KALAMAZOO — Stap Inc. is, by definition, a lot like most other advertising and marketing firms. It is the unique process initiated by the firm’s owner, however, that causes the Kalamazoo firm to stand out.
Ten years ago, founder and president John Stap formed the small company and chose to take clients on a discovery process about themselves and their companies, as he worked to uncover what method would be right for the client’s specific advertising needs.
“We figured, if we could develop the best practice in the brand management process, based on an internal brand reality, then we could discover what image the customer wanted to project externally,” said Stap. “So we started brainstorming.”
Brainstorming is a natural process, Stap said, in developing most ad campaigns and it is what many firms do to learn what the company is really all about. Stap chooses to go about it in an entirely different manner, however. He gives it a different name, BrandStorming, and in doing so he hopes to teach the client something new about itself.
Long before Stap became the “brand man,” he was deciding whether or not to major in advertising at Western Michigan University. “I really got into advertising by default. I had been a computer programmer and was looking for something fun to do instead,” Stap explained.
It was then that he landed an internship at Biggs-Gilmore and followed it to where he is today, along the way joining forces with Paul Deur, a well-known name in the advertising world. Stap joined Deur at the Paul Deur Creative Group where eventually they formed a company together: Deur Stap.
After working for 11 years under that name, and because Deur wanted to travel and take more time for himself, Stap branched out and formed what is today Stap Inc. This process of professional steps helped Stap understand what it takes to form a successful brand campaign.
“There are many different tools we use; one is called BrandBag. It is a game where we choose something out of the bag like a dog, or a dessert or a flower, and we ask the client, for example, ‘If your company was a dog, what kind of dog would it be?’ We go around the room this way, sometimes with the presidents and CEOs of this company and have them reason why their company is a beagle or a Labrador. It really brings out things that maybe weren’t there on the surface,” said Stap.
The modest Stap fails to mention that he developed all nine proprietary tools as a way to better define a company’s brand.
Another exercise is “BrandBit,” in which company officials are asked to write an obituary for their firm. Stap said it is interesting to see what cause of death people give their company, whether it was slow and anticipated, or a sudden, unexpected death.
“This specific exercise lets us know some of the problems that may exist within the company and even sometimes gives them a chance to work them out in order to prevent the death of the company.”
Outside of the group activities, Stap Inc. takes a key management official in the company and conducts a one-on-one interview with him or her to explore feelings about the company. With all of the data collected, Stap then compiles a brand profile statement, which is a description of the core of the business.
Stap said it’s important to put the statement on paper and use it as a reference point.
“This is the statement that will show the emotion that goes into the company and the self-exploration that was discovered as a result. It will also help members of the company remember what it is all about,” said Stap.
The second bit of information that is developed from branding exercises is a brand character statement, which is a brief for the creative department that will assist in developing the creative part of the company’s ads.
This process, called the Brand Audit, is not just an excuse to have fun on the job, but has been proven effective in the ads the company produces for top clients such as X-Rite, Donnelly Corp., The Holland Group, Jacobson’s stores and Kellogg Co.
Another testimony to the branding process is the way it brings out the best in even the most modest of companies.
One example is Donnelly Corp., which Stap says has a penchant for turning out a quality product but not telling others about it.
“It is not that they aren’t proud of what they are accomplishing, but they see advertising as bragging and that is not something they are into. So we had to change that viewpoint,” said Stap.
He said Donnelly often will develop a product first, but a competitor will tout a similar product and leave consumers with the impression that the competitor, and not Donnelly, first developed the technology.
Donnelly also is looking to change its image from a mirror company to that of an electronics company, which is what Stap has been working on lately.
Another example is with The Holland Group. The trucking parts manufacturer and supplier has been through many acquisitions, acquiring Holland Neway, Holland Hitch, Holland Binkley, Holland Anchorlok and Holland Pro-Par, all of which now operate under the umbrella of The Holland Group.
Stap said promoting the acquisitions was important to the clients of the respective companies.
Just as two of the firm’s largest clients were relatively quiet about themselves, so was Stap Inc.
Now, however, Stap is putting its own branding lessons to work.
“We are looking for opportunities to grow. One has been with Hunsberger-Stap; we also want to spread out and become involved in Indiana and get our feet wet in different niches and build other shops elsewhere,” said Stap. “We think we have a good thing in branding and we want to expand that.”