Joseph J. Coplans from SFAMA recently met with Shardul Kiri and Ann Jordan, the founders of UNIT Partners, a brand strategy and graphic design firm found in 2006, to discuss marketing and design. Ann Jordan will also be a panelist at our upcoming event “Print & Digital Unite!” on June 17th. Make sure to reserve your ticket.
Owners, UNIT partners, since 2006
About founding UNIT Partners:
Shardul and Ann met at CCAC (now CCA, California College of the Arts)
Ann: “Looking back, I had an interest in problem solving and architecture. I landed in design with those interests coming together as my creative outlet for solving problems.”
Shardul: “I’m very analytical yet thrive when surrounded in creative energy. I took med school prep classes, math and science. But found my interests really fell around the intersections of art and technology…”
And you know how it is with some people who just know.
Shardul and Ann just knew they’d have their very own design firm. The journey that got them the keys to their awesome studio on Larkin Street was paved with what it takes to earn design chops: they combined their personal knowledge of marketing departments and brands from a myriad of firms, advertising agencies, and in-house; they sharpened their branding and design tool set by developing logos, identity systems, print collateral, and packaging systems for a plethora of local and global clients.
The UNIT partners team built an array of sought after design powers: from brand systems to marketing collateral, to integrated B2C packaging solutions, UNIT’s design is creative assembly of what a brand means to everyone, like the passing of a symbiotic brand story baton, from conception to consumer.
Your eye is caught by something unmistakably interesting on a shelf, and it’s even more interesting to hold it in your hand:
–Herbalife International of America: the UNIT partners global packaging solution yielded a system for thousands of product skews across multiple countries. The question they asked and helped answer was, how do you create a system that will speak locally and be manageable internationally for new consumers in other countries?
–Sola Bee Farms: the honey division of Tauzer Apiaries, UNIT developed the name, identity, product packaging and website – all of which thrived under their soup to nuts brand solution. That unified brand had enough market sting power to turn down a Safeway store offering, opting to become instead, a honey of a niche market brand.
It’s obvious why UNIT partners doesn’t supply the standard 3 design solutions on presentation day:
The visual design and messaging are what brings a brand to life as part of the marketing vision. And when a brand is well designed, one true vision stands out.
“Stop thinking about yourself…it’s not about you. What entrepreneurs think is right may not be right for the customer. A company needs to speak to their consumer and how their product or service solves the consumer’s need. That often means ignoring your aesthetic preferences along the way. It also means making sure your communication, whether it be verbal or visual, addresses to the consumer’s need rather than providing a laundry list of the company or product’s capabilities
“We often ask our clients to recall a few of their favorite brands. Apple Computer is always on the list. And we’re normally speaking to people who don’t have the marketing dollars to be Apple, but who often want to emulate that company nonetheless. Apple can use their money to speak to everyone. But most companies don’t have the budgets for huge ad spends to place their brand in front of millions to create a memorable experience. Instead, our recommendation is to focus on creating a memorable experience for a targeted audience that doesn’t rely on repetition.”
Why you are a marketer
“We solve problems. We’re information geeks. We combine visuals and storytelling and messaging to make brands emotive. It’s rewarding to know you help to make companies memorable. It’s rewarding to know that donors appear from beneath the woodwork to contribute to a non-profit you believe in because of the design and messaging story you created.”
What exactly is design and marketing success?
“We ask each of our clients to define success for their particular project whenever we start a new engagement because success is unique for each of our clients; success may be the ability to generate buzz; success may also focus squarely on sales.”
Marketing Real World (Your vision applied, successes and lessons learned)
“We have a diverse set of clients and that keeps the work invigorated. And we’re invigorated because we’re focused on the individual initiatives and not a formulaic solution that works within a given industry.”
Your Marketing Strategy:
“Stay diverse. That’s best done by bringing together diverse perspectives. To really develop compelling solutions by engaging great talent, and engaging our clients as partners.”
Guiding Lesson Learned about marketing (most important lesson learned about marketing)
“Ultimately, the advice is: think of the end user. It should be a symbiotic relationship between your business and your consumer. Many companies are in love with what they are doing…it’s so difficult for them to detach themselves and make it what it needs to be for the demographic they are targeting.”
Biggest mistake marketers make
“Marketers often say to themselves, ‘I saw company X do this so I want to do that too’, but the question is: Is that relevant for your customers?”
How do you educate your clients?
“Many conversations and we get our clients involved in the process early on. We build a strong immersion period with interviews with the end user to really get into their heads. We’re not afraid to ask everyone to step out of their comfort zones.”
“Nest, Learning Thermostat and new carbon monoxide detector. What is compelling is that these are objects for your house that are often forgotten about or ignored, and they’ve created an emotive desire around them.”
Shardul and Ann are inspired by Lucille Ball, Kenneth Cole, Aaron Spelling, and Madonna. These inspirations live a unique creative lifestyle; they are people who also focused on innovation to stay relevant and grow in their careers.”
What challenges do companies face?
“Understanding how to stay relevant in a time where so much information is available to everyone.”
Last great book read
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher.
“It’s all about how important imagination is.”
Why you support sfAMA
“The sfAMA is the community that helps us grow our business. We get a great perspective on business and the sfAMA provides a great education and value. Evolution is necessary when you develop a brand. A brand may change, a brand is a living breathing entity and must evolve to stay relevant; marketers are campaign driven and they understand the need to evolve and change.”
About UNIT Partners:
UNIT partners (http://www.unitpartners.com)
By: Joseph J. Coplans creates content strategies and sales strategies for well-known companies around town. He feels that marketing is a powerful medium to engage an audience on an emotive level. He is an sfAMA member and you can contact him at Joseph@inkstaininc.com, 303.882.8676