Longtime collaborators Christopher Everett and Jeff Turner have applied their branding expertise to their own now-official business partnership in launching Known, a boutique brand strategy, creative and coaching agency in Minneapolis.
Everett is a designer and former creative director with extensive agency experience. Turner is a copywriter and former creative director and executive director of corporate creative and marketing operations.
The two began working together more than six years ago after each had gone freelance, although under separate business names. Looking to raise the profile of the work they do for global, national and local companies and expand their client base, they decided last year to join forces officially and earlier this month debuted under new brand name, Known.
Turner and Everett said their mix of agency and corporate work and creative and leadership roles helps them understand brand strategy and what in-house corporate teams and outside agencies need to be effective.
They also can help bring order to the tactical chaos that can occur.
“Tactics tend to stack up on each other,” said Turner, previously creative director for Marshall Field’s and an executive at Estee Lauder. “We often say, ‘This brand is a bunch of tactics in search of a strategy.’ ’’
Once the brand strategy and creative direction are clear, spelled out visually and in words in Known’s Big Book of Brand Know-How, Everett and Turner stay with a project to provide coaching to help keep it on track.
Getting it right
“When we get it right, they recognize it and it’s like, ‘Of course that’s what it is,’ ’’ Everett said. “It’s where this idea of ‘Known’ comes from. They feel known because we’re reflecting back to them the truth of themselves and their brand.’’
Client Kim Bow Sundy, on sabbatical from her position as brand manager for General Mills’ Box Tops for Education, said the brand guide that Everett and Turner produced helped bring uniformity to brand communications for the fundraising program, which has more than 90,000 coordinators in schools and communities across the country.
“They created a program that helped people focus on what Box Tops is about, providing the tools and the guidance people need to deliver a consistent, clear message,” she said.
What Known is not trying to do is become a brand’s agency of record or compete for work with the creative, digital and other specialized agencies. Instead, Turner and Everett approach their work as consultants. If the internal and outside specialists working on a brand are bricks in a wall, then Known aims to be the mortar that holds all of the bricks together.
“Our model is to consult,” Turner said. “We want to go in and help the team for six months to a year … to get everybody on the same page. If we’re any good, we put ourselves out of a project in about a year.”
Said Everett: “We’re successful if the brand is becoming successful and all the agencies are doing better work.” His agency work includes Fame, Boom Island and Baker Associates.
Turner and Everett want their agency to stay small, although they would like to develop some new business as they become known as Known.
Recent Known client Billy Crockett, producer and programmer at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio, a recording studio outside Austin, Texas, said the outcome of a two-day workshop with the pair resulted in “a much more meaningful approach to how we want to do business.”
The process helped Crockett decide to suspend the yearly art journal he has produced for clients and prospects and instead focus on “presenting the recording studio for the glorious facility it is to our clients.”
“It was presented in a way that felt like we were known,” Crockett said. “They listen really well and reflect back something that feels essential about what I’m up to in the world. You get clarity from that.’’
The expert says: Avinash Malshe, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business, said Turner’s observation about that some brands are “tactics in search of a strategy” rings true. And that’s why he believes that Turner and Everett are on the right track conceptually with Known.
“We see these big brands, they have so many plans, programs and campaigns and they keep launching those one after the other,” Malshe said. “They’re not thinking about how these things hang together and that’s where the value of a company like Known is going to be. They are going to think about where these things work together, what is a coherent strategy and that is phenomenally important to a brand.”
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.