BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking

BankNorth TV - BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking by Fredricks Communications

Click to watch :30 TV – “BankNorth in South Dakota: Values-Based Banking” by Fredricks Communications and Midco.

For the first time in its nearly 115-year history, BankNorth has moved beyond the borders of its home. Today, First State Bank of Warner, S.D., opened its branches in Aberdeen and Warner, S.D. with its new name, BankNorth. The acquisition announcement is supported with print, radio and television ads, media relations and direct mail. Fredricks Communications provided connecting, scriptwriting, art direction and project management services.

The message –

“First State Bank of Warner is Now BankNorth, and we’re excited about the direction we’re headed. We’ve been First State Bank of Warner for a long time, and over the years, honesty, loyalty and integrity have been our guide. We’re still the same people in the same locations, and those same values still drive how we work with you every day.”

The acquisition announcement is part of a larger rebranding campaign for BankNorth, which was formerly First State Bank of North Dakota. Check out additional campaign elements and the new BankNorth website.

Thank you to BankNorth for allowing Fredricks Communications to be part of this project, and to all Fredricks Communications partners who helped pull everything off so beautifully.

Caribou Love

A little love can go a long way… sometimes even to a comped cuppa.

 

Screenshot of Fredricks Communications tweet

This morning I was waiting in line at Caribou Coffee off of 25th Street South in Fargo. It wasn’t a very long line, but I figured I had enough time to put together a tweet.

My middle-aged fingers are pretty slow with the tapping (as my kids remind me every day, it seems), so the line dwindled while I pecked away at my iPhone keys. I wasn’t paying much attention, and just as I was finishing I heard a voice saying, “I can help you here, sir.” Of course I was keeping the barista waiting and there was a line behind me.

I stepped up to the counter, apologizing and explaining that I had been “…giving you guys a little love on Twitter.” 

“Really?” he said. “What’d you write.”

So I showed him. He was saying how cool that was and thanking me when the manager overheard. The manager took a quick glance. “Comp his drink,” he said to the barista.

And that’s how I got my free cuppa joe this morning.

How cool is that?

Here’s to the fine folks @cariboucoffee off of 25th Street South in Fargo, N.D., who’re over there working their butts off right now. If you get a chance, go show ’em some love. You might not get a free cup, but the people and the coffee are great.

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Copywriting: To Split or Not to Split

Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

youtube.com/fredcomm

It’s the second day of the work week, and you know what that means: It’s Tip Tuesday!

This Tuesday we’re talking about splitting infinitives and other verbs in marketing, advertising and public relations copywriting.

<watch the video>

Let me start out by saying I absolutely love The Grammar Girl and grammarist.com, two grammar sources that have given me some peace of mind lately.

You see, once upon a time I had a boss who had a hard-and-fast rule about split verbs and split infinitives. Split infinitives are verb phrases, like “to increase” that are split by a modifying word (usually an adverb).

  • We plan to increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months incrementally.
  • We plan to incrementally increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months.

Split verbs are split by a modifying word (again, usually an adverb).

  • We will respond to any issues that might come up quickly.
  • We will respond quickly to any issues that might come up.

It wasn’t just a rule, either; splitting a verb was verboten. With extreme prejudice. I started having nightmares about a grammar monster with huge, sharp, teeth coming to viciously devour me and the sentences I’d written that day.

<See what I did there? “…to viciously devour…”>

Thing is – and The Grammar Girl, grammarist.com and several other sources back me up on this – there is no such rule in English grammar. Turns out the boss was being a grammatical snob. Which – hey – who am I to criticize? That would be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

Thing is – and I say this to aspiring advertising, marketing and public relations writers all the time – in our world, we need to write like people speak. We need to build a rapport, a comfort level with the people seeing, reading or hearing our copy. And we’re never going to connect our clients to their audiences – even retired English teachers – by copywriting like pompous professors.

Besides, people split verbs all the time in everyday conversation. Which sounds better? You tell me –

  • I’m going to run to the store for some milk quickly.
  • I’m going to quickly run to the store for some milk.

Get beyond the split verb issue, and the sentence becomes even less academic –

  • I’m gonna quick run to the store for some milk.

But that’s a subject for another Tip Tuesday….

In your advertising, marketing and public relations, your copywriting needs to sound like you speak. Have a conversation with your audience. And, by all means, split away.

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BankNorth – We’ve Always Been Headed This Way

BankNorth logo

 

BankNorth is moving forward in a new direction. But the brand has always been headed this way.

BankNorth print ad - "Values-Based Banking. Always."For nearly 115 years, First State Bank of North Dakota has served customers and communities in rural North Dakota with honesty, loyalty and integrity. It’s been Values-Based Banking.

FSBND became BankNorth on July 20, 2018. And it’s still Values-Based Banking.

 

________________________

 

Congratulations to Fredricks Communications client BankNorth, which has officially changed its brand name from First State Bank of North Dakota (FSBND). FredComm is proud to have played a role in the rebranding and reintroduction effort.

For more on the renaming/rebranding process, check out the FredComm BankNorth page.

A huge thank you to FredComm’s project partners for your fantastic work:

Creative Monke 
Bock’s Office Transformational Consulting
Solberg Design
Kelner Communications
Knight Printing
Video Arts Studios

Of course, the greatest kudos go to BankNorth’s internal team. Well done!

The brand transition messaging will continue to evolve through the end of the year. Stay tuned!

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Copywriting: Remember the Passenger

 

Driver behind the wheel

 

Copywriting is Like Driving

At the most basic level, the goal of both copywriting and driving is to get people from one place to another.

  • A to B
  • Clueless to aware
  • Uneducated to informed
  • Disbelief to acceptance
  • Wet behind the ears to experienced
  • Making do or using your client’s product or service

How well you perform along the way ultimately depends on what your passengers – target market readers – take away and how they assess the experience.

The Open Road

My father taught me about placing the passenger at the center of the experience when I was 14 years old and had my learner’s permit. He kept his patience, somehow, as I slammed us through hundreds of jerky starts and chin-to-dashboard late stops.

“The safety of your passengers is your responsibility,” he said, “and one way you’ll know you’re doing a good job is if they’re comfortable on the ride.”

He told me to begin slowing for stops early so the other people in the car would never be pressed into their safety belts. Don’t slam their backs into their seats; ease into accelerations so they don’t notice. Make easy turns instead of sharp jags.

“If you’re doing it right, they’ll forget they’re in a vehicle at all,” he said.

Easy Riders

Copywriting and driving are both journeys.

The product of a good writer is so smooth that readers have no clue as to the challenge it was to make the narrative seem so.

The best writers paint word scenes so vivid that readers see the pictures on their minds’ movie screens, or even imagine they’re in the scenes themselves. I’m thinking now of some of my favorite authors, masters like John Steinbeck and E. Annie Proulx. Reading their novels, I forget I’m reading at all.

Advertising and marketing copywriters don’t have the luxury of pages upon pages to paint the vision, but we can strive for similar effect in shorter form. Usually it’s about getting readers to imagine themselves working with your client’s company, using their products or taking advantage of their services.

Along the way, we not only take their physical comfort into account, but their emotional ease, as well. We’ll use words and phrases that arouse something in them, directly point out the benefits of what we’re suggesting, give them unspoken (unwritten) permission to take the next step in the buying process.

It’s like turning up the heat in a chilly car, tuning the radio to the type of music our passengers like, inviting them to sit right up front where the action is or take it all in more passively from the backseat (a.k.a. addressing pain points, leveraging motivators and highlighting differentiators).

Easy, Not Dull

At the same time, copywriting can, and often should, be more disruptive than a smooth Sunday drive through the countryside.

From time to time the writer can purposely give passengers a jerky start or a stop-short, face-flat-to-the-windshield revelation. A screeching burst of rapid-fire clauses. A pause that affords a glance in the rearview. A sharp swerve that screws their hairdos straight up into the roof upholstery.

In other words, sometimes a copywriter’s fun can be the readers’ fun, too.

There Already

Take your passengers on an easy ride. Keep them interested and wanting to travel farther down the road, deeper into the brand story. Give them an abrupt halt when it’ll help them see things more clearly.

Remember, target market members’ comfort is the copywriter’s responsibility. Be an exceptional chauffeur, and when the experience comes to an end your passengers will ask, “Oh, are we there already?” Sure are.

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Tip Tuesday – It’s Not Literally Dangerous in Copywriting, But…

Graphic of a cartoon bomb

Let’s be clear. No limbs will go flying when you use the word “literally” in your copywriting. Never in the history of the world has a written word literally caused an explosion.

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicNevertheless, beware of using the word in your advertising and marketing content. Literally means something is fact, so using it to intensify a word or statement that follows is almost always incorrect.

“Our service will literally blow you away,” indicates your customers will, in fact, be lifted from their feet and tumble down the highway like so many tumbleweeds in a bad old Western when they experience your service. Or they will, in fact, be thrown back dozens of feet by a bomb blast.

Let’s be clear again. No one is going to take you seriously and expect to be lifted off of their feet, by wind, explosion or anything else.

But here’s the thing. What you’re trying to say, in a figurative way, is that your company’s service is incredible and your customers will be highly impressed and pleased.

Unfortunately, “Our service will figuratively blow you away,” doesn’t carry quite the same punch.

You just need to find a way to work that into your copy without resorting to literally or being insufferably dull.

Saying suspects, prospects or customers literally will be blown away isn’t dangerous – it won’t cause cancer and no one is going to get electrocuted – it’s just absurd. Your company won’t just look less than professional, it’ll look silly, like a company that really shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

If you see literally in your copywriting, a rewrite is in order. Seriously.

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Tip Tuesday – What Advertising, Marketing or Public Relations Costs

A bridge at sunrise

The Bridge to Everywhere

Everyone asks the question. “What’s it gonna cost?” for <this or that advertising, marketing or public relations service>?”

Fredricks Communications Tips GraphicFew are ever happy with the answer – “That depends.”

But it’s the most honest response, even if it is lacking precision.

Asking a creative firm, “How much is it going to cost to get a (your need here),” is like asking a construction company, “How much is it going to cost to build a bridge over the Red River?”

Neither the creative agency nor the construction company will be able to provide a reasonably accurate answer before finding out precisely what you want to get done and defining the scope of the work it’ll take to get you there.

A colleague recently gave the best answer I’ve heard in nearly two decades in this business:

“Somewhere between affordable and optimal.”

I understood precisely what she meant.

Ask me the question, and I’ll ask you a bunch more. We’ll talk. We’ll hash over the big picture. We’ll go back and forth on the details.

I’ll recommend advertising, public relations, online marketing, blog posts or a combination of those and a bunch of other communication tools, whatever I believe will build the best bridge between you and your customers or prospects. Then I’ll tell you what it’s going to cost. The number will be somewhere between affordable and optimal (good-better-best, anyone?), and I’ll stick to it, no matter how much time it takes me to do the job well. (Learn more about FredComm pricing.)

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Creativity Muscles: We All Have Them. We All Can Build Them.

Man in front of blackboard with huge, muscular arms drawn on board

Creativity is not a birthright.

It is not something you’re born with.

It’s not something you either have or you don’t.

Even so, you’ve probably heard something like this before: “Oh, wow, she’s sooooo creative,” or “I have no idea where he comes up with his ideas. I could never do that.”

I can’t say this strongly enough –

BALDERDASH!

Let’s Make That Baloney into a Sandwich

Creativity is something we develop, so I’ll revise my previous statement. We are born with creativity; it’s called imagination. And that means every single one of us is born with the potential for creativity.

Every. Single. Rootin’ tootin’. Ever lovin’. One.

Whether it’s creating campaign concepts (i.e., coming up with The Big Idea), copywriting, graphic design, photography, videography, audio or a thousand other endeavors, creativity is in our hands, our heads and our hearts. All we need to do is look for it or, alternatively, be willing to let it in (or out, depending on your perspective).

To put it yet another way, we all have a set of creative muscles. And like literal muscles, we can exercise them, build them into something awesome with practice and repetition.

Take a Whack at It

Roger von Oech’s timeless book, “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” is a great place to start.

Von Oech, founder of Creative Think, says creativity is the result of thinking about what you already know in new ways. “Look at the same thing as everyone else and think something different,” is his advice.

He also defines 10 mental locks that keep our minds from making creative connections:

  • The Right Answer
  • That’s Not Logical
  • Follow The Rules
  • Be Practical
  • Avoid Ambiguity
  • To Err is Wrong
  • Play is Frivolous
  • That’s Not My Area
  • Don’t Be Foolish
  • I’m Not Creative

Fuhgeddaboudit

Like Von Oeck, I suggest turning those “rules” on their backsides.

  • There is no right answer, or, there’s always more than one right answer.
  • Creativity can be illogical, and that makes all kinds of sense.
  • Rules are made to be bent, broken and beaten into submission.
  • Be practical and see how far you get. Hint: not very. Besides, what seems impractical right now might be the most practical idea or solution in the world once you’ve tested it out.
  • Be ambiguous. Equivocate. Confuse things, stir them up and see what you wind up with.
  • Make mistakes. No one ever learned much from their successes.
  • Fool around. Have fun. PLAY with your ideas and thoughts, fer cryin’ out loud.
  • Approach everything as if it is your area. Pull the totality of your life’s experiences into looking at things in different ways.
  • Edison failed 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb. Some great fool, eh?
  • Not creative? Rubbish.

Release yourself, let your mind wander, follow paths that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. You might be surprised where you arrive.

What is “Creativity,” Anyway?

Dictionary.com defines it this way: (Creativity is) the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

  • Imagination? Yes, absolutely.
  • Original ideas? Well… maybe.
  • Especially in art? No siree.

Are artists creative? Without question. But you don’t need to be an artist to be creative in your work.

Mathematics jumps immediately to mind. (I can’t personally attest to it; there’s a reason I work with words, not numbers. Even so.) Without creative problem solving, it’s unlikely Katherine Johnson would have ever figured out how to get NASA’s ships into space, into orbit and back again. (Check out “Hidden Figures,” the book or the film.)

Your accountant wouldn’t be able to use combinations of rules, regulations and programs to your advantage come tax time. A logistics manager wouldn’t be able to come up with more efficient delivery routes. And so on.

Creative Connections

Some say there are no new ideas, that new ideas are simply combinations of old ideas or new applications for old ones. I think there’s something to that. How many TV ads have you seen lately that combine two seemingly disparate ideas into something new?

Familiarity or expertise breeds creativity. The better someone knows a topic, practices a skill or understands a concept, the more likely it is they’ll be able to make connections between old ideas that lead to new ones.

An oldie but a goodie is the milk mustache and overall health. Got milk? More recently, an insurance company developed the personification of mayhem with hilarious effect. Another pulls together the idea of insurance and replacement of damaged takeout. Good stuff, even if you don’t like the pizza.

Think. Or Maybe Don’t Think So Dang Hard.

In my view, creativity is simply the difference between stop-criticize-worry and allow-imagine-innovate.

Whatever works. The point is, when you give yourself that whack, you’ll have to think something different, or think differently, or don’t think at all and just let your mind wander, instead. You’ll be forced to be – drum roll, please – creative.

Do your reps. Build up your muscles. Don’t give up. And always, always remember, you can do it.

Heck, anyone can. How do I know? Because I was one of those “I’m-not-creative” guys myself once.

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Tip Tuesday: In Order to Achieve Greater Impact…

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

To be more concise and effective, always edit out “in order” and simply leave “to” in your advertising, marketing and public relations writing.

You’ll improve the impact, the POP!, of your writing without changing meaning almost every time.

Example:

  • In order to achieve invigorating writing, use active voice.
  • To achieve invigorating writing, use active voice.

Example:

  • We provide technical training in order to increase your efficiency and reduce overall costs.
  • We provide technical training to increase your efficiency and reduce overall costs.

But what about that pesky “almost” above?

Purists will spew some grammar mumbo-jumbo about how “in order to” is a subordinating conjunction. Huh? They’ll also say that when you drop “in order” you lose the underlying meaning of the phrase, which more clearly conveys intent than “to” alone. Your intent is to achieve invigorating writing, they’d say, and “in order to” conveys that more clearly. Same goes for the desire to increase efficiency.

They’re right. After all, they’re purists; being right is their job.

But who the heck even knows what a subordinating conjunction is. Right? Plus, here’s the thing –

Randomly ask 100 people which is more correct in those situations – “to” or “in order to” – and I’ll bet 99.99 percent of them won’t know the difference. Or give a rat’s patootie.

Which brings us back to Rule #2 for marketing writing: brevity.

(Rule #1 is to answer the Golden Question of Marketing – What’s in it for me?)

Dropping “in order” keeps your copy shorter, punchier.

It might not seem like much,  but over the course of a longer brochure or training video, dropping the two extra words makes a difference.

If you’re writing a novel or an in-depth assessment of foreign affairs, by all means, write “in order to.” I don’t want you starting any wars because the intent of your sentences wasn’t absolutely clear.

Otherwise, go with “to,” especially in advertising, marketing and public relations.

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Tip Tuesday: The Magnificent Seven of Copywriting References

Fredricks Communications Tips Graphic

“Which reference books should copywriters have on their bookshelves?” I often get this question when I speak to groups. The quick answer is always, “Depends on the copywriter.”

As for this copywriter, I wouldn’t, and sometimes couldn’t, do the job without these seven magnificent tomes:

  • Dictionary – Once upon a time, this one was obvious, but with the advent of online resources like dictionary.com and thesaurus.com, many writers have ditched their big, heavy, bulky dictionaries. Not me. Dictionary.com is great for making sure I’ve spelled words correctly, and thesaurus.com for identifying synonyms I already know but have slipped my mind. But for alternative or deeper meanings, or spelling variations, I keep the ol’ Oxford American close. Granted, I don’t use it very often, but when I need it, I’m glad it’s at hand.
  • Associated Press Stylebook – Thanks to a former NDSU journalism professor, Lou Richardson, I learned how to use this invaluable handbook. Most news organizations in this region, along with many across the country, adhere to AP style, so I’ve referred to mine nearly every day of my writing career. AP purists will realize that I don’t follow it religiously from what they’d consider AP style errors in this post. All I can say to that is, marketing writing isn’t always the same as journalistic writing.
  • The Gregg Reference Manual – The Gregg is handy for just about anything you either can’t find in the AP or when the AP rules don’t apply, like formal business communications.
  • The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer
  • The Elements of Editing by Arthur Plotnik
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly – This is a great primer on marketing writing for the beginner and the seasoned veteran alike. I read it cover to cover – twice – before I started my first copywriting gig, and I still look back at it occasionally for specific thoughts, ideas or direction.

While there are more books on my shelves that I reference from time to time about advertising, brand development, copywriting, marketing and sales, like –

  • Newswriting from Lead to 30 by Metz
  • Positioning by Ries and Trout
  • Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage
  • Masello’s Roberts Rules of Writing
  • Made to Stick by Heath & Heath
  • A Kick in the Seat of the Pants and A Whack on the Side of the Head by Von Oech

– the seven at the top of this post are what I find indispensable in my day-to-day writing life. They’re my Magnificent Seven, constantly protecting me from the Malevolent Mistake Gang of bandits.

But only one copywriter really matters, and that’s you. Find the references that work for you, and for your purposes, actually read and use them, often, and your work will be better for it.

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