Look Up

Drowning in Social Media?

As you’re aware of, the usage of social media has exploded over the last couple of years and there are no indicators saying our usage will decrease. Five years ago platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine didn’t even exist and Facebook had just launched their “Like” button. Today, these platforms are seen everywhere and they are being used both by private users and by businesses for advertising purposes. A recent study states that there are now 1.7 billion social media users in the world and today’s technology allows us to be connected wherever and whenever.

A lot of the discussions and reports about social media usage are about youths and how their online communication can make them less interactive and social outside the world of social media platforms. However, in my opinion there are also other potential problems that could appear, for example: how can parent’s usage of social media affect their young kids?

Let’s take an example. Every morning, Mondays through Thursdays, I get on the same bus, which takes me to Stokefire’s HQ. Since a lot of people are commuting, it’s not unusual that you start to recognize your fellow-passengers. During my trips I’ve noticed a young woman, approximately in her early thirties, who always travels with a young girl, most likely her daughter (they look very much alike). I’m a person who very much enjoys observing my surroundings, and what I’ve noticed over the last couple of months is that the mother almost always looks down on her smart phone when I get on, until she and her daughter get off about fifteen minutes later. I have several times seen how the young girl seeks attention from her mother, for example by pulling the sleeve of the mother’s jacket or by trying to start a conversation, almost always without any positive response.

I have no idea what their interaction looks like during the rest of the day, but I’m curious how this type of behavior from parents can affect their kids in the long-run. I believe it’s very important for every individual to feel like they are being seen already from young age, since it helps build self-confidence and self-esteem. So what can happen when parents and their children are disconnected due to social media? Will these kids grow up and become attention seekers? Are they going to have a hunger for endorsement? Will they seek short-term acknowledge from online connections in the shape of likes and re-tweets?

Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and use it daily, but I’m also aware of how addictive it can be and how disconnected it can make you from the real world. It’s crucial for every user to remind themselves once in a while that there is a real world outside Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

How do you use social media and how does it affect those around you? That’s something worth reflecting about.

With that said, I would also like to share with you that this is my very last post here. I’m heading back to Sweden for my last semester before I earn my Bachelor’s Degree and even though I’m very excited about that, I’m not as happy to leave Stokefire. I’ve had an awesome time here as an intern and I’ve learned so much valuable knowledge which is going to help me in my upcoming career. New adventures await, and I’m looking very much forward to see what the future brings to me.

Thank you for a couple of awesome months, Stokefire!

barney stinson’s not the only one who can accept a challenge

I love learning.  Always have, always will – because as you learn, you grow.

When you’re challenging yourself in ways you haven’t done before, you get the possibility to discover talents and skills you didn’t even know you possessed (or, you might discover that you sucked at something, but let’s stay optimistic).

Trying something new probably means you’re not going to become a pro in one try, but at least it might awaken something inside you – an interest, an eagerness to improve or a realization that you should hire someone to do what you just tried to do. Regardless, you’ve gotten a positive outcome – you’ve learned something and you’ve improved when it comes to your self-perception.

So, when Tate and Lindsay last week asked me if I’d ever worked in Adobe After Effects, I told them “No.” I’d never even opened the program on a computer before. To share what the program was capable of and what he hoped he could see from me, Tate showed The Girl Effect – the animation intrigued me so I said, “challenge accepted.” I had no idea what the outcome would be, but if you never try you’ll never know, right?

In order to create a text animation you need, well, words. Luckily the Stokefire crew is good at keeping track of all the memorable quotes that pop up in the day to day elocution of our wise President. Some of these incredible sound bites were given to me to play around with.

Here’s what I managed to do with it.

And the feeling I got? Well, I certainly want to learn more about text animation. It’s an awesome tool to create interest among the viewers and present information in a fun, innovative and engaging way.

This Swede is going to bring the concept of branding back home with her

When I began my education in Sweden back in 2011, I was determined that my upcoming Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication would open the doors for a career within journalism. As a person who loves to tell stories I had decided that I could pursue a career in storytelling, and a journalist would be the perfect occupation.

At least that’s what I thought.

Before I got to the US I hadn’t quite encountered the term “branding.” Compared to the Swedish brand and advertising industry, the term “branding” is more visible here in the U.S. It’s not that Swedes don’t work with branding – in fact, it’s the other way around. A lot of agencies describe branding in their work, but they never use the term. They describe their way of working with strategies, storytelling and relationships, but very few link those processes to branding. That’s a shame in my opinion, since the term includes all those components in one simple, single expression. Swedes are very good at bringing English words into the Swedish vocabulary, yet letting them keep their English spelling and/or pronunciation (possibly due to the fact that many languages descend from Latin, but let’s leave that for now). My point is, Swedish professionals within this industry should become more aware of the fact that they are working with b-r-a-n-d-i-n-g, and include the term in their work.

So what contributes to the fact that branding isn’t as in the spotlight in Sweden as it is in the U.S.?

Well, one thing I’ve noticed – and remember that these are only my own reflections – is that Swedes are still very into PR. Over the last couple of years, plenty of new and hip PR agencies has popped up over our oblong country and a lot of youths in the beginning of their 20’s are aiming for a career within this field and marketing as well.

Fair enough, it makes sense, considering that it’s more crucial than ever to be seen and noticed in the world of brands. It’s understandable that companies need the help from advertising and PR agencies in order to get their message out there. But it’s also extremely crucial that both parties understand the importance in telling the brand’s story and that every campaign and move should be a part of the bigger picture.

Sweden is a small country and is very much influenced by the U.S., especially when it comes to pop culture. We watch the same sitcoms, listen to the same artists and get inspired by various viral phenomenon (like the rest of the world.) And no matter how much I love my home country, there are a few things I’ve learned here that I wish to see more of in a Swedish brand and advertising industry. Like the innovative and provocative way of storytelling, the absence of the Law of Jante* and how distinctiveness plays a huge part in the working process.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I love telling stories.
But as you might understand at this point, I’m no longer aiming to become a journalist. At all.

When I’m going back to Sweden, I’m going to make people within the Swedish industry more aware of the branding concept, and I’m aiming to become a skillful brand strategist and make the term more visible.

Because the story behind branding is a story I believe in.

 

*The Law of Jante is a negative concept within the Swedish society and describes a condescending attitude towards individuality and success. It’s a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. Basically, individuals are not to think they’re special or better than anyone else.

Who are you when no one is watching?

We pass a lot of people everyday: on the bus, in the streets, at work. We are all there and we are all going somewhere. And how we look, how we dress and how we act say so many things about us. Do you sigh when you have to wait in line to get on the bus? Do you run toward the street to catch the green light? Do you smile and thank the person holding the door for you?

Small factors like these can reveal something about us for our beholders and without us even noticing, these people create assumptions about us as they observe us. A person who sighs in line is bored, a person who runs toward the street is stressed and a person who smiles and says thanks is nice.

Our actions, together with our expressions and looks, create who we are.
They create our personal brand.

Many of us aren’t aware of this. We might not think about ourselves in this way, but the truth is, in every minute of the day, we are branding ourselves. From the moment we wake up, until the moment we fall asleep. In all of the things we do, we are communicating something about ourselves and we are creating an image of ourselves for other people to interpret.

This is why I’m interested in branding. Branding isn’t just about getting a message out there. It’s not marketing, it’s not advertising and it’s not public relations. It’s so much more and it’s goes so much deeper. Branding is about finding the core – the soul – of something and be sure every small detail related to that core is coherent with the brand, regardless if it’s your own personal brand or your company’s.

Branding is about creating a long-term relationship, because branding strives after telling the truth and be consistent to the brand. Your friends and beloved ones didn’t choose you because you told them what a great person you are (marketing), because someone else told them what a great person you are (public relations) or because you been shouting out in public what a great person you are (advertising).

They have chosen you because you are that great person in your own special way.

With all the different voices shouting out their messages together with their brands in today’s society, it’s easy to get lost. I mean, think about it, how many of us haven’t been lost teenagers who tried to be “just like everyone else” or felt that something was the right thing do to “because everyone else is doing it?” As we grow up and find ourselves along the way, we realize what’s most important.

It’s not about what everyone else is doing,
It’s about being true to ourselves in everything we do.

I’ve thought about what I wish for my brand to be. Have you thought about yours?

It’s not every day you find your photo in the centerfold…

Washington Flyer covers the best of Washington D.C. and the Capital Region, including entertainment, food, recreation, nightlife, hotels, and travel. These magazines are distributed through the Washington D.C. airports so you can have some reading material on your next flight to Hawaii. (Please take us with you?)

Next time you fly out of Reagan National, check out the September/October 2014 issue which includes a story about the arts scene in the D.C. area. The intro page and centerfold of the magazine features a photo our art director, Lindsay Benson Garrett, took of Gin Dance Company.

Pantone #411

When I sat down in mid-June and wrote an email to Stokefire, telling them I’d love to be a part of their team as an intern, I have to admit that I was somewhat nervous. Not only because I’m a Swede who sought out for an internship position in a foreign country, but also because Stokefire had awoken something within me: a desire to be a part of a business where I could grow professionally and be challenged daily by tasks I hadn’t previously encountered. With my winning mentality, I was determined to get an internship position where I would gain knowledge about branding and communication strategies and where I would be able to contribute with the skills I already possessed. And something told me Stokefire would be that place for me.

I’ve always valued a positive attitude. In my opinion, you can get so much further and learn so much more if you have an open mind and an optimistic way of approaching the situations or challenges you encounter, regardless of prior knowledge. This philosophy is something I’ve brought with me during my time at Stokefire, considering the fact that I had very little hands-on experience within the branding and advertising industry.

From the first day I stepped into the Stokefire office I’ve felt that the work I do and the ideas I share are valued. Being an intern at Stokefire means you’re a part of a team where equality matters. The crew is very good at letting me take responsibility and address issues on my own, which in return makes me trust my instincts and gain confidence in the work. During these past eight weeks I’ve been scanning the web to find interesting industry related articles to post on Stokefire’s social media platforms. I’ve gotten the chance to participate in client meetings, learning more about the strategies behind branding as well as design work. I’ve been challenged to perform work I’ve never done previously, such as research related to client cases and video editing in advanced programs I never heard of before. I’ve participated in photo shoots with clients where I learned everything from how to set up lights and scenes to how to make clients more relaxed during the shoot (Tip: having someone pretending to be a cat makes any model laugh.) Besides these experiences, I’ve also gotten the job to plan and organize a workshop, and even though I’m not able to put a lot of content into the workshops’ agenda, I make sure everything runs according to the plan (which means assigning my supervisors tasks – dream of an intern!).

I’m not fully trained and I’m not a professional within the branding industry. This is just the beginning and I know I have a long way to go, but these past eight weeks at Stokefire have shown me what this industry is all about and I’m confident that I want to be in a long-term relationship with it. With eights week to go, I will continue to learn, I will continue to ask questions and I will continue to grow professionally. And as if that’s not enough, I know I’m going to have a lot of fun while doing all those things. Tate and Lindsay have a great sense of humor and an awesome attitude and I can’t really tell how many times a day I laugh when I’m in the office.

And you know what?
They didn’t even have to force this intern to write that last part. It’s actually extremely true.

Now will you please excuse me, I need to fetch coffee and match it to Pantone #411 as spec’ed by our art director…

The Secret of Great Business Trips? They’re Not All Business.

Posted by:
Tate Linden

I hear from fellow businesspeople that traveling for work is a necessary evil. Being away from family, never seeing anything other than the inside of a hotel, and eating dinner on a tray in front of a TV or in the hotel bar with clients… it all seems to pretty much suck. 15 years ago I had a mentor that helped me see that it didn’t have to be that way, and recent happenings at HQ convinced me that it was about time to share her thinking with the world. Let’s start with her rules…

  • Don’t order room service.
  • Don’t visit the hotel bar or restaurants, either.

Sounds pretty limiting for a road warrior, but in both cases you’d be paying a premium to have a generally lousy experience that would be indistinguishable from something entirely forgettable that you could have in your home town. Business travel isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Because of that mentor, every time I travel I try to find a local jazz club, a greasy spoon, or a hole-in-the-wall joint that will give me an experience I couldn’t have back home. It opens my eyes to new things and increases the pool of ideas and experiences I can call on when doing creative work.

Got kids (or nieces and nephews) and a smartphone? Even obligatory sightseeing that I’ve endured countless times before can be made new with some of the recent technological advances. I traveled on one of the longest and highest tramways in America to the top of a mountain in New Mexico – and got to share the experience with my joyful kids as the view unfolded on-screen in real time over FaceTime. Every experience can be made new when you see it through the eyes of a four-year-old. (Incidentally, my first call to my kids in every city is to give them a grand tour of… my hotel room. Yep. Beds, bathrooms, views, drawers… they want to see it all. And if there’s a minibar? It’s “YAY, DAD!!! THERE’S FOOD IN YOUR ROOM!! CAN I HAVE THE COOKIES? BRING HOME THE COOKIES!!!”)

Which leads to rule number three.

  • Don’t touch the minibar. EVER. Even if there are cookies.

Seriously, man. Don’t even THINK it. Pretty sure there’s a charge for merely considering purchase.

Anyhow, Marie (our kickass Swedish media* intern) seemed somewhat disinclined to believe we actually would encounter fresh air or the sky on our recent business trip to San Francisco, so she challenged Lindsay (our kickass art director) and me to get some video evidence. After all, it’s not like we’d be able to experience much when we’re in client meetings 12 hours a day, right?

Challenge accepted.

* — Contrary to what some may believe, Swedish media is neither this, nor this.

Hej Marie och välkommen till Stokefire!

Hi, I’m Marie and I’m Stokefire’s newest intern!

During the upcoming months the Stokefire crew will have me as a part of their team, an opportunity I’m very excited about. From the very first moment I visited Stokefire’s website I got the sense that this place was something else, and after meeting Chief Creative Tate Linden and Lead Designer Lindsay Benson Garrett in person I can assure you I’m in good hands.

So who’s the person behind this post? Well, I’m born and raised in the homeland of IKEA – Sweden – where I’m currently enrolled at Örebro University (I challenge you to pronounce the first part of that name). I’m about to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communication, but with one semester left in Sweden I got the opportunity to go abroad and be a student of a one-year long PR & Journalism certificate program at Northern Virginia Community College – something I couldn’t resist. The second semester you’ll do an internship as a part of the program, and I knew pretty early that I wanted to be within the field of marketing and branding.

The reason?

It’s fascinating and interesting how branding and marketing impregnates today’s society in all different kind of ways and how important it is, regardless if it’s about branding and market your business or simply yourself. (And by the way, since English isn’t my first language I’m not flawless when it comes to writing and choosing words in English, but I hope my point will shine through anyway).

Being an Intern at Stokefire means I’m going to get more hands-on experience within the field in which I later on wish to have a career within. But it also means I’m going to be able to work really close with Tate and Lindsay and hopefully earn more knowledge in how to think, how to act and how to approach different types of challenges you might face in the process as a brand strategist.

Also, since I’m a social media freak, I’ve been given permission to contribute to Stokefire’s social media accounts, and I will do my very best to have even more interesting material posted for those who follow us (if you don’t do already, you should!).

Oh, and also, we don’t have ice bears walking our streets in Sweden. Just to point that out. And please, come by the office if you want to hear the real pronunciation of the weird round letter with the two dots above which can be seen above. I’ll be more than happy to talk to you.

/Marie

Birthday Cake and Marshmallows

Birthday cake before and after
Happy birthday to our President, Tate Linden! To keep our brand consistent across all mediums, we presented him with a cake fit for a pyro. (That’s the Stokefire logo in matches, in case you couldn’t tell from our artistic interpretation.)

If you’re a fellow pyro in spirit, be sure to watch our video of glorious flames engulfing the sugar-fest.

Look at yourself. If you can.

Posted by:
Tate Linden

Yep. Look at yourself. Closely.

But not yet.

I’ve got three very simple questions for you to answer, and a single simple restriction. Here are the questions you’ll answer:

  1. Based on what you see now with your own eyes, How many more creases appear on your forehead when you change from slightly raised eyebrows to raising them as high as you can?
  2. Based on what you see now with your own eyes, do you think that you’ve got an attractive face?
  3. Based on what you see now with your own eyes, do other people think you’ve got an attractive face?

And here’s the simple restriction:

  • You cannot use anything other than your own eyes to determine the answers to the questions. So, no reflective surfaces, cameras, objects of any kind, or other people to aid you in your task.
Alright. Now you can look.
…Great. Now let’s review our answers.
First Question: What’s my crease differential?
I’m guessing that your answer (if you have one) was a guess based on what you remember from the last time you raised your eyebrows in the mirror or an estimate you arrived at by using your hand to search out creases – which would be cheating. The answer, best I can tell, is unknowable. Though it may be possible to guess, it cannot be confirmed without breaking the rules in some way. Reliance on something other than your own sight at that moment is a requirement. (Readers who are blind, use Botox, don’t have eyebrows, or are somehow able to remove their own eyeballs from their sockets to look at their own face are disqualified due to my lack of foresight in formulating this question and my unwillingness to spend time coming up with a better example.)
First Insight: You can’t see yourself without external assistance
Second Question: Is my face attractive?
The only things you’re likely to see on your own face with your own eyes are your nose, eyelashes, lips (if you pooch them out,) cheeks or facial hair if you’ve got any. With this very limited set of information, most of which is out of focus due to extreme proximity, and which doesn’t give you a sense of how the pieces actually work together, is it actually possible to make a reasonable judgement as to attractiveness? Using your own eyes, you can see other faces and judge their attractiveness, but when you turn those same eyes on yourself you don’t have the perspective and distance you need to make an informed judgement.
Second Insight: The parts of yourself that you can see are too close to make sense of.
Third Question: Do others find my face attractive?
Well, if someone was there to look at your face and you were to look at them you might get an inkling, but that’s against the rules. We know from the previous question that we have the ability to see and judge others attractiveness, so it stands to reason that they can judge the same for us. So, it’s possible that others could find it attractive, but in our restricted question environment we don’t know whether they actually do.
Third Insight – Part One: Others can see you better than you can see yourself
But there’s more to the question here. Once we establish that others see us better than we see ourselves, how do we get to know what they actually think? It’s harder than you might imagine. They have the ability to see us and to determine for themselves whether or not we are attractive, but there’s no verifiable way to get at that information. We could end the hypothetical restrictions and ask them, cajole them, or torture them for the answer and still we wouldn’t actually have proof. There are countless reasons why someone would think one thing and say something else, and there’s no way to be absolutely sure when one of those reasons in play. They could easily be trying to spare your feelings, trying to make themselves look good, trying to hide the fact that they’re attracted to you, or trying to give you the answer they think you want.
Complicating matters further, those who offer you their insights may not even know their own intent. Neuroscientists have shown that intent forms after we have begun execution of an action, so the person telling you whether or not you’re attractive A) may intentionally not be telling you the truth, and B) may be unintentionally not telling you the truth because they haven’t figured out why they’re doing what they’re doing yet.
Third Insight – Part Two: You’ll never truly understand what others see or think by asking them directly. 
Now let’s take these insights and see if they apply to organisms larger than ourselves, like, say, an organization.
One: Organizations can’t see themselves without external assistance.
Two: The parts of themselves that organizations can see are too close to make sense of.
Three.1: Those outside the organization are better able to evaluate the organization than those within it.
Three.2: The thoughts of those outside the organization cannot be understood by asking for them directly.
End result? We can’t see ourselves, and we can’t be sure if what others tell us is true.
I’d argue that these hold true for every entity in which the evaluators are an integral part of the thing being evaluated. They can’t see it well enough to figure out how it relates to the rest of the world, and they can’t trust the responses of others when they ask for opinions.
Anyone out there think they know how to solve the problem? (We’ve got an answer, but I’d love to know what others have come up with.)


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