Archive for November, 2017

Q&A with Our New Copywriter, Micah Mackert

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Micah is a creative thinker and writer whose ventures have spanned everything from music to board games. He brings a great skillset to our team, including writing killer taglines and developing unique brand voice & tones. Welcome, Micah!

Tell us about your journey to becoming a copywriter and landing at Superhuman.
 
After college I did internships and freelancing for non-profit literary presses. I thought editing would be a natural extension of an English degree and a desperate passion for books, but I swiftly gravitated to the marketing and publicity side of things. I was drawn to the challenge of condensing something as complex as a novel into a perfectly representative blurb, and making a compelling argument to an extremely discerning audience.
 
After awhile, I wanted to try writing more diverse messages for bigger audiences, and I pivoted to advertising through an internship at Zeus Jones. I have been freelancing ever since, with a brief detour spent as a Marketing Director for a local tech startup. 
 
I did projects here and there with Superhuman for about a year, and when they offered to bring me aboard I leapt at the opportunity!
 
What perspective do you hope to bring to the work at Superhuman?
 
My background is in creative writing, cultural criticism and performance art, all interests that I still pursue in my free time. As a result, I think, my perspective is informed by a healthy skepticism of simple solutions, an eagerness to make creative work that is deeply engaged with cultural and social themes, and a borderline pathological desire for originality.
That, and I try hard to preserve some reverence for the creative process. Actual writing is just one facet of copywriting. I love research, I love finding a novel approach to match the project, I love working with clients to discover how they truly think about their organizations, and I love drilling down to the larger implications beneath creative ideas. 
 
What do you believe makes creative work for brands stand out?

It’s not necessarily new wisdom, but I believe strongly that creative work must be useful, above all else. Whether that means it’s educational or aesthetically rewarding, it needs to provide something of legitimate value. If you’re demanding people’s attention, especially when they don’t have a say in the matter, you have a responsibility not to waste their time, and an opportunity to demonstrate the benefit your product can bring to their lives.
 If it achieves one or all of those principles without condescending or presuming ignorance, it’ll tower over the swell of inferior messaging frenziedly trying to get noticed.  
Tell us about your creative pursuits outside of work 

I recently co-wrote a Kickstarter video for a friend’s company, Bim Bam Boo. They make eco- and bio-friendly toilet paper from bamboo fiber. Did you know almost all TP is soaked with formaldehyde, bleach and industrial adhesives?  
I also worked on American Dynasty, an outrageous, slightly sinister board game another friend of mine developed. You play as either the Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushes or Clintons to strategize your way to political glory. 

Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies” and Modern Marketing

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Are you a night owl or an early bird? Better at moderating bad habits or quitting altogether? Do you love opening a new bag of chips or finishing an older one? These are some of the questions Gretchen Rubin asks in her quest to create personality-centric advice.

I’ve been on the Gretchen Rubin train since her last book, Better than Before. While many books about mastering habits create grand theories that should apply to everyone, Rubin says not so fast. People are fundamentally different from one another, and that’s important.

The biggest concept she lays out is her theory of “the four tendencies.” Here’s the TL;DR. We all deal with two sets of expectations: our own (internal) and other people’s (external). Which set of expectations we prioritize puts us into one of the following categories:

Upholders: Honor both internal and external expectations. These very disciplined people love following rules, wherever they come from.

Obligers: Uphold external, but not internal expectations. Possibly the most selfless tendency, they often feel frustrated by their inability to make time for themselves.

Questioners: Value internal expectations, but only external expectations that make sense to them. They’re self-disciplined, but probably speed when they’re driving.

Rebels: Resist both internal and external expectations. Think of the freewheeling CEO who is visionary but doesn’t quite fit into the conventional business world.

You can take her simple quiz if you want to find out which category you fall into. I’m a Questioner.

This idea caught on so fast that she devoted her whole next book, The Four Tendencies to it. Before I read the book, I wasn’t sure how Rebels operated at all. If you’re not motivated by internal or external obligations, what are you motivated by? What I learned was that they operate by doing what they’re passionate about, and finding ways out of things that don’t excite them. They’re also quite motivated by control, and proving people wrong.

I also learned that Obligers sometimes “snap,” going into what Rubin calls “Obliger rebellion,” where they stop meeting any expectations for a period of time. She points out that this is a common plot in movies. (Good girl gone bad, etc.)

Upholders, she says, tend to love rules. An Upholder herself, she talks about reading and memorizing rules at swimming pools and other public places. It pains her to know someone isn’t following a rule. 

And Questioners like me, according to the book, tend to like conspiracy theories. They also, ironically, don’t like being questioned.

After reading this book, I found myself wondering how those of us in advertising/marketing could use these constructs.

Here are a few ideas:

Internal Culture

The most obvious place this framework could apply is among employees. By understanding their own tendency, they can find ways to make themselves more likely to follow through on their goals. Obligers could work together to do group challenges, and Questioners and Rebels could happily sit them out and work on their own projects. This probably already happens at every workplace, but Rubin’s framework makes it a more conscious process.

Customer Journeys

Understanding how members of a population are motivated could change the customer journey. Obligers may be more likely to sign up for a program with friends, while Rebels would be turned off by that idea. Questioners may need more information before they’re persuaded to sign up.

User Experience and Content Marketing

I feel like Weight Watchers has done a really good job at integrating different personality types into their mix. Their Community tab lets people find social support and accountability, while their marketing lets people establish internal goals that go beyond the scale. Creating such a diverse mix of behaviorally-motivating content could help any brand be an effective part of different types of people’s lives.

Overall, The Four Tendencies is a great read. I do wish she had gone deeper into why people end up with the tendency they have. Do Rebels grasp for control because they lacked it in childhood? Did Obligers’ and Upholders’ parents set unusually strong boundaries for them? And are Questioners more likely to be introverts, consumed by their own inner world? Maybe we’ll find out in her next book.

Meet Our New Director of Strategy, Meredith Engelen

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We’re so pleased Meredith Engelen has joined us to help shape our approach to strategy. Get to know her more below!

Tell us about your background and why you got into strategy.

I honestly fell into strategy. Fortunately, a mentor of mine recognized that I was a great fit for it and hired me. I couldn’t be more grateful, and I’ve never looked back.

Solving problems has always brought me joy—I love a good challenge. I enjoy tying together seemingly disparate bits of data, insight and perspectives to illuminate an answer or a new way of looking at a brand or industry. Whether it’s helping a new brand find its true purpose or helping an established brand reconnect with people in a new way, I’m always up for the challenge.

My background is in brand strategy and research. I earned my B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) and my M.A. from The University of Minnesota Twin Cities. I cut my teeth at mono and Olson in Minneapolis.

How has your view of brand strategy changed over the course of your career?

I suppose the most substantial shift we’ve witnessed is the movement of brands away from simply communicating what they do and how they are different to actively demonstrating the purpose they serve in people’s lives. This is, in part, driven by evolving forms of media: traditional, digital, social and otherwise. There’s so many more ways for brands to not merely connect with people, but to elevate their experiences. It’s also driven by the sheer volume of new brands and companies: In 2015, 3 startups were launched globally EVERY SECOND.

It’s no wonder the average American sees upwards of 10,000 messages from brands every day. This exponential rise has increased competition for share of mind—thus, pressure is on for brands to do more than broadcast who they are. Instead, they need to serve and provide value to real people. And that’s something I get really excited about!

It’s never been more important to have people at the center of your branding. If you don’t build your brand with the people you serve in mind, it’s merely a navel-gazing exercise. Brand strategy is about defining what you stand for and the value you offer, and then championing it throughout all your efforts. Much easier said than done, of course!

Who have been your mentors and what have they taught you?

I’ve had the great fortune of working for some amazing women (and a few dudes too) throughout my career. Some in strategy, some otherwise. I try to pick the traits I most admire from each of them and emulate those characteristics.

One of my favorite bosses shared a great piece of advice with me. She encouraged me to “eat the frog.” It means to do the hardest, scariest things first. So instead of working from a place of comfort, I get uncomfortable, which forces me to learn new things.

Another boss lady encouraged me to not stop at the first insight. She pushed me to find something that was truly, in her words, “sticky.” I never trust my first guess and knowing that about myself has really changed the way I work.

Finally, my parents are also my mentors. They taught me how to face a challenge with grace, how to be brave and how important it is to help others grow in their careers, too.

What drew you to Superhuman and what do you hope to accomplish?

They all love lunch as much as I do. Just kidding (but only kinda).

It was the gig I always wanted but didn’t know existed. I want to launch and grow brands. I want to work with a small (but mighty!) team of brilliant people. I want to flex some entrepreneurial muscle. I want to work with a team who blurs the lines between strategy, creative, and media roles. Superhuman offers all of that and more. I look forward to working with a group of amazing humans to strengthen the work we’re already doing, expand our offering altogether, and build a whole new kind of agency.

Gluek Beer’s Website is Live

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This year, we were thrilled to get the chance to help revive the iconic Gluek beer brand. As part of that work, we created a robust website that shares the Gluek beer story with the world. Here’s a look at our process and goals in creating it.

Objectives

Our friends at Gluek wanted the site to accomplish several things. 1) Detail the brand’s storied history in a way that was colorful and fun. 2) Invite brand advocates to share their experience with Gluek. 3) Create a merchandise hub that would allow the brand to expand into everything from yoga mats to bags to comfy shirts. 4) Make it simple to find where to buy the beer.

Our Plan

Considering the brand’s needs, we decided WordPress was the best platform for the job. WordPress allows for robust storytelling, content collection and e-commerce integration. It also lets us develop custom content entry fields that make it simple for a brand to take over the website management. Finally, it was important that we make the site fully responsive.

Design Considerations

The website was our first opportunity to really bring the refreshed visual identity to life. We wanted to continue our nod to Gluek’s past while modernizing the system to make sense for web. The typefaces are a combination of modernized sans-serifs reflective of its history and a German-style display font. We’re also using an accessible serif font to add flexibility to the system. With the vibrancy of the color palette, mix of typefaces, and bright lifestyle photography, we wanted to make sure there was plenty of white space in the design. It was definitely a balance between keeping a clean interface and letting the character of the visual language shine.

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Storytelling

We worked to base the brand’s voice & tone on its historical voice, while also updating it to match their current strategy. The final direction is a mixture of irreverent fun and lovable optimism. The phrase “Cheers to You” sums up Gluek’s focus on celebrating its drinkers and brand advocates first and foremost. Many historians have chronicled the history of Gluek, giving us plenty of stories to bring to the table.

Photography

We worked with local photography Lucy Hawthorne to shoot a series of lifestyle shots that capture the intersection of fun and wellbeing that Gluek beer celebrates.

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Check out the site, and enjoy a Gluek beer of your own!