Crafting a new brand: my personal journey

By Glenn Clark

Time for a change.

Two days after Christmas in 2016, I made a decision to rebrand my thirteen-year-old ad agency. I didn’t set out to come to that decision, but I got there pretty quickly. On that day, as a matter of reflection, I wrote three statements on a piece of paper:

“This is who we are.”

“This is what we believe.”

“This is the value we bring.”

“Who” exactly was Clark CSM Marketing Communications, what did we believe, and what unique value did we provide to our clients?

I stared at the paper. I poured a cup of coffee. I looked out the window.

I had no answers.

I had great clients, I was always busy, and there was plenty of new work coming in.

But I couldn’t find the words to describe my core values, or what unique service Clark CSM provided. I had built a small business and kept it running for 13 years, but I had no clear vision of where I was going.

Unheeded advice.

There’s a terrific book called “The E-Myth” by a business guru named Michael E. Gerber. It was so good, in fact, that I read it twice. The first time I read it was in 2003, shortly after launching Clark CSM. A friend told me that if I intended to start a business, I needed to read this book.

The main takeaway was that in order to scale a business beyond just yourself, you need to spend the majority of your time working on the business, not in the business. For example, the owner of a pie store who envisioned expanding his pie-making company across the state of Illinois needed to stop making pies as soon as possible, hire pie-makers, and spend his time building business processes that would allow him to scale and repeat the pie-making system.

I got that. It made perfect sense. Problem was, I spent the next thirteen years making pies.

 

In 2016, I read the book. Again.

That December day, 14 months ago, I re-read the book—and as a result, I began the second chapter of my entrepreneurial journey. I understood then that my inability to speak decisively about “who we are and what we believe” was a direct result of failing to define how my business was different from every other business that provided marketing services. I didn’t have time for that kind of work. Because for all those years, I was too busy working in the business.

 

Simplify.

I knew then that I needed to simplify my business model and focus on “one thing:” provide one type of service to one type of client. For thirteen years, I had been taking on business in every possible industry, and providing services from every angle: creative, traditional marketing, digital marketing, SEO, events. At one point, we even created a division that sold branded shirts, pens and water bottles. Man, we were busy. But despite being busy, the business lacked focus. The business development strategy was, very simply, “get more work.”

Back to our roots.

One of Clark CSM’s first clients was a destination hotel in the Finger Lakes called the Esperanza Mansion, and through that business I met and built relationships with the people who make the Finger Lakes tourism industry tick (including the late, legendary Mike Linehan). Mike taught me to serve the industry—not sell to them—and he assured me that if I did that, I’d earn the one thing that every business needs in order to grow: trust.

I followed Mike’s advice, and I’ve come to understand New York’s tourism industry in a way that differentiates my business from many others. Today we serve tourism-related businesses and stakeholders across New York State, and more and more often we’re called upon to help craft beverage producers (which goes hand-in-hand with tourism).

This is our passion. This is where we can add value. This will be our focus.

Introducing Crafting A Brand

If you met one of my designers at a networking event and he told you he worked at a company called Clark CSM, you’d probably stare back at him with a puzzled look (trust me, I know this). If, however, he told you he worked for a company called Crafting A Brand, I’m confident you’d understand that he did some sort of branding work. Then he’d go on to clarify that we help businesses succeed by telling their stories about what it is that makes that business unique or extraordinary. We’re designers, writers, artists, and thinkers, and the work we produce is different because we’re intentional about making work that gets noticed. Videos that make you laugh—or cry. Packaging that makes you take that bottle of wine off the shelf. A logo on a sign that makes you stop and visit that craft brewery.

Three statements, defined.

This is who we are: We’re creative strategists who are passionate about helping businesses and organizations in craft beverage and tourism tell their best stories.

This is what we believe: we believe that engaging stories differentiate businesses in the mind of the consumer. Businesses that are perceived to be different are positioned apart from their competitors, and by continuing to engage their consumers they’ll strengthen their hold on that segment of their market.

Providing interruptive messaging and content that engages with consumers on an emotional level (that in turn furthers your business) is the value that we bring.

Thanks for the memories.

I’m grateful to all of you who chose to collaborate with Clark CSM over the years. I’ve made some great friends, done some solid work, made more than a few painful mistakes, and enjoyed (nearly) every day of it. A heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to you. Please join me as we pour a glass of (insert your favorite craft beverage here) and toast to our future adventures together at Crafting A Brand.

Cheers!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glenn Clark is the founder and President of Crafting A Brand. Glenn founded CAB to provide support to craft beverage and tourism stakeholders by helping them tell compelling stories that attract customers and grow their businesses.