I’m sitting with friends in a mostly-empty Phillips Arena to watch the Atlanta Hawks play the Boston Celtics. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We weren’t really there to watch the game. We were there to get autographs from players, to hang out in freely-upgraded seats near the court (to try to mask the poor attendance to television viewers), and to troll the opponents as they walked to and from the locker room. Tickets were only $10, so it was a pretty cheap way to waste a Friday night in high school. The Hawks lost by 20. But to look on the bright side, Hawks employees gave us a box of inflatable thunder sticks (inflatable noisemakers) to take home. By the end of the season, the Hawks had won 13 games, and we’d won four boxes of thunder sticks and several items of game worn memorabilia — five shoes, two headbands, and a sock.
The NBA is a glamorous TV product that is played by some of the best athletes on the planet. But in Atlanta, the team was so bad that most of the “crowd” (and I use that term loosely) had to find ways outside the court’s lines to entertain themselves. If you did focus on the game, it was ugly. Not only did the team rack up poor results, but the quality of the play was terrible. Lots of standing around. Lots of one-on-one offense. And lots of complaining by players and coaches, which lead to the same by the fans.
Skip ahead to today, where the Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to have punched their ticket for the playoffs with a hefty 18 games still remaining in the regular season. They produced four all-stars — a club record. They’ve had a 19 game winning streak, tied for the sixth longest in NBA history. I never would have believed such success was possible 10 years ago.
The credit has to go to Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and the players who have adopted his “team first” mentality. His leadership is a perfect example to any leader in any walk of life on how to turn a team into something greater than the sum of its parts. The newly found success of the team is rooted in this philosophy. For example, instead of letting players pick their lockers, or ordering them numerically or alphabetically, “Coach Bud” strategically sat each player next to one teammate they could influence and one who could influence them. He instituted team dinners after road games. The examples go on, but maybe nothing signifies the adoption of his methods more than this excerpt reported by SI.com’s Lee Jenkins:
“Everyone is part of the shot,” [shooting guard Kyle] Korver says. “Everyone matters, and if you feel like you matter, you take ownership.”
That’s engagement, folks. Engagement isn’t about how fun your job is or how often you talk to your boss. It’s about your employees knowing that they matter. Employees who feel valued are more productive and happy people. This is what every boss should aim for, not just the ones on the hardcourt.
If you’re a business owner or you lead a team, take notes from Coach Bud. Think about the little things. Heck, even team meals and seating arrangements apply to many offices. Engage your team and you might discover that you have more all-stars than you thought.
Almost a year ago, Major League Soccer announced its landmark decision that saw Atlanta, Ga., a city that hardly screams “soccer passion,” as the host of its next expansion franchise. With the new club starting from scratch, I wrote last year that this would be a case study for any business owner interested in brand building.
The club, led by Owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Darren Eagles (who has experience in the English Premier League), has enlisted the help of the city’s main soccer support group, Terminus Legion, to involve the fans in the club’s formative stage. It’s a wise move, which I’ll explain later, but first here’s some background on what’s happened.
Terminus Legion conducted a multi-stage poll that was open to the public for voting on the team name. The group posted regular updates, were quick to respond to voters with questions (I was one), and finally posted a comprehensive results summary. From the onset, Terminus Legion made it clear that their poll was not the end all be all, but would give the owners and club leaders a thorough insight into what the fans wanted or didn’t want. In short, the club created an open channel for dialogue with the public.
The fact that the club is not just open for fan input, but actively soliciting it is a great omen. They are engaging a market to which they will be selling a product. Getting the market involved with the vision and direction of the club will give the fans ownership and a vested interest. Fans that feel this way will do more than just buy tickets — they will actively market the club 24/7 talking with their friends and colleagues.
Engaging someone else, whether it’s a colleague, a business partner, or even your sales target empowers those people. It gives them a sense of purpose. It inspires them. It makes them proud. And in the end, from a business owner’s perspective, it increases profits. Colleagues that are engaged with their work are going to be more productive. Period.
The Atlanta MLS team continues to be a great case study for business owners. How this team — in essence, its own company — operates is more public than what we’d normally get to see. Not only that, but you’re seeing it run by one of the most successful businessman in recent years. Be ready to take notes along with me, because class is in session.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog here at Insight Strategic Communications, you will know that we love two things: Telling our clients’ stories and doing so in a cost efficient way.
That’s why I loved what Spotify did when they unveiled their “Year in Music” infographic series this month. But before I dive into this, I need to explain a little more about Spotify first.
That insight is exactly what Spotify used when it compiled its year in music. Who were the most played artists? More interestingly, who were the most played artists during the summer? And even more interesting, who were the most played artists in Scotland on Sept. 18, the day the country voted to remain part of the United Kingdom? These are fascinating small details that open our eyes to the coolness of data mining.For those unaware, Spotify is a commercial music-streaming service, like Pandora, except that it allows users to search for any song, artist or genre in their vast catalogue to play on demand (Pandora does not allow users to select specific songs, only “stations.”) So while Pandora users are more likely to discover new music through the stations they listen to, Spotify users are more likely to know what they want to listen to and play their favorite songs. This is important, because it gives Spotify more specific insight into each and every one of their users.
But where Spotify really nails it is the personal infographic that I can see about myself, or that you can see about yourself. Every Spotify user is able to see their own data, whether you pay for Spotify’s premium service or not. In reviewing my personal Year in Music, I learned things I never knew about myself (I use Spotify the most on Friday, for example). Bottom line — Spotify used data to tell a story about me. That is cool.
I was once told by a business leader, “If we can tell our client more about them than they know about themselves, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to trust us and want to do business.” Spotify has done exactly this, and all using information they already tracked. Their biggest costs were probably to web designers who made the info attractive and available — a small price to pay when it comes to making a personal connection with millions of customers.
We can all learn from this. Is there anything we can learn from our customers by looking back on our work for them? It’s the end of the year, so it’s a good time if you have a break in work to evaluate your data and make your plans for 2015. If you think it’s time for a fresh approach for the upcoming year and need some help, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve recently rediscovered an element of my life that was an essential part of my day from the ages of 9 to 14. It’s a comic strip that I’ve come to realize is as enduring a piece of art as I’ve ever known. Its impact is just as powerful today at my age of 27 as it was when I was 9 (albeit in a different way). And for that, I’d like to thank Bill Watterson for creating a boy named Calvin and his stuffed tiger/loyal companion, Hobbes.
I remember my first time meeting Calvin and Hobbes. It was 1996, I was in 3rd grade, and the whole school was excited because the Scholastic Book Fair was going on all week in the library. Usually, I would just browse the sports posters, picking out the coolest looking Atlanta Braves or Falcons stuff. But a certain Calvin and Hobbes book, “There’s Treasure Everywhere,” caught my eye. After flipping through just a couple pages, I knew I had to bring it home. Not only could I understand it, it was funny. I mean, what kid doesn’t relate to Calvin? I haven’t met one.
I spent years with Calvin and Hobbes. I started collecting all of Watterson’s books, reading and rereading each and every one. Calvin, Hobbes and I had all kinds of adventures — sledding down treacherous hills, pelting the girl (ick!) next door with snowballs, and even transmogrifying ourselves. It was all great fun. And I’m happily realizing that it still is.
Examining Watterson’s comics can teach us some key lessons for any kind of writing we do:
People remember stories. I’ve always loved sports, especially as a kid during my peak with Calvin and Hobbes. That said, I couldn’t tell you how many games the Braves won in 1996. But I can tell you about when Calvin turned his Transmorgrifier into a Duplicator.
Marry your content with the medium. Watterson could’ve written books for a living. He could have had art pieces hanging respected galleries. Instead, he chose comic strips, despite being mocked by critics as a “low art,” because it’s the best way he could bring his characters to life.
Shine through in your content. Despite the fact that Bill Watterson hasn’t made a public appearance in more than a decade, his content is still very personable. Writing for business doesn’t mean spewing corporate jargon. Readers are comforted when they feel a human connection with the author.
These three tips are a sure-fire way to help you engage your readers, making the content all the more valuable and memorable. It’s the reason why Calvin and Hobbes still resonates with so many people, no matter their age or reading level.
Last week, soccer fans in the Atlanta metro area received the long-awaited announcement from Major League Soccer that their city had finally been awarded an expansion team. Arthur Blank, the owner of the new Atlanta soccer franchise, will have some interesting decisions to make in the coming months and years that will mold the brand, and ultimately the success, of the team.
Brand management is one of Blank’s strong suits, as he has shown throughout his tenure as owner of both Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons. Blank bought the Falcons in 2002 and transformed them into one of the NFL’s more successful franchises, despite naysayers claiming Atlantans were not capable of such support. However, those naysayers point to low attendance numbers from Atlanta sports franchises such as the Hawks (basketball), Braves (baseball), and the now-defunct Thrashers (hockey) — none of which Blank had or has any involvement. After buying the Falcons, Blank showed his commitment to rebranding the team by implementing new uniform designs, investing millions of dollars in renovations to the team’s stadium, and many other internal changes. It was an unqualified branding success.
So the question that looms now is how this team will look and feel when it takes the field for the first time in the Spring of 2017. As I write this, almost everything is up in the air. The only thing anyone knows for sure about the franchise is that they’ll play in Blank’s new stadium, and their color scheme will combine red, yellow and black.
Given what we know about Blank and how much work is yet to be done, this franchise will be an excellent case study to follow. Who exactly does Blank see as his fan base and how will he market this team to those people? How will he reach out to non-soccer fans in the area? How will the atmosphere of the games be in such a cavernous complex? Heck, what will he name the team? We can use this case as a guide as to how one of our modern titans of industry can leverage his product through the use of strategic marketing and brand management. I, for one, wouldn’t bet against him.
Who is the worst boss you ever worked for? Someone immediately comes to mind, right? Perhaps there’s more than one person. Maybe your horror story is a client that was so difficult that you found a way to fire yourself from that relationship.
As years go by, we tend to add a little varnish to these nightmare stories. It becomes the legend that you share at parties when comparing nutty workplaces. Each person tells their story and everyone howls at the absurdity of the situation. I can think of three stories immediately (all true):
When I worked in a public school system Central Office, the Superintendent, who made three times more than anyone else, invited us to his home for a holiday party. There were about 20 people total. He sent out a note asking everyone to bring a dish and to give him $5 to cover the cost of the ham, which he was providing. His wife was so mortified that she welcomed us at the door with $5 bills, essentially reimbursing the “cover charge.”
Once my boss, an SVP, told me in all sincerity to keep working hard because “One day we’re going to want a woman Vice President in this company.”
Recently a client requested the design files for a completed project. He was in a hurry to get it, so we overnighted the package and sent him the tracking information. About 4 p.m. the next day he called me and unleashed a tirade that would burn your eyebrows off. The clean version is that he expected to get what he paid for and that we were cheating him by not turning over the files. A quick review of the tracking detail showed that the files had been delivered at 9:00 a.m. that morning and signed for by one of his employees. We don’t work with him anymore.
When I think about the worst people I’ve worked for or with, it fundamentally comes down to respect: I did not respect the individual or thought they didn’t respect me.
Are you the star of someone’s worst boss story? With 70% of American workers reporting that they are not engaged, there are lots of opportunities for leaders to do better. Here are few simple things you can do to connect better with your team members:
Expect the best in people-People will live up to your expectations, good or bad.
Ask and listen-When people feel unnoticed, they are less likely to care about their job.
Let people know you better-Show who you are. Talk about your favorite team, hobby or family trip so your team can get to know you.
Say thank you-It costs nothing to say thank you and it always makes a difference.
Sometime in my late teens, I was forced to think critically for the first time about something I’ve seen every day of my life — typefaces. It happened when I showed up to my graphic design class in college and my professor showed us the brilliant film Helvetica. I distinctly remember looking around the classroom about 20 minutes after it had started, expecting to see numerous faces concentrating on the screen and beaming with intellectual passion. Instead, I mainly saw heads lying face down against desks, with only a few ambitious students finding some time to get ahead on some of their other assignments. I didn’t understand why they weren’t as enthused.
“Graphic Design is the communication framework through which these messages about what the world is now, and what we should aspire to — it’s the way they reach us. The designer has an enormous responsibility. Those are the people, you know, putting their wires into our heads.”
Rick Poynor, designer and author, Helvetica.
I’m not kidding. Typeface is the most important aspect of design, if for no other reason than because we are totally surrounded by it. But just because we take it for granted like the air we breathe doesn’t mean it isn’t having an effect on our opinions and choices.
Steve Jobs once said, “…focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Keep that quote from Jobs in mind as we look at a case study of the famous “Cola War” between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Pepsi has never been able to outsell Coke. Granted, Coke has at least one considerable advantage in that it was already selling a million gallons per year by the time Pepsi appeared on the market. But let’s examine what those companies looked like, literally, when Pepsi appeared in 1898.
Now think about Jobs’s quote again. Coca-Cola came up with a clear and simple design early on, and moved mountains with it. Pepsi’s logo, on the other hand, looks like it was designed by Tim Burton, and they’ve spent more than a century and nearly a dozen more logo designs trying to catch up.
Graphic design, and specifically the typography used therein, was a fundamental aspect in Coke’s stranglehold of the cola market. This is a lesson for any company out there, no matter its type or size. And don’t think it’s just down to logos either. Just about all communications a company has, either internal or external, can either reinforce or conflict with its brand.
What do you think? Share your insights and ideas with Joe: email@example.com
In early 2012, we had the opportunity to work with DeKalb County, GA. on their “DeKalb Recycles” marketing campaign. After doing some situation analysis, DeKalb County had discovered that their recycling services were being underutilized by the community. Recycling varied anywhere from 5% to 56% participation in certain areas. The recycling program needed a jump start on a limited budget.
Our goals for the campaign were simple but very important. They included informing residents of the recycling program, educating them on why they should recycle and achieving a noticeable increase in participation in DeKalb’s recycling program. It was also vital that we put in place a sustainable foundation that could be built on over time.
In order to make the “DeKalb Recycles” campaign successful we explored some cost effective ways of promotion. We selected key audiences such as government employees, community organizations, schools, and local media to help us spread the word. Other tactics included social media and a DeKalb Recycles website that provided information about the program and how to sign up. Through these avenues we introduced the tagline Sort, Set, Save. Sort, Set, Save showed residents what could be recycled, how to sort these items, where to deliver their recyclables and how they were helping save their community. To eliminate the monetary barrier to joining the recycling program, we were able to eliminate the bin/bag fee. The idea was to ask non-recyclers “Why not give it a try?”
Within three months of the launch of “DeKalb Recycles,” DeKalb County had received over 4,000 new requests for recycling service. This number well exceeded our projected participation expectations. DeKalb Recycles was a success that continues today.