• What I Learned This Year 2012 #23: Andrew McGuire

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    Every Brand is a Content Network

    It was the day after Christmas last year when the movers arrived. After seven years in LA, I was taking my wife, twin two-year-old girls, and my dreams to Colorado.

    I've been a hybrid talent before it was trendy, which means I was somewhat out of place in the mega agency world. I've always been about making media-neutral content that tickles brand strategists and audiences alike. So I jumped at the opportunity to return to my beloved Colorado with a hybrid shop trying to do things differently.

    I liked that they were called Impossible (not Impossible Pictures, that was so 1990s) because that's pretty much what they're asked to do every day mostly for television networks cranking out award-winning rebrands, promos, commercials and motion design. The new job was going to give me a nice change of pace from the ad world. So I thought.

    I soon learned, that the ad/brand world and production/network world are in fact not all that different. They both are facing seismic change with the explosion of social media, new technologies, shrinking budgets, and an infinitely segmented market. Above all, they're both now in the "content marketing" business.

    You may have seen the term "content marketing" trending on the conference scene and filling up every "what's gonna be hot in 2013" blog post. Some call it the next big thing in the post-ad world. Reality is, it's nothing new. It's been around for years in many forms and under many different names – from soap operas to BMW films to, recently, Red Bull's Stratos. While I have a great disdain for any "marketing" term, I believe it isn't just another fad. Thanks to social media, content is now the conversation currency of our time.

    Today, every brand is now a content publisher and network. At least they ought to be. Relevant content (unlike interrupting ads) gives brands new relevance and a unique voice in a sea of sameness, ineffective ads, and cynical audiences. In short, content is a BFD. Some brands have learned this lesson. Red Bull, Coca-Cola, American Express, Kraft and GE are themselves turning into niche content networks.

    Of course, television networks are still players in the content hungry world, they just no longer rule it. For them, they're hope for survival lies in making the pivot from content destinations to content curators across all screens.

    Like social media strategy, a clear content strategy (and production platform) needs to be fully integrated into every business model from the inside out. Brands will be creating content labs (much like news rooms) and social command centers to crank out a constant flow and stock of content for their customers to engage with and share.

    So whether you do words, images or moving images, this is an exciting time for content producers and marketers. The need for quality and quantity of content is only rivaled by the need for good storytelling and clear brand voice.

    So I'm glad I made the jump to Colorado and Impossible. I'm living the dream in the cross section of brand and content. For Impossible, we continue to be specialists in branding television networks but are now poised to conquer all content networks.

    Get ready. 2013 is the year of content. And like it or not, we're all in the content marketing business now.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #22: Josh Wills

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    No. 1 : Lucky Number 13

    People change. Learn to love them for who they are just as much as you loved them for who they were. My wife and I are celebrating thirteen years of marriage this New Year. Four children and a few knife fights later we have both changed a lot. I’ve enjoyed the great pleasure of falling in love with the same lady a few times over. She has and continues to change my life.

    No. 2 : Work Harder Than Everyone Else

    A strong work ethic will take you a long way. A wee bit of talent, hard work and perseverance mixed together is an unstoppable force.

    No. 3 : Be Uncomfortable

    Seek out experiences that offer opportunities to learn/do something new.

    No. 4 : Learn The Bidness Side of Design

    I’ve had the great pleasure of working with an account director who knows our clients business / industry inside and out. This has proven to be invaluable. Trust works both ways… clients have to be able to trust that any creative ideas, strategies, etc. presented are for the greater good of the brand and their business.

    No. 5 : Chase Rainbows

    Create, champion, and defend work that you believe in all the way through to the end. See No. 4.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What We Learned This Year #21: Ink Lounge Creative (Stu & Nicky Alden)

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    To make things happen you gotta boon your doggle – Every 6 months or so we find a coffee shop and hash out where our company is and where it is going. This often leads to drinks at a nearby bar as our discussion and excitement cannot be quenched by coffee alone. In our January boon (or doggle) we realized that having two companies, Idaho Stew AND Ink Lounge, was a fragmented brand and that we would scold each and every one of our clients if they approached us to communicate/brand a business model like this. We are many things, but hypocrites is a label we did not want to wear. So we decided to say some lovely words about Idaho Stew and respectfully lay it to rest, with maybe a 21 gun salute, and welcome Ink Lounge Creative. And it made sense, because overall we are a creative company who has built great relationships with our clients, who really don’t care what our name is as long as we serve them well, and with the community who has gotten to know us as Ink Lounge. And did we screenprint our sign and our website? Yes, yes we did.

    Mother Nature is a bitch – we had heard that you can expose a screen by using the sun and eagerly tried it out, discovering that it takes mere seconds outside to do what it takes us 6-7 minutes inside using our exposure unit. We even exposed one on a cloudy day during a rain shower – fantastic! We were doing a workshop at the University of Wyoming and this was so much fun we figured we should have the students use the sun to expose screens there. Except that Laramie is a higher elevation, the clouds kept creeping over and their setup wasn’t exactly like ours. The first group was kinda hit and miss so we quickly pulled out lights and went to plan B, which worked great but by then we were stressed and just overall disappointed that Mother Nature was not cooperating, although the students had a great time and were not fazed much at all. Ok, so what we really learned is to have a stellar plan B, and if Mother Nature is part of any equation you better test your process in other parts of the country. In the end we had lots of smiling faces and that’s ALL that matters: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14868235@N02/sets/72157629831181327/

    Your head will explode if you don’t say “no” – We have a tendency at Ink Lounge to say “yes” to almost everything that comes our way. Craft fairs, workshops, new clients, speaking events, portfolio reviews, student tours, you name it, you ask it, we do it. And we don’t do it half-assed, we stay up all night, we get up early, we work weekends. Why? Because we love what we do and are super excited to share it with the world. That is until this year when our heads literally almost exploded, and then we understood that if we don’t say “no” occasionally we don’t get to actually enjoy what we do. We want to always love it, and people understand you can’t do it all. It’s not a new lesson, it’ just that sometimes it takes getting knocked in the head by a truck to bring it to the surface.

    Cross the pond to pull a sicky – we love to travel and we love design and we love to screenprint and if you can combine all of that into one British ball of amazing, by all means do it. When our friends moved to England for the year and offered up a spare bed to crash, we realized that all that time we spent searching the web for workshops overseas has finally paid off. We sent off our fee to pull a sicky (I swear that’s what they call it) at Print Club London, bought plane tickets and spent 2 weeks learning how the Brits screenprint, design, eat, drink, travel and celebrate the Olympics, plus got a taste of Belgium too. Getting out of the country once a year puts our life into perspective, feeds our creativity and opens our eyes to the world. And even though we already know how to screenprint the Ink Lounge way, there is always more to learn. Wa-lah!

    Dudes are crafty too – Technically we did our first Holiday Mancraft in December 2011, but it was a bit of an experiment to see if we gathered a bunch of guys in one place to show what they were made of, if anyone would come to check it out. And they did. So, in 2012 we put even more guys in a place that serves food and makes whiskey, to show what kind of awesome crafts they can man-up and make, and do you know what happened? Even more people come to check it out. And they buy stuff too. Maybe the lesson here is talented guys + manly craft + good food & whiskey + festive holiday shoppers = an awesome time by all http://www.flickr.com/photos/14868235@N02/sets/72157632215558144/

    Cheers to 2013!

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What We Learned This Year 2012 #20: Legwork Studio

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    Not to sound cliché, but 2012 was an amazing year for us. We saw new challenges and accepted new opportunities. We grew our staff, but not too much. We became very aware of our capabilities and pushed them to the limits. We hit the skateparks during lunch, formed Andrew WK cover bands, did kegstands, and worked our asses off. We think of ourselves as a family and we thought it made sense for each individual Legworker to share a lesson learned, check out our little retrospective at this link.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #19: Melanie Pruitt

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    I learn small lessons every day. One of my continuing lessons – and it can be a tough one – is to be less aware of myself and more aware of others. This can be something as simple as holding the door for someone or noticing a slight flicker in someone's eyes that lets me know they need some encouragement. I've learned I'll never be "the best" at my craft, and I'm ok with that. I'm content with being aware of my surroundings.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What We Learned This Year 2012 #18: Quick Left

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    2012 was a dynamic year for us: we changed the make-up of our executive and leadership team, grew (and shrunk, and then grew again) our sales and marketing teams, penetrated new markets and created new revenue streams (training, expansions to other markets). We continued to find out what's in our wheelhouse and (maybe more importantly) what isn't and refine our emphasis on customer service. We took risks, made key hires and acquired some big-name clients along the way. We contributed more open source than ever and continued to stretch our legs in our fabulous office space in the heart of downtown Boulder. We put a sign on the window with large, bold type explaining exactly what we do in a single sentence. Most importantly, we've set the table for even better things to come in 2013.

    Here are a few other observations:

    • There can be a kids table and an adults table–everyone ends up having more fun that way anyway!
    • Unfortunately, we had to part ways with a co-founder. We learned that growing up is hard, but pushing through difficult times leads to even better things on the other side.
    • Presentation is just as important for internal communication to your team as is for external communication for your customers and partners.
    • Apropos to that last point, gray area and ambiguity can undermine even the best efforts.
    • Learning from your mistakes and staying positive will always get you further than pointing fingers or promoting a doom & gloom attitude.
    • It's important to figure out what you are really good at and staff accordingly to fill in the gaps, rather than trying to "hero" it through because you're "supposed" to.
    • As we grow and get more smart problem solvers, better process and become scalable, it's important to remember how we got here, by being scrappy and taking risks, and having a passion for the craft.
    • We love doing this, we love working together and we've got a lot yet to learn. We are excited for 2013!

    Happy New Year, Love, Sam (@wookiehangover) and Ingrid (@electromute)

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #17: Mandy Stevens

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    As I look back over the last year, I’ve learned a little about a lot of things. The one notion that seems to find itself in everything is this:

    You have to want it. Whatever it is, you have to really, really want it. You can’t just picture it or visualize it or set your sights on it. These days that’s not enough to make it real. At least not in my world. You have to want it so bad that you’re inspired enough, intensely driven and even frighteningly pressured to do everything it takes to get the most out of life. Professionally (as a full-time freelancer), it has meant continuing to commit to every project as if I’m one of your die-hard employees even though I might not get a call back. Personally, it has meant putting everything on the line (my husband and I opened The Desk in April, a coworking café in Capitol Hill) and taking a hard look at what I thought really mattered to me and realizing I’ve never been more wrong in my life.

    What I’d like everyone who might still be reading this to realize is that when you really want it, what tends to happen is something you could never imagine. That’s why all the visualization techniques in the world don't work all that well. When you want something–I mean really want something–you actually wind up with so much more than you could ever hope for.

    And for that I’m thankful and wish everyone a new year chock-full of that beautiful thing called want.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #16: Ryan Johnson (from Vladimir Jones)

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    The truth is, our problems are rarely as ominous as we make them out to be. And sometimes, what people want most...is an armrest. Allow me to explain.

    So this year, I boarded a plane. I was lucky enough to be seated in the bulkhead. In the moment, of course, this barely made up for the burdens of our business that sat down with me. Now, if you have been on an airplane lately, you know every flight is overbooked. So, the guy in 6A and I eyed each other optimistically, while noticing 6B remained empty. The steward was about to reach for the microphone, announce that it was time to cut ourselves off from the world and close the door just as 6B showed up.

    He burst through the door like a German Liberace.

    Swinging his briefcase at the heads of the unsuspecting first class passengers. Apologizing, “Entschuldigen sie bitte,” to each row in a heavy German accent. iPad, magazine, newspaper and iPhone clutched in his non-assault hand. Red-faced and sweating it was as if he--in his bright red jeans and silver high-tops and Wham! backup dancer t-shirt--had suddenly realized he wasn’t at the airport to just drink beer and stain his t-shirt with mustard. He was at the airport to catch a flight. He had clearly sprinted from the bar to do just that.

    He hurriedly settled in. For the next two hours we waged an epic battle over the armrest. He would lay claim. I would counter with the deep breath draw in, expand and push. This year, I learned that in the chess match for the armrest, he whose elbow is closest to the seat back has the leverage. And he who has the leverage wins.

    I learned how to remain fake-sleeping while sustaining near-full blown punches to the bicep and forearm. I also learned that maybe the German in 6B needed the armrest more than I did. That maybe my problems aren’t that all-consuming. Maybe by providing the one thing people need, you’ll win in the end. These lessons reminded me once again that we work in a business of compromise.

    This year, I learned that true wisdom is the ability to know which fights are worth fighting. Which of those compromises are worth making. Or not. I learned that the armrest can stand for a lot of things. A laugh. An opportunity. A belief. A team. I learned that my job is to make sure people on both sides of the armrest feel like they have all the comfort they need. And then some.

    I learned that often times the fights not worth fighting are the most stressful. The most unfulfilling. But, the easiest to turn into leadership opportunities. I learned that knowing the fights to fight makes all the difference.

    However, that day at that time, I chose not to subscribe to those higher notions. Not to relent and give up my hard-fought position on the armrest. I denied all aspirations to attain loftier ideals. No, this day I chose to win that particular game of armrest. I don’t know why. However, my win was acknowledged as the plane headed in for its final descent. As the landing gear opened into place, my eyes opened to 6B looking me squarely in the face. He boldly declared out of frustration in his heavy German accent,

    “Du knowest, zie awmvest ist un give und take.”

    I responded almost unconsciously in my very much feigned German accent,

    “Zat ist vie you give und I take.”

    I learned one more thing this year: sometimes, it’s too much fun to mess with people who tuck bright red jeans into silver high-tops.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #15: Ana Bogusky

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    How I look at things is

    all that matters:

    My family is breathtaking and delightful.

    My work is inspiring and satisfying.

    My history is comforting and interesting.

    My health is precious and wonderful.

    My being continues to be reminded of all of this.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #14: Jessica Grenier

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    The journey is what makes the trip. My husband and I recently took a trip to Peru and Ecuador and on that trip we were fortunate enough to do the 4 day hike along the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Many people choose to take the train and get there in a few hours, however, we chose to go the long route, which the ancient Incan people walked daily, in hopes of experiencing how they lived. After 4 days and 3 nights of hiking and camping, we crossed through the long awaited Sun Gate. Upon finally arriving at our destination, we stopped, took a look around, and realized... Machu Picchu wasn’t that great. Granted, it was stunning and powerful and visually extraordinary, but it didn’t compare to the 3 days of getting there.

    So, yes, the destination (Machu Picchu) was great, but what we enjoyed and will remember the most was the journey that took us there. The challenges, struggles, smiles, laughter and peaceful moments were what made the entire experience so special and memorable.

    As a photographer and business owner, I’m constantly striving to make it to my next major goal. There is always the pressure of not knowing where your next paycheck will come from or if you’ll accomplish the shoot at the high standards you set for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in stressful moments and zipping from one job to another, never taking a break or time out from work. But instead of rushing to get to that next milestone and expand business, I think it’s especially important to take note of and appreciate all of the incredible moments and events along the way. This may sound simple, but that's not always the case.

    Just a few other things I learned on this particular journey...

    Endurance. Push yourself and you’ll be astonished at what you can do. The most amazing results can come from the most uncomfortable situations, when you are not sure of the outcome.

    Laugh. In times that are difficult a good laugh will ease all pain.

    Hard is good. This may have come out wrong (eeek!) but what I mean is our work is not always easy, in fact, it’s rarely easy. But if it were easy, not only would it be less satisfying, but everyone would do it. The challenge is what makes it so great.

    So take my advise and don’t take the train!

    I’ve attached a collage of a few candid photos from the journey, not the destination. They may not be photos you love or of people you know, but for me they represent a learning experience and an adventure.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

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