12/19/2018

The origin of a juicy belt brand

By: Sarah Tompkins

Everyone loves a good origin story. We’ve all been captivated by how a small but mighty spider could turn a teenager into a crime-fighting phenom. But great beginnings aren’t just for superheroes—meet Joe and Tom, creators of Fruit Punch belts.

Joe and Tom were architects by day, but color fanatics and craftsmen by night. Using Joe’s talent for working with leather, and Tom’s eye for great color, they created their own matching belts with bright blue powder-coated buckles. Garnering ooohs and aaaahs all over town, they decided they might be on to something, and experimented with other color combos. Their super power was creating a highly coveted, well-made belt that stood out in a sea of drab accessories.

Joe and Tom came to 2A because they needed a brand that told their origin story and captured the spunky spirit of their belts. Inspired by the beautiful, yet artificial, colors of their powder-coated buckles, we came up with the name Fruit Punch. If you look closely at the logo, you’ll notice our designer Radhika added some juicy droplets, playing on the sweet name.

Using our marketing superpowers, 2A created influencer kits, compelling web copy and a spunky tagline to build excitement about the Fruit Punch launch. We created the Fruit Punch Studio website that focuses on customer usability, while still being fun and bright.

With a photoshoot and launch event under our belts 😉, Fruit Punch was ready to buckle up for party. Joe and Tom were excited to launch in time for the holiday season and see their belts start to mingle with others. What started as a project among friends now inspires others to ask, #wheredyougetthatbelt?

12/14/2018

11 gifts the 2A team is giving—and hoping to receive—this year

By: The 2A Team

Straight from their keyboards, here’s 2A’s definitive and ardent guide to gifts for 2018. Wondering what to give your graduate student babysitter who shops local? Your gluten-free sister-in-law who doesn’t read?  Your book club friend who brings a gift every time you host? The best gift of all is quality time, but just in case, here’s a list of second bests.

Fruit Punch belts

Belts used to be a boring dad gift (sorry dads), until they were powder coated.

 

Dinner at Salty’s on Alki

Call us old fashioned but there’s something sublime about a hipster-free meal with a view.

 

LePen fine line markers

Feel like a 6th grader without all the insecurity with these smear-free pens.

 

littleBits Synth Kit

Make sweet beats like a pro.

 

Donation to a great organization

Science tells us giving makes us happier—share the love with a friend by giving the gift of giving to Casa Latina, or Page Ahead, or Summer Search, or…you get the idea. And don’t forget your employer match! We can hear the love multiplying now.

 

Bombas socks

Feet carry a big load, especially after holiday buffets—reward them.

 

On the Boards tickets

Performance that values artistic risks? Sign us up.

 

Animal Sleep Stories prints

Wall-ready and animal-laden, these silkscreens are sure to delight lovers of the handmade.

 

Pure La Croix planter from Hello Happy Plants

Refreshing and calorie-free like its muse.

 

Yeti Rambler Colster

It’s a koozie all grown up.

 

Solo staycation

Sorry, we thought you asked what you should give a parent of young children. A night alone in a hotel in their hometown, OBV.

12/11/2018

Career lessons from playing hockey

By: Shawn Murphy

The connection between ice hockey and marketing is sort of like the link between “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” [Enter me, Shawn Murphy, a marketing PM working in the Microsoft Office division and avid ice hockey player since I was a boy in Michigan.]

Much like marketing, hockey is a game of stamina and finesse that requires a great deal of practice and dedication to perfect. But perfection is a myth. It’s all about the journey. After years of playing hockey, here are some things I learned from the sport that directly apply to business.

Different players have different styles, but you learn them and adapt

Just as you must anticipate the change-of-pace move from the guy with the puck, you must anticipate and adapt to the work styles of your colleagues. Some people are overwhelmed and could use a hand. Others struggle with communicating but are exceptional planners. Just plan to hit the poor communicator with several clarification questions and an inordinate number of emails. Under no circumstances deliver a body check to anyone in the hallway.

There’s always someone better

Yes, indeed, there is always someone better than you on the ice and in the office. Do not be discouraged, be inspired. You can learn from better players and co-workers by emulating their work styles and their moves. Today, I am extremely detail-oriented when it comes to planning and communications, but I had to hone that skill after working for an exceptionally detail-oriented boss.

Leverage your strengths

On the ice, I have always been fast. Although I wanted to be the guy who could stick-handle his way around five players and score a goal, it took a teammate to tell me, “Hey, you’re the fastest one out there, why not just blow past them,” duh. At work, I have relied on my writing ability. That’s what landed me in technology marketing in the first place. However, you must pick up other things to have a full toolkit, like attention to detail.

Some players are good at everything—thank God they’re in the NHL

There are those rare ducks that are just as adept at writing code as writing a marketing piece or orchestrating a trade show and talking to customers. I have worked with only one of them, and he was the founder of the company. When they speak, my advice is to listen.

There’s natural ability and there’s practice

Now this one is tough to admit, but on the continuum of raw talent vs. acquired skills, I would say I am something around 60/40 in both hockey and marketing. Conditioning helps a lot. Practice makes perfect and that axiom is just as relevant in the workplace. I have learned a great deal since I began my marketing career in various domains. Technology is always changing, and you must learn new things almost daily—things like delayed detonation as a function of email security, or Exchange Server’s built-in archiving capabilities.

Turns out, all that time on the ice not only made me a better hockey player, it also made me better at my job.

12/07/2018

See your story grow under Radhika’s green thumb for design

By: Kelly Schermer

As a firm believer that good design becomes great when it has purpose behind it, Radhika wholeheartedly embraces the challenge of creating with intention. Her green thumb for storytelling is rooted in her openness to the unexpected, her trust in her intuition, and her ability to layer those elements together through rock-solid design fundamentals.

Welcoming the unexpected

Radhika works by the improv credo of “yes and…”. Not only is she open to experimenting and exploring with her process, but she welcomes the emergence of unexpected elements that stretch her thinking.  When she paints, she starts with a stroke and lets that element guide her journey from there. When she designs, she uses client feedback to expand her understanding and shift her point of view. Radhika appreciates fresh perspectives and enjoys trying on ideas to see where they lead.

Designing by intuition

Outside the office, Radhika feeds her creativity by experimenting with film photography, drawing, painting, collaging—she’s even a serial beginning salsa dancer (it’s a thing…more on that later). These different pursuits help her learn to trust her own process and to follow her intuition. Slipping into the zone can be meditative, heart racing, even frustrating for her. But, above all else, it allows her brain a safe place to unwind an idea while she’s obsessing over the smallest curve or following a stroke into its scene.

Building on the fundamentals

This past fall, Radhika completed her fourth salsa class for beginners in her fourth city. While she has more than acquired the skills to advance to an intermediate class, she’s not in a rush. All of her teachers, from New York to Seattle and in between, seem to agree that you can’t practice the basics too much. In the same way, Radhika relies on her solid grasp of design fundamentals and her rich variety of experiences to help her weave together the unexpected with the new ideas.

Wondering what intentional and intuitive design looks like in action? See for yourself how Radhika’s green thumb makes stories bloom!

11/20/2018

Being thankful by speaking up

By: Abby Breckenridge

Ally Henny—writer and speaker on the intersection of race, culture, and faith—recently made a bid to her Facebook followers to confront racist comments at Thanksgiving instead of keeping the peace. Her point was that while it certainly is easier to let things slide—whether you change the subject or step outside for a glass of wine—just remember that our kids are watching. And the stories they hear at family gatherings, the stories they see their trusted adults overlook and ignore, will be the stories they remember and perpetuate.

I plan on taking her words seriously this holiday season as I grasp for things we can do to shift our culture. Whether it’s an insensitive comment about a hijab, a dismissal of Central Americans seeking asylum in the US, or a claim that taking a knee to protest police brutality is unpatriotic, I plan to engage.

11/14/2018

An Alaskan Way Viaduct elegy

By: Nick Dwyer

Before we settled in for a half hour of Home Improvement or ER, my family watched KING 5 or KOMO 4 local news most evenings of my childhood. This is where I learned of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There were occasional reports on its questionable safety even before the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, which caused further damage and necessitated emergency repairs. But it wasn’t just deemed unsafe. It’s also a noisy eyesore that split downtown Seattle from its vibrant waterfront. Like the Kingdome, the Viaduct became a local beacon of bad architecture. And like the Kingdome, it clearly needed to be torn down. So now that the end is near, why am I sad to see it go?

The answer has a lot to do with the power of nostalgia. I witness this power not just in my own personal life, but in my life as a marketer at 2A. When companies share ideas or stories from the past, they link their brand with the idea of familiarity. In a world that now changes faster than ever, familiarity can evoke powerful feelings of security, comfort, and trust.

Nostalgia is so powerful that even tech companies, who constantly preach a future of innovation and disruption in their messaging, call on it from time to time. For instance, I recently created a customer presentation for Microsoft that leveraged several quotes from Bill Gates’ book, Business @ the Speed of Thought. Never mind that Bill wrote it in 1999 and hasn’t run the company for years. It still resonated with the audience and made them feel good about the Microsoft of today.

For me, the Alaskan Way Viaduct serves as a marketing device for Old Seattle. It gives me that childhood feeling of the good old days—regardless if those times were actually better. It acts as an antidote to my adult anxieties about the rising cost of living or seeing Seattle transform into Amazon’s corporate campus. Nostalgia is obviously powerful stuff, but it’s important to remember that it’s more about feelings than facts. As both a marketer and a consumer, we must be thoughtful about employing nostalgia and recognize when it clouds our judgement.

This all illustrates a greater truth: for humans, change is hard yet necessary for progress. So with that said, goodbye Viaduct. Thanks for the great views of Elliot Bay and speedy, toll-free trips to the airport. Now let’s toss the rose-colored glasses and look forward to the greater good.

11/09/2018

How marketing hooked me when I turned 40

By: Abby Breckenridge

I’ve been a marketing consultant in one form or another since the summer of 2007, so I’ve had ample time to field cocktail-party reactions to my profession. On the whole, people aren’t that interested in talking about it—they’d much rather talk to my architect husband about that new library they love than piece through a messaging strategy with me—but when they do speak up their comments are consistent. Non-marketers generally believe that marketing a) is evil, and b) has no effect on them personally. This is when I throw my head back in evil marketing laughter.

As a marketer, of course, my opinions are quite different. I think marketing is only evil some of the time, and successful much of the time. I would have gone through two pregnancies without the best maternity basics if they hadn’t tracked me down on social media, and I have no idea how we would have chosen our HR software if no one had explained its unique benefits.

Definitely successful—and slightly evil—is marketing from the $128B skincare industry. Most of the time it’s designed to make women feel badly about their skin. I used to just shrug off their ads as unrealistic representations of women, but ever since I turned 40 I haven’t been able to shake them as easily.

Just days after my birthday I found myself clicking through headlines like “Drink up and glow,” texting my girlfriend to ask if I should be using an oil-based cleanser, and wanting to learn more about the benefits of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. I’ve applied more face masks in the last 9 months than I have in the rest of my life combined!

How had this drugstore-lotion-using woman been seduced by the anti-feminist engine? What I’ve come to realize is marketing is only one piece of the puzzle. Those confidence-crushing ads inevitably combine with all the other stories out there, from friends, coworkers, and the news. But just as we’re all influenced by stories from many directions, we’re also influencers—contributing to the stories of those around us.

Someone recently said to me that positivity is like perfume on the brain—it’s enchanting and doesn’t hang around for long. Negativity is what gums us up. Let’s be the perfume, shall we?

10/31/2018

Get ready to tell your story this NaNoWriMo

By: Katherine Thichava

Leaves are falling and the days are getting colder and darker. That means only one thing: NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs when the clock strikes midnight on November 1, and challenges novelists to set aside the month to create a 50,000-word manuscript. The event, which takes place online and through in-person meet-ups around the globe, offers a month of motivation and community for writers developing their novels, combatting what is often otherwise a solitary creative process.

Here at 2A, storytelling is at the very core of our business. We have a passion for creating compelling tales that resonate with our audiences. Well-crafted stories don’t emerge fully-formed from a writer’s mind without effort or training, however. Contrary to popular belief, even the best writers have not succeeded on talent alone. They had to hone their abilities and expand their understanding of their art through training and practice.

Fortunately, there are remarkable books of all genres and styles that can help writers develop, refine, and expand their skills—and prepare for NaNoWriMo. One handy resource is the Microsoft book store’s Writing Essentials collection, which includes must-read titles for writers at any stage of their career. As an embedded consultant who supports the Microsoft book store, I populated the list that spans many genres and stages in the creative process, and highlights some of our favorite books on the craft of storytelling.

Happy writing this November!

10/29/2018

Laura turns your don’ts into do-si-dos

By: Katy Nally

A square dance can’t happen without a caller to guide couples through upcoming do-si-dos and allemande lefts. With Laura at the mic, the dance goes off without a hitch. Keeping partners moving isn’t just her specialty on the dancefloor—it’s been the cornerstone of her career. Laura’s knack for keeping everyone in sync and her commitment to helping others is what makes her an extraordinary project manager.

Partner dedication

After college, Laura opted for two years in the Peace Corps, teaching English in a 3,000-person village in Thailand. Little did she know her role would open doors for her in the corporate world—helping companies cultivate their partnerships with Microsoft. Attracted by a dot.com boom, Laura parlayed her teaching experience in Thailand into a position at Microsoft where she managed an online training program for partners. Two decades later she’s still dedicated to partner marketing, and today serves as an adviser on the subject.

Altruistic motivation

If she could stay in Thailand, she would. It’s where she fell in love with papaya salad and tropical beaches. It’s also the place that ignited her lifelong passion for helping people that fuels her to this day. In between traveling abroad, square dancing, paddle boarding and partner marketing, Laura still manages to carve out time for nonprofit pursuits. In the past she’s helped Big Brothers and Big Sisters fine tune their marketing strategy, and these days she’s on the board of the World Association for Children and Parents.

Career circulation

Ending up at 2A was a bit of a do-si-do in itself. While working at Microsoft, Laura hired a few content experts who went on to establish 2A. She liked them so much she kept in touch, and later accepted a job at the budding agency when 2A needed someone with deep expertise in partner marketing.

 

In need of a caller to choreograph your marketing moves? Laura can lead your partners in the right direction.

10/15/2018

Thad’s not your typical flip-book kid

By: Kelly Schermer

The office at 2A is full of big personalities, but if I’m being honest, it’s the design pod that really brings it—each in their own way. I think of Thad as Thad Allen, partner in design, which I recommend singing to the tune of Transformers, robots in disguise because that is exactly what I mean. Thad has earned mutant robot status in my mind through his ability to transform copy and ideas into powerful stories in record time. Some might even say he’s got the touch.  While he did technically get a degree in this stuff (a BA in Interactive Media Design), his passion for finding ways to improve on things seems to be enmeshed in his DNA and the way he approaches the world.

A PowerPoint prodigy turned professional

About the age most kids make their first flip book, Thad was playing around in PowerPoint, building cartoons for his own entertainment. Today his self-taught and school-perfected capabilities result in elegant, cohesive decks that delight our clients. Not to mention, every month, he brushes off his childhood hobby to build quirky animations for 2A Circle Time, when we share the projects we’ve been working on and the lessons we’ve learned with our team.

A maker who remixes and repairs

In his off-the-clock hours, Thad finds enjoyment as a maker (more in the tinker-DIY way and less in the homemade-honey-and-bread way). He gets jazzed building with existing things. He describes it as remixing or repairing which is an important distinction from building new in that it translates to how he views his work. Thad thrives on collaboration and input. For him, it’s not about building his own creation but partnering with others to bring their ideas and expectations to life. Some of his favorite projects have been those that challenge him to fuse together different elements—from audio and video, to coding, to graphic design—to create something more.

A conundrum unfazed by tension

Along with this mastery across media comes an eye for quirky combinations and an ability to quell the tension inherent in them—just by being him. Case in point, Thad wore a 2-piece, poinsettia-red suit to 2A’s understated holiday party last year and totally rocked it. His capacity to hold divergent ideas simultaneously fuels his work. Take the idea of a car being an alien in disguise. Does Thad believe it’s true? Probably not. But, it’s not his way to deny it, and in that tolerance lies so much opportunity for creating.

 

Find yourself in need of transforming what you have into something more? Give us call and we’ll see what Thad Allen, partner in design, can do for you!