“How can we bring this product to market in an interesting, compelling way?”
We like to think we are just swimming upstream a bit.
— Strategy: brand positioning, business strategy, messaging, brand creation
— Design: visual identity, concept design, customer experience design
— Innovation: ideation, platform creation, new product development
Innovation is not a department or a task force. We’d say it’s a value, but that doesn’t quite convey the urgency. It’s more like an existential imperative. We don’t view innovation as a silo or an “initiative.” Because of that, we prefer taking a holistic approach.
We live in a world of webs, of clouds, of gravitational pulls, so why do we still think that new ideas will roll off the factory line?
We believe that process should reflect reality. Ideation looks like a web, not a conveyor belt.
What does that really mean? More options, earlier in the process. More possibilities. More potential for creating something breakthrough.
There are consultants who go into a project looking for a happy middle ground. Innovation never comes from that place. And we are not those consultants.
Your therapist may not agree with us, but your physicist might (if you have your own physicist we would really like to talk to you): Tension is where the good stuff comes from. Where opposites diverge or forces bump up against each other. Tension can be emotional or physical, societal or individual.
We know. Whenever you hear someone say, “Let’s collaborate,” you get that itchy feeling and check your already fully stuffed calendar for a thirty-minute slot at 8:00 a.m.
Meetings suck. But having meetings and working collaboratively aren’t exactly the same thing. We are cautiously optimistic about the former and unapologetically exuberant about the latter.
Strictly speaking, we’re not in the “ideas” business. We’re in the “make it happen business.” “There’s not enough time.” “How do we move forward?” “Maybe we should do more focus groups.” “This cannibalizes our existing business.” “We’re not set up to do this.” We recognize the signs. It’s a challenge we face all the time, and something we can help with.
— Harlan Kennedy Director of Strategy
Harlan Kennedy has been helping clients with strategic challenges since 1995. He has been with Venables Bell & Partners since 2004, and in that time has served as the strategic lead on Nestea, PG&E, Siebel Systems, Barclays, iShares, ConocoPhillips and Russell Investments.
Prior to working at Venables Bell & Partners, Kennedy was VP of Strategic Planning at McCann Erickson New York, where, in addition to launching the original Xbox for Microsoft, he headed up strategic planning efforts on Dentyne Ice, Bass Ale and Agilent Technologies. Kennedy also worked closely with clients on new product development for Cadbury Adams and Labatt — spending countless hours understanding what new and exciting ways people might want to chew and drink in the future.
During the dot-com boom years Kennedy spent most of his time at Sausalito agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, where he headed up strategic planning on Sony’s in-house game-developer 989 Studios, as well as quite a few dot-coms (many now deceased).
Kennedy began his advertising career at McCann Erickson Seattle (aka Sedgwick Road), where he cut his teeth on the Washington State Lottery, the Washington Apple Commission and Powerade, Coca-Cola’s then recently introduced sports drink.
Kennedy laid the groundwork for his career with a B.A. in Art History from Middlebury College.
— Blake Bäkken Design Director
As Design Director at vbp orange, Blake Bäkken brings smart, considered, effective design guided by solid strategic thinking.
With a B.F.A. in graphic design, advertising and printmaking from the University of Wisconsin, Bäkken began working in Minneapolis on Target, Sub-Zero, 3M and Minneapolis Grand Hotel, then in San Francisco on The North Face, Expedia.com, iShares and a variety of clients ranging from biotech to greeting cards.
In 2002, Bäkken joined VB&P, where he has worked with clients including Audi, Intel, HBO, eBay, Google, Barclays, ConocoPhillips, PG&E, 24 Hour Fitness, iShares, Coca-Cola, Siebel Systems, Robert Mondavi and the Montana Meth Project. His projects have ranged from an extensive experiential installation for Audi to brand development and product innovation for a collaboration between the Lance Armstrong Foundation and 24 Hour Fitness.
Most recently, Bäkken has led the development of a new identity and brand voice for Sansa; the creation of a refreshed global brand campaign for Intel; the development of a brand voice for Conoco; and has been integral to bringing unexpectedly fresh visual voices to intelligent strategies for many other VB&P and orange clients.
A quiet warrior, Bäkken dives into issues that he’s passionate about. He developed a campaign encouraging California voters to vote NO on Proposition 8, and most recently created a local movement and protest demanding SF mass transit reform.
Bäkken’s work has been featured in Graphis, Communication Arts and Creativity. He’s won numerous awards including Effies, Graphis, ADDYs (national and local), The One Show, Art Directors Club (ADC), Webbys, Kelly, OBIEs, and currently serves as a judge for The Webbys (2008–present) and the ADC Awards.
These 12ft high by 6ft wide panels energized the Audi Forum in New York City. In an effort to increase engagement, we created these as conversation starters. The stunning visuals paired with a fleet of flagship vehicles served to elevate Audi’s passion for engineering into art while telling the Audi brand story.
The new Sansa — a SanDisk creation — is all about giving people the freedom to have their entertainment whenever, wherever and however they want it. The symbol is comprised of an abstraction of the five letters of the word “Sansa” uniquely stacked with the letter “n” centered within the mark. This unique configuration creates a memorable, unified shape that is simple in form, tactile in nature, energetic, human, approachable and dynamic in spirit. Packaging, POP, on the products, as a start-up/shutdown screen and in its corporate identity system are just a few of the ways we expressed the playful, energetic personality of the brand.
Italy’s largest online bank came all the way to San Francisco to see if we could help them with their brand positioning and communications strategy. We dove in with a knowledgeable outsider perspective and, after sitting and drinking espresso with a slew of Italian investors in their homes, created a new brand positioning and communications strategy that would reposition Fineco as not just the modern way to bank but the modern way to invest.
The PG&E ecoLounge is a branded pop-up environment where customers can use online tools to reduce their energy usage. The ecoLounge features only eco-friendly furniture and products — including classic designs by Florence Knoll, Charles and Ray Eames, Vemer Panton and Henry Bertoia. Materials consisted of recycled glass, bamboo, a creative chandelier composed of CFL light bulbs and even organically grown sod for a genuine grass sofa.
This project was an internally focused celebration marking 100 years of PG&E. Rather than looking back on all of PG&E’s storied history in Northern California, we shifted the focus to the future: “Looking forward to the next 100 years.” We also photographed 100 employees in order to celebrate their accomplishments in a unique and memorable way, and then featured these photos in the company lobby in the form of 5ft x 5ft squares suspended from the ceiling, backlit murals, indoor billboards, even a traveling bus.
March of Dimes
The March of Dimes asked us to help them recalibrate their fund-raising efforts. The fundamental question: How does an organization built around millions of small donations communicate (and act) around a capital campaign? We dug in, and created a unique and motivating positioning and messaging strategy that the organization then implemented to raise funds for their new Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Barclays has sponsored the rebirth of Brooklyn in the form of a nineteen-block retail, residential, business and stadium development. To announce their involvement to the press, Barclays wanted a press piece which would nod to the historic return of professional sports to the borough: Brooklyn has given the world so much, now it’s time the world gave something back.
ZER01 is an art and technology organization that needed help defining its vision and role to an outside audience. At a time when the direction of the organization was shifting, they approached us to create a new brand identity that would reflect that evolution. In the process, we refined their mission, positioning and communications strategy.
Media X is Stanford’s affiliate program that acts as a matchmaker between businesses looking to see and shape the future, and Stanford professors whose research might be creating it. Media X asked us to redesign their website in order to better tell their story, and in the process we refined their positioning, their communications strategy, and created an entirely new website.
24 Hour Fitness
The Loop is a collaboration between Lance Armstrong and Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness. It is a new concept within the fitness category: America needs a positive, accessible way to bring fitness to everyone — a way to exercise that fits into everyday life. We worked with the client to create the experience and bring it to life across every detail.