Ten years ago, we launched Burch Partners out of a need to serve organizations who needed a distinct style of brand storytelling. Rooted in public relations and a background in visual communications, we built an agency around a single idea—make brands impossible to ignore.
Today, we are a fast-growing, full-service, fully integrated marketing agency, and to mark our 10th year, we rebranded as BURCH and we’ve opened an office in New York City.
BURCH’s new office, officially BURCH New York, is a strategic expansion, designed to take advantage of the opportunities in the world’s largest media market, as well as better serve the agency’s clients through its media relationships and direct management of marketing, sponsorship and events. The office will be led by Simone Weithers, BURCH’s creative director, as its managing director.
“The BURCH brand and identity is more than a single person, it is the work of many people, aligned around one objective: better branding through stories that are impossible to ignore,” said Brian Burch, founder and managing partner. “Expanding into New York has been a vision of mine, and I can think of no better person to lead this new initiative than Simone. Her bold, creative vision for our clients and this agency is distinct and refreshing.”
Simone has led the BURCH creative team for the past three years and has been recognized for her work creating stories and building better brands. She was awarded the Crain’s 40 Under 40, Andrews University Up-and-Coming Alumni of the Year, and Holland Young Professional’s Leader in Equity. She is also a founding member of Women of Color GIVE, a leading BIPOC community giving organization.
Her leadership managed the design of the BURCH refreshed identity, which embraces the agency’s growth and commitment to the diversity of ideas and the industries it serves. The new visual identity acknowledges the full-service agency’s legacy as a traditional public relations firm, and an innovator in branding and marketing design. Simplifying the name to BURCH and merging the ‘u’ and ‘r’ characters in the primary word mark to form a distinct ‘ur’ icon.
Continuing in the refresh of the distinct birch leaf, part of the BURCH identity from day one. Representing a pioneering attitude toward new markets, positive growth, optimism and organizations that want a fresh take on their marketing.
Weithers will take this new branding to New York, supporting new clients there, as well as BURCH’s Midwest clients who are seeking exposure and awareness in the world’s largest media market. Among it’s newest clients is Serratelli Hat Company, a legacy producer of the finest cowboy hats in the world.
“BURCH has supported multi-channel projects in New York for many years, but this is the first time we will be executing from within the market to support a growing list of East Coast clients,” said Weithers. “As a native New Yorker leveraging my Midwest creative team, this office has a real opportunity to guide rapidly growing brands.”
BURCH has spent the past ten years working across many industries including consumer packaged goods, craft beverage, arts & culture, technology, business services, non-profit and startups. BURCH New York provides comprehensive marketing, advertising, events and public relations services, with a Midwest “back office,” with which it coordinates production, copywriting, design, digital advertising, and more. The office is located in Manhattan.
“The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”
--Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot
How did a nearly 250-year-old champagne house become one of the largest brands in the world if their first and only advertising in company history was last year?
Spoilers: Everything is marketing.
Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (née Ponsardin), was born in Reims, France. Widowed at 27, she was determined to takeover her family’s champagne house. Her decision was vocally opposed by her father-in-law, who built the winery, and her own father, both of whom felt that business was no place for a woman.
But the widow was relentless. She petitioned her father-in-law, saying effectively, "I will risk my inheritance, and I’d like you to invest an additional million dollars into the champagne business." Her father-in-law reluctantly agreed under one condition: she would go through an apprenticeship, after which she would be able to run the business herself–if she proved her abilities.
During the process, Clicquot learned how to make wine, but the wine didn't sell. In fact, it was such a failure that she had to go back to her father-in-law and petition again. Moved by her tenacity, he invested again and in 1805, the Widow Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot in French) became the first international businesswoman. How did she do it?
Madame Clicquot created a “champagne campaign” that focused on the principles of communications that we use every day: know the customers, market the innovation, build a cult of followers. By doing this she created one of the most celebrated and innovative beverage brands in history, which transcends borders and defines beverage marketing as we know it today.
Position Your Product with Your Customer
At the same time Madame Clicquot was receiving her second investment, the Napoleonic Wars were ravaging Europe, and she watched her country slowly lose to the Russian Army. Reports were coming in toward the end of 1815 that Napoleon's Grande Armée was losing hundreds of thousands of troops in the Russia invasion.
War is bad for business, especially if you're on the losing side, and Madame Clicquot knew that if she didn't sell her inventory, the champagne house would fail completely. Looking for a solution, Madame Clicquot looked to her country's opponent and found people who adored champagne. She also knew that the celebration after Napoleon's defeat would be epic, especially in the Russian capitol, St. Petersburg. There was only one problem: the naval blockades.
Wisely, Madame Clicquot parked an unmarked ship filled with champagne outside of Amsterdam, a bold and seemingly foolish move (to park most of your inventory on a boat in the sea). However, as soon as peace was declared, the shipment raced into St. Petersburg, beating her competitors by weeks.
Soon after her champagne debuted, Tsar Alexander announced he would drink nothing else. Word spread throughout the Russian elites, and Veuve Clicquot immediately became a "household name."
Market the Innovation
Madame Clicquot enjoyed everything about champagne. But that wasn't the sentiment of Europe at the time. Still wine was the preferred choice of the elite, because of one unsightly annoyance in champagne--bottle yeast.
Methode Champenoise The expired yeast that was found at the bottom of champagne bottles is a cloudy, unappetizing mess. If you've seen it, you know.
Determined to eliminate the yeast, Madame Clicquot invented the riddling rack, a procedure by which the sediment from secondary fermentation (the fermentation that gives Champagne its bubbles) is slowly encouraged over months of bottle turning into the neck of the bottle in order to create the clarity of the Champagne that we see today.
She wisely marketed this innovation and two others that we use today: vintage and rosé.
Vintage In 1811, a comet raced across all of Europe. It lit the night sky and was visible for months. Coincidentally, that year was an exceptional harvest, and Madame Clicquot decided to bottle the entire 1811 harvest into a single run of bottles, in order to celebrate and remember this historic moment.
Clicquot dubbed her production le vin de la comète and added a star to the cork. The champagne sold like crazy. Fueled by the enthusiasm of the comet, Clicquot began bottling "the take" of each year and putting the date on the bottle. Each year could be marketed and collected, again by Europe's ruling class.
Rosé It is not formally attributed to her, but it is believed that Madame Clicquot created the phrase "rosé all day."
She loved the pink wine. But in the 19th century, rosé was made by adding red fruit juice to white sparkling wine (it's still acceptable practice for champagne today). Clicquot knew they could do better.
Utilizing the dark-skinned pinot noir grape (her favorite), she allowed to juice to remain in contact with the skins for a short period, between two and twenty hours, as opposed to weeks or months for a red.
Combined-- "methode champenoise," vintage and rosé became the three innovations that established House Clicquot as the favored wine for the elites of France and made champagne as the definitive drink of high society and nobility throughout Europe.
Cult Builds Culture
Madame Clicquot's destiny became her story, and her story became the Veuve Clicquot brand. Utilizing her innovations, her savvy and her resolve, she created a small cult of influential enthusiasts and leveraged their passion in the market.
In 1830 Clicquot chose to retire from day-to-day management of her business. She sold a portion of the business to a German accountant, Eduard Werler, who had zero knowledge of how to make champagne. WAIT? WHAT?
It was a bold move. Notably because during the Napoleonic era, a woman would never have had a chance in business to begin with, and if she had remarried, she would've lost her identity and the name of her business. By bringing on a partner, she was making the same risk. Werler's gaps in wine-making were compensated by his understanding of marketing and branding. He understood the importance of Madame Clicquot's name and identity among champagne consumers and rather than change the name of the wine, he double-down on the widow.
He put her signature on the bottle. He rewarded her cult following and turned them into vocal brand ambassadors. She became revered among wine collectors and Veuve Clicquot moved from the elites into an expanded and global market.
As a result, sales steadily increased, rising from a modest 17,000 bottles of champagne in 1811 to 43,000 only five years later, and more than 200,000 by 1836. In 1850, when Werler took over full control of the business, the house sold 400,000 bottles.
Madame Clicquot is a model for all businesses who want to be leaders in their own markets. From risking her inheritance on a failing business to gambling her champagne against a naval blockade, Clicquot built her champagne empire on innovations, a keen understanding of her customer, and a story that only SHE could own. She spoke her mind, lived decisively and marketed her strengths. By doing so, she created a business that has survived generations.
Your brand can be as powerful and everlasting as Veuve Clicquot. We hope 2020 is an exceptional vintage for your company, and we look forward making that possible by following the principles of the Widow Clicquot.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The Burch Partners Team
Communication systems are never in equilibrium. They are chaotic and inherently unstable. Literally billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. Our world is moving and changing, creating perceptions out of reality.
Control is not an option.
During the last five years, our team has gotten calls from media investigating stories about infectious disease outbreaks, social media gaffes, puppy mills, cockroaches and aliens. YEP.
In today’s media world, a good portion of newsroom decisions about coverage for that day are based on what people are saying on social media. What are viewers talking about on Facebook or sharing on twitter? What are the trending topics for that day?
If people are talking, chances are a reporter is going to get to the bottom of it, no matter what.
If this chatter is about your company and its negative, what do you do? Lock the doors and quit answering the phones? Absolutely not. Another benefit (or drawback, depending on your viewpoint) of social media is that so many people are now directly connected, it has become much easier for reporters to find a source willing to talk about the issue with a simple search.
So, if your company is suddenly in the news and you’re not sure what to do, here are five best practices that will help nearly anyone out of hot water:
Be Proactive. Build relationships with key media EARLY. Be the go-to resource in your community or industry and work with them on positive stories all year-round.This will help ensure that if something happens, you already are on good terms with those contacts, they already have a positive viewpoint about your business. Furthermore, they know who to call to get in touch with your company.
Be Prepared.Work with your communication staff or PR agency in advance of any potential issue to make sure you have a plan when the inevitable happens. Burch Partners has among the most regarded pre-crisis modules in the business to guide our clients BEFORE a crisis happens. Because the best way to manage a crisis is to ensure one never happens. In addition to a comprehensive written plan, our module features media coaching for key team members as well as customized flowcharts to triage traditional and social media situations.
Be responsive.Respond with all of the information you know, at the time you know it. Timing and transparency are vital. Provide all the information you can, without jeopardizing your staff or company.
Never say no comment, never shut the door.This makes you look guilty, no matter what. If reporters come looking for aliens (yes, seriously, aliens) and have reason to believe that you're a source, remember your training and talk them through it. Separately, don’t try to talk to a reporter “off the record.” There are very few cases where that info will actually stay private.
Use social media to your advantage. Social mediachannels are owned by your company. Don’t rely on the traditional media to get your message out for you. Do it yourself. If you need to respond to something, one way to get your statement or stance on an issue out to the public is to post info and resources on your “owned” channels.
Preparation is essential to enabling an organization to effectively communicate with stakeholders during a disruptive incident. It is not enough for you to "send a statement," you have to manage the flow of information and ensure that the best, most accurate information is published and aligned with the public, your customers, investors and stakeholders.
These are just the starting points for organizations to effectively manage the information landscape. How effectively an organization can handle this balancing act has a direct impact on its reputation and overall survivability.
Contact us if you would like to discuss developing or updating crisis communication strategies in your organization.
Or if your neighbors think aliens have landed on your property (it happens).