Another Virtual Brand Camp Success: Mangrove

No conference room? No problem. 

Many of our clients don’t call San Diego home, thus Zoom meetings and virtual Brand Camps have become second nature to our team. The key is clear communication on expectations, and to be fully present on calls as you would be in person. Slack off, game face, on. 

We felt right at home collaborating with the Mangrove team over the past two weeks, helping uplevel their brand as they continue to grow their remote team of talented web developers and designers along with a roster of conscious-forward clients.

Curious about their name? Mangrove trees are flexible plants that help other organisms thrive. Their incredible root systems span land and water to protect shorelines and nearby creatures. Our new visual identity nods to these facts, celebrating Mangrove’s mission to help good companies do great work while staying adaptable as an organization.  

We’ll share more details and the full identity once they roll out the new brand. In the meantime, Hio is another virtual Brand Camp success worth peeking at.

Destination: Bohavn

Shedding light on our recent brand design work for Bohavn, a micro housing development venture to be located at Powder Mountain in Eden, Utah. The location attracts some of the brightest and most artistic individuals around the world looking to enjoy connection and solace.

Destination branding is always a unique challenge because it requires capturing the essence of a location, often at a place we have yet to visit. 

Luckily, close collaboration with our client, asking the right questions, and some very talented creative chops on our end (it’s ok to pat ourselves on the back here and there) led to a new brand centered around intentionality, practicality, and curiosity. 

We developed a new name, Bohavn, that combines Bo (Swedish for ‘nest’) and Havn (Danish for ‘harbor’), alluding to the development’s Scandinavian design and intended feeling of comfort/coziness.   

The visual identity is a conceptual nod to the surrounding landscape of mountains, sky, and sun. Bohavn will incorporate sustainable design to ensure its footprint honors the environment, and the identity system reflects this. 

Rebranding Island Stone

After 20 years of building a solid reputation in tile and interior design circles, Island Stone was ready to up-level its brand for the next 20 years. 

Island Stone had become synonymous with pebble tile despite offering products spanning glass, timber, and other stone tile lines. In addition, the traditional showroom distribution model for the industry was increasingly evolving to more unique e-commerce models directly targeting consumers.

Due to these factors, Island Stone recognized the need to evolve its perception in the marketplace beyond pebble tile, especially if more consumers would be experiencing the brand. 

Often, the way to up-level and move forward is uncovering where we came from. Our brand strategy and visual identity evolution for Island Stone celebrates its founders’ spirit of adventure and reputation for quality materials. 

By amplifying the emotional traits of Island Stone (vs. functional pebble tile), we helped elevate the company to be a more valuable and experiential lifestyle-bound brand ready to attract both showroom and consumer audiences alike. 

Explore the full case study here.

FINterview Series: Hillery Kemp

Meet Hillery Kemp, Four Fin’s Brand Strategist and gifted marble collector. 

What lights you up?
Truly well executed brands, Ah-ha moments, paper and stationery, finding marbles randomly, and inspiring people/companies making our world a better place. 

Who do you look up to?
Anyone who marches to the beat of his/her/their own drum. By that I mean the ones out there who don’t settle for the status quo. The ones who know what to prioritize in their lives — be it family, travel, creating something incredible — and go do it. The ones who are unafraid to say no. 

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
Our posture for openness, transparency, and clarity. I can also be myself around here and I can’t say that about every job I’ve had, but maybe I am just growing up and growing more comfortable in my own skin. 🙂 

Dream Client?
Oh my. LEGO and Cotopaxi come to mind. I am always in awe of the brands that do it right. FROM is pretty cool too!

Connect with Hillery on LinkedIn

The “safe” choice for your rebrand actually holds a ton of risk

Courageously choosing a brand that sets you apart is not easy. Even if your stakeholders agree that it’s time for a bold change, there still might be the feeling of being unsure how it will be received.

Will our audience hate it? Will it be too out there? You might weigh the options of spending on focus groups. You might present the new brand concept to your board or investors to get their feedback. You show it to a broader internal group to get feedback. Everyone has an opinion. Some absolutely love it. Some are impartial. Others want to see what alternative options there were that lead you to this choice.  

Caution: This is where dangerous decisions are made. 

In some instances, in business and relationship building, it’s great to compromise. It’s great to meet in the middle, find common ground and please as many people as possible. In other instances, it waters down strong approaches. Chris Voss champions this concept in Never Split the Difference.

When it comes to branding, the truth is, you don’t need everyone to love it. You need a group that loves it. You need a loyal following that will help spread your brand organically. You don’t need everyone to be on board. If they “love” it, it will be because they relate to what you’re trying to do. They will be excited that you “get them.” This is true internally too. Employees that grab on to your brand will help your business grow much faster than employees who “are fine with it.”

As the old marketing adage goes, “appeal to everyone and appeal to no one.” If we’re taking stock of the risks of growing a business, “appealing to no one” should be high on your list of pitfalls to avoid.  

Tl;dr

If you compromise and settle on a brand strategy or visual identity that is safe… it will inspire no one. Instead of a core audience who organically promotes your brand because they strongly relate to it, you’ll have a larger number of people feeling mediocre about your brand… and that’s the riskiest move you can make.

Should you Invest in Branding?

When you are ready to move past your company’s humble beginnings, and develop a lasting brand based on strategic core concepts, the first question that often comes up is, “What does working with an outside firm cost, and will it be worth the spend?” 

The answer can vary from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the firm you work with. Yeah, I realize that’s a big range. We can tell you that our foundational Brand Strategy and Identity Design programs start at $10K and go up depending on your specific goals, needs and challenges. 

We’re not about to tell you to invest in professional branding without a strong business case behind it, so we made a handy flowchart to help you decide if now is the right time for you. 

Every brand is different. This is meant to be a reference based on our experience. When you are in the right stage of growth, and choose to invest in a re-brand, it pays off.

Some of the results our clients have shared with us are below:

  • A new million dollar partnership was made due to increased trust in the vision and future of the company. – Water Purification Technology Client
  • Prices were raised due to the company reaching a new level of clientele after a re-brand effort. – Consumable Goods Client
  • Teams are re-invigorated and inspired to drive their company forward. – Multiple Clients
  • New levels of talent are attracted to the company. – Multiple Clients

It’s impactful to see the returns for our clients, which is why we love what we do. We hope you found this chart useful. If you are still not sure whether a rebrand is right for you, we’d love to learn more about your specific challenge. Reach out and let’s chat. 

FINterview Series: Jen Derks

Meet Jen Derks, Four Fin’s CEO and Creative Director. She makes the balance of business and ridiculous creativity look like a stroll in the park. She makes surfing look pretty easy too. 

What is the most uncomfortable thing you have done?
My friend Marina and I got in the car of two people we had just met at a bar the night before, and headed on a three-day Australian road trip.

What did you want to be growing up?
It shifted around a lot, usually between a hot-dog on a stick girl, a National Geographic photographer, or an associate (not owner) at a paper boutique or Kinkos. So you could say my ambition came later in life. 

What’s your 30 second story?
I grew up an extreme sports junkie in San Diego, schooled myself on advertising and design in Oregon, and followed my future husband to Alaska where I started my career in design, marketing and advertising. Six years later, I dragged him back to San Diego to settle down, start two businesses, have two kids, build a house, and wonder where all of our free time went. I identify as a gen-xer, which Macoe says is a very millennial thing to say. Enneagram 3.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
All. The. Things. If I have to pick just one, it’s the team.

What is your dream vacation?
A Costa Rican surf, art, and yoga retreat with my closest people. #predictable

Find more Jen on LinkedIn

Take your marketing for a spin without flying off the highway

Tim Patch, Unsplash

‘What is consistency in marketing?’ Hearing this question nearly made me fall over in my chair snoozing. Probably a bad thing to say coming from the person who received her degree in marketing, right? I say this in all honesty though, because the marketing of today is not the same as it was when I painstakingly attempted to memorize the ins and outs of those four ‘P’s’ many moons ago (free stickers to the first person who emails me with them hillery@fourfincreative.com). 

Okay, I’m not that old, but marketing was something I studied back before ‘Content Marketing’ was a gleam in Hubspot’s eye and 11-year-old ‘Influencers’ weren’t pocketing millions in YouTube ad money. 

So, before I lost it wondering why I didn’t think of the unboxing phenom or some cool wanderlust Insta account with countless sponsorships, I sat back in my chair and asked…W T F is ‘Marketing’ today? And, if I could even get my head around it’s multiple facets, how does consistency come into play? Who is killing the game when it comes to having a solid, sustaining strategy?

Branding: Marketing’s guardrails 

Thank goodness I chose to pursue the path of branding…the holy grail of foundation-setting and, ultimately, consistency. Without it, myself and countless companies would be face down in a gutter somewhere.

Why? Because branding is ground zero for defining the core of who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world. This is what we do on the daily here at Four Fin, so I won’t overindulge, there’s plenty more where that came from (let’s have coffee). 

When we start with a core brand concept and define the core brand elements, every decision made — from marketing to social media to customer service — better be informed by the brand. Simply put, think of your brand as the guardrails that will keep your marketing engine safely on the highway. 

Marketing: Your Lambo ready to go for a spin

Wait. Do you even want a Lambo? Maybe you’re the Prius type…or a classic VW fan like me. At this stage, since we are now blazing down metaphor highway, marketing is less about what you want as a business and more about what your customers want or need…Do they need the speed of the Lambo, the zero-emissions of the Prius, or the cool factor of the classic? 

Yours truly in her ‘74 classic VW Bug

A clear understanding of what your customers want, value, crave, etc. is at the crux of marketing and this hasn’t changed since prehistoric times. What has changed, is where we are meeting customers to communicate the value our brand provides and how. Enter the mind melting, infinite list of marketing tactics in use today. Pause though, and remember that brand is here to help.

If our brand concept is clearly defined (let’s go with ‘Exploration,’ for instance), everything from our name, visual identity, messaging, and vibe will echo this concept; keeping us from flying off the highway. And since we did our customer research, we (hypothetically) know our customers value luxury, curated experiences, and nostalgia. Combine the brand concept and customer insight, and can’t you just picture our Land Rover Defender cruising through the Moab desert? (LET ME DREAM).

landroverusa.com

When brand and marketing unite to deliver authentic experiences, it’s a seamless, and beautifully natural thing to witness. Factory and adventure tours, mouth-watering Insta shots, and high-end competitions most certainly capture hearts and minds of the Land Rover customer, but doesn’t it just make sense?

instagram.com

This, of course, is just one example of a well known and established brand, but just plain smart because they’ve established guardrails with a solid foundation (brand strategy, core elements) and deliver key experiences that marry both brand and customer desire in a consistently rad way. 

So, consistency in marketing is really more about consistency of brand, and what highway we should cruise down with those brand guardrails intact to meet our customers and invite them along for the ride.

Grab the keys and let’s go!

FINterview Series: Jess Winet

Meet Jess, Four Fin’s Director of Operations and Talent. She’s a master of ALL the details we don’t even think about and ensures our socials always look slick. Let’s learn more about our Americano-sipping Enneagramer (she’s a 1, obvi)…

What can you not stop playing on Spotify?
Brightest Lights by Lane 8 (our office listens to A LOT of Lane 8, sorry, you all love me).

Who do you look up to/ who is your role model?
Obvi answer – Brené Brown.  For all the reasons.  She is the pioneer on understanding vulnerability, and how showing up as our authentic selves is the most valuable (and productive) gift we can contribute in relationships.  She has brought me, and the Four Fin team, “Clear is Kind” in framing how we work, give feedback, and share ideas.  Total badass, follow her now.

When are you at your happiest?
When in WARM weather, sipping an iced coffee, at my sculpt class, listening to live music, having weird deep conversations, and when things are beautifully organized and executed.

Who’s your dream client?
This is going to be a tie between Michelle Obama and the USWNT. Both are incredibly inspiring to me, and are leading examples of how to create positive waves of change. Both have powerful brand identities that are authentic to their mission. I can only imagine organizing a joint event for these two (call me!)

Find more Jess via LinkedIn

Visual Identity: The company your logo keeps

There are a lot of ways to define “brand” and, even, to build them. Hopefully this post will help you understand what we mean when we talk about your “visual identity.” We’ll break down why it’s an important element of your brand, and why it’s so important to think big picture about design. 

So, what do we mean by “visual identity”? Is that the same as a “brand” or “logo”? Isn’t “branding” what we focus on at Four Fin? The visual identity is only one part of how we define and approach branding. Let’s start there first. 

Branding

We believe a brand should inform everything, beginning with the brand strategy and rippling out through core elements and experiences.

So, in that sense, the brand is the heart of the company– full of passion, driven by emotion, tested by values, and relentlessly in search of authentic connections. Any action your company takes, policy it initiates, conversation it has with consumers – should all come from the core brand, working in unison to move the brand from something unseen below the rib-cage, to something worn proudly on your company’s sleeve. 

Once you understand that the brand is the core that informs everything, you also understand how the visual identity cannot be created without uncovering it. The ‘visual identity’ is simply the visual representation and communication of the brand to the world.

“Oh, so by visual identity you mean the logo right?” Yes, and… 

Logo

The logo is one part of a cohesive visual identity, and we’d argue, not the most important part. 

Take your favorite brand. Go to their website, and cover the logo with your hand. Is it still the visual identity you know and love? Does it still give you the feelings of the brand it should?  Now, go find a company you’ve never heard of, and look ONLY at their logo. You get very little from it. Partly because you don’t know them at all. That’s the point. 

“Brand building” is the act of communicating, servicing, interacting, listening, and forming a relationship with your audience. So, the logo only serves to help you identify the brand you’ve already grown to know and love (or hate).

Visual Identity

A visual identity however, is where the magic happens and a keystone of your brand’s core elements (cue back to rad chart above). We thrive on developing them and really appreciate a job well done by the masters. (#redantler comes to mind). 

Below is a list of assets and elements that can be curated and created to form the visual identity for a brand. When done right, they come together to form the perfect harmony – like longboards and summertime. 

  • Logo and Logo set (yes, more than one)
  • Typography (Fonts)
  • Color palettes
  • Images
  • Textures
  • Illustrations
  • Animations
  • Patterns
  • Simple shapes

The AccessParks visual identity combines bold fonts, dark colors, and inspiring photography.

Once established, your visual identity allows for the brand’s core experiences  (website, social post, ad, collateral, etc.) to take shape, consistently. We already know that when these experiences are well designed with a clear message, they have more potential to grab the attention of your audience. The kicker, is that when these experiences are also consistently designed with your brand’s unique visual identity tool set, they strengthen recognition of the brand. 

Visual identity elements improve effectiveness of any visual communication, and act as brand identifiers, all at once.

So bad-ass, right?

Our point: nail down some guidelines for your brand’s visual identity (beyond selecting fonts and colors) so that your visual communications also become brand identifiers as much, if not more, than the logo is.

tl;dr

Your brand is the heart of your company. It’s formed by building relationships through actions, decisions, initiatives and communications. Your visual identity is how you consistently design your communications. Creating your visual identity starts by defining the visual assets and rules to help you stay consistent: think fonts, colors, images, logos and sub-marks. Then following those rules over and over to create an identity that has recall and brand recognition.