Monthly Archives

July 2013

Celebrate the Power of Positivity

By | General | No Comments

At first, I heard it. The footsteps of a co-worker buzzing by me at the pace of an Olympic-style racewalker, steam almost visibly pouring out their ears. Then I made eye contact and saw the frazzled look in their eyes. At that moment, I could relate – I knew a project was not going in their favor. There are the days I wish I had a “do-over” button.

Keeping a positive outlook at work is important, especially during busy times.  Research shows that employees with a positive mind-set have improved performance, productivity, creativity and engagement*.

I follow @LIVEpositivity on Twitter and on Facebook to give me perspective. Just a few minutes each day reading these tweets and posts can make me laugh and inspire me, as well as remind me that my glass is half full.

As d.trio concludes the July word of the month, “Celebrate,” I challenge you to become a positive influence for yourself and your office.  Find simple things to celebrate and bring a little more positivity into your life. And then share your positivity with others. It’s contagious and can influence and change for the better.

Where will you find inspiration to make you smile tomorrow?


-Tina Ilstrup is a senior account executive at d.trio marketing group

Humble Minnesota?

By | General | One Comment

The great city of Minneapolis has received a great deal of kudos recently from various semi-useless, semi-pride-inducing rankings. Being a non-native Minnesotan, I’ve taken it upon myself to celebrate all the props my new home has received. Here are a few examples:


We’re in Shape

For the third year in a row, Minneapolis ranks the fittest city by the American College of Sports Medicine. Important factors in the ranking consist of preventative health behaviors, residents’ access to healthcare, rate of chronic diseases, and “community resources and policies that support physical activity.” 90 percent of Minneapolis folks have health insurance and 77 percent reported that they’ve exercised in the last month. Flex those muscles, Minneapolis!


We’re Snobby

Travel and Leisure magazine just ranked Minneapolis the fourth snobbiest city in the nation. What does that mean, you ask? It means that cities were ranked on several criteria including level of tech-savviness, number of artisanal coffeehouses, reporting eco-consciousness, prevalence of cultural offerings, intelligence of residents, and other factors of snobtudery. Put those pinkies in the air, Minneapolitans, you’ve earned it!


We Love Our Parks

Beating out San Francisco, Minneapolis has become the home of the best city park system in the nation. Why does that matter? Because inner peace comes from natural balance. Also, it means you can get your ultimate Frisbee on in more places.  The Trust for Public Land looked at how many residents can reach a park quickly by foot, median park size, the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks, per capita spending, and the number of playgrounds available per 10,000 city residents. Now, you have no reason not to get outside on a beautiful day.


Three cheers for Minneapolis!


-Jordan Bainer is a senior account executive at d.trio marketing group

5 reasons to test your value prop

By | Newsletter | No Comments

What do consumers value? What makes them sign up for a particular credit card? Credit card marketers are testing heavily to find the sweet spot. Whether it’s educating customers on card value by offering comparison tools or value proposition testing (miles vs. cash back vs. points or…?) with focus groups, credit card marketing clients are trying to understand what appeals most to consumers in this new economy.

And it’s no wonder. We’ve watched credit card marketing return after a several year virtual hiatus and one thing is clear: everything has changed – the economy, attitudes about credit, and new regulations – and credit card marketers are looking for answers.

The great recession changed the way that people use and view credit. And now that we are attempting to put it behind us, people are more cautious than ever, they also expect more. Ten percent fewer consumers have credit cards than 4 years ago and credit card debt in general is down from its height in 2008, as is the amount of revolving debt.*

That said, there are some common sense strategies for card marketers to follow. Here are 5 considerations for positioning your value prop to prospects and customers in marketing.

  1. Value rules. Consumers and businesses have had to tighten their spending and are looking to find the best value for their money. How is your value proposition going to help them save money, manage money, travel more, etc. ? (Hint: it’s not just telling prospects what you think the best card features are.)
  2. Simplify. Credit card companies are charged with simplifying their messaging to consumers so it’s easy for them to understand the offers and the potential upside and downside of the card they are considering getting. They should be able to understand the value proposition at a glance.
  3. Transparency. Regulations are pushing in this direction and consumers, more than ever expect full transparency of the specifics of card value propositions as well as customer service, fees and rates. They expect to have a say and will express their unhappiness in the social sphere loudly if they feel they are being deceived or ignored.
  4. Keep it in context. What’s going on in the world, economy, blogs and social media? Will this help with identifying the things people value in life (more money for “wants”, more travel, entertainment, family time, or fun money)? Positioning the value proposition benefits in light of what’s happening will give you a leg up. (See our 5 Trends in Financial Services Design article)
  5. Test, test, test. Try to put yourself in the minds of the prospects you are targeting and create your best communication, but don’t forget to test where you can. Test the value proposition alone, the creative, the relevancy of the message with focus groups and direct marketing (mail and email). Get people to tell you what they want through social media or surveys for direct feedback.

As evidenced by the proliferation of couponing and deal sites, consumers expect to find value in everything, including their credit cards. The value proposition, how it is positioned and explained, can make the difference between issuing a popular card and one that languishes in the marketplace. There has to be relevant perceived value to the prospect. The good news is, through thoughtful strategies, your marketing initiatives can get you where you need to be.



For more credit card statistics:

2 Clients Celebrate

By | Newsletter | No Comments

U.S Bancorp Celebrates 150 Years in Business

U.S. Bancorp celebrated its 150th anniversary by ringing The Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on July 12.
U.S. Bancorp Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Davis and Chief Financial Officer Andy Cecere took the stage at the NYSE on Friday, July 12 at 4 p.m. ET. Joining them were 10 employees from across the bank, including two of the bank’s longest-serving staffers, four employees who serve in the military and four other employees who were chosen as winners of bank contests commemorating the 150th anniversary.
U.S. Bank’s national charter, which is based in Cincinnati, was signed during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency 150 years ago on July 13, 1863, while the Civil War raged across the Ohio River. Since then, U.S. Bank has not only survived, but thrived. Today, U.S. Bancorp is the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States.

Congratulations to all our friends at U.S. Bank. We are proud to have you as a long-standing client.

MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, July 2013


Celebrating the Miracles of Mitch Foundation and the MKids Triathlon

Since 2003, The Miracles of Mitch Foundation has been supporting families of children with cancer in Minnesota and the region. Miracles of Mitch is named after its founder, a courageous boy who passed away from cancer but was determined to help others with cancer, and their families. Through the Mkids Triatholon, kids sign up to raise funds for the cause. Each racer receives a trading card of their sponsored child with cancer. In 2012, Mkids contributions raised by the racers totaled $600,000 – this year’s ambitious goal is $1,000,000!

d.trio has been a partner of the Miracles of Mitch Foundation for the past seven years, volunteering marketing strategy and creative resources to the Mkids Triathlon. We have designed the race packet as it has evolved over the years, from a fold-out race map to a folder and packet of information. This year, the race kit piece we designed is a brochure with a focus on fundraising.

Another project we are proud to have designed for many years — the Mkids All-Star trading cards. Each year, a new trading card design is created for a new group of Mkids All-Stars, highlighting kids with cancer that have been touched by the Miracles of Mitch foundation.

Two quotes from All-Star families that speak from the heart about what a miracle this foundation really is:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart — this eases such a large burden for us. Not a night goes by that I don’t worry incessantly about our financial situation and you have given me reprieve. I am so very grateful. It has been very difficult for us to ask for or accept help. You made it fee like it was an honor for you to support us, not that we were somehow needy or pathetic or financially irresponsible. Thank you for allowing us to maintain our dignity – that in itself is an amazing gift.” – All-Star Tate’s Mom

We wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our January house payment. Our daughter Morgan is battling her fourth cancerous brain tumor. She has been so sick. We have both been away from our jobs and the medical bills are all coming in. What a wonderful amazing foundation to help families in need as we are so stressed. We don’t know how long we will have our daughter and not having to worry as much about money has helped us focus on the most important thing in the world — taking care of Morgan. — All-Star Morgan’s Family

Our favorite summer foods (or drinks)

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Maureen: Corn on the cob

Mary: Peachy Drink

4 ripe peaches, skins and pits removed
6 oz lemonade concentrate (not diluted)
6 oz vodka
2 cups ice cubes

Combine in blender.  Server in clear glasses.
Garnish with fruit.

Hint: The peaches must be ripe. Do not use canned peaches.
This beverage is best enjoyed outdoors on a hot day.
Can be made in advance and stored in the freezer.
Recipe can be doubled.

Adult Variation: replace vodka with rum
Kiddie Variation: replace vodka with water

Tim: Surf and Turf with fresh Asparagus and seasoned seedless cucumbers

Tina: Campfire Pies and Kebabs

Jordan: Grilled corn salad

Megan: Salmon on the grill.

From Deb Asplund and Paul Padratzik from Cooking Light Magazine with my additions

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Chipotle chile powder (or more if you want more heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
4 (6 oz.) salmon steaks or filets
Cooking spray
Maple syrup

Combine first 7 ingredients. This recipe creates a larger portion of the rub and can be prepared and stored for future use. Sprinkle salmon with salt, then rub the spice mixture on the salmon. Place fish on the grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 7 minutes, or to preferred doneness. Brush or drizzle maple syrup over the salmon about a minute before taking them off the grill.

Fred: Watermelon

Sheryl: Black Bean Corn Salsa

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1 cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup snipped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic

Mix ingredients together.

Beth: Fruit salad

1 pint raspberries
red seedless grapes, halved
2 peaches, diced
2 apples (or 1 apple and 1 asian pear), diced
1/2 quart strawberries, sliced
blueberries if you like them
Put down the mayo, this salad doesn’t need a dressing beyond a little squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Victoria: French Potato Salad

How To Cook
prep 10 mins
total time 30 mins
Servings 6

2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 small red onion, sliced

Cook’s Note
If you don’t have sherry vinegar, try cider or champagne vinegar instead. Use your favorite fresh herbs in this potato salad to make it your own.

1. Step 1
Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water by 1 inch and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
2. Step 2
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and onion and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature. To store, refrigerate, up to overnight.

Everyday Food, July/August 2009

Management Perspective: Choosing A Dance Partner

By | Newsletter | No Comments

One seemingly complex issue often facing marketers is how to go about picking the right agency with which to work.  True to my obsessive drive to simplify, I’ve attempted to break the process down to something easy – ergo, the “Three C’s.”

Cost, Capability and Chemistry are my “Three C’s”.  Each should be factored into any decision involving agency choice.  I would submit that Chemistry is the most important.

Cost is typically straightforward, essentially boiling down to low, medium and high (it’s really value one should focus on here).   Capability?  Well, if quality agencies are invited to the party they are all going to be solidly capable.  That leaves Chemistry, which is a far more difficult attribute to demonstrate and assess – especially in a managed, objective RFP process.

To ensure the best outcome, you should get at the true essence of your potential agency partner.  What are the people you’ll work with like?  What defines the agency’s culture and values?  What are they most proud of and passionate about?  How do references describe the agency’s personality?  Are they collaborative or directive?

Good chemistry is the core of any successful team or lasting relationship.  I believe it’s a big reason why d.trio has maintained many client relationships three to five times the industry average.

Above the objective nuts and bolts of cost and capability, your gut feelings regarding the answers to the above chemistry questions will likely be the best determinant as to who should be your date for the dance. (Just make sure you get them home by midnight).


5 Trends in Financial Services Design

By | Newsletter | No Comments

The economic recession that began in 2008 has changed the way that financial services companies represent their brand. In an effort to re-establish trust and confidence with their customers, providers have dramatically reduced the use of imagery and messaging depicting aspiration and conspicuous wealth.  Here are five of the main design trends.


1. Focus on Women

Since women are now frequently the primary money-makers and financial decision makers in the their households, it makes sense to focus on women.  However, the stereotypical images of shopping bags and pink items have been replaced by images featuring contemporary females shown looking empowered who balance many different roles.


2.  Surprising Shots

Financial imagery has become less literal with the use of unexpected, bold and artful images to illustrate classic concepts and help campaigns stand out. The pictures might be unusual, but they help change the perception that financial conversations have to be dull.


3. The New Wealth

People are reassessing what wealth really means to them.  The accumulation of possessions is being replaced by the idea of having new experiences. Messaging is focused around living life with meaning and appreciating the basics: security, health, relationships, and personal achievements. Images emphasize the simple things in life and reflect what we love and value – moments and people.


4. Small Business

Over the past years, there has been an increased interest in small business imagery, especially in financial services marketing. Small businesses are incredibly important to the economy as they hire the bulk of the workforce, account for a key part of production and are the source of innovation and creativity. Entrepreneurship is becoming a much admired character trait and many people aspire to own their own business one day.  Small business photography emphasizes the strong concepts of honesty, passion and determination.


5. Corporate Responsibility

As an industry, financial services lost consumer trust over recent years. According to the Edelman 2012 Trust Barometer, ‘listening to customers needs’, ‘treating employees well’, as well as ‘having ethical business practices’ are considered more important in rebuilding trust than ‘delivering consistent financial returns’. Many financial service brands are starting or supporting projects, which go beyond campaigns and are set-up for the long term to demonstrate their responsibility for local businesses, communities and the environment.



Curve by Getty Images, 2013

Read, Reflect and Relax

By | Newsletter | No Comments

Technology is amazing. It can help us make great presentations, keep us up-to-date on what is going on in the world and we can now be connected 24/7 and 365 days a year. Our phones are almost always within reach.

This brings me to the question: when do we give ourselves time to recharge? When do we wake up and smell the coffee (instead of pouring over emails)? There recently was an event held in Silicon Valley called “Digital Detox” – a no-technology summer camp for adults. There are real benefits to taking a break from tech. The summer is a great time to take that break.

A couple points:

    • Kansas State University found that taking a break from technology (and consequently work) helps you recover for the next day. So burning the midnight oil at both ends of the wick should be kept to a minimum.
    • Looking at a computer before sleeping can produce sleeping disorders. The backlit screens suppress the production of melatonin. A chemical that will help you fall asleep. The best thing to do is turn off (or ignore) all electronic devices at least one hour before you go to sleep.

What we need to look for is a healthy balance of technology, find a little time this summer to relax your brain.

Social Media: Brands Celebrate Newsworthy Events

By | General | No Comments

With social media’s ever-growing influence over the past decade, brands have been able to more quickly align themselves to major news events or human accomplishments than possible in the past. Using social channels and digital advertising, brands can reach the masses almost immediately after a relevant news story breaks.

For example, when the lights went out at the SuperBowl earlier this year, Oreo made a deliberate and brilliant move to link the brand back to the Twitter trending topic.  Posting on their Twitter page, “You can still dunk in the dark”, they reached the SuperBowl audience with a relevant and pithy message in real time. This was a simple and inexpensive tactic, generating a great deal of awareness on the social channel and also positive PR. Plus, Oreo was able to generate comparable buzz without spending a dime on media fees.

Most recently with the repeal of DOMA, numerous marketers have utilized brand imagery to support their viewpoint and align themselves to social change. For example, Kraft’s Grey Poupon altered their classic scene of two wealthy gentlemen sharing mustard into a simple, straightforward message of acceptance. Implying their support of the decision, Poupon and its ad has generated much discussion and attention on its Facebook page along with praise from the industry and public news outlets.

These successful examples were possible through trusting relationships between agencies and their clients. Without this trust, the element of surprise would be impossible and the message would be stale and lagged.


Images are copyright of their originators. Images here obtained from:


-Jordan Bainer is a senior account executive at d.trio marketing group

A Fresh Perspective can Reveal a Different Direction

By | Newsletter | No Comments

It’s been said that the most important people in a business are the ones sitting in their office staring out into space. This may sound a little counter intuitive, but in theory, those who occasionally “stop and stare” are the fine tuners, the problem solvers, and sometimes, the finders of missing pieces.

Stop, stare out and contemplate. It could be one of the most important things to do when defining or re-defining a brand, creating a marketing plan or launching a campaign. Gaining a new perspective can reveal that missing item, that tiny element that is just not quite right, that unanswered question, lingering problem or unrealized opportunity.

Recently going through this process at d.trio helped us to identify an objective that needed to be reworked.  One of our education clients had the seemingly straightforward objective of obtaining student applications for an advanced, specialized degree program.  However, after looking at the challenge in a different way, we determined that this might have been too big of an initial step for the prospective students.  We added another step to the marketing process by offering the prospect the option to engage with the institution first by attending a gathering where they could meet like-minded potential students as well as professors and employers in their chosen field.   This created more engagement and warmer leads, which ultimately led to more student applications.

Sometimes, we just need to examine our efforts and ask ourselves, am I missing out on an opportunity to let my prospects get to know me, my product or my brand better?

Marketers also need to keep close tabs on the things that may be happening outside of their control or influence.  This is especially true as it may reveal opinions or events that could be hurting their brand.

Some examples of great brand responses to mostly outside influences include:

-Kentucky Fried Chicken. They made the adjustment to KFC in response to the shunning of fried foods by the general public.

-DirecTV. Started using older, friendlier sounding voices on their voice automated systems.

-As red meat consumption in the U.S. declined and chicken consumption grew, The Pork industry saw an opportunity to switch sides and became “the other white meat.”

-La-Z-Boy, a furniture icon, was faced with a new market of female buyers that were not all that excited about their husbands getting all comfy in front of the television. Their solution, update the line and hire a young, friendly female spokeswoman to speak to the women buyers.

-Whether you like it or not, Kmart now has a sense of humor.

-Domino’s is one of the best examples, they took it on the chin and faced up to their quality issues in a very public way and the results have been dubbed by some as the greatest comeback of all times.

All of this serves as a reminder to keep our eyes open and our thoughts wandering…you never know what solution is waiting to be revealed.