Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

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Designing the future.

March 1, 2011

Last week I had the privilege to sit down and talk creative strategy, critical thinking, and innovative ideas with two junior visual communications classes at the Herron School of Art.

A close friend of mine from high school, Professor Jeff Tzucker (wow, does that sound funny) invited me in to “critique” the work his and Marcia Stone’s students were presenting this week to their clients. They had all been separated into groups, “small agencies”, and were paired with real clients looking to re-brand, in some cases launch a brand, and get their message out.

I got a little of what I expected and a whole lot of the unexpected. I expected to see creativity in visual form. And I did. There was some serious eye candy. I expected to see some students fighting the internal struggles of what to do and how to do it. Check. And I expected to feel the fun and excitement of being back in a college setting. Check there too. I witnessed a Cheez-It run, a tub’o’animal crackers, and lots of amazingly cool style. I was thankful, unlike my college and fraternity experience I was not overcome by the smell of cheap whiskey and waffles. (That will be a blog for another time.)

What I didn’t expect to encounter was the unbelievable amount of strategic thinking and prepping before the designs were created. These students knew their intended audience, they understood their client and clients’ personalities, and they knew their creative vision would only be worth it’s salt…if it worked hard to achieve a measurable result.

This is an obvious reflection of Jeff and Marcia’s guidance but also that young, fresh, and curious mind working hard to discover, process, and digest information. It always seems that no matter how many times I step back in the classroom, I always leave feeling refreshed myself. And thankful that I have pursued a career in an industry that changes daily and critical and strategic thinking is a must.

The future is bright for our industry.  With young people like the ones at Herron, there will certainly be no shortage of ideas, innovation, and intelligence joining the creative landscape in the next couple of years.

“You see things; and say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”
George Bernard Shaw

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Curiosity and arm hair. The missing link?

August 18, 2010

My three-year-old daughter asked me why I had hair on my arms and legs. I didn’t have a good answer. There isn’t enough there to keep me warm, I don’t make a habit of testing how well it works as a bug repellant, and one thing we learned from the 80s, is hair isn’t always there for looks. So what was my answer? “Ask your mother.”

But it did make me think about the power of being curious. A former supervisor of mine used to always preach that the one thing he saw in successful people was that they were curious. They didn’t take an answer at face-value, they jumped in, broke it down, and took ownership in not being satisfied until they had the whole story.

And as I have progressed through my career his words still ring true. But I would add a second tier or missing link to his curiosity statement. You must then do something with the information to validate the time spent questioning.

There is certainly an art to delivering value to a client. But that work of art also needs help from the client. In my conversation above, I would not be a shining example of a client willing to jump in and get dirty. Having sat on both sides of the fence there is certainly a level of expectation that needs to be met from both parties to get results.

If the agency doesn’t push to get the information or worse, they do but the client doesn’t move the ball past the “I don’t know stage” outcomes will not deliver on goals and forward progress will always be impeded.

So yes, we need to be curious, but we also need to have a collaborative environment that continually supports and delivers on the information uncovered.

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Who has the true knowledge?

July 22, 2010

Every day we are bombarded with information, insights, ideas, and an increasing volume of regurgitated imitations. I’m not talking about re-tweets or simply forwarding on a piece of information or writing that people believe others will enjoy. Rather I am seeing self professed “experts” giving advice that I feel is nothing more than common sense 101.

Where is the new thinking? Where is the ownership in providing the world with your perspective on a topic? Are you reading this and feeling the same way about me? It is a danger we all face. And to the last question, I hope not.

As we continue to live in an age where information is passed, processed, and re-purposed at a blinding speed. Some communication attempts to stay ahead of the curve are obviously not well thought through. Maybe the era of disposable content has created a false need for short bursts of content that simply add volume instead of relevance. Maybe we should make our writing count the first time around and not be confident that we can just shotgun more tweets, blog posts, and updates with hope that one resonates.

But what do I know?

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My POV on social media

July 6, 2010

I am not a social media expert, and I don’t really believe many people are. There are discussions of results, conversation, and relationship building. Tweets on how to market yourself and your business, how to sell this to clients, and clients, how a free tool is actually a huge undertaking from a resources standpoint.

So after all of that, why do I feel like I need to add another “how to” blog to the overcrowded space that already exists? Because, I am just old enough to realize these are all just another set of tools/channels in an overall communications strategy to help your business.

I have talked to recent grads and they can build numbers/followers/friends like crazy, but are they really understanding how brands are being impacted? And tenured business people are making the mistake of tweeting and adding Facebook updates because they can.  I’m not sure which one is worse. So here are some things to think about.

Look at data. If your customers are there, you need to be there.

If you are seeing an increase in customers using these channels, identify what they are asking for and then be there. Years ago, people decided to send emails instead of phone calls to companies to complain, compliment, or question. They are doing the same now on Twitter and its friends. If they are there, so are the things they are saying about you.

Friends don’t let friends tweet dumb.

Guess what? If you do the above and find no traffic and your product is something that people would rather have sand in their swim trunks than read daily updates, don’t do it. It’s that easy. Save yourself the stress and be efficient and look for another channel.

Keep your communications rooted in practical and purposeful thinking.

Why are you doing this? What are you selling? Is this for customer service? Before you would spend a dime on TV, radio, outdoor, etc., ask yourself the same questions. And then level set your expectations.

Patience is a virtue.

Most of these channels take months to start seeing results. So be patient. Work your plan, be smart, and remember you can adjust on the fly.

People still buy from people.

Have fun and show personality. Don’t be the wallflower who wonders why no one asked them to the prom. And I would also caution not to go all Gaga on them either. Unless that really reflects your personal or business brand.

Ok, all, I know you have opinions. So please share your insights on these.