Actually it’s about you and your business. Silver Communications is a full-service branding and marketing communications firm, and we deliver strategy-to-execution solutions designed specifically to support your business strategy.
We are guided by four core principles:
- Your business strategy drives our creativity. We never lose sight of the fact that branding and marketing communications are means to an end — helping you attract new customers and improve profitability.
- It’s your solution, not ours. We don’t have a “house style,” and while you’ll benefit from our experience with other clients, you’ll never get a repackaged solution.
- It’s not just the creative. Superior creative is critical. But it’s only really effective when guided by the right strategy and delivered through flawless execution. At Silver, we have the experience, the training and the perspective to deliver all three.
- Partnership isn’t a cliché. The best solutions come from a working partnership between us, at all stages of the process and at all levels within your organization. Partnership is where imagination, business savvy and effective implementation come together.
A Conversation with Silver’s Core Team
Gregg Sibert and Jeff Ewen, Silver’s management team, each have over 30 years of experience in brand identity and marketing and financial communications. In addition to Silver Communications, both have worked with some of the leading branding and design firms in the U.S., and have directed branding and communications programs for major global corporations in a broad range of industries.
Gregg and Jeff recently shared their thoughts on the rewards and challenges of creating great brands and communications.
Q: Most clients will tell you that getting to know the people who will be working on their account is one of the most important steps in selecting a creative services partner, and that process really begins on an agency’s website. What should prospective clients know about Silver?
Gregg Sibert: It’s trendy to have “fun” bios on agency websites, with critical information like the names of your cats or what you like to do on Friday nights. What is far more relevant is why we’re in this business.
Q: Why are you in this business?
Gregg: Because we love the challenge of taking what, on first glance, appears ordinary, and making it extraordinary through the interplay of design, words, and imagery.
Jeff Ewen: Our business lives where art and commerce meet, and that’s a pretty interesting neighborhood. Many creative people chafe at the constraints of commercial design, because they think it limits their creativity. But the discipline imposed by the commercial world actually deepens the creative challenge, and that makes the “art” element in the equation even more exciting.
Q: Why is that important to your clients?
Jeff: It focuses our creativity on two very specific objectives — getting the attention of the right audience and successfully communicating our client’s message. The commercial aspect of our work imposes a strong, results-oriented discipline.
Gregg: It also pushes us to look for new ways to effectively integrate all the elements of every communication to make sure that the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. Everything has to contribute to achieving the client’s business and positioning objectives.
Q: Which is more important, strategy or creative?
Gregg: Too many agencies are driven by one or the other. The answer is “all of the above,” and I’d also add quality of execution to the list.
Jeff: Sun Tsu said, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Without a clearly articulated branding or communications strategy, creative exploration isn’t really exploration — it’s just blundering around looking for something that is aesthetically pleasing.
Gregg: And without great creative, even the best strategy never gets off the desktop. Great creative makes it real, and makes it relevant. Great creative reaches out, draws in your audience, and sends them away with the right message in their heads. When we developed the marketing communications for Merrill Lynch’s ex-U.S. wealth management offering, Global Selects, we began with a strong positioning strategy, and then translated that into a portfolio of distinctive visuals and messaging that carried across media, and across markets.
Jeff: The last critical link is execution quality. Particularly in financial and professional services, clients want to know that you really sweat the details. Quality is part of your brand promise, and every aspect of your marketing and client communications have to deliver on that promise.
Q: How are you structured to deliver all three — strategy, creative and execution?
Jeff: Our process brings all three disciplines into every program. We begin with the client’s business strategy, which ultimately drives everything we do. The first step of our process effectively translates the business strategy into branding, positioning, and/or communications strategies, depending on the scope of the program. These are the benchmarks for creative development and execution.
Gregg: Our second phase, creative development, includes concept, information architecture, content and design. We make sure that copy, design, layout and information flow are all working in sync to stay on message and reinforce target positioning.
The third phase of our process is execution and implementation. A lot of agencies relegate this to junior staffers, which can be a mistake. Great strategy and great creative can be lost in flawed execution.
Q: What is distinct about Silver Communications?
Gregg: Part of the answer lies in our backgrounds and experience. I came up through the creative side of the business, starting from design school and working as a designer and creative director at globally recognized branding and communications firms. Jeff, who has a law degree, came up through the strategy side, and has worked for several of New York’s major brand identity consultants. One of our strengths is that we both seem to have a knack for each other’s side of the business. I’ve developed a deep understanding of the financial services industry, and Jeff has developed solid creative instincts.
Jeff: Together we make a strong team, and we bring that integration of strategic thinking and creative inspiration to every client relationship, whether it’s a full brand identity program or a single brochure. That’s important for clients for two reasons. First, of course, they get a better product. Second, our ability to relate what we do to each client’s business strategy and competitive environment can help to build consensus and support for the solution within the client’s organization.
Gregg: That last point is pretty important. We take a team approach in our relationships with clients, so the ability to frame our recommendations in terms of their business objectives can really help facilitate the process. Also, we don’t just go in with one concept and say, “here’s the solution.” We offer our clients choices, and provide disciplined, results-oriented counsel to help them choose.
Q: You’ve both been in the business long enough to remember life before the digital revolution. Have the internet and social media really “changed everything”?
Gregg: They’ve changed a lot of things, mostly for the better. The internet and social media have opened new opportunities for reaching precisely targeted audiences with highly customized messages, very cost effectively. There is also a much more robust two-way conversation between companies and their customers. That has always been there, but now it’s direct, instantaneous, and the customer’s voice is stronger. What hasn’t changed is the value of a strong, trusted brand.
Jeff: However, it’s important to remember what hasn’t changed. New media haven’t eliminated the underlying fundamentals. A coherent, trusted brand is more important than ever.
Q: Is there any downside to the age of new media?
Gregg: New communications can be generated very quickly and by many more people, which opens major new opportunities. However, it is also more difficult to coordinate and control your exposure. That’s a challenge not just for staying on message, but also for avoiding legal and regulatory stumbles. Particularly in financial services, compliance is a huge issue.
Jeff: These challenges underscore the need for a clear coherent brand and a consistent framework for branding, positioning and messaging.
Q: What do you mean by a “coherent” brand?
Jeff: One that is relatively easy to understand — the products and services it is associated with, the quality it stands for, and other attributes, like luxury or innovation, for example. Coherence results from consistency and coordination of message and presentation over time and across all media.
Gregg: That’s why a strong brand identity system and clearly articulated positioning strategy are so important. They provide a framework for every point of interaction between the brand and target audiences, including employees.
When we worked with BNY Securities Group, their business strategy demanded that they be seen as an integrated, full service institutional securities firm. But because they had grown primarily by acquisition, they had a very fragmented brand identity. We developed a new, more unified branding system that effectively linked the core brand to the full scope of their capabilities, effectively conveying the positioning they needed.
Jeff: This approach also enabled us to create a scalable system of marketing and client communications for a family of Credit Suisse funds. The system provided for regular updating of the materials, and effectively embedded compliance into that process.
Q: One of the biggest challenges marketers face is having limited resources — budgets, people and time. Any advice for dealing with this?
Jeff: Probably the most important thing is to make every point of contact count, whether that’s digital, print or in person. And that brings us back to consistency and coordination of message, and making sure that every impression your brand makes reinforces your target positioning and core messages.
Gregg: Cumulatively, it adds up. One of our clients, FXall won a Financial Communications Society media strategy award for having maximum impact with a minimal budget. We developed an efficient, tightly targeted digital and print media plan, and leveraged the plan with a distinctive look and feel that stood out from other players in the foreign exchange space and relentless focus on core messages.
Jeff: By the way, the award was great, but what was really important was FXall’s growth. It quickly emerged from being seen as a platform primarily for corporate treasurers to one that was in the consideration set across the full range of institutional forex traders.
Q: Where do you go from here?
Gregg: Perhaps unusually for this business, we like being a relatively small, focused agency. We like working directly with clients to solve problems and seize opportunities, so we don’t want to grow to a point we aren’t personally involved with each client.
Jeff: We also don’t want to become media-driven, such as an agency that focuses on web work, or social media, or print. Clients interact with an organization across multiple media. That’s why we take a holistic approach to branding and marketing communications.
Gregg Sibert, President
Gregg Sibert has over 30 years of experience creating dynamic brand identity strategies and systems, advertising and other marketing communications programs, event-based marketing campaigns, and exhibit designs. His expertise includes branding strategy, creative strategy and design, media planning, and print and electronic production.
Gregg has worked with a range of U.S. and global clients, with special emphasis on investment and other financial services. His clients include many areas of Merrill Lynch, ConvergEx, Baron Funds and Baron Capital Management, Glenmede Investment Management, Brinson Partners, Credit Suisse, NeubergerBerman Management and NeubergerBerman Funds Group, Advisors Asset Management (AAM), Chase Vista Funds, Evergreen Funds, Cohen and Steers, FXall, Townsend Analytics, SunGard Investment Management Systems, Collaborative Consulting, Thomson Financial, Chapdelaine Credit Partners, Clearbrook Global, MoMA, Oppenheimer, many areas of The Bank of New York, multex.com, ABN AMRO Prime Brokerage Services, ADP/BISG, Broadridge Financial, e-risk, Deloitte & Touche, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Nielsen Media Research, Met Life, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, and others.
Gregg received his B.S. from the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning.
Jeff Ewen, Managing Director
Jeff Ewen has more than 35 years of experience developing brand identity and marketing communications programs for clients in a wide range of industries. His work includes research-based assessment of existing brands, development of new names and visual identities, and concept and content development for a broad range of print and web-based marketing communications.
Jeff has served as senior brand strategist and project director on corporate, product and service identity programs for MasterCard, LGT, Wachovia, BayBanks, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Sprint, Becton Dickinson, ConvergEx, Reliant Energy, CenterPoint Energy, The Jewish Guild for the Blind, EnergyOne, Chase, Aramark, The Walt Disney Company, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Acuity Brands, Stouffers, and Molson Breweries.
Jeff has a B.A. from the University of Vermont, a J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and has done graduate work at New York University’s Stern School of Business.