Delivering Brand Clarity to Market Leaders

Empowering Brands Since 1991

We create brands that elevate products, advertising that connects with audiences, marketing that drives sales and campaigns that ignite engagement across all channels. Our award winning agency is powered by pushing boundaries, by never settling, by doing our homework and executing strategically — in Washington, DC or around the world. We distill your value proposition down to a clear, memorable and impactful averment of your promise. That’s brand clarity.

We’re a true full-service agency focused on maximizing the impact of your messages. The results-oriented B2B and B2C campaigns we execute for our clients are both memorable and effective. We never forget that your customers’ experiences need to be continuous and universal.

From international manufacturers to leading non-profits to the attorney down the street, we improve marketing return on investment for a powerfully eclectic client mix because of our diverse experience and expertise. Our clients are bold. They never stop halfway. They’re on a mission to outdistance the competition at every step, on any channel.

 
$10,000+
 
$150 - $199 / hr
 
2 - 9
 Founded
1991
Show all +
Washington, DC
headquarters
  • ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.
    1313 F St. NW
    Washington, DC 20004
    United States

Portfolio

Key clients: 

nVent

Pentair

Frontier Technologies

NPR

Kennametal

WIDIA

USA Bobsled/Skeleton Team

Linemark

National Retail Federation

HIMSS

Conservation International

Offit/Kurman

Cushman & Wakefield

Fisher House Foundation

Rand Construction Company

Reviews

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Rebranding for Retail Association

“I always felt like I was working with an expert.”

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
Oct. 2003 - Dec. 2005
Project summary: 

ds+f assisted with a complete brand overhaul for an annual trade show. Scope included logo design, imaging, advertising, and print design for attendee and exhibitor promotions.

The Reviewer
 
51-200 Employees
 
Washington, DC
Christina Dickinson
Senior Director, Marketing, National Retail Federation
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The updated brand strategy resulted in significant increases in convention and exhibit attendance. The ds+f team worked flexibly and prioritized their understanding of the business and industry to create imaging and advertising that effectively addressed target audiences.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company and your position there.

When I engaged ds+f, I was the senior director of marketing at The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade association in the world. Based in Washington, DC, NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. While there, I managed association-wide promotion efforts, the largest of which was conference image and advertising.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

For what projects/services did your company hire ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.?

During a time of slowed retail business due to closure and mergers, NRF needed to make our Annual Convention & Expo stand out as a must-attend event. As a long-time agency partner of NRF, ds+f was tapped to work with our team in creating a new brand, including logo design, imaging, and advertising for both attendee and exhibitor promotions.

What were your goals for this project?

The primary goal for this project was to increase attendance and exhibitors for the NRF Annual Convention & Expo. After 92 years of producing the show, it was time for a makeover. To accomplish this, we needed to refresh the flagging retail industry image and create something new and exciting.

SOLUTION

How did you select this vendor?

The NRF Marketing Department worked with several agencies and designers for projects of all sizes and budgets. We considered a number of agencies, but wanted one we felt knew our association well and had the creative bandwidth to effectively update a long-held event. We selected ds+f for their ability to understand our organization, listen to our needs, consider the people and personalities involved, and integrate new ideas smoothly.

Describe the scope of their work in detail.

The project began with a kick-off meeting with the ds+f creative team and our internal stakeholders. During the meeting, we discussed the approach and how to shift the identity of a 92-year-old event gracefully. We needed a new logo, graphics, brochures, postcards, print and digital ads, and promotional copy for both attendees and exhibit sales. The next steps involved follow-up calls to discuss graphics and copy that would shape our new event brand. We then moved to collateral and promotions for targeted audiences.

What was the team composition?

I worked directly with Don (President, ds+f). I also led the internal NRF team comprised of leadership from the marketing, conference, and membership departments, with participation from the association president. On their side, we partnered with Don, a designer, and an account manager.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?

The new brand for "Retail's Big Show" was well-received. Oversized promotional brochures and postcards were designed to add to the new BIG image. We saw significant increases in convention and exhibit attendance. As of 2018, "Retail's Big Show" made Trade Show News Network's list of top 25 fastest growing shows. Throughout several changes in leadership, ds+f provided continuity to keep the show thriving.

How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?

The ds+f team was always on top of things. They communicated well and often. If they found inconsistencies within our content, they called us. Requests for changes were completed promptly and efficiently. ds+f was also effective in making suggestions to improve content and design. Deadlines were reliably met. If we made last minute changes, we discussed updated expectations for delivery right away. They were flexible and easy to work with.

What did you find most impressive about this company?

I always felt like I was working with an expert. Don is a true marketing and brand professional. He is able to create an image for each business that truly reflects the organization. ds+f takes the time to get to know a company, the people in it, and the industry to develop the best creative approach possible. They do it right. If they felt there was a better way, or if something we wanted wouldn't work well, they offered alternatives. They are experts at what they do, and I appreciated their input. It saved us more than once. In the end, we exceeded our goals.

Are there any areas for improvement?

The areas for improvement are probably more on my side than theirs. Considering all the projects, edits, and last minute changes thrown at them, they did pretty well. Schedules are always tight. But any issues I had were too small to mention.

5.0
Overall Score I've worked with ds+f for more than 20 years. They have always exceeded my expectations.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    The team was always clear and cooperative.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    For the quality of work that they offer, the cost is within reason.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    Their professional and high-end presentations make us look great.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I would and have referred ds+f to colleagues.

Branding for Electrical Manufacturing Company Spinoff

"Everyone is extremely happy with the work and support from ds+f."

Quality: 
4.5
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
 
May 2017 - May 2018
Project summary: 

ds+f provided branding services to a new, spinoff company. They established comprehensive brand guidelines, including the new company's name, logo, and brochures.

The Reviewer
 
10,001+ Employees
 
Switzerland
VP Corporate Strategy & Brand Management, Manufacturing Firm
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Their branding work was extremely successful, providing extensive guidelines for the large company smoothly and thoroughly. They took on board feedback and responded to any issues rapidly, created high-quality deliverables, and were communicative partners.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I'm the VP of corporate strategy and brand management.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with ds+f?

We were planning to make a spinoff of the main company. Instead of having just one publicly traded company, we decided to have two publicly traded companies. We wanted to work with a branding agency like ds+f in order to come up with a new company name, and to develop the new company's brand, image, and promise, etc.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

They helped us come up with the right name for the company. Once we identified that, we had to develop its logo. After this, we had to think about the brand promise of the new company, and develop the brand guidelines that the employees of the new company should follow—how they should use the brand, what fonts should be used in all documents, what brochures should look like, what the external signage in our manufacturing facilities should look like, and what the company’s branded clothing should look like.

They developed all of this into guidelines that can be used in the future by anyone who wants to build anything. They included examples for probably every scenario imaginable: trade booths, clothing, brochures, business cards, and letterheads.

They then helped us in the first few months to govern the implementation of the new brand. They were in contact with a different external agency that we appointed for the rebranding of all our brochures. That company had around 300 people working on our brochures and ds+f made sure that everything was done properly. They played a similar role with an external signage company that we appointed. We had 80 sites spread across the globe, that needed new exterior signs.

What is the team composition?

They did it all with four people. They have two main partners, and I was in touch with both of them.

How did you come to work with ds+f?

When we decided to split the companies, I was working under the supervision of our chief growth officer at the time. He had worked with ds+f in the past and had many good things to say about them, so we decided to use them again. We asked what the price would be and their offer was reasonable.

They're a relatively small company, so they don’t have a lot of fixed costs or a lot of people. They are relatively well-placed from a price and competitiveness point of view.

How much have you invested with them?

It's come to $300,000–$400,000 so far.

What is the status of this engagement?

We started working with them in May 2017 and the project is still ongoing, on an ad-hoc basis.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

Overall, everyone is extremely happy with the work and support from ds+f. Even in situations when we could argue that something was not well-done, they immediately received the feedback and very quickly adjusted it. We could count those situations on one hand or even fewer.

One of the things that impressed me the most about them—and the reason I wanted to give feedback about them—is the fact that they were able to rebrand a completely new company from scratch, with only a few people. They weren’t very expensive, taking into account all the work that was done. The company is currently publicly traded and it’s not a small company. We have 80 manufacturing facilities across the globe, we take $2.2 billion in revenue per year, and we have 10,000 employees. It’s not a small task to rebrand all of this.

Even when they moved more towards overseeing the work, they were still able to perform well and to coordinate particularly well with all the vendors we had. They did the heavy lifting of the rebranding exercise.

How did ds+f perform from a project management standpoint?

They were always on top of what needed to be done. In a project of this size, in a company of our size, we also had our own project management people who ensured that everything was done on time. I was the overall leader, but I did not keep track of the day-to-day activities and timelines. Very often, when I was on the phone with them, I would ask what was happening in the current week and what the deliverables were. They could easily give me this information.

We communicated through email and telephone. We used WebEx for screen sharing so that everyone could see what people were doing. One of the things that impressed me was that—despite being a relatively small company—they were extremely responsive. They gave me a response within a few days for anything I asked for, even if it wasn’t urgent.

What did you find most impressive about them?

They stood out in terms of responsiveness, quality of work, reasonable pricing, and client engagement. They are generally nice and easy-going people to work with. They didn’t stress out on the big timelines, and they didn’t complain as others would when we changed a few things. They were completely willing to hear feedback and adjust to customer needs.

Are there any areas they could improve?

There are only minor things. They picked a company font—for use on emails, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations—that was not from Microsoft. It was a very nice font, but it created some issues. We decided to move back to a font that existed in the Microsoft environment, simply to eliminate those issues. However, the problems that this created were not deal-breakers.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 4.5 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Rebranding Strategies for Financial Advisory Firm

"The project was a total success!"

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
4.5
Cost: 
4.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$10,000 to $49,999
 
May 2014 - Jan. 2018
Project summary: 

ds+f led a comprehensive rebranding effort by creating a color scheme, logo, and tagline while preparing digital and print marketing materials to highlight wealth management services.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Columbia, Maryland
Jim DeCarlo
CEO, StratWealth
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The new brand collateral successfully attracted interest from clients and other industry peers. ds+f’s modern designs, prompt turnaround time, consistent results, and flexibility met every project objective.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company and your position there.

I’m the CEO of StratWealth, a privately owned, independent wealth management firm that’s been operating for 25 years. Serving over 900 families with $1.4 billion in assets, we are one of the largest independent advisory firms in the Maryland area.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

For what projects/services did your company hire ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.?

The firm scoped a rebranding initiative that included our trademarked advisory process. Our work with ds+f included establishing the initial scope, conducting research, and managing the design and rollout processes.

What were your goals for this project?

We wanted to display our brand and to highlight our unique eight-step client experience. The process had to be current and forward-thinking from the perspective of our clients and our community.

SOLUTION

How did you select this vendor?

Our chairman had worked with Don (CEO, ds+f) previously and recommended his firm. We selected him after reviewing his work and proposal.

Describe the scope of their work in detail.

The work included (but wasn’t limited to) the following: creating a new color scheme, logo, web design, tagline, and letterhead and printed stationary; updating our marketing design and improving client and staff communications.

What was the team composition?

Our founding partners, including the chairman, worked directly with Don and his team during the project. The COO at StratWealth was heavily involved in logistics and schedule management.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?

They met all of our objectives on time. We crafted a new tagline and anchored a modern logo with a marketing layout that direct our deployment of this rebranding effort. The project was a total success!

How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?

Our project manager at StratWealth communicated and updated information with ds+f, allowing easy iterations.

What did you find most impressive about this company?

They’re both timely and flexible. We have many clients, and our time is limited. ds+f worked with us to accommodate the pace of the project.

Are there any areas for improvement?

Our collaboration was quite email-heavy. One day, I hope the platform will simplify the exchange of information and ideas.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 4.5 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    The project kept us busy, but they did a great job.
  • 4.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    Value comes at a price, and ds+f delivers great work. They're still on our team.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    Their work is always top-notch.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I'd absolutely recommend them.

Targeted Branding & Sponsorship Development for Team USA

"We felt as though our organization’s input mattered."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
Confidential
 
Sept. 2011 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

DS+F conducted a targeted marketing campaign to increase sponsorship and visibility outside of Olympic cycles. They designed various signage, a new website, and developed a promotional prospectus.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Lake Placid, New York
Amanda Bird
Director of Marketing & Communications, USA Bobsled & Skeleton
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Long- and short-term sponsors have agreed to partnerships, and the new materials provide a modern visual brand. Organizational professionalism has increased with DS+F’s guidance. Their communication and expertise made for a promising working relationship.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company and your position there.

I am the marketing and communications director for USA Bobsled & Skeleton.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

For what projects/services did your company hire ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.?

We were looking to build a stronger national brand identity for our organization. We are one of the smaller national governing bodies—not as familiar or identifiable as an organization like the U.S. Ski Team—and we needed a partner to help us increase brand awareness and approach new sponsors. We worked with DS+F to develop targeted branding for each Olympic cycle.

What were your goals for this project?

We wanted to increase our family of sponsors and make our sports recognizable outside of the two areas that have tracks, which are Park City, Utah and Lake Placid, N.Y.

SOLUTION

How did you select this vendor?

Don Schaaf, the president of the firm, has been a board member of USA Bobsled & Skeleton since September 2011.

Describe the scope of their work in detail.

After initial discussions, DS+F developed proposals for our organization to review. Together, we generated a targeted brand for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which spurred a new sponsorship prospectus, new branding for the website and social media pages, new designs for bobsled wraps, and various other signage needs.

What was the team composition?

We worked closely with the president, Don Schaaf, and other members of his staff.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?

Our targeted marketing campaign has fostered both long-term partners and partners for various Olympic cycles. We feel confident and professional when approaching companies with designs that match the highest caliber of performance we support.

How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?

All communication was quick and efficient. Any concerns or questions from our end were addressed in short order, and we were guided through the process. We felt as though our organization’s input mattered. We considered them part of our team.

What did you find most impressive about this company?

The branding and advertising assistance have been critical to our success, but they have also helped us build a better organization by leading us through the process and explaining the importance of certain components. We have advanced professionally as a result.

Are there any areas for improvement?

No, we are thoroughly satisfied with their work.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Corporate Branding for Real Estate Firm

"We always felt like DS+F's most important customer, even on modest assignments."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$10,000 to $49,999
 
Jan. 2008 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Don Schaaf & Friends provided logo and website design, customer-facing presentation collateral, and product marketing to create a modern physical brand that appealed to customers and investors.

The Reviewer
 
51-200 Employees
 
Bethesda, Maryland
Michael Jacoby
Chief Executive Officer, Broad Street Realty LLC
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The materials have garnered praise from customers and investors alike. DS+F provides regular updates to all products and websites, but the initial framework remains largely unchanged. DS+F boasts a creative and communicative team to generate strategic and worthwhile marketing solutions.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company and your position there.

I am the CEO of a national real estate development, investment, property management, and leasing company.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

For what projects/services did your company hire ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.?

We have utilized and returned to DS+F for numerous projects over an extended period of time. Although we refer to their work as marketing and branding, the DS+F team have contributed much more. Their projects have included logo and website design, corporate collateral, customer-facing presentation collateral, product marketing, email campaigns, slogans, and text for marketing purposes.

What were your goals for this project?

We wanted a fresh and modern physical brand that appeals to our various customer and investor bases alike.

SOLUTION

How did you select this vendor?

We have partnered with DS+F for about a decade. At this point, we love their creative work and know they will get the work done quickly, efficiently, and professionally. They think like we do.

Describe the scope of their work in detail.

We regularly ask DS+F to refresh and update the look and feel of our materials, websites, and collateral from time to time, but the initial brand they developed has stood the test of time. They continue to provide recommendations for outbound marketing programs and templates.

What was the team composition?

Each assignment had a project manager and a graphic designer. There was always creative executive input at the highest level.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?

We have received numerous accolades from customers and investors on the look and feel of our materials. We are very proud of our organization’s collateral and feel we can compete with anyone at any level.

How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?

We always felt like DS+F's most important customer, even on modest assignments. We have found their principals, project managers, and designers extremely efficient. They ask good questions, and we always seem to be on the same page. They wait for us, not vice versa. They listen and are very collaborative.

What did you find most impressive about this company?

They pack a lot of power and creativity in a world with so much choice. They always seem to have solutions to our problems.

Are there any areas for improvement?

I cannot think of any.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They wait for us, not the other way around.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    There are no surprises, no upcharges, and limited scope change orders.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    Our ROI directly as a result of their work has been significant.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    We are highly likely to recommend and refer.

Brand Refresh for Technology Company

"The new brand has given us a renewed sense of pride and confidence."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$10,000 to $49,999
 
Apr. 2018 - May 2018
Project summary: 

ds+f refreshed an outdated brand to reflect its market success, recent growth, and high-value clientele. They presented several rounds of concepts before implementing the final design.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Wilmington, Delaware
Carlos Diggs
VP of Business Development, Frontier Technologies, Inc
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The fresh branding improved company morale and attracted valuable prospects. ds+f checked in frequently to offer updates and ask for feedback. The team's endless creativity and prompt, helpful project management lent valuable momentum to the process.

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company and your position there.

I am VP of Business Development at Frontier Technologies, Inc., a full-service information technology infrastructure solutions provider based in Wilmington, Delaware. I direct the company’s business development initiatives through significant organic growth and strategic client acquisitions that deliver results for our clients, especially enterprises with supplier diversity goals.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

For what projects/services did your company hire ds+f / Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.?

We needed help to upgrade our branding and messaging. We could not afford to do it ourselves again. The brand was over 10 years old and outdated.

What were your goals for this project?

Our goal was to refresh the entire brand. We needed a brand that represented our success, growth, market leader clients, and market focus.

SOLUTION

How did you select this vendor?

I've worked with ds+f before on similar projects, and was confident beyond doubt that they would give me another win.

Describe the scope of their work in detail.

Before the project kickoff, we completed a discovery form and held a kickoff meeting to confirm the current situation and desired results. They introduced the team and outlined the schedule of deliverables. We had several rounds of idea presentation, followed by review and adjustment sessions, until we narrowed down to the final selections.

What was the team composition?

Their CEO led the kickoff meeting. They assigned us a project manager/art director along with a couple of designers.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Can you share any outcomes from the project that demonstrate progress or success?

The new brand has given us a renewed sense of pride and confidence. Compliments from clients, partners, and prospects are laced with "ooohs" and "aaahs."

How effective was the workflow between your team and theirs?

We met with the project manager weekly and as needed for reviews, feedback, and adjustments. They kept the process moving forward until we narrowed down our selections.

What did you find most impressive about this company?

What I found most impressive was the sheer number of fresh ideas.

5.0
Overall Score They were simply the best.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They were easy and accommodating.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    It was very competitive.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    It exceeded our expectations.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I wouldn't think twice about referring ds+f.

Branding & Event Marketing for Membership Organization

"They’re very personable and very focused on their client."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$200,000 to $999,999
Project summary: 

Whether it's branding their company or rebranding for a new event, the client continuously looks to ds+f to bring their creative techniques that make their image and logo stand out amongst other vendors.

The Reviewer
 
11-50 Employees
 
Washington, DC
Vice President, Health Membership Organization
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

The team at ds+f has a shining personality that makes them enjoyable and trustworthy business partners. Their outstanding logo work is what sets them apart.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

We are a membership organization that focuses on all the different facets of personal connected health from the technology side. I’m the VP of the organization.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with ds+f?

Initially, we needed branding for the company, marketing campaigns, and branding for our events.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

We’ve been through a few different branding exercises with the team at ds+f, mostly around our events. As we’re launching a new event or rebranding an existing event, we engage in a series of meetings with their team. We talk about the personality and focus of the event, how we want it perceived, the audience we’re marketing to, and the types of content focus we would have in the event. We’ve been working with them for over 20 years, and they have a good sense of the types of approaches we like.

If branding is involved, ds+f comes back with a series of logos. We get anywhere from 10–25 variations, and we go through those, narrow them down to around eight, then narrow them down to the final one or two. It’s a very involved process and very hands-on by both sides. We work closely together and there’s good back and forth between us.

We do a similar process for the event appearance, just not as lengthy. They generally pick up on something we’ve done in the past and evolve it for the next year. If it’s a new event, the look is created alongside the logo process as a package.

How did you come to work with ds+f?

Many years ago, when I was at the Consumer Electronics Show, we were looking for a new approach to the event to give it a more updated look. I saw some work I liked and was directed to ds+f. We met with them, and I really liked the personality of their team and the whole shop. They’re very personable and very focused on their client. They didn’t present themselves as a big machine; it was a very personal approach.

We started to work with ds+f on a limited basis and then ramped it up. When I left that organization, I’ve continued to work with ds+f at each organization where I’ve been employed.

How much have you invested with ds+f?

We’re approaching the $500,000 mark.

What is the status of this engagement?

I’ve worked with ds+f since about 1990, through five different companies, and the relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

ds+f is extremely responsive and nimble. They’ve delivered on time in every project I brought to them.

The metrics are difficult because we base those on other things. However, ds+f equips our sales team and our audience development team with the right tools to be successful. They’ve elevated the look and feel of our events to a level that is definitely recognized. We’re always able to go out with the best look. The graphics designed by ds+f for trade shows stand above any others around us. When our material is put up alongside others in the industry, it has a unique look to it. We go to ds+f because they are able to communicate the personality of the events that we have in mind.

When we’ve had new things come out through the years, they’ve adapted very quickly. When we moved our website to Drupal, ds+f immediately brought on resources to help with that. It was a relatively new platform at the time, but they found resources so we could continue working with them seamlessly. In addition to the graphics and design elements for the site, they worked on the backend, so it saved us extra steps.

How did ds+f perform from a project management standpoint?

I think ds+f is excellent. We always have a lead on the project who is very responsive. We use several other vendors, and some interactions we have are just as different as night and day. The turnaround time and communication are different, and the deliverables are not always on point. With ds+f, all of those things always hit the mark.

What did you find most impressive about ds+f?

Their logo development makes ds+f stand out. We’ve also worked with them to create video graphics and video intros for our main stage, and that’s been excellent. I really appreciate the personality of the team.

Are there any areas ds+f could improve?

From my perspective, there is nothing to improve. The reason we’ve been with ds+f for so long is that they do everything possible to deliver what we want.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    We go to ds+f on a regular basis with insanely short turnaround times, and they always make it.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    ds+f is extremely cost-effective, and they also work with us when we have tight budgets. They’re a good partner in that sense. They look at our relationship from a long-term perspective.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I’ve recommended ds+f many times.

Brand and Creative for Water and Electrical Company

"I believe their creative is some of the best."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
4.5
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$1,000,000 - $9,999,999
 
2003 - Ongoing
Project summary: 

Steered by the goal of becoming a united brand entity, ds+f took their understanding of the client's business strategy and translated it into marketing materials, websites, and a broad range of design work.

The Reviewer
 
10,000+ Employees
 
London, United Kingdom
CMO, Water and Electrical Company
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

ds+f shines in their ability to understand the essence of a brand and deliver quality creative work that maintains a consistent identity across their deliverables.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

We are a $5 billion company, headquartered in London, focused on two important segments: water and electrical. I am the chief marketing officer for the enterprise.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with ds+f?

My challenge was in trying to build an industrial brand where there used to be a bunch of smaller brands - in essence moving from a house of brands to a branded house. I have used ds+f in my past and am currently introducing them in my new role. ds+f understands industrial B2B businesses; branding, creative, and how to build a consistent identity. My experience with the firm is that they are excellent partners who both execute on-time and on budget and ensure our compliance with our standards. They also use exciting creative to capture audiences.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

It all begins with company strategy and ds+f understands this point. We would spend significant time with our joint teams and understand our business strategy. This includes: how would we like the brand to show up in the marketplace, what differentiates us from our competition, and how can we inject our brand and promise into everything that we do to create not only a space and awareness but also some differentiation. The team size would be three or four from my side and two or three from ds+f.

The range of deliverables is pretty broad - everything from brand identity standards, layouts of brochures, websites, and signage of our facilities. It also includes designing the look of our office reception, our trucks that travel around the world and transport our product, our packaging, and our trade shows. ds+f takes ownership of the brand experience.

How did you come to work with ds+f?

I had worked with other agencies before ds+f, but I came across them from a referral from somebody who had worked with them when they helped launch the strategy of MCI. I also saw samples of their portfolio and branding work that they had accomplished. I invited them in to look into things I was trying to get done at Flowserve, and they were a very good fit for the type of assignment. I was not looking for a large Wall Street agency; I was looking for a focused boutique agency that could really understand our needs in the business. We had agencies all come in and bid on some projects that we had, and ds+f was the winner.

How much have you invested with ds+f?

It has been in the broad range of $500,000 to a couple of million dollars a year. It depends on the projects that we have. We spend a lot more upfront when we are starting to get our brand and standards together, and then it turns more into project work after that.

What is the status of this engagement?

Our association with ds+f began in 2003. The work is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

The biggest challenge is being able to show an ROI on these projects. However, I would say the result I saw from Flowserve was having our customers and shareholders begin to see us as a single branded entity instead of a house of brands. Most people who think of Flowserve today don’t think about all their sub-brands that they bought; they think of it as Flowserve. That was our goal, and I believe we have achieved that goal.

How did ds+f perform from a project management standpoint?

ds+f does a very good job of project management, which is probably not the norm in a creative agency. That’s something we have worked on together, with each project having a project number and tracking, and we work together to make sure that the projects get done on time.

What did you find most impressive about ds+f?

I believe their creative is some of the best. They truly try to capture the essence of the brand and then stay consistent. I’ve also referred other companies who have made the comment that they really keep us in line with the brand because it’s so easy for people to want to go in a different direction after a period of time. ds+f recognizes that this is a drumbeat that you have to beat consistently, and they keep us on track. It’s an excellent quality of theirs.

Are there any areas ds+f could improve?

The only thing that I can think of, and ds+f is already doing it, is continuing to build out the digital space. It's certainly the way that our customers are going to interact with us. I know they are doing that, but just to continue building it out.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    With most of the work that we do, the deadlines are firm. They won’t move a trade show if we are not ready, and ds+f is always ready with us.
  • 4.5 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They're competitively priced.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    ds+f delivers exciting creative on time.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I recommend ds+f often.

Branding and Marketing Strategy for Multiple Large Organizations

"The fact that they’re so good at translating what I have in my mind into beautiful marketing materials is outstanding."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$50,000 to $199,999
Project summary: 

The client has worked with ds+f for many large and name-recognized organizations, soliciting their services in marketing and branding strategy as well as their expertise in creative design.

The Reviewer
 
501-1,000 Employees
 
Washington, DC
CMO, Broadcast Media Company
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

Though ds+f is a small company in size, they are huge in in their ability to deliver quality, creative, and meaningful work. They bring a family-feel to their office that secures the trust of their clients.

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

I’m the CMO [Chief Marketing Officer] at a broadcast media company.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with ds+f?

I have worked with ds+f in the past in coming up with ways to express and communicate a brand or a specific marketing position. They are excellent at really listening to what my objectives are either for my brand or a specific marketing/revenue target. They’re really good at looking at it from a 360° angle, understanding where I am trying to get to, and at recommending what to do to get there. They are also very good at marketing strategy.

The fun part of working with them is how incredibly creative they are in their beautiful graphic design work, video work, and website design. What they’re able to do in terms of creative execution is not only incredibly effective from a marketing perspective, but it’s also delightful to look at because of their fantastic eye for design.

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

When I worked with them in the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, they did all the graphic design for our website relaunch and helped us with both writing and the graphic design of our final report to President Obama. They also helped us with some videos that we produced to showcase the projects that we were doing at Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

At Conservation International, we had a series of big strategies that we needed to roll out. We went to them with a pretty wonky scientific strategy and policy and worked with them to create marketing materials that would help the scientific community understand these projects, policies, and strategies. They helped us from a writing perspective to take dense scientific papers and put them out in a way that is digestible so that our fundraisers could use them to raise money in support of these projects. There was not only a writing element to that, but also a design element in terms of making sure that the materials not only read well, but also were easy to the eye, easy to take in, exciting, dynamic, and fun. That’s what they did for a long list of strategies that we needed to fundraise around.

How did you come to work with ds+f?

I was at MCI, a telecommunications company, back in the 90s. There were other areas at MCI that were having ds+f do promotional materials for their sales recognition events. It was a very big organization, of 35,000 employees, and they helped us work on employee recognition materials. I had a big project where I needed help with logos and design. That’s how I started working with them for various years in various capacities of doing graphic design. When I left to Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and needed design work there, it was easy to call them up. I knew that what they were going to deliver was exactly what I needed.

How much have you invested with ds+f?

Projects ranged from $5,000 for a quick logo to $100,000 for a massive design.

I initially was working with them on the for-profit front. When I started working with them on my non-profit work, I had to be much more mindful of costs. Not only were they very reasonable in terms of what we could pay, but they also cared a lot about the people of Haiti and were invested in that project. The team really wanted to work on our project, bringing the cost to a place where we could work with them. I imagine they brought that cost down lower because of how much they cared about the project, which is great. They also would do things where I couldn’t send an amount and they would work with me by trimming or cutting back deliverables. We would be able to get to a price point that we needed to get to.

What is the status of this engagement?

I have worked with ds+f since 1995 starting at MCI, then at Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Conservation International. I just started the job I’m in two months ago, so I haven’t worked with them yet in my new job. The relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?

One of the many design projects that they did for me when I was at MCI was so successful that the project itself blew up the phone system. Back then, you called in and you would punch in numbers to sign up for a specific promotion that they helped us get people excited about. They drove more demand than we could handle. It was many years ago, but it was quite a moment. I’m sure a large measure of it was because of the design that they did.

The work we did on the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund website was incredibly well received. Being that we essentially were serving two presidents, both presidents were thrilled with the website. We drove a lot of traffic and were able to communicate the stories of Haitian success. People were able to come in and get information. We closed down the fund in 2012. I can’t tell you what the numbers were, but I do know that the site still gets a lot of hits. Even though there is nothing active on it, we still maintain it.

The work that we were doing at Conservation International is still underway.

How did ds+f perform from a project management standpoint?

Their project management was fantastic. That’s the best part. They are very detailed oriented and communicative. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the designers that I work with to hear me. They are very good at listening to where I want to go and what I’m trying to achieve and translating that into incredibly designed products.

What did you find most impressive about ds+f?

They’re a relatively small shop that feels very big. You get all of the personalized attention that you would expect from a small boutique type firm, yet I have never handed them a project that they weren’t able to deliver on time that not only surprised me with its excellence but delighted me. There are a lot of people who do good design out there, but the fact that they’re so good at translating what I have in my mind into beautiful marketing materials is outstanding. They’re also just a terrific group of people to work with. They have a lovely little office in Washington, D.C. Don brings his dog with him to work, which you meet when you go into their office. Don’s brother manages all the finances. Up until 10 years ago, his mom was the receptionist. It’s a really warm sweet family feel but, at the same time, they’re innovative and cutting edge and they deliver on the things that I need. It’s rare to see all of that at the same time.

Are there any areas ds+f could improve?

Not really. I can’t say that there would be anything that they didn’t do flawlessly for me. I wouldn’t keep going back to them if I felt like there was an issue. If there’s ever an issue that I have with the project or something is not going in the direction I need it to go, I’m very direct and I call them up asking for the changes we need to do. They’re incredibly responsive. They don’t bring a lot of ego into it—it’s not like they’ll say, “You can’t change our work because it’s so amazing.” It’s much more along the lines of “Great, we hear you, and we’ll make it happen.”

5.0
Overall Score It’s why I’ve continue to work with them at every organization that I go to. The minute I know that I need outside design work, I know I can give them a call and they’ll get right back to me and help me out.
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They’ve never missed a deadline.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    That was terrific as well.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer

Branding for Large Commercial Real Estate Firm

"What I really like about them is that they’re a boutique firm that has as good ideas as anybody else, including the mega-firms."

Quality: 
5.0
Schedule: 
5.0
Cost: 
5.0
Willing to refer: 
5.0
The Project
 
$1,000,000 - $9,999,999
Project summary: 

The ds+f team lent external branding support through cohesive graphics, tagline development, website content, and hard-copy presentation supplements while internally aiding legal specialization for brokers.

The Reviewer
 
10,000+ Employees
 
Chicago, Illinois
Sherry Cushman
Executive Managing Director, Cushman & Wakefield
 
Verified
The Review
Feedback summary: 

After creating an entire company look in 6 months, ds+f’s expert deliverables won multiple legal and advertising awards. This boutique agency’s creativity, cost-effectiveness, and industry prowess outshine larger marketing firms. 

BACKGROUND

Introduce your business and what you do there.

Cushman & Wakefield is one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world with 43,000 employees and $5 billion in annual revenue. We are in approximately 350 cities around the globe. I lead one of the specialty practice groups called the legal sector advisory group (LSAG). We consist of about 400 brokers around the globe that specialize in representing law firms in the legal sector as it relates to real estate. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What challenge were you trying to address with ds+f?

The need was twofold: it was to externally brand and build business but also to internally give information for our brokers to become specialists. The challenge that our industry had as a whole is that specialization is key in order to achieve the high revenue transactions. We were trying to create tools, a brand, and an initiative that gave our brokers what they needed to become legal sector specialists and to support them in becoming higher revenue generators related to gaining an expertise in an industry that they didn’t already have. That was internal.

Externally, even though Cushman & Wakefield has been in the industry for over 100 years, we had lost our market share in the legal sector, so we wanted to create a whole new brand. We wanted to go out and gather a lot of intellectual capital that we could use to show law firms that we understood their business and that we are more than real estate advisors—we’re business advisors. That helps not only the clients on the outside, but it also helped our own advisors to become more knowledgeable about their industry. 

SOLUTION

What was the scope of their involvement?

Within 6 months, we had fully created a brand, a look, packaging, marketing pieces, and website material. What has been our biggest success is we created what we call a Bright Insights piece, which started with a national survey of hundreds of law firms around the United States. It resulted in in a hard-copy piece of 40–50 pages in content that we used to do a national symposium tour, where we were in front of hundreds of law firms in 25 cities. We needed something physical to give to them. Not only did they create a brand and packaging for our sector group, but they also created all of the graphics and hard-copy materials that we used for the visual presentation and the physical handout that we gave in each one of the cities as we gave these presentations. That was really first—a lot of hard copies, graphics, charts, and our overall brand and look, including creating a tagline for our group itself, which our company never had before.

How did you come to work with ds+f?

I have been in the industry for 30 years, and they had done work for some of my colleagues at some of the firms that I worked with over the years, primarily on the listing, sales, and leasing of commercial real estate. They always did such creative and interesting campaigns, branding, and marketing materials. When I was at my previous employer, CBRE, 15 years ago, we decided to roll out a similar initiative. I went to ds+f, and they did a really good job for them.

When I came to Cushman & Wakefield, I was adamant that we work with them again because they had done such a good job. I convinced Cushman & Wakefield to break protocol and hire an outside consultant. Cushman & Wakefield has a massive marketing department internally, but it’s really more to support the day-to-day efforts of the company. I went outside the company, which is very unusual for Cushman & Wakefield because we employ so many people that do marketing and the like.

How much have you invested with ds+f?

It’s well over $1 million when I look back at my days at CBRE. We spend about $100,000 a year with them, and that’s on top of things that we have printed and fabricated in-house.

What is the status of this engagement?

I first started working with them in the mid-1990s. The work is ongoing. 

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or impact of the engagement?

This has been a great partnership. I’ve got a super team of really creative people where we both come up with ideas, and together we make those ideas even better. On metrics of putting Cushman & Wakefield back on the map, within one year of rolling out this branding initiative, we were awarded the #1 tenant-rep firm by The American Lawyer. We were shocked because we had never had that ranking, and I’m happy to say that we have won it every single year since. This is voted by thousands of people at law firms around the United States. Again, had we not done this and collaborated on what we were doing, we would have never been considered, but that’s directly correlated.

What was also really interesting is that after the completion of that first year of Bright Insights, ds+f submitted it for the Hermes Creative Awards. It won a platinum for the entire branding campaign and has since won numerous awards. Our company has never had awards in 100 years. The fact that we hired an outside consultant and won awards that we had never won before said a lot about outsourcing. It’s nice to win an advertising award, but what does do it for me is if we’re winning those legal awards.

As it relates to the growth of our practice, we had no one when we started. Four years later, we have 400 people around the globe. When we started, we had nothing as it relates to tools, marketing materials, brand, or videos. Four years later, not only do we have it, but we’ve increased our win ratio from a low number to a very high percentage in our industry. It’s directly correlated to us winning more business, growing our practice group, building awareness in the industry, and quite frankly giving us tremendous credibility as experts, which we could never convey before but now can.

How did ds+f perform from a project management standpoint?

They’re better than my team! They stay on top of things such as deadlines. They’re very good at giving friendly reminders of “You haven’t gotten to us yet, and if you don’t, it’s going to screw up the whole schedule.” I have a great team that we will back into everything from saying this is a deliverable by such and such date. A lot of the stuff that we do is statistical from polling companies, so we’ve got to make sure every person does what they need to do in order to get to the date we want.

They’ve also been good in that they can make up the time if something happens for whatever reason, whether in or out of our control. Say they have a week to do something, but we get a delay from something else. Instead of a week, they’ll crank it out in two days to make it up for the lost time.

What did you most impressive about ds+f?

What I really like about them is that they’re a boutique firm that has as good ideas as anybody else, including the mega-firms. They’re small and responsive and get things done. They’re a lot more affordable. They’re not so big, so they don’t have massive overhead. You get a lot of value, talent, and creativity for your money. I think that’s really important too because everybody is looking at their budgets and spending their money wisely. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with them. To get their caliber of talent and creativity, yet getting it at a price point, is good.

Are there any areas ds+f could improve?

I haven’t had any big macro-issues that I could say that they could improve upon. I will say that anytime I had a problem with whatever—a person not communicating well or unhappy with the direction of a first draft—they fixed it. I can’t really speak of a flaw because they’ve addressed every problem well as soon as it’s come up.

5.0
Overall Score
  • 5.0 Scheduling
    ON TIME / DEADLINES
    They’ve never missed a deadline.
  • 5.0 Cost
    Value / within estimates
    They’re a great value, although they’re not the cheapest.
  • 5.0 Quality
    Service & deliverables
    The boutique nature of their firm allows great creativity at a very good price point.
  • 5.0 NPS
    Willing to refer
    I refer them to even some of our competitors when someone is selling a building and needs a really nice package. These buildings can go for above $75 million, so it’s not unusual for them to hire a really good branding company to get buyers’ attention.