How to problem solve with email

By: Kelly Schermer

A well-written email can greatly simplify a complex problem.  Which is not to say that email is simple to write.  Through trial and error, I’ve developed a set of guidelines I rely on to help me address more complex issues through email. Using these guidelines in conjunction with tips on email etiquette and form has helped me to improve the overall effectiveness of my correspondences.

  1. Open with the punchline. Figure out exactly what you need from your reader and address it at the top of the email.  In the next line, provide a high-level explanation about why the decision is potentially a complicated one.  This helps the reader understand exactly what is required and indicates that a carefully considered response is expected (a critical message to help the reader break out of rapid-fire emailing to which we are all prone.).
  2. Organize the details. Provide pertinent information such as background, contingencies, follow-up questions, and assumptions after you’ve set up the problem. Think about the problem as a story that the reader hasn’t heard yet; what is the order of information that will make the most sense?  What is the right level of detail to include?  Use section headlines with clear formatting (ie. bold, underline, spaces) and bulleted lists to create visual order and help the reader more easily consume the information.
  3. Communicate your next step. Tell the reader what and when you are going to do next, and how you would like for her to be involved. You may want to provide a couple of options from which she may choose, but make sure you state your timeframe for action so you’re not “waiting by the phone” wondering what your next step should be.

Email seems like it should be easy and quick to compose.  Sometimes it is neither, and that’s okay.  Because when it’s handled well, it has the potential to dramatically improve communications and simplify your overall work.

Have you discovered your own tried-and-true email tricks? We’d love to hear them!



By: Theresa Howe

In case you were under a rock, the US women’s national team won the World Cup in record fashion on July 5th. It was a solid 5-2 victory over Japan, who had bested the US in the previous World Cup final.

Japan has a great team, very technical and disciplined. However, Carli Lloyd was on fire, scoring a hat trick within the opening 16 minutes (fastest ever), with an additional goal in that same time frame from Lauren Holiday. Let’s just say I had a pretty good feeling our ladies would win when Lloyd shelled Japan’s goalie from 54 yards out to take our team up 4-0. Japan fought back, but didn’t have enough time or opportunity against a solid defense, even with excellent goal scorers.

What’s more interesting from a marketing perspective is that the game was the second most watched soccer game in US history – coming in only after the final for the men’s World Cup last year, which featured Leo Messi and Argentina vs. the eventual victors, Germany.

In 1999, the last time the US women won the World Cup, 17.9 million Americans watched. This year, 25.4 million were watching. The US women have long been a compelling story, and I’m glad so many people were watching. I can’t wait to see what they can do in 2019.


For the love of logos

By: Daniel Schmeichler

We’ve all read useful pointers that separate good logos from ones that miss the mark.

In general, a logo should be:

  • Distinctive
  • Simple
  • Adaptable

Doesn’t everybody love NY?

From a practical perspective, we also strive to create logos that are effective in black and white or color, with a focus on form. And, given the numerous channels where your logo might appear in this day and age, it’s even more important to keep in mind that logos should be truly scalable, from 16×16 pixels to the side of a building.

We love creating logos, especially for new companies who are seeking their first opportunity to make an impact on potential customers. Although we try to structure the process to be as straightforward as possible, in essence, we’re forming a partnership that will help us see into the heart of the company. That’s how we find out what your logo and messaging should communicate.

The process of discovery helps us gain critical insight into the business in order to understand what direction we should be going in. We ask questions around audience, objectives, personality, plans for growth to help characterize your company so we can see your vision for the future. We create brand guidelines to be a roadmap on our journey to visual identity.

It’s only after we know how you see yourself that we can envision how the rest of the world should first encounter your brand, through your logo. Is your brand speaking your message?


Will the World Wide Web die?

By: Kelly Schermer

The global internet faces the threat of being splintered into to a collection of regional internets. Many of the experts consulted for the Atlantic article on this topic, consider the occurrence to be only a matter of time.

When I read this, it shocked me to learn that I feel protective and proud of the World Wide Web the same way I do of the American value system (ie. human rights, democracy, the American dream). For better or worse, I believe the internet has become an idealized standard which inspires the best, most optimistic side of humans and business. And I believe it’s our duty to protect our best intentions for it.

Do you remember a time before the internet existed? Back when international communication depended on complicated country and area telephone numbers, blue airmails, and a healthy dose of disbelief that correspondence of any kind would actually work?

I do. To me, the world felt too big, unknown, and unwelcoming.

Today, however, I find the same world feels knowable, welcoming, and just big enough to think I might be able to try it all. I attribute much of that change to how easy technology and the internet has made it to talk across geographies, time zones, languages and even cultures.

We’ve overcome boundaries by using the global internet to dissolve the questions of ‘how’ and ‘where’ so we can focus on more interesting questions like ‘who’ and ‘what.’ I engage with clients across the world and partner with agencies who work while I sleep without anyone feeling farther than my inbox.

Imagine if we were to suddenly implement new boundaries and limitations that call out differences and complicate our ‘how’ and ‘where’ again? How would this change the way we all view and experience the world? How would it shape new prejudices and misrepresent true intentions?

The arguments for a regional network are not unreasonable in and of themselves: tighter control on information, regional commerce oversight and management, localized data storage, and (the big one) the opportunity to capture more money. But these arguments discount the mistrust and distance that inevitably result from erecting walls of any kind, even if they’re digital.

Let’s be clear: I am NOT A TECNHICAL EXPERT ABOUT THE INTERNET. I might be able to answer a 100-level Jeopardy question about how it started and reset my modem in the event of a storm, but that about maxes me out. Still, I believe I am qualified to talk about what it would mean if it fractured into regionally managed entities because the change could trigger a global paradigm shift for non-technical users, such as myself, and set us back decades in how we perceive ourselves as a global community.

The global reach of the internet today is critical in that it unites communities virtually while representing and upholding our most optimistic aspirations for ourselves in digital space. I believe that we need to challenge ourselves to be worthy of those goals and to trust our neighbors to do the same by resisting efforts that would keep us from a shared global internet.


Open the pod bay doors, HAL

By: Brett Borders

If you haven’t heard much about the Internet of Things (IoT), get ready to. I recently attended the IoT World tradeshow in San Francisco and, judging by the array of speakers, products and apps being deployed, the industry is about to unleash a whole bunch of new, how-freaking-cool-is-that technologies. And this was the “second annual” show. Things are still very much in their infancy, so I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of stuff we’ll be seeing at the 15th or 20th iterations of the event.

Samsung was the biggest star and chose opening day to launch their new Artik platform, which promises to give developers the modules they need to build a whole gaggle of gadgets. Other noteworthy products I saw included Adidas, with their miCoach Smart Ball; Muse, with their brain-sensing headband and CHIP, the world’s first $9 computer (because $35 is apparently too much to spend on a Raspberry Pi 2).

As I walked back to my hotel after the show, I passed a movie theater displaying a poster for Ex Machina. It’s a tall tale about an eccentric technology zillionaire who creates a creepy, AI femme fatale robot who (warning: spoiler alert) kills said zillionaire with a sushi knife before escaping to integrate into society with all of us carbon-based life forms. All silly, crazy, fictional stuff, right? Right?


Washington’s Wild West

By: Abby Breckenridge

For years I’ve romanticized the idea of running a business in the old Wild West. There’s something so alluring about the unencumbered entrepreneurship and creativity of a frontier town—see an unmet need, come up with a creative way to meet it, then make it rich. Like selling pickaxes in Deadwood, but without the syphilis and gun fighting.

The daylighting of cannabis sales may be as close as we come to a new market that doesn’t involve product innovation—pot has been around for ages, but for the most part, its trade has functioned outside of legal markets. While Washington State Initiative 502 legalized the sale of cannabis products for recreational use passed in 2012, 2015 marked the beginning of the fun phase for marketers—demand has finally surpassed supply, and telling a story that differentiates your cannabis brand has become a key to success.

Sure, prices are dropping (the average price of legal pot is now $12 per gram, down from $30 last summer), but that’s not the only way to set your product apart. That’s why we’re excited to partner with our client in the modern-day Wild West as they rollout their premium cannabis products. Stay tuned for more details about this new brand as it hits the shelves in a pot shop near you.


Use gamification to build success

By: Renato Agrella

The word “gamification” is a term that has been loosely used that is gaining traction in the enterprise sector lately. Since it is growing in importance, we need a clear definition of what gamification is. According to Wikipedia “Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users’ self-contributions”. It is a powerful tool to push content, training, compliance, improve productivity and/or increase sales in your organization.

Mistfit is a very good example of how gamification helps to change people’s behavior. For instance, you can track your activity by yourself in the platform, but the experience is enhanced by its social aspect.  The user is able to add their friends to an activity. This allows everyone to have a common goal and users are competing to be the first to reach the goal. This situation forces all users participating in the activity to increase their activity level in order to be on top of the scoreboard.

This seems like a trivial job but it is not that simple. Here are things to consider when developing a gamification initiative:

Identify Goals: When designing a gamification initiative, identify clear individual goals that are to be achieved through the experience. These goals should include everything one might be able to achieve through the user’s gamification initiative. In addition, the organizational goals should be clear as well.

Find Goal Alignment: Individual goals and organizational goals have to meet at some point to guarantee the success of a gamification initiative. The sweet spot is to find the intersection between the individual and organizational goals, to ensure both are achieved.

Engage Emotionally: It is important that the players are able to emotionally engage with the program. To achieve the best results, find an emotional component that will drive adoption from the users, instead of making engagement a task. For some people ranking at the top of the list is most important, for others, it is getting rewards – badges, points, etc. In any case find what resonates with your players and actively attempt to engage them.

Create the right rewards: Remember the goal is to change a behavior through gaming mechanics. Behavior is intertwined with rewards systems so it is important to be thoughtful about the rewards and the potential outcomes they will create.

Gamification can be a very powerful approach in changing behaviors of users, increasing adoption of your product or educating your workforce. But it is important to pay close attention to individual goals, organizational goals, goal alignment, overlap, emotional engagement and selecting the right rewards to make your gamification initiative successful.


Invest in your message

By: Theresa Howe

People in the Seattle area like to think of our city as the top “dawg” in the PNW. And we are. But many of us enjoy visiting our quirky sister south of the state line, Portland.

You may have encountered the city’s smart, widespread advertising campaign called “Portland is Happening Now.” The ads are designed to promote tourism and the campaign ramps up during the rainy season. I’ve seen print ads, banner ads online and some savvy TV commercials. They focus on four categories: shopping, dining, music and beer. The ads capture the charm of Portland, from the city’s bike-centric culture, love of bookstores, and hip, tattooed residents.

Travel Oregon has an annual budget nearing $28 million. Travel Portland alone has a budget of more than $15 million dollars.

The Washington Tourism Alliance long term funding plan aims to raise $7.5 million annually to support tourism in the entire state. Visit Seattle doesn’t publically disclose their budget.

It goes to show that you have to invest in telling your story. If you want people to listen to you and love your brand, if you want to build a following, you need to back it up. Make people care. Take the time to carefully craft the tale you want to tell, then make sure you’re telling it on the right channels. Invest wisely and you’ll see the returns.

Do you have a story to tell? Contact us.


Daydream your way to the top!

By: Kelly Schermer

Were you aware that you can get ahead by daydreaming? At first blush this sounds ridiculous, but it’s neither snake oil nor a new idea. How many times have you heard, “it came to me in the shower” or “I’ll sleep on it” credited as problem solving techniques? We can probably all agree that letting your brain work without you directing it can sometimes lead to the best answers of all. So why not trust the same mechanism to help you realize life goals?

In Psychology Today , Scott Barry Kaufman, the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, mapped the connection between daydreams and achieving life goals. While there is a lot of serious science behind it – from brain mapping to social research to a 30-year longitudinal study – it comes down to a few pillars of truth that are surprisingly easy to get behind:

1. Not all styles of daydreaming benefit the dreamer equally. Of the three distinct daydreaming styles classified by researchers, dreamers who practice a positive, elaborate, future-oriented daydreaming style are more likely to be successful at reaching their goals compared to those who practice short-term or anxious styles of daydreaming.

2. The practice of daydreaming develops desirable traits for success. A daydream is essentially a simulation that the dreamer must build, sustain and control. The daydream provides an environment in which the dreamer can visualize her success and practice strategies for achieving it. Likewise, daydreaming helps dreamers improve self-control and develop creativity.

3. Being able to focus internally is essential to achieving your goals. With all the external noise from today’s world, it requires real discipline to focus internally (try making that argument to the 4th grade teacher who caught you daydreaming!). This type of focus helps the dreamer establish a balance between internal and external demands, long-term goals and short-term needs, mindfulness and social awareness – all while keeping the dreamer’s life agenda front and center.

For so long, daydreaming has been associated with laziness and a lack of ambition, but that could be an unfair interpretation based achieving short-sighted results (does forgetting bread at the store because you were envisioning being elected to City Council mean you’re not focused or just focused on something more important to you?)

In the long run, it may be that daydreaming actually affords dreamers an advantage over non-dreamers. So why not block out some professional development time in your calendar today, and see where your daydreams take you.


The fascinating rise of mobile

By: Aditi Mitra

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, 97% of US households now have a mobile phone. Mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular because they pack in many services all within a single device – browsers, mail clients, camera, mobile readers. They are quite literally, a one stop shop.

Highly competitive data plans, along with falling prices of mobile devices themselves, are the cause of the increasingly large internet traffic now routed through mobile phones.

The increasing amount of internet traffic that comes from mobile devices (now 25% globally) is being optimized to provide a fine tuned mobile experience and is essential for any business. As about 80% of this traffic is driven by mobile apps, it then becomes crucial to invest in apps for your business. This drives traffic, increases customer engagement, and eventually sales. Mobile voice search, now gaining traction, supports the necessity of having a mobile optimized site.

Mobile ad spending is growing exponentially in large part, thanks to 4G LTE networks and sophisticated credit markets. A classic example is Facebook. With no mobile ad revenues until as recently as 2011, Facebook’s mobile ad revenue at $1.95bn makes up two thirds of its total ad revenue as of Q3, 2014.

The penetration of, and utility therein of mobile devices, doesn’t stop at highly developed markets. In India, mobile internet traffic now outweighs personal computer traffic, and m-commerce marketing strategies have become the crux of any e-commerce company. In Africa, mobile payment systems are all pervasive, a major catalyst for microfinance. In underdeveloped nations, with infrastructure issues, mobile device penetration actually overtakes fixed line device penetration.

Mobile is in fact, technology for everyone, everywhere.

Summed up beautifully by Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz: Mobile is Eating the World