We partner with agencies and in-house marketing teams to help find the right brand name, voice, expression, and messaging to connect with customers.
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We're lucky to work with amazing design firms, creating 360° creative for our clients:
Armchair Media/ IfThen
McFaul + Day
The Official Studio
Syndicated Films Brooklyn
The Heads of State
This is Folly
Widgets & Stone
+ countless in-house marketing teams.
Our logo was designed by the ubertalents at The Heads of State.
Props are nice:
Included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian, Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Awarded by AIGA 365 Design Annual; AIGA TEN Show awards (Gold, Silver, Bronze); STEP Magazine’s Top 100 Designs (2); Mohawk Paper Show (Best in Show); PRINT Magazine Regional Design Award; PRINT Magazine Design in Business Award; Interior Design Association Creative Excellence Awards (4); One Show (Design Merit); New York Type Director’s Club. Writing award recipient from the Yale and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences. Finalist for Book of the Year, Foreword Review.
You know Square as the little white card reader that lets you pay millions of baristas, boutiques, and other small businesses with a credit card. When Square wanted to offer consumer-facing products, they asked us to help create the right brand voice, expression, and personality to connect with any-and-everyone.
”Working with Caleb has been so fun. He’s a copy messiah who set a totally unattainable standard for anyone else to live up to.” – Product Lead
Millions of small and mid-size businesses use the platform to make sales and even take out loans to help run and grow their business. Democratizing lending and, as one of their in-house writers said, “Give banks a run for their money.”
Over the course of 5 months, we worked closely with Square Capital’s creative director, design team, and product managers to shape the voice for the launch of Square Installments, the first B2C product for Square Capital.
Then we stepped even farther back, creating a Voice and Tone Guidelines for all Square Capital products, including business loans and partnerships with eBay and Weebly. These key articulations range from company mission and values to generative guidelines for the in-house team — a solid foundation to create future copywriting and visuals that catch the spirit, values, and personality of the company.
Brand Guidelines excerpts in design phase, coming soon!
Services : : Brand voice, expression, articulation, and messaging; copywriting for marketing materials, application flow, email series, and social
Collaboration : : Square Capital in-house design and marketing teams
A furniture design studio asked us to help them connect with NY designers. So we asked MoMA if we could replace all of the furniture in their lobby, for opening night of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
And MoMA said: Nobody's ever asked us that before.
“To say it has been a pleasure working with 26 Tools would be an understatement. They led the effort around the release of the collection… no stone was left unturned, and their caring and dedication to the client was unparalleled; it felt as though he worked for client and not his own firm.” — Founder
Rainlight Studio, formerly the Product Design division of architecture giant HOK, designed a new line of furniture for open public spaces for healthcarecompany IOA, they realized that its potential went way beyond hospital waiting areas.
HOK and IOA wanted to capture the interest and imagination of attendees at New York’s prestigious International Contemporary Furniture Fair—the premier North American global design showcase for interior furniture, seating, lighting, accessories, textiles, attracting more than 700 exhibitors and 32,000 attendees from around the world.
So we called the ICFF management committee and asked if IOA could sponsor the opening night party at MoMA and NYCxDESIGN Awards. They let us remove the furniture from the museum’s lobby and garden, and replace it with the featured IOA product.
How lovely that MoMA said yes. What a night, what a party, what a launch.
In the months following, we helped the Studio with a full rebrand and rename, in collaboration with Public-Library, a cross-disciplinary design studio in LA and Portland.
Amsale Aberra was a legend in the bridal industry, an Ethiopian-born fashion designer whose simple, minimalist aesthetic transformed the modern American wedding dress. For more than 30 years, she dressed brides and bridesmaids around the world, including Halle Berry, Hilaria Baldwin, and Heidi Klum.
A little more than a year before she passed, she asked us to help her articulate her vision for design, and what makes her work stand out in a sea of offerings. Working with longtime collaborator Keely Hungate, we created a full brand expression and messaging for Amsale. We were honored, and delighted, when she teared up and said that no one had articulated her design sensibility and corporate identity so well, or truthfully, before.
Services : : Brand voice, expression, and messaging
Collaborators : : In-house design and marketing teams
The iconic American freight company started a brokerage house, to stretch their reach from sea to shining sea. And they wanted a new name, one that captures their history and culture. So we delivered.
Working with longtime copywriting collaborator Keely Hungate, we created a new name that drew upon a decade-long history of mergers and acquisitons: Holland, New Penn, Reddaway, and Yellow: HNRY. Once the name was resolved, we unpacked brand expression and messaging for the launch.
When the Tennessee Stillhouse set out to overturn 100 years of prohibition, they wanted all the public support that they could get. They needed a slogan, a central focus, a rallying cry.
"Do you realize how badass ‘Whiskey to the People’ is?" – Co-Founder
100 years ago, this city was the second largest whiskey distribution hub in America. But since Prohibition, it has been illegal to manufacture whiskey throughout the county. Chattanooga Whiskey Company set out to change that—through a very public, very populist battle waged for the right to distill in their hometown.
After successfully rewriting local laws, they needed a major shift in messaging. After all, their company started with an idea, rather than with a market gap analysis, innovation incubation, or artisan itch. How could they talk about the product, the story, and the company in ways that help grow the company to a mature brand, while keeping the spirit of the spirit?
We started off with rough concepting of what they wanted to communicate—then distilled the core ideas into a messaging structure that their in-house marketing team could implement, interpret, and build upon. Rules are good. Change them.
Services : : Positioning, voice, brand articulation, messaging, copywriting
Collaborators : : Graphic design by Tennessee Stillhouse in-house design team, with Widgets & Stone
When startup Quickcue was positioning for a potential sale, their VP of Product & Marketing asked me to work with their in-house creative team. They were looking for fresh ideas for a campaign that featured their 2.0 app, which expanded front-of-house capabilities for restaurants, as well as a vision for changing hospitality into the future.
In the months before they were acquired by Open Table, we worked together on concepts for ad copy, web copy, and positioning the company’s benefits to restaurants owners, managers, staff, and customers.
Services : : Messaging, positioning, copywriting
Collaborator : : Graphic design by Quickcue In-house team
In the world's largest democracy, 250 million Dalit people are denied freedom, justice, and basic human rights because they are considered "untouchable."
A group of Dalit activists asked for help bringing their need, and new hope, to the world’s attention.
In the world’s largest democracy, 250 million Dalit people are denied freedom, justice, and human dignity, because they are considered worthy only to be enslaved, broken, crushed. “Untouchable.”
But after 3,000 years of oppression, they are standing up for the rights of their children. Building schools that are open to all children, bring healthcare to all communities, develop economic opportunities, and advocate for safety.
A group of Dalit activists in India asked for help bringing their need, and new hope, to the world’s attention. Because rescue is real. So we put together a team of international development researchers, writers, designers, and web developers to help shine a light on remarkable people changing their own lives, then talk about ways that we can come alongside, and support, Dalit leadership back home.
Services : : Identity update, engagement, research, 18 month communications strategy, assembling team of researchers, designers, web developers
Collaborators : : Graphic design by Widgets & Stone, Research by Emily Talley, Web design and build by Whiteboard
When it comes to fighting child slavery, what does real partnership between philanthrophy and field work look like?
Equitas, founded to fight child slavery in Southeast Asia, asked us to write a messaging strategy that would help them build long-term relationships with donors, particularly using social media. In looking at the landscape of social action since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, we wanted to avoid two mistakes:
Slapping a sleepy public with a message of ‘Wake up!,’ which puts too much focus on the organization as cultural prophet, and
Celebrity endorsements and activism as a culture of cool, which puts too much focus on the donor as change agent.
Both of these approaches cheapen the suffering of real people, and can erode an organization's credibility. So we set up a messaging system that highlights small interactions with freed people. And like the name, Equitas, which is a root word for nouns and verbs, we wanted to emphasize both good words and good work, talk and action.
Services : : Voice, tagline, messaging, communications strategy, copywriting
Collaborator : : Graphic design by Widgets & Stone
A US National Cycling Team member wanted to launch his own line of cycling gear. We helped him move past some bad brand advice, into new possibilities.
“Yes! So much better. Your voice is perfect; it's more like our voice than anything before. Thanks for all of your help! I love what you’ve created.” – Founder and CEO
Meaningful talk about joy is hard to come by. People don’t often say such things, about things. But they do about two wheels and a frame, and about the experiences that a bike makes possible. At mile 20, at mile 200.
When a former member of the US National Cycling team launched a new line of high-end apparel for avid riders and commuters, he turned to an outdoor brand writer for help. Then to an agency out of London. Then he called us.
The brand voice and messaging that he had been given was not great. Like too much brand work today, it was obsessed with “storytelling.” It talked about the company’s passions and hopes and mission, without working to make customers want to read and relate.
We rewrote the messaging so it’s not about Escadrille’s story, but the stories of people who will buy, and wear, and benefit from, and love the products. And then we crafted messaging of shared love, for a launch catalog, website, retailer program, and broad marketing—and even a short lifestyle video to attract retail partners.
Services : : Tagline, articulation, voice, messaging, video
Collaboration : : Graphic design by Widgets & Stone, Video by Silvey Huffaker
A conceptual yet accessible tagline engine for an outdoor retailer: pairs of positive words that, used together, bring new meaning.
"There simply are no other specialty retailers doing anything like this. Most identities look like a watered-down imitations of major national brands. By contrast, our brand is bold and forward-thinking. It is uniquely ‘Rock/Creek.’ The team's method and the thoughtful nature of their work has reinvigorated our own sense of direction and has given us a valuable focus for future growth.” – Marketing & Creative Director
A 20 year old outdoor retailer wanted to rebrand, with a view to growing in–store and online sales. We could see that Rock/Creek’s strength comes not from the outdoor apparel and equipment they sell, but from the very human experiences that surround these products. So in crafting their brand voice, we wanted to highlight how they enhance the outdoor experience for customers of all skill levels.
So we created a highly conceptual, yet accessible “tagline engine. ” Built around the iconic slash in their logo, we paired positive words that, used together, bring new meaning.
We then applied this strategy not only to messaging, but to graphics, signage, packaging, web, and ads—then delivered the identity, as a usable tool kit, to Rock/Creek’s in-house marketing group.
Services : : Voice, articulation, tagline, messaging
Collaborators : : Graphic design by Widgets & Stone
A retail store in Buckhead, Atlanta wanted to position itself as the leading option for high-end, tailored men’s clothing. Clothes that suit the New South, offering brands and collections that are not available anywhere else in Atlanta. Whether made to measure or ready-to-wear—if it’s the best, then it’s at Miller Bros.
We looked at the personality of the brand, the competitive landscape, inspiration from classic and contemporary men’s fashion, and ways to link the store experience to advertising. Then we created a series of headlines and messaging, along with amazing design from our collaborating agency.
Services : : Discovery, ad messaging
Collaborator : : creative direction and design by Widgets & Stone
Legacybox's founders bootstrapped a simple concept from garage startup to an Inc 500 company, with zero debt. The model of “get investment, sell big, move on” does not apply to these entrepreneurs, and they asked us to help tell their story, and explain how their company was part of a larger mission.
“Working with 26 Tools allowed us to take a step back from the day-to-day and discover truly how to articulate our organization and its values, in succinct and powerful ways, both to customers and internally. This articulation also served to sharpen us on how we ought to think about what we do as a company.” – Co-Founder
In particular, they were looking to establish thought leadership in three areas: the entrepreneurscape, their local community, and nonprofit partnerships. We helped organize strategic messaging, and thinking, for application in web marketing, PR, employee training, and potential future brand launches.
Services : : Brand strategy, positioning, articulation, and copywriting
Collaborator : : In house marketing, Widgets & Stone