What’s the value of a strong brand position? The bajillion dollar question

Establishing a strong brand and market position is a significant investment of money, energy and time. Is it possible to quantify the impact and payoff?

The recent acquisitions of two Spyglass clients gave us the perfect opportunity to answer this question—with more confidence and clarity than ever. We reached out to both CEOs – Andy Reeher of Reeher and Lee Jones of Rebiotix – for their perspective on how the strategic branding process with Spyglass added to the value—and valuation—of their companies.

Earlier this year Reeher was bought for $43 million by Blackbaud Inc. Founder Andy Reeher remains with the company and reports: “I am thrilled to take this impact to the next level by joining with the world’s leading cloud software company to power social good.”

Meanwhile, Lee Jones, CEO and co-founder of Rebiotix, sold her company to Swiss drugmaker Ferring for an undisclosed price. Rebiotix’ Microbiota Restoration Therapy platform is a proprietary system of delivering live, human-derived microbes into a patient’s intestinal tract to treat a range of infectious, metabolic, liver, inflammatory, and neurological diseases. (Hence the “We’re #2!) Jones says: “My personal belief is that I think it could change the face of medicine.”

So what’s possible when you combine big ideas, bold leaders and some whip-smart Spyglass strategy and creative? Let’s let the CEOs speak for themselves:


You can create a new category—and own it . . .

Andy: “The challenge we had at Reeher was how to describe a completely new thing—a product category that didn’t exist. Spyglass’ deep upfront process of interviews and landscape analysis gave them the insight to clearly and simply articulate our offering in a way that resonated with clients. While we were enamored with our technology, they kept the focus on the customer benefits: the ease and speed to results.”

Lee: “This was a challenge—an entirely new area in medicine. There was no precedent and no real competitors. And the product—extracted from fecal material—was inherently tricky to describe. Spyglass helped us explore all the possibilities and find the best possible way forward, which was to create an entirely new category called rebiotics – and then position ourselves as the leader in the category (oh, and they coached us to rename the company to Rebiotix). It was genius.”


You can better equip your sales team with a more compelling pitch and story…

Andy: “Our product created tremendous improvement in performance for our customers, but we had to succinctly explain how. Spyglass created a visual explanation, as well as a compelling metaphor that helped our sales team launch hundreds of new conversations that led to rapid growth.”

Lee: “I had been struggling with the fact that my board wasn’t clear on the value of branding for our business. Spyglass came to the table with some very big strategic thinking that was ultimately very convincing – and they were right.”


You can engage stakeholders with a bigger vision…

Andy: “The brand plan became part of our website, as well as our sales pitch, and prospect journey to becoming a customer. Our visual explanation also was instrumental in helping customers understand the value of what they had purchased, keeping them engaged in our customer community. The more customers we had, the more success stories we could build.”

Lee: “Spyglass gave us the aspirational vision. They elevated our conversations to a higher level and convinced us that this product really represented a shift in how medicine was practiced. Spyglass helped create that picture of who we wanted to be… and that was pivotal.”


You can create more value and earn a higher valuation…

Andy: “The Spyglass work helped fuel the rapid growth and large customer base that bolstered our reputation and ROI—which caught the attention of Blackbaud, the market leader in the space. Reeher received a very strong valuation, and now our work is being applied in a billion-dollar enterprise.”

Lee: “Spyglass created a distinctive brand and we ran with it and executed on it consistently—which enabled us to secure the funding necessary to finance fast track FDA testing and approval. The Rebiotix brand is the clear leader in this new category (that Spyglass helped define and create!) and is recognized worldwide. Without the brand, we certainly wouldn’t have the credibility and level of recognition that we have, which was part of what made us attractive to Ferring.”


So there you have it—words of wisdom and inspiration from two successful business executives and entrepreneurs in highly competitive technology and pharmaceutical markets. Will hiring Spyglass better position YOUR business for acquisition or ratchet up your stock price? Let’s get together and find out!

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It’s time to live it up!

It’s that spoooooooky time of year… In the U.S., we call it Halloween. In Mexico, it’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), in Italy they call it Tutti i Santi (All Saints), in India it’s Mahalaya and in the Celtic tradition it’s known as Samhain.

Across cultures and throughout time, the waning days of October and early November are considered the time when the “veil is thin” and the spirit world is closest. It’s a time of honoring our ancestors, and remembering our own mortality.

Because it’s the season, and perhaps because we are spending so much time with our friends at Lakewood (Minnesota’s most beautiful and historic burial grounds), we’ve been thinking a bit about death. Not to be morbid, but there are lessons we can learn by studying what happens at the end… which can and should inform how we spend our precious time here on this green and golden Earth.

In this insightful interview, Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach the Living, shares some welcome wisdom:

“People often discover at the time of their death that they’re much more than the small, separate self they’ve taken themselves to be… We’re all in this boat together. All of us are subject to this experience, and recognizing that causes us to be kinder to each other… We let go more easily and this engenders a certain kind of generosity and gratitude in our life.”

For many of us, it’s frightening to contemplate death. Yet there are times when we walk through our days like zombies—failing to appreciate the gift of life, and forgetting how very indebted we are to our loved ones and the generations who have come before us.

Ostaseski continues, “When we come close to the end of our life, what’s really important makes itself known. For most people, it’s about relationships.”

So as those witches and goblins take the streets, and there are tricks at every turn, try to see past the masks and stay connected to what’s important. And mix up a batch of this spirit-forward potion if you really feel like living it up!

Spirits Rising

A seasonal, Spy-inspired take on the classic negroni
1 part Mezcal (tequila’s smokier bro)
1 part Aperol (Campari’s sweeter sister)
1 part Capano Antica (vermouth’s classier cousin)
orange peel

Pour all ingredients into a cauldron filled with ice and use your broomstick to stir the potion. Strain and pour into a chilled chalice. Garnish with an orange peel and toast “to life!”

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Welcome to The Empathy Economy, Part 1

You’ve no doubt heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it’s radically transforming business and the world as we know it. But have you tuned into the complementary corollary of Emotional Intelligence—and the emergent value of “empathy”?

According to Business Insider, “Empathy is what most makes us human — the capacity for mutual understanding. As the Automation Age eliminates rote and some not-so-rote tasks, it will create an opportunity for humans to capitalize on empathy.”

So, what’s the promise of this shift for you and your business?

We’ll be diving in deeper in the months and issues ahead, but we’ll leave you with this intriguing article excerpt by Pedro Periera via Digitalist magazine:

“Today, the new breed of business is hinged on relevance and purpose—for customers, for companies themselves, for the world and community at large; and for the company’s purpose in the larger scheme of things. And this has led to a very interesting concept of the empathy economy. It is an economy that is human-centric, and values empathy, placing it at the core of all activities and business. It is an ethos that drives the pull strategy, by truly understanding and adapting to the needs of the customer.

How is an empathetic strategy different from personalization? Empathy strategy is more about a major shift in the mindset, focused on close learning from customers. Personalization on the other hand, is focused on selling more to customers.”

At Spyglass, we’ve been helping our clients apply this lens to their business with some inspiring and impressive results. Intrigued? Stay tuned for more. Meanwhile, we’d love to sit down and get empathetic with you.

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New faces at Spyglass!

Summer’s finally here… yay! Hopefully your plans, tan (and brand) are off to a sizzling start. Here at Spyglass, we’re playing hard and busting it at work too—thanks to some stellar help from these fresh new faces. It’s time to meet the newbies and find out what plans they have for their summer (and their official Spyglass Beach Ball).


Alex – Summer Intern
I love music and I’m heading to Lollapalooza in Chicago in early August on my way back to Vanderbilt in Nashville. I think my Spyglass Beach Ball might like to get bopped around in the crowd, where everyone will be having some Mountain Dews, baby!

Ali – Design Director
Now that summer is in full swing, you can find me hiking the trails or sitting on my deck and soaking up rays. As for that inflatable orange thing, I’ll probably toss it to my dogs in the backyard while I’m tossing back my favorite summer sipper: Rose’ All Day!

Katie – Project Manager
This summer I’ll be hitting the links—and the North Loop bars—and gobbling nachos from The Curious Goat Food Truck (YUM!). With my Spyglass Beach Ball . . . let’s see . . . guess I’ll sunscreen up and take it to the beach!

Summer at Spyglass means brand jamming on the patio and making the most of the long days. What does summer mean to you? Tell us and we’ll send you your own orange orb!

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Be the Change

To test and scale ideas faster, Spyglass developed the Brand Collaboratory™—a learning lab approach that involves key stakeholders in the creation of messages and materials. We firmly believe that “doing it together” and iterating quickly outperforms the old agency model. 


Are you moving through the day doing what you’ve always done—struggling with (or avoiding) the same persistent business or brand issues? Do you have a scattershot strategy, a mucked up PowerPoint or a story that just doesn’t sing?

Welcome to the club! The fact is, most of us aren’t optimizing our efforts and time. Which makes perfect sense, because individuals and organizations are actually hardwired to maintain the status quo, and we require certain conditions to make sustainable change, especially the big transformative kind.

At Spyglass, we have powerful processes to help our clients break out of their ruts and accelerate the adoption of new solutions—to generate the kind of meaningful results (and paradigm shifts) that so many businesses now require. Here are 3 key principles:

Ask better questions: In the old days, agencies like ours would receive a stated assignment or challenge from a client and begin brainstorming answers. Today, we start by asking new and better questions (an approach that spookily aligns with this meaty HBR Better Brainstorming article). For example, a recent assignment from a client was framed as a marketing communications project. A bit of deeper inquiry revealed that a trust- and relationship-building initiative was what was actually needed—and that’s what we proposed.

Get there faster: Too often it seems like the juiciest (and most differentiating) ideas get diluted and bogged down by the traditional research/review/approval process. To counteract that inertia, we’ve been deploying a new fast and focused Brand Collaboratory™ approach in order to rapidly iterate ideas to a point where they can be evaluated, tested and refined with real audiences sooner rather than later.

Do it together: Now, more than ever, we believe it’s time to reach beyond the marketing department to engage diverse stakeholders more meaningfully in the creative process—both to ensure relevance and build trust. A more collaborative process increases internal enthusiasm, belief and buy-in, which is essential to the adoption of an impactful, market-relevant and potentially game-changing story.

This part is critical, because companies are often structurally resistant to doing (and saying) things in new ways. According to innovation consultant Stefan Lindegaard:Change is frightening to many elements inside the typical organization. Change threatens people’s power, their status, their egos, and, in some situations, even their jobs. Change can make someone’s expertise obsolete and thereby make them obsolete as well. Because people are afraid of change, innovation efforts often cause the eruption of corporate antibodies that fight to kill innovation and maintain the status quo.”

Maybe you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel (or your category) but simply need some fresh eyes and juice to jumpstart your marketing. Let’s get started!

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Brainstorming: Yay or Nay?

The old axiom claims that there are no bad ideas… but anyone who’s been in a brainstorming session knows that’s just not true. Since cavemen first sketched on walls, humans have been capturing concepts and exploring possibilities on vertical surfaces.

Certainly in creative agencies, brainstorming is a time-tested way to generate new solutions to thorny problems. Yet as a discipline, it’s typically undisciplined at best.

“Brainstorming is Worthless,” provocatively proclaims a recent article in Inc. “What a brainstorm session should be is a place to challenge the ideas that have already been vetted,” rants author Nicolas Cole. “Not a free-for-all breakout session where anything and everything goes.” Cole thinks it’s a waste of time to have a group noodling together and tossing out whatever ideas happen to flow. Instead he advocates a process whereby each team member has done their own generative thinking and comes to the table with winnowed-down directions they are ready to defend.

Meanwhile, over in the Harvard Business Review, Hal Gregersen takes a thoughtful (long) view on different protocols and processes and advocates a “better brainstorming” approach that he claims yields the most fruitful futures. Interestingly, over 20 years of practice, he has observed that “the people least likely to engage in the exercise and follow the rules are the folks with the highest positions or greatest technical expertise… who cripple the truth-seeking capability of the entire group.” He emphasizes the importance of organizational culture in creating environments conducive to truly meaningful brainstorming. “Leaders must show humility, vulnerability and trust, and they must empower others and treat them equitably.” Sounds like a recipe for all kinds of transformation and growth!

Here at Spyglass, we’re evolving our collaborative creative process (see our Be the Change post) and have experienced the direct benefits of using a more structured, inclusive and nimble approach. We’d love to show you.

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Transform Your Morning














Are you up with the sun or a reluctant riser? Do you meditate, make to-do lists or chug coffee on the run? In many ways, how we start our mornings sets the tone for what’s to come in the days (and years!) that follow. Such is the premise behind “My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired,” a new book by authors Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander, who interviewed 300 highly successful people about their morning routines.

We ordered the book, but haven’t received it yet, so we took the liberty of asking a few people around the agency about their morning routines and heard this:

“I set aside my phone and watch the news while I’m drinking my coffee. It helps ground me in what’s going on in the world and gives me a bigger perspective.”

“On most days I go for a run. Sometimes it’s just racing to the bus stop with a forgotten backpack or lunchbox. But that’s something, right?”

“I take a shower and think about all the stuff I want to wash away… worries, disappointments, mistakes. It helps me start the day fresh and leave yesterday behind.”

“I’d like to say I meditate, but it’s more like I’m just staring straight ahead mindlessly while I’m waiting for the caffeine to kick in.”

Not exactly the breakfast of champions, perhaps, but maybe once we get the book, our habits can improve. Here’s hoping!

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Well… what are you going to do about it?

Wellness is going big. Over the past five years, the global wellness industry has exploded and is now approaching $4 trillion annually —making it one of the world’s fastest-growing, most resilient markets.

Fact is, unwell workers are a massive drain on corporate profits, and U.S. healthcare costs are continuing to rise 5% to 10% a year. Ugh! So what’s a company to do? Well, you can expect more businesses to jump into the arena with both workplace solutions (like our pioneering behavioral health client, AiRCare), and offerings that appeal to the increasing number of Americans who are embracing and prioritizing well-being as an antidote to our increasingly hectic, over-connected lives.

It’s no surprise that the chaos and pace of modern society is directly responsible for some of the biggest wellness trends right now. Here are three worth watching, courtesy of the Global Wellness Institute.

1. Mind over matter. Wellness culture has historically focused more on “body” than “mind.” Now a slew of mental wellness approaches are trending: from sleep health to meditation mainstreaming and apps that use neuroscience to track mental wellness and stress.  Have you gotten into a good HeadSpace lately?

2. You: Unplugged. In a time of 24/7 connectivity and noxious news, more businesses and wellness destinations will take a radical new approach: absolute silence and disconnection. Look for new “silent spas,” “wellness monasteries” and hotels (and workplaces) with “quiet rooms.” Even silent restaurants, gyms, hair salons, stores and airports are appearing. Shhhhhh.

3. Wellness for all. Forget the $300 yoga pants; look for a wave of wellness products and services at lower price-points: new affordable healthy grocery stores, fast food chains and more accessible sliding-scale classes that are priced based on income. In other words, no more excuses!


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Tracking and hacking the days of our lives

At a recent event we hosted with a client, the topic of death clocks came up. In case you haven’t heard, these are online calculators that use algorithms and predictive modeling to estimate precisely how many years/days/minutes you can expect to live based on demographic and health data you provide – to the second.

While some may find this gimmicky or morose, the fact of our impending death is frankly the only thing that’s certain in life. Furthermore, many experts believe that living with a sense of mortality can help us bring more mindfulness and meaning to each moment we’re alive, giving us a greater sense of appreciation and purpose. Indeed, some of the death clock apps are designed to do exactly that.

Of course prioritizing wellness and making healthy lifestyle choices can demonstrably prolong one’s life, and improve the quality of the days/minutes/years we have left. Here at Spyglass, we’ve been trying some of these health hacks — like drinking more water, eating more fruit… (oranges, of course) and soaking up more sunshine. Which means we are heading outside for a walking meeting right now … and so should you!

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Does your brand need a cleanse?

Just like people who get in sluggish ruts (yes, Virginia, it was a long winter here in the Northland!), many businesses are on autopilot with their marketing efforts. For humans, scientific evidence suggests that periodic cleanses and intermittent fasting can help. For companies, Spyglass prescribes this painless assessment — followed by a proven protocol of creative interventions.

Could your brand use a healthy reset or a jumpstart?

Take the quiz.

  1. You’re stuck in a routine. You keep doing the same marketing tactics without clear results. Yet you’re hesitant to change.
  2. You’re in denial. Deep down you know things could be better but you mostly ignore that fact.
  3. You’re busy. You know your brand needs a makeover but you’re too overwhelmed to start.
  4. You’re DIY. You had professional help at one point, but now you’re doing your best to handle matters internally — with mixed results.
  5. You’ve lost perspective. You’re honestly not sure if your brand is still relevant or you’re keeping up with the competition.


If two or more of these boxes apply to you, let’s talk! Spyglass is here to help you reinvigorate your brand marketing and dial up your image and impact.

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