Sandstorm Blog

Janna
Sowing the Seeds to Sprout a New Brand

Coming from a small agrarian community, I have always wanted a small plot of land here in the city to grow a few veggies and herbs among the weeds. Sadly, this past, cool summer did not enable my tomatoes to flourish and the squirrels decided to feast on the small crop I was able to grow.

Germinating Brands for Years to Come

As 2014 comes to a close, I realized my green thumb was most bountiful here at Sandstorm. Instead of sowing seeds for nourishment, the Sandstorm Team and I were able help plant and cultivate the strategic seeds for three new brands. Even though these three projects all started with user research, competitive analysis and positioning deliverables, the resulting strategies were truly personal. The Sandstorm Team was able to capture the spirit and uniquely position each organization that included an awesome sales enablement platform, an association all about awards and an amazing credit union focused on delivering the unexpected.

A Diverse Mix of Branded Crops to Sprout Lots of Green

This wide range in businesses is just a glimpse into what makes each day (or year) at Sandstorm truly different. Being able to partner with my fellow Sandstormers and these three organizations to bring their individual brands and marketing strategies to life has been an incredible experience and my highlight for 2014.

Looking ahead to 2015, maybe I will have some tomatoes to go along with the launch of these three new brands. That is if the Polar Vortex stays north and the squirrels are willing to share.

 

This blog was posted by Janna on December 6, 2014.
Janna Fiester

About the Author

Janna Fiester

Sandstorm's VP of UX & Brand Innovation, Janna, is a design-thinker. Showcased in several design publications and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, she is talented in taking nuggets of good ideas and nurturing them into solutions that are always strategic, engaging and visually delightful.

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Megan
Working Hand-in-Hand Even When You Can’t Be Face-to-Face

Work relationships are often like family, you don’t really get to pick them. To have the opportunity to continue to work with people you gel with is a privilege and we’re lucky enough to have several of these engagements.

Part of the Team

One marketing partnership that I work closely with is MathWorks. Our relationship is a testament to their patience and willingness to take in an external agency and guide us along the in’s and out’s of their business. We have become a part of their team going on three years, supporting their internal creative team for successful global events, among many other responsibilities.

The amount of work we’ve done with them has grown exponentially. We’re now leading several projects within their internal organizational structure, providing creative support, and working in conjunction the MathWorks creative team to support global marketing events.

Your Presence is a Present

I’m grateful for the expansion of the business side of the relationship, but I’m particularly glad for the opportunity to personally deepen the partnership and grow relationships with their team. The highlight of the past year was when our team went to the MathWorks headquarters near Boston to meet their team in person (the East Coaster wannabee in me was thrilled).

At the end of the day, the work is very important, but it’s essential to remember the impact you have on the people you interact with day in and day out. I cannot say enough positive things about having the opportunity to meet them face to face. Being in the same room made us feel like true coworkers and partners.  

So today, I wanted to share how thankful I am to have had the last year elevating a great brand and working with a great group of people. With clients like them, it’s easy to carry out our mission - to do good work for good people.

This blog was posted by Megan on December 5, 2014.
Megan Culligan

About the Author

Megan Culligan

Megan knows the importance of picking a winner. With a background in politics and PR, she knows that a successful marketing campaign requires coordination of many moving pieces and a team focused on achieving a great goal. You’ll see her analytical point of view on the blog, providing insight and tactics for success.

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Reilly
Our office's new east wing
This blog was posted by Reilly on December 4, 2014.
Reilly Willson

About the Author

Reilly Willson

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Will
An “Investment” in Rebranding: A Little Collaboration Goes a Long Way

One project I particularly enjoyed being a part of is the marketing for Ellwood Associates. In case you didn’t know, Ellwood delivers thoughtful investment consulting for endowments, healthcare, high-net-worth individuals, and families.

This year Sandstorm reimagined their brand based on extensive user research we conducted in 2013. (I was involved in that part of the project, too.) As the creative team worked on logos and brand boards, I got the opportunity to work alongside Ellwood to revise all of their web content. Based in their positioning, we crafted a voice and tone for the brand that represent their extremely thoughtful approach.

Being active in the research portion of the process, I knew the audience’s needs and I knew how they spoke–literally, I heard how they talked about their businesses through the interview. It was rewarding to build website content after being involved with every step along the way. This has resulted in clear and thoughtful copy that meets Ellwood’s needs, user needs, and best practices, too.

As a thoughtful client, their attention to detail with marketing echos their attention to detail when consulting for their clients. I’m excited for the launch of this new brand and to see how their new marketing efforts impact both their business and the marketplace.

This blog was posted by Will on December 4, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Kellye
http://www.sandstormdesign.com/blog/when-the-competition-gets-tough-the-tough-get-strategic

Doing competitive research is never an easy process. It’s like looking for buried treasure, only you have no map and you’re not sure what the treasure looks like or where you might find it. Experience has taught me that there’s always treasure, but sometimes it takes a lot of digging.

This summer, our team was in the middle of an expansive competitive set, looking at a very crowded space. We were repositioning a brand, so what we needed to find was something unique about our client that would set them apart from the many, many competitors they were up against. After weeks of research, we put all our findings together and there it was: an area in which our client excelled that all of their competitors were neglecting.

We got to work on the positioning and compiled a detailed presentation illustrating the research and strategy behind it. A few days before the due date, everything was set...

Then one of the competitors unveiled their new website. It was sleek, contemporary and focused. And it applied the same strategy we had just laid out for our client.

So what did we do? We hunkered down and dug some more. Three very busy days and a couple of take-out dinners later, and we had located another space, built another marketing strategy and hit the deadline.

The fact is, these things happen. Sometimes your perfect plan comes crumbling down. However, I’m proud that we have a team who doesn’t give up when that happens, but who stand up, dust themselves off, and give it another go.

This blog was posted by Kellye on December 3, 2014.
Kellye Blosser

About the Author

Kellye Blosser

Kellye’s unique approach involves a delicate balance of left and right-brained thinking. She most recently hailed from the corporate video world. Here at Sandstorm, she’s excited to bring strategic, innovative thinking to every project.

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Laura
Trekking to the Suburbs for Sandstorm

So most of you don’t know me, but I have an innate aversion to the suburbs. I am an urbanite through and through. For the purposes of my curiosity, as well as seeing family, friends, and clients, I can venture out to the suburbs on occasion.  I also get the shpilkes when I have to visit anything classified as a “big box” store (Target does not count).

As you may know, Marcus Lemonis was here featuring Sandstorm on CNBC. If you have ever entertained, you know that there is “the house” as it appears for guests and “the house” that is lived in. This is no different for our office.

So guess who ventured to IKEA in Schaumburg to prep the office for guests? Janna, our ECD, and ME!

Thank goodness Janna is an expert IKEAer and had a methodical plan to get us through without me having a panic attack. (I did almost take out a few people with my cart as I we approached the checkouts.) We selected and bought: chairs, lamps, a rug, a plant, plates, platters, napkins, tables, pillows (with covers), all in less than an hour. That HAS to be a record, someone please call Guinness.

On Monday, the Sandstormers were like little elves: unloading and putting it all together to transform the office before the CNBC arrived. Thankfully, I think my IKEA days are done. (Please, please, don’t make me go again!)

This blog was posted by Laura on December 2, 2014.
Laura Luckman Kelber

About the Author

Laura Luckman Kelber

Chief Strategy Officer, Laura Luckman Kelber leads Sandstorm's team of strategists with wisdom from her 20 years of marketing experience. Combining seemingly disparate ideas to solve a problem, Laura unearths unexpected insights to help clients’ fuel their success.

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Reilly
New skylight

Nothing but blue skies above our new skylight. 

This blog was posted by Reilly on December 1, 2014.
Reilly Willson

About the Author

Reilly Willson

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Reilly
The blue cube

A new home to Sandstorm collaboration: The Blue Cube!

This blog was posted by Reilly on December 1, 2014.
Reilly Willson

About the Author

Reilly Willson

Someday I'll need a real bio, but for now I'm busy creating awesomeness for our clients!

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Sandy
Sandstorm is making another major breakthrough

We’ve grown over 30% this year, and today is our first day in our newly expanded office space!

The smell of fresh paint combined with vapors from the newly installed charcoal carpet normally would cause me to evacuate, but now they elicit a mix of excitement, awe, anxiety, gratitude and nostalgia. This is the fourth time we’ve been under construction to propel our growth, but this one is different.

The office we took over isn’t any ordinary office space – It’s the original “Suite 301” I leased for Sandstorm before I had any staff. I remember having one desk in that space, and purchasing a second so I would be encouraged to fill it. With this expansion, we’ve added a second conference room, six 3-foot dandelion lights hanging from our 15-foot ceilings, and many more desks for us to fill in 2015.

We have come full circle from humble beginnings. Looking back, I am in awe of the inspiring and amazingly talented people I get to work with.

As we head into the Holiday Season, I invite you to follow us these next 24 days as we share our “advent”ures and memories from 2014.

Interested in reminiscing with us?

February 21, 2008
NEW YEAR, NEW SPACE

January 4, 2010
Top Chicago marketing agency, Sandstorm Design, featured in the Chicago Tribune for their significant growth and new expansion

October 17, 2011
Sandstorm Design Moves to Accommodate Company Growth 

This blog was posted by Sandy on December 1, 2014.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Jason
Giving Thanks in Our Own Way

At Sandstorm we are a team of unique people. And in recognition of that I asked our crew
“What is the most Unique, odd, or interesting Thanksgiving Tradition?”

Responses were varied, but centered around 3 main categories.

GAMES!

  • A rowdy game of Taboo
  • Board games (perhaps too passionately)
  • A 1K Turkey Trot around the neighborhood that ends with Bloody Marys, orange juice, bagels, and donuts
  • Video Games

FOOD!

  • Half Price dinner fixin’s the day after
  • Philosophical disagreements over potatoes
  • Triple-layered Jello
  • A Thanksgiving that lasts all weekend because there’s just too many good dishes to fit into one day

THINGS NOT DONE!

  • Skipping Thanksgiving altogether
  • James Bond marathons or Doctor Who instead of football and beer
  • No special traditions at all!

No matter who you are, or how wacky your family is, Sandstorm hopes you have a pleasant, safe, and happy holiday, even if you’re not celebrating it.

This blog was posted by Jason on November 26, 2014.
Jason Dabrowski

About the Author

Jason Dabrowski

Jason is one of Sandstorm’s designers and also helps keep the office running smoothly. As a veteran of the theatre—from acting to directing, lighting to set design—he knows the value of hard work and a positive attitude. Look for his unique voice on the blog.

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