Ceara Milligan

Find Your Purpose.

We were not designed to live a life of monotony. We have always been told that we should spend each day on earth to the fullest, but with the way most of our days seem to blend together with the same chores, meetings, errands, and responsibilities, this concept may seem easier said than done.

The best thing about our industry, workplace, and culture is that every day, we are encouraged to recreate ourselves, share our ideas, showcase our work, and be inventive. We all hold different roles within the agency — planners, strategists, creatives, writers, accountants, analysts, developers, administrators, managers, leaders (The list goes on…) — and have the notion that we’re all here for the same purpose: Work hard, make money, build our reputation, and please our customers. However, I think this might not be entirely true. We all have our own talents, skills, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and individual traits that allow us to stand apart from our colleagues. Each of us has a solitary value that contributes to one common goal as a business.

Now, you may be scratching your head and asking yourself, “What is my purpose?”

Well, here is the simple formula:

What you love to do + What the world needs = Your mission
What the world needs + What you are paid for = Your vocation
What you are paid for + What you are good at = Your profession
What you are good at + What you love to do = Your passion
Your mission + Your vocation + Your profession + Your passion = Your purpose

Your purpose should not be defined by the title on your business card. Your purpose is to foster positive change, no matter the part you play within the agency. If you have an idea, write it down, email it to your manager, collaborate with coworkers. An idea is just an idea until it becomes an action with results. There is an Irish proverb by which I try my best to abide each day: You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind. Seek inspiration from everything and everyone around you, but most importantly, learn to spark your own fire.

Do the math.

SHARE:

Crystal Vining

Ignite Milwaukee

Five, twenty and fifteen. You are probably wondering what those numbers mean. No, they are not the number sequences from Lost or the SPF numbers on your sunscreen. They are, however, the numbers you need to learn if you want to give a presentation at Ignite. Ignite is an event where presenters can share what makes them tick. From graphic designers to English professors, people from all walks of life are coming together to educate the world on what they know best. Recent presenters spoke about how to be an expert witness, going global on a local scale and the three p’s of eLearning. With only five minutes, twenty slides and fifteen seconds to talk per slide, speakers are encouraged to enlighten but make it quick. Do you have what it takes? If interested in speaking, please email sdittloff@laughlin.com for more information. Want to be in the audience? Come out and see what you can burn into your mind or into others. Check out the details below! And click here for more info.

Who: There is an open call for presenters. Please email sdittloff@laughlin.com if you’re interested in speaking or attending.

When: August 22nd, 8pm

Where: The Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207

SHARE:

Marko Knezic

Evolution of Theory

I’ve noticed this photo making the rounds on my LinkedIn newsfeed.

I understand the message. I understand the channel and why it’s appropriate. But I also feel the need to hold up a yield sign when this photo is referred to as “the most brilliant photo I’ve ever seen” in the comment section.

I’d be willing to guess that most business-minded people would agree that agility and the ability to adapt are critical elements of any company’s success.

Case in point: Blockbuster Video.

But consider this: Just as important as the willingness to change is the willingness to be grounded in reality and not let philosophy and catchy – but at the end of the day empty – rhetoric dictate the direction of your company.

Change isn’t inherently good. Good is good.

Continuous improvement should always be an objective but it’s been my experience that change for the sake of change will seldom trump actionable strategies and quality process.

At the end of the day, while change and philosophy can inspire, they don’t necessarily yield tangible products or measurable results.

Sure, there’s often a need to use pathos in order to grab attention and make emotional connections with an audience – as is done in the picture above. But be careful not to let every clever phrase and trending philosophy replace the tried and true methods you’ve always used – unless the change is poised to result in a measurable improvement to process and/or final products.

The intent of this piece isn’t to dismiss change or high-level rhetoric.

Think of it more as a friendly suggestion to use those tools as a support piece to a foundation built on strategy and processes.

 

SHARE:

Ceara Milligan

Creativity: Unplugged

Once upon a time, human beings existed without spending an average of 8-10 hours a day staring at screens. Behaviorists are learning that clutter is the enemy of cleverness. Sometimes our brains just need a bit of quiet time to sort things out. That’s why our “Aha!” moments usually occur when we’re not in front of a glowing rectangle. That very well might explain the cliché that it’s between rinsing and repeating when the big idea hits. So, I’m thinking, why not take a brief “tech timeout” and explore more opportunities to stay creative sans pixels?

Here’s my baker’s dozen to get started, but feel free to make your own:

  1. Write. With pen and paper. Buy the most durable notebook and longest lasting pen you can find. Bring them with you wherever you go. Jot down ideas, dreams, stories, or things you need to remember.
  2. Get up. Take a small walk around the office every hour or so. Better yet, venture outside. The fresh air and natural surroundings will reenergize your mind and body.
  3. Attend concerts. Fewer things are more invigorating than seeing a live show.
  4. Exercise. No excuses. Just do it.
  5. Drink. Lots. Of. H2O. Coffee is a miraculous pick-me-up, but water is the best thing you can feed your body.
  6. Take a 15-minute power nap to boost your memory, cognitive skills, and energy level.
  7. Strike up a conversation with a stranger: your cab driver, a tenant in the elevator, the person walking next to you on the sidewalk. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.
  8. Travel. Expanding our knowledge of foreign places and cultures is one of the best ways to gain respect for the world in which we live.
  9. Wake up and smell the roses, literally. Our sense of smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence our mood, and even affect our work performance.
  10. Read a book. A wise man once said, “Reading is good. Can we start the story now?”
  11. Meditate. We all can feel overwhelmed by the stressors life throws our way every single day. Allow yourself to regain a sense of tranquility no matter what is happening around you.
  12. Dig through old artwork, projects, and photographs. Taking a walk down Memory Lane lets you to realize how far you’ve come over the years.
  13. Surround yourself with creative people. Hint: Look around.

When your brain switches gears, even just for a few minutes, it will feel refreshed as you return to the task at hand, and you will feel more productive, more inspired, and, yes, more creative. In the end, it seems the best app for that is no app at all.

SHARE:

Steve Laughlin

The Year Of Opposing Forces

Steve Laughlin was a speaker at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast on Friday, January 17 in downtown Milwaukee. For those who couldn’t attend, here are his remarks on the year ahead. 

What no one predicted for last year was that people who study language would discover a universal word that has the same meaning everywhere.  As reported in the New York Times on Saturday, November 9th, 2013, the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics discovered that across all 5 continents languages all had a strikingly similar word.  What is universally understood worldwide is the word, “huh?”  Whatever confuses us as humans we all react the same.  We say, “huh?” The Max Planck Institute is named after the physicist who came up with the theory of quantum physics.  So you might wonder why they would study psycholinguistics?  Well I have a theory about that.  Physicists are always tackling stupifying questions that leave the rest of us saying “huh?”

Interesting coincidence, though, technology will drive marketers to be more universal in their language in the future.

We do know that regardless of where things seem to be going, they are getting there faster.  Technology is accelerating the pace of change.  According to Moore’s law computing power doubles every 18 months.  The implications for marketing and technology are that expectations will also accelerate for faster downloads and richer content.

I’d like to look at 2014 as a year of opposing forces.  There’s a kind of spy vs. spy backdrop when we think of the collection of big data by big governments or big companies and how vulnerable we might be to those who hack or abuse it. Target is one company very visibly caught between these two forces right now.

Another opposing force is the trend for the big to continue to get bigger, creating a vacuum that will be filled by smaller start-ups creating an opposing force of risk takers and innovators.  This phenomenon has created a brand landscape that can be easily illustrated over a few beers – familiar reference for any Milwaukeean.  If you’re going to buy a couple of cases of beer for a weekend with friends, you might pick up Coors Light or Miller Lite.  Ironically, big market forces mean they now come from the same company.  But, you’d also be likely to throw in a six-pack or two of Spotted Cow, a perfect example of a small, craft beer taking advantage of the opposing force that drives people to also want something special and different.

This same thing is played out in chain restaurants versus a growing movement to locally grown and sourced foods – the farm to table movement.  Or the consolidation of huge package-goods companies while competition springs up from small brands begun by artisans and entrepreneurs.

Another opposing force to watch is the ongoing battle between price and quality.  It’s going to get even tougher through technology.  The ability of people to access the cheapest pricing through the Internet plays into the hands of the low-cost producers, accelerating the decline of companies offering parity products with higher cost structures.  Conversely, the survival instinct will drive competitors to add real value through better service, product improvements or whole new products.

There’s been a lot of media coverage of the growing gap between the richest Americans and the rest of the country.  Beyond the political implications, these opposing forces will impact marketing with even greater price, promotion and packaging competition for existing mass brands and even more innovation leading to added value start-ups and more line-extensions from premium brands.

Technology will be the centerpiece for product innovation.  At this month’s Consumer Electronics Show, appliances talked to one another and to the consumers who use them.  Now you can text your new LG refrigerator and tell it, “I’m going vacation.” Your refrigerator might text back, “Great shall I go into low power mode?” We’ll really have something when it can tell you that you have three eggs, fresh spinach and a bit of feta cheese in case you’d like an omelet when you get home.  You can bet someone is working on app for that.

Last fall, our company needed dozens of inexpensive model lungs to scatter around Seattle, Washington as part of a viral marketing campaign for the Lung Cancer Alliance.  We couldn’t find a vendor to do the job fast enough or cheap enough, so we bought a 3-D printer and made them over a weekend.  If you’re in manufacturing or marketing, you’ll have your eye on 3-D printing’s potential for product development in 2014.

Remember some years ago when people predicted the interactive television?  Your remote would let you stop a program and buy something?  Well smart TVs arrived in 2013, but the real news is that they got smart about delivering content in new ways, bypassing DVRs and Blue-Ray players to let you directly access on-line content sellers.

What’s really interesting is the interaction that was predicted came from other devices. Without interrupting our viewing, we used our phone, laptop or tablet to interact elsewhere.  And not just some of us, Forbes reported that in 2013, over 60% of adults watching television were texting at the same time.

For the first time TV, which is viewed about the same amount of time as ever – about 271 minutes per day – has been surpassed by the use of digital devices.  People spend an average 310 minutes of their time a day on their PDAs.  This might explain why the Internet is now getting 25% of all advertising dollars being spent by marketers.

Marketing is essentially the sharing of information that can lead to a sale, or increase customer loyalty.  In this regard technology and marketing will intertwine in many more ways.  Big data will make it easier to target customers and understand their behavior, those who opt in to marketers will be more willing to compromise their privacy for a richer experience and higher level of service.

Also, in 2013 for the first time, most web searches originated from a mobile device.  This trend could have the greatest impact on marketing and technology initiatives for business in 2014 and beyond.

Businesses will need to create mobile friendly content, instantly available content and richer content. In both b2c marketing and b2b marketing, mobile will drive how customers and consumers interact with your content.  Sales people or consumers accessing product or service information will be expecting everything they seek to be available on a mobile device.

All other things being equal, content management will play a big role in winning and losing in this year’s marketplace.  Basically if you have old data in old places that can’t be combined and shared with new data from new places, you’ll have some new problems.

CRM, or customer relationship marketing, will explode given new technologies of big data and more accessibility through smart media devices to the kind of content that drives loyalty.

Here are a couple corporate opposing forces to keep an eye on to have a sense to where the rest of the marketplace will go…

Google vs. Apple.  This isn’t just Android versus IOS operating systems at war.  This is Google maps versus Apple’s new commitment to an open-source mapping platform out of Europe called OpenStreetMap.

Google has an armada of people and vehicles with cameras roaming the earth to provide real photo accuracy to all their maps.  Open source will let Apple’s platform be updated directly by people in the neighborhood.  For example, local merchants can upload updates depicting changes in business facades as they happen.  Either way, the information we get from search will be incredibly more detailed.

With most searches now originating on a mobile device, it’s increasingly important for the search algorithm to consider the location of the searcher in providing results.  In the future, for device makers and content managers, having the most accurate maps and related content will be a new battleground.

Marketers, the future is now.  Your content has to be mobile friendly and your messaging has to be locally relevant.  Advances in mapping technology are creating a huge opportunity for you.

Netflix versus Cable.  Netflix took on Blockbuster by putting the CD movie library on-line and shipping content overnight for less.  Then they bet the brand and invested in streaming.  Then they raised the stakes and a year ago entered the production business creating their own proprietary content with the show House of Cards.  Last Sunday evening one of their stars, Robin Wright, took home a Golden Globe award for that show.  Marketers, the message here is you need to look ever farther into technology and ask yourself how you can use it to get ahead of the competition.  Those who stick to their business models because it’s what they’re known for – think sending movies by mail – might be reminded it’s really having the best movies and being the only placed to get them.  Another lesson we can learn from Netflix is it’s not enough to aim at your target customer, with the pace of change in technology today, you can’t be afraid to lead that target a bit.  Or you just might miss.

I started with a reference to researchers looking for commonalities in language.  I think they may have overlooked a few universal words that marketers and consumers have known about for years.  They’re called brand names.  Coke.  McDonalds, Hilton, BMW, Nike, IBM even OshKosh B’Gosh have the same meaning on all five continents. English will continue to be the default language of marketing, but because of cultural differences you’ll have to choose your words more carefully than ever.

But there’s another reason choose your words more carefully on the horizon . . . and this is the biggie.

The Oxford word of the year in 2013 was “selfie.” Technology allows us to take more and share more pictures than ever.  Think of the rapid rise of Instagram and Pinterest and then think about the impact they will have on marketing.  It’s the rise of pictures over words. If your product or service gets pinned, there’s a real good chance it will also get purchased.  You’ll be telling your story visually.

These changes are coming fast.  If you want to know how fast just ask the 400,000 people who worked at Kodak a few years ago.  Or the 13 people who worked for Instagram when Facebook gave them a billion dollars for their start-up business just little over a year ago.

So what do I really know about the coming changes in marketing and technology?  It’s that none of us want to be the one standing around afterward who’ll be saying, “Huh?”

SHARE:

Stephanie Schrandt

Bigger isn’t always better. A holiday season challenge.

This time of year is known for grand gestures, expensive gifts, glitz and glitter, but is that really what the holidays are all about? Your schedule is probably jam packed with parties, gift exchanges and weekends at the mall.  Don’t get me wrong, mine is too, but I also try to take a step back, be thankful and do what I can to extend kindness to others.

As a new parent, I find myself very aware of other people and their actions. Wondering if they realize that they just let a door slam in someone’s face or that they didn’t make eye contact with someone ringing them up at a store because they were on their phone.

It’s important to not let yourself get into the rut of feeling like you can’t give enough to make a difference so you don’t give at all. So, this is your challenge should you choose to accept it.

I challenge you to do a good deed every single day this month. The only catch is that is has to be something you wouldn’t typically do. If you always hold doors for people that doesn’t count. If you’re the person who hugs everyone – find something else.

The point is really to remember that regardless of your beliefs or holiday traditions, you can make a difference in someone’s life. Every single day. And trust me when I say, if you make the effort, the reward is huge. Oh, and don’t feel like you have to stop at the end of December. Kindness is welcome all year round.

Need a little help? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  •  Compliment a stranger
  • Open a door for someone pushing a stroller (trust me on this one)
  • Buy the coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks
  • Send a card to a friend you haven’t seen in a while (Not an email. Go to the store. Buy a card. Find a stamp and mail it.)
  • Offer to help a friend with a project they are working on
  • Pick up the tab when out to lunch with a friend
  • Take the dog for a walk, in the snow, when it’s freezing cold (pets deserve kindness too)
  • Leave a note for or send a text to someone you love saying you hope they have a great day
  • Bring breakfast into the office
  • Give a hug (or an extra one) to someone who needs it
  • If you live in a snowy climate, shovel your neighbors’ sidewalk after you’re done with yours

And now some more traditional ones….

  • Give a few extra dollars to the folks ringing the bells outside of stores
  • Donate to your favorite charity
  • Volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen
  • Volunteer to distribute gifts/sing carols at a local hospital or nursing home

 

SHARE:

Casey Flanagan

The Final Word

It’s the last thing said. The ultimate decision. The period on the proverbial sentence.

The final word was once perceived to be of great value. It was not just a signal of power, but often the result of hard fought victory.

But in a world of increasing complexity and continuous improvement, that’s no longer the case. And while everything is changing, it’s all archived and searchable. So comments can be made and perspective can be added days, months, even years later. Nothing is really ever “done.” Ideas evolve. Contexts change. Conversations rekindle.

There is no final word. Finality is just a foundation for what’s next. A transition to the next stage, the next conversation, the next idea.

SHARE:

Casey Flanagan

Fast, Cheap and Good

The old axiom used to be “fast, cheap or good – pick two.” But expectations change. And in this age of rapid prototyping, agile start-ups and minimal viable products, the “or” has turned – more and more – to an “and.”

Fast and cheap on their own are often – at best – a race to the middle. But fast AND a commitment to continuous improvement? That’s how new opportunities are discovered. Being cheap AND then seeing if further investment is warranted? That’s an investment in innovation.

The AND is incremental, iterative… and often overlooked. And the AND is what the Good is dependent on.

On not settling. On committing to better. On understanding that the definition of good today is not the same as good tomorrow. And so the deliverable is either good enough for now – and only now. Or good enough to continue to invest time and / or money in.

Bursts of fast and bursts of cheap can even lead past good, to great. As long as everyone is clear that “Fast, Cheap and Good” is not the destination, it’s the journey. And the most important word is AND.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

SHARE:

Casey Flanagan

Where To Start With What To Say

Our available attention is being stretched. And yet we all seem to have more to say. As a result, lines can be crossed. Meanings can be missed. And it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

Tom Peters has an important rule for communications at a time when success can seem harder than ever: If there is a miscommunication, it’s your fault.

Think about that for a moment. Please, because I don’t want any potential misunderstanding of it to be my fault.

How would this change what you say? How would it change how you say it? As a person? As a professional? As a brand?

One simple change that most communicators could stand to make immediately is where they start.

My favorite definition of communication is: It isn’t what you say. It’s what your audience hears. The illustration below isn’t complicated. But it is often forgotten. And it is a big cause of many miscommunications.

Where to start with what to say? Not with what should be said. But with what should be heard.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Where to Start Communicating

SHARE:

Casey Flanagan

What To Learn From: Pixar

Pixar is a creative powerhouse. Its fourteen feature films have earned 27 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, and 11 Grammy Awards.

But for all of its innovation – and its related refusal to accept the status quo – Pixar has an important relationship with reality. Its approach depends on its ability to create a world that is recognizable, but different. Expectedly unexpected.

And two quotes from Pixar directors – taken together – paint a smart, productive approach that any company could learn from:

“I believe in research. You can’t do enough research, believability comes out of what’s real.”
– John Lasseter (Cars)

“We don’t want to reproduce reality; we want to make the unbelievable believable.”
– Brad Bird (Incredibles)

Most companies do research in order to understand. And that’s a good thing. Understanding allows marketers to make things relevant. But relevance has a dark side. Make something too relevant and it becomes expected. Or worse, invisible.

Pixar’s approach is successful, in part, because it doesn’t settle on reality. Understanding the world is a first step to diverging from it.

You have to know the rules in order to break them.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

SHARE: