There’s Such a Thing as Free Ideas

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9.18.09:: Sources are telling us the recession is receding (faster that Ben Bernanke’s hairline, in fact). So, let’s take stock. Print media is ailing, catfights about the promises social media continue and we have a few new search engines. Other than that, it’s the business of recession as usual. Agencies have downsized the designer coffee, increased new biz efforts and the freelancers have made camp in that middle manager’s office whose name everyone forgot.

So, when I read this article about providing not only good ideas, but ideas that build business to clients during this time, I was inspired. Client/agency relationships have a tendency fall into a rut, where we only concern ourselves with ‘filling the space’ and not taking chances. Add a recession to the mix and we produce only what is tried and true. However, in a time when structure is waning and the rules seem almost non-existent, isn’t it time to shine? Nothing cures the nightly news blues like a good idea. And, after this blows over, wouldn’t you like to be the one sitting with the next big idea in your lap?

So, after colluding with my compatriots, we decided we wanted to arm our clients with ideas that help them take a leap. And, in full embrace of Google-osophy, we are going to do this free. Well, almost.

For the next 6 months, any new piece of business from a current or new client will receive an additional set of 3 ideas to help build their business (here’s the details).

We’re calling it The Moniker 3I’s. That’s 3 ideas that build your business and make sure that you don’t end up with a The Jelly of the Month Club membership for a holiday bonus.

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Would you like a hand?

9.3.09:: Our new business cards have arrived; along with endless possibilities for placement. If you have suggestions, let us know.

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Sticky Social Media, Literally

8.05.09 :: These days social media is bigger than MJ’s funeral coverage, and rightly so. A brand can actually participate in a two way conversation with it’s fans easily. All it has to do is find people that have a reason to talk and nurture that relationship. This is usually done by soliciting feedback, providing a forum or topic to discuss. But what do you do when your audience was born way before the age of the status update? The same thing. Take a look at one of our current direct mail pieces for Walker Place, a 55+ community in Minneapolis.
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Working along with the team at Walker Place, we established the idea that their residents were active and their ‘retirement was not tired’. We knew we had to create a piece that would allow resident prospects to embrace retirement and share this thought with others. So, we created a simple 6×9″ sheet of stickers with quippy sayings seniors could use to show their and Walker Place’s vibrancy. (My personal favorite is “I don’t feed pigeons.”) What resulted was a piece that allowed a community to rally around a cause (active retirement) and share this thought with others (with stickers). This mailer outperformed all our expectations drastically (some people even showed up to their tours wearing stickers), so needless to say the team at Walker Place was pleased.

But, what does this mean? Well, it still means an original idea, with the right medium and a great client can make an impact. It also means you don’t have to be online to be a brand people talk about (though it does help). You simply have to have the right message executed well.  Too often this simple truth is neglected when we are constantly bombarded with million dollar marketing buzz words, bloated creative and, dare we say it….sameness. So, before all else, embrace simplicity.

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Chicken & Egg Say Hello to Idea & Execution

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7.27.09:: It’s no secret, I subscribe to the religion of the Big Idea. One of our main tenets- idea before execution. Which is why I initially screamed heresy when I read “If Execution Is What Matters, Where Does That Leave Ideas? The article forwarded the thought that ideas are merely a launchpad for execution and the sweat-equity that goes into developing the ideas is what deserves more credit (and reward). As I continued to read the article, I could not help but notice how the two camps develop their points. Idea people think their brilliance and direction should be compensated while the people who actually did it, claim the idea people would be nowhere without them.

So, without getting into an intellectual property screaming match, I came to a hard truth: ideas and executions are inextricably connected. They need each other.

I know this is not a new point. In fact, agencies and clients alike have been opening up their coveted chambers and minds to tech gurus and interns for years. However, approaching problems with this holistic and respectful mindset makes more possible. Your next big idea might be inspired by the lunch lady on the new JCP widget. Or the best way to execute something might come from an insight on how people eat with their hands. One does not necessarily come before the other, but each dictate how the other will turn out. Just as the chicken determines what the egg will look like and the egg determines what the chicken is. The sooner this is accepted and we hire people that can either play ball with the other side or think both ways, the better off we’ll be.

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Message as a meaningful experience

7.16.09 :: As a creative, I never miss a chance to use an ad to make fun of a socially undesirable character. In fact, if we worked on more male oriented products, I’d probably have one of the below ideas a day.

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I recently came across the article,“Let’s Redesign Advertising” from a Senior User Experience Designer at Modernista!. His argument was simple: advertising has to provide more than a message to people, it has to provide meaning to their lives. He cites brands like Whole Foods, who do very little traditional advertising and instead design their entire product around a healthy, organic user experience from the products you buy, to the bags you shop with, to the sustainable recipes submitted by customers at the front of the store. This gives the customer added meaning to their lives, allowing them to think they are helping while interacting with a brand. On the other hand, people like Gatorade simply splash your face with one of 500 athletes who endorse the product (a message).

So, is the above ‘collar straighteners ad’ just another message? Another way for us to co-opt a part of culture to tell consumers who we are? Does it in any way enhance the experience of the of our lives?

Well, I would argue in the world of beer, it does. It creates identity, just like community and religion create solidarity. That brings meaning and value to our lives and helps us experience our life more than just the halo of a celebrity or another sponsor organization. Now, does it do it in the way Whole Food does? No, not close. But by tapping into culture, a message can mean something instead of just saying something. And, hey, at least it’s a start.

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