Brand Case Study: The Grove School
I wanna bring up Kari Strand, and Kari, please come on up and join me. (applause) Kari will roll her eyes of course, but she's very special to me. As I mentioned, I talked about Neil and Matt, and all the people that I've worked with. I've been so fortunate to work with over the years. Kari and I worked together at Starbucks. She was on my team at Starbucks, and then she was kind enough to join me at the very beginning of Tether. In fact you can blame her for the logo. She did the logo for us. So she's been there from the beginning up there on the mezzanine, in that little gallery space and all that. And I want her to take us through a project that she worked on. She lead this with her team. And it's called the Grove School. And she'll talk about it, but this really puts every single element that we've talked about today together, and this is from Brandbook. This is who we are, to this is what we look like, sound like. So Brandbook to Style Guide. And she'll talk a little bit about the...
difference between the two, and take us all the way through the journey. And there's a difference... So some of you are small, some of you are big, but some brands we do everything for. 360 degrees. Some we do parts of things for, some we continue doing everything for, some we just do the Brandbook, and get 'em started, we do their packaging or whatever it is that we do. And then we hand it to them, and they go on their way with the tools. So this is a good example of that one. Kari, please. Here's that
Yeah. Okay, so the Grove School is a really fun and interesting project. It was about five years ago when we were just starting out, and we had a client come to us, somebody we'd worked with at Starbucks, and she was at a company called Knowledge Universe, and their focus is early childhood education; Kindercare is their lead brand. Huge, very strong but kind of middle of the road daycare. Definitely a daycare. They wanted to come out with a more premium offering that hit a different part of the market that they weren't currently offering so that the two brands could pair together. So they came to us with a lot of research and had three sort of value propositions that they wanted to approach, and we dug into all that research and really worked with them to define where the sweet spot would be. And we came up with this idea that there was this huge opportunity, again, this is 5 or 6 years ago. There's this huge opportunity for a school that spoke to more of the environmental, social community focus that a lot of parents were moving to bring their kids to, even in that preschool space. So how to bring a school into a space for preschoolers that sort of laid the foundation for the values that their parents held dear. And so it was a really fun one because I had a kid at that age, and so it was really easy for me to be excited about what that school could be. So we started with the name the Grove School--
So all that, up to there is strategy and positioning
And then we're done with that part.
Yeah because all of that--
We got a buy-off on that part, and then.
The brand's story, the Brandbook looks really easy when you just look at them. We give this book to the teachers and they say "Oh that's great!" But there's so much work that happens before that. And the Brandbook is really just the library of all that information. So their special challenge, it was twofold; one, their teachers were their biggest evangelists in their communities, they were the ones that told the story. When parents came in, they were the ones who had to talk about it. They were also the ones building these fliers with all kinds of crafty stuff. And so we had to try to teach them.
I interrupt you on the name, so speak to that a little bit.
Right. So the Grove School came out of this idea, for one, this is a preschool, not a daycare. So it's very much about school. And the Grove was this idea of this safe haven for the kids that speaks more to being outside then in an institution, has a little bit of an environmental angle, but not too, like, green. Not trying to green-wash it. And it was just a fun place you'd wish your kids could go and sit under the tree and learn about the world.
Okay, let's see if I can work this. So with the Brandbook, as you can see here, we went with this metaphor of an ABC book. Sometimes we do videos, sometimes we do all kinds of different things. This is an ABC book, even though it's always meant to be a digital thing, it still has the two sides and the ABC's. And so it went all the way through as an introduction to the teachers, this is all internal facing, so it would never go to families or anything. Gives the lay of the land of what we're gonna speak to. Really goes into why they're doing it, and what they believe in. That's my son, Ollie. So these were their commitments that they were making. Because it's a new school, they couldn't bring parents in to tour the school, so they had to say this is what we believe in, this is what we commit to you as a parent. And back to those commitments, that's what the teachers then had to learn within the school, how to speak to all those things that the brand held dear. So then moving into the brand, the values, personality, look, and feel. Here we used three sets of five words instead of just the five, because values were such an important part of building this brand. Personality; optimistic, engaging, confident, and happy. You see that, on the layouts? Visual identity--
So up to there, so that's the Brandbook. So the difference between a Brandbook, it's all incorporated, you call a Brandbook that has everything inside it. But, up to right here, this is all words so far. There's no visuals yet. But, just like you saw in all those other brand examples, it needs to look like the brand, so yes, there are visuals, but now you're gonna talk about this is who we are, now this is what we look like, starting now.
Yep, and sort of the rules of use. So the different ways you can use the logo, all the colors, all the how-to's, the graphic elements, how to bring 'em apart, pull 'em together, make patterns. And all of these things were provided to them, so they had all these elements of digital files that they can then build with. Typography. Some examples of the typography, we didn't do too many pieces for them. So having some examples of how the type comes to life on the page was important. And then the photography. There's a lot of Hallmark photography out there, and how could they be different. So we shot, spent a couple days in a studio with a whole load of little kids. Super fun, had to bring them to life. And a couple more of our employees kids there. And so we did the shoot for them, then they had all these pieces to work with. And as a designer moving into a brand, you want those things that you can bring to life in a new way. So all these images have the backgrounds dropped--
Yeah I think the exciting thing about this is that, really thinking ahead about usability. So this is an internal organization that was gonna take this and use it themselves. We want to set them up for success, and also set them for looking as good as possible, 'cause they could screw it up quickly too. So not only providing the guidelines, but providing the assets, so you see all these are knocked out, all the imagery, so they don't come with an environment. So it's very flexible in how you can put these together. You provide them the background, the graphic elements, the type and the photography. Put it together and it's gonna look okay. Even if you don't put it together in the most stringent way, it's gonna look alright.
So the buttons, these were an important element of the brand, these iconic elements that were part of the logo of the grove tree. The buttons that we're all driven by this idea of mind, body, and planet. Which is the mantra that we worked with all the way through; healthy mind, healthy body, healthy planet. So they ladder back to those things. And then all of our print materials had to of course, have some kind of focus on this environmental and community commitment that we had. And within this environment, there's a lot of paperwork, so a lot of things that are passed out, folders, anybody that's been a parent knows. So everything that we did for them had to have either a second use or not be thrown away. So for example, instead of doing a postcard, we did a seed packet. So they could pass that out at farmers markets, get parents engaged, kids engaged, and they could watch, whatever, the sunflowers grow, and continue to be a touchpoint in those peoples' lives. Bookmark, as a give away. The apple with the sticker. Kids love stickers, so how does that continue in their life. The binder that has all the materials, most of that went to the web. But we did want to have one thing that could be leaved behind that a teacher could walk them through. So this was an accordion fold piece, all one piece of paper. On the front side, it had sort of the tenants of what they believe, their commitments, what the day is like, what they're gonna eat, and how much outdoor time they're gonna have. And on the back, it had a coloring activity grow chart. So if a kid comes in with a mom to get the tour, then they can do the little activities, be totally engaged, and something to take home. Lives on the wall permanently with the Grove School logo. So a continual touchpoint. Advertising. Website was a challenge as well, and this is also another case of passing the keys over. This was all Wordpress template that had to be very engaging and easy to change. Back then that was a pretty novel idea, now it's pretty common. But the teachers all have access and there's a lot of dialogue that happens within the site. And Powerpoint plan, Powerpoint materials, the bus, activities around the bus, the signage. And then the messages were super important. So Style Guide usually includes more the how-to of the graphic language, Brandbook is more about who we are, the messaging. Especially for a company like this, it's super important. Like how do we talk about how we care about the environment? How do we make it sound authentic if it's not a personal value for one of the teachers? How can they talk about how it's a value for the school. So top three messages that everything had to connect to, how the external expression was, how we did internal talking to the kids, what was written for the parents, and things that were written for general public. So when you talk to the parents, what they care about is gonna be a little different than the community. So we went into short, medium, long for all those pieces, teachers and administration, then we talk about what are the key elements, like I was just mentioning with the green. How do you talk about play? How do you talk about the kids? So are they kids, are they students? Are the teachers, are they really teachers? Is it a principal, or is it a head of the school. All those kinds of things really got hit on here. It was a really fun opportunity, we got to dive so deep. Talked about why the name of the school, and how to use the website for the teachers. How to come into Wordpress and make some changes and make a post, share an event, that kind of thing. So super robust Brandbook. And then when it came down to it, this was meant as the cheat sheet that you have at your desk in your cube to remind you of what's the short list. When you're writing a post, a blog post on the site, does it come back to all of these things, and how does that define what that successful message looks like?
Yeah, thank you Kari. And what a great example of really thinking through the whole thing. Who the brand is, how it's gonna come across from the look, to the voice. And then the implementation and execution of it. Even had guidelines in there on Twitter, and Facebook and social media, how to speak to those different channels. That's something, we have so many tools at our disposal now. As communicators, sometimes it's confusing for our clients. A lot of times you run across a company they'll post the exact same thing on Facebook, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and everything else, and Instagram. So there's different channels for different uses, so it's our job to help educate them on how to use these amazing tools that we create for them, starting with our Brandbook. So this is a great example of... So this is a very, nuts and bolts. Very nuts and bolts, and as Kari said, lots of thinking went into it. For naming, we, like everything, you start with 100 names and narrow it down to 20, and then 10, and three and one. We do all the legal rigor, we'll go in and do initial USPTO, the patent trademark office will do initial search, we'll do Google searches and Bing searches and everything else. And then we'll give it to them as here are some options that look fairly good. You'll have to have your lawyer check it out to make sure. So it's really being that full service resource to them. 'Cause a lot of companies, especially the smaller ones that you might work with, they're just like I don't know, who do we go to for that? So the more that you can be... I guess it ties a little bit back to a question that you had earlier, if you have that network of people that you can rely on, even if you can't do it all yourself, you can have a relationship, and you just say, I don't do that, but these people can do it with me, and it'd be more of a partnership. And I just wanted to show, this example right here, this is a Brandbook. So it doesn't look like a Brandbook, it looks like a newspaper, right? But this is a brandbook that we did. This is a company called Crumpler and they make bags. But what we wanted to do is catch the attention of the company, and we wanted them, even the execution of the Brandbook needed to be in a different form, so we actually made up these newspapers, we printed these newspapers, we bundled it, and we dropped it off on the owners front porch in the nighttime. We could've got arrested for it, but it was a chance we were willing to take. So what it did, the Brandbook, this is more of a brand manifesto for them. And it went through all those elements. It said this is who we are, here's our promise, this is our future, this is where we wanna be, this is what we wanna do. So it took him through all of those things, it had that seven mantra points, and it's basically how we're going to go to the world. So it can be, we've done them before as videos too. You end up having a digital piece as well, a graphics piece as well. But we introduce it through a video so the whole promise is spoken with music behind it so they get the power of that. So that's... Jim, let's have a couple questions. We have a couple minutes.
Yeah, perfect. So, to you guys both, could you give me a little bit of an idea and the folks out there about the timeline for building a Brandbook, and about what kind of team you need to put that thing together.
Go ahead, Kari.
Yeah. So, we throw a lot of people on right up front, because we really believe that the designers, the writers, everybody being involved in understanding why it is what it is, rather than just taking the brandbook, and saying oh, this is what I'm doing with the poster. So they're involved up front. We also have designers and writers, everybody interacting on naming, all the way through. So it's really important within the Brandbook that it's kind of a hot bed of kind of what they could be. So we start with all the research, we build something what we call brand strategy blueprint, that includes all the information that the client has for us, and includes all of what we think of the challenges and goals and who the customer is, and competitive audit and everything. From there, that's all information that's given. From there, the brand story... So that usually takes a couple weeks after a kick off, depending how much information a client is able to give us. Brand story then, to generate the first round of brand story is usually about two weeks, 'cause there's a lot of back and forth internally. Usually one person owns it. And then from there, a couple rounds of revisions. Maybe a week or two. And sometimes it continues to evolve, we learn something new once we land on a name that should reflect back into the Brandbook.
Great, so maybe a couple months from beginning to end when you're producing it? Fantastic. And the team, I'm sure you've got writers, graphic designers, that whole group that comes in to build that, yeah.
Yep, and I should add, for a company like the Grove School, there's a lot of creative that happened after we wrote the brand story. So the brand story is generally more of what Stanley showed you for Swan's Island, where it's a written document, less about the images, and the Brandbook in the end contains a lot more work.
Yeah it's important to do that sequence before you burn a lot of hours coming up with the look of that thing, that brand, you need to get a buy-off from them all along the way. And that's why the creative brief is very important. A lot of times you're not given a creative brief. You're given a series of facts about the brand. What we do, we turn that into a creative brief. We'll write it and send it back to them and say, okay, this is what you asked us to do, is that right? And so for us, a creative brief is inspiring to us, because it gives us the creative challenge. It gives us the landscape, the competitors and all that stuff, but also say this is who we wanna be, this is the creative challenge that we're up against. And so you get buy-off on that, and you get buy-off on the written version of the brand story. So does this reflect who you are? And then once that's there, then you can start doing, whether it's the logo or the graphic elements, or photography direction. All those different things, and building that out.