When It Comes to Client Work, None of Us Is as Smart as All of Us

By Alan Brew

The end of any year is a time for reflection, a time for looking back on highlights and achievements and taking, where possible, some satisfaction from our work with clients.

We had the privilege of working with some great companies and the leaders of those organizations in 2022. It is gratifying to help give shape and substance to a business strategy through the visceral resonance of a brand.

And, often, what we learn from clients can be just as rewarding as the work we do.

Sometimes, it can be a pleasing reaffirmation of something we already knew but had taken for granted. Other times, what we learn provides us with an entirely new and surprising perspective on our work.

Here are six things we have learned from our clients over the past year.

1. Work within the culture of a company

Our engagement with The Pedowitz Group (TPG) reinforced an enduring truth of our business — the importance of understanding the prevailing culture of a company and how an ability to work within it ensures a more successful outcome.

TPG is a leading professional services firm focused on revenue operations across sales, marketing, and customer success. Given the nature of its business, it should have come as no surprise that the team had its share of individuals with world-class marketing expertise and strong personalities. Having to navigate our way through the array of powerful voices and opinions, forged by years of experience and training introduced complexity that could have been a real challenge.

But the company, keenly aware of this dynamic, employed a process that included active internal program management led by a respected, strong, and proactive individual. Supported by the hands-on involvement of the CEO, the assignment progressed such that it positively benefitted from the culture, rather than the culture becoming an obstacle to progress.

2. Collaboration and partnership produce exceptional results

Cosylab is a leading technology company that delivers breakthrough expertise on software and electronics for the world’s most advanced systems and devices. As the world’s leading provider of control systems for the planet’s most complex machines, they push science to its limits.

Scientists and engineers are inquisitive and collaborative by nature, as we soon discovered to our advantage.

Their initial review of agency partners included the typical elements — phone calls with the representative leading the initiative, an RFP response, capabilities presentation to a core team, and a follow-up presentation to senior leaders. After narrowing it down to two agencies, we found ourselves in a very thoughtful dialogue with the Cosylab team about the challenges they face, the evolution of their unique business, and the concerns they have around a brand revitalization program.

Based on those insights, we were able to customize our approach, elaborate on future outcomes, and work together on fine-tuning a scope and budget. The untypical openness and partnership in the very early stages of the relationship provided valuable momentum going into the project and put in place a foundation of trust and camaraderie that has produced exceptional results.

3. Community involvement can bring a brand alive

Anchorum St. Vincent is a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, NM, dedicated to making a long-term, sustainable impact on the health of the community.

To reinforce this commitment to the community and its culture, local artists were invited to contribute pieces of art as part of an initiative to develop a collaborative working environment for the organization.

Since the inception of the initiative, Anchorum has incorporated many pieces of unique art handcrafted by local artisans. The organization’s ability to display works and tell compelling stories about their significance and origins has brought the Anchorum brand alive for both employees and visitors.

At the unveiling ceremony, an authentic Native American piece of woven art was delivered to Anchorum by renowned local artist Andrew Harvier. This hand-woven piece — an interpretation of Anchorum’s logo symbol — took nearly two years to create from individual strands of native willow branches. Along with others in the collection, this beautiful piece of art has become a tangible symbol of Anchorum’s connection to the community as an authentic, living statement of the organization and its purpose.

4. A bold strategic vision needs courageous leadership to make it real

With plans to enter a challenging new market, Jovia, a Long Island-based credit union, developed an eye-catching and mold-breaking campaign. It is supported by an evolved visual language that demonstrates one of the greatest qualities of the once sleepy local credit union: courageous leadership.

The new campaign places cartoon characters — a distinguishing feature of the brand system — into real images of Brooklyn and Queens, the target market. The combination captures the creativity and bustle of New York and portrays Jovia as a relevant, vibrant, and youthful organization, not qualities you see commonly associated with a credit union.

The strategic direction of the organization is brave but well-informed. The focus on becoming an innovative credit union, supported by a mold-breaking brand strategy positioning, is supported by a leadership team that understands that investment in a brand takes time to bear fruit.

5. Branding is not just a marketing initiative — cross-functional buy-in is essential

Successfully launching a new corporate brand is a challenge at the best of times. Combining four businesses into one and, in parallel, integrating them as components of an entirely new brand — that was the size of the challenge that client, Rachel Trindade, had on her plate last year.

The lead company in the whole process was 3PL Central, a leader in cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS) solutions. With the backing of its private-equity partner, Mainsail Partners, the company acquired three companies in quick succession: Skubana, Scout and Cart Rover. They became the core capabilities that together comprise the expanded offering of the new brand, Extensiv, which was launched in May, 2022.

In a podcast with BrandingBusiness, Rachel, CMO of omnichannel fulfilment leader Extensiv, recounted the taxing initiative that involved every aspect of the organization of the newly merged organization.

Asked for one piece of advice she would offer based on her experience, she said, “Make sure that a brand is treated as a cross-functional initiative and not just a marketing initiative. Getting the full cross-functional buy-in and bringing people along throughout the entire process is incredibly important.”

Add to this the exemplary leadership of CEO Andy Lloyd, who was actively engaged in the whole process — even to the point of dyeing his hair in Extensiv’s new brand color along with Rachel — and you have an inspiring story of leadership in the creation and launch of a successful new brand.

6. A little appreciation goes a long way

It is the greatest of privileges for us to be able to work with some of the most innovative businesses and visionary leaders. Our clients give us the opportunity to play a small but not insignificant role in their destiny as successful organizations. That, for all of us, brand strategists, writers, researchers, designers, is reward enough.

But, nonetheless, the power of gratitude in a small gesture has us walking on air.

So, thank you Expereo team. Your note of thanks was greatly appreciated.