Monthly Archives

September 2015

Cell Your Soul

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Cellphones could be considered the modern equivalent to a double-edged sword. The pocket-sized computers can navigate across the globe, instantly share experiences and connect us to the greatest wealth of information the world has ever seen. They also distract us from conversations, interrupt our sleep and can create unnecessary anxiety and stress. So how have we as a society adapted to this technology? How has it changed and shaped our everyday life and how can we make sure they don’t negatively impact us?

Technology has started to advance at breakneck speeds in the past couple decades. For better or worse these advances disrupt social norms and daily routines. We are just now seeing legislation being introduced on a state-by-state basis that specifically calls out mobile devices to try and prevent distracted driving. Even the United States Supreme Court had a ruling last year that protects the privacy of cellphones from unwarranted searches. No doubt there will be more SCOTUS cases that involve mobile devices in the not too distant future.

Having cellphones as a part of our daily lives creates a plethora of new social challenges as well. How should someone conduct him or herself when they have 24/7 access to cat videos? Should you have your phone on the table or in your pocket during a meeting? The Pew Research Center recently released a report that explains survey findings on how Americans view cell phones. Generally, it’s seen as appropriate to be on your phone during passive activities like walking or waiting in line but is frowned upon at restaurants or meetings.

Appropriateness aside, is there any benefit to having your phone during a meeting or is it an avoidable distraction? Forbes elaborated on research from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business pertaining to this exact situation. From that research, 86% of survey participants believed that it is inappropriate to answer a phone call during formal meetings and 66% thought it inappropriate for any meeting. With those numbers, chances are good that someone in your meetings doesn’t appreciate it. That means, senior leadership is picking up on it and more than likely, doesn’t appreciate it. Perhaps it would be beneficial to perform an experiment where you leave your phone at your desk for meetings for a week. Keep in mind that having a laptop in meetings can be counter-productive too.

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately “64% of American adults own a smartphone”. Let’s assume that a minimum of 50% of American’s actively use their smartphones for email. According to technology market research firm The Radicati Group, Inc., approximately 121 professional emails were sent and received each day in 2014. That means, roughly 5 trillion emails are sent to American cell phones on an annual basis.

Technology is constantly in motion but society is starting to slowly catch up with phone etiquette. Much of it is common sense, but to paraphrase the Emily Post Institute:

  • Be in control of your phone (not it in control of you)
  • Be courteous to those you are with (turn off your phone if it will interrupt a meeting or activity)
  • Don’t text or check email during a business meeting or lunch
  • If you need to keep your phone on for an important communication, put it in silent mode
  • Never text and drive

Cell phones are arguably one of the most useful pieces of technology of our day. For every piece of technology, new challenges arise and it’s up to us as users of the technology to manage those challenges the best we can. Stay tuned in the coming months on how to avoid some of the pitfalls they can create.

Trending now: Cool features of the new iStuff

By | Newsletter | No Comments

So by now you’ve probably decided whether you absolutely must have the new iPhone 6S or not, and whether an iPad Pro is on your Christmas list (better start being good!).

If not here’s a quick rundown of the coolest features of Apple’s newest controlled substances.

iPhone 6S and 6S+

3D Touch – the iPhone is now pressure sensitive, allowing you to just peek at something without fully opening it, let go and it closes, push harder and it opens fully. That should take some of the strain off the home button.

Live Photos – now each photo can be like a tiny little video. You’ll get a few moments before and after the image you snap. And then, AND THEN, you can set the moving live photo as the background on your lock screen. Plus the new camera is 12 megapixels and the autofocus has been improved.

Spotlight search – iOS 9 offers a major improvement to the search feature on the iPhone, and since iOS 9 was built for this device, it should work it’s best here. Seach for a particular setting and be able to make changes from the search results page.

There’s a ton of other features but, most importantly, a ton of new or improved apps in the App Store. If you’ve already got you phone, look here for some of the best (and if you don’t, look there for a lot of good reasons to get one).

iPad Pro

It’s size – 12.9 inch HD display. Enough said.

The charging port is now bi-directional. It’s intended to charge the Apple Pencil, but in theory it should be able to charge other devices like fitness trackers once someone figures out the connector.

It’s fast – there’s a ton of RAM in this thing, looking like twice what was in the iPad Air 2. That means faster apps, fewer crashes, and a smoother experience.

The gadgets – first, the Apple Pencil is not a stylus, it costs $99, and it will only work with the iPad Pro. So unless you’re sketching or drafting you likely won’t need one. However, if you’ve been longing to sketch, paint, or draft on the iPad (and who hasn’t), you will definitely want one.

There’s a new magnetic connector on the iPad Pro for connecting and charging the Smart Keyboard, a thin, spill resistant keyboard that doubles as an iPad cover and doesn’t need BlueTooth.

To see all the feature and some very pretty pictures, click here.

 

There’s a lot more going on with iOS 9 that we won’t get in to right now, including ad blocking. We’ll just say this: a real battle between Google and Apple is coming and it will directly effect advertisers and marketers everywhere. The summary is that Apple is now allowing ad blockers on it’s devices that will block ads in the mobile version of Safari. Ads inside apps won’t be interfered with, so this doesn’t mean that Facebook will suddenly become less annoying, just that the mobile web could look somewhat barren. We need a little time to see how the first volley lands, and we’ll keep you updated.

 

Featured Work: Deluxe Rewards

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Deluxe Corporation, long known as a check printer and marketing partner for financial institutions, hired d.trio to promote their newly acquired Deluxe Rewards loyalty solution to several different vertical markets. While Deluxe Rewards is unique (offering customers loyalty benefits to companies without the usual liabilities), the assignment did come with some challenges. To engage a hard-to-reach audience of C-level decision makers, it was essential to not only express the benefits of Deluxe Rewards, but to do so in a fresh way that would build excitement and enthusiasm for the product.

Our strategy leveraged the power of storytelling. To show potential customers how Deluxe Rewards could impact their business, we created a series of journals—one for each vertical market. Built on the theme, Inspiring Everyday Engagement, each journal used sketches, photos, and handwritten entries to tell the story of a fictional consumer. The stories revealed how each person’s rewards program made a positive difference in his or her daily life. In a creative and tangible way, the journals demonstrated the power of Deluxe Rewards to influence buying habits, increase customer loyalty, and change customer behavior.

The campaign consisted of three separate 3-dimensional mail drops, each designed to look like a book and highlight a different product benefit. Email follow-ups, unique landing pages, and a video supported the mailings.

Here’s the work:

Because the recipient was likely unfamiliar with Deluxe Rewards, the first package served as a teaser to introduce the program and establish credibility while setting the stage for future mailings. It encouraged recipients to visit a landing page and view a video that d.trio created. The package also included a pen, inviting people to “Write your brand into your customers’ life story.”

1

The second package included an industry-specific journal written by a fictional consumer. The handwritten journal showed recipients how Deluxe Rewards could drive their customers’ behaviors as a result of the program. A bookmark was sent as well, printed with the call to action.

2

The final mailing featured an origami “money man” to communicate in a fun way the profitability potential of an engaged consumer in addition to the high ROI from a well-run loyalty program. The package also included a stand so that recipients could display their “money man” as a conversation piece, helping to extend the life of the campaign.

3

Conundrums: Perplexing Pronouns

By | Newsletter | No Comments

When I was kid, the nuns would frequently correct me for my improper use of the word “me”. One would ask “how was your summer?”, to which I would enthusiastically answer “it was great – me and Barb did lots of stuff!”. And she would, of course, reply “you mean Barb and I did lots of stuff”. Sigh, yes, that’s what I meant.

It’s my guess that this happened a lot in schools and households across the country. And it’s my belief that these corrections lead us to an overcorrection of sorts. Now it’s not uncommon to hear things like “I’m buying dinner for you and I”.

The act of scraping one’s fingernails on a chalkboard never bothered me. But if it did, I would suspect it would feel something like the feeling I get when I hear an improper use of a pronoun.

Seriously…how on earth did a good percentage of the population come to say things like “him and I went to the movie”.

If you’re reading this and nodding ferociously, you understand where I’m coming from. If you’re reading this and wondering if your pronoun usage is on par, we can help.

When you’re dealing with multiple pronouns, just follow this one simple rule and you’ll be golden: Separate the Subjects.

Examples:
This one is pretty obvious to most of us:
“me and Barb did lots of stuff” becomes “me did lots of stuff” and “Barb did lots of stuff”. Unless you’re a caveman (or woman), you probably want to go with “I did lots of stuff”

This one may not be as obvious, but as a general rule, you would never end a sentence with “I”:
“I’m buying dinner for you and I” becomes “I’m buying dinner for you” and “I’m buying dinner for I”. Anyone with English as a first language knows that “I’m buying dinner for me” is the way to go here.

In my opinion, this is the worst offense of them all, and it entices exceptional ridicule should anyone around the office make this mistake:
“him and I went to the movie” becomes “him went to the movie” (arghhhhhhhhhh!) and “I went to the movie”. Need I say more?

We hope this little rule will help you the next time you’re in a conundrum over which pronoun to use. We promise it will make you sound a whole lot smarter. And who doesn’t want to sound smarter? Me sure do.

Management Perspective: Ending meetings

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Ok, this is not about putting an end to office meetings, much as we all would like to see that happen. This is more about how to help your meetings end more successfully. By paying more attention to how meetings typically end, I’ve come to believe that creating a good ending to a meeting is one of the more important but often overlooked meeting practices.

Seldom does a meeting end badly, but all too often, meetings seem to dissipate, drift or fade out, rather than end. As the finish time nears, energy drops as attendees start looking at their phones, thinking about what they need to catch up on, or their head is already onto the next meeting.

A deliberate good ending can greatly enhance the time just spent for all present. If possible, the person conducting the meeting should do what they can to raise energy at the end of a meeting with just a word or two of positive reinforcement.

Here are a few other ways to end a meeting well:

  • close with your voice just a tad louder…it will raise the energy in the room
  • if possible, purposely end 10 minutes early, everyone will appreciate this
  • reiterate all that was accomplished and the positive steps taken and give attendees an idea of how much was accomplished…for example, “good work, I think we’re over half way there on this.”
  • call out action items and assign individuals specific tasks and deadlines
  • thank all attendees for their time spent and contribution

I believe that when a meeting ends well the attendees think about the subject matter just a little bit more. I’ve also noticed that the ideas that manifest after a meeting are usually equally or more important than the thinking that occurs during. In short, good endings create better results.

The Zen of Unplugging

By | General | One Comment

Twenty years after my father had quit smoking I would watch him tap his shirt pocket, looking for his pack of cigarettes. The habit was so ingrained in his DNA I’m not even sure he was aware of his actions. Finish a meal, tap the pocket, get in the car, tap the pocket, feel a little stressed, tap the pocket.

Today, I feel as I’m watching something similar, done over and over by nearly everyone, including myself. Pause in the conversation, take out the phone, waiting for an order, take out the phone, at a red light, take out the phone. I’ve caught myself looking at my phone within minutes of having just checked my updates.

So, we’re addicted to our phones. We basically know this. We also know the negative consequences. We know that we should back off, and sometimes we do for a few hours, but unplugging is surprisingly difficult.

This is not about the research and value of unplugging. This is about my experience and how it felt to unplug for 5 days. Actually, almost unplug for 5 days, I cheated once…just had to check that email.

I signed up for a yoga retreat in the mountains of California and there was no cell coverage. (Not unless you got in your car and drove around for 20 minutes trying to find a signal so you could check in and read those emails including the one that slightly derailed you and interrupted your concentration for a day!) But I digress. The one slip not withstanding, this is how it felt.

Day 1. The first night my little group met. We were there for yoga and meditation, unplugging was not our reason for coming, but it was pretty much the topic of conversation that first night. I had been 5 or 6 hours without contact and was already considering going out in search of a signal. I’m pretty sure I was experiencing some kind of withdrawal. I came to the retreat to relax and I felt panicky. The woman next to me, to whom I am forever grateful, tapped my arm and told me that it would get easier. Something in the way she said this told me that could also get better.

Day 2. Sunrise yoga followed by breakfast in silence…with no phone. Painfully awkward. Can’t figure out where to look? Down? Up? Make eye contact, don’t make eye contact? I really miss my phone.

Day 3. Breakfast was much easier. Made it though day 2 with lots of pocket tapping, becoming fully aware of all the times I would have pulled out my phone. Filled the space with conversation or simply paying attention to all that was going on and experiencing the beauty of my surroundings. Broke down and got in the car around 8pm and found a signal. Big mistake, lesson learned. The stress this caused made me acutely aware of how good I had felt before hand.

Day 4. Ok, I was at a yoga retreat in the mountains of California so to say life slowed down and was peaceful sounds pretty silly. But it did, and I will never know exactly how different this experience would have been if I had stayed connected. I vote for no cell = greater experience. I also noticed that taking the phone out of my life left a lot of time in the day. A class starting in 20 minutes meant 20 minutes to fill, not 20 minutes to spend.

Day 5. Time to go back to life. On my drive back to the airport I let the phone sit on the seat next to me for at least an hour. Earlier I thought I would jump on it as soon as possible but I found myself unwilling to get back, just yet. A bit afraid of it, yes. Excited to pick it up and reconnect, yes. Promise made to be more intentional in my habit, yes. Promise broken, sadly, yes.

I am a typography snob

By | General | One Comment

I am a typography snob. I judge the reliability and competence of companies almost solely based on what (and how many) fonts they use in their advertising. I don’t use coupons very often because I get distracted when the layout artist forgets to kern the 1. I avoid certain routes on the way to work in order to avoid billboards that have bad typography. They repainted the water tower I can see from my office window and did a horrible job of combining two typefaces into one word, plus the kerning is all over the place, so I closed my blinds and haven’t opened them since.

I understand that I am an extreme case, twisted and made cynical by years of graphic design work, but, though extreme, I am not alone in my hatred of bad typography, and certainly not alone in my love of good typography. Just search ‘typography’ on Pinterest or Instagram once, you’ll lose days of your life to a celebration of the most carefully crafted type. And that brings me to my point, the world as a whole has woken up both to the beauty and the importance of typography. Your messages are more and more often being judged not only on the words you use, but also what those words look like.

As a designer/marketer I often have the privilege of helping a company either develop a new brand look and one of the most important aspects of that look is always typography. One of the most interesting points in any brand concept presentation is when I get to the point where I tell the client the name of the suggested font. Fonts have strange names and some are stranger than others. Lately it seems that more type designers are including the typographic classification into font names, leading me into conversations like, “This font is called Brandon Grotesque,” I said. “Grotesque?” they interjected, “But it looks very nice, why would they call it grotesque?”.

Most people never have to deal with type classification, they simply know the name of their corporate font and the basic fonts that came loaded on their computer. Almost everyone now knows the difference between sans serif and serif fonts. We type snobs however, know that there are at least four classifications of sans serif and six for serif styles.

Here’s a little peek into type classifications, so you can sound really smart in your Instagram comments.

The most famous font in the world, Helvetica, is a Grotesque Sans Serif, just like my new friend Brandon.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.16.29 PM

In fact, many of our clients use primary typography that can be classified as grotesque. These styles were the first sans serifs and have retained their popularity.

The next most commonly used classification among d.trio clients has to be the more even and, well, geometric, Geometric Sans styles. These styles are also quite popular but somewhat less readable at smaller sizes. Avenir Next is a good example of a geometric sans.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.15.54 PM

It does seem to be a sans serif world right now as sans serif fonts tend to be easier to work with and hold up better used large or in solely digital forms like web typography. But here’s a quick reminder of just how beautiful a serif can be.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.18.02 PM

There are a lot of good modern serif styles out there and some of the most popular currently can be classified as Slab Serifs. Slab serifs feature large, blocky serifs and are often said to be a sans in all ways except the serifs.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.12.59 PM

If you’re still with me at this point, you too might be a typography snob (or at least a budding one), and you may find this page about type classifications interesting. Good luck finding great type in the world, and also good luck unseeing the bad.

Powerful brand marketing – in a non-traditional way

By | General, Newsletter | No Comments

Branding and marketing have always been about affinity – for a company, a product or service. People like to align with companies who stand for the ethics or attitudes they value in themselves. Those brands that present authentic and relevant experiences directly to people who are interested have a competitive advantage in today’s information saturated landscape. Large corporations and small companies both understand the marketing power of their brands as their employees and customers do more and more to influence their brand development and corporate personality.

The fact is, we are each an intrinsic part of where we work and where we choose to do business. We shape a brand and it shapes us. As marketing has become more fluid and focused on online strategies, many industries have been changed forever. Retail, banking, higher education, music, marketing – the traditional businesses have been forced to find ways to be more mobile, more 24/7 and more creative in finding their customers.

Let your audience decide the value

So it’s no surprise that this change has spilled over into investing and fundraising. People and companies are having success crowdsourcing or crowdfunding their products, services and more on sites like Kickstarter.com and Patreon.com (supporter of the arts). This is a classic affinity model for early adopters, people who want to see their favorite small business or micro business do well, or people who want to be a part of innovation or art in action. It’s both exciting and fulfilling.

It makes sense that the people and businesses that have success crowdfunding their ideas are the ones who understand who their audience is and what they want. They are authentic and offer something of value or a unique experience for the contribution of a few dollars. The best ones offer a better quality experience or product than what’s available on the market. See this Forbes article on 7 tips for crowdfunding success: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amadoudiallo/2014/01/24/crowdfunding-secrets-7-tips-for-kickstarter-success/

Having a personal impact

In a personal example of why crowdfunding works, Danette tells us about her experience trying to find a solar charger to take on a camping trip. She did her research and tried several on the market that left her without power. Then she found one that appears to have solved the problems of the others:

“…reading my weekly news magazine, I saw the answer. In the section titled “Innovation of the week” was a story about a new portable solar charger being developed and crowdsourced by a startup company. I went to Kickstarter to learn more. I watched the company’s 2.5 minute video and learned how their product addressed all the issues I was having with other chargers I tried. I also read through dozens of posts by the products creators about how things were coming together with the prototype. I immediately decided to support the company, with the promise of receiving my solar charger if they raised the necessary funds to go to production. If they don’t, I’m out nothing.”

This illustrates the best way to have success on Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites. They solved a real problem, did their homework and showed it to the investors, they had a compelling pitch and have the opportunity to learn something from their audience once the product is delivered.

Crowdfunding seems to be particularly good for non-traditional businesses, start ups or people in careers that might present challenges in receiving traditional loans or funding (like music and the arts). And like other brand marketing, you have to do something better than what’s being done, present your product or yourself in an authentic way and make people feel good about their decision to support you. A win-win situation compels success. To quote Danette, “That is powerful marketing. And there’s nothing traditional about it.”

State fair time!

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Every August at the end of the month, thousands flock to indulge not in our 10,000 lakes, but Minnesota’s 10,000 ways to fry food. Ranked as one of the country’s best State Fairs, each year Minnesotans and fair goers await the anticipated list of “new fair foods.” This year did not disappoint. From deep fried ribs, to mac & cheese fried cupcakes, and even whiskey-spiked hand-held pies, the new food list never ceases to intrigue.

We’ll start dieting now.

While Texas holds the title of the country’s largest state fair, Minnesota comes in at a close second. Part of the reason for its popularity is the fair’s largest free exhibit: the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, where fairgoers watch the birthing and first steps of baby calves, lambs, goats and piglets. But the Minnesota state fair goes beyond the exceptional livestock. Competitions include rulings on Christmas trees, bees and honey, flowers and much more. Attendees also seek out the famous butter sculpture, designed to resemble the year’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way, a woman crowned every year as the official ambassador of the Minnesota Dairy Industry. The Minnesota State Fair also touts live, headlining performances, and again, the food.

Of course this is all familiar to us because d.trio hails from Minnesota. But it got me wondering: what are other fairs known for, and most importantly, what should we eat? Below is a list of this year’s new food at the Minnesota State Fair, and other fairs worth the travel time!

  • Iowa State Fair: known for its standout food with nearly 200 concession stands and 50 different treats on a stick. Standout food item: Octodog – a hot dog shaped like an octopus, also fried butter, because why wouldn’t we.
  • Alaska State Fair: Known for its monstrous produce competition. Previous winners have included a 20-pound carrot and a 1,000-pound pumpkin.
  • New York State Fair: Known for it’s wine “tent.” Wineries across the state host tastings and compete for top-vintner status. Sign us up!
  • Texas State Fair: Known for its size. Boasting the largest fair in the country, the Texas fair has 76 thrill rides, a 1,800-foot-long aerial skyway gondola and the tallest Ferris wheel in North America.

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2015/06/23/minnesota-state-fair-releases-new-foods-for-2015.html