Anniversaries are thick on the ground this year.
It’s been 10 years since the iPad debuted, 100 years since the Band-Aid appeared. (How did we live without them?) It’s been 50 years since the Kansas City Chiefs won their first of two Super Bowls. (Congrats on 2020, Chiefs!)
And it’s been 25 years since Hummingbird opened its doors for business.
Balloons and confetti! It hardly seems real, but Hummingbird is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
We’re taking this silver opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve learned… to celebrate the work we do and who we serve… to thank our friends and look forward to our next 25 years.
Our story begins with founder Wendy Coulter, who developed her creative wings as an event planner, graphic designer and marketer for a small nonprofit. In 1995 she closed her eyes and jumped, launching a design business with three clients she met at a Cary Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.
Design by Wendy became Hummingbird Designs, inspired by a friend’s characterization of Wendy: quick, energetic and unique. Wendy hired her first team member and began serving local start-ups as a boutique graphic design firm.
Hummingbird took off, expanding into a brand identity firm offering full-service branding and marketing to small businesses. Now, 25 years and dozens of awards later, Hummingbird Creative Group is an agile, talented team that tackles everything from insight research to positioning… naming to taglines… advertising to SEO… sales enablement to social media… brand identities to public relations… and more.
We’ve had a lot of fun with our own brand identity. Like the hummingbird, we fly forward, backward, sideways and upside-down for clients. Like the hummingbird, we get territory, helping clients mark theirs with strong Unique Sales Propositions (USPs).
And like the hummingbird, we’re constantly in motion.
Zeroing in on Big Ideas
Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty efficient at finding the heart of each client’s brand essence.
We help clients articulate their target market, their culture, their competitive advantages. Define their essence, their differentiation. Develop strong positioning.
We talk to their customers and ask, “Why this business? What attracted you? What keeps you coming back?” We listen for insights, voice and vocabulary.
From all this we distill a common thread—the Big Idea.
Everything flows from the Big Idea… brand story and brand strategy… taglines, visuals and messaging… a sustainable brand platform that truly resonates with the target market.
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Psychologist and philosopher John Dewey knew what he was talking about. Hummingbird had been in a happy groove for some time before we could reflect on our experience and recognize some important truths.
1. We’re a Big Agency in Hummingbird Feathers
CEO Wendy has good friends in big ad agencies. One recently asked Hummingbird to submit a pitch for the creative on a large project.
We sent a full-concept presentation with a theme to connect every piece of communications and marketing. Ideas for trade shows, email marketing, website, giveaways… everything on the client’s list.
This opportunity turned out to be a real eye-opener. We got to see a pitch from the competition—a big-city agency whose B&W presentation was simply a regurgitation of the client’s marketing plan. Nothing creative about it.
Takeaway: Big agencies aren’t doing what they used to, but Hummingbird stays true to a creative approach.
Don’t think we’re sitting around throwing koosh balls at each other… We base our creative process on data, customer insights, positioning and differentiation.
2. Branding ROI Is Different
Thanks to a good business broker, a few years ago we had a major breakthrough about the true ROI of branding.
It’s relatively easy to measure ROI for advertising campaigns. For example: $5 in revenue for every $1 spent on marketing = a 5:1 revenue-to-cost ratio (which is pretty good).
But calculating ROI for branding is trickier, because branding impacts the value of the business as a whole. Consider Apple. Without their brand awareness and passionate clan of MacFans, they wouldn’t be worth $940 billion.
We’ve realized that when you create differentiation for a company with good branding, it impacts the EBITDA multiple, a ratio that compares a company’s enterprise value (market cap + net debt) to its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
Stay with us… The EBITDA multiple makes it possible to compare the value of a business to similar businesses—an indication of branding’s ROI.
Takeaway: Good branding means a better story to tell investors and buyers… which means better return on business value.
3. Two Little Words Make a Huge Difference
Just recently we got some great business advice from a friend about our tagline—which triggered our third epiphany.
We’re hummingbirds, right? Our original tagline was “where ideas fly.” But our friend pointed out that our ideas do more than help clients fly… our ideas help them take flight.
According to Merriam-Webster, take flight is “to begin a period of rapid activity, development, or growth.”
Yes! Our new tagline—”where ideas take flight”— is what we work so hard to help our clients achieve. It’s about expected results, about the strategy and ideas that propel business growth.
Takeaway: Reframing language can trigger a big shift in awareness and strategy. Sometimes we all need a little help speaking to our target customer better.
We’re excited about the future… about flying forward with deeper experience and understanding… about helping clients differentiate their businesses with creative ideas and solid brand strategy.
Too often, warp-speed technology and deadlines derail creative work. We expect things to be easier and faster. We forget that the creative needs to happen on its own terms.
It’s a balance. Every couple of years we revisit creative concepts with clients to make sure the foundation of the brand is still in place. If things have shifted, we revisit and adjust.
We’ve discovered that what differentiates Hummingbird itself is the ability to build and support authentic brands. To take classic creativity—creativity that has driven some amazing brands for years and years—and bring it into the present. And into whatever comes next.