Creative Partner for Progressive Brands

20 Questions

To help you find the best agency for your brand, we’ve
answered some questions we heard over the years:

How is Addis different?

We are marketers with deep roots in branding which enables us to be creative partners with a long- term strategic vision for the brands we work with. It seems a lot of agencies put their strongest touch-point, like a 30-second spot, in the center of their world and come back to that comfort zone as often as possible. Instead, we don’t put a touch-point in the center at all. Instead, every element of the marketing mix points back to the true center of gravity: the brand strategy.

Then, our creative teams have clear direction on the strategic goals and can consistently reflect back on how each touch-point we create meets those goals.

What are your capabilities?

Large companies tend to use multiple agencies, each with a particular specialty. Then the CMO has to motivate the roster to collaborate in the hopes of leading to a single-minded brand image and meaning. Small companies tend to rely on one firm to do a greater array of tasks, knowing quite well that the firm is faking its way through a number of their listed capabilities. Neither situation is ideal.

After many years of client side and agency side experience, we think there’s a better approach. At Addis, strategic thinking and core creative is done in-house by our team that’s been together for many years. Then, we tap into the network we’ve amassed over the years for specialized execution. Everything is integrated as it’s managed by the authors of the core thinking. We reach out to our partners for such things as media buying and video execution.

Are you a branding firm or an ad agency?

Both. But we do have a history rooted in branding.

At the center of our process and capabilities is brand strategy. The core meaning and purpose of a brand dictates everything we do, from identity design to packaging to advertising campaigns. We have created a team and an agency that has the knowledge and capabilities to help build and grow a brand, whether that’s upstream brand development and positioning or downstream demand creation.

Often when we can do both for clients – branding and advertising – we are truly able to change the course of a brand and a business.

Why should I hire Addis for naming rather than a naming-only firm?

A brand or company name is a critical part of its story and must be carefully grounded in the brand’s strategy. When creating a new brand or repositioning an existing brand, every touchpoint should integrate to tell a cohesive story. Pulling one element out of the development can lead to a disconnected narrative.

Our naming is done only after we develop the strategic platform which includes positioning and brand personality, giving us a clear target by which to judge the candidates. The process is rigorous and we work hard to distill long lists down to those most viably on-target. Before presenting name candidates, we run them through a preliminary trademark screen to eliminate direct conflicts. Once a shortlist is determined, we can oversee the full trademark search and collaborate closely with you to envision the brand that each name can become based on the strategic platform.

So, if you do hire a naming-only firm, make sure those developing strategy and all visual and verbal touchpoints are closely involved in the collaboration.

Here’s a sample of our naming work: 

Shutterfly – photo sharing service
Verlasso – harmoniously raised salmon
Rancher’s Reserve – Safeway’s premium meats
Primo Taglio – Safeway’s premium deli line
Elevance – renewable sciences company
Somersaults – healthy snack brand

Coup de Sade – ultra premium champagne
Rafter – software platform for universities
Switchfly – reservations software
Qua Baths & Spa – Caesar’s luxury spa
Three Bridges – refrigerated food line
UME – play space for kids and parents

A story of a less-than-integrated name

We were Intel’s branding agency for 13 years, creating the visual identities for its flagship processor brands. Naming was always divorced from the brand development process and done by a naming-only firm. When processing speed became a less important benefit than the freedom of mobility and longer battery life, our strategy reflected the shift as did our brand identity.

But when the name was added to the mix, it did nothing to integrate into a mobility story. After months of trademark work, it was finally presented to us and upper management: Centrino. One Intel exec said it sounded like a 1975 Pontiac and rejected it. But, there was no time left to rename it and Centrino became the name behind a $300M launch. Luckily, Intel’s abundant resources overcame the weakness but we will never know how much better the launch might have been with a more cohesive story.

You do a lot of consumer work; what about B2B?

We absolutely do B2B and love it. Working across industries and audiences enables cross pollination of insights and ideas that we’ve found to be extremely valuable to our clients.

Check out some B2B cases in the Work section of the site.

What clients have you done work for?

Too many to name over our 30+ year history. Some of our case studies can be found here.

We’re asking 18 firms for proposals, will you be one of them?

We’d rather not.

Proposals take time and should be done right as they set the stage for the entire project. With the amount of information and case studies available on an agency’s website or discussed on a quick call, a marketer should be able to get a good idea of whether or not an agency might be the right fit for a project. We’d recommend after an initial review you create a shortened list of agencies (say 3 to 5) to participate in a proposal process.

But we never say never. Give us a call or send an email and we can talk.

Do you collaborate with other agencies?


As creative partners with roots in branding, we are able to develop and execute creative and strategic blueprints for brands that can span from product development to advertising. For most of our clients we serve as the lead-agency with responsibility for the vision of the brand and marketing and bring in partner agencies as needed (e.g. events/ sampling or app development). For other clients we are brought on to augment a team of existing agencies for special projects. Either way, we take pride in our ability to work and play well with others.

Why should I care that Addis is independent?

Simply put: without obligations to a far-flung holding company, we are able put the needs of our clients and our team first. We’ve never seen an agency’s work get better or their people more motivated after a sale to one of the big networks. So, we’ve turned down the offers and have decided to stay independent. The result for clients is smart, creative work without compromises.

Do you ever do work for equity

Occasionally. We selectively consider investing in the form of work for equity. Our Venture Branding practice takes very few such investments but, when we’re passionate about the idea and the team that brings it to us, we consider it.

We’re a startup so can you price the work low and, when we’re successful, we can increase the fees?

No, but…

We appreciate that when a company needs the most of what we do, they have the fewest resources. And VC’s are in their ears telling them that they don’t need to invest much in brand or marketing efforts. We work with companies who appreciate the value of brand and are willing to invest in it. If this doesn’t describe your situation, we’re not the right firm.

However, we selectively consider investing in the form of work for equity. Our Venture Branding practice takes very few such investments but, when we’re passionate about the idea and the team that brings it to us, we consider it.

Can you give us a viral video?

Yes….no….it depends.

Creating a viral video is not a strategy, but creating great content that people want to share is. While it is impossible to predict what goes viral, a brand can strive to create meaningful content that can start a social conversation. Whether it is educational, entertaining, or inspirational, sharable content needs to connect to the culture and align with your brand values and voice.

Also, great content almost always requires some significant investment. From idea development to production, content that can go viral requires the time and resources to produce something worth sharing.

What’s a typical engagement?

No two engagements are exactly the same. As a strategic and creative partner, we help clients solve many types of business and brand challenges.

Startups tend to bring us on long before you’d expect to start with an agency partner. We gave Shutterfly its name before the founders even knew exactly what their business would be. The snack brands Popchips and Somersaults brought us on to help develop the products, not just the brand. For the tech brands Equinix and Guavus, we’ve conducted workshops to build a culture around what we refer to as Brand Instinct. Crystal Geyser brought us on to relaunch their portfolio of brands from positioning to package design to integrated advertising.

What’s your view on research?

We believe research should inform, but not dictate, strategic and creative decisions. We also believe research is also only as good as the actionable insights that result from the work.

Knowing who your customer is and what motivates them is critical when doing any type of brand creation or marketing work. Our process begins with a deep immersion into your brand, business, and customer. This process can build from existing research documents or conduct extensive primary research. With experience across research methodologies, we build a work plan that fits the unique needs of your brand, your project, your timeline, and your budget.

When using research to validate creative work, whether it’s a logo, package design, or an ad, our point of view is that the process should not be a beauty contest, but rather an evaluation of the fit to the strategy and creative brief. What consumers “like” isn’t always what is best for the brand and business.

Why hire Addis rather than a strategy-only firm?

From our experience, strategy and creative work best if done in a unified and integrated way. Brilliant strategy will fail without creative that brings it to life. And, design is just decoration if not grounded in a strategically intelligent manner. Our brand strategy work is not an academic exercise to create a deck for the board, only to be cast aside when the creatives come into the picture. In fact, our teams include strategists and creatives from the very beginning of every assignment.

The best brand strategy emerges when creatives have a stake in it. That’s why see brand strategy as a creative process with an eye to how it can be visualized and expressed. Tone, personality, and compelling positioning come from this process — a process that trusts strategists and designers to co-create.

Are you a digital agency?

Digital only? No. But building and growing brands in a digital world is what we do.

Digital agencies typically build their teams and allocate resources with the potential digital needs of a company at the center. We’ve built an agency around the core capability of developing strategic and creative branding and marketing ideas. While digital is a component of almost all the work we do, from integrated advertising campaigns to web design, we are not a traditional digital agency. If you only have specific digital needs like app development or building your e-commerce platform, we are not the right agency for you.

Do you do spec work for agency reviews?

Generally, no. But, it depends on the scope and specifics of the project and proposal process. We want to work with clients who realize good work takes time and ideas are valuable. Having a small group of agencies answer several key questions to gauge how they think makes sense to us.

Asking agencies to do the project in advance makes no sense to us and, we believe, does not serve the interest of finding the best parter. Such a process favors the firms with time to constantly pitch. You know, the ones that aren’t so busy. Does that describe the best firms? Plus, the pitch team may not be the team you get once you award them the business because that team’s on to the next free pitch.

Finding the best fit takes time, openness, and chemistry. Take the time to vet the firms. Spend time with them. Talk to them. You’ll find the people you want to work with.

What should my RFP cover?

Our favorite RFPs tell us what keeps you up at night. What’s the issue you need to solve? The tactics or deliverables don’t have to be determined because choosing those tactics are part of the assignment. Of course, this makes comparing proposals difficult but may lead to the most creative outcomes.

But, if the deliverables are predetermined, please tell us the reasons for initiating the project, the anticipated scope of the work, timing guidelines and key dates, overview and next steps of the RFP process, and – if at all possible – an idea of the project budget parameters. Budget guidance early in the process makes life far easier for you and the agency. Letting the process determine the budget is painful for all involved.

We’re happy to get on a call and talk at any point in your RFP process.

Who will actually do the work on my project?

The people who you meet in the pitch will absolutely be the team working on your project day-to-day. We’ve created a flat agency with people who are all passionate about doing the work, not just selling or managing it. At the large organizations we came from, it was clear that the best performers got promoted away from the work. We keep it small because we love doing the work.

Agencies seem to have left print behind, do you do packaging and print work?
We still have a lot of love for package design and print work. Our production is done in-house. Understanding the printing process is a dying art among agencies. But not here. Printers love our meticulous mechanical artwork and how we run a mean press-check.
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