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ritchie@thinkfactory.com

 

Our Story

The Early Years

The story behind Think Factory is as interesting as its work. Immediately upon graduation from the University of Miami in '82, Ritchie began his career with The Miller Brewing Company as Southeastern Marketing Coordinator.

He was responsible for the development and implementation of national and customized marketing programs on college campuses throughout the region. By 23, he was a Corporate Marketing Manager in the Milwaukee Corporate Office creating, executing, and supervising programs, promotions, and special events on a national level.

Milwaukee became too cold for him, having grown up in Miami. The opportunity he was waiting for came during a coincidentally sub-zero snow blizzard.

Ritchie returned to his hometown of Miami and became a vested partner in 34 Baskin-Robbins stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. For this new venture, he developed master strategic marketing plans and implemented all advertising and public relations programs.

Ritchie began by building out Baskin-Robbins stores over a two year period. He was responsible for all aspects of development, operation, and growth. After completing his 88th store inventory, he no longer wanted to measure tubs of ice cream, analyze cost controls on sprinkles and was tired of smelling like a waffle cone.

He met with his partners and said he would be leaving. They asked what they could do to help. Ritchie replied, "I want you as my first client." They agreed and asked what the name of the company was. He replied, "I don't know; I'll tell you tomorrow."

True to his word, Ritchie returned the next day and said, "The Company is Think Factory!"

Think Factory then began building the foundation for what would become one of the top business and product innovation firms. It was at this time that Think Factory’s started incubating concepts which would lead to many of its exciting successes. And that’s just the beginning of the story.

CreatAbility.®

As Think Factory began building its client list, the need for creative services grew. Ritchie's sister, Jodi Lucas-Baumel, knew he was looking for someone with television production experience. Every engagement seemed to now require on-air creative.

Ritchie had the marketing, and strategy covered but lacked the production. So Jodi introduced him to her good friend, Carmen Rodriguez. Carmen was a highly accomplished television producer having worked for CBS and Univision.

Believing that good work is good work, in any language, CreatAbility. executed amazingly clever work in English for the same clients who previously wanted only work in Spanish. The agency grew from Ritchie and Carmen to a high of 41 associates. They were recognized as one of the top creative/strategic stereotype smashing firms in the country as well as being recognized for its irreverent thinking and creative executions against such Fortune 50 brands as Nike, Burger King, Coca-Cola, GM, Sprint, Universal, EA Brands and MTV to name a few.

They were bestowed with dozens of industry awards and building some of the most creative work considered ahead of its time.

Ritchie and Carmen married, and she left the agency with the birth of their first son.

At the time, Ritchie was the only American born founder of a multi-cultural agency in the country.

3DPR®®

A funny thing happened on Opening Day of Fievel's Playland in Universal Studios Florida. Ritchie was standing in line at the top of the slide attraction, which resembled a giant tree. He noticed a woman two spaces behind him with a nametag identifying herself as a Universal Executive.

As he made his way down the slide, he decided to stop himself before the end hoping to crash into her somewhere at the bottom. Sure enough, he did. Afterwards, they both stood to apologize to each other when Ritchie “noticed” she was the Marketing Director of Universal Studios.

After a 90-minute conversation, Ritchie walked away with the opportunity to build a Grand Opening Strategy for the re-launch of the Jaws Attraction. The assignment was to build a "highly intriguing marketing program" which would be presented against three other firms vying for the job. The project was awarded to Think Factory, which incubated the assignment and came up with a new concept called 3DPR®.

3DPR® delivered "severed hands" and "bloody messages" in a bottle for Jaws, "granite newspapers with saber tooth covers" for Backstage at Bedrock for the Flintstones, picnic baskets with “buzzing” ants for a Day in the Park With Barney, and scaled down branded equipment lockers for a national launch of Powerade. All of these helped them to stamp out the "flat press release" mindset.

However, it was a bio terrorist scare which pushed 3DPR® to the forefront. With Miami selected as a key expansion market for Laser Tag, Think Factory decided to use the "slime" theme to its advantage. They laminated press releases and place it in 12 slime filled, hermetically sealed canisters. The canisters were branded with biohazard stickers and delivered to media outlets by couriers in white biohazard suits.

3DPR® became nationally recognized with a major wins at multiple the Creativity in Public Relations Awards presentations in New York.

Ethnicity.com®

There was a time when it was nearly impossible to recruit ethnic marketing talent. Ritchie assigned his Los Angeles Manager the responsibility of identifying potential candidates. After a month of looking, Ritchie could not find anyone interested in relocating to Miami.

So extremely frustrated and with hundreds of resumes, they found the silver lining. The agency decided to start the first-ever online recruiting firm for professional ethnic candidates. Many said it couldn’t be done.

However, they stopped doubting when the first placement netted a five-figure commission within 24 hours of beginning business.

Hispanic-Market.com®

There was a time when multi-cultural agencies were requested to present "Ethnic Marketing Overviews" to every company who asked, but no one was buying, strictly learning and picking brains. With the ethnic market still new to many marketers, they always looked to the agency for a free education.

One day, after presenting to Pharmacia & UpJohn, Ritchie became extremely frustrated. They had just presented for the umpteenth time, the “The Power of the Hispanic Market” to a room full of MBA’s and PHD’s and saw no real benefit of the exercise.

So, on the drive from Kalamazoo to Detroit, and flight from Detroit to Miami, Ritchie and one of his senior executives mapped out the schematic for what would become HispanicMarket.com.

It became the go to site for Hispanic information. Additionally, even better, it became a source for new business, as those who wanted information logged-in and became pre-qualified clients.

My Health Rewards (originally "Weight and See"))

After watching a special on a "fattening America,” Ritchie came to the conclusion that the only way people would lose weight would be to offer them incentives. When asked if the incentives were a form of bribery, Ritchie would just smile. Since people knew the dangers of obesity and were doing nothing about it, there had to be a way to cause change. If they were rewarded to lose weight, then the results might be different.

So, the journey and race to build the first online weight reward program began. Though the existing models were quite different, Ritchie wanted to take advantage of the use and awareness generated by upstart Ediets.com.

Instead of merely posting diets and links to diet products, Weight and See would build a model based upon consumer preferences and desires when losing weight. For example, women would shop for clothes and middle-aged men would go car shopping.

So Weight an See built programs to reward users tied into major brands such as Gap - “You Come in All Sizes”, Nike - “First Step to Fitness” BMW - “The Road To Good Health”, Bally - “Sweat Equity”, Sprint PCS - “Dial up a Delicious Diet”, American Airlines - “Take-Off” and Burger King's - “Fast But Friendly.”

Everything was in place including targeted regional and local partners in major cities. For example, South Florida would look like this: Medical Partner- Jackson Memorial Hospital, Food Partner- Publix, and Print Partner – “The Miami Herald.”

Los Angeles looking like this: Medical Partner - UCLA Medical Center, Food Partner - Ralph’s, and Print Partner – “The Los Angeles Times.”

The website architecture was ahead of its time, and a Latin American model was designed. With an angel investor secured, the deal was slated for a March 17, 2000 closing.

On March 10, 2000, the dot.bomb phenomena began and with it the meltdown of tech related stocks. Weight and See's angel investor immediately put the deal on hold. Ritchie says to this day, that they were truly angel investors as they "opened their wings and flew away."

Weight and See was back in play when Ritchie hooked up again with friend and past associate, Brian Webster. The two had worked together on projects during the CreatAbility era. Brian had become a partner in what they were now calling Weight and See 2.0. This also meant changing as Ritchie says, "the beloved name,"to My Health Rewards.

Webster helped take this new My Health Rewards to another level. The consumer centric model became more employee benefit driven based upon the huge financial burden placed upon companies with unhealthy personnel.

My Health Rewards became a simple, yet revolutionary solution addressing an overweight and obese America. My Health Rewards gives people “real benefits of healthy living.”

Many key individuals joined the effort including former Secretary of Health and Human Services during the first GW Bush Admin., and four time Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, the first prominent South Florida investors, were Mick Maspons, Founder of the Miami law firm Maspons, Sellek, Jacobs, LLP, Danny Sibai, Founder and CEO of Award Winning Digital & SEM Miami Company Link2City, Ran Kivetz, PhD - the world’s leading authority on consumer reward programs, Columbia University Professor and CEO of the Benomics Group, Adam Drewnowski, PhD - world renowned researcher in obesity, nutrition, and food labeling - Director of Obesity Research, University of Washington, Ron Gonen - Co-Founder and CEO of venture funded RecycleBank and Gary Reynolds, Bryan Buske and Jay Lenstrom of Omnicom's Radiate Group.

What started as a way to fight overweight and childhood obesity became a health benefits company, which was purchased by Lifeclinic, the world's leading manufacturer and distributor of automated blood pressure monitors and health testing machines. These machines are located in CVS pharmacies throughout the country.