Hi there, I’m Shawn.
This blog is all about the art and science of building brands. I like to think of it as brand psychology.
I believe the best brands understand that they are in the business of creating value for people (customers and employees) – not just making money. And that they play a significant role in the creation of meaning and culture by standing for something beyond the bottom line.
You may be a business owner, a non-profit executive, a professional marketer, designer, or just someone interested in branding, marketing, and the strategy behind it all. No matter which you are, I hope you’ll find my insights, tips and suggestions helpful.
People and experiences that have shaped me professionally:
• Thrive—Working on an iconic brand within health care has been an extreme privilege. I have been 1 of a handful of leaders internally that has advocated operationalizing our brand values. I have given guidance to the brand strategy, provided direction on the brand identity and collaborated with some of the top advertising and digital agencies in the game.
• Scott Bedbury—I was privileged to work directly with Scott Bedbury and Debbie Cantu, former VP of Brand and Advertising at Kaiser Permanente on shaping the design of KP’s brand experience. Scott was the marketing executive behind the “just do it” campaign at Nike and the “third place” concept at Starbucks that guided the Seattle coffee giant’s culture and brand.
• Ron Vandenberg—Founding member of Futurebrand, one of the world’s largest and successful brand consultancies, and former chief creative officer at Fitch. Ron is the current owner and lead at Berkeley Merchant, a brand strategy and communications boutique in Berkeley, California. In the last 5 years, Ron has become a mentor and a friend. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. His very vocal belief in me as a strategist and creative leader has been a great source of encouragement.
• The Personality Profile™—a brand vision and change management process I helped to create in 2007. This process has now helped a total of 150+ leaders, businesses, non-profits, and churches get clear on who they are, what they do, and why it matters.
Early professional years:
• Provident Music Group—my first full-time design gig out of college, exposed me to a range of things, from working with executives to directing photographers and designing for retail.
• Mercedes-Benz Fashion week—I was hired by a venture capitalist that was backing a small private label designer showing in New York during fashion week. I found myself in Manhattan, working with the former marketing lead at Tommy Hilfiger and brushing shoulders with PR and Communication executives in Central Park. A thrilling and humbling experience for a 21-year-old kid from a small town in the mid-west.
• Brad Abare—my friend and current business partner. Brad hired me when he was 18, and I was 20 to design 2, 80 pg. full-color Gen X magazines for his company Real Media. He offered me a creative director position in Chicago, and I turned him down only to bump into him 6 years later in Los Angeles. 1 month after that, I began working for his company as the creative director, different company, different city. I guess I was destined to work with him. Brad’s company evolved from design firm to brand and strategy consultancy. That evolution is something I helped to lead, and it shaped my career path.
• Linda Vacchiano Kobrynich—Ms. V, the most professional, most encouraging, and most demanding professor I had in art school, I learned the most in college from her classes, hands down. She passed away in 2009 from a 10-year battle against breast cancer. I cannot thank God enough for her influence in my formative college years.
• Wilesmith & Del gigante—a premier boutique agency in West Palm Beach, Florida that hired me when I had no experience on the strength of my portfolio and fired me a month later for being too slow. I learned what kind of environment not to create at an agency if you want to build a healthy culture and encourage young talent to produce great work. (Ms. V, listed above, picked me up and dusted me off).
• Graduated with the top honor—awarded the highest recognition of “best portfolio” among graduating seniors at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 1996.
• Loye and Debby Stewart—I call them dad and mom. They always encouraged my love of creativity and art, often buying me drawing supplies, paying for design camp when I was in 8th grade and countless other things too numerous to mention. I’m profoundly grateful for them for many, many reasons.
• Mrs. Judy Sommers—my kindergarten teacher. I have an early memory of her praising my artwork in front of my mom and dad; it infused great confidence in me and think it was the first nudge I ever received toward creative work. Hug a teacher!