Maybe you’ve heard—after more than sixty years of service, Indian Trails Camp is now a part of IKUS Life Enrichment Services. But what does that mean for the organization and the people it serves, and how was Black Lake Studio involved?
For decades, Indian Trails Camp has expanded the opportunities available to individuals with disabilities in the greater Grand Rapids area. Over time, the organization developed a wide variety of programming, and in 2016, the “camp” label no longer accurately describes ITC’s overall mission. Several months ago, ITC’s leadership team brought Black Lake in to help chart a way forward, beginning with a series of in-depth mind mapping sessions. We dug into the “Thing” that makes the organization unique, that ties everything they do together. We also discovered the audiences with which the new brand would most need to communicate. Through this discovery process, we came to several key insights about the brand:
- Indian Trails Camp wasn’t just a camp anymore—they also provide skill building, supported employment, and community living services to individuals with disabilities.
- ITC needed a new parent brand that would encompass all of its services, including the camp, and leave plenty of room for growth and expansion.
- The “Thing” that animates Indian Trails Camp is helping individuals with disabilities attain greater freedom and independence.
- ITC needs to reach out to CMHs, clients and families, philanthropists, and the higher education community.
Based on these insights, we recommended that Indian Trails Camp adopt a new parent brand, IKUS Life Enrichment Services, that would encompass all of its programs, including the camp. Each service would have its own brand subordinated to the IKUS parent brand. We helped name the new brand, and we did the writing and design work that was needed to give it a clear, compelling identity. Black Lake then produced digital and print materials that would communicate the new IKUS brand to their audiences.
You have to account for a lot of variables when transitioning a brand, but we have guided IKUS along the way. Black Lake trained the organization’s leaders and staff on how to articulate and embody the new brand, and we designed marketing materials around the need to communicate a new identity quickly and clearly. For example, the new IKUS home page is designed to explain the organization’s new identity and reassure existing audience members that the camp they know and love isn’t going anywhere.
Now the IKUS team is navigating the process of unveiling their new brand, and the Black Lake team is looking forward to continued work with the organization as it continues to serve and grow.
Today, Bella Ferlaak job shadowed our two designers, Ashley Helminiak and Caraline Visuri (I tagged along a bit). Bella is thirteen years old and wanted to learn more about what it would be like to work as a graphic designer.
The Black Lake team walked her through some of our recent projects, answered her questions, and let her sit in on our creative sessions and a training session with a client. Ashley and Caraline even gave her some advice on degree programs she might want to look into. Thankfully, we didn’t bore her! It was fun to have her shadow us for a day, and we wish her well as she continues looking into design as a career path.
Bella’s brother, Brock, interns with us and is currently working on a video project that we’ll reveal soon. We also work with Bella’s and Brock’s dad, Chip Ferlaak, since he operates Macatawa Legends Golf & Country Club, which is a client of ours. I wonder: Which Ferlaak we’ll see in our studio next?
Brian Bosgraaf of Cottage Home stopped by Black Lake Studio today with some of the first copies of Life on the Lakeshore, the coffee table book we created together. After all the work that both of our teams put into producing the book, it’s incredibly exciting to finally see it in print! We’re proud to have it on display in our studio, and Brian was even gracious enough to give each of us a personal copy! Thanks, Brian!
Cottage Home specializes in building custom private beach homes on Lake Michigan. Last fall, Brian, Stephanie, and Jeremy, leaders at Cottage Home, met with us to start brainstorming how to create a book that would tell the stories of Cottage Home’s clients, paint a vivid picture of the lakeshore lifestyle, and be intriguing and helpful to everyone from prospective clients to seasoned lakeshore enthusiasts. After weeks of brainstorming, storytelling, interviewing clients and staff, designing, writing, editing, and making final changes, we sent the files off to Color House Graphics for printing. Now we’re all very pleased with what came back!
Here’s the text from the back cover of Life on the Lakeshore. Keep an eye out for copies in local West Michigan bookstores!
Every Cottage Has a Story
Nowhere in the world is quite like the Lake Michigan coastline. There’s a texture and rhythm to life on the freshwater lakeshore that is utterly unique, and the jewels of the coastline are its cottages. These homes are extraordinary portals to the richness and beauty of the Big Lake. But how do families come to own a Lake Michigan cottage? This book tells their tales and invites you to begin your own lakeshore story.
Today, writer, advocate, and speaker Lucia Rios is launching her new website and an Indiegogo campaign for her upcoming book project. Black Lake has been helping Lucia with the project through coaching, design, and more. We encourage you to check out luciarios.com and consider supporting her on Indiegogo!
A Book by Lucia Rios
Lucia Rios uses her personal and professional experience with disability to increase awareness of the disability experience. Lucia is currently writing a book that will tell her story through the lens of several critical themes, including identity, disability, and maximizing your opportunities no matter what abilities you have. The book will run approximately 140 pages and be available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. Continue Reading…
Diverse Global is a Saugatuck-based company that serves the automotive, appliance, food service, and other industries by designing, assembling, distributing, and servicing a wide range of customized packaging and dunnage solutions. Rob Schaftenaar, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, had this to say about the company before they worked with Black Lake: “We were a new and growing team, with various backgrounds and experiences. We had decades’ worth of industry knowledge between us, but we needed Black Lake to map that information and summarize it.”
At Black Lake Studio & Press, we help nonprofits, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs like Diverse Global discover, articulate, and express their identity for the next stage of growth. We begin with a deep dive into the business model and craft messages and media that produce results. This is where Black Lake came in to begin establishing a strategy with Diverse Global: “We sat down for the mind mapping session, all with various expectations and hesitations,” said rob. “Had we been left to our own devices, it would have taken months, if not years, for us to determine what everyone in the room thought and knew. But with Black Lake guiding us through the mind mapping process, we were able to get everything down on paper in one day, and collectively decide what Diverse Global would be as a company. Going forward, we’re all on the same page as we navigate what we are, what we are not, and what we’re going to be in the future.”
Having collected the end results of an in-depth mind mapping session, the next step of the process was to create a comprehensive marketing plan that reflected the company’s needs and goals. “They told us what our brand message should be; what our logo, colors, and fonts should be; what marketing materials we should be utilizing and in what ways; how we should bring our brand to the marketplace; and who we should be targeting as prospective customers. Everything we needed to know about how to properly market our company was delivered in a comprehensive plan that was derived from the information gathered during the mind mapping session and was specific to us as an organization.”
After engaging in the discovery stage, Black Lake turned that critical information into visuals that represent just what Diverse Global has to offer. This important step of the process allows for users to gauge the value proposition, competitive advantages, and core messaging through materials that serve as “more than just materials and a website.”
It’s one thing to rebrand an organization and hand over a strategic marketing plan; it’s quite another to actually support and facilitate the implementation of that plan. Black Lake did both with Lorence & Vander Zwart, helping them transform an abstract strategy into concrete success.
Black Lake specializes in guiding clients through a collaborative process to discover the core of their brand and the best way to communicate their values and purpose to their targeted audiences. Based on this information, we create branded assets that complement the sales process and brand messaging we have crafted for the client.
We went through this process with Lorence & Vander Zwart (LVZ), a financial planning and money management firm. Back in late 2014, we started the process of determining LVZ’s brand and where they were going. What we discovered was that LVZ had two distinct brands, one for their clients and one for their colleagues. When we delved deeper, we realized that LVZ had not two but three faces: their financial planning side, their advisors side, and the clients of the colleagues in their advisors side. We created assets to target each of these three faces, including websites for their financial planning business, advisors business, and client-facing business. You can see more of what we did with them here.
Here’s what partner Ryan Vander Zwart had to say about the process:
“We would highly recommend Greg and his team. The process led us to rebrand and helped us find our connection with our clients. The team conducted in-depth research and inquiry with all our partners and staff, along with focus groups with our clients. The process was thorough, and they brought a ton of valuable knowledge for us to consider. The results have been acknowledged by our clients and peers as a success.”
After these steps, clients can either run with their new brand and marketing materials on their own, or have Black Lake continue to assist in the creation of assets and communication of the message. LVZ is one such client that chose to continue to use Black Lake for monthly support. Since the end of the initial phase, we have updated sales materials, created a new series of one-sheets and proposal documents, and even built an integrated structure to save time and hassle for many of their spreadsheets and documents.
Because we created and improved assets and processes for them even after their initial creation, LVZ has been able to utilize the tools more effectively and has garnered positive acknowledgement from their own clients. Ryan Vander Zwart has this to say:
“We continue to work with Black Lake to stay on task and utilize their resources monthly. We continue to be pleased with their prompt service and guidance.”
As we continue to move forward with LVZ, we hope to keep making improvements and working together to help them grow and strengthen their brand. We’re excited to continue working with them and see what the future has in store as they further define the different faces of their business.
Ashley Helminiak, Creative Lead at Black Lake Studio, reveals how you can become that brand that engages powerfully with its audience.
When I say that you can be that brand that everyone’s talking about, I don’t mean that scandal with the spokesperson with skeletons in his closet. I don’t mean that one restaurant chain that gave thousands of people food poisoning. And I don’t mean that popular brand whose CFO got in trouble for embezzlement. I mean that brand that is all the buzz on people’s mouths, social media accounts, in coffee shops, etc. That brand that has its audience always expanding, with new users flocking to it and telling their friends about it. That brand that is everything you could hope to be as you grow your own business. In the end, audience engagement is one of the most important factors that influences the success or failure of your brand.
But how will you become that brand? Well, first you need to know what you’re all about. Then try implementing these strategies:
Choose the right channels for your audience.
You can excel at social media accounts, do special promotions, publish compelling content on your blog, and even engage in personal phone calls or meetings with clients and customers. But if your users aren’t the type to have social media accounts, then your carefully planned, excellently crafted posts will have no audience, and therefore no engagement. Know your audience and communicate with them in the ways they want to be contacted. Black Lake can help you plan ahead and craft a customized strategy.
Create content your audience is interested in.
Content should be relatable to the audience you’re targeting. Find out what they’re interested in and the types of hooks that appeal to them. If you have a high-end product and are targeting customers that are interested in high-quality merchandise, you may want to avoid accentuating cost or offering discounts. In this case, you should be focusing on the benefits of your product instead. We can help you figure out how to share relevant content and make it look super cool.
Offer something in exchange for your audience’s engagement.
It doesn’t have to be a gift card to Starbucks or a coupon for half-off barbecue pulled pork sandwiches if you come in between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. Often, choosing something related to your product or service is the best way to go. However, don’t underestimate a drawing to win a prize at a trade show! Black Lake can help you come up with effective incentives for your audience.
Respond to your audience when they talk to you.
If someone comments on your content, respond! They’re giving you their feedback and opinions, which is exactly what you want. Interact with them and offer more of your own insights. This will help you gain traction. Communication is a two-way street, after all. Black Lake will equip you to communicate effectively.
Here’s a sneak peek at the Christmas decorations we’ve put up for Downtown Holland’s event tomorrow. Up on the Rooftops is an opportunity for the public to tour through downtown businesses and residences that they wouldn’t normally have access to. We’re excited to be participating for the first time this year. Black Lake has been partnered with Urban Found, a super-cool local shop that offers a wide variety of necklaces, earrings, watches, bracelets, clothing, shoes, and industrial home decor. They’ve helped our studio get into the Christmas spirit, and we’re excited to show it off tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone!