When I was in school we had classes that “taught” us how to brainstorm and come up with ideas. For some reason that firmly placed in my mind the idea that good ideas came to you like a bolt of lightning.  All of sudden you had this amazing idea, like a lightning bolt in the night.   

Turns out, my young mind could not be more inaccurate to what I experience now. 

Most of the time a good idea takes time.  It involves back and forth between people and getting through a lot of bad ideas.  It is definitely a process and it is a process that is almost always going on at Old Hat in one way or another.  

It is interesting to me that my mood can dictate the best way for me to come up with ideas at the time.  There are three ways I typically brainstorm.  Each produces results, but which prefer varies. 

  1. The normal method of getting a group together and discussing it.  This is probably my favorite and one that I think produces some of the best results.  I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many creative and talented people.  Surrounding myself with those same people while brainstorming can be incredibly beneficial.  It allows me to borrow some of their genius and feed off of the creativity they bring to the table.  It produces results and can be fun. 
  2. Another method I use a lot is more isolated.  I will meet with the involved parties and get an idea for what they are looking to accomplish.  If there is copy that needs to be written or a template, I make sure to get that information.  Then I typically lock myself to my desk, put the head phones in, and start typing.  I type a lot of crap, but eventually I find my way to something that is worth sharing with others.  This method works great if you work alone and then take your findings to a group like above. 
  3. This is probably the most natural brainstorming for me and it is pretty much in complete isolation.  It is not something that I view as direct brainstorming, but it works.  In fact, this is probably more inspiration than it is brainstorming.  Sometimes ideas come that can be built upon and this results in brainstorming.  For me, I need to be completely relaxed and not thinking about a problem.  That is when good ideas tend to come.  Interestingly enough this never happens for me at a convenient time.  In the shower. Fishing. Hiking. Working in the garden.  On vacation.  It seems that I have better (or more useful) ideas the more relaxed I am.   

    All of these instances are places when good ideas come, but not a place where it is easy to record the notes.  My girlfriend hates when she sees me walk off talking to my phone when we are on vacation, but I have to record my thoughts.  Siri is a great help for this and while I may seem like a crazy person, I usually have her take my notes.  I have also been given some waterproof writing pads.  I can take these in the shower or out in the rain and write anything without worry about the water.  

Brainstorming can be hard.  Coming up with new ideas is hard.  However, I have found that the more I learn about myself the easier it becomes.  Finding that right balance of focus and relaxation is key for me.  


How do you brainstorm?

A few weeks ago, we held our semi-annual Staff Infection which is our version of a staff retreat. This year's was all about Corporate Multiple Personality Disorder and I think the session went really well. I blogged about the process we used to determine our company's personality HERE

Then I was asked to speak at the Big Ten Marketing Meetings in March and I needed a topic to speak on. I had just finished the presentation to my staff and I got to thinking about how valuable this might be to an athletic department. So I tweaked the presentation a big and went up to Chicago to talk to the universities in the Big Ten about making sure their departments weren't suffering from multiple personality disorder.

I've been presenting to the Big Ten marketing folks for 9 years... and I've never had the response to a presentation like I did to this one. I had multiple people come up to me afterward asking for me to email the presentation to them so they could do the exercise with their department. Many others told me that it was the best presentation they'd had at the marketing meetings. So I began to think that maybe I was on to something.

I believe that many companies, organizations and athletic departments suffer from this condition... the condition of sending mixed messages because their staffs don't know what voice they should be speaking in. They don't know their organization's personality. And since there's no great tool for a company personality test, I developed one myself. I've been asked to present this at a local Rotary Club in April and I'm hoping that I have the opportunity to present on this topic more in the future. It's something I'm passionate about and something that I think could be very beneficial to many organizations.

So, if you're in need of a speaker or presenter at your company meetings or gatherings, and think this could be of value to you, shoot me an email at zac@oldhatcreative.com


Great staff photo, huh? Only, that's not us. And that will never be us. We don't wear power suits or ties. We wear jeans, t-shirts, ballcaps, athletic shorts... pretty much whatever we want. 

I was looking at our "About Us" page the other day and I couldn't believe how corporate looking I had allowed it to become. All our staff photos looked like we belonged in a photo like the one above. But that's not us. So I decided to spend my morning getting US back into our about us page. There are no major changes here but it's a much better representation of who we are than it was before. This page doesn't include our entire staff, by the way. Just the people you're likely to come into contact with when you deal with us. Though after spending some time working on this page, I think we probably need to get our entire staff on here.

Anyway, take a look at the revised About Us page.

Everyone is better than me in some way and from that is how I learn.  

That is one of my favorite quotes or sayings or whatever you want to call it.  When Tricia asked for life advice for her blog a couple weeks back, that is what I gave her. It comes from one of my grad school professors who really was a walking, talking quote book.  When I look over my notes from Doc Higgins' class, everything seems like a quote you keep somewhere that you see everyday, but for some reason this is the one that resonated with me the most. 

A couple months back I decided to take on a project for my family and honestly, my own desire.  My grandfather, who turns 91 today, never spoke much about his time spent in WWII.  I have blogged in the past about him because he was a big influence on my life, but that influence is not something I ever associated with his wartime experience.  However, ten years ago he got the motivation to tell his story and managed to write it all down.  The project I undertook was to type that out and get it in a digital format that I could preserve and back up.  The writings cover his time spent in Europe and centers around the Battle of the Bulge. The last section is a series of letters his father wrote to him while he was overseas.  I never knew my great grandfather.  For that matter, my father barely knew him as he died when my dad was ten.  These letters are the only connection I have ever felt with my great grandfather and I am so grateful to have them.  

How does any of this relate to the start of this blog?  Good question.  It relates because of what I have learned by reading the writings of a man who has been dead for longer than I have been alive.  I know there is so much to learn from our history and the great people that came before us.  I think I just never thought about learning from one of my ancestors in this way.  I am not a great writer but I do it often enough that I can occasionally write something worth reading.  I have had seven years of schooling to help me develop some skill.  I never thought I would read my great grandfathers words and be inspired by them.  I know enough about him to know that he graduated from Texas A&M, but my understanding of his life did not relay how well spoken/written he was.  

I have found that people who know the least about a problem have more remedies by far than the poor sucker who is trying to get the job done. 

From my limited experience handling organizations I have come to the conclusion that an administrative officer has a great opportunity, and even greater obligation, to study the men with whom he is associated and to have an honest interest in their individual welfares.  It is my conviction that if a man studies his fellow-men sympathetically, and not critically unless deserved, he unconsciously fits himself better to discharge his responsibilities.  

Those are two of the quotes from his letters that stood out to me.  The last one is similar to things we discussed in business management classes.  I am amazed by his insight and ability to nail his points with a far greater understanding than I thought a man living in Galveston, Texas in the 40’s would be able to do.  He had less schooling and far less opportunity than I did and yet he is by far more profound than I have ever managed to be.  

What is even more interesting to me is that I have managed to find tendencies in the way he writes that I have as well.  I am not going to tell you writing is hereditary, but it is amusing to me that the voice in his letters is similar to the voice I use when I write certain things.

Not only did reading these writings help me to learn about a man I never knew, it also allowed me to get to know a man I have known my whole life even better.  If anything, I have a true understanding of why I can be a smart ass and don’t always do that well with authority.  Thanks Grandpa. 

If you are still reading this you may be wishing I would wrap this up OR you could even be sitting here wondering if this blog is like one of those movies that you keep thinking is going to end and is wrapped up, only to have the scene switch and another story be told.  Almost there…

Next week Ashley, Hannah, and I will be attending the Sports Engagement Forum in Kansas City.  I am on a panel discussing digital fan engagement and there are several other sessions over the two-day period.  I am going to this as an expert to speak on a panel but there will be so many opportunities to learn.  We are experts at what we do at Old Hat Creative but that does not mean we are done.  We want to be your experts for all of your marketing needs and the way we do that is by continuing to learn.  Continuing to better ourselves, our processes, and our products.  Next week, three of us will embark on a trip to learn as much as we can, so we can continue to produce the work you need.  And if you happen to be heading to KC next week, let us know.  We would love to chat with you. 



Oh, and happy birthday!

Yesterday at our mid-year Staff Infection, Zac asked us to pick a project from 2014 we worked on or worked with that we really liked. This list could really go on and on as there are hundreds to pick from. A few projects mentioned yesterday are still being finalized and are almost ready for release - stay tuned as more great stuff is always coming out of this place! And like a parent with their children, it's hard to pick a favorite. But here are some of the highlights…


Zac, Kevin and Ashley - Fangage quizzes

These were designed for Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and Baylor plus one for Old Hat


Tanner - Varsity O Club website


Dustin and Stevie - Cincinnati video shoot 

Kelby - Exposure stories on our video shoots

Hannah - Various video shoots and visiting clients including traveling to some new places this year such as Wyoming or Central Arkansas

Deb and Robert - UNT Derby

A close second for Deb was the Wyoming football intro with time lapse of the Wyoming landscape

Jessica - Duke men's basketball floor projection

and here's a clip of the animation in action.

Huff -Texas Tech Fearless Fan campaign

Geoff - Georgetown men's basketball poster

Jared - Frisco College Baseball Classic logo

Tricia - Old Hat 10th Anniversary posters

Douglas - Utah Gymnastics campaign

Justin (me) - Florida State men's basketball media guide

Today we have our mid-year Staff Infection.  We will sit down as a company and talk about what we plan to do in 2015 and how we plan to accomplish it.  While this meeting always takes away an afternoon or two of work, I look forward to this day.  It is a unique opportunity that Zac gives his employees and something that helps us understand where Old Hat Creative is heading.  

In meetings like this we may have to deal with difficult decisions.  We may make them as a whole company or provide our input so Zac can feed off of that to make his decisions.  This can be difficult for anyone.  

I have found that most people have their own process when it comes to making big decisions.  I have also found that most people are willing to tell you about how they make difficult or important decisions.  To be honest, I do not think I have found a tried-and-true method for efficiently coming to conclusion on the larger matters in life.  If I had to explain it, it would probably be something like this: 

Step 1) Don’t get a full nights rest the entire time you are struggling with said decision.

Step 2) At least five times, think you have made your mind up only to have something remind you about why you should change your mind. 

Step 3) Stare blankly at a wall or a sunset or a tree or your dog until he comes over and hits you with his paw. 

Step 4) Ask lots of peoples advice but don’t really respond to what they say because you are deep in thought and make them feel like you are not listening. 

Step 5) Get mad at yourself for taking so long to make a decision and force yourself to finally decide. 

Step 6) Repeat all above steps in any order you want.

I am pretty sure that is not an efficient way to come to a conclusion, but it is what I find myself doing most of the time.  I probably change the order up quite drastically, but I am sure I cover each step in some form or fashion.  And that is a big reason as to why I enjoy Staff Infection.  We are able to get the people who care the most about our company in a room and hear what they have to say.  I do not have to go through my usual steps.  The thoughts and opinions that come out of these meetings are from people who have a vested interest in the future of Old Hat and we are able to do it in a setting where people are comfortable enough to speak their mind.  

Feel free to borrow or steal my awesome decision making steps above and be thinking about all of us Old Hatters as we get infected this afternoon. 

With the start of the new year there is always some time spent going over what happened in the last year.  Whether going over financials or marketing plans or the whole year in general the beginning of a new year can end up with a lot of talk about the previous one.  Even if you look through our blog over the last week there are quite a few mentions of 2014 and probably more than 2015.  

However, there is one thing that we did early in 2015 that is completely about this year.  We launched superfan5k.org and released the information for this year’s Super Fan 5k.  There will be a few changes this year and a few new additions but it will still be the same enjoyable time as years past.  

Check out SuperFan5k.org and get registered for this years race. 

On Thursday, I am headed to El Dorado (like tornado), Arkansas to visit my sister and her family.  My nephew turns five today and his birthday party is on Saturday.  I am a bit embarrassed to say that this is the first birthday of his I have attended.  He made sure to lock down my commitment early last year as he had already decided he wanted a soccer party.  It turns out his fondness of soccer comes down to my obsession with the sport. 

I love soccer and have since I was four.  The only reason I started playing the sport is because a doctor thought it might help with my asthma.  Then it turned into a way to keep me exercising between baseball seasons.   Add in the ‘94 World Cup and Fox replaying F.A. Cup games at random times, and I was hooked.  

My nephew has asthma but has not had soccer recommended to him to help.  His parents, both great athletes in their own right, couldn't care less about the sport, so I took it upon myself to make sure he was introduced.  He has owned Manchester United gear from the get-go and one of my first gifts to him was a blow up soccer goal and ball.  He loves kicking the ball around enough that I get a regular flow of soccer related videos that could make even the most ardent hater of soccer smile.  

Which brings me to a slightly relevant point for this blog.  How did you find your fanhood?   Or more importantly, how did your fans find theirs?  I find it interesting how I became a Manchester United fan.  Marketing.  I have supported them since I was nine or ten years old and came to support them with no family influence.  Around that time, United was at the beginning of a twenty-year period of dominance of England, and at times, Europe.  They amped up their marketing and distribution of television rights to all areas of the world.  On a Saturday morning in south Texas, I was able to stumble upon a replay of United playing in the F.A. Cup.  I recognized the club name from one of the teams on a video game and started watching.  A year later, I saw this goal and wanted to be Cantona.  Twenty years later, I spend money buying gear, follow the team on Twitter, pay to see them whenever I can, and deck my nephew out in everything United.  

It all started with a replay of an old game and some marketing.  I am a lifelong fan.  I am up early every weekend watching and I am going to give my nephew every opportunity to do the same.  

How are you reaching out to new fans?  How are you setting up the newest members of your community and making sure the seats will be filled in twenty years?  

A lot of this comes from your existing community.  Fans bringing fans.  That comes from the community you establish and the feeling of belonging that your fans bring to the table.  

At Old Hat, we Amplify the Sports Experience.  That is our standard line and that is what we pride ourselves in doing.  If you ask Zac why he does this, he will share a story or two about going to Oklahoma football games with his father.  Every sports fan has stories like this, some explanation of how they got to where they are in supporting THEIR team.  We want to help you create those stories.  We want to make sure there are fans with amazing memories creating even better memories in your stadium for the next 20 years.  We want to help you Amplify the Sports Experience.



Oh and Happy Birthday!

Yesterday Old Hat was up in Oklahoma City for a Minor League Baseball convention.  It ended with a party at Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks.  

It was nice to be among MiLB people at the event.  I spent the beginning of my career working with mostly minor league teams on their websites.  It was always interesting work.  Minor league teams do some incredibly unique things with their marketing and even more unique things with their gameday experience.  If I had a dollar for every web page I built with some freakishly large, quadruple stacked, bacon wrapped, food creation; I would have at least $30.  These teams make use of what they have and work their tails off to deliver for their fans.  

I was happy to be back amongst the MiLB people, and as Old Hat gears up to do work for them, I keep thinking about the similarities we share with the teams.  We do a few goofy things at Old Hat.  Things you typically would not expect from a marketing company and we always work our tails off for our clients.  I am looking forward to working with the teams.  Check out some of the photos from last night at Bricktown Ballpark. 

Writing is hard. 

If I could get away with it, that is probably all this blog would say.  Constantly creating new and relevant content is a challenge.  I blog one to two times a month and still struggle to come up with ideas that actually make sense to go on Old Hat Creative’s blog.  Old Hat Creative is what I do for a living and I still struggle to write coherent and entertaining sentences about what I do.  Life is interesting enough that I should be able to find a few interesting things to write about. 

In the past, I have blogged about writing drills that I was taught at a young age and how I use(d) those to keep my skills fresh and sharp.  You know?  The whole sharpen your axe speech?   

Those are topics that interested me and were easy to write about.  I used to drill myself all the time to make myself a better writer, but lately my axe has gotten a bit dull.  I still write for Old Hat when needed, but I am not doing what I should be to make myself better.  Ahh, the comfort zone…

We all know about it.  Whether it is in a relationship with a significant other or the relationship to a skill you once wanted to perfect.  You get comfortable.  You obtain a level of proficiency that surpasses most people and you rest on your laurels.  We work in the sports industry and there are countless examples of teams getting in this comfort zone.  See Miami Heat 2014 NBA Finals and GO SPURS GO!

And that is the challenge.  Do you have enough motivation or desire to constantly be improving yourself, your craft or just sharpening your axe in general?  It is not something that is easy to do.  A lot of people get into this industry because they are or were athletes and finding this motivation was always easy when playing sports.  “Oh that guy, kicked me in the shin last time… I am going to tear him apart this year.” Every game presents you with an opportunity to get one years worth of motivation, but when we get to the real world and out of athletics, it can be more difficult to find that motivation.  

That elusive motivation that gets us to improve ourselves in areas others may not think we need improving.  For me, it is not the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning; it is the thing that keeps you awake at night.  Laying there thinking about how it happened and what you wish you would have said or wrote or done… that is what motivates me.  

I am lucky to work where I work.  I know that and try to remember that every day.  The last few months have not been easy for me outside of work and that is not how I usually want to go into our busy season.  I like to be well rested and have myself fully prepared for the busy season, but that did not happen this year.  However, that is where the people I work with come into play.  I am lucky to work here for the all the cool stuff we do, but I am also lucky to be surrounded by such good people. The people here motivate me to sharpen my axe.  It can be as simple as Kelby forcing me to blog twice in one week. Realizing that at one point I would have no issue writing two good blogs in a week because I was always practicing is a wake up call. Deb calling me out on something I said and making me prove it or at least provide reasoning.  This makes me better.  It reminds me of the work that went into getting here and what it will take to continually improve.  

Writing is hard and so is finding motivation.  You will always find yourself falling into one comfort zone or another.  How you pull yourself out of those is up to you and will go a long way in determining how long you stay successful or how successful you become.  You can choose the attitude you take into a situation and ONLY YOU can choose what motivates you. 

At Old Hat we like to challenge ourselves.  Whether building a website that will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, doing a video shoot sixty feet underground, or creating videos/posters that no one has ever seen anything like, we like a challenge.  Clients are great at challenging us and we welcome any challenge you can lay at our feet. 


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