Announcing Brand Shepherd Apparel.
It only took 14 years, but we are happy to make Brand Shepherd apparel available. T’s for men, women, and kids, hoodies, even socks, all with the Brand Shepherd logo that we’ve heard people like a lot.

In addition to Brand Shepherd-branded apparel, you will find some other fun things on there, with more added as we build the shop up.

In any premium kitchen, the head chef creates epicurean wonders because the sous chef keeps myriad ingredients and processes flowing in the most efficient order.

A reputable dentist performs efficient work for patients because the dental assistant has the tools and process flowing in an effortless order.

 

In the Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan, Morgan Freeman plays Batman’s righthand man, creating all the gear and weaponry Batman could ever need to face the bad guys.

 

The common thread in every one of those scenarios is that the person-behind-the-person is an expert generalist… just like Brand Shepherd.

Experts, because each is working within a niche that requires specialized skills and experience. Ours is branding.

Generalists, because those they serve are facing myriad challenges – different menu orders, different mouths, different bad guys, different bodies. We work with brands of all stages of growth and establishment.

Expert Generalists.

For those who are newly acquainted with Brand Shepherd, it can sometimes be a hard sell that we thrive as expert generalists because recent group-think – thanks largely to search engines that dominate our lives with an endless need for specificity – have brainwashed a lot of professionals into thinking that generalists no longer have a role in business and commerce.

We disagree.

Look at any thriving brand or business and you will find people capable of, and engaged in, expert-generalist work.

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Google is the example the anti-generalists like to cite because Google Search requires us to feed it very specific, non-generalized queries in order to provide the most valuable information.

Yet Google is a great example of the Expert Generalist model because of one simple question:

What does Google do?

For that matter, what do Apple, J&J, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, your local hardware store, a restaurant, a dentist, etc. do, exactly?

They all make, sell, and manage a variety of products and services.

Hospitality & Food. Serenity & Oral Care. Software & Hardware. Cloud Services & Subscriptions. Experiences & Value.

They all are expert generalists, even when they hire strict experts within their offerings.

They, like Brand Shepherd, work as part of a bigger picture than specialists.

A Brand’s Secret Weapon.

The brands and businesses we serve do so well because they have that person-behind-the-person learning their needs so we can be there before they know they need it.

It’s a cliche these days to say it, but here it is true that we have developed a true partnership over the years for the brands we serve.

We are their expert generalists.

It’s because of our expert generalist approach – we are not merely experts at websites or just logos or just packaging.

We’re experts at the many general needs brands have to sell their products and services, and we’ve yet to see it not be a huge benefit for their bottom lines.

Now, more than ever: Every brand needs a shepherd.

Let’s work together.

Like so many of you, we have spent the last few days and weeks learning about the COVID-19 novel coronavirus and how it is impacting our world.

For Brand Shepherd, that means understanding how it impacts the industries we serve by way of your brand, and then how it impacts our team.

From our very beginning in 2006, Brand Shepherd has been hyper-focused on a lean operation, and central to that is our team of remote creatives. We were a ‘gig economy’ company before it was cool 🙂

So our team is very well suited to continue business as usual.

Nothing changes for us.

So long as you have needs for your brand, and whatever that looks like in this evolving pandemic climate, consider Brand Shepherd to be a beacon of stability; a slice of “normal,” if you will.

2 unique ways we can help you

Aside from that stability, though, we can help you in two additional ways.

First, if you are one of the many businesses putting remote team plans into place, this might be totally uncharted waters. You might be able to benefit from our long experience by asking about what tools and processes we use and how we use them.

By all means, please ask!

We can be somewhat nerdish about the tools and practices we use to keep a remote team running as good or better than an in-office team. We have many years’ experience of doing this, so, please ask if you need to get some fresh input.

Secondly, brands are now pivoting from communicating in-house about the pandemic to communicating to customers. If you haven’t already, you will be getting a lot of email from brands and companies who want to say something about the pandemic and what they’re doing. Like this one.

If you need help writing or editing your message, let us know. Our strength is editing, but we’ve been known to write from time to time as well.


We are praying for a merciful end to the pandemic. No one wants to go through this, but if we must, we wanted to communicate to you that we’re in this together and we can be of help.

With washed hands,
Andrea, Dan, & The Brand Shepherd Team

Trusted Tools
• Ideation: Paper & Whiteboards
• Digital Product Design: Sketch & Adobe Xd
• Tangible Product Design: Adobe Illustrator
• Prototyping & Collaboration: InVision
• Asset Hand-Off: Zeplin & Dropbox

On-Going Experimentation
• Research: this is a mixed process with many tools right now.
• Project Communication: heavy reliance on email, phone, and in-person for client communication; Slack for in-house chatter.
• Analytics: this, too, is a mix of what our clients already use, since they – not us – are the product owners.

In late 2019, Brand Shepherd co-owners, Andrea and Dan Crask, uprooted their lives and businesses and relocated it all to the great state of Tennesse. Specifically, East Tennessee. And the countryside of Maryville, Tennessee in particular. Whew!

So as Brand Shepherd takes root in a new state and new business community, we thought it might be friendly of us to introduce ourselves to the many businesses around East Tennessee, since we’re a small business and won’t be able to stop by everyone’s office or grab coffee for introductions.

Every year that we get to keep doing what we do is a good year. 

There are, however, years that stand out, and 2019 will go down as one of them.

Here is a recap of why 2019 was such a stand-out year for Brand Shepherd. 

As Brand Shepherd has worked with product makers – tangible and digital products alike – over the years, we know that product people are our tribe, and it will be an honor to help build, brand, and guide Knoxville maker brands.

Tennessee’s Blount Partnership’s Chamber of Commerce has gained Brand Shepherd a new member after co-owners Andrea and Dan Crask relocated to Maryville with their businesses and family.

Knoxville Entreprenuer Center (KEC) and Brand Shepherd have partnered to offer mentorship to startups within the accelerator.

Brand Shephed co-founder and creative director will have monthly on-site office hours for startups meet and work through challenges they face for their products.

Startups of a variety of points in their development have sought Brand Shepherd’s branding guidance over the years, especially those that make a product.

Some startups come by way of our volunteering and mentorship with various accelerators, and others by way of referral and our reputation.

In recent years, we have become more selective with what startups we work with, as we saw that some startups we had worked with had less-than-stellar results, while other startups thrived from our guidance and collaboration.

We set out to learn why.

After examing our work with startups, we saw that the startups that thrived after working with us had 3 consistent things or ways about them. These 3 things are even still present in these companies, now out of their startup phase and becoming mature product brands.

Having learned this, we now use these 3 things as a way of knowing in advance if working with a startup will be a good fit.

This post will share those 3 things a startup needs for Brand Shepherd to help them thrive.

Let’s count them down…

THREE // The startup plans for success through brand growth, not acquisition.

There needs to be a systemic mindset among the founders and funders that the startup brand’s success is growing into a mature brand.

When the systemic mindset is acquisition = success, Brand Shepherd’s guidance is often sidestepped or outright ignored, and understandably so.

The startup that seeks acquisition is one that has no long-term plan, which is antithetical to our approach.

We have learned that when a startup’s founders and funders see an acquisition as a form of success or even an end-goal, it infects the entire organization and brand from the top down, all the way to its end-users.

There is a tendency to make decisions about products and brand messaging that is short-sighted and lacks depth. Startups that want their brand to be bought as a means of “success” tend to lack processes for understanding and empathizing with their users.

This yields a lot of friction with Brand Shepherd’s processes because everything we do is for the long-haul growth of the products and brand.

Our core clientele has entrusted us to help grow their brands for many years, and it’s our mutual commitment to that growth that makes for such thriving brands.

So, any startup that seeks an acquisition instead of long-term growth of its products is not going to be a good fit for Brand Shepherd.

TWO // Funded for brand development.

If one follows the startup community of their nearest metro area, they cannot go a week without reading a headline about a startup raising millions of dollars in a funding round.

Raising a lot of money for a startup is its own kind of accomplishment, but if those funds are not earmarked for the development of its brand, then that startup is not a good fit for Brand Shepherd.

The startups that fund the development of their brand go hand-in-glove with the lead-off point about also having a long-term plan for growth and maturity.

The startups that focus on operations, distribution, and other non-brand activities (chasing scale), leaving brand development out, are almost always the brands that are chasing acquisition.

Not funding brand development usually means we are not part of the conversation, but one might be surprised by how often branding agencies are asked if they would like to do some quick hit work for these types of startups, which speaks to the myopic, short-sighted mindset behind those types of startups.

So, you can see clearly, if the startup is raising a lot of funding, but it’s not for brand development, then that startup should not seek to work with Brand Shepherd.

ONE // Brand has a seat at the leadership table.

“Design Thinking” has been a practice and buzzword for several years now, and it is overall a positive thing: For startups that understand the power of their brand, the brand development leader has a seat at the leadership table, right alongside every other core leadership role at that table.

When brand is seen as “just marketing,” or relegated to a sub-department of operations, it’s going to create a lot of friction with how Brand Shepherd grows brands.

A big red flag is when we hear that the funding sources for a startup do not see branding as a priority, as mentioned in the second thing above. And if it is not funded, brand development will always be second-tier. We don’t work well in those conditions.

We work with brands – startups and mature alike – that get it: They understand that the age we operate in is one where brand is everything.

And this can only be done when brand has a seat at the leadership table, helping guide the products as much as any other leadership role.


You can see how these 3 things work together to form a type of startup that has an operational philosophy that jives with how Brand Shepherd works.

You can also see why sometimes it doesn’t work, and perhaps one outcome of this is to help startups that are considering contacting Brand Shepherd to learn this about us first to know if it’s worth the time to chat. We respect the time of professionals too much to be coy about it.

If you are part of a startup that has these 3 things, we would enjoy the opportunity to chat with you and see how we could help make your brand thrive.