FINterview Series: Zenia Birdie

Zenia Birdie, Account Manager at Four Fin Creative

A little intro about Zenia

What’s your favorite food?
French fries! Yes, I have a preference for which kind/shape but it depends on where I’m eating!

What did you want to be growing up?
I’m told I wanted to be a school bus driver when I was three years old so that I could go to school with my older sister (seemed like the place to be)! Then a teacher when I was in elementary school which I later realized was code for wanting to help people grow. Lately, I’ve started to think more about what type of person I want to be rather than what I want to be (because when are any of us really done growing up). To which my answer is thoughtful & empathetic, self-aware & authentic and grateful.

Favorite thing about Four Fin?
Being a contributor to one of the most equitable, unique and healthy agency cultures with transparency at its core. And it’s not just thrown around as a buzzword. We naturally live it every day with each other, our clients and partners.

What is the most uncomfortable thing you have done?
I moved to Rome, Italy for a semester in college without knowing even one person. Within six hours of landing, I knew it was the best decision of my life and couldn’t believe I almost missed it because I was afraid. Little did I know that I’d also end up meeting my future husband there who was on the same program!

Your Brand is Either Make Believe, or it Makes Believers

Chase Baker, Unsplash

The difference can be seen in your culture. 

A big part of our brand discovery process is to uncover the good that already exists and lean into your strengths: the differentiators, the value, the heart and soul of the business, the why. That discovery process is enlightening. 

Sometimes, you find that you’re aligning your external brand to reflect what you already know and live by internally. Sometimes, thinking about how you want your brand to show up in the world makes you realize there’s work to do internally first. 

We are committed to our customers living more eco-friendly lives.” – Says the company that makes everyone commute into a city for in-person jobs that don’t pay them enough to live near the office. 

We all strongly believe that by helping green-tech startups with IT support, we’re contributing to their impact on the future of our world.” – Says the CEO of a company that runs on strict processes, entry-level talent, and little internal training on the “why” itself.

See what I mean? 

Tom Wolff, Unsplash

Your brand is only as good as the trust you build in it. 

Once we know your strengths, we can identify where the intersect is between what you want to be known for and what you can be known for. We find where you can position yourself to plant your brand in hearts, minds, and markets. Then, we build people’s trust in that position so it’s obvious to everyone how firmly you’re holding your spot.  

That trust starts within. If you’re not living it, you can’t be known for it. Period. Living it looks like passion and energy shared across the organization toward a common mission. It’s a code of ethics, values, spirit, personality, operational practices, and more. 

It’s culture. 

When a strong internal culture supports and validates a meaningful and impactful external brand, believers are made.

Not sure what you are supposed to be “living”? 

A Brand Session is a good place to start. This 3-week sprint is highly effective in uncovering your truth and translating it into a visual system ready to show the world. Living up to it is an ongoing game, but we’d love to help you get started. 

Four Questions for Lovesong Beauty

Lovesong Packaging

We love helping our clients make waves with their brand because of the waves they’re making with their businesses. Their entrepreneurial spirit pushes industries and our world, forward. In our new interview series Four Questions, we dive right into the inspiration, challenges, and other topics that drive our clients to run their businesses. 

Meet Emily and Matt Bowman, the founders of Lovesong Beauty. They share some insight into launching a new natural beauty brand in our current Covid world. In describing the new company, Emily says it best;  “If you could go out into nature and pick your very favorite botanical ingredients and put them in a bottle, that’s what Lovesong is. Our haircare collection is all-natural, cruelty-free, vegan non-GMO and crafted with wind energy.”

1. What inspired you to start Lovesong?

Emily: I’ve worked in the natural food and products industry for about 15 years now, and back when I wanted to initially launch a company, there really weren’t many clean beauty brands available in the marketplace, so I definitely saw a need. Fast forward to 2020 and a pandemic hits. I wasn’t traveling for business anymore so it really gave Matt and I the opportunity to be at home and collaborate to bring our vision to life.

[Our] real goal here is to build a community of like-minded individuals that believe in Lovesong and love the products as much as we do. Ultimately, because they are better for you and better for the Earth.

2. What are the most surprising or important lessons you’ve learned since starting Lovesong?

Matt: Expect the unexpected when you get into anything. Every time we’ve gotten to a point where we thought that everything was running smoothly, we’re ready to go, or we’re ready to launch, something would come up to veer us off course, change our direction, and make us rethink things. Murphy’s law is real and it really comes down to how you pivot to tackle those issues and use creative problem solving along the way.

Also, having business partners that we can trust like Four Fin and contacts that we can lean on for advice makes a world of difference as well.

3. Why did you decide to work with a branding agency instead of hiring a designer in-house or do-it-yourself?

Emily: I definitely had a strong vision, and I knew that having really successful and talented people to contribute to the brand would make Lovesong better than I dreamed it could be. So it made sense for us to hire a design agency. Also we’re family-owned and family-funded so we weren’t looking to bring on a full-time employee this early in the game, but we definitely wanted the help and expertise of a design agency. 

I was so happy that I found Four Fin because we are both female-owned companies and I felt that in working with the Fins, we had a lot of voices that were truly the demographic for Lovesong. I think everybody’s contribution really made a huge impact in launching our brand and I couldn’t be more pleased with where we’re at today. It’s very exciting!

4. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs out there wanting to ‘Make Waves’ with their business and brand?

Matt – Invest in what matters. For us that meant the quality of the product. We spent a lot of time selecting every active ingredient in our formulas for beauty and wellness benefits, and that Emily’s vision was realized in the product from start to finish. Also, the branding and presentation of that product was very important to us. Make room in the budget for unexpected costs and also opportunities that can and will come along. 

Lastly, we wanted to make sure that we had a clear picture of what success looks like for us, and to share that goal with as many people as possible. It takes a village and the strength of our community is everything. Having people like Four Fin and others that we’ve worked with within our community is everything.

See how we brought the Lovesong brand to life.

FINterview Series: BeiBei An

Get to know our digital designer, BeiBei An

What did you want to be growing up?

I told people I’d like to be an archaeologist as a kid because at the time I’d just learned the word, and I thought it was cool to say. (I said it with the most serious face an 8-year-old could give.) Now I think it’s not a bad choice to pursue since China, where I’m from originally, has lots of things laying underground. Later I started to watch Case Closed (a Japanese detective anime) and I wanted to be a detective. But it gave me the impression that I need to become a detective by the age of 18, otherwise, I won’t make it. So around 16, I knew it wasn’t going to happen for me.

What is your favorite thing about Four Fin?

Having autonomy here is big. I feel that I’m fully trusted and I’m free to explore and bring my creative ideas, all of which is accepted and encouraged by the team. I have space where I can make the decisions and truly own the work, and that is fully respected by everyone here. As a creative person, that’s something very valuable to have in the working environment. Four Fin’s growth mindset has also allowed me to grow into a direction that suits me the best.

You’re a new Pantone color, what are you called?

“50 shades of grey.” Cause my wardrobe is literally that. Somehow, whenever I went shopping, I ended up picking the color of grays, black and white. Recently I’m trying to add more hues to it, like orange and pink, but still with a certain amount of grays in them.

What is your dream vacation?

I have a group of really close friends from high school, but after graduation, we have been scattered all around the world: China, Japan, Thailand, UK, and the US. I really wish one day we can again gather and hang out on a tropical island for a week or two. Three of my friends have toddlers now and one of them just had her second baby, so I guess the dream will be pushed a little further out now!

Property Branding: When Home Becomes More Meaningful

Unfold Development strives to redefine the real estate development process by uncovering the stories within existing communities and utilizing all forms of design to communicate them. Our partnership with Unfold over the past year has proven that property branding is much more than just an aesthetic exercise.

Their process starts by researching and engaging with cities and neighborhood groups to understand the roots of a place. Once a concept is realized, Unfold brings together Four Fin, as well as their architecture and interior design teams.

Melissa Meagher, partner at Unfold, describes real estate’s changing industry: “It is no longer just about up-to-date amenities and smart floorplans; it is about creating a sense of belonging, which can be curated through the materials and design elements a resident sees as they experience a place. More developers need to be thinking about this before deciding where and how a place can evolve.”

Working closely with Melissa and her design partners, we’ve refreshed the brands of 10 (and counting) communities with Unfold Development.

Meagher explains, “Four Fin has helped me take initial layers of concepts and transform them visually so that when I bring in architecture and interior design, all parties completely comprehend the direction and how we can connect residents to where they live again.”

Our process incorporated weaving greater meaning and fresh design into each property brand evolution. This came in the form of connecting the property more closely to the history of its location and building a brand around that context – from naming, to visual identity, to website design

“It is no longer just about up-to-date amenities and smart floorplans; it is about creating a sense of belonging”

– Melissa Meagher, Partner at Unfold Development

We’re looking forward to seeing these brands come to life and continuing our partnership with Unfold in helping its residents belong somewhere meaningful.

My Footer Fetish (SFW)

I have a website footer fetish and I’m not afraid to tell the world about it. 

There. I said it. Website footers are just as important (if not more important) as the rest of a brand’s website. They are essentially the go-to map of pertinent information visitors should be able to access quickly, but also an opportunity to provide a final branded experience.

I’ve rounded up several of my favorite footers currently out in the wild to share why they matter. Don’t worry, this is all totally SFW and hopefully provides inspiration for those thinking through their site’s user experience.

Take up some space.

Tall, dark and handsome, this footer for Pioneer Square Labs takes up space unapologetically. I love the large type for important links because who says footers have to have tiny type?

Think inside the box.

Blady Gros Holdings’ footer is minimal as far as information, but delivers maximum impact with design. This is a good reminder that a footer doesn’t always have to be full-width.

Simply delightful. 

Tend‘s footer is a solid example for simplicity. It’s nicely organized with good typography, but also captivates  with a mesmerizing animated bar just above.

Be my friend?

Cute illustrations and a small, but friendly invitation to be friends won me over on Palorama’s footer. What other ways can you engage your audience during this tail end experience?

One more little moment.

Finally, VOTD’s fun icon and message provides one last moment of delight for visitors. If the contact and navigation information can live somewhere else, jump on one more opportunity to send a message about your brand. 

I know I’m not the only one who loves a happy ending to my scrolling. If your website could use some love and attention when it comes to what’s on the bottom, reach out!

B2B branding shouldn’t be spooky*

*Spooky is a-ok if you’re Sam Mazzeo, Co-Founder of B2B firm Better.

Just because your target customers happen to be other businesses doesn’t mean your B2B brand has to suck. Really. We’ll prove it. 

You may not be selling the hottest new tech toy or surfboard that requires a certain level of consumer appeal, but you are selling something extremely important for B2B brands; your reputation. Do you want your reputation to be perceived as cold, boring, (too) serious or (overly) functional? Of course not!

Below are several of our B2B clients that have captured the perfect balance of emotion and professionalism through brand, steering clear of being just another boring (maybe even spooky) business to business brand.

AccessParks contracts with National Parks, RV sites, and campgrounds to deliver broadband internet to the great outdoors. The brand captures the essence of adventure and exploration, the ultimate desire of AccessParks’ end customer.

Cyclopure develops sustainable water purification solutions at the consumer, commercial, and government levels. The brand went from functional and scientific to friendly and relatable in order to ensure its mission ‘to make water safe for everyone, everywhere’ could be quickly understood.

Better is a community-focused law firm that educates and empowers early stage businesses, non-profits, and freelancers. The new B2B brand is unexpectedly fun and engaging for its industry, reminding young businesses that they aren’t alone in their journey to being better then they were yesterday.

BAM is a powerhouse communications agency for tech firms and ensures its brand is as fast moving and forward thinking as the industry itself. Movement, storytelling, and bold visuals push BAM to the forefront of their client’s hearts and minds.

When working with B2C and B2B brands, we always look for the emotional connection that will resonate with our client’s target audiences. Because at the end of the day, everyone is a consumer, whether they’re making a purchase decision for themselves or their business/employer. 

Want to talk about your B2B brand with us? Let’s chat!

Want to be an Art Director? Let’s talk to Macoe.

We’ve been getting a number of reach outs recently from designers inquiring about the team, gaining more design experience, and potential opportunities at Four Fin. Since we’re not really meeting anyone in the office as of late, we thought it might help to share an informational interview with our Art Director, Macoe Swett. She shares more on her experience and some advice for rising designers. 

How did you get to where you are as Four Fin’s Art Director?
Years of sweat and tears! JK, although I do have many years of experience. After college I worked as a graphic designer and eventually started teaching graphic design. This was really my first experience art directing, as you’re constantly doing that in the classroom. Then I worked as an art director on a contract basis with a couple other agencies. When I started at Four Fin, I came on as a Senior Designer first, and was then promoted to Art Director a few years later.

What have been some of the highlights of your design career?
Every time a client is really excited about something I’ve created for them, that’s the best feeling. One that stands out in my head though is when I designed a poster for a weekly service industry night party my friends and I were throwing in Philly. We printed up a bunch and plastered them on a wall near the venue. People loved them so much they all got stolen within a couple days.

What do you look for in a portfolio?
Good use of typography, a strong understanding of color and layout, and a bit of boldness. Technique is essential, but risks will get you noticed.

What can I do to get more experience in design while looking for design jobs?
Design yourself a kick-ass website and some promo materials. Do some friends some favors. Give yourself the projects you wish someone else was giving you, and create or expand your portfolio with the results.

What’s the best advice you can offer to young or aspiring designers?
Work for and with people whose design skills you admire. That’s key to improving and sometimes more important than money and security early in your career. Keep your interests broad and seek out inspiration from other fields as well as following graphic designers you admire. Challenge yourself to make every project a portfolio piece.

Thanks Macoe! Meet the rest of the Fins and keep an eye out for future interviews with the team.

Brand Evolution: GIA Wellness

GIA Wellness is here to tell you that hyped wellness trends are exactly that; hype. They focus on the pillars of foundational wellness from hydration to nutrition to skincare. After 12 years of successful growth, GIA was pivoting its marketing strategy to appeal to a broader D2C audience in the rapidly growing health and wellness space. 

A Brand Audit allowed us to identify challenges, opportunities, and areas where we could better align the brand (and this message of foundational health) across GIA communications. The audit revealed that no major overhaul to the brand was needed. Rather, an evolution to the visual identity (especially packaging) and messaging would assist in unifying the already established brand. 

More to share when the new packaging is launched, but in the meantime, check out other elements of the refresh making its way onto GIA’s Instagram

Brand collabs that go together like ice cream x skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

Collaborations between brands appear to be the new norm. Put that ‘x’ in place (e.g., Honey x Bear) and apparently a legit collaboration is happening and we should take notice. 

Usually these partnerships make sense from a brand personality and values perspective like this Nat Geo x Parks Project apparel line. Both brands will often generate greater cross exposure and can command higher prices (which will either work in your favor or not as the comment on this post below shows).

Source: Instagram

It’s 2020 though, and I think the zany, unexpected collaborations are far more fascinating from a brand and business perspective. I say unexpected because either the collaborating brands exist in completely different ecosystems/industries or have wildly differing emotional connections with their audiences. I say fascinating because the imagination and bravery needed to create these partnerships often require true creative brilliance, hallucinogens, or both. 

I’ve discovered that the brands brave enough to make unexpected collab moves not only get twofold the hype and can command higher prices, but they stick in the memory banks of their fans. And loyal fans, as we know, are a brand’s best friend. Here are several that stick out.

Ben & Jerry’s x Nike Skateboarding

Source: nikesb.com

When I saw the Nike SB x Ben & Jerry’s collaboration for the Skate Low Chunky Dunky shoe, my head almost popped off in excitement…and wonder. How? Why? Realizing this is a total sneaker culture thing (which, admittedly I know very little about), I still wanted to know just how much hype these kicks were getting. 

A limited quantity of the shoes were released back in May, retailing at $120. One look at current resale prices three months later (yes that’s a $2,592 price tag down there) and I don’t need any convincing that the demand (and equity) for the brand is through the roof.

Source: Google Shopping

 

Fireclay Tile x Rose’s Taproom 

California craft tilemakers Fireclay recently collaborated with their client, Rose’s Taproom in Oakland, to release the Emerald Drop, a craft beer inspired by the backsplash tile that serves as the watering hole’s centerpiece. Random, brilliant, and an ingenious way to celebrate the brands’ partnership and commitment to craft + design.

Although the beer was probably produced in limited quantities, it certainly didn’t last long and managed to receive a fair amount of reviews/ratings on beer social platform Untappd. 

Source: Instagram
Source: Untappd

Supreme x Oreo

Streetwear brand Supreme isn’t new to surprising collaborations, but it’s Oreo collab might be the most surprising. And apparently surprising works for Supreme (and Oreo), because the release garnered TONS of hype (over 23k retweets alone from Oreo announcing it). A pack of three cookies commands a mere $40 from one streetwear reseller (they originally retailed for $8 per pack).

Source: Twitter

TLDR;

Whether your brand is about cookies, shoes, beer, or even clay tile, there’s another brand out there willing to collaborate. You might share kindred personalities or you might be in opposite industries altogether. Either way, collaborations bring with them increased exposure and, if it’s wild enough, exponential demand and love from your customers.

We usually don’t think about unexpected collaborations during our client’s Brand Sessions, but maybe we should given the unexpected world we live in today..