Category: Business

VC CommsCon 2022: Taming the Overload

There was an unofficial theme present at this year’s VC Comms Con 2022, put on by BAM Communications: marketers are spread thin! This group of high-performing marcom professionals got together to share insights that help them navigate the pressures of marketing their VC firms, as well as support the portfolio companies the firm represents. Often, they find themselves trying to influence change in an organization where they are the only one in their role.

We work with many marketers in similarly siloed roles outside of the VC world as well, from lone CMOs just starting to think about building their teams, to the fresh out of school marketing professional learning the ropes by supporting a smaller organization with everything from social media to hosting events. They all face the same question.

How can they do it all?

In service to our broader network, I’d share some of my takeaways and teachings from this year’s VC Comms Con, and strongly encourage anyone in a marketing role at a VC fund to keep a watch out for details about next year. It’s an event like no other. 

Cliff Worley gave us a list of online tools he’s curated over the years, to support any need from getting a perfect shareable picture of a tweet, to better LinkedIn analytics, which just serves as a reminder to marketers everywhere that if there’s a hack you wish you had, it’s likely out there. Another pro tip? Use Zapier to connect Twitter and Slack so you are the first to know. 

Nikki Parker gave the most sage advice to look at moving work forward by leveraging your team and taking stock in your initiatives, asking yourself what’s reasonable for you to own, and what’s not. She asks herself:

  1. What can I Own?
  2. What can I Influence?
  3. What can I Outsource?
  4. What can I Force?

Having good resources is key.

There was also a recurring discussion from multiple attendees around curating resources. In the main stage panel with Elise Brown, Nikki Parker, and Tyana Daley, the shared consensus was that PR and Branding agencies were the most sought after resources by their portfolio companies this last year. Having an arsenal of experts at their side makes them more powerful overall, and able to recommend the right resources at the right time.

Websites are an especially fun challenge.

I was invited to speak during a breakout session on behalf of Four Fin about keeping website redesigns from flying off the rails. The main takeaway? Be thoughtful and right-size the lift. Especially in the venture ecosystem where the speed of business moves faster than a new Tik Tok trend, it pays off to take a minute upfront to get clear.

The top six reasons a website redesign flies off the rails:

  1. You want the website to do too much
  2. Everyone battles for their win
  3. You use the website redesign as a chance to revisit your brand
  4. Content takes way longer than you thought
  5. New ideas emerge and you react to them
  6. Your team forgets that websites can be iterative

Have you experienced any of these site redesign pitfalls?

The main theme in the solutions presented for all of these, is that any good website redesign will not magically happen by simply signing a contract with an outside agency, no matter what they might tell you. Your team needs to be aligned internally on what the website needs to do (not all it can do), how you’ll gather and develop content to provide to your agency, and when to “park” new ideas for a phase two or future website update.

Your agency can and should help guide you, but it’s a partnership. 

At Four Fin, we strive to keep branding right-sized for the early stages of growth, making sure the work we do is impactful enough to move brands forward to their next stage, without overdoing it.

Our solution for launching an impactful brand and website in the early stages of growth (Seed-stage or early Series A for my VC friends here) is a four-month, guided exercise called Brand Splash. Splashes are designed with the following:

  • A set schedule
  • Iterative and collaborative work sessions
  • Are scheduled across a reasonable amount of time for the client to supply content with everything else they have going on, and
  • A hand-held approach that doesn’t blow your marketing budget

Thanks again to the team at BAM communications for creating this incredible experience. Your hard work created a safe place for the free-sharing of ideas that is rare, and a community that supports each other openly. I was honored to share my expertise, and in awe of the attendees present, and their tenacity for excellence in a field where doing it all feels impossible.   

Brand Evolution: Just the Right Fit

Mission Driven Finance

Brands don’t always need to completely rework their identity to signal change or growth. A Brand Evolution (improving upon what’s existing) or a Brand Revolution (creating something completely new) is the lingo we use to describe what kind of brand solution clients embark on. Deciding on which solution is best for the brand depends on answering questions like:

Is our brand still relevant to our audiences/markets?
Has our business outgrown our existing brand?
Are there certain aspects of the brand (logo, colors, etc.) that resonate with stakeholders we need to keep?

To name a few…

Here are four clients that maintained existing visual equities, yet evolved their brands to keep up with their evolving businesses.

Mission Driven Finance

On the cusp of celebrating their five year anniversary and announcing major funding partnerships, Mission Driven Finance was looking to clean up before these big milestones. MDF tells a great story their brand evolution on their blog here


Mission Driven Finance

GIA Wellness

GIA had been a well-known brand in wellness consulting circles, but in shifting to a more Direct-to-Consumer model, they needed a fresh take on their visual identity beyond the logo. We partnered with GIA to make a subtle, yet impactful, refresh to the brand’s web and packaging consumer experiences. 


GIA Wellness Brand Evolution

CEG Multifamily

After developing the brand for Unfold Development, CEG’s newest division, the 30-year-old company was ready for change. The updated visual identity incorporates graphical elements kindred to Unfold while maintaining its typographic roots.


CEG Brand Evolution

CPA Collective

CPA Collective provides high-caliber accounting solutions and needed its brand to meet the same level of quality that the business provides. The evolved, refreshed visual identity and website express a more tasteful, experienced CPA Collective.


CPAC Brand Evolution

Are you considering an uplevel to your brand identity, but not sure if a brand evolution is the solution?

Reach out to us!

Making our own Waves

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

Although we’re here to help our clients make waves with their businesses by building solid brands, sometimes we have to give ourselves credit for making a few waves. Four Fin was named one of the Top Branding Agencies In California of 2021 by Design Rush.

How’d we do it? By taking a nimble, no-nonsense approach to branding. Whether its participating in one of our three week Brand Sessions or our ongoing partnerships, our clients move forward instead of moving in circles. 

Are you making the waves or riding the waves?

Brand Strategy Q&A with Hillery

Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy
Hillery Kemp Brand Strategy

Often, prospective clients ask us how we arrive at our design choices, or how are we able to create a full brand identity in just three weeks during Brand Sessions. The answer always comes back to brand strategy.

Hillery, Four Fin’s Brand Strategist, gives us a glimpse into its importance.

What’s the difference between a brand strategy and a marketing strategy?

This is a great question that similarly goes with the classic “what’s the difference between branding and marketing?” inquiry I receive when telling people what I do. We wrote a great little number on this a while back if you need a refresher.

The strategy of a brand is the map guiding foundationally how the brand needs to show up in the world, based more on emotions than logic. This strategy is utilized by those responsible for bringing the brand to life visually and verbally (e.g., designers, copywriters, agencies, etc.) or through action (e.g., company management, employees, etc.). It’s truly the DNA for a brand, and although the components vary, they will often include the: brand concept, brand positioning, brand values, brand pillars, and brand personality traits. 

A marketing strategy, on the other hand, is a map guiding functionally how and where the brand needs to show up in the world to effectively reach target audiences, based more on logic. It is utilized by those responsible for articulating the brand’s value to audiences (e.g., marketing managers, social media and other digital marketers/agencies, etc.). These strategies often contain customer segmentation, promotional tactics and timing, and evaluation. 

Marketing strategies exist to help companies promote products and services, and are ultimately informed by the strategy of the brand . 

What’s the risk of not having a strategy in place for your brand?

Imagine building a car without knowing what kind of engine will be in it. How would you design the body style? How big could it be? How would it perform? A basic metaphor to say that managing a brand without a clear strategy is a blinding endeavour. 

If there is no framework for consistently showing up, several things happen:

  • Audiences will have a harder time remembering your brand
  • Internal alignment for both branding AND marketing activities become impossible
  • More time and resources are wasted attempting to solve brand and marketing challenges every time they come up (which happens often)

How do you create a brand strategy?

In developing brand strategies, being an outside perspective for our clients is key. It provides us with 360 degrees of context without getting too deep into the weeds of their businesses. 

At a high level, we look at the client’s business, competition, industry, and (often most importantly) customers. We understand the important factors influencing each of these aspects of our client’s brand and work to uncover the authentic space they can/already own. Capturing this ownable space are the grounds for building out the components of the brand’s strategy. 

Have a strategy-related question or could your brand use an outside-in perspective? 

Reach out to us! 

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.

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.

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!

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..

Surf Park Management is ready for its next swell

Surf Park Management is rad. No, really. The brand does exactly what their name suggests; managing the many facets of up and running a successful surf park (think feasibility analysis and operational planning). The San Diego-based company tapped the Fins to help refresh their brand identity as they continue to grow and gain exposure. 

A rise in new technology to create perfect waves outside of the ocean is leading to more and more surf parks being planned and built around the world. Nothing compares to a real wave, but these parks are gaining serious traction inland and for the surfing community looking to practice in a safer, consistent environment. 

Surf Park Management (SPM) works with investors and developers, so the refreshed brand needed to say “we’re professionals who also have fun in the sun.” Maybe not that exactly, but a balance of seriousness with shred was a key factor. 

 

There’s more where that came from. Stay tuned for more work we’re doing with SPM. Our branding dreams are literally coming true rn.