New Possibilities in Content

Clarifying the value proposition by asking the questions a customer might ask, then bringing it to life.

The Situation

After more than 20 years working in journalism, technology, and product management within big companies, Michael Bender was ready to start something on his own. Specifically, he wanted to create a consulting business that helped organizations see new possibilities in how they create, use, and sell their content.

At first, Bender wasn’t convinced he needed help creating his consulting company’s brand. However, like most entrepreneurs, he was so close to his concept that he wrestled with how to focus the business and its message.

“I realized that by having someone else ask the questions a customer might ask, I could better clarify my offering and my value proposition,” he says. “I realized, too, that visual identity is important, so I needed help ensuring that my logo conveyed a feeling consistent with the words and structure of my site.”

After more than 20 years working in journalism, technology, and product management within big companies, Michael Bender was ready to start something on his own. Specifically, he wanted to create a consulting business that helped organizations see new possibilities in how they create, use, and sell their content.

At first, Bender wasn’t convinced he needed help creating his consulting company’s brand. However, like most entrepreneurs, he was so close to his concept that he wrestled with how to focus the business and its message.

“I realized that by having someone else ask the questions a customer might ask, I could better clarify my offering and my value proposition,” he says. “I realized, too, that visual identity is important, so I needed help ensuring that my logo conveyed a feeling consistent with the words and structure of my site.”

The Approach

Adapting the methodology for a budding consulting business meant a couple of changes: First, instead of doing qualitative and quantitative research, Spencer Brenneman created a thorough questionnaire for Bender to answer. The focus of the exercise was to understand the types of clients Bender would serve, what assumptions they may make about working consultants, and most importantly, what emotional needs they would bring to the work.

Adapting the methodology for a budding consulting business meant a couple of changes: First, instead of doing qualitative and quantitative research, Spencer Brenneman created a thorough questionnaire for Bender to answer. The focus of the exercise was to understand the types of clients Bender would serve, what assumptions they may make about working consultants, and most importantly, what emotional needs they would bring to the work.

The Result

From there, Spencer Brenneman began the Connect phase by aiding Bender with the selection of a name—Verativ—as well as crafting a simple, one-sentence description, an elevator pitch, and full website copy.

Senior Art Director Kim Vanni began the process of creating the brand’s face – its visual identity – based on the work in the Build phase. She says that the clear definition of Verativ’s brand attributes and the value that Verativ brings to clients were the parameters that drove both logo design and image treatments.

“Finally, the color palette was designed to complement the brand’s professional, creative identity with the Steel Blue identifying honesty, dependability, reliability, and responsibility,” says Vanni. “The Goldenrod is both uplifting and optimistic, and is also shown to stimulate logic and mental clarity.”

With both the verbal and visual elements in place, Spencer Brenneman created a simple, yet elegant website to launch the Verativ brand.

From there, Spencer Brenneman began the Connect phase by aiding Bender with the selection of a name—Verativ—as well as crafting a simple, one-sentence description, an elevator pitch, and full website copy.

Senior Art Director Kim Vanni began the process of creating the brand’s face – its visual identity – based on the work in the Build phase. She says that the clear definition of Verativ’s brand attributes and the value that Verativ brings to clients were the parameters that drove both logo design and image treatments.

“Finally, the color palette was designed to complement the brand’s professional, creative identity with the Steel Blue identifying honesty, dependability, reliability, and responsibility,” says Vanni. “The Goldenrod is both uplifting and optimistic, and is also shown to stimulate logic and mental clarity.”

With both the verbal and visual elements in place, Spencer Brenneman created a simple, yet elegant website to launch the Verativ brand.

The Takeaway

“I was skeptical of the whole branding process when we got started. Now I’m a believer. Though your strategy might change constantly, having brand documents helps you stay aligned with your values.”

—Michael Bender, Founder & President, Verativ Consulting

“I was skeptical of the whole branding process when we got started. Now I’m a believer. Though your strategy might change constantly, having brand documents helps you stay aligned with your values.”

—Michael Bender, Founder & President, Verativ Consulting

Project Assets

Full Case Study

The Situation

After more than 20 years working in journalism, technology, and product management within big companies, Michael Bender was ready to start something on his own. Specifically, he wanted to create a consulting business that helped organizations see new possibilities in how they create, use, and sell their content.

“I love words and appreciate more every day their power to educate, motivate and influence. I’ve focused my whole career on creating, editing, storing and delivering content,“ Bender says. “I enjoy solving complex problems as well as diversity in my work. Every company needs plans for doing their best content, and I wanted to help.”

At first, Bender wasn’t convinced he needed help creating his consulting company’s brand. However, like most entrepreneurs, he was so close to his concept that he wrestled with how to focus the business and its message.

“I realized that by having someone else ask the questions a customer might ask, I could better clarify my offering and my value proposition,” he says. “I realized, too, that visual identity is important, so I needed help ensuring that my logo conveyed a feeling consistent with the words and structure of my site.” Bender had worked with Spencer Brenneman President and Chief Brand Strategist Douglas Spencer at Thomson Reuters. The fact that Douglas built a consulting business around branding made Spencer Brenneman a logical choice to assist in creating Bender’s new consulting brand.

Adapting the Methodology

Although Spencer Brenneman typically works with businesses and not individuals, they were eager to help. They started by tweaking their “Assess, Define, and Shine!” (now called Ask, Build, and Connect) methodology for consulting. Simply stated, Assess, Define, and Shine! is a process Spencer Brenneman uses to first understand where a brand is and where it wants to be, typically through qualitative and/or quantitative research (Assess). Then to define the brand, the process explores questions such as:

  • Why the brand exists and why anyone should care
  • What makes them relevant and competitively differentiated from all the other choices customers have?
  • What is the best way to connect with employees, clients, and prospects in emotional, memorable, and meaningful ways?
  • The Shine! phase is the creative phase when the visual and verbal identity for the brand come to life.

Adapting the branding methodology for a budding consulting business meant a couple of changes: First, instead of doing qualitative and quantitative research, Spencer Brenneman created a thorough questionnaire for Bender to answer. The focus of the exercise was to understand the types of clients Bender would serve, what assumptions they may make about working consultants, and most importantly, what emotional needs they would bring to the work.

Defining the New Brand

Working off Bender’s answers to the questionnaire, Spencer created hypotheses to answer the three main questions above. Working collaboratively, the two men and Spencer Brenneman’s Ryan Kelley reviewed the questionnaire, the hypothesis, and all their iterations.

From there, Spencer Brenneman began the Shine! phase by aiding Bender with the selection of a name—Verativ—as well as crafting a simple, one-sentence description, an elevator pitch, and full website copy.

Senior Art Director Kim Vanni, also a Thomson Reuters veteran, began the process of creating the brand’s face – its visual identity – based on the work in the Define phase.

She says that the clear definition of Verativ’s brand attributes and the value that Verativ brings to clients were the parameters that drove both logo design and image treatments.

“Our goal for the logo was to present these skills as both genuine and creative, like the company and its leadership,” says Vanni. “As such, the word mark was our starting point, using a san serif typeface that is clearly readable like a newspaper headline, but that also features slightly curved terminals and an unexpected ligature that allude to the brand’s thoughtfulness, creativity, and modernity.”

From there, we developed a graphic mark that uses negative space to reinforce the V-shape and implies an upward/forward motion, not unlike a stylistic bar graph. Further reinforcing the logo elements, Vanni used overlaid diagonals in different arrangements atop black-and-white, newspaper-like photos. This approach not only supports the visual theme but also provides another way of tying the upward and progressive graphic element into the more traditional.

“Finally, the color palette was designed to complement the brand’s professional, creative identity with the Steel Blue identifying honesty, dependability, reliability, and responsibility,” says Vanni. “The Goldenrod is both uplifting and optimistic, and is also shown to stimulate logic and mental clarity.”

With both the verbal and visual elements in place, Spencer Brenneman created a simple, yet elegant website to launch the Verativ brand.

Results

Adapting the Ask, Build, and Connect methodology worked well for Bender and his new consulting brand. He found the process clear, simple, structured and affirming, he says.

“I was skeptical of the whole branding process when we got started. Now I’m a believer,” Bender says. “Though your business strategy might change constantly, having brand documents helps you stay aligned with your values.”

Spencer Brenneman learned a lot from the process as well, including how to simplify it even more for consultants and solopreneurs. Their work with Bender and Verativ led them to create a self-paced, online course, “Blueprint to Building Your Consulting Brand.” It’s designed to give consultants everything they need to build a consulting brand on their own.

As for his experience with Spencer Brenneman, Bender says it was great. “Douglas brings great experience and confidence to the process and Kim has rare, strategic creativity. They all asked the right questions, gave unvarnished feedback and helped to clarify goals for Verativ.”

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