Category: Blogs

Making an Impact in 2016

Wow. 2016 was a bit of a doozy, eh? For all it’s ups and downs, we are #grateful because, when it comes right down to it, it was another year in which we got to do the work we love with people who care. The collaborative and creative relationships we cultivate with our clients are what make for the most inspiring outcomes.

Just because we are a small agency (and proud to be so) doesn’t mean we don’t think BIG. So when a BIG opportunity came to us out of Dallas we were thrilled—not only for a chance to do work on a national level, but to be involved in work with a lasting impact. Southern Methodist University’s Embrey Human Rights Program is a cutting edge, experiential education program that challenges societal and individual paradigms. Bringing students through all aspects of Human Rights throughout the country and the world, the Program celebrates their work every second year by awarding two recipients— one national and one international—with the Triumph of the Spirit award.

New Ground’s Art Director, Falyn, was the design lead on the project and we were excited to have been chosen from a bunch of other agencies throughout the South and East Coast to brand this event. We were brought on to help brand this year’s theme, Voices.


“It always feels good to be chosen to work on something that really inspires you.”


The team working on this event wanted something that spoke to diversity and inclusion, joy and unity, knowledge and expression. The team included Music2Life, who coordinated the event, directors from the Embrey Human Rights Program, and ourselves. The energy between everyone involved in the project was awesome throughout all stages of the process. It was a truly collaborative experience, with every viewpoint and perspective heard and honored—creating an atmosphere of incredible creativity.


“Here’s the thing about working with NGC. You’re getting an excellent skill base, of course, but what I found is that they became engaged partners who were truly invested in the successful outcome of our project.”

 – Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, Founder & Creative Director of Music2Life

Working on a design for a community and culture that is very different from where we live is particularly engaging because it naturally shakes up our process.

We developed a logo, color palette, and style guide for them which we used to create a broad array of collateral for this year’s event. An example of our “out of the box” thinking is how the logo, for certain uses, was interactive; participants and audience members filled in parts of the logo to show their own thoughts and hopes for Human Rights. One of the intentions of the Triumph of the Spirit Awards ceremony was engagement. We wanted the imagery to inspire and motivate participants to embody the mission of the event in their everyday lives.


“[New Ground Creative’s] responsiveness and intuitive get-it factor made them feel like extended staff people vs. a contracted vendor. Unlike a staff person, however, their perspective was fresh, always honest and unencumbered by any baggage.”

– Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, Founder & Creative Director of Music2Life

Projects like this one inspire us and they feel like a natural extension of all the non profit work we’ve done over the years. Now, more than ever, we want the work we produce to have the biggest impact possible. We put intention behind what we produce and the relationships we build in the process. We succeed when our clients do and, when the mission is protecting the rights of all humans and paving the way for a better world, well… count us in.

All event photos by Dylan Hollingsworth.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

At New Ground Creative, we value taking the time to get to know our clients as well as reflect back to them our observations from outside. We don’t pretend to know them better than they know themselves but we can assist in their process of self-reflection. Same goes for the audiences we, and our clients, serve. Giving these individuals a voice—an opportunity to express themselves—offers valuable information and insights to any business. For the audience, customer, or consumer—it feels good to be heard and that’s a great start to any relationship.

So let’s listen up.

Respectful, mutually beneficial relationships. Sounds wonderful, right? Alex Fischer, local millennial, prioritizes the bulk of their life choices around maintaining healthy relationships, especially when money is involved. They spend some of their hard-earned money on locally grown, organic food and they also trade working hours. Their money goes to people they know and the local economy. Alex enjoys being a part of an exchange that benefits all involved equally, i.e. the farmer needs money or help to keep farming and Alex needs food to stay healthy and nourished.

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Alex at their desk at the ROOT Social Justice Center in Brattleboro. Photo by Biz Hallett.

Alex Fischer is a co-founding collective member of the ROOT Social Justice Center in Brattleboro, a collectively-run community space fostering social justice organizing and focusing on racial justice work that empowers and lifts up the voices of people of color. Alex also owns a business, Open Bookkeeping, offering professional bookkeeping, education & workshops, holistic business consulting and other financial services to justice-based businesses and organizations. Alex describes their business as “an endeavor at the intersection of finance and social justice.”fischer3_62

“Security for me involves the ability to be giving a lot back.”

A sense of security starts with a sense of place and home for Alex. Buying property with others stands at the top of Alex’s 5-year goals which, in turn, serves as the foundation for a 10-year goal of fostering queer and trans youth, along with having a dog… or 5. Alex plans to maintain an income that allows them to pay a mortgage as well as maintain daily living expenses. It is also their intention to save, perhaps by way of a retirement account with their local credit union, so that they can plan for the future and afford to be generous with their money.
Taking steps to create the life you want, making difficult choices and recognizing that no one else is going to take action for you is the real truth of “adulting.” Whether you are a millennial or not, remember that transition into adulthood? It’s a challenging one and sometimes requires incentive and rewards to be executed with success. This difficulty is not the result of laziness but has more to do with the fact that it just sort of happens… all of a sudden… out of nowhere.

“I was younger and it was all Yay! Party time!—making friends—doing ridiculous things—having adventures. Now it’s like—making family and having babies and building careers and buying homes and I’m totally down with it—it’s just fielding the expectations while trying to stay true to myself and my ability to decide what matters to me.”

Want to crack the mystery of millennials? I think their desire to be who they are and wield the strength to decide for themselves what matters is a part of it. This generation has brought about an entirely different approach to marketing and brand. Not only are the approaches largely digital now, but the idea that you can persuade someone to buy what you have to sell is gone. Time to believe in the customer first. Understand what they need. And then follow through by offering what you think they could use in the context of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship. It all starts with listening.

Stay tuned for our next blog post! We will explore integrity in marketing and get to know local millennial, Evan Morse.

Also be sure to check out Biz’s new website millenniology.com to read the full stories of millennials living and working in and around Brattleboro.

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

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The New Ground Creative Team – Photo by Kelly Fletcher

Our work at New Ground Creative always starts with a conversation. We love to talk. Well… maybe not Falyn. But have you met our Communications Strategist, Joe, or our fearless leader, Carrie, when she has had a little too much coffee? And our Outreach Strategist, Biz—sheesh—with the blog posts and the hair. That NGC crew is game to gab.

We also listen. We get curious. We want to create and cultivate a relationship, of course, but this research is also a fundamental part of the work we do. Bonus: we get to be students everyday. Some days we are studying millennials and others we are getting to know the ins and outs of a business looking to reinvigorate their brand. Whatever the case may be, research is a big part of our process as well as a personal passion when research means getting to know our community—the people, the places, their hopes, and their needs.

Learning as we go, in this way, can be tricky. Curiosity brings up new questions which results in potential new approaches which leads to new information and a new spark of curiosity. It’s a cycle. Sometimes things don’t go how you planned which can be confusing and frustrating, but inherently a new opportunity arises even out of a problem. Like when I was 7 years old and cut off all of my Barbie doll’s hair. I wanted to do something radically different with her hair but when she had none—I was presented with a new problem. Then one day, I began making her different types of hats. This happens in our process at New Ground Creative occasionally. Seeing problems as potential opportunities serves us and our clients well.

So time for a simple question: Why? Why we are generating this information? Joe has an awesome way of answering this question when it comes to working with our clients. He wants to “arm your audience with language to defend their choice of you.” Businesses spend a lot of money creating a perception of who they are and what they do but the most powerful brands are the ones that own who they truly are. At New Ground Creative, we value taking the time to intentionally get to know our clients as well as reflect back to them observations from within their organization, as well as from their audiences and partners.

Like us, our clients and the people they work with have a lot to say. Up until now we have, for the most part, held space for this discourse and sharing within the trajectory of our process and the corresponding market research we offer. Our interest in millennials shaped a new possibility. Getting out in the community and talking to local millennials opened new doors for receiving information.

Our initial curiosity raised questions such as:

What do millennials care about?

How do they engage with technology?

What are their thoughts on money and what choices do they make about how they spend it?

How are they different as a group and how are they similar?

And how does any or all of this impact the communities where they live and work?

This week we paused to consider why we are asking these questions. First, we are a part of this community and we want to give voice to people living and working here. Second, millennials are a hot topic and largely generalized. In what ways we can, we would like to offer authentic representation of this population through their own words. *Cue David Attenborough’s voice: “Observe the wild millennial in their natural habit. Fascinating.” And finally, it is our hope that this shared research will support what we do, as well as the mission and vision of the clients we work with. And thus a new word is born…

Mill·enn·i·ol·o·gy

noun

  1. the study of millennials addressing common stereotypes and exploring successes, challenges, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and perspectives.
  2. An opportunity for millennials to share their stories and experiences to set the record straight.

The study of millenniology shows that millennials do not fit into a nutshell, not even a genetically modified one.

Our next blog post features insights and perspectives from millennial, Alex Fischer, Owner/Bookkeeper for Open Bookkeeping and Co-founding Collective Member of The Root Social Justice Center.

(For those of you thinking, “You said that last time.” I promise. Thanks for reading!)

A Lot Like Love…

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Your eyes lock from across the room. A stranger and yet… you feel as though you know them. Or perhaps you have known them for years. The feeling of love is like a lightning bolt—in just a fifth-of-a-second chemicals release in your brain resulting in a euphoric feeling. You lean in as if your heart were literally taking the wheel. Your body surges, “I love it and I want more of it!” Let’s take a closer look at the process of falling in l-o-v-e, shall we?

Dopamine plays a role in our emotional responses, by lifting us up and motivating us to action. Ever hear the saying, “Love makes you do crazy things?” Yeah, that’s partly dopamine’s fault and watch out—dopey’s got a couple troublesome friends. Introducing norepinephrine and adrenaline. They release to give you a little push, keeping that pesky rational part of your brain from analyzing the potential risks of your choices. Your heart starts to race, you get a burst of energy, and you focus intensely as you click the button purchasing tickets to Mexico to spend a week with someone you collectively spent 8 hours with during your last vacation… oh… ummm…. Yeah a friend of mine did that once… anyway—moving on. Finally, oxytocin lowers anxiety and is released most often in response to physical touch, hence why it is sometimes referred to as “the cuddle drug.” You just want to be close to them (cue the romantic music) and by the end of this chemical tsunami you look like one of those heart eyed emojis.

😍 Yep that’s you, bud.

Okay now… let me throw something crazy out there… Is this similar to what happens when we experience a brand? Stay with me. What happens when we witness an image or a slogan? If we have prior knowledge or experience of the brand, mirror neurons fire in our brain sharing with us stored information from the past resulting in a positive or negative response. But what if we have never seen the brand before? The image or the messaging strikes our brains as new and in a very short period of time creates an immediate response. Some call this “judging a book by its cover” and it’s true; that action can result in not taking an opportunity to understand something in its entirety. Our brains are constantly processing information as quickly as possible to inform our choices in an effort to keep us safe. So what does a brand need in order to encourage an individual to keep looking beyond that first moment? And is it not unlike what it takes to keep that special someone engaged with you enough to build and maintain a relationship?

Remember those chemicals from before? Check this out.

Step # 1:

The combination of chemicals released creates such a pleasant feeling that we want more, i.e. ATTRACTION.

Step # 2:

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline drive us forward to learn more, take risks, and plunge into an exploration of what could be beyond these initial feelings, i.e. CURIOSITY.

Step # 3:

“The cuddle drug,” oxytocin, helps up to saddle right up to our love and gaze into a future together. We feel as though we have arrived, we can finally relax, i.e. TRUST.

So you know… just make your brand wicked attractive, encourage potential clients to ask questions and eventually land their full and complete trust in you. No easy feat, we know. A tad daunting? Yep. That’s why we are here. Consider us your wingman. We will help you pick out an outfit, practice conversation topics, and support you in feeling confident in who you are because…

YOU ARE AWESOME!

*thumbs up followed by finger guns*

Go get ‘em tiger! We got yo’ back!

 

 

Our New Face Represents New Ground

Branding, Design, Messaging

It was a year as of March 2015 that Woodward Design became New Ground Creative and it’s been an exciting ride. As our staff and capabilities have expanded, our business has grown tremendously. This has given us the tools to aggressively take NEW GROUND (you get it now, right?). We are no longer strictly a design house, but a marketing firm that specializes in design, branding, and messaging. Branching out into the greater world of marketing has been pretty awesome. And as our business grew, so did our website.

Our new website represents the new face of New Ground Creative. Don’t get us wrong, our old site wasn’t bad—it was great—but we had outgrown it. Solidifying who we are has been exciting and because of that we wanted to share our message in a way that better represents who we have become.

The importance of a user-friendly, informative, and beautifully designed website can’t be stressed enough. According to IronPaper, 94% of people admit that design is the reason they reject or mistrust a website (that sure is a lot…). They also found that 67% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a website that is compatible with mobile devices. With those odds, who can afford to have a sluggish, poorly designed website?

New Ground Creative has been building brands for over 20 years. We’ve brought invaluable solutions into existence for non-profits, businesses, and institutions (sorry, we ran out of humble pie). Our collaborative approach involves our entire group (where everyone takes turns leading and following), our exceptional clients, and the team of highly trained monkeys Google keeps dispatching to deal with situations. YUP, THAT’S RIGHT. Alright, maybe not the last part.

Ok, we’ll stop bragging and leave you with this thought—Do you truly believe your message is communicated properly? Is your website designed in a way that is trustworthy, visually appealing, and effective? If you answered no to any of those, give us a buzz and let us help you with that. We’ve been through the process not only with many organizations but with ourselves. We kind of know what we are doing.

HOW Conference 2015

HOW-Conference-2015Carrie and Falyn went to the 2015 HOW Conference, while David and Joe stayed in the boring, dull office with jealousy in their hearts… I mean, we were so happy for them that they had the opportunity to partake in HOW (sigh).

Carrie introduced Laura Foley and Tom Tumbusch, two badasses, during their talk on Marketing Your Freelance Business. Which was nice because she got to plug New Ground to a room full of awesome.

HOW splits its sessions into different tracks, so Falyn got super-inspired by attending the creative lectures while Carrie spent most of her time in the business track—keeping up-to-date on the changing dynamics of our industry.

There were an abundance of AMAZING speakers, including Simon Sinek and Tina Roth Eisenberg. The level of encouragement, inspiration, and awesomeness present at the conference was nearly migraine-causing (but, like, in a good way).

HOW-Conference-2015-ChicagoNot only did the ladies return creatively rejuvenated, but they were able to relax and soak in the beautiful city of Chicago in their spare time (there may have been additional shenanigans). They were so excited to have made new connections and relationships with people from around the world that they only slightly minded coming back to Joe and David.

We at New Ground Creative look forward to continuing our involvement in the HOW Design Conference.

Will we see you next year? In case we did not have the opportunity to connect with you at the event, please reach out to us and say hello.

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It’s a New… Year

New Ground takes a look back at 2013 resolutionsIf we were the kind of people who say, “OMG,” we would currently be saying “OMG!” (but we’re not those kind of people so don’t roll your eyes). 2013 was a fantastic, hectic, excellent year and we’re looking forward to some great things in 2014.

First off, a look back. We have finished our first year under the rule of our new benevolent overlord. She only occasionally requires tribute and her initial expectation of being referred to as “Her royal highness, Carrie, lord of New Ground” has faded in recent months. All kidding aside, we’ve been carrying forward the things that made us successful for the past 20 years and putting some new things in the mix to start to look at where we’re going over the next 20 years.

One of those new things in the mix is a new employee. Joe Heslin started up part-time this past year and is now a somewhat more permanent fixture in the office. Speaking of offices, we are finishing up our first year in our new digs as well. If you feel like you’re being watched as you walk down Main Street, it’s not the NSA, it’s us looking down from the second floor of the Hooker-Dunham building. From our perch here, we’ve had a front row seat for the Brooks House renovation. (Look for the Brooks House’s new logo and, yes, this is a shameless plug because we designed it). The Brooks House is a good indication that this has been a big year for more than just us and we couldn’t be happier to see Brattleboro on the rise.

One other little thing. We are going to be taking some of our own advice and rebranding ourselves. Keep an eye out for our new name here in this new year (and, no, it’s not Carrie Design). Right now, it’s still top secret and only we employees… and the NSA, maybe… know what it is. We’re really excited about it and you will be too, we hope.

Vision is an end state

A brand's vision is how you know that your organization is a success.We hear a lot about vision. It’s often a gauzy, uncertain, poorly communicated thought about where a person or organization may be going or may want to be going. It’s like the word “dream,” but translated into corpro-speak.

In the context of brand, and as a component of mission, vision, and values, it is ideally more concise and points to an end state for the organization or the community within which the organization exists. Going back to Lady Gaga (from a previous post), her vision may be to be the undisputed pop culture and music icon in the world. For Google, perhaps their goal is a world in which people can find the exact information they need when they need it (while also clicking through their ads).

Vision is an end state. It is how you know that your organization is a success. For a homeless shelter, perhaps it is to have there been no homelessness. For your organization, it may be to be the leader in your sector or industry. These visions needn’t be 100% realistic, they are aspirations.

A quick note about doing it wrong. We hear a lot about sustainability these days yet one of the most fundamental “visions” of many organizations is exactly unsustainable–that is to say, “growth.” If growth is your final goal or vision, it is very much unsustainable in that there is no way to know it when you get there. It is an unsatisfiable conclusion because it doesn’t indicate the end state.

So, what is your organization’s ultimate goal? When will you know that you have done what you set out to do? For your organization to set their vision is to put forward, hopefully for all to see, the moment you will know that you have arrived. Vision should give you, not only something to reach for, but to actually guide your progress by.

Working together, values, mission, and vision tell you why you do what you do, what you actually do, and what you hope all this activity will eventually lead to.

A Values Proposition

A brand's values both inform and reflect its mission.So, we’ve talked about what a brand is and we’ve talked about the first element of a brand: mission. The organization’s values are the next of the three foundational elements in a brand and, just as with people, values are “guiding principles.” These values are not often stated in an annual report or anything but they come up in other ways. For instance, you’ll see values both inform and reflect a mission.

Let’s make it a bit more concrete. Google is a great/terrible company that does wonderful/horrible things for us/them. No matter what you think about the company, however, it is arguably pretty successful. Unlike many other organizations, I was able to find both Google’s values and their concise (Yay!) mission.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

That is a nice mission. Now, look at the values. Do you see how some of them are implied and referenced in this short statement? Specifically:

  • Focus on the user. (universally accessible and useful)
  • Fast is better than slow. (organize the world’s information and make it . . . useful)
  • Democracy. (universally accessible)
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. (universally accessible)
  • There’s always more information. (organize the world’s information)
  • The need for information crosses all borders. (universally accessible)

Not all of the values are so directly implied in the mission but you can see how the values and the mission are, as I said, reflected and informed by each other.

Coming up with values for your organization starts by answering some of the “whys” of the organization’s existence. Why do we do what we do? Why is it important? Why do we not do this another cheaper/easier/faster way? Sometimes the values are based on a founder’s understandings. Sometimes they are looking at the way the organization hopes to change their customers, society, or even their world.

What are your organization’s values? Why do you do what you do in the way you do it? If you are having trouble answering that question, we would like to help you with that.

Next time: Vision.

Mission Impressible

Mission is what your organization does.Last post, we were talking about brand. To summarize, a brand is the sum total of the public’s perception of an organization, somewhat influenced, but not totally, by the intentions and actions of the organization. That second part is where I want to start focusing.

An organization, or even an individual (see: Lady Gaga), builds their brand. The materials from which the brand is built are Mission, Vision, and Values.

Mission is what your organization does. We’ve all seen organizations’ mission statements and the best are ones in which the organization succinctly states what it does and hints at the intention behind that “doing.” Ideally, there is an emphasis on the word succinctly. As a wise old man who lived next door to me during my Virginia childhood once said, “Hell, sun even shines on a dog’s ass every now and again.” To state it another way, more words do not equal saying more (though that meaning may not be easily found in that saying but I’ve always wanted to get that saying into the modern vernacular . . . along with bringing back “You be illin’.”)

Here are some examples of Mission Statements. Now, I can just hear the eye-rolling as you read the mission statements on that page. ADM? Of massive agribusiness fame? Really? Well, the answer is, yes. The Mission is the what of the organization. It isn’t the Why or the How or the Goals. Look at CVS, the pharmacy: We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use. That’s pretty tight. It is the What of their organization.

So, what is your mission? Let’s go back up to Lady Gaga. Maybe her mission should be:

I create engaging music and performance to entertain, inspire, and provoke.

Personally, she’s not my kind of music. That, happily, is utterly irrelevant. The key is to simply and clearly state what you do. Do you have a mission? Personally or organizationally? Done right, it forms the foundation that leads to what your brand will represent.

Next time: Values.