, “What is this?” and I replied, “Watch.” Our television played a video I created from short clips of our daughter’s lives. Our living room was silent for the next five minutes and 10 seconds. At the end of the video, my wife cried and said thank you. My daughters asked to watch it again.

Video and animation are not the perfect medium for all marketing materials, but I feel they can make a greater impact when telling your story. Business and consumer audiences increasingly turn to video to find stories about products and services that make their lives better. This is why over 1.2 billion online videos are watched every day in the United States alone. See 14 other stats you should know about online video on Digiday by @GAbramovich.

Whether discussing financial planning with high net worth individuals, showing the first few years of your children’s lives or explaining an energy-saving device to homeowners, video engages attention as it teaches, explains and convinces. The right video will also entertain, create “aha” moments and wow your audiences with creativity and imagination.

From script writing to storyboarding, animation to voice-overs, HB creates video stories that engage audiences and help grow our clients’ businesses.

The Five-Year Plan

Recently, I celebrated my five-year HB anniversary. The time flew by and it’s fair to say, I’m not the same person I was five years ago. So much has changed in my life and HB has changed as well. Five years ago, I was childless, working in an HB office with window AC units, along with seven other Hart Boilloter’s on 760 Main Street in Waltham. Now I have two children, our office is Newton and HB has 16 employees. HB has been good to me and it’s a great place to work—filled with intelligent, creative, and wonderful people.

The infographic below shows a brief look at what I’ve experienced at HB over the past five-years.

The Power of Story

On a daily basis, we listen to presentations filled with engaging facts and mind-blowing statistical data. Most of the bulleted data points get lost in the sea of facts thrown at us over a 45 minute period. When this is over,  you might ask yourself–what the hell just happened?

Non stories may provide important information, but stories have a unique power to move people emotionally and move them to take action. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Tell to Win by Peter Guber, a book about purposeful stories that serve as powerful calls to action. Think about when you watch a great movie. You watch and listen intently for two hours straight, sometimes more. Not talking, commenting, moving or worrying about the world around you. You’re fully engaged in the story. What if you could engage your customers and prospects in this way?

Last week, I attended the Mckee Story Seminar in New York city. Four intense days of listening to Robert Mckee speak about the principles involved in the art and craft of story design.

Here are some key lessons from McKee’s seminar, that all writers – in business or not – could apply to their stories:

  • Writing a story is an art form.
  • Quality story structure demands creativity; it cannot be reduced to simple formulas that impose a rigid number of mandatory story elements.
  • Write alternate scenarios for each draft.
  • Never repeat yourself – it gets boring.
  • Trash something if it’s not great.
  • It’s all about turning points.
  • Characters need to experience things they have never experienced before.
  • Conflict is to story as sound is to music.
  • Don’t write what your audience expects.

If I listed everything, I’m sure most of it would get lost in a sea of facts. If you want more information on any of these bullets, or to learn more about the McKee Story Seminar, call me. Nothing beats a conversation.

The Importance of Listening

Last Friday I attended a workshop called “A Practical Experience of Story and Design” put on by the AIGA and presented by Kevin Brooks. I truly did not know what to expect from the workshop and it didn’t matter because, my recent interest in story telling and how to integrate it into our daily lives at HB has been overwhelming. I appreciated learning the key components and processes of telling stories to support our daily work. One of which was using our imagination and trusting the images we create in our head to craft a story instead of relying on our intellect. The exercises I worked on with other participants were eye opening, but the one thing that stuck out most to me from the workshop was Kevin’s opening remark. “The most important part of storytelling is…listening.” I didn’t understand how the two related at first, and then he continued while he had my attention. Here is what Kevin said about the importance of listening:

  • Listening well will help you become a better teller.
  • You will experience the best in what others are saying by paying attention to their stories.
  • Listening well helps imprint the best practices of others, so you can do them too.

The Role of Appreciations
One way of becoming a better listener is to listen to give appreciations. What does this mean? It’s the act of listening to someone speak and then giving feedback based on how you were affected. Here are some examples of giving appreciations:

  • Finding and expressing what is good or what you like about what someone said
  • Being specific about what was said
  • Explaining how what they said affected you positively
  • Saying how what they said affected the speaker

Try this:
Listen deeply to someone tell a story. Don’t interrupt them, don’t nod or say, “uh huh,” don’t be concerned about silences–just listen.
I think someone will appreciate you listening to them without interruption and you’ll take away the best of someone else’s story, which you can apply to your own stories. I can’t wait to use this new knowledge in my every day life.

The On Project

The clean-technology industry continues to boom economically – and we are fortunate to work with an organization leading the charge in the use of alternative energy, specifically Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). OTEC is a base-load renewable energy production process particularly suited for tropical zones. We have teamed with OTE Corporation to spread awareness about OTEC through “The On Project,” a central hub where individuals with a variety of passions (environmental, business growth, national security, humanitarian), can learn about the benefits of OTEC, including 24/7 renewable energy and clean, potable water.

To raise awareness, HB and OTE Corporation produced two videos which help to tell the OTEC story:

Online Video Marketing

If a word is worth a word, and a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million.

That may be an exaggeration, but if done correctly, an online video asset can take a very complex challenge and drastically simplify the message. Many technology companies, like EMC, have been early adapters of video marketing. Attention spans may be dwindling… but if a user’s interest peaks while delivering a simple message, the creator/designer has done his/her job.

The first few seconds of a website visit are critical in providing a solution to a problem. An effective video can create opportunities for discussion about a company and its products.

Recently, we did exactly that with a video we created alongside EMC. We were tasked to tell the story and generate awareness about ease of use of UIM with Vblocks – an exceedingly complex message that needed to be simplified.

Where does inspiration come from?

I recently came across a documentary on the Discovery Channel that originally aired in 2007 about the famous fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s car collection. I had interest in the documentary for two reasons: I appreciate both cars and art. In this instance, they go hand-in-hand as Lauren’s collection is considered one of the greatest in history – the cars are viewed as works of art.

Their timeless design was regarded to be ahead of their time when created. As a designer, I draw inspiration from great designers of the past and popular trends of the present. As a fashion designer, Lauren draws inspiration from his car collection to create new trends for his clothing line that are both current and timeless. It’s easy to see how Lauren could draw inspiration from his collection.

“Cars have always been a source of design inspiration for me. The cars I collect have a message of timeless beauty.”Ralph Lauren

1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe

Or one of his 14 Ferrari's including the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Northeastern – CPS Nontraditional Video

[flv: 450 253]

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies (NU CPS) asked if we could help showcase the “Nontraditional” student. NU CPS  provides adults, international students and working professionals with an education that is innovative, flexible, substantial and at the nexus of practice and academic theory.

The resulting video celebrates the growth and popularity of the nontraditional student. What do you think?