How To Build A Branding & Design Agency with Strategy The SNASK Way
Discover the Secrets Behind Building an Award-Winning Creative Agency
What does it take to start a world-class creative agency straight out of university, overcoming industry skepticism and imposter syndrome along the way? SNASK, an innovative Swedish branding and design agency, defied the odds and achieved international renown on their own terms.
This article uncovers SNASK’s unique approach, from the backbone principles that guided their fledgling startup to the no-nonsense attitude that attracts ideal clients. Gain insight into the visionaries who recognized the importance of branding strategy long before it became mainstream. Understand how SNASK evolved the concept of a “brand platform” to create coherent, magnetic identities that resonate with target audiences.
By studying this agency’s remarkable origin story, branding leaders can extract tangible lessons on differentiation, client acquisition, the power of bold ideas, and the significance of “finding the why” over fixating on products or services. When it comes to building distinctive brands, SNASK proves the most effective formulas stem from authenticity, conviction and a willingness to take risks.
Defying the Norm: SNASK’s Bold Early Days
Most agencies spend years accumulating expertise before daring to strike out on their own. Not Freddy and Erik. Still wet behind the ears from university, these ambitious founders ignored industry warnings and launched SNASK straight out of school.
Rather than play it safe, they embraced trial-by-fire:
- They had zero interest in becoming a “full service” agency focused on breadth over brilliance. From day one, SNASK targeted niche domination in branding, design and film.
- The co-founders dismissed established best practices as dictated by “old white men.” They vowed to blaze their own trail through hands-on experimentation.
- With more guts than business savvy, SNASK’s blind ambition led them to destitute budgets and 18-hour workdays. But they persevered on youthful energy and creativity alone.
As SNASK struggled to stay solvent those first few years, their brazen creativity became an accidental asset. Unencumbered by commercial pressures, the team enjoyed unbridled creative freedom to hone their aesthetic and take risks. This spawned the beautifully bold portfolio that later became their calling card.
By surviving off sweat equity and chutzpah in the early days, SNASK’s founders slowly transformed from imposters into industry mavericks. Once paralyzed by self-doubt, Freddy and Erik emerged confident in SNASK’s differentiated strengths. They realized no amount of traditional experience could replicate what set them apart—an innate understanding of their unconventional target audience.
Rather than cling to conventions, SNASK embraced the power of fresh thinking. Their agency DNA demanded they learn by doing while forging their own path forward. By refusing to color inside the lines, SNASK devised their own visual language that still captivates clients worldwide.
Blind Ambition Leads to Strategic Epiphany
In SNASK’s earliest days, the co-founders focused exclusively on bold aesthetics and visual differentiation. They used that standout style as a siren call to attract daring creatives and cultural institutions as clients.
But as SNASK slowly professionalized itself, they realized dazzling design alone does not transform brands. An external friend exposed the blind spot in their business model:
- Freddy and Erik invested heavily in strategy development for every client. But they never charged for it separately. Their friend made them realize strategy deserves its own line item.
- By bundling strategy guidance into their visual branding fees, SNASK devalued strategic rigor as a discipline. They enabled clients to take their strategic insights for granted.
This strategic epiphany led SNASK on an agency evolution:
- They started pricing strategy as a standalone service to underscore its importance. Many clients now hire SNASK specifically for strategic clarity rather than visual branding.
- SNASK doubled down on their strategy practice with structured frameworks to uncover deeper customer and company insights. Just like therapy reveals truths about oneself, SNASK’s strategic workshops force clients to re-examine their business with honesty.
- SNASK’s strategy deliverables form the core “brand platform”—the human personality attributes that will inform all downstream branding decisions from voice to visuals. This further established strategy’s primacy in SNASK’s process.
By embracing strategy as the foundation for memorable brands, SNASK can guide clients beyond temporary aesthetic facelifts. Their strategic rigor ensures the resulting brand platform and visuals connect with target audiences at a deeper emotional level. What began as an visual design agency is now an industry leading resource for strategic brand clarity.
Direct Outreach Builds Alignment
In the early hustle years, SNASK relied on friends, friends of friends, and cold calls to land clients. But even then, their bold aesthetic and demanding approach filtered prospects effectively. As Freddy notes:
- In those first chaotic years, SNASK rarely worked with male clients. Instead they naturally gravitated towards daring women innovating in progressive fields like culture and arts.
- When SNASK did get meetings through connections, their bold visual style and demanding process quickly signaled fit—or lack thereof. SNASK realized very quickly where their niche lay.
Now when prospecting new clients, SNASK doubles down on that filtering with their direct, no BS approach:
- They actively turn down project briefings that seem off-strategy just to land new business. SNASK asks blunt questions about the prospective work that often gives clients pause.
- Clients either walk away at that point, or return months later to start a more considered engagement with SNASK as their priorities have shifted.
- SNASK also makes outrageous, custom overtures to capture the attention of aspirational clients. Showing up to client headquarters in costume creates buzz within the organization and sets the tone for SNASK’s high-touch partnership.
- Every communication and deliverable echoes SNASK’s values of candor, rigor, and creativity. So prospects self-select based on alignment with that ethos.
While SNASK’s work now speaks for itself, they remain disciplined about pursuing only client engagements that energize their team. As Freddy says, they aim to work with people “not trying to sell something that we are not.” This ensures every project pushes SNASK creatively and fuels their roster of courageous brands.
Brand Personas Guide Visual Design
SNASK views branding through an anthropological lens, as an expression of human identity and values. So when architecting a new brand, SNASK starts by defining its core personality. Brand Director Freddy Mikael explains:
- Just as we form quick character judgements when meeting someone new, audiences decode brands based on perceived personality, voice, and aesthetic codes.
- So SNASK starts branding work by excavating the core human traits that should infuse the brand platform. This includes emotional drivers, worldview, values—the raw personality.
- With that human brand persona set, SNASK then develops an appropriate voice to bring it to life. How should this brand sound and speak? What is its dialect and tone?
- Finally, with platform and voice established, SNASK selects the visual outfitting. This branding wardrobe—colors, logo, typography, imagery—aligns back to and reinforces the core human spirit of the brand.
So SNASK moves from intrinsic personality, to manner of expression, to outward appearance. This inside-out approach yields brands that feel multidimensional yet coherent at every touchpoint. The brand platform acts as an anchor so visual motifs ring true to the human at the core.
Freddy admits this anthropological branding perspective shapes SNASK’s process. As Brand Director Erik Lindén notes, it can perplex clients used to tackling branding through a tactical lens. But by rooting every project in human truths vs visual outcomes, SNASK unearths creative that resonates deeply.
Leaping Into the Future by Finding Shared Values
As brand strategy gains credence, SNASK remains fixated on driving change by unearthing the beliefs that will forge deep connections between brands and audiences.
- SNASK pushes clients to take a leap of faith, rather than relying solely on historical data and metrics. The future remains unwritten, so bold vision matters more than past performance when crafting an magnetic brand.
- This mandate stems from SNASK’s belief that resonant branding emerges by finding shared values between a company and its community. Technologists love to tout features, but people forge bonds through meaning.
- So SNASK presses clients to define their driving ethos and higher purpose. What change does your brand aspire to create in the world? What simmering human need might it meet? These questions of “why” reveal the seminal place a brand can occupy in people’s lives.
- With that animating purpose established, SNASK helps convert abstract ideals into concrete creative expressions. They transform ethereal meaning into tangible design elements like logos, tones, colors, and other sensory touchpoints.
- The goal remains letting a rediscovered sense of purpose radiate through every facet of the brand experience. When done right, this imbues brands with the cultural traction that converts one-time shoppers into lifelong devotees.
For SNASK, this emphasis on unearthing and activating shared values has powered their own success. It has attracted kindred clients equally devoted to the promise brands hold as vehicles for positive change. And it has yielded some stunning exemplars of brands that touch hearts as much as wallets.
Greetings! I’m Jack, founder of Scythos – where I’ve helped over 50 brands transform into unforgettable identities and stunning digital presences. As a brand strategist and creative consultant, I have over a decade of experience taking brands from wallflowers to the centre of attention.
Looking to get your branding noticed and your business thriving? Reach out anytime to brainstorm creative strategies for making your brand impossible to ignore. I love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs to conceptualize innovative ways to connect with their audiences.
Whether you need help with a logo, website, content or entire rebrand – let’s chat! I’m always eager to share my ideas, creative concepts and expertise to help brands reach the next level. Together, we can make sure your business gets seen and heard. Follow along on social or send me a message to get the conversation started!