Harnessing the creative firepower of the agency collective model

brandfiercely1Company Culture, Creative Process, Fierce Strategy + Creative, From the CEO

Harnessing the creative firepower of the agency collective model
‘One of the real advantages I see with the Fierce collective model is that your team is always out in front on the cutting edge. Nothing with our brand ever gets stale.’ —Fierce client comment after our annual Year in Review.

More than ever, brands need their agencies to be experts at creating trusted brand and digital experiences while remaining operational and financially transparent. This complex dance of positioning, creative, data and technology is new terrain agencies must be willing to conquer. —AdAge Magazine

The Fierce collective
Fierce Strategy + Creative is a North American agency based in Georgia and comprised of a global collective of experts focused on a highly strategic customized approach for your brand. We are a research-driven creative hybrid, bringing over 25 years of strategy, branding, marketing, advertising, digital, and media expertise to both start-ups and multibillion-dollar brands.

By taking the side of transparency, agencies have an opening to reclaim their role as trusted advisors. They must re-invent agency structure to excel at the art and science of modern marketing. —Shapiro

Agile strategic partners 
The Fierce collective model allows us to be as small or as big as our clients need us to be. It affords us the ability to work profitably with non-profits, start-ups, and multimillion-dollar brands by building custom teams, custom workflows, and custom billing. It keeps us agile and affordable for each of the brands that we serve. As strategic partners, we remain focused on ideas and strategy, allowing us to radically move brands forward and help them thrive.

In the energy industry, our strategic approach helped advance a multibillion-dollar brand from #4 to #1 in brand recognition in less than 12 months. “In my 35 years of doing consumer research, I have never seen a company make that kind of bold move, that quickly.” —Britt Beemer, America’s Research Group

Our core services
We offer the following core services that reflect our expertise: Strategy, Branding, Creative Direction, Project Management, Customer Service, Design, Messaging, Copywriting, Marketing, Advertising, and Web Design. From inception to launch to day-to-day management of your brand’s success.

We bring long-term trusted relationships to the table 
Fierce has built a trusted relationship with each of our collective partners over two decades. As a result, the services we outsource through these partners reflect only the needs of the brands we serve at the exact time they need them: TV + Video Production, Custom Photography, Digital Ad Campaign Strategy + Management, Custom Illustration, Custom Research Initiatives, Web Programming, Custom Swag Resources, Media Placement, PR, and Printers.

Vendor vs. strategic brand partner | Why Fierce operates as your strategic brand partner
Our success on behalf of your brand will be defined by the actionable insights we discover together through research, strategy, collaboration, and creative problem-solving. We’ll build a custom plan, offering clarity for what’s now and what’s next. And as your strategic brand partner, we’ll help you put it into action, execute against it with beautiful and powerful creative, and maintain its daily success.

Project work vs. retainers | Short-term vs. long-term strategy
Transforming a brand’s position, defining its consumer-engagement model, or pushing the threshold for innovation cannot be completed in project-by-project increments. A retainer that is correctly staffed can enable agencies to dedicate the appropriate assets to any given project well ahead of the deadline. Project-based work forces agencies to redistribute members of their team among projects they are not all familiar with. In other words, it slows them down. With a good retainer, they can put the right people in the right place at the right time, so when the client asks for something on short notice, they’ll have the pieces in place to deliver excellence under pressure. After spending a decade in project management and operations, an appropriately staffed retainer has two critical benefits: higher quality work and a faster turnaround. —AdAge

We invite you to brand fiercely with us.
Work with the Fierce people on digital and web and get to know our incredible creative partners. Reach out to Beckie Manley today at beckie.manley@hellofierce.com. 

Fierce in the Press: Wrike.com

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Fierce Strategy + Creative, From the CEO

Fierce in the press

We were thrilled to see Fierce quoted in a recent article at Wrike.com. “Well-Oiled Machine: How Brands Can Improve Relationships with Agencies and Vendors,” by Kat Boogaard. 

Here’s an excerpt: 

Before kicking off a project, host a meeting (whether it’s virtual or in-person) where you can all get on the same page about what would make this collaboration a success. This way, you can rest assured that you’re all actually working toward the same goal as you move forward.

“The less assumptions the better in a collaborative environment,” shares Beckie Manley, CEO of Fierce Strategy + Creative. “Sometimes in our fast-paced world, taking time to kick off a project properly and strategically gets overlooked and causes many issues down the road that could have easily been avoided.”

“We get consensus on the creative brief or ‘roadmap’ for the project before beginning,” explains Manley about how her own agency operates. “From there, we share milestones like links they can view to see progress, detailed reports outlining workflow and progress, video meetings where we can talk through what’s happening behind the scenes and discuss any concerns or changes, and manage deadlines and budget expectations along the way.”

Put simply, you want to avoid surprises. That doesn’t mean you need to be in constant contact at all hours—but setting these regular check-in sessions will help keep things in order.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10094-collaboration-tech-entrepreneurs-love.html

We invite you to brand fiercely with us.

Reach out today to beckie.manley@hellofierce.com.

The Fierce people travel to Restenäs, Sweden

brandfiercely1Communication, Company Culture, Creative Process, From the CEO

Photo by Marieke de Klerk


Last week Fierce traveled half way around the globe to Restenäs, Sweden to teach a branding seminar to attendees who travelled in from all over the world. In our sessions, over twelve languages and dialects were represented: English, Swedish, Dutch, French, Nepali, German, Norwegian, Latvian, Estonian, Russian, Finnish, and Spanish just to name a few! The conversation around the importance of translation alone with word usage in branding was awesome. We were so privileged to teach these incredible world citizens a little bit about the power, strategy and magic of branding.

Defining what a brand is and how to communicate its power

Our classroom for the week was set at the top floor of what used to be an old orphanage. The seagulls in the distance and the cows in the fields below us provided the sound track for our discussion. We used our white boards and shared our discussion decks on the large TV screen in the room and together worked on the basics of learning what a brand is, why does it matter, what is brand architecture, how do you properly communicate a brand, and many other important lessons about communication. Fierce pulled from over 20 years of experience of branding non-profits, faith-based brands, start-ups, and multi-billion dollar brands to give perspective.

We loved some of the definitions of brand that the students shared with the class: 

Our ability to consistently communicate who we are and build trust with our audience

The reason why people choose you; the core of who you are

Your reputation

World changers

The attendees who came to listen to Fierce speak about branding are people actively working to effect change in our world every day. They are building non-profits and organizations working to eliminate sex trafficking, helping people with disabilities, and many other critical causes worldwide. It was our great joy to share our stories and case studies and expertise on branding, marketing, and advertising and guide them along their journeys in some small way. Fierce has had the opportunity to teach branding now in Kona, Switzerland (twice), Nigeria (via Skype), and now Sweden. We can’t wait to see where we head next and what amazing people we will get to meet. Follow all our Fierce travels with our hashtag #FierceOnTheRoad.

We made new friends and were touched with their kind words: 

We would like to thank you so much for coming to Sweden and sharing with our class.  You provided us with so much wisdom and insight into the world of branding and marketing, and we’re walking away from this seminar knowing how we can be a bright light in the creative industry. Thank you!

Thank you to all the attendees. It was we who left inspired and we are cheering on all your amazing endeavors from the US. Rock on. You are fierce.

Do you want to invite Fierce to speak to your team about branding?

Brand fiercely with us today. Reach out to: beckie.manley@hellofierce.com.


A sunshiny brand immersion story with Pictsweet Vegetables.

brandfiercely1Client Highlights, Creative Process, From the CEO

*Image generously shared with us from the awesome Libby Williams. See her work here: libbywilliamsphotographs.com

At Fierce, we work hard to elevate brands. And elevating brands demands the very best from our highly strategic creative process. It requires both personal brand immersion time and intense and intimate strategy sessions with the executive teams of each brand we touch—and it always means a visit to our client’s headquarters.

All of our brand immersion stories are my favorite. But today I want to share a story about my time with Pictsweet Vegetables. As we began to do our due diligence with Pictsweet, they told us that their products were so fresh that they can go straight from the farm to the grocery store the very same day. So we asked to be a part of watching their process at Ten Pictsweet Drive in Bells, Tennessee. We believe in truth in advertising and if we were going to help them craft their story, we needed to witness it first hand. We needed to experience the magic.

We arrived at their plant early in the morning and sure enough, a turnip truck was parked out front, fresh from the farm and ready to be processed. We put on our steel toe boots and safety glasses and watched as the turnips came across the assembly lines where workers expertly sorted and cleaned them. Then they went through the signature Pictsweet “flash-frozen” process where all their farm goodness and flavor were locked in. And then out the door they went for delivery. It was awesome to see and it made us instant believers and fans of their brand. It helped us know exactly how to share with the consumer what makes Pictsweet Vegetables so very special.

To this day, every time I buy a bag of Pictsweet Vegetable I know with confidence that they will be fresh and sweet and perfectly delicious every time. We were able to watch their process that day but we were also able to meet their executive team, hear stories about how they used to pick the vegetables on the farm when they were children, we got to see the passion and drive of their research team, and we were able to hear victories and challenges from their sales team first hand. We were also able to notice small details like the weathered and worn Bible on the front seat of the pick up truck and the respect and admiration the family had for each other and for their customers. This brand immersion time is critical to the success of our strategic relationship with each of our clients and every detail matters.

banner - pictsweet with quote on brand immersion

We went on to name Pictsweet Vegetables signature product, “Steam’ables”, and did meaningful work that helped position their brand for ongoing success. When we and our clients are disciplined about our strategic creative process, we set ourselves up for success. Julia Wells, VP or Marketing, said, “Beckie Manley can speak my language. She has such a way with words and has done a lot of creative things for us. I love the way she talks about ‘sunshiny vegetables,’ and she can really capture the essence of what we’re all about.” Kind words like these from clients are hard fought through hard work, being dedicated to a strategic creative process, and from taking the time to have sunshiny brand immersion days like this.

Check out their recipe for crustless spinach quiche today: http://www.pictsweet.com/recipes/crustless-spinach-quiche




*Pictsweet was Beckie Manley’s account while she was Owner, Partner, and Creative Director for JDA. 

The answer is no. But yes.

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Fierce Strategy + Creative, From the CEO

(A guest blog post written by Beckie Manley, Founder + Idea Chief of Fierce Strategy +Creative, for Black Sheep Agency, Houston, Texas.)

The answer is no. But yes. 

One of the questions new clients always love to ask in that first meeting is: “Do you have any prior experience in our particular field?” In the early days of my career, this question would easily intimidate me, especially if my answer was no. It doesn’t any more, because after 20+ years of experience, I know with confidence the secret to success with great brands, products, services and ideas: a highly strategic creative process.

One of my favorite things about the creative process is that it’s constantly evolving. It’s a living, breathing magical force that we are relentlessly committed to each time we undertake a new project at our shop. Every time we push its boundaries, when we study more, learn more, experience more, interact more, ask more and allow the process to change us and make us and our work more meaningful, it surprises us with some unexpected learning. It’s part of what keeps this business new and fresh and exciting every day.

But as metamorphic as the process can be, the fundamentals always remain the same—another of my favorite things about the creative process. When the moment comes, the moment when we are set free by our clients to wonder and imagine and strategize and create, we know just where to start. We know what questions to ask first and how to be open to new ones. We know how to listen and be insatiably curious, and we know there’s more to know, which is why we believe so deeply in research and in doing our homework first. We’re not doing work that is simply clever for clever’s sake; instead, we’re disciplined. We roll up our sleeves first.

And we love every minute of it.

We taste test the client’s salsas and meet the passionate artists behind the secret recipes in their kitchens before we start to brainstorm names for their products. We visit the ranch in Austin and have a true cowboy breakfast around the campfire before we attempt to write copy about an authentic Texas-style barbecue sauce. (I have never had coffee so delicious!) We put on steel-toed boots and visit the plant where fresh vegetables come in at dawn from local farms, get flash-frozen to seal in all that garden freshness and get trucked out to grocery stores later that afternoon. We put on a hard hat and drive out to the oil wells and meet the guys who work on the rigs seven days a week. We listen as they tell their stories in the scorching 100-degree heat before we ever pretend to understand and capture into words the pride and love in their voices for their work, their company and their country. We try new shrimp recipes in our beer and brainstorming sessions; we do guest appearances in college classrooms; we eat in college cafeterias and interact with our clients’ apps, websites, products and services every chance we get.

We totally dig this stuff. And we get how brand immersion—really, truly, madly immersing yourself into your clients’ brands and the research that is available to you—matters. It all gets you to the good stuff that endears consumers and motivates action and sometimes changes the world.

As an agency, we don’t have knowledge about every product, every service, every field or every brand. And we don’t pretend to. But what we do have is a thorough understanding of the creative process and a complete confidence in its results. We’ve tested it over and over again and it works. Every. Single. Time. Bring us a new product, service or idea and we will apply our proven methods to it and create meaningful strategies, messaging, creative and connections on its behalf. A few years ago we didn’t know everything there was to know about shrimp or dinosaurs, but after building meaningful relationships with our clients and applying the creative process to their brands and working with our research partners to gain new insights, we know more about this protein and these museum-worthy creatures than anyone on the planet.

It works. We believe in it. We practice it and we’re committed to it. And we love to see the positive impact the creative process has on our clients’ behalf every day.

Fierce Excerpts: Reframing stress as a challenge.

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Fierce Excerpts, Fierce Strategy + Creative

Now Reading | Minimize Stress with these 4 Mental Techniques 

Managing stress is key to having a healthy, productive work environment. Knowing how to identify stress, being aware of its effects on your mind and your body, and knowing what to do with it are critical to success—and to your sanity. Around here at the Fierce offices, we like to look at stress as a challenge and as an opportunity to learn something new. This little article had four great tips that we pulled out below in this little excerpt:

1. Reframe the stressor as a challenge.

Often, how we see the problem is the problem. Ask yourself: “How can I turn this challenge into an opportunity?”

2. Focus on the process, not the outcome.

In the book Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, the authors cite a study of two groups of mechanics tasked with assembling an engine.

The first group was given one chance to prove they could build an engine, but they had to do so in a specified time period. To increase the pressure, they were told that if they built it correctly and within the allotted time, they would be in line for a promotion.

A second group was given the same task with the same promise of career advancement, but they were told that if they made mistakes that they would be given additional opportunities to build.

Who do you think built the engine faster? Yup, the second group, because they were focused on the process, not the outcome.

3. Have a plan, but be ready to adapt.

It has been said that “chance favors the prepared mind” (Louis Pasteur). To the extent that you can minimize the degree of uncertainty associated with the unexpected, the more confident you’ll feel and the less stress you’ll face. To do so, always have a contingency plan for everything you do.

4. Step outside.

Exercise, more than anything, is the single greatest stress reducer on the market. Get outside and take a breath of fresh air. It always helps your perspective.

Read the entire article here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249471

All transformation takes place in liminal space. (Richard Rohr)

brandfiercely1Creative Process, From the CEO

*Image: http://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2014/crafts-for-design/22931/liminal-spaces-jurek-wajdowicz-fotografie_75/

We are so lucky to be surrounded by intelligent creative people every day at Fierce. They say and share the most inspiring and amazing things and sometimes we just have to pass it on. This comes from a facebook post by Jack Burgess today. It’s from Adams Return by Richard Rohr.

All transformation takes place in liminal space.

Midway in life’s journey, I awoke to find myself alone in a dark wood. –Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Opening Stanza

Liminal space is a concept refined by Victor Turner in his classic study on initiation and ritual. The Latin word limen means “threshold.” Liminality is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where people can begin to think and act in genuinely new ways. It is when we are betwixt and between, have left one room but not yet entered the next room, any hiatus between stages of life, stages of faith, jobs, loves, or relationships. It is that graced time when we are not certain or in control, when something genuinely new can happen. We are empty, receptive, an erased tablet waiting for new words. Nothing fresh or creative will normally happen when are inside our self-constructed comfort zone, only more of the same. Nothing original emerges from business as usual. It seems we need some antistructure to give direction, depth, and purpose to our regular structure. Otherwise structure, which is needed in the first half of life, tends to become a prison as we grow older.

Read more here: http://bushventure.com.au/blog/?p=94

Also recommended: Falling Upward and Immortal Diamond. 

Fierce Excerpts: Searchlight Intelligence

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Digital, Fierce Excerpts

*Image: Searchlights light up the sky over Hollywood at the 1940 film premiere of Charles Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.” Image © Bettmann/CORBIS

Now Reading | Developing Mastery in a Digital Age. 

I loved this article as soon as I saw it posted today. Here is what got my attention:

“Intelligence about the future is a key resource for building robust strategic trajectories for companies. We live in a world that increasingly requires what psychologist Howard Gardner calls searchlight intelligence. That is, the ability to connect the dots between people and ideas, where others see no possible connection.”

The article reiterated what we have learned to be true in our industry:  we must always be evolving, always reinventing, and always learning. It is a constant requirement for success. The Fierce blog exists solely as a vehicle for us to look ahead at what’s next and look back at what we’ve learned from the past and share that learning here.

The article quotes a recent Deloitte study, Global Human Capital Trends 2015, where 85 percent of the respondents cited learning as being either important or very important. Yet, more companies than ever report they are unprepared to address this challenge.

A few more excerpts from the article: 

The best leaders are the best learners.

Leaders that stay on top of society’s changes do so by being receptive and able to learn. In a time where the half-life of any skill is about five years leaders bear a responsibility to renew their perspective in order to secure the relevance of their organizations. It is rarely recognized, but the core activity in any change or transformation process, personal or organizational, is learning.

As we attempt to transition into a networked creative economy, we need leaders who promote learning and who master fast, relevant and autonomous learning themselves. There is no other way to address the wicked problems facing us. If work is learning and learning is the work, then leadership should be all about enabling learning. In a recent Deloitte study, Global Human Capital Trends 2015, 85 percent of the respondents cited learning as being either important or very important. Yet, more companies than ever report they are unprepared to address this challenge.

John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davidson have described the shift toward a massive transformation from institutions designed for scalable efficiency to institutions designed for scalable learning. The key is to find ways to connect and participate in knowledge flows that challenge our thinking and allow us to discover new ways of connecting, collaborating and getting work done faster, smarter and better.

By working strategically with PKM, everyone in an organization can become part of a sensing organism, listening at different frequencies, scanning the horizon, recognizing patterns and making better decisions on an informed basis. 

Read the entire article here: http://www.druckerforum.org/blog/?p=1046

Fierce Excerpts: HBR discusses the “walking meeting”—and how to do it right.

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Fierce Excerpts

image from becuo.com

Now Reading | How to do a Walking Meeting Right

I have never heard of a walking meeting before today and I am intrigued. Apparently it is a new trend to “walk and talk” instead of sitting in a board room all day around the conference room table.

According to HBR:

Recent research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. This certainly supports the usefulness of walking meetings. Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.

The article goes on to say that Dr. Eytan, Medical Director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health and a vocal advocate of walking meetings, believes walking meetings lead to better employee engagement by breaking down barriers between supervisor and subordinate or between coworkers. He sees the bonding achieved through walking meetings as a micro version of the bonding that can be experienced when coworkers travel together on business trips. David Haimes, a senior director of product development at Oracle, has experienced this in his meetings with team members: “The fact that we are walking side-by-side means the conversation is more peer-to-peer than when I am in my office and they are across a desk from me, which reinforces the organizational hierarchy.”

Fascinating. A walking meeting will not always be the right type of meeting to have depending on the audience—but I like the concept. Here are some tips from the article in case you are inspired to give a walking meeting a try:

Consider including an “extracurricular” destination on your route. Dr. Eytan, whose office is located in Washington, D.C., often mentions the nearby Washington Coliseum as a place to stroll by, and notes it is where the Beatles played their first U.S. concert. Naming a point of interest, he says, provides more rationale and incentive for others to go for a walk.

Avoid making the destination a source of unneeded calories. One of the arguments in favor of walking meetings is the health benefit. However, this is easily negated if the walking meeting leads to a 425-calorie white-chocolate mocha that wouldn’t otherwise be consumed.

Do not surprise colleagues or clients with walking meetings. It’s fine to suggest a walk if it seems appropriate in the moment, as long as it’s clear that you’ll be fine with a “maybe next time.” But if you’re planning ahead to spend your time with someone in a walking meeting, have the courtesy to notify them in advance, too. This allows them to arrive dressed for comfort, perhaps having changed shoes. You might also keep water bottles on hand to offer on warm days.

Stick to small groups. Haimes recommends a maximum of three people for a walking meeting.

Have fun. Enjoy the experience of combining work with a bit of exercise and fresh air. Perhaps this is the one piece of advice that doesn’t need to be given. Our data show that those who participate in walking meetings are more satisfied at their jobs than their colleagues who don’t.

You can read the entire article here: https://hbr.org/2015/08/how-to-do-walking-meetings-right

Getting into the flow. What does it mean and how does it happen?

brandfiercely1Creative Process

I was doing some research today related to a client project and I came across the concept of “flow” and its definition according to a group called the Mind Tools Team.


Have you ever been so involved in doing something that you lost track of time? Everything around you – from the ringing of phones to the people passing in the hallways – seemed to fade away. Your attention was focused entirely on what you were doing, and you were so engaged that you might even have missed lunch. You felt energized, even joyful, about what you were doing.

I instantly understood what they meant because this is how I feel most days since starting Fierce Strategy + Creative. There is nothing and no one hindering my success in this solo entrepreneurial effort and the sense of joy, productivity, and complete focus as a result is intoxicating. Often times my husband will find me sitting in the dark in my office, oblivious to time or anything else going on around me. I have found my groove.

So how do you get there? Here are some tips referenced in their article:

How do you know when you’re experiencing flow?

  1. Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve.
  2. Being able to concentrate for a sustained period of time.
  3. Losing the feeling of consciousness of one’s self.
  4. Finding that time passes quickly.
  5. Getting direct and immediate feedback.
  6. Experiencing a balance between your ability levels, and the challenge.
  7. Having a sense of personal control over the situation.
  8. Feeling that the activity is intrinsically rewarding.
  9. Lacking awareness of bodily needs.
  10. Being completely absorbed in the activity itself.

Remember that all of these factors and experiences don’t necessarily have to be in place for flow to happen. But you’re likely to experience many of them when flow occurs.

Three things that must be present to get into the flow:

  1. Goals – Goals add motivation and structure to what you’re doing. Whether you’re learning a new piece of music or creating a presentation, you must be working towards a goal to experience flow.
  2. Balance – There must be a good balance between your perceived skill and the perceived challenge of the task. If one of these weighs more heavily than the other, flow probably won’t occur.
  3. Feedback – You must have clear, immediate feedback, so that you can make changes and improve your performance. This can be feedback from other people, or the awareness that you’re making progress with the task.

This was where my alignment with their philosophy stopped, but I thought their points were accurate. Check out the entire article here to learn more: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/flow-model.htm