15 Years Strong: Verdin Marketing Celebrates Its Golden Birthday
The month of December is abuzz with possibility. A bookend to yesterday and tomorrow, it is a time for reflection, retrospection, and resolution-making. For musing on intentions for the future and the direction we want our path to unfurl next. On the ides of the month (don’t worry – it’s only March you’ve got to worry about), Verdin marks one of its biggest milestones yet: its golden birthday! That is, 15 on the 15th! The time has flown by, but it has been 15 amazing years of creative solutions, authenticity, and making a difference in our community through the power of marketing! Along with the requisite bubbly and confetti, we chose to mark the occasion with a new, commemorative graphic (stay tuned further down the page for the big reveal!).
Admittedly a newbie to the Verdin verse, what I find most striking in talking to my colleagues about the culture at Verdin is how everyone waxes passionate about two things: how they can be authentic, and how the work matters. It’s clear that Verdin isn’t your typical ad agency because there’s a key element at play that’s a big differentiator: heart. It takes a certain kind of drive and vision to build that kind of environment. Art Director Megan and I sat down with the woman who made it all possible, President and Chief Strategy Officer Mary Verdin, and asked how she brought her vision to life, how it’s evolved since, and what’s next on the horizon for the ambitious Central Coast marketing agency.
Q: How did Verdin Marketing all begin?
A (Mary): Well, Verdin Marketing began on December 15, 2003 with a card table, a Mac computer, and cricket chirps because I had no clients yet (laughter). I opened the business the day after New Year’s Day, which was a Friday, so I had no clients because everyone else was out downtown celebrating and shopping. So I went home to celebrate with my family, and opened my doors again on Monday.
Q: In what ways has the company evolved since then?
A (Mary): When I began, it was just me. I was the account manager, the production manager, the bookkeeper, the copywriter, the operations manager, the janitor, etc. As the company grew, so did the need to hire more specialized staff so I could delegate items off my plate and hone in on my own role, or have someone hold down the fort if I needed to be out of the office. We’ve since grown in size to 15 employees, 40 clients, and garnered national recognition for our work. I always thought I wanted to keep the size of the firm to 10 employees, but I found we could grow beyond that and still keep the personal touch and close relationships, which are both very important to me. I realized it was less about the size of the organization than how it operates, and that I could put a culture in place that fostered personal development and optimized the potential of its staff.
Q: In what ways has the company made an impact in ways you may not have imagined?
A (Mary): It’s always rewarding to hear comments from the community about how Verdin has made a difference, or what a special thing it is to participate in one of our philanthropic events like the 24-Hour Give. And I think, aside from the external impact, internally it’s been really neat that we can give people opportunities for professional development. When we see potential in someone, or if there’s an area they want to gain knowledge in and expand into, our team is great at finding ways for our staff to incorporate those training opportunities into their jobs.
Q: It takes bravery to start a company from scratch the way you did. Where did yours come from?
A (Mary): I don’t know about brave, but I’m an Air Force brat, so I’m used to change. Growing up, we moved every couple years, so when I started my marketing career, working for a newly-established agency was perfect for my work ethic and personality. As the company grew, I would seek new challenges and change my responsibilities to take on whatever role was needed. Over 13 years working for this other company I worked in every area including admin, production, copywriting, media buying, operations and account services. It was a great experience, but I got to the point where there wasn’t any other place to grow, and I wanted to have the ability to make the big decisions and lead a company. I attribute my family with giving me the courage to take the leap. My husband, Adam, is very entrepreneurial, and his father, John was a big influence as well. John bought Old Juan’s Cantina (then Carl’s Spanish Seas) as a 24-year-old man and over the next four decades built a much-loved local restaurant.
Q: That’s amazing. What about Verdin’s culture sets it apart from other ad agencies?
A (Megan): I came to Verdin from another ad agency and have a lot of friends in the agency life, but I think what sets Verdin apart is that it’s a human agency. I’ve worked on international projects and major companies and seen my work on the world stage, but the work that we do automatically feeds into our culture. There’s this unique investment in people, and it’s a place to become your best self, where you’re supported, and I think I’m not alone in being blown away by the fact that Mary wants to hear her employees’ input, which is something I’d never experienced before, especially in an ad agency. I think when you can have that kind of enriched experience where you work, you’re truly lucky.
A (Mary): That’s really great to hear. I think the one thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t just declare that we’re going to have a great culture and expect it to trickle down. It’s got to be a more organic process than that – it isn’t something that can happen in a vacuum. You can cultivate it – in fact, it works best when it’s participatory – but you have to allow it to evolve rather than try to control it.
Q: What’s the most memorable project you’ve worked on, and what are the types of projects you gravitate toward most?
A (Mary): There are so many…truly every client makes a special mark on me, and on the company. One example is Jack’s Helping Hand. Both Adam and I have known Paul and Bridget Ready for years, before we even knew each other. We know their family, and we knew Jack. It was heartbreaking when Jack was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, and to see the struggles the Ready family endured. After Jack passed away, the Readys wanted to create the Jack Ready Memorial Therapy Room to provide better resources to families in similar situations. They did that – and at the ribbon cutting for the therapy room, the community came with checks in hand. Suddenly a new nonprofit was born, to support children with special needs and cancer, and their families. We’ve been with them from the start and they are near and dear to us.
A (Megan): One of the most memorable projects I’ve worked on was Verdin’s own rebrand. Memorable and nerve-wracking because of the level of responsibility entailed. You’re tasked with being the steward of a brand, and when it’s your own and something you believe in so passionately you want to do it justice. I remember trying different versions and typefaces, but they all felt a little too utilitarian and didn’t have the same humanness and striking letter forms as what we ultimately selected. I think that’s the balance we’ve always had to strike with our brand. We set up the brand to feel more like a news organization, so we used fonts that were used in news reporting to capture some of that energy. That felt like the vibe of the place then and still does now.
And now, without further ado, Verdin’s 15th anniversary graphic (cue the drumroll!):
Like a logo, a graphic acts as the face of a brand, and its role is a challenging one: to tell the story of the brand to the audience visually, and instantly. Like a handshake, it is someone’s first impression of a company – one that is solidified in mere seconds (ten, in fact). No pressure, right? At Verdin, our story is marketing with purpose. Our Art Director Megan shares her vision for the logo design and what the image symbolizes in the context of Verdin’s past, present, and future.
Q: Megan, can you elaborate on the Design Team’s intent behind the new 15th anniversary graphic?
A (Megan): We wanted to create something that feels very classy and classic, with our logo at the center of it all. The typeface of the “15” stands tall and proud with these bold, statement-making elegant curves. For as human as Verdin is, there is an equal heaping of class, and embedded in that is our core values like integrity and purpose. Chris, our newest graphic designer, was largely the brains behind it. Working with him on that piece, we knew from the outset we wanted something refined yet approachable, and the icing on the cake was being able to make it more special by incorporating our logo. We tried several other iterations first with different typefaces, but they didn’t impart the same personality that this one did. We’re really happy with how it turned out.
Q: Do you have any “resolutions” for Verdin for the next year? For the next 15 years?
A (Mary): I would say I am really excited about 2019 and the growth we are going to see. We’ve just hired a growth specialist in part to place a real emphasis on growing the business. My hope for the next 15 is to see this organization become a legacy that can live beyond me, and that I’ve laid the foundation for something bigger than myself that can continue to shape the industry’s landscape in the future.
The past 15 years have been filled with inventive projects and inspiring stories, and there are many more to tell. We raise a toast to Mary for laying the foundation for such an amazing legacy. It’s been a fantastic ride thus far, and we can’t wait to see where it leads next!