Tuesday, November 1, 2011

9 Ways Facebook's New Look Affects Your Brand

You know the Third Degree Facebook page is always active. (We can't resist a good photo op.) So when Facebook changes its interface, we take notice. We’re particularly interested in how these changes impact businesses. Here are some important highlights and takeaways for you to remember:

Anyone can comment on Pages.
Any Facebook member can now comment on a brand’s page, regardless of whether or not they “Like” the page. Although there are concerns associated with this transition (like dealing with crises and spam, and reaching new customers) this will now open conversations to more users, which can in turn bring potential customers. The good news is that you can’t measure success by ‘likes’ alone, but instead by the engagement of your community. Less stress on ‘like’ forces brands to create great content that keeps people coming.

The News feed is more selective, streamlined.
The streamlined News Feed includes a ticker timeline for less crucial updates (like a friend commenting on another friend’s photo). Important events get better real estate on the bigger, traditional news feed. This is good news for business pages, since you’ll cut through a noisy feed by posting high-quality content (determined by EdgeRank).

The EdgeRank System decides what you see.
Facebook’s EdgeRank formula breaks down visibility into various categories: Affinity, Weight, and Time. Affinity increases each time you interact with a page, meaning that content will get more presence in your feed. Weight prioritizes the visibility of different content categories, like photos, videos, links and status updates, with comments getting the most priority. Time-relevant information stays closer to the top of a newsfeed. (via)

Friend activity is now public.
The Friend Activity tab shows you which of your friends visited a brand’s page, the “Likes” and comments on posts, and any mention of the page by friends. A more personalized page means more user interest in visiting and interacting with the business or brand. Users can now recommend your brands to their friends directly from your page. (Just remember to give them a reason to do so.)

Status update character limit increased over 1000%.
A status update was once limited to 420 characters. That limit is now 5,000. For users, that means a more blog-like experience with their profiles. For brands, it means you can get a little more in-depth when you share news or events with your community.

Admins have more metrics.
This one's for the real analytics geeks. Where once you could only see metrics and engagement per-post for your self-published items, now you now track broader measurements by exporting Insight reports into Excel. (via)

Insights tool is more granular.
Analytics options now include a page-fan’s friendcount (“Friends of Fans”) and weekly Total Reach. Facebook encourages word-of-mouth sharing among fans and their friends, as well as to allow businesses to measure the extent of that sharing. Now you can count the stories people share that show up in News Feeds. Likes, mentions, RSVPs, check-ins, wall posts, answered questions and other related metrics are all measured. (via and via)

New plugins share browsing activity on Facebook.
If you're finicky about your privacy settings, this new feature might be a bit squicky. A Facebook plugin on your website publishes a Facebook user's browsing activity and sentiment on their profile and wall. From there, it filters out into their friends news feed and ticker. (via)

Facebook dabbles in social listening.
Following in the footsteps of Spotify, last.fm, and Pandora, Facebook now has a music dashboard letting you see what your friends are listening. Look deeper and you'll see their top albums and singles. Whether this will drive more people to Facebook and, in turn, could boost traffic to pages remains to be seen. (via)

So that's the straight dope on Facebook's newest changes. Though still filtering out to most users, Facebook's history shows they won't be the last changes to Facebook's UI. Whatever comes, just keep your focus on quality, shareable content. Oh, and have fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Funds For Learning Moves Up a Grade

Funds For Learning (FFL) helps schools and libraries wade through government paperwork and become compliant to be eligible to receive technology funding. Tricky stuff. It's one of those "hey-I-didn't-even-know-people-did-that" jobs that once you hear about, you're glad is around.

We've worked with FFL for a few years now, helping develop their early branding. We even won the prestigious Jef Fontana Humor award for their on-hold message a few years ago.

Oh my, how the years fly by. Now Funds For Learning is the nation's largest provider of these services. They've moved up to a swanky new office and their team of experts is way bigger. Their past brand fit a smaller organization carving out a new niche. Now, they're ready to brag about their expertise, their experience and their drive to help.

So we got to thinking: Who is Funds For Learning to its clients? They cut through complicated paperwork. They show a clear path to funding. They keep clients from making costly mistakes. They're like sherpas, the rugged mountaineers that escort adventurers to the peak of Mount Everest. They're like a sensei, a master of mysterious techniques. And they're like a guru, with deep knowledge of their craft. What do these all have in common? They're guides. So, that's how we positioned Funds For Learning.

Above is the first brand positioning board recently created. The strategy is to: Keep a streamlined appearance to stand out from the competition's cluttered ads. Incorporate the internal culture into the messaging: Collaborative, fun-loving, resourceful, with a strong belief in communication. Use a new color system revolves around reds, oranges and saturated cyans, with white as the accent. Funds For Learning didn't need a drastic change to their brand, just a natural next iteration. A graduation, if you will.

Humorous Venn diagrams show that Funds For Learning really understands the tough position most districts are in these days, without getting too dour about it. The graph background, handwriting, and hand-drawn circles all reflect elements of a school whiteboard and a workplace brainstorming session. Using strong visual metaphors from simple visual shapes make Funds For Learning's brand very approachable.

Funds For Learning liked these initial ideas so much they decided to do a full-on photoshoot to show off their sweet new space and their team of gurus, sherpas, anda senseis (a.k.a. guides).

After a long shooting day, we let off some steam with an epic paper fight. Hey, what's a graduation without a little fun?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hey look, it's the future! Third Degree Webcam Huddles

With the creative department growing across two cities, we're figuring out how to do our usual daily huddles across the distance.

We're using iChat as a temporary solution, but that only handles four people. We're also looking at Skype Premium, which is currently the leading candidate. Google Hangouts has a very nice pricepoint (Free!) and expands to lots of users, but we noticed a lot of lag. Our newcomer Kaylee suggested Talkbox, which we'll definitely investigate further.

Any recommendations for on-the-spot facetime?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New faces at the Third Degree Oklahoma City office!

We're super-busy these days, so it's nice when we can get some extra help in and out of the creative department. Next time you come around to the Third Degree Oklahoma City office, say hello to the new kids!

We met Jennifer at a recent AIGA portfolio review. Among a wide array of talented students and young professionals, Jennifer stood out for her strong type foundations, precise handcraft and clever concepting. That's a lot of jargon that only means something to design nerds. Which we so are.

Kyle comes to us from OU's journalism department. He actually first looked for an internship in the creative department, but his strength in research made him an obvious choice for the account service side. Above, he describes the stack of work we gave him on his first day.

Ah, and here's Kaylee. She interned for us over two years ago, but graduated and went off to the land of web startups. Now she's back from a three-month visit to Japan, full of stories about giant robots and questionable seafood. She's jumping into the creative department as a production artist.

Welcome to Third Degree! You're gonna be great.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Group Photo Shoot Outtakes

Because we're oversharers, we couldn't help showing off our outtakes from the impromptu group photoshoot this week. Here's the scene...

[INT: Third Degree Office. Early morning. No one's had coffee yet.]
Daniel: Hey, let's do the group shot before it gets too hot.
Liz: Yeah, this is your last chance before I fly back to Durham.
Brett: But who are we going to sucker into being our photographer?
All: Jared!

[EXT: Backdoor of Third Degree offices.]
Jared: Okay, just like the Bricktown engagement photoshoots.
Liz: You go here. You go here. You go here.
Adam: I'm having second thoughts, guys.

Daniel: Let's move out to the sidewalk a little.
Brett: Yes! Like an album cover. Everyone space out and look serious.
Jared: Okay, everyone. One, twooooo, three!

Liz: Did I blink?
Jared: No, but let's take another one to be safe.
Daniel: Places, everyone!
Jared: Okay, everyone. One, twooooo, three!

Jared: Got it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

They grow up so fast.

While everyone else goes back to school, we do things a little different here at Third Degree. Get your cap and gown, it's time for graduation!

(Clockwise from top left: Brett Grimes, Adam Lenaire, Daniel Solis and Liz Fabry.)

Brett Grimes (on the team 5 years) always brings his top game to design and art direction. That's why he's being promoted to Senior Art Director. Epic win!

Liz Fabry (4 years) pioneers our creative team in Raleigh-Durham. For the past year, she's grown as a writer, concepter, and grown our RDU team's profile. So, she's being promoted to Senior Art Director, too!

Congrats Liz and Brett! Two cities, two senior art directors. We're keeping it hot with double the creative firepower.

Oh! More good news! Daniel Solis (7 years) is now associate creative director. He'll keep the engines burning with social branding and innovative strategy. You'll hear more from the whole creative team here on the blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Major Salute

Remember Megan? You should- she's pretty unforgettable.

Today we're saluting her continued bravery, general serve-it-up-titude and totally cute shoes with some kind words and silly pictures.

First, a bit of an explanation from CEO Roy:

"Well this week marked a first for me. For the first time in my fifteen year career as the CEO of Third Degree, I had to navigate the new reality of bidding a teammate good-bye – at least for one year. And I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible.

As leaders, we more often are required to be the teacher than the student. But not in this case. Megan, who I often endearingly refer to as “Major,” is indeed just that. Megan Miranda, account planner for Third Degree, is also a Major in the US Army Reserves. And last week our country called her to service for the third time in a decade.

Major Megan Miranda, as of today, will assume command of a PSYOPS company that will be deployed in Afghanistan in support of the US Marines. And while I hate to see her go, I know that our country needs her and that the Army picked a great commander.

I watched Megan embrace her responsibility. What struck me the most is that before assuming command of her company in the US Army, she made sure that her fellow troopers at Third Degree were well informed and that all duties were transitioned with as little disruption and stress as possible. (As if she didn’t have enough else to worry about.) She was committed through the final few minutes of her last day at Third Degree. Giving it all for the team until she walked out of her office.

Megan accepts her role, responsibility, and duty as a military officer. And while I know inside she would rather stay in her office in the renewed surroundings of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, and her home with a vegetable garden, and a group of people at Third Degree who’ve become her family, she doesn’t have that choice. She has a high calling and duty to do her part in defense of our nation.

I will admit that while the War on Terror has raged on since 9/11, I never truly felt personally affected – until now.

So while Megan does her duty over there, it is up to me, Third Degree and all who read this post to continue to do our duty here. And that is to continue our individual contributions to advance commerce, be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy, work as hard as she will for the next year, and never lose sight of the sacrifice that so few make for the benefit and betterment of so many.

Thank you, Major Megan Miranda. I would have picked you too."

– Roy

And now, to soften the blow- here are some light-hearted anecdotes from Megan's 1-year anniversary book:

"I love that Megan can talk marketing savvy and SHOES, all at the same time."
- Holly, Media Director

"Megan serves it up daily with her can-do attitude and team spirit. She’s the force you want working with you through anything - one that does it right and does it on time. She’s a force to be reckoned with and keeps the bar high for all of Third Degree and its clients."
- Natalie, Account Executive

"Megan is on it. She catches on quick, and lives the Third Degree brand daily. And she now has a smart phone so she can check emails. Oh wait, that’s not good… What was she thinking there?"
- Jared, Account Coordinator

"With nerves of steel when presenting, Megan leads with a velvet voice and grace under pressure. The only time Megan seems the opposite of calm are when shoes or coffee are involved. Then, her eyes beam and footsteps quicken as her coveted treasures are within reach! A tip for newbies: do not to interfere with her acquiring said shoes or coffee or I’m sure she’ll utilize some of her psych ops training and she’ll torture you with mind control. At least, that’s
what I hear from Roy (which explains a lot)."
- Amanda, VP Strategic Communications

Our hats (and shoes) are off to you, Megan. See you in a year.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Calm Moments. And Coffee.

Every internal culture has them. Little pieces of, well... peace. Most of the stories coming out of Third Degree's walls are in full-blown technicolor. We tend to crank the dial all the way up to hot when it comes to expressing ourselves. But today I stumbled on some images that capture, dare I say, our more tranquil side?


Coffee Cup Eggs

Don't they just look like ideas about to hatch? This pic is from about a decade ago I'd say. Many of our ideas have hatched and grown to crowing roosters by now. Mostly the ones for clients. Some of our own ideas, like frying an egg on the sidewalk last summer? Didn't have as fabulous an outcome. And if it's the coffee aspect of this scene that makes you want to sigh, or just head out the door to a Starbucks, check out this video about the virtues of coffee I stumbled on the other day.


Roy On The Road

This is Roy in one of his Up In The Air reflective-while-traveling moments. Except his backpack is anything but empty (you've got to see the Clooney flick to get my meaning here). The point is that Roy shines when he's got a glass of... well, let's say a beverage that's on the other end of the indulgence spectrum from coffee and rhymes with "fine"... a quiet corner, and a head full of blazing ideas.



Oh, and if a laptop isn't handy to capture one of his epiphanies... one of these little fellas will do just wine. I mean fine... fine. This photo has been on my laptop background forever, but I don't think I've ever shared it until now. It's neat. When I myself use one to sketch out my ideas, I try to use more descriptive words than "neat."


This Old Elevator

This is a Shining-like photo of our building's elevator entrance before it was remodeled. I kind of miss the exposed circuit boxes and the seventies-trying-to-be-turn-of-the-century sign in powder blue. This "little elevator that could" may be a bit modernized today, but it still kind of creeps people out.


Hall Pass

Probably because Brett is creeping down the back hallway up on the second floor. All he needs is a twin, and then it really is The Shining. This is our coffee escape hall, bathroom escape hall, escaping to the bathroom because you've had too much coffee hall. But this particular stance Brett is displaying, really has no explanation.

Just a calm moment at Third Degree. Eerie calm. But calm all the same for now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Tricking Out" Traditional Print Advertising

So we've really been rallying around this idea of creating non-traditional executions for our client Pioneer as of late, even if the medium is, well, just plain old print.

Facebook and flash mobs may be the latest frontier of advertising, but for some markets – particularly rural ones – a postcard in a county road mailbox or a full-page ad in a town's main newspaper are still some of the most steadfast ways of getting a substantial number of people the message.

Not to say that you can't get creative with how you engage within a market be it urban, suburban or off the beaten path. We've definitely forged into non-traditional media with Pioneer, too. Their Hook Me Up grassroots phone booth and microsite for teens is a prime example.

But it doesn't matter how reliable the delivery channel or how attractive the offer if nobody reads it. And so often boring newspaper ads and ho-hum direct mail end up flipped past, tossed aside and quickly forgotten.

People should at least ...



smell it first ...


touch it first ...


or just frankly be unable to avoid it. (That's a really big postcard.)


But beyond direct mail with a twist, we've had an especially big success creating print ads that really push the medium by contrasting or working within the classic newspaper backdrop.



Engaging viewer interaction by inviting action in order to get "the whole picture" – having fun with the classic game, of you're getting warm, warmer, warmer...

Once we got started, we just started growing into it and now it's hard for us to stop.



Good for Pioneer because more eyes are spending more time with their message, good for the papers because they can demonstrate a forward-thinking approach, and just good for all of us to remember to entertain and engage our viewers – be it in their mailbox or over their morning coffee – even when they don't expect it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buck The Norm Video Contest

Well, today is the last day of voting for TFCU's Buck The Norm video contest. The prize is a $2,000 scholarship and a MacBook for the entrant whose video gets the most votes. It's amazing every year to see what people come up with in these homemade videos. They can range from the cute, to the bizarre, but are always fun to watch.

This year the video theme was a $10 Day Challenge, asking them to make a video about how they would spend a day with only $10 in their pocket. The rest is up to them...

and their socks...

their pbj-making skills...

and the friends they can get to hang out as extras in chick suits.

While it's hard to let go of creative control, we at least like to steer entrants in the right direction. As part of the contest promotion on the Buck The Norm site, we show a How To Video to tell them about the video theme, rules, and tips for making a buckin' great video.



We also require they use some of our downloadable "props."


But making the video is only half the journey to the prize. We want our entrants to get lots and lots of votes, because TFCU doesn't choose the winners, we don't choose the winners... their friends, family and, well, strangers do. So we also give them digital tools for getting the word out and getting people to click on their video!


Did I mention today's the last day to vote? Hey, I'm just spreading the word, man.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Still Sparkling From CUNA Conference


We are back from the 2011 CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference, where credit unions across the nation converge (this year in Las Vegas) to get innovative, get inspired, and get some sparkly sparkly Diamond Awards.

Photo collage courtesy of the only phone pics Amy sent me. Amy, aka our CU Cheerleader was too busy spreading the credit union spirit and pep to take me some decent pics! Left is Roy at the podium as he rallies the general session about the power of internal culture. Right is our sparkly sparkly Diamond Awards (more on those momentarily.)

Even though some of us could only be there in spirit, a handful got our cheesy mugs played for the general session crowd on what I imagine was a huge screen, to illustrate how we practice-what-we-preach at Third Degree by embracing the tools of internal communication, and empowering our credit union clients to do the same. Roy is passionate about this subject. The grainy collage pic doesn't do his enthusiasm justice (that's okay Amy, we know you were probably constructing a pyramid of credit union marketers in a cheer at the time). So just imagine lots of pounding on the podium as he presented this to the crowd, along with Evita-like hand gestures.

Pre-conference, Third Degree created this "Powerful People" ant-themed video for the CUNA Council to help generate buzz and boost conference registration in the months leading up to Las Vegas. It was one of the highest attended marketing and biz development conferences for CUNA in the past eighteen years!

But now for the (drum roll please) Diamond Awards!


The "10 Reasons To Switch in 2010" campaign we created for Delta Community Credit Union out of Atlanta, was a big winner for the night. In addition to some merits, it won a Diamond for Print Ad.

The "10 Reasons" TV Campaign also snagged a Diamond for TV Series! If you recall we had quite a time creating these larger-than-life number props.

The whimsy of Northwest Georgia Credit Union's new look and feel was not lost on the judges either. Along with merits, the commercial that first launched the credit unions branding makeover was awarded a Diamond for :30 TV Spot.


In fact, whimsy was a winner all around, as Tinker Federal Credit Union got a Diamond for The SaveAbles Youth Marketing campaign, including the irresistible SaveATron himself.


Photo by Zach Nash.

Photo by Zach Nash.

Shark victims and financially empowering thumb lifeguards were not anything to sneeze at either, as the Buck The Norm, Ghouls Gone Wild Parade Entry also brought home a bloody hard-earned Diamond for TFCU.


But we've got to give a hand to plain old fashioned emotional connection, people, as TFCU's "Get Back To You" Complete Campaign stole some hearts and at least one Diamond, too.