Thread Connected Content
is MSP’s newest independent creative agency — and it’s an overnight powerhouse, thanks to its cofounders’ combined decades of agency experience, a multidisciplinary approach to creative campaigns, a unique penchant for high-touch storytelling and one of the most unique internship programs around.
Launched in July on St. Paul’s East Side, Thread already has 30 employees and is hiring for a handful of additional positions: digital designers, account managers and others as the need arises.
Thread’s client roster, burnished by its cofounders’ and employees’ past professional relationships, is already wildly diverse: blue chips like 3M and Target coexist comfortably alongside public institutions like Mia, and MSP originals like The Wedge Co-op and FOOD BUILDING
“Our client strategy is a three-legged stool,” says Kim Rudrud, vice president. The first leg is “large companies with multiple brands and distinct visions,” like 3M and General Mills, she says. The second is the middle market, broadly defined: mostly MSP-, Minnesota-, and Midwest-based companies with eight- or nine-figure annual revenues and “similar cultural philosophies,” says Rudrud. And the third is “passion projects,” clients that more traditional firms might work with on a pro bono basis to burnish their creative bona fides and impress deeper-pocketed prospects.
“We’re not looking to leverage [the third leg] so that someone bigger and better walks through our door,” says Rudrud. “We’re actually passionate about helping these clients.” Earlier this year, Christiana Kippels, Thread’s director of accounts and business development, brought in a friend who’d just purchased St. Paul’s Treadle Yard Goods and sought to rebrand on a shoestring budget.
Thread’s diverse client base is reflective of its cofounders’ and employees’ diverse professional backgrounds. Many came from top-tier MSP creative agencies, like Campbell + Mithun (now simply Mithun) and Olson. Some cut their chops as internal communications and branding gurus: Kippels came over from Thymes’
product development department. Others have boutique backgrounds: Rudrud honed her storytelling intuition at WomanWise
, a marketing research consultancy that “uncovers insights into what makes people tick,” she says.
Thread’s diverse staff, in turn, supports an impressive range of in-house capabilities: market research, brand strategy, copywriting and graphic design, technical digital marketing work, video production and more. “We do have outside research partners,” says Rudrud, “but we handle the bulk of our research and all of our production work internally.”
According to Rudrud, Thread’s in-house approach sets the agency apart from MSP’s smaller independents — and even many of the region’s biggest players, which tend to farm out labor-intensive production to specialized studios. “It’s not an accident that we call ourselves a ‘studio,’” says Rudrud.
Thread has a couple other differentiators up its sleeve, too. Compelling stories, not overcooked data, form the nub of each Thread campaign. According to Kippels, other agencies have “veered away from the creative side of marketing and branding,” creating an opportunity for an agency willing to mount comprehensive, authentic and human-scale — if subjective — campaigns.
“Human relationships are messy in the best possible way,” she explains. “More than ever, [marketing] is about creating useful, authentic experiences.”
When it comes to messy and authentic, thread definitely walks the walk. The agency’s website deftly blends what you’d expect from a well-produced business property — succinctly described services, employee headshots and bios, “about us” copy — with edgy, interactive elements that drive interaction. Each service description, for instance, ends with an open-ended question and live tweet button, inviting visitors to loop their followers into the conversation. Thread’s “Connect” page is a constantly evolving social feed that changes daily. Even its website logo is interactive, morphing and changing color in response to qualitative social media interactions (“a major development challenge,” says Rudrud).
In its employees’ admittedly biased collective opinion, Thread offers MSP’s best creative-industry internship. Dubbed “Spool,” Thread’s three- to six-month program is “not your typical internship,” says Rudrud. “Spoolers” hail from diverse academic backgrounds — from graphic design and comp sci to English lit — and can choose from several openended programs (“blogs to code,” “apps to animation,” and others).
“In many cases, we just give [interns] cameras, send them out into the world and tell them, ‘See what you can find,’” says Rudrud. The current crop recently spent a week producing and editing creative content onsite at the FOOD BUILDING, for instance. The results, says Rudrud, were “amazing.”
“The Spoolers are our Ph.Ds of pop culture,” says Rudrud. “As digital natives, they see the world differently — they provide us with insights that we don’t have and help us tell stories that we couldn’t tell on our own.”