I made the jump in 1999, leaving my role as Art Director at Progressive to start my own firm. It was before “branding” emerged as a business buzzword, and long before Flo came to be. In one of my last concept meetings at Progressive, Glenn Renwick, now CEO of the insurance behemoth, reminded me that if we’re going to make a bold advertising statement we must live up to our claims. In other words, we must walk the walk. Otherwise, we risk our reputation and brand loyalty.
Glenn’s words have always resonated with me. Do what you say you’re going to do. That’s how great brands are built.
I launched Nead Design Co., a branding & design firm, as a seasoned designer, yet rather new to the world of branding as an accepted discipline. My limited experience with brand was what I had learned through Glenn, who challenged me and a young team to get to the heart of what Progressive did best, and build a brand around that. It had much less to do with a logo or design, and everything to do with the experience they delivered at every interaction. Glenn’s insight was ahead of its time, and even more relevant as I write this 17 years later.
Among the vast knowledge and experience I gained from Progressive were critical lessons that I’m still guided by today: Don’t ever get comfortable. Be open to change. Challenge status quo. Take bold risks. Learn to fail. Some lessons I’ve embraced more than others. The failure part I’ve mastered. The key is that I’ve learned along the entire journey, and am so much better for it. That’s how business (and life) goes. You stumble and fall, pick yourself up and find a better way next time.
Forward 8 years to 2007, when I merged my firm with another and joined two new partners to form Boondock Walker — a brand foundation and design firm. We found the curious name to be an excellent metaphor for our way of problem solving and discovering new opportunities for our clients. We adopted “Walk the walk” as our tagline, which we found perfectly befitting for our line of business. A brand is a unique claim of distinction and a promise, so what better mantra to align our business with and help clients aspire to.
As Boondock Walker, we’ve had much to be proud of. Since our inception, we’ve been the digital agency of record for one of the worlds largest flooring manufacturers. We’re privileged to work with large enterprises who span the globe, to early stage ventures digging in to make their mark. From bold innovations born out of the Cleveland Clinic to those distilled up the street at Cleveland Whiskey. From health care to manufacturing to professional services, amazing clients entrust us with their brands. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people on this journey. Whether as a team member (aptly named “Boondocker”), client or strategic partner, each has impacted our continuous evolution in some way. Brian Willse, my business partner of 8 years, is no exception. The mutual respect and admiration we’ve enjoyed is rare in business partnerships, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to defy the odds.
In 2015, Brian and I came to the realization that our business model needed retooling in order to better position ourselves for a quickly changing industry. The brand ecosystem that a client must consider today is radically different than even a few years ago. Our ability to respond to our clients’ brand and communication challenges required a new model. Further, we realized then that we both needed something different from the business. Status quo wasn’t an option, and change was necessary and inevitable.
Months later, Brian and I made the difficult decision to amicably part ways. Brian has since pursued exciting opportunities in new creative ventures, while continuing to grow Prayers from Maria, an amazing organization dedicated to eliminating childhood cancers.
Me, well, I’m working on Boondock 2.0 and can’t wait to share what’s ahead. We’re continuing to build on the experiences of our exceptional team, challenge expectations, take bold risks, and find new and better ways to helps clients build great brands. It’s such an exciting time to be in this business because we have all the tools and information we need to make sound, qualified decisions. The traditional agency model is quickly dying, as it has failed to transition to the kind of multi-disciplined strategic and creative resource that clients need today.
Boondock 2.0 will be even more nimble, visible, collaborative and resourceful. We’re aligned with the best of the best to deliver the unique disciplines that each client requires. We’ll continue to keep brand and design at the core of our focus. And walk the walk.
Here’s to positive change and good things on the paths ahead.