Author Archives: Jessica Sieff

The Courage of Vision

Posted by Jessica Sieff in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

1_rosie_the_riveter_flexing_her_arm_muscles_we_can_do_itIs there something to be seen in nothing? Is value inherent despite conditions? Have you ever found yourself asking those questions when stuck in the middle of a challenge? You have to create interest around a product with nothing specifically new or groundbreaking to speak of… You have a client that is stuck in the unfortunate reality of a struggling industry.

If you’re going through anything like that, these might be some of the questions you’re pondering. And if so, the answers may take something more than just creativity. They’re going to take vision.

Vision is seeing something in the nothing – and seeing it all the way through.

We’re quick to brandish our courage when it comes to our convictions but what about our vision? Cue the anecdote … When I was a kid, I remember watching an educational video about the World War II war effort that included clips of the Rosies who riveted and man and women on assembly lines in factories all across the country.

Those images defined “work” to me growing up. In my mind, it couldn’t get any better than blue collar and back yard barbecues on a suburban street.

Growing up in Michigan, seeing men and women on those lines was commonplace. We live in the city of Ford and GM and Chrysler. Even if you’re on the west coast of the state, cuddling up to the Windy City, there’s a sense of pride that comes from being born in the state that took the country by wheels and road.

Years later, a new picture of Detroit would emerge. Its downtown was virtually abandoned. Larger than life architectural structures stood gutted. Windows were broken out and the only thing filling old offices – natural light.

Now, all eyes are on Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans who wants to bring Detroit’s downtown back to life one business at a time. In a recent article for the Times, Gilbert’s quest to bring consumers, residents, workers and businesses back to downtown Detroit. It will be a mighty undertaking but what drew my attention to this story was the idea of vision.

It’s one thing to look at a blank canvas and imagine impressionism or the abstract. It’s another to look at something that has already been deconstructed into the dismal, broken down into blight and see possibility.

It’s the kind of thinking that leads to reinvention. The next time you’re stuck at an impasse or there seems to be no value in what you’re looking at. Take a walk, clear your mind and look again. You may just be on the verge of a new image, a new campaign a new destination for the task at hand.

aboutyoupicThis is a tale of my love for two men. As an old fashioned journalist (despite my age), I’m almost hardwired to love newspapers. And I do. I love them. And I love Warren Buffett. I love him for loving newspapers and being one of the rare few left around here who sees the medium’s viability. In fact, if Warren Buffett is reading this – Warren, call me.

“News, to put it simply, is what people don’t know that they want to know. And people will seek their news — what’s important to them — from whatever sources provide the best combination of immediacy, ease of access, reliability, comprehensiveness and low cost,” Buffett is quoted as saying.

Everything about our lives today points in the direction of not just a trend – but an actual societal need to connect to our communities. Whether those communities are defined by a zip code or a cultural interest doesn’t matter. It seems as though we are all desperate for communication with each other and just because there are so many social media channels for this – doesn’t mean they all fulfill our needs for the information that matters most.

For communities that do fall within a certain zip code, newspapers are the source of those matters: the state of our children’s education, where our taxes go, the public safety of our neighbors. When the act of sitting down and digesting the roundup of a city council meeting is lost for good – that’s when we’ll see a breakdown of local governing institutions.

Now… I also love Patrick Cummings.

Patrick Cummings is the editor of a new tablet magazine called Evolve by Again Faster Equipment. CrossFitters will be familiar with the Again Faster brand. If you’re not a CrossFitter, you may not find this magazine of interest enough to subscribe – but the first issue is free and I highly suggest you check it out.

Evolve is everything a tablet magazine should be. It’s a blend of focused writing, strong imagery, audio and video. Read about a female athlete who is redefining strength in her community and then click on the icon to the left to hear her tell more of her story in her own voice. Read about the effects of community inspired athletics like CrossFit on the brain. Watch one athlete tell his story of finding redemption after two years in a state correctional facility.

Where Evolve gets it right is by creating a balance between the arts of letters and images. It’s a unique experience that seems made for the tablet – unlike those who are trying to adapt their current publications and end up with a scanned magazine you flip through.

Traditional forms of media can live on new digital platforms – but it takes starting from scratch with the same mission.

I can love a newspaper that smells like ink and run to my tablet when I know a certain publication is waiting for me to download the latest issue. I’m in love with two formats. And there should be more people like me, I say.

What would the Sugarbakers say?

Posted by Jessica Sieff in brand | Marketing - (0 Comments)

gardenandgunA NY Times article recently noted that lifestyle magazine Southern Living announced it would be bringing in some new blood to the 56-year-old publication versed in southern recipes, decorating tips and practical advice.

Jenna  Bush Hager has been added to the roster as an editor at large, an attempt to draw in young, southern readership.

In a world where publication is starting to feel, well, antiquated, a large publication trying to pull in younger readers is not uncommon, nor is it a new story. In this world, many swipe rather than leaf through the pages of their favorite mag and many pubs are looking for ways to keep their print alive.

In the story, the Times mentioned another publication and this one set my heart aflutter – the stately, young Garden & Gun.

I am by no means a southern girl, believe me. When working on designing a hyper-local magazine for my former employer, I discovered Garden & Gun. Around that time, it’d won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. So I checked it out.

What I found was an example of how print gets it right. It’s why I’ve given subscriptions to the magazine as gifts and have one myself.

Covers draw the eye: from dutiful canines to decadent pecan pies and cocktails so sinful you can practically taste the syrupy bourbon.  A flip through the pages and you’ll find interviews with literary voices of the southern states, profiles of cities like Knoxville, Little Rock and Greenville, an interview with Morgan Freeman, profiles of pioneers of environmental change and musicians like Mumford and Sons.  One issue can give you travel ideas for an entire year.

The writers have a connection to their coverage area. They know the south. They love it. They think you will too. Columnists include Julia Reed and Roy Blount Jr. and dog lovers will relate to the “Good Dog” column, telling heartfelt stories of man’s best friend. And true to its name, there’s plenty to learn about hunting and even a little fly fishing. It’s not my thing, really, but I still read it…

Because Garden and Gun isn’t trying to reach a demographic. It’s trying to reach a reader. Someone who can appreciate a hot summer day, that place on a back road with the best barbecue in town and the perfect song to pair with the perfect afternoon. It is so in tune with its readers, some pay up to $500 to be a part of the Garden & Gun Club.

To be successful these days, it’s not enough to just know our business. We have to know our respective cultures. Therein lies the key to a good product – even a great one like G&G.