May 26, 2010

It’s a day on, not a day off.


In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, The King Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, addresses social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community." In 2009 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined many organizations to help honor Dr. King’s legacy by declaring a National Day of Service and launching the website Serve.Gov.

Here at Think Creative, we have out own community service traditions: the “Day On.”

Once every quarter the Think crew gets out of the office and devotes a day to helping the community. We’re now in our third year of the Day On and have worked with some amazing organizations. Whether they need us to call BINGO or collect pencils, it feels good to be doing our part.

In The Past…

The Anthony House

The Anthony House is an organization that helps recovering addicts and alcoholics, providing them with the tools needed to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. In April of 2007, we shut down the office and went to work for The Anthony House, creating a Hallway to Success to commemorate the progress and achievements of their residents.

Kinneret Apartments

The Kinneret Apartments of Orlando provide two apartment towers for 300 low-income seniors.  They are committed to providing a quality, life-enhancing residential experience fro their residents. In November of 2008, Think Creative delivered Thanksgiving meals to these homebound seniors.

Marks Street Center

Marks Street Center is a recreational facility where senior citizens can come together and play games, eat, and just enjoy each other’s company. And in October of 2008, the team played B-I-N-G-O and helped serve lunch at Marks Street Center. Diane showed her amazing talent of spinning the ping-pong balls!

Page 15

Page 15 provides reading and writing education for all students living and attending public school in Orlando. They provide a free after-school tutoring and creative writing workshops to enhance communication skills, encourage personal creativity, and inspire a lifelong passion for the language arts.  On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2009, we held a supply drive to benefit this local youth literacy organization.

Friday May 28, 2010…

This Friday we will be working with the HOME Campus Beautification project. Helping Others Make the Effort is a non-profit organization working to break the cycle of homelessness by providing housing and life skills to homeless women and their children. HOME delivers four distinct program options, dependent on the individual family’s need and housing urgency. Come Friday morning, we will be helping the HOME organization with the continuation of keeping their campus beautiful!

March 26, 2010

You like us! You really, really like us.

Sometimes, we totally fall in love with a project and are blessed enough to have the world (or at least the local ad industry) love them as well. Such was the case at this year's AAF-Orlando Awards, when we scored two ADDY's for projects that are especially near and dear to our hearts. The Moment Jars scooped up a Gold in the interactive category, and the late night dining poster from Emory Dining campaign picked up a Silver. Go, us!

February 09, 2010

Super Bored with Babies and Puppies

This hilarious Stop Babies and Puppies campaign from the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) comes just in time for the post-Super Bowl ad hangover. In it, they implore marketers to stop resorting to trite cliches in the name of pushing product. The site is packed full of goodies, including a Cliche Ad Machine that lets you create your own spot using stock footage of blankets-swaddled babies,  puppies frolicking in meadows and the like.

And make no mistake about it - while babies and puppies are singled out as the  scapegoat here, screaming zoo animals, frat boy beer humor and random hot chicks in bathtubs are just as guilty.  But let's switch gears and call out a few spots that didn't put me in the mood to break some bottles (your beer sucks anyway Budweiser), stomp a chicken (I wouldn't eat a Dennys Grand Slam even if they paid me) or boycott the sponsor once and for all (good thing you're so cheap, GoDaddy). 

Dodge Charger - good. Google - very good. But my favorite spot of all came from a most unlikely source, the video game Dante's Inferno. I saw nary a mention of this little gem in all the post-game coverage, but its surprising union of brilliant, fiery graphics with a soulful Bill Withers classic made it rise above all the clucking, roaring competition that surrounded it. Just like that 3rd quarter onside kick, it's an excellent example of how beautiful (and successful) an unexpected move can be.

February 03, 2010

Picture + Paper + Personal = The Perfect Postcard

For anyone who laments the demise of printed mail (the funny stamps! the feel of paper!  the thrill of opening that metal box and seeing something other than a bill peeking out from the stack!), but relishes the speed and convenience of e-cards (I'm too lazy to go to the mailbox I'd rather just click a button!), Hazel Mail may just put your communication conflicts to rest once and for all.

The nifty program lets you upload your own photo from your computer or phone (yes, there's an app for that). Then it will create an actual postcard (i.e. paper), stamp it and mail it anywhere in the world, all for way less mental and financial hassle than it would cost to find a mailbox in the middle of nowhere. In the high technology vs. personal touch debate, this scores a solid  "best of both worlds." Easy as a Twitpic but just as personal as a handwritten letter from your childhood pen pal.  No, I didn't have one either, but I've read about them, and they sure seem swell.

All it really means, of course, is that instead of getting the typical birds-eye view of a beautiful landmark, my family and friends can now look forward to receiving snazzy prints from my ever-in-development "Hey look where my feet have been" series. Thanks, Hazel!

GC Feet

January 19, 2010

New Year's Re-Resolutions

In preparing for our company's annual goals meeting, I noticed that my goals for 2010 bear a striking resemblance to my goals for 2009. On the one hand, it's a little disappointing to note that I'd made absolutely zero progress on a few initiatives that we started last year (such as Sweaty Thoughts, our just-for-kicks, fitness-focused blog...go ahead, click the link and you'll see for yourself how little progress we have really made). On the other, there was another item that seems to wind up on the list every year. And I'm starting to think that maybe it should:

Complete the Think Creative Brand Discovery

In a nutshell, Brand Discovery is a process that we complete for every single one of our clients. It involves:

  1. Taking a long, close look at who they are, what they do and what makes them different from everyone else 
  2. Developing a distinct brand promise and positioning statement
  3. Creating the tools needed to communicate that identity precisely and authentically.

Problem is, we've never really completed it for ourselves. A fact that we're constantly beating ourselves up over, but I'm starting to think that maybe it's really not such a bad thing. After all, with the advertising and marketing world changing as quickly as it is, can any agency really afford to set themselves in stone? Sure, we provide all the services you'd expect of us. But we also sell T-shirts. Write books. Launch websites asking people to share their deepest worries and their most special memories. Where would all that stuff fit in? Had we actually completed the process last year, we'd still be starting from scratch this time around. And should we finish it this year, we may still be starting all over again next year.

Maybe our own Brand Discovery keeps winding up in the recycling bin of big plans because it is, truly, an ongoing process. Because what it means to advertise, to market your company, and to serve clients who need that type of help changes every second. And because who we are as creative people is constantly in flux.

So here we are yet again, poised to launch into the new year without a clear and concrete definition of our brand. And guess what? That's okay. Then again, we wouldn't let our clients get away with that crap for a second. 

December 22, 2009

The Moment Jars

Every year, our team collaborates on a winter book. Mark writes the story, Lure Design designs the book, Kim Fox does the illustrations, and Drive New Media develops the website. This year's book, The Moment Jars, is about a man who captures the special moments in his life and places them in a jar. It's a wonderful story, probably my favorite one yet (though I seem to say that every year) and a beautiful book, but what really set this year apart from the others was the success and far-reaching impact of the website.

The Moment Jars is a pretty simple site, with a pretty simple idea: share your own special moment and add your virtual Moment Jar to the collection.

Moment Jars web

The response has been amazing. First, we shared it with friends and family, who were great about adding their own moments and memories. But it was the mention in Swiss Miss (recently named one of the world's most influential design blogs) that really gave us our big break. Soon there were moments rolling in from all over the world. We had Italian moments. Spanish moments. Even one from all the way in Japan. There were moments about having kids, and moments and about being a kid. Moments about leaving home for the first time and moments about finding home in unexpected places. There were many, many moments about falling in love. Almost as many about falling out of it. At last count, there were over 500 moments in all. Most were short and sweet, though one was too long to leave in a jar. As one blogger pointed out (in a very sweet post which I can't seem to find again), not a single one was about money, possessions, or any other material thing. A great reminder, especially at this time of year, that life's most precious gifts aren't anything you pick up at a store.

Now here's the funny thing. While the website proves that people all over the world want to capture the moments of their life in a tangible way, the story the book tells makes you question that desire. How? You'll just have to read it to find out.

Share your moment, and purchase The Moment Jars book here.

September 21, 2009

New Work: Emory University Dining

When we were called by Emory University in 2008, their objective was clear: create a brand that helps establish Emory Dining as one of the top five dining programs in the country. So we met with their team in Atlanta, feasted on hand cut potato chips and learned a lot about what really defined Emory Dining: quality, diversity, freshness, a firm commitment to sustainability. It was a great program that needed a great brand, and we think that's what they got.

EM801 TAO.Mission

EM801 TAO.Posters.P1

EM801 TAO.Posters.P2

EM801 TAO.Posters.P3

August 26, 2009

Keeping the Humanity in B2B

A little part of me dies every time a client reads some copy and responds with this critique:

"It needs to sound more businesslike."

In my experience, what that usually means is that they're looking something impersonal, clinical and flat. With a lot more jargon and a lot less personality. A simple missive from one machine to another.

It's unfortunate that so many people consider this approach SOP for B2B communications. What they're forgetting is that businesses, no matter how big, how corporate, how technical in nature, are run by people. And people respond to emotion, depth and sincerity, whether they are reading a novel or the employee newsletter. That said, here are few simple ways to keep the humanity in B2B:  

1. Let the purpose dictate the tone.
If you're writing an instructions manual, then by all means, be concise, technical and straightforward as possible. But if you're introducing a new initiative to your employees, or a new product to the market, or your new services to a prospective client---if you're doing anything that you want people to get on board with and get excited about, make your language convey that excitement.

2. Don't be afraid to address the reader directly.
When did "you" become a four letter word? Remember, no matter what the purpose of your piece, your reader is still a person. You can be personal without being unprofessional. In fact, it's often a great way to capture the reader's attention and make a real connection. 

3. Do be afraid - very afraid - of jargon overload.
Some people think jargon makes you sound really, really smart. The irony is that all the really, really smart people can see right through it. If you're substituting buzzwords and overcomplicated biz-speak for real substance and value, the only people who will buy it are the ones you probably don't want to do business with anyway.

August 12, 2009

Brand First. Tweet Second.

I’m guilty. But I’m not the only one. Most every marketer I know is guilty of taking his eye off the ball these days. Guilty of falling off our ADD meds. Guilty of the bird-like behavior (tweet tweet) that causes us to be immediately attracted to each shiny, glimmery, sparkly new social media gadget that enters our field of vision. And who can blame us? Social media is intoxicating, addictive and promises to make me irresistible to the opposite sex. Hence my admission that I am as guilty as they come. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still think social media is the bomb. I’m not entering a 12-step program just yet. (For the record, though, I rarely imbibe in Facebook anymore and my taste for Twitter is waning, too.) You see, it’s not that I don’t value all these opportunities to dispense our messages to the masses, to communicate quickly, succinctly and loudly. The problem is that developing a brand, a personality, a tone, a voice must still supercede our innate, immediate desire to send messages to our minions in 140 characters or less. My point – here it comes – is that, while it’s great to have such easy access to people who are anxious to hear what we have to say, we still need to develop that consistent voice, that authentic attitude, that brand. I know Brand seems like an old idea, but the brand development process is still valid. And absolutely necessary. In fact, it may be more necessary than ever. Why? Because in the old days, what I call Marketing Departments 1.0 controlled all the outgoing messages. They ensured the consistency of the voice and the message because they were the ones who disseminated it. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Today, companies are giving folks in every department the opportunity to twitter on company letterhead. Which is very cool. But that means that now, more than ever, it’s essential that they all have the company playbook, or brand manual (or social media manifesto!), and that there is harmony amongst all the corporate communicators.  Yes, just because we’re replacing our radio buys with minimum wage twitters, viral video producers and PR pros who are presently populating our Facebook pages, doesn’t mean that we can relinquish old school brand development work. These forms of communication, just like their predecessors (remember magazine ads, 30 second television spots and outdoor boards?) need to have some grounding in an established and agreed upon brand platform. So join me in taking a twitter timeout while we take care of the basics. Join me in breathing just a bit before uploading our newest YouTube creation. Branding is step one. Let’s ensure that all our players are heading toward the same goal line. Let’s make sure they’re all running the same play. And then, then we can all get back to tweeting our “can’t be missed” messages 140 characters at a time.

July 30, 2009

I've Gone Mad

Well, I went and Mad Men'd myself. Shameless Draper-hag that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to inhabit that whiskey-soaked world, if only virtually. Alas, it wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. They do a good enough job referencing the show and the period: the background music, costume choices and Dyna Moe's now famous illustrations are dead on. But for the time it takes to complete the process, I wish that my martini-swilling avatar got to have a little more fun. I was hoping for a Jib-Jab style vignette, starring Mad Me tearing up the town with Joan, horseback riding with Betty, climbing corporate ladders with Peggy then pantsing smug little Pete in front of the whole S-C crew...right before riding off into the sunset, smoking cigarettes from the shotgun seat of Don's big Cadillac.  

Alas, what I got was this downloadable image (you get the choice of this full body shot, a headshot only or a wallpaper featuring you in the scene of your choice), and even she looks a bit perplexed by the whole thing. 


Oh well. All in all, the site is just one part of a robust social media push for Mad Men and 8 o'clock coffee. I applaud the breadth of the campaign, and look forward to taking the "Which Mad Men Character Are You?" quiz when that releases...I fancy myself a Joan but suspect reality will peg me as a Peggy.