Steer and Paddle


We often say that if we do our job well, eventually our clients won’t need us anymore. This was the case with one of our healthcare clients a couple of years back. They were growing faster than anyone could have imagined. Pretty early on we realized that we needed to build a great brand, develop a highly functional website, and establish a digital marketing presence and that our reward for a job well done would be the hiring of an internal team that would eventually cut us loose.

However, in my opinion, they made that change too quickly. And the phrase that stuck in my head was the new Marketing Director telling us, because he was able to do design and social media work, he could not only steer but paddle the boat.

We play different roles for different clients. Sometimes we’re nothing more than the design and production team for a strong marketing team. Sometimes we follow the lead of a Vice President of Marketing and play the roles of Marketing Director, Creative Director and supporting team. But in this case, the new Marketing Director decided he could play all of those roles for the company.

I made sure my opinion on the approach was made clear: Without the opportunity to have a bigger picture view on the company’s marketing, and without the perspective of an outside agency, trying to be strategy and implementation would never be effective long-term. You can’t steer and paddle the boat. You’re going to hit the rocks.

This situation and the learning we gained from it has helped inform not only our clients’ strategies since then but our own strategy for marketing TIV Branding. I started Hoekenga Design in 1998, so my need to do everything for our company is a hard habit to break. However, if I’m going to play the role of leading the company, I can’t be the one that’s working on our design every day. There’s no way to keep a good perspective on the quality, effectiveness and overall strategy of what we do.

My recommendation is to have a good hard look at your brand’s approach and if you see roles that are intended to collaborate, to push each other to improve, and to compliment each other, make sure you’re not trying to put a single person in that position. They may have the skillset to fill both roles, but they can’t do both at the same time and remain effective.

Brandt Hoekenga is the Co-CEO and Creative Director for TIV Branding
TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.