Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Congrats Beyond a Cookie Bouquet

So, have you ever sent a basket full of sugar cookie teddy bears with sticks up their bottoms to let someone know you're happy for them?  Guilty. But when Mary Olson, VP of marketing at Delta Community Credit Union, was awarded the Hall Of Fame recognition from the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council earlier this month, we thought we'd send her something just a little less edible and a little more indelible.


On Mary's bio for this prestigious credit union marketing achievement it said her secret life ambition was to sing in a cabaret.  We think we know Mary pretty, well too, (I have  been known to geek out with her about our favorite Broadway musicals) so we had some fun creating this caricature of her.

"Here's to 30 years of belting it out for credit unions.  The night is young Mary.  And we think you can do just about anything you set your mind to.  So keep reaching for the stars – but know you are already a shining example to all those around you."


We actually started creating these neat little tributes when our executive vice president here at Third Degree, Mickie, was recognized as one of the Journal Record's Achievers 40 under 40.  We had to create an ad to congratulate her in their program, so we had some fun showing her on the go in some Jackie O meets Ann Taylor inspired plaid coat.  Oh so Mickie.

"She serves it up every day with an energy and passion that has clients coming back for more... and that's just before breakfast."


This is Amanda's, who received the same Achievers 40 under 40 recognition a few years later, and has her ad framed behind her desk.   Who else would have that sassy pose and that wild hair?

"Worked with Amanda Spencer? Then you've been served."

Mary called me from Delta Community yesterday having gotten her shelf-ready framed copy from us in the mail.  She was so excited about it, and said she is just going to treasure it.  So that's really cool!  Take that sugar cookie bears!  Although, granted, one of those little suckers could probably last on a shelf for years, but it would still probably be just as hard to bite into as the first day you got it.  Can you tell I have cookie bouquet issues?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Huddle Up

So now that I'm back from the David Baker creative director seminar, I come back with a great appreciation for Third Degree and our culture.  Kind of like when you come back from vacation and are instantly greeted with that smell of home when you walk in the door.  It may not be a great smell, but it's yours.  So my key takeaway... we're not too stinky.


When we were discussing agency culture at the seminar, I mentioned our agency's practice of the daily huddle (that, and our brand book for employees), how it helps our team all get on the same page every day – and a lot of other creative and art directors at the seminar really perked up.  So I dug my huddle clipboard out of my luggage during the break and they sort of flocked to it.  Okay, like a mini-flock.


It was really funny because quite a few of them took photos (with their iPhones of course) of the front and the back of this cute and orderly but otherwise undramatic item.  Well, that speck of some sort of food (maybe brownie) stuck to the back isn't very orderly.  Actually kind of gross.  But, if you've ever been up close and personal with my tidbit encrusted computer keyboard, that should be no surprise.


How the huddle works is every morning at the same time our departments huddle up.  9:00 am for the creative department.   The huddles take no longer than 10 minutes, or otherwise they would become a hassle and no one would want to do it.  There are three steps: 

1.) share one top priority for the day (yes, everyone has 5 million things to do, but just pick one to mention to the group, it really does help give you clarity), 

2.) share one "stuck" but then identify who in the group can help you, and take the problem out of the huddle afterwards (there is no solving of problems in the huddle, just identifying them)

3.) share one piece of news, can be personal or agency-related (this is where we can get a little silly or offtrack, but for the most part we still keep it focused)

And a final rule, you must write down what you are going to share before the meeting.  So you're not just making it up as you go.  Hence, the clipboards.

Serve It Up!

So this is not one of those cheesy stock photos where everyone's hands are in a circle.  That's a real life cheesy photo of our creative department huddle.  At the end of the huddle we chant "serve it up, serve it up, way up!" and throw our hands up in the air.  Since it's sick-season, sometimes we try not to actually touch each other.  That, and most of us aren't really touchy feely.  In fact, some of us don't like to be touched at all.  Okay, that's just me.  And I think Daniel.  And probably Liz and Brian, too.  Okay, we have issues.  But gosh darnit, we know what those issues are – because rain or shine we huddle up every day.

We learned about the huddle from Patrick Thean whose a consultant that does these Gazelles business seminars all over the country.  We caught up with Patrick a year after we first heard him speak, and I think he was really surprised that a.) we actually instituted the huddle and were still doing it after a year and, b.) that we did these nifty clipboards that he hadn't seen anyone do before, I was sure to let him keep one for himself (one without brownie stuck to it, of course).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Now I'm In Nashville


Why, you ask? Because I'm at the Recourses seminar about Managing Creatives, held by David Baker every year. It's where creative directors from all over the country get together and find out that being a creative director and managing other creative people is about a whole lot more than who can be the cleverest of the cleverest.

But of course, you still want all the other creative directors you meet from Chicago and Montreal and Birmingham to think you are neat. I don't think I'm going to start by telling them how I am traveling alone this week (sans CEO Roy), which means not feeling embarrassed about getting not one, but two trashy gossip magazines (okay, one's a gossip magazine and one's a shopping magazine where you put those little stickers on the pages of stuff you want to buy, but really the stickers are really ads for like lip gloss or deodorant... now that's the cleverest of the cleverest).


Anyhow, traveling alone also means I have to make the front desk guys wave for my picture.


Or I can just wave at myself. This hotel is the Wyndham Union Station in downtown Nashville, and is very historic, having once been an actual train station (which I sort of deduced but was confirmed by all the train prints in the hallways).


Speaking of prints, Nashville is also home to Hatch Show Print, which is widely famous for its old-school printing press posters that have advertised shows for musicians from Elvis to just about everybody. I walked by the window and snapped this shot, realizing I was being checked out as well. They were already closed for the day, so I didn't get to go in, but they had tons of prints in the windows.


The problem with staying in a beautiful historic hotel that used to be a train station, is that the trains still run right by it. Like late at night. (Which granted, for me is like 10pm).

But I'm already one day into the seminar, not yawning but very engaged. David Baker actually invited me and another creative director, Ryan, from CloserLook to be part of the seminar as an example of "how to" be a good creative director, and for others to ask us questions and find out what we're doing that seems to be working really well for our agencies.


The second day is going to be a tad more of intense because the two of us are apparently going to be interviewed by David up on stage in front of everyone, I'm imagining like Inside The Actors Studio style. So hopefully I'll have gotten a good night's sleep by the time you're reading this and not have worried about looking like a spaz up there.

But if the midnight train (okay, 10pm train) doesn't cut me a break, I can always break out my ad-slash-stickers and start tagging "ten ways to wear the same belt this spring." Or maybe instead of answering the creative director Q&A with humorous but insightful anecdotes, I could just hold up a petal pink "yes!" sticker on one finger for "have you ever wanted to go back to doing instead of managing?" Or a mauvish pink "maybe?" sticker for "are you too decisive or not decisive enough?" I wonder what just holding up a picture of Katie Holmes detoxing would say about my management style? Would a torn out page of the octo-babies mom say I'm a multitasker? A photo of "who wore it best" show my discernment?

Think I'm getting a little loopy? It's because it's almost 10pm. Time to shut off the laptop, turn out the lights, and start listening for the little engine who could.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fight On Credit Unions

Well, the CUNA Marketing and Business Development conference is over, but Third Degree still left behind it's mark.  And it's gonna smart for a while we think (in a good way).

The last day of the conference we played our Fight On video for the general session.  We just really wanted to get everyone really fired up about staking their claim.  We also invited them to enter to win a Training Day package, full-day, knock-out strategy session with our credit union savvy staff back in Oklahoma City.


Lots of people asked us for copies of the video, so we made them "pay" for it, by letting us take their picture with our boxing gloves on.  We had lots of great sports that hailed from credit unions from New York, to Texas, to Colorado.  Plus, our winner, Dana from Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union in California won the Training Day trip and strategy session with us.  So that was cool, too!


The last evening of the conference was the Diamond Awards for marketing excellence.  Our client Belvoir Federal Credit union won for their awareness campaign, web site and television spot we created for them.  TFCU (Nancy and Kathy pictured above) took home practically half a dozen of awards, with Buck The Norm leading the pack.


Delta Community Credit Union also scored big, not only taking home a big batch of awards for work we've done with them, as well, but Mary their VP of Marketing (to her tearful surprise) was honored with the rarely bestowed Hall Of Fame recognition.  We can't take any credit for that one, but I felt useful having happened to have some kleenex in my clutch that I could offer her when the waterworks started flowing.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Conference May Now Commence


We've arrived in San Diego, and it's Day Two of our trip to the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference for credit union marketers.


We set up our tradeshow exhibit. Exhibity!


We set out our Third Degree mint tins. Minty!


We said hi to our friends from Tinker Federal Credit Union!


And our friends from Delta Community Credit Union said hi to us! (And swiped some mints!)

Then we stuffed a few more pastries in our face and settled in for the keynote speaker who was an honest-to-god internet celebrity! See, I didn't need to buy an Us Weekly to feel in touch with the stars. We had Judson Laipply, the guy who does the evolution of dance on the number one watched You Tube video. He is actually a really great speaker, and spoke about how to cope with the things you can't control in life. His point-of-view is that life is change, so you might as well dance. Of course, he ended with a live performance of all his dance moves from the twist to the moonwalk to boy-band moves.

Now I'm motivated. Motivated to incorporate choreography into any future creative presentations. I think I'll stick with Paula Abdul's catalog. You know, if you took down the graphic panels, the framework of our tradeshow booth kind of looks like the backdrop to the Cold Hearted Snake video... hmmmm.

Speaking of videos, tomorrow we premiere our Fight On video (as seen on CreditUnionSavvy.com) on the big screen, plus we find out which of our credit union clients won Diamond Awards for marketing excellence. So, I probably should refrain from breaking out the fishnets and the kneepads just yet, lest I overshadow any more respectable victories we might have. Sigh.

On The Road With Roy

Technically we're in the air, but I like alliteration, so whatever. So me and Roy, CEO and founder of Third Degree are traveling. We're joining fellow Third Degree-er, Karla (who got a one-day head start on us) in San Diego for the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference, where credit union marketers gather from all over the country to see what's shakin' in their industry.


Day One:

So Wednesday was just all about getting there, which from Oklahoma City to the west coast is sort of an all day affair. We're on a little commuter jet here, and I'm taking our first snapshot of the day. Doesn't Roy look like an impish little evil conscience on my shoulder? Actually, it's quite the oppposite. He is the role model for responsible use of time and resources during business travel.


I'll explain. See my lap. That's my iPod shuffle. I'm listening to Sly and The Family Stone, and gazing out the window, which I could spin as being a creative type who needs time to dream and stretch my imagination and such. But at the moment, I'm wishing I had given in and bought an Us Weekly at the newstand (but I was too embarrassed to read it in front of Roy).


I'll explain further. See Roy's lap. He's reading an inspirational look-at-business-and-life-in-a-totally-truthful-and-life-changing-way book, the kind which is usually based on a metaphor or parable that includes a piece of moving cheese or a purple cow or in this case a young man, an old man and a mountain. It's called "Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work For You in Work and In Life" by Spencer Johnson M.D. And yes, he's taking notes, like underlining stuff and writing in the margins.


I sound like I'm making fun, but really, it's cool how Roy is always trying to learn something new. He has a huge reading list. We even have a "Roy's Reading List" in our Third Degree brand book. Sometimes when he gets really fired up, he'll order a whole box from Amazon of a certain book and pass them out to everyone in the agency, most recently, Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future." That one makes us creatives feel really good about ourselves.


So now we're finally here in San Diego and about to embark on Day Two of our conference in earnest. Oh, and I did read Roy's book on the second leg of our flight. I even made a highlight or two of my own in yellow marker. Then I zoned out and watched the inflight movie in which Keanu Reeves plays a dehumanized visitor from another planet. Again, not too much of a creative stretch for the imagination. I should have just bought the Us Weekly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One Smart Little Credit Union

Allegiance (located in Oklahoma City and around $200 million in asset size) is the first credit union we ever did work for, starting about 6 years ago.  And we just love them.  And I say smart "little" credit union, but that's just because they make a little go a long way. They are really great about making the most out of the ideas we create for them.  They always go that extra step after we've created a campaign or a theme for a new promotion and really embrace it internally.

People People

For example, they always use their own employees to tell their story, featuring them in all their materials.  Here is a messaging series we created for their allegiancecu.org site to help them position themselves as really being a knowledgable resource for their members.  Not only did they embrace it, but they made their own buttons that each of their front-line employees wear in the branches, deciding if they want to be a "helper," a "knower" or a "sharer" depending on their own personality.

A Silly/Serious Promotion

This is the most recent checking promotion we themed for them.  Third Degree created the concept, and then designed elements like teller mats, doorhangers, direct mail and web banners.  The promotion got great results, just between November and December Allegiance grew $3.8 million in checking accounts and now have over 800 Rewards Checking accounts. 

Window Shopping

Of course we can't take all the credit.  We didn't even know Allegiance had hired a window artist to come in to paint these whimsical branch-front windows to feature the promotion, until Brett, who designed the smart/silly campaign happened to see them driving by.  Could they have had Third Degree design and produce a more graphic, professional window-cling? Sure.  Would a more conservative or sophisticated campaign been sort of jacked up by trying to recreate it with a cartoonish window-painting style? Uh... yeah.  But for this fun, lively, friendly promotion, it was a perfect fit, and a really economical solution.

Making "Spectacles" of Ourselves

That's Brett.  And that is one clever idea we can't even take credit for.  Dang!  However, that doesn't stop us from posing in front of it.   Nice shades.