Beyond the Brochure
Six-Point Creative Works Is Doggedly Determined to Help Clients GrowIf there was ever a time when effective marketing meant a snazzy brochure and not much else, Meghan Lynch said, that time is long past.
“You can create a brochure, but if it’s created in a vacuum, it’ll be used in a vacuum,” said Lynch, president and CEO of Six-Point Creative Works, a seven-year-old advertising, branding, and marketing firm in Springfield that goes well beyond that simple description. “You want to make sure you’re giving people the tools that will serve them well in the field.”
Elaborating, she noted that “lots of companies tend to think of marketing in terms of the physical item that is produced, or a website. But the jobs that really excite us, and I think the jobs where we bring the most value, are open-ended questions like, ‘we are trying to enter a market we’ve never been in before; how do we tap into that?’ or ‘how do we make sure this product launch is successful?’ or ‘we’re going through a merger; how do we make sure we don’t lose the value of our brand while getting new value from this new business?’
“Very rarely is the answer to those questions a brochure,” Lynch went on. “It’s usually a complex strategy and a lot of different messages hitting at different times and in various ways.”
And that means becoming a true partner with its client businesses.
“I think we work really well with clients who either don’t have their own marketing department, or might have one or two people in marketing, but don’t have a full, large department, and feel like they need some creative support,” she explained. “For companies with no real marketer or just a small, limited marketing department, we can almost serve as their marketing department.”
Moreover, she added, “we like to think of ourselves as part of the company, which means we can get into aspects of their business that aren’t usually our business. We’ve helped industrial companies spec and source products; we will help companies design products, get into their product development, how does something feel in your hand, how is it packaged on the shelf? Companies trust us to collaborate with us on all aspects of the organization.”
That’s pretty serious business for a firm whose mascot is a cute, exuberant cartoon dog, and an office where every day is take your dog to work day; while she spoke with BusinessWest, Lynch occasionally petted her brown mixed breed, Dexter, who had curled up on a chair next to her. Nearby, another employee’s dog, a black Swiss mountain mix named Quincy, wandered about, occasionally sniffing at the visitor.
“We found that having dogs as part of the work environment is really a positive thing,” Lynch said. “If somebody’s having a stressful day or dealing with some stuff at home, they might just need to hug a dog or need somebody to show them some attention; it’s definitely a good balancer.
“And if you start to get too caught in your own head, a dog will do something funny and pull you out of it,” she added. “It reminds you that life is short. Marketing, while certainly important, is not the Baystate ER. It helps you keep things in perspective, keep that work-life balance I also think is so important in having a happy, productive team.”
For this issue’s focus on sales and marketing, we visit an agency that has gone to the dogs in all the right ways while helping its clients reach the audience they need to succeed and grow.
Speaking of going to the dogs, the economy was about to do just that when Lynch joined co-founders David Wicks, chief creative officer, and Marsha Montori, chief creative strategist, in launching Six-Point in 2007.
“We felt like, if we can make it when things are bad and companies aren’t spending money, then when things turn around, we should be OK,” Lynch said. “Even though it was a risk to start a business, it was something we felt so strongly about, and something we were so excited about, that it didn’t seem like a risk to us; it felt natural.”
All three founders came from both strategic and creative marketing backgrounds, “and we wanted to have an agency that was a perfect balance between strategy and creative, instead of prioritizing one over the other, because they really go hand in hand,” she explained. “We had a few loyal clients in the beginning — most of whom are still with us — and we really grew from there.”In fact, Six-Point soon outgrew its original space on Bridge Street in downtown Springfield and relocated to larger quarters nearby, with a Hampden Street storefront. Lynch said it has always been important to have a Springfield address and identify with a city the partners believe is on the rise. “We’ve had a really good experience down here, and I we have a good neighborhood that provides a good working environment for our employees, even though much of our business comes from outside the area.”
The six points in the company name are based on six basic stages of creating a strategy for clients: rapid ramp-up and coming to basic decisions about goals and strategy; creation of a detailed communications action plan; creative development and turning goals into effective concepts; execution of the plan; tracking return on investment; and future evolution of brand strategy.
Most of Six-Point’s clients are nonprofits, consumer brands, and industrial or business-to-business companies.
“Once in a while, the discussion comes up, ‘do you specialize in a certain market?’ I think sometimes there’s a certain power in that, but with the team we have in place, our clients really benefit from the fact that we work in a number of markets,” Lynch said.
“If you only do nonprofit work, or only do industrial work, or only do consumer work, you can get tunnel vision and don’t become an asset to clients,” she went on. “They’re already in that industry; they already have that expertise. They’re counting on us to bring that outside perspective … we get people to think outside of their day-to-day environments. We’re not caught up in their jargon or other things unique to their market.”
For example, “consumer marketing tends to be on the cutting edge, pushing the envelope, and we bring some of that mentality to industrial companies, bring some of that emotional branding, which can be really powerful and not usually seen in those industries,” she explained.
“A lot of those clients want to talk about features and benefits, and sometimes forget that, at the end of the day, the decision to do business with a company is an emotional one. It’s about trust, and not always a logical argument, but a gut feeling — ‘I like that company; they look like they have their act together. I want to do business with them.’ We work hard to create those emotional connections, regardless of industry.”
Paws and Effect
When it all clicks, Lynch said, it’s a gratifying feeling.
“Whether it’s renaming a company or creating a new logo or doing a product launch,” she went on, “when you see the client start to feel that energy, we know we’re hitting it right, and we don’t have to convince them of it.”
Six-Point’s recent work with Hot Table, a small but growing chain of panini restaurants, is a good example. The firm designed the eatery’s new logo — a simple, stylized sandwich with the signature grill marks of a panini press — in addition to other branding and marketing services.
“That was really fun because [owner John DeVoie] came in with a big vision,” she told BusinessWest. “He has the bones of greatness in his company, and a very clear vision about what he wants Hot Table to mean; he wants to make it synonymous with panini.
“It’s really fun to work with somebody who comes in with energy and a big vision and just trusts you to execute it with him,” she added. “I showed him a lot of logos, and when he saw the grill marks we created, he said, ‘that’s it.’ He sees the potential that has as a brand mark. He got excited, we took his vision seriously, and we also see his potential.”
But marketing isn’t only an outreach to potential customers, Lynch stressed; it’s also a process of buy-in from employees of the client company.
“One thing a lot of companies are realizing is that they have an internal audience as well, and in order to create a successful brand, you need your employees to be on board as well,” she said. “Brand launches and product launches that aren’t internally launched properly do not do as well as those where everyone internally is on the same page, speaking the same message, excited about what’s happening.”
Take Bay Path College, another long-time Six-Point client, which recently became Bay Path University.
“They’re an example of a well-kept secret that’s starting to get out,” Lynch said, adding that university President Carol Leary has long had a clear vision for what becoming a university would bring to the table. “There’s a lot going on there, and not everyone grasps the good work they’re doing.”
So Six-Point created an internal video shown at a recent convocation of professors.
“We interviewed students on what they felt like as freshmen and what they feel like as seniors and the changes these women have undergone; some started out as shy and unsure and are now successful, confident women,” Lynch said. “I left the interviews thinking, ‘I need to keep track of these women; I might want to hire them.’ They were changed, and the stories they told were amazing.”
The video was powerful, and an effective marketing piece in its own right, even though it would never be seen outside the campus community, because it inspires people to be ambassadors for their own organization, and empowers them to better articulate the importance of what they do.
“It hones the power of the brand and storytelling to make people feel good about the work they do every day. They get a strong sense of why they show up for work every day,” Lynch said. “Sometimes it takes somebody from outside to remind you, ‘holy cow, we’re amazing.’ When you get into the day-to-day, you can lose that excitement.”
Lynch enjoys the “rush” of hitting the sweet spot in a marketing campaign or branding effort, and credited her staff with those successes.
“We have a group of very like-minded, curious, creative, and really brilliant people,” she said, noting that only about half the agency comes from an advertising-agency background; everyone else comes from other industries. “Even though we all have marketing in common, we’re not lifetime agency people. And the whole team shares that sense of excitement when we hit it right. I don’t feel like I have to rally the team; we do that for each other. It’s just a really, really nice environment to work in.”
A literature major in college, Lynch said she considers herself more analytical than creative, but added that Six-Point has several people in each category. “What we have in common are a love of good work and a love of problem solving. We bring our different skills, and there’s room for both here, which I really appreciate. There’s not a sense that the creative types, the artists, get special recognition. All are important for who they are and what they bring to the client.”
The idea, she said, is to come up with concepts that fit the client’s needs, not the personal taste of the team. “There’s no ego here, which makes me happy. I feel like we truly foster collaboration and appreciation of the good idea and the right solution over my point of view or my creative preference.”
It makes for an energetic, upbeat environment that any dog — real or cartoon — would appreciate.
“Our mascot reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously,” Lynch said. “We try to embody that loyalty and exuberance a dog brings to everything; he’s always excited to see you, always brings energy to whatever he’s doing. Every time he sees a tennis ball, it’s like the first time. We want to bring that to the client, that sense of refreshment and enthusiasm. That’s often what people count on us for.”
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]