Here for the Holidays

By: Scott Knackstedt

T’was days before Christmas, in the ballpark of Hanukkah,
Near Festivus (for the rest of us), Hogmanay, and Kwanzaa,
Softly rain fell and the air had a chill,
From Alki to Redmond and in Capitol Hill.

As visitors – with umbrellas – were mildly perplexed,
Shoppers trundled by bundled in their finest Gore-Tex.
Unfazed by the drizzle, and frizzled hair a bit damp,
Each toddler puddle-stomped like they were a champ.

We at 2A (based on Broadway) gazed down at the street,
and mused of eggnog, gingerbread, and a warm fire’s heat.
In the throes of our projects, above the throngs down below,
We can’t help but be proud of this community we know.

Seattle is an exceptional town with accessible places
and holiday events to put smiles on all faces.
So in this season of consumption we can’t help but get vocal,
and remind our community: let’s keep it local!

Stroll the Arboretum among the maples and sequoia!
Catch the symphony’s Messiah (playing at Benaroya)!
If sugar plums are busy dancing in your vision,
Attending The Nutcracker may be the right decision.

The neighborhoods, too, get in on the spirit,
From bazaars and craft fairs to caroling – go hear it!
Ballard’s got a party, Fremont has a Feast,
There’s a brass band in Bellevue, and salsa in southeast!

Go hike in the snow! Hit the slopes for swell fun!
Traipse by the water or dash the Jingle Bell Run!
If you want to spot reindeer, like Comet and Prancer,
Head to the zoo! Ramble through WildLights for an answer!

I know there is shopping to be done so, my dear, try
To support those businesses conveniently nearby.
And for folks that need help, now and next year,
Be sincere as a peer and go volunteer.

It is a time for giving, and there is much to receive,
and we’ve been here together so let’s further achieve
The city we want in the state that we love
and continue to improve on all we think of.

Whether Cap Hill or Leschi, Wedgwood or Queen Anne,
and however we celebrate, or whatever the plan,
We are proud and have vowed to remain focally linked,
with cool pride in a yuletide that’s locally distinct.

So dance under mistletoe, or sing under holly,
Or bake tasty treats and laugh and be jolly,
No matter your style, enjoy festive cheer!
Happy holidays to all and a joyful new year!


Eating oysters and recruiting pearls

By: Nick Dwyer

One of my favorite things about 2A is its sense of place. We like serving local clients, have a lot of love for our neighborhood, and enjoy eating local food. We also really like hiring local talent – so much so that more than half our team are alumni of the University of Washington.

The vast majority of our UW alumni are graduates of the MBA program at the Foster School of Business, so it should come as no surprise that Foster is our favorite place to recruit.

Last week we headed over to campus to host an evening recruitment event for MBA candidates. As a growing firm, we’re looking for new talent to help our clients tell their story. To illustrate our love for local, we brought along Rachel’s Ginger Beer, sparkling wine from Bar Ferdinand, and our favorite raw oysters from Taylor Shellfish.

As the oysters were shucked, we split open 2A and shared what we do, how we work, and who we serve. As a marketing firm, our work relies on information analysis, effective communication, and steady project management. We’re recruiting MBAs for consultant roles because they spend two intensive years building these skills. They’ve learned how to solve marketing problems collaboratively and come to us client-ready.

Jonathan at Meet the Firm

Our evening ended with an offer to Foster MBA students which still stands: If you’re a Foster MBA candidate and are interested in working at 2A, we’ll take you out to coffee one-on-one at one of our favorite spots on Capitol Hill. This is our way to connect with potential recruits without all the awkwardness that can come with crowded networking events. All you need to do is tell us about your favorite Seattle brand in 50 words or less. Email us at thiscouldbeme@2a.consulting and we’ll schedule time with you.

We think our clients keep coming back because we do things a little differently. This shows up not only in the work we deliver, but also in how we find local talent.


Still sweet: Edelweiss by any other name?

By: Scott Knackstedt

Recently I attended the birthday of a close friend at the Queen Anne Beerhall here in Seattle, a proverbial stone’s throw from the Space Needle and a moderate walk from the Pike Place Market.  As I perused the menu among the chatter of mingling party-goers, I was gobsmacked by the inclusion of Almdudler tucked between the offerings of Portland IPAs, German ales, and Belgian lambics.  An Austrian soda with a mild apple tinge, Almdudler’s flavor is more akin to an An der schönen blauen Donau waltz than to the powerful Born in the USA rock and roll of Pepsi and Coca-Cola.  Although it is sold in a handful of European nations, it is a product so staunchly Austrian that its commercials, print advertisements, and taglines are almost entirely in the Austro-Bavarian dialect of German.

Aside from fomenting nostalgia for the years I spent in the birthplace of Mozart and the Sachertorte, re-living this bubbly cavalcade made me mull over the power of geography in brand identity.  Geographic exclusivity is nothing new –  Venetian glass, Chinese silks, and Persian rugs have buttressed the concept for centuries – and, today, Protected Designation of Origin and its merits have been championed by Champagne and reinforced by feta. In other instances, the geographic identity is appropriated for the values and qualities it affords, as the Mexican lager Dos Equis has demonstrated with its identification to the Spain of Hemmingway’s bravado-filled prime.

What I love most about Almdudler is that this sense of exclusivity is narrowed even further through language.  This type of exclusivity commonly conjures the mysterious exoticism of French, like the Chrysler LeBaron or in companies like LaCroix (of La Crosse, Wisconsin), with its grapefruit – pardon me – pamplemousse flavor, to endow a sense of sophisticated, old-world classiness.  Almdudler, however, commits itself to a niche dialect of a language that is virtually unintelligible to those who live outside its immediate geography. Of the 120 million native German speakers, only 13 million would hear Almdudler’s tagline of “Wenn de kan Oimdudla haum, geh’ i wieda ham!” and identify it as their own.*

Their motive was to capture in the product an identity of ‘being home’ (specifically, Heimat) in the most snow-capped-Alpen-mountain sense of the term.  Austrians are very proud of all things Austrian, from Vienna’s coffee and Klimt’s masterpieces to Graz’s Schwarzenegger and Salzburg’s Herminator, but they are fiercely proud of their language.  The identity of Almdudler is as Austrian as picking edelweiss with Sigmund Freud on a Tyrolian ski slope.

It is funny, though, how we perceive a brand’s geographic identity, whether it is authentic or not, and how we succumb to the identity that resonates.  In the case of Almdudler, its messaging was actually crafted by an English creative director, Simon North. Or, ‘Viennese coffee’ was inherited from the Ottoman Turks in 1683 (who in turn appropriated it from Yemen over a hundred years earlier).  This is the case with countless products and brands.  Then I look around toward my friends at the party (most of whom are not originally from here), the view of the Space Needle, the smell of the Puget Sound, and I know that it’s nice to be home.

*In English: If they don’t have Almdudler, I’m going back home!


Building the story of buildings

By: Jonathan Shaw

Buildings are responsible for around 39% of energy consumption in the U.S. That’s actually higher than the share of energy used by transportation (28%). Unfortunately, buildings are notoriously inefficient, and they consume far more energy than they need: almost one third of energy consumption in buildings is wasted.

That’s the bad news. The good news: a rapidly growing group of organizations are tackling this problem through innovative solutions. One example is Seattle-based Optimum Energy (OE), which provides HVAC energy optimization software for buildings and campuses. The OE team recently launched a new product, and we jumped at the opportunity to create a video (see below) to help them tell their story .

There are several other firms in the Puget Sound committed to improving efficiency in the built environment, including Calico Energy, EnergySavvy, Paladino and Company, and (new kid of the block) Optio3. Local non-profit organizations including the Seattle 2030 District and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council are recognized nationally for thought leadership in energy reduction strategies.

There’s certainly plenty happening outside of Seattle as well. Ecorithm, based in Santa Barbara, delivers analysis and insights for building systems. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the Ecorithm team as we’ve partnered with them to develop a set of marketing and sales tools.

As our expertise continues to grow in this space, we’re formally launching our Smart and Efficient Buildings practice. If you’re working on improving building efficiency – whether that’s through an IoT platform, data and analytics, or structural upgrades – we’d love to help you tell your story. Drop me a note and let’s chat.


Nick Dwyer—We’re big fans

By: Abby Breckenridge

We run an open, collaborative office so a new personality always makes an impact. Since Nick joined the team in July, he’s been able to strike the right chord of fitting in and standing out. And while his choice of shirt may have something to do with it, there’s more to the story.

He challenges the status quo

Through his willingness to take a step back consider the unexplored, Nick opens up opportunities for all of us to be more creative. This is a huge asset to our line of work, where helping clients succeed often relies on getting your message noticed. It also may be an explanation for how his non-traditional career journey has lead him to 2A.

Before returning to his hometown of Seattle to pursue an MBA at the University of Washington, Nick spent years designing projects and writing proposals for USAID programs throughout Africa and Haiti. This work took him to big cities and rural towns in places like Liberia, Congo, and Burundi, where he interviewed underserved locals and showcased their stories in proposals for healthcare, education, and land rights projects. While working abroad he learned how to tolerate lots of ambiguity, take a bucket bath, and change outcomes through a well-crafted story.

While we’re glad Nick has traded in his frequent flyer miles for a steady job in Seattle, we know his sense of adventure and penchant for doing things differently are intrinsic to who he is.

He’s a natural born storyteller

His first foray into public storytelling started in college, where he wrote and performed in a sketch comedy group called Penguins Without Pants and became comfortable on a stage. He then put his writing skills to use and helped start a creative writing circle after college.

Whether it’s a tale about renting out a yoga studio on Airbnb as a low-cost lodging solution for a group of sports fans, meeting a childhood-hero-fortune-cookie-factory-owner through a craigslist exchange, or explaining the origin of his big fans shirt that his wife had made for him in Guinea, Nick routinely makes us laugh at Monday morning meetings with stories of his escapades. Sure, he has a penchant for adventure, but he also has a knack for finding the story and sharing it.

He has an appetite for technology

Nick came to 2A with a strong foundation in marketing, years of client management experience, and a flair for organizing information, but we thought we’d need to ramp him up on B2B technology. Think again. His ability to quickly find the kernel of value in complex products makes him a natural with our software clients. Turns out, he cut his teeth at a large aerospace and defense technology contractor, where he worked to translate the dry specifications of high-tech products into value messaging.

All that is to say we’re big fans of Nick Dwyer. Once you get to know him, we think you will be too.


When to get social: A cheat sheet

By: Thad Allen

With any business engaging your target audience is crucial to your success and many companies turn to their social channels to get the job done. After all, it allows us access to thousands of people all over the world from the comfort of our couch. However, social media can be daunting to keep up with due to its ever evolving nature and the growing number of platforms out there. Prioritization is key to maximizing your resources and efforts.

Social Media Chart
Click to view full size

Have you been getting the most out of your social?


5 things that make a great work party

By: Theresa Howe

Last week the 2A gang got together on the shores of Lake Washington for our end-of-summer celebration. Here are just a few of the things that made it great:

  1. A lake to jump into with all of your colleagues. In our case, Lake Washington.
  2. Choripanes, which are seriously delicious.
  3. Kids and family. My colleagues must all have superior genes, because those munchkins are adorable. One little guy, age 4, told me he likes my tattoos.
  4. Ice cold beverages, because it’s HOT out there.
  5. Great teammates. It’s important to take a break, jump in a lake and celebrate.

It’s part of the tradition here at 2A to gather everyone together a few times a year. It was fun to see all the kids, and chat with our colleagues’ spouses and partners. As the 2A family continues to grow, it’s good to take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy time together, outside of the office.


Olympic-sized sexism, loud and proud

By: Theresa Howe

What year is this?

This is going to hurt. And it should.


Katinka Hosszu. 3 gold medals, one silver. Credit given to her husband and swim coach.

Corey Codgell-Unrein. Three time Olympian and 2-time bronze medalist. “The wife of a Chicago Bears’ lineman.”

Simone Manuel. 2 gold medals and 2 silver medals in Olympic swimming. “Phelps shares podium with African American.”

Bo Dietl (I’m not even going to link to these peeps) said, “Would you put money behind a gal that won the gold medal that looks like a washed out rag?”

Majlinda Kelmendi. Kosovo’s first-ever gold medalist. Her match was called a “catfight.”

Katie Ledecky. 4 gold medals, 1 silver in 2016. “Swims like a man.”

Simone Biles. 3 gold medals. “The next Michael Phelps.”

Alexa Moreno. 99-pound gymnast. Called “gordo.”

John Miller. “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey,”

John Inverdale. “You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” (to Andy Murray, who reminded him of the Williams sisters)

He Zi. Silver medalist. “What’s better than an Olympic medal? A proposal.”

James Carroll. “I’ve seen enough of Kerri Walsh’s side boob.”


2016. That’s what year it is. And yet, women are “girls” and their accomplishments, if mentioned, are subjugated. If possible, their male spouse gets the headline, or is credited for their success. What about the women who don’t have husbands? Or don’t want one? Or aren’t trained by a man? What on earth could we mention them for?

Sure, after public outrage, newspapers changed their headlines and apologies were issued. So what? Why did these ridiculous comments make it through editorial approval? Where is the filter for sexism, racism, and other ugly terms that could easily be applied to this years’ coverage?

It makes me think back to the flow chart of choices for the presidential election. The critical question being: “Are women people?”

Being an Olympic athlete is an incredible achievement and yes, it takes a lot of support to get there. But tell us her story, not his.


4 steps to becoming a feedback front-runner

By: Abby Breckenridge

I’ve been looking for a reason to visit the recently renovated School of Visual Concepts, and certainly didn’t think it would come as an opportunity to speak with young designers about leadership. But that’s exactly what I got to do last Friday at an AIGA Emerge event—part of a national campaign to strengthen offerings for emerging designers.

My message? Feedback is a muscle that needs building and you’d better head to the gym if you want to grow in your career. And while giving feedback is certainly as important as receiving it, the early phases of our careers are weighted towards the receiving end, so that’s where I focused.

1.  Make space to hear it

If you’re too caught up in your own emotional response, you’ll miss the chance to grow. Calm that inner ego for a moment and make the emotional space to take in what you’re hearing.

2.  Find the nugget in what you hear

Not all feedback is good, or well explained, but there’s almost always a nugget in there that will make your work stronger. Ask questions. Think it through.

3.  Scout a way forward

Don’t get stuck and figure out what’s next. A new concept? A revision? A different deliverable? We’re making work that has purpose. It’ll never happen if we’re stuck.

4.  Recommit to the new vision

Find something you care about in the new path give it your all—even if that inner ego you squashed in step one still has her hands on her hips.


Secret to brewing success

By: Theresa Howe

Every home brewer has a dream. It usually involves them transcending their garage and opening a full-scale brewery. That’s a huge leap, from almost every angle—financing, production volume, distribution, and perhaps most importantly, traction amongst a Seattle beer scene replete with already successful craft brewers. Enter Holy Mountain. Started by three beer geeks with serious brewing chops, they conceptualized their business over the course of several years, found a space and made it happen.

2A learned about Holy Mountain last year when we were looking for a cool local gift to give to clients and staff. We wanted something memorable, and since Holy Mountain was the hottest brewery ticket in town, we decided we’d give 2A growlers with a free fill at the brewery. We love their unique story and style.

First opened in 2014, Holy Mountain focuses on barrel-aged beers, saisons and sours. Everything is seasonal, so you’ll never have the same tasting experience twice. Many of the beers are aged so they are released when Holy Mountain feels they are ready. They update their taplist regularly so you can check out what they are currently serving.

Holy Mountain has developed quite a cult following, often selling out of new release beers despite the fact they limit purchases per person to prevent hoarding. Holy Mountain didn’t achieve this success through traditional marketing channels. Their fans get updates through social media, for bottle releases and other upcoming events. It works because they make an outstanding product, which has people lining up and coming back for more.

Holy Mountain is aligned with an important element we bring to our work at 2A. Excellence is the expectation, and that’s what keeps customers happy and coming back for more. Although we are selling vastly different products (people vs. beer), it’s great to support another local business who shares the mentality that only the best is good enough for our customers.

Kudos to Holy Mountain for daring to be different in a Seattle beer scene bloated with IPAs. If you embrace a unique brew, an interesting view and a relaxed atmosphere, check out Holy Mountain. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

How do you promote excellence?