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Danette Knickmeier

REI – Walking the Walk

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard that REI is closing on Black Friday. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a refreshing change to hear about a retailer who, in addition to not being open on Thanksgiving, has also decided to close on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Here’s why I think this is a brilliant idea…

Quite a few years ago, my family and I decided to stop exchanging Christmas presents.

Instead, we decided to make a bigger deal of out of each other’s birthdays every year (which has been a lot of fun). And to get through the holidays, we decided to focus on our favorite part of the season – cooking and eating!

We had multiple reasons for making this decision. Mostly, it was because of the needless stress it added to our lives of running out in the cold in the middle of December and wandering the isles of some random store to find the perfect gift.

Or, in an attempt to get something that was a guaranteed hit, we would write lists for each other, that included items we would eventually buy for ourselves anyway – or worse yet, that included items we didn’t really need and could end up in a landfill before the end of their useful lives.

Another reason for our decision was environmental. We are active, outdoorsy, treehugger types who like to spend our vacations abusing our bodies on long hikes or bike rides, and debate over who creates the smallest amount of trash on a weekly basis. We’re geeks like that. And we’re also REI members.

As a consumer, I was ecstatic when I heard they were closing on Black Friday and encouraging people to go outside. I felt proud to be associated with a company that shares my values.

As a marketer, I love how they turned this initiative into an entire PR-ish sort of campaign called OptOutside. It includes social media ads with beautiful photos of outdoor places, and posts asking followers to share their plans for the day.

Some ads include an interactive feature that allows viewers to type in their zip code to find great outdoor places in the area to visit. They even partnered with MeetUp to help people find organized outdoor activities for the day.

And where do you suppose they’ll go to get their gear for those activities?

Like I said, brilliant.


Root canals over savings accounts?

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Since many of our clients are in the financial services industry, Fred routinely shares interesting banking tidbits with us. He recently shared an article from the St. Louis Business Journal that said, in a 3-year study of 10,000 millennials, 71% would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying.

To our friends in the industry, that might feel like hearing your dentist tell you that you need a root canal. Ouch!

The article also mentioned that more than half of the respondents believe their bank’s offerings are the same as other bank’s, and over 1/3 said they would consider switching banks in the next 90 days. Unfortunately, the article didn’t say what might push these cynical, yet highly sought-after consumers to another bank. Now that would be good information to have.

But maybe it doesn’t matter, because 1/3 of the respondents think they will eventually not need a bank at all. They are more exited about financial services offerings from their tech idols, like Google, Apple and Amazon.

This got me thinking about the whole banking/mortgage debacle and how it wasn’t just millennials that were affected. Sure, they got stuck moving back home after college because they couldn’t find a job. But we all know that everyone else suffered too—perhaps the worst hit being those in or near retirement who lost a large chunk of their funds. At least millennials have their whole lives ahead of them to build up those accounts.

As for dissing the banks in favor of tech companies, it remains to be seen how this will all wash out. It’s true that many banks engaged in unscrupulous business practices, but I believe that consumers could share a little of the blame, too.

The old saying goes “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”. For the record, this is not me shaking my finger at others. I fell prey to the hard-to-believe offers too. Taking out a home loan with no money down and the naïve belief that my house could only increase in value were two big circumstances that contributed to me eventually losing it (among other things that were out of my control).

In other words, I think it’s okay for millennials to use the benefit of hindsight to make judgments and blame the banks. But does putting all their faith into companies like Google, Apple and Amazon—who, just like banks, are in business to make money—guarantee their future success? I doubt it.

Instead, it might help if everyone practiced a little more self-control in their spending. After all, wouldn’t it be great if the bank debacle taught us, no matter what generation we are from, to learn to be more grateful for the things we already have?

Stand-up desks: Good for more than just your health

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Just over a year ago, Sheryl wrote a blog about her new stand-up desk. Well, actually, it was an attachment to her traditional desk that allowed her to lower and raise her monitor and keyboard.

She listed all the health reasons it was important for her to work standing up and I whole-heartedly agree with everything she said. Read her blog here.

Before I came back to d.trio, I had several different iterations of stand-up desks, too. One was a duo of high-quality adjustable-height wood platforms that sat on top of my desk that held my monitor and keyboard. Another was a big heavy piece of black plastic that served the same purpose, but had a bit more surface space. There was also an adjustable desktop that was raised up and down with a hand crank (super old-school, but quite effective).

I am happy to say that, today, I have the mother of all stand-up desks. It’s has a wooden, full-desk-size surface perched on heavy-duty legs, and the whole thing rises and lowers with the push of a button. No more moving my laptop from one place to another so I can sit down. No more hand crank. No more reaching down to a lower surface to get to my papers (yes, I still use papers). I love this thing!

In addition to all the health-benefits that come with working standing up, I have noticed a few more benefits of my slick new desk:

  1. When someone stops by my office to look at something on my screen, it’s already at eye-level. There’s no need for them to crouch awkwardly over my shoulder or move a chair around to sit.
  1. When someone stops by my office to chat, they sit in the chair on the opposite side of my desk, and we wait 30 seconds for my desk to lower so we can both sit and discuss an important client project (or rehash the events of the weekend).
  1. When I’m super busy and running around to grab things from the printer or looking for someone to make some fast-turn edits, there’s no need to get up and push my annoying chair out of the way. I simply bolt out the door. I know we’re not saving lives, but those seconds can be crucial when trying to meet a deadline (or meet some friends for happy hour).
  1. A laptop, a monitor, computer speakers, a lamp, my water glass, a coffee mug, piles of folders, and a mish-mash of other miscellaneous things I need to get through my day, all move with me whether I’m standing or sitting. It’s like having a personal assistant making sure I’m always comfortable and working efficiently.
  1. While standing, with just a slight turn of my head, I can see the progress being made on the new brewery right across the street.

I’m fortunate that my company values my health and happiness enough to provide me with such a great tool. If yours does too, check out Happy standing!

This blog has nothing to do with marketing

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When Megan asked me to write a blog about the Climate Ride, I wondered how I would tie it to marketing. She said not to worry about that and just write about my experience. So, read on if you’re looking for a short escape from work. If you’re looking to learn more about SEO, you might want to skip it.

I recently participated in a life-changing event. I rode my bike over 300 miles in northern California to raise money and awareness for organizations that work to combat climate change. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.

I don’t remember the exact moment that I became so passionate about the environment. I wish I could say that it happened when I was a kid on some amazing family vacation to a national park, or when I was a teenager and visited the ocean for the first time. None of those things happened. The truth is, we didn’t take family vacations and I didn’t see the ocean for the first time until I was 20.

What did happen was this. In college, I discovered mountain biking. Which was probably the first time I really started appreciating nature and all the beauty that this world has to offer. I was hanging out with Recreation majors and was spending my weekends camping and riding, and it was a blast.

In the years between then and now I’ve experienced many miles of Wisconsin and Minnesota terrain on a bicycle, a particularly scenic tour in the Tuscan region of Italy—also on a bicycle, many camping excursions at Lake Arbutus near Black River Falls WI, many hours of trekking on the Superior Hiking Trial, an amazing week in the Boundary Waters, and an awe-inspiring trip to the Grand Canyon.

These trips were not just welcome breaks from work. They were the best vacations I’ve ever had. Well, except the one in Sonoma, but that’s another story.

Fast forward many years later, and I find myself more passionate than ever about the outdoors and our precious earth. So much so, that I would ask my friends and family to donate their hard-earned money, and that I would take a week of my precious vacation time and spend hundreds of dollars of my own hard-earned money to get myself and my bike to California.

And it was worth every penny. The scenery was spectacular. The people were incredibly kind and smart. Many of them have careers dedicated to the environment and are very successful in their fields.

It was inspiring being around them and hearing their personal and professional stories. It was also fun experiencing the great redwoods for the first time with them. And stopping for oysters on the coast with them. And having beers with them after a long day of riding.

To sum up the Climate Ride in just a few words, I would say it was spectacular, unforgettable, and life changing.

To sum it up in more than a few words, here is my list of the top 10 things I learned on the ride:

  1. Humans were not meant to wear spandex.
  2. Some redwoods are over 2,000 years old—which is precisely how old one feels at the end of a 100-mile day.
  3. It takes approximately 1 hour to climb a 5-mile hill going 5 miles per hour (I’m sure I learned this in grade school too, but it was fun to actually do it).
  4. When camping, it’s best to pitch your tent in a spot with a direct route to the bathroom for those 2:00 AM trips.
  5. No matter how padded your bike shorts are, you’re still going to get a sore bum after spending the better part of 5 days on a bike seat.
  6. If you’re looking for guaranteed sun and warmth, go to Southern California, not Northern California.
  7. The incredible Humbolt Fog cheese is made in Humbolt County CA, and is named after the morning fog that descends on the area every day.
  8. Your mind can get your body to do things you thought might never be possible.
  9. Peanut butter & Nutella sandwiches are the bomb.
  10. Treehuggers are the nicest people on earth.


Marketers could learn something from Hipsters

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I admire hipsters. A friend recently called me one because of my bike-riding tendencies and occasional thrift-store shopping habit. But in all truth, I’m a little too old to be a “real” hipster.

But I admire them because they reject mainstream culture. I have nothing against mainstream culture, but sometimes getting away from it can really help you stand out. Kind of like a bearded, skinny-jeans-wearing 20-something who inadvertently finds himself in a suburban Wal-Mart.

I think direct mail has become the “hipster” of the marketing world. Every marketer who knows anything knows that digital marketing is a great way to find and communicate with your target customers. And why not – it works!

But what many marketers may have forgotten is that direct mail – mail that actually goes through the postal system – could be a really great addition to their marketing plan. Because it stands out more now than every before.

Direct mail isn’t cheap, especially compared to email. So a lot of companies have stopped using it. Which is precisely why some should start.

Here’s an article about how a few different companies have used it to their benefit. Maybe yours could too.

But don’t tell too many people, or everyone will start doing it. And then how would you stand out?

Old-fashioned networking in the digital age

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I recently attended an event that was put on by the Midwest Interactive Marketing Association. It was my first MIMA event in a couple of years, and I was excited to see what they were up to.

I went with two intentions. 1) To learn about “Brand storytelling in the digital age” (which I did). And 2) To do some good old-fashioned networking. What I experienced during the designated 30-minute networking timeslot was something that didn’t sit well with me, but also didn’t surprise me.

There was plenty of chatting going on—whether it was new connections being made, or coworkers gossiping about the latest office politics, is anyone’s guess. But there were also plenty of attendees standing alone in that all-too-familiar stance that we’ve all seen—head down with gaze fixated on a smart phone.

It’s my guess that these poor folks weren’t lucky enough to have coworkers at the event and, therefore, had no place to hide from the uncomfortable act of introducing oneself to a complete stranger (or, worse yet, a group of strangers). So they did what anyone would do—they retreated to their custom-made happy place.

I’ll admit, my first inclination was to do the same after scanning the room and not recognizing one single face. But I somehow managed to resist the urge.

Instead, I approached a group of women chatting in the corner (who all worked together in the same office), introduced myself, gave my elevator speech, and handed each of them my business card. I did the same with another group—who turned out to actually be networking.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my smart phone and would rather give up solid food than live without it. But during that short 30 minutes, which felt more like 3 hours to this textbook introvert, I knew I had to do what I came to do. And that was to network with my colleagues through meaningful, sincere, face-to-face conversations. And I’m happy to say that I did just that. And then I checked my email.