If you sit down with Pat Jones, co-founder of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Powerhouse Factories, there’s a refrain you’ll hear a lot: Credibility. Authenticity. Passion. Those words ring out from any conversation with him. But they aren’t empty catchphrases; they’re the tenets that are at the root of everything Powerhouse Factories does, even at the root of the branding agency, itself.
Designer Spotlight: Powerhouse Factories on Building Brands
In 2004 when Jones founded Powerhouse Factories with Ben Nunery, it started out as a small gig poster shop that has since designed posters for musicians from Bruce Springsteen to The Black Keys. As luck would have it, having set up shop in Cincinnati where big corporations like P&G, GE and KAO are headquartered, they soon found themselves parlaying their passion and marketing for bands into big brands.
“We’ve always seen a very clear relationship between bands and brands,” Jones says. “Whether we planned it or not, we found ourselves in the middle of the action.”
“At the time we implicitly understood that musicians and bands had a really good approach to brand,” Jones explains. “Musicians have always lived and died based on their ability to intersect their image with their music; if their persona and their product aren’t aligned, people aren’t interested. This basic idea is the difference between Kanye West and Justin Bieber. Whatever your thoughts are on the two, Kanye is clearly better at believably connecting his image and his music. This translates to authenticity, integrity and, ultimately, value.”
Branding That’s Believable: Connecting Persona + Product
And that, Jones says, is the fundamental challenge that brands face every day, too. Because when people believe in a brand, they get excited about it and committed to it. But when all people see is slick and empty advertising, a brand can easily become culturally irrelevant.
“The world doesn’t have a shortage of stories; we have a shortage of brands willing to live up to the stories they tell,” Jones explains. “We believe it isn’t enough to just tell a story; brands have to back up what they say with meaningful believable experiences that demonstrate their points of view while adding credibility to their messages. We are committed to the idea that brands have to live what they sell.”
Which is why when the grocery-store chain Kroger hired them to introduce their Private Selection brand of Michigan Cherry Cobbler ice cream, the team did more than just come up with a snazzy ad. Instead, their clever campaign started by inviting 10 of the leading food bloggers to visit one of the Michigan family farms that actually grows the cherries that go into the ice cream. While there, the bloggers created their own ice cream flavors, based on their home states. The resulting flavors included Huckleberry Pie from Idaho and Salted Caramel Banana Pie from Louisiana. Taking those innovative flavors, they launched a Facebook competition where Kroger fans could vote on their favorite flavor, which will hit shelves next year.
It’s efforts like those, which go above and beyond your typical marketing campaign, that set the creative genius of Powerhouse Factories apart from the competition. They make sure to practice what they preach—which is to stay true to your roots. So even though they now work with some of the top brands, they’ve never abandoned the passion that got them started in the first place: A print shop creating one-of-a-kind rock posters.
“Staying connected to the music and art scene has always been an important mechanism for maintaining creativity,” Jones says. “So, as the agency aspect of our business developed, we consciously focused on maintaining and growing the gig poster business. This allows us—and in some ways forces us—to stay on top of things creatively.”
Which goes to show that, like it does for all its clients, Powerhouse Factories stands behind its story—one filled with credibility, authenticity and plenty of passion.
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