I <3 Strategy

JohnBuysse

Just four years ago, I entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an advertising major because I liked the idea of “advertising” generally. Both the college major and professional industry seemed creative, quirky and overall glamorous.

At this time, I also thought “ads” were whipped up by a copywriter and art director out of thin air. I’ve never watched a full episode of Mad Men, but the imagery of that era influenced my understanding of how it works. Fortunately for me, this understanding was wildly inaccurate and my ultimate destiny would lie in something totally different: strategy.

During that first semester on campus, I was lucky enough to get involved in the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). This experience allowed me to quickly see the many, many possible paths within this crazy industry. Account! Creative! Media! PR! Experiential! Strategy!

I’m quickly realized I’m not organized enough to be an account rock star and being a creative may have driven me crazy. Strategy was different, though.

In high school, I enjoyed numbers, but wasn’t a huge fan of algebra. I had always enjoyed writing, but didn’t always love writing about 12th century European History for 10 pages (single spaced). I loved Psychology, but didn’t know how to explore that without being a vague Psych major in college. But, strategy!

Strategy allowed me to connect and utilize these seemingly disparate skills and interests neatly into an exciting career as a brand strategist. (It also made having glasses seem even cooler.)

Since that time, I’ve found new and exciting reasons to love what I do. While interviewing for my current position at Struck, I was asked, “why strategy?”

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XOXO 2014: A Drone Inside a Rift Inside a Hug Inside the Internet

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XOXO Fest, a three-day festival in Portland celebrating art & technology makers (and a lot more) wrapped up with a final big hug on Sunday the 14th. A few lucky Struckers got to attend – tickets are only obtained through lottery – and here are some highlights, and of course, feelings, which is what XOXO is all about.

 

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Drones

No XOXO writeup can be complete without a mention of the drones (or, ‘camera enabled quad-copters’ for those who don’t appreciate the military industrial complex connotation) and how much they disturbed the local goats, who alerted everyone to the issue via Twitter.

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Ah Portland, You just give and give.

 

Anita Sarkeesian

As if to contrast the core philosophy of XOXO by tangible example, Anita’s presence at the festival prompted even more harassment by the Gamergate community, including a death threat and dissemination of the exact kind of ‘conspiracy fiction’ she discussed as being one of the many methods employed to discredit her. For those who haven’t been following the controversy, Anita, who runs the blog Feminist Frequency, has been the subject of severe harassment for her erudite critiques of male-dominated gaming culture. Her talk was both an index of the various personal assaults she’s endured as well as a rallying cry for basic human dignity in online discourse.

 

Camera Lucida

Creators Golan Levin and Pablo Garcia spoke about their hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to resurrect a long-dead 19th century technology that calls into question (quite controversially) whether many of the Old Masters utilized technological shortcuts in creating their masterworks. The project sits at a fascinating intersection of Tim’s Vermeer and Manufactured Landscapes in that it poses intellectual, artistic, and economic questions all at once….all because of a tiny prism on a stick.

 

Darius Kazemi

Creator of many magical and absurd ‘bot experiments on the web, Darius wove a thoroughly entertaining tale about his successes and failures after years of working the Web that has resulted in a staggering 72 experiments and projects. If you want to feel lazy, or need a reminder that that weird idea you had once could actually be cool to make, look no further than @tinysubversions.

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Social Media is a Channel. And That’s It.

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Cue up the “get off my lawn” mood – we need to talk social media. I’ve been in digital marketing since 2000, so I’m definitely a geezer by many definitions. But that means the early part of my career was defined by traditional brand advertising, where you had exactly 4 mediums to advertise in (radio, TV, out of home, print). It was a simpler and less-fragmented world, but it also shaped my point of view for years to come on realistic ways to build brands. Then about five to six years ago, a groundswell of buzz (how’s THAT for some lingo?) started around social media. media and evangelists were touting it as the next great thing, the equalizer for all brands, the great driver of the economy … THE SILVER F’IN BULLET!

Don’t get me wrong, social media has done wonderful things. It’s given voice to people with great ideas that need backing. It’s connected people on so many levels for their career, their friendships, their romances. But what it hasn’t done, is be the be-all, end-all for brands. Brands approached this new world with trepidation, which was made worse by “social media strategists” insisting that only they could guide them through the weeds. These “specialists” (who likely had only been in business for 2-3 years) made clients even more leery and cautious, feeling only a self-proclaimed “guru” could help them navigate and that this medium demanded its own particular approach. Brands were trained to think that if they went alone, they’d be doomed to fail, their business would collapse and the internet would implode upon itself. /hyperbole

A very smart man, Augie Ray, wrote a great article here about this specific topic. The upshot of the article, even brands with spectacular social media “flame-outs” are doing just fine, financially, thank you very much.

You know what all these brands really should have focused on? The good old Golden Rule … “do unto others.” That’s it. Treat people as you’d like to be treated, and you’ll do fine on social media, particularly if you’re realistic about how your audience is truly willing to interact with your brand.

Alright cranky guy, are there brands following this advice and doing well? I’m so glad you asked – there absolutely is. Of course these are all my opinions, but as a cranky old ad guy, I feel entitled to get up on a soapbox:

  • GE/Instagram – an amazing example of taking a platform and a seemingly uninteresting product line and making it work extremely well. They don’t try to do too much, but do just enough to keep people coming back.
  • Delta on Twitter – One of many examples of getting the most out of an “engagement” channel and actually providing value back to their audience.

And who’s failing? Well, pretty much any brand or entity foisting a hashtag on their followers, expecting it to be used “organically.” Let’s list just a few, shall we: #myNYPD, #McDstories, #RIMjobs, #WTFF. It’s sad to say, but one can sit back and watch brands fail on social media pretty much every day of the week, likely doing so on the advice of these “gurus.”

So, that silver bullet that social media was going to become, allowing message magnification for free and exponential audiences … not really working out as expected. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and more are all implementing monetization models, acting more and more like TV, radio and print (you know, the “old school”), developing content with brands subsidizing content delivery in the hopes of getting their message in front of the right person at the right time. Hakuna matata, no? So there is no need for a social media specialist. Find people that are incredibly good at telling your brand story regardless of the medium.

You wouldn’t pay a “TV specialist” to dole out advice solely on broadcast advertising advice, would you?

/rant

Always Included

Not too long ago, our good friends/comrades/clients at Glasses.com launched a new approach to buying glasses online—get the brand-name frames you love, with free lenses. Some of us may have gone a bit crazy (Ray-Bans! Persols! Free shipping!), but we still found time to craft a couple spots taking a playful shot at the traditional retail shopping experience. If you’ve ever bought glasses, you’re familiar with the shock of exorbitant lens prices and add-ons. You probably should also clickety-click your way over to glasses.com.

And, now, the spots:

 

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Voltron…and Grace, our amazing intern.

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Grace. Where do I start… I feel like interns are most often associated with constant time management and monotonous tasks. You’re busy, you need their help and also want to make their internship worthwhile by sharing your craft with them, but so much time is spent managing tasks and projects it becomes a detriment to both of you. 

However, this is not the case with Grace. Her colorful personality, coupled with her ambitious attitude and ability to efficiently manage her workload, make her the type of intern you dream of. What really makes her shine though is how she naturally became one of the team, immersing herself in our culture, which is not always easy to do. I mean, if you can befriend Pixel Panther you know you’ve made it. (Sorry Dave, I had to…)

Anyways, time flew by, as it always does, and here we are in August with Grace heading back to school. Before she left we had to know what she was going to relate her Struck experience to this time. Last year we were  Seabiscuit and I was truly curious what she would peg us as this time. Of course she didn’t let us down. This go-round we have transcended the legendary racehorse and now embody Voltron.

You see, this is why I love Grace. Keep reading and you may just fall in love with her too:

As a repeat summer intern for Struck, it was déjà vu when I was asked to write a blog post to wrap up my time with the creative agency that stole my heart. Last year I likened Struck to a powerful racehorse, graceful and unbeatable. How was I supposed to top the imagery of Seabiscut this year?  I was having a hard time finding something to compare Struck to this time, so I bribed Dave Bunnel with some green apple Hi-Chews to help me out. Turns out Hi-Chews have a mystical power because Dave introduced me to the perfect combination of my favorite things: retro anime, teamwork, and rocket-powered big cats. Without him I wouldn’t have found the perfect image that illustrates Struck to a tee: Voltron. Now if you’re like me and happen to be uneducated in the awesomeness of this OG Power Rangers, you should check this out. 

Pretty sweet, right?

Like the black, red, green, blue, and yellow lions combine to become a giant super lion-appendaged robot that protects the planet from evil; Struck combines it’s creative, advertising, design, technical, and strategy forces to create such a powerful brand experience that they might well save the world from the forces of bad marketing.

I was once again graced with the opportunity to join the team, and I used this as a chance to draw on everything I learned from my time as Pauline’s shadow. Armed with an arsenal of business appropriate dresses, a list of all the Strucker’s names and photos, and lemon sweet tea from my favorite glass office mug, I joined the Strategy team to research everything from light bulbs to weddings to organic hams. I walked into the office every morning with the goal to save the world and while I wasn’t a robot-lion fighting evil, I was lucky enough to witness the ways Struck transforms the brands that walk through its doors. I never realized how much thought and effort goes into simple brand decisions and I was quickly educated in the inner working of the well-oiled machine Struck is.

I can’t express how grateful I am to have met the kind, intelligent, welcoming, and creative people at Struck and to have worked alongside them. If it wasn’t for Tosh calling me Horse Whisperer, Stevie helping me navigate the Struck server every day, and Scott actually using my name, I wouldn’t have felt as at home in the brightly colored office as I do now. I’m going to miss Chelsie and Susan greeting me every morning, the smell of Brent’s cologne as he went back and forth past my desk and his creativity permeating every room he entered. I’ll miss having a tech master like Jon to help me with every Mac related question I had, and constantly stopping by Jennifer’s desk or emailing Ben for advice, assignments and discussions about what I was discovering in my research. Glancing up from my keyboard to have Pauline and Jeff right across from my desk gave me inspiration to work hard and succeed. I got to work with all the wonderful people of Struck who are the best role models I could ask for.

I’ll hopefully see the wonderful people of Struck next summer, and in the meantime I’ll take everything I learned and apply it to becoming a robot-lion set on saving the world.

 

Lennar Next Gen

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Multigenerational living is a growing trend. Economic challenges, aging parents, the want and need to have family nearby… whatever the motivation, 51.5 million Americans are living in multigenerational housing, and this trend is expected to grow as baby boomers get older.

Lennar recognized a need and created a pretty incredible solution for today’s multigenerational family: Next Gen® – The Home Within a Home. Lennar has enabled families to have the best of both worlds with this concept: a family home built around a separate suite featuring a private entrance, bedroom, bathroom, laundry, eat-in kitchenette and living room, sometimes a separate garage. The benefits of living with your family seem obvious, right? The opportunity to share a mortgage payment, split utility costs, capitalize on a live-in babysitter, have care nearby for an aging parent—the list is endless.

Frankly, though, you’re talking about emotional, life-changing decisions. Some of the most significant decisions you’ll ever have to make in your life. Relocating not one, but two households. Acknowledging that your father isn’t as spry as he used to be. Or that your daughter isn’t yet able to be totally independent. And the decision isn’t something that can ever be sold based on financial benefits, numbers and spreadsheets. That can’t be the “why”.

The differentiator of the Next Gen home is that its been holistically designed to house two families acting as one, not as a glued-on space or a mother-in-law apartment in the basement. Next Gen homes are purpose-built from scratch to be lived in, together.

And so, we arrived at a simple truth: it’s the smallest moments that make the biggest changes worth doing. It’s not the numbers. It’s having your mom teach your own daughter to make the cookies that you’ve loved your whole life. It’s reading quietly together on the porch while the sun sets. It’s getting to have help close by, while also being allowed the dignity of your own living space.

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3 Minutes with Jill De Haan

Jill_Blog

Hi everyone! We recently caught up with one of our designers and talented hand-lettering artist, Jill De Haan. Get to know her below and make sure to follow her on Instagram. (Psst…she just got back from Europe and her photos may just be the extra inspiration you need to finally book that European vacation.)

Your work is beautiful. How did you get into design and hand lettering?

Thanks so much! I’ve been drawing and writing things since I could hold a pencil. One of my favorite surfaces to write on? Ballpoint pen on a banana. Seriously – try it before you make fun of me. I have notebooks from high school filled with words written over and over in different styles and I transformed my regular handwriting style three times when in high school. It was fascinating to go to school for design and learn the anatomy and history of the letter – and that passion just continues to grow every day.

Describe the style of your work.

I try to dabble in a bunch of different styles – it forces me to try new mediums and to step out of my comfort zone. But if I had to describe the style that I am most comfortable with, I’d have to say that it falls somewhere between elegant and adventurous. I really enjoy starting with a classic scripty style and then applying an organic medium to it, like pencil, watercolor, or dry-brush acrylic paint.

Where do you draw inspiration?

I am deeply influenced by historical typography and nature and find that the colors and textures of the different seasons make their way into my work quite often.

Is there anyone in the industry in particular that you admire?

Too many to name! There are so many incredibly talented lettering artists out there – I especially love the ones that aren’t afraid to try new things and really hone their craft, like –  Erik Marinovich, Dan Cassaro, Mary Kate McDevitt, and Nathan Yoder, to name a few. But tons more, seriously!

What has made the biggest impact on your work?

Being able to do freelance work has really impacted what I do because it’s always a new challenge. But along with that, I think that doing my own personal projects has helped me explore and build my own personal style, which translates to everything else I do.

Tell us about a favorite project you have worked on recently.

I would have to say the Lululemon mural at Fashion Place Mall. I had tons of freedom and had the opportunity to take the design from the first sketches and concepts to painting it on the brick wall in the store! Such a blast!

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Favorite typeface….go!

That’s like asking what your favorite movie is – It is always changing. (But I have to admit, the ultra-nerdy 5 hour Pride & Prejudice will always be in my top 3 movies).

Jill

So you recently went on a European adventure for nearly 3 months . What was the most inspiring part of your trip? 

For me, most inspiring part was all of the incredible scenery. I got drunk on scenery every day!

 

Art Fans Unite

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It’s summer in Salt Lake City, which means a plethora of summertime activities like the downtown farmers market, Twilight Concert Series, endless hiking, biking, climbing, running, adventures down south to see The Mighty Five…the list goes on and on.

This weekend the Utah Arts Festival is going on and it’s always one of my favorite festivals to check out. I love seeing the energy it ignites within the community and the eclectic gathering of art and live performances by our local artists.

Struck’s own Kevin Perry, talented designer and resource manager extraordinaire, designed the campaign the past few years and his work is truly exceptional.

The theme this year is “Art Fans Unite”, a collaborative campaign striving to blur the lines between artist/art fan and create an environment where art fans and art makers co-exist. During the festival, art fans have the opportunity become the artists by participating in various projects hosted by artists and organizations.

The concept explores the essential role in the power of art: the art-viewer. By offering locals the opportunity to see themselves as having an essential role in the process of art, it empowers them to engage more actively with the festival.

Check out some applications of his work below, then go channel your inner artist and get to arts fest!

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Thoughts on Creativity, Originality, and Voice from our Cranky System Administrator

Shakespeare

A couple weeks ago, it was both Father’s Day and my birthday when I turned old and decrepit and I got an email from my eldest son ([sic] on all typos):

For reasons I cannot explain, I remembered some great fatherly advice you gave me one time. We were coming back from something in Sandy-ish, I vaguely remember that it is where you turn to get on to the belt route from over where the mall down south is. We were listening to Led Zeppelin. (I must have been in Jr, high). I think it was Black Dog. I said something like, “Aw man, I want to play guitar just like Jimmy Page!” You turned down the music a little and said, “Lucas, there is already a Led Zeppelin, the world doesn’t need another one. Play guitar how YOU want!” I think that statement has influenced my attitude about being a musician and a human, ever since.

Thanks for being my dad, dad. I love you.

I have a feeling I probably didn’t turn the music down that much, though. Because Zeppelin, doy.

There are a couple lessons I learned from that, both are lessons I keep learning over and over again, mostly because I’m all old and stuff and I forget things these days.

The first is that no matter how much I try to alienate and abandon my children, for some unknown reason they listen to me. Which is to say, you have no idea how far your influence as a parent, friend or mentor will go. Just the smallest thing you say or do can stay with someone for a very long time. Which is both awesome and terrifying at the same time.

The second and far more germane to this discussion is the idea that voice matters. Specifically, in this case, your voice.

When I was in college I took a creative writing course and one day we discussed the “problem” with Shakespeare. The professor stood up at the board for a good ten minutes, silently writing out all the themes Shakespeare covered in his plays and poetry. Man versus nature. Unrequited love. Man against society. Old Bill pretty much covered ALL the bases. Sure, he didn’t do “Man versus robots” but then Transformers came along and ruined that opportunity for everyone. My professor then asked the class, “Why do we even bother writing at all? William Shakespeare has done everything already. And he did it all really well, too. He wasn’t just a one off. He did hit after hit after hit. It’s all been done before, so why do we want to write?” And then, of course, because that was the perfect moment for her to be all Socratic and wise, no one raised their hand and she answered her own question, “Because it hasn’t been said by YOU. None of those stories or themes have been told by you.”

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Exploring E3

E3

I recently had the opportunity to attend Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, courtesy of Horizon Media. Approximately 50,000 video game industry professionals and journalists flocked to the 20th annual gaming show in Los Angeles.  As a first time E3’er it was quite the experience as I entered into the mecca of gaming.

The day started with breakfast with IGN Co-Founder, Peer Schneider, who provided us with a history of gaming and E3. Who knew that there have been 150 dedicated gaming devices built to-date? And, that by 2018 it is estimated that 50% of all games will be purchased digitally verses being store bought?

The battle of the consoles continues to heat up with Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation neck-in-neck to have the top selling hardware. These consoles are more than gaming devices. The hardware companies all want to be the box that does everything for the user. Consoles are no longer just for gamers in a dark dorm room. They are becoming the centerpiece of our living rooms where the whole family can play games, watch live TV, and enjoy streaming video through apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix without ever having to leave their interface or toggle between inputs.

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