How to make the most of a 7-hour commute.

Last Friday evening the commute from my office to my home was 7 hours-long. Not 7 minutes. 7 hours. While that may not be surprising in cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles, it is outside the normal range most other places.

I left the office at 5pm and didn’t pull into my driveway until just after 11pm. You math wizards are probable thinking, ‘Bro, that is 6 hours!’ (Actually, I hope all of you are thinking that.) But it was 7 hours. Because I crossed a time zone in the middle of the drive.

The Reason

This reason the commute took 7 hours was not because of construction, an accident, weather or car problems. It was because I drove home from my office in Columbus, Ohio to my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Home Office Strategy

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I adopted a home office strategy. Which meant that I wanted to have an office every place I’ve had a home. The strategy allows me to regularly travel to the places I feel most at home. It means I can continue to spend time with the close friends I’ve accumulated across the country. It also means that I can hire former teammates again. And become a great local resources for my former clients. (That is if I am not adding them to my team too…) #foreshadowing

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Spending time with my friend Troy Allen, Founder of Rise Brands, is a great benefit of having a Columbus office. And look at that nuclear-strength light bulb over my head! #bigideas

The Weaponry C-Bus

The Weaponry has had an office in Columbus since March of 2019. We have a full-time creative team in that office. We are planning on adding more team members in Columbus by the end of the year as we continue to expand our presence in the Buckeye State.

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Ohio Weapons in The Weaponry Ohio

Making Magic

Last week in Columbus I met with people I am recruiting. I met with potential collaborators and potential clients. I introduced a couple of exciting brand-building side projects to my team, in which The Weaponry itself could be developing its own brands. We also edited 7 new videos and commercials for one of our best clients.

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Last Friday the Weapons ate at Johnnies Tavern, home of the Super Burgers. But I had my first fried baloney sandwich. Which tastes a lot like a hot dog sandwich.

Unusual Things

As I wrapped up my work day on Friday and prepared to head home to Milwaukee I did 2 things I don’t usually do. First, at 4:30pm ET I called the local Donatos Pizza in Grandview, and ordered 2 large pepperoni pizzas. If you haven’t had a Donatos thin crust pepperoni pizza, with at least 100 slices of pepperoni on each large pizza, you are missing out. It is in an elite class with In-N-Out Burgers and Chick Fil-A nuggets as an elevated version of a classic American staple.

However, the pizzas were not for me. They were for my wife and kids in Milwaukee who needed a Donatos fix. (They also asked for bread from the Beehive Bakery in Powell, and the store-made tortilla chips from the Whole Foods in Dublin, which we have not found at a Whole Foods anywhere else in the country.)

Calling All Callers

The second unusual thing I did was share a message on Instagram requesting people to call me. The message looked somewhat exactly like this:

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@adamalbrecht

Commute-I-Cating

When I drive alone I love to catch up with people on the phone. This trip turned into a catch-up fest. On my drive I caught up with friends and family in:

  • New York City
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Chicago
  • Atlanta
  • Houston
  • Minneapolis
  • Indiana
  • Pittsburgh
  • Milwaukee
  • Stevens Point
  • Madison
  • Appleton
  • St. Paul
  • North Carolina
  • Columbus
  • Milwaukee

Strengthen Your Bonds Like Barry

Keeping in contact with your people is really important. It’s how you invest in your relationships and continue to grow them. Unfortunately, most people spend very little time calling, texting or meeting up with people they haven’t seen in a long time. Those are exactly the people I love to reach out to most. Because the more recent your social interactions, the stronger your social bonds. (Bonds. Social Bonds.)

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Those connected road ways are great places to connect with your connections.

The Last Leg of The Journey

As I neared the end of my commute I drove through Milwaukee. It was 11pm CT on a  beautiful summer night as I rolled through Brew City. If you’ve never been to Milwaukee, it is as a nice of a place to be during the summer as anywhere in America. I had my window down, my sunroof open (despite the lack of sun) and my music up as I hit my last 15 miles.

It was then that I was greeted by 2 fun surprises in downtown Milwaukee. I saw 2 billboards The Weaponry created for the UW Credit Union. They stood tall and clear and bright against the Milwaukee night. They were created to promote the expansion of the UW Credit Union footprint in Milwaukee.

Billboard Thing #1

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Billboard Thing #2

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Having these new billboards greet me after 6.5 hours of driving was a treat. Seeing your work in place, grabbing attention and offering a smile is always fun. But at that hour of night, at that point in my drive, they felt like a couple of juicy red cherries on top of a juicy red day.

Key Takeaway

We only get one shot at life. So be greedy. Design a life that lets you combine all of your favorite things. Find work you enjoy. Spend time with the people you enjoy. Live in and frequently visit the places you enjoy most. Keep your relationships active. And live like you are on one epic roadtrip. Because you are.

A fresh new look for one of the most loved brands in Wisconsin.

Last summer I got a very interesting call from a friend. She said she was conducting research for the University of Wisconsin Credit Union. And that following the research they would be looking for an agency partner, in Wisconsin, to help rebrand them. She began telling me how the UW Credit Union was a remarkable organization, with great people who delivered an excellent member experience. But I stopped her before she could finish. I said ‘Oh, I know all about the UW Credit Union.’

(To skip the fun back story you can scroll to the bottom, DVR-Style, to see the new work. But you will miss some interesting points and a giggle or two.) 

Back In the Day (When I was raised I’m not a kid anymore…)

I am a proud University of Wisconsin Badger. On my 3rd day in Madison, my freshman year in college, I made what I thought would be a quick trip to the UW Credit Union near my dorm. But when I approached the UW Credit Union it seemed that all 43,000 UW students were already in line in front of me. The only other lines I ever saw that long in Madison were outside Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday mornings, and in front of the Kollege Klub on Saturday nights.

I joined what appeared to be the entire student body, and stood in the longest line of my life, holding all of the money I had ever earned. All to open my UW Credit Union checking and savings accounts. I thought this place must be special.

And it was.

You’re So Money, You Don’t Even Know You’re Money!

The UW Credit Union became my primary financial institution, and would be for the next 15 years. My first auto loan was with the UW Credit Union. I borrowed $3000, paid it off in 11 months, and felt like a financial baller. But in 2007 an exciting career opportunities came calling, and it was time for me to fly (…time for me to fly…). So I left America’s Dairy Land, and the domain of the UW Credit Union.

Leaving Wisconsin (The Wander Years)

I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and then on to Atlanta, working my way up to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Then in 2016 I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family.  I had worked with several esteemed financial institutions, including Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, and Huntington Bank along the way. And now I was hoping to put all of my financial experience to use with UW Credit Union.

They Meet

My friend Sue Northey introduced me to UW Credit Union’s Chief Marketing Officer, Anne Norman via email. We decided to meet for lunch. But I was in Milwaukee, and Anne was in Madison. So we met in Johnson Creek, an Outlet Malltropolis located directly between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

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Anne Norman, about to sing the theme song from Laverne and Shirley.

Anne and I met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s, which for the unfamiliar, is the Rainforest Cafe of Johnson Creek. We had instant rapport. Although I think Anne has instant rapport with everyone. We quickly realized we shared the same vision for how great the UW Credit Union brand could be. We began talking next steps. Which are always my favorite steps.

The Mission

We put together a thorough proposal that was quickly approved. And we started to roll. We were about to strip the branding down to the studs, and reconsider everything. The logo, tagline, colors and personality would all be re-examined. When we were done we would create a look, language and personality that matched how great the UW Credit Union membership experience really was. Then we would create a fully integrated marketing campaign to bring the brand to life.

Assembling The Team.

My fellow Weapons, Simon ‘Sharper’ Harper, Kristyn’ K-Lil’ Lilley, Kevin ‘Lower’ Kayse and I met with the UW Credit Union’s marketing team, including Anne ’40-Under-40′ Norman, Justine ‘Happy Tears’ Kessler, April ‘Spring’ Laabs, Jocelyn ‘Let’s Ride’ Vande Velde, Becky ‘Shock Value’ Hubing, Jill ‘Rickert’ Rickert, Jill ‘Addy’ Addy, Andy ‘Hugs’ Schubert and Melissa ‘Everything Bagel’ Stapleton (because she does everything, not because she likes everything bagels).

Discovery

We started by digesting all that had been gathered about the UW Credit Union. The research revealed some really important findings, including:

  1. UW Credit Union is a very special place.
  2. UW Credit Union members love their experience.
  3. UW Credit Union invests time and energy in our members well before a bank would find any financial value in them.
  4. UW Credit Union really cares about the communities it serves.

However…

There was a common misperception that UW Credit Union was a starter bank. (Gasp!) Which is totes not true. But the strong and valuable association with the University of Wisconsin made people think it was a financial institution for college kids and recent graduates. They didn’t realize that UW Credit Union was an excellent financial institution for all ages and stages.

It was time to set the record straight.

Tagline

We explored a wide range of taglines to summarize how we support our members from their teenage years through retirement. Life changes bring on different needs and opportunities. And at the UW Credit Union we want to help you no matter where you are on your financial journey.

The new tagline:

UW Credit Union. Here for every you.

We are Here, whenever you need us. Which talks to UW Credit Union’s customer service that made them Forbes #1 rated credit union in the state. We are also Here in Wisconsin, just like our members. It explains why we care about your community, your neighborhoods, and your causes. Because they are ours too. We love the emphasis on You, the member. Because as a credit union, we only exist to serve you and your needs. Every symbolizes our flexibility and ability to adapt as your needs change.

Logo

We wanted a logo that was cleaner, simpler and easier to use. We wanted a contemporary look. And we wanted to it give us an identity that was distinct from other UW-related organizations, including UW-Health and The UW System itself.

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The old logo. It was ready for a good makeover.

New UW Credit Union Logo

The logo highlights the first priority of the organization: you. By highlighting the U in the  name in our flagship color, and making it of equal weight and importance to the name of our institution, we also convey our sense of responsibility to those we serve: You, our members. We also opted for a lower case ‘u’ because it felt more approachable, which is a distinguishing factor of the UW Credit Union. Also, we have taken the liberty to use ‘U’ and ‘You’ interchangeably. #creativelicence

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The new logo. If you overlay the square and the circle from the old logo you can see the inspiration for the new U-Leaf shape.

Advertising

With the new logo, tagline and brand standards in place, we began putting the new brand look to good use. We started creating all manner of new materials in a fully integrated program

First out of the gate are these New Billboards.

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If you know anything about Wisconsin you know we love to jump around. (Jump! Jump! Jump!)
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A very wise plant once said, ‘It’s been a long time since I rock ‘n’ rolled.’
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One of these is typically immature, the other is typically mature. But not always.
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Eventually, we all transition.
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People in Wisconsin have a funny was of saying things…
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From George and Weezy to The Wiz!

There are also new print ads.

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We treat everyone like an insider. Even Soda Pop and Pony Boy.
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This will appear in the Milwaukee Brewers program. And maybe a few popular dentist publication.

Radio

Here’s a radio script currently on air. I would attach the audio file, but I would have to upgrade my account to do that. And it’s too late at night to take on such monumental tasks.

At The UW Credit Union, we like to say we knew you way back when. When your only mode of transportation was the heel-toe express. When the only wheels you owned were connected to a pedal. We knew you when the only home you had ever considered buying was on a monopoly board. When your financial future was defined by the next pay check.  We knew you when your family was still supporting you. It was then, when you greatest asset was your work ethic and a dream, that we first invested in you.  The UW Credit Union. Here For Every You.

Credit Card Design

We then helped redesign the new UW Credit Cards. We turned the design on its head. Literally. Instead of the traditional horizontal design, we designed this card for the chip reader era, with a vertical orientation. To keep the design clean and simple we moved all the hard-working elements, including card holder name, number, contact info and legalese to the back of the card.

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Creating UW Credit Union credit cards was an in-creditable experience.

What’s Next

The new brand will also impact UW Credit Union branch design, television commercials,  sponsorships, debit cards and more. But the member experience will remain as good as advertised. Because people love the UW Credit Union experience. And we have certainly loved working with this great brand and the great team behind it. We look forward to all there is to come.

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This billboard showed up across the street from The Weaponry, where it was born.