The Real Value of Integrity

It can be difficult to feel integrity. A lot of companies list it as a value — as in, they value integrity among their staff and as part of the relationships they have with clients. But how do you know, for certain, that such an aspirational concept is real, beyond just letters on a page?

Through experience.

Integrity is equated to authenticity, to courage, to success, to character — and Warren Buffett has classified it as the singularly most important trait needed when hiring an employee. There’s a widely circulated quote about integrity by C.S. Lewis that reads, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one else is watching.”

That’s what we’re doing over here at WHYFOR. Quietly exercising our integrity.

We do it in a lot of ways. By doing what we say, by refusing to nickel-and-dime, by creating work that works in new ways instead of doing work that’ll do, and by investing in outcomes with an understanding that success is a mutual thing. It’s what any client would want from a strategic marketing partner.

A client looking for the kind of partnership that stands out for the novelty of its passion, honesty and commitment may find that type of professional integrity rare but beneficial to have over the long haul.

Integrity, it seems, walks softly. But not without confidence. Because doing the right thing is always going to be the right thing.

It’s part of the reason we’re proud of our affiliation with a non-profit founded by one of our staffers. For Your Record launched late last year and in June will begin offering financial grants to domestic abuse survivors to cover the costs associated with court filing fees and public records request fees.

The organization needed a mailing address that wasn’t a home address, for a variety of reasons. And WHYFOR never hesitated, for a different variety of reasons — the first being our integrity.

It’s just how we operate. Supporting a project that will support a community in need means we’re contributing to the greater good, which is one of our missions. Because we’re more than taglines and email campaigns, as we’ve mentioned.

This is how we’re built. WHYFOR is a company that reflects the spirit of its values — one that works hard, thinks big, gives back and follows through. Other places can say that, too. They can say it. But do they mean it? Do they live it?

Not all of them. Words, even ones labeled “values,” can be said or written very easily — even when they’re hard to come by. The writing or the saying is the easy part.

The living is the hard part. That’s where the effort is. But for us, it takes no effort because it’s genuine. And isn’t that the best indication of a perfect fit — where values embed themselves so seamlessly that they can’t be sidestepped even if someone tries?

We think so.

Results Bubble Up From Actionable Values

As a business leader, you care about results. We understand that. But we also believe business leaders care — at least a little — about how those results are achieved.

At WHYFOR, our results are a direct byproduct of our values. Think of our values as critical ingredients, and our results as the main dish your taste buds can’t even believe they just experienced.

We’re not a drive-thru branding agency. There are enough of those. We’re strategic partners who filter our values through our work, every day, to deliver the kind of results that actually matter, ones that can stand alone in their impact and sync with the revenue-related progress you’re seeing on your side.

We don’t bore you with inconsequential stats or measurements designed to add fluff. Neither of us have time to waste. We are purposeful, which means we only do measurable work and we always make sure to actually
measure it.

Our quarterly business reviews, or QBRs, are a perfect example of that. They offer clients an in-depth analysis
of what’s working, to what extent, and what isn’t. We use analytics to celebrate wins and discuss new paths
forward where they’re needed, because we’re firm believers that solutions are often found by understanding what’s not working.

And, because we want to influence the world we want to live in, we’re more deeply invested in the client work we’re doing as compared to quick-serve marketing agencies. We’re choosey, and our commitment to the work, and client success, reflects that. When clients succeed, and our work works, it means the world is a little bit better.
And that’s incredible.

To get there, we consider everything. It’s part of our intrepid nature. The strategy we develop with clients is an all-in affair, allowing us to collectively uncover every possible potential, every hiccup, every upshot — all of it. When we do that, the strategy is battle tested making it that much stronger.

All of that hints at our aversion to settling. It’s not how we’re wired. We like to try new things, look for new tools, see if something might work better – even if something is already working. Because better is better. Isn’t it?

It is that intrepid nature that inspires us to take action. Deadlines, to us, aren’t suggestions. We know they’re part of a bigger plan, so we follow through on every, last meticulous detail. We recognize that we’re just one tennis ball a client is juggling among others, which is why we do what we say we’re going to do.

But don’t mistake our work ethic for a “yes-man” affliction. That’s not us. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know sometimes, and we believe that phrase swings both ways between us and a client. Influencing a better world may require hard conversations, but we’re here for it.

Because kicking a can down the road, and avoiding challenging conversations, does nothing to positively influence results. And results are what matters.

Learn more about how our values-driven work can help you improve your results.

Aligned Values Create Efficient, Prosperous Relationships

We’ve already told you who we are. Remember? We went over our values in detail — all the philosophies and principles that make WHYFOR what it is.

Now we’ll tell you why that all matters. Because at WHYFOR, we actively look for client relationships where our values align. It only makes sense.

Think about it.

When values align, it creates an organic efficiency that’s almost priceless. It allows for seamless exchanges of ideas, it eliminates unnecessary roadblocks and facilitates a workflow built on a foundation of mutual respect. Resulting in, based on our experience, the most prosperity for everyone.

That’s what drives us here at WHYFOR. We want to match up with the values of our clients and our teammates. We want to believe in and fight for the same things. We want to be around people who, based on the things and sentiments they value, won’t make us question our integrity or passions.

So, what does that look like in real life?

It looks like us working with clients who are working to improve access to behavioral health care, because they know that with improved access comes improved outcomes. It looks like us updating materials for an organization that is working to improve the child protection system. And it looks like us working with a female-owned business owner in a male-dominated industry as she doubles down on female empowerment.

We support all of that. And we’re proud to be affiliated with it. Our choice to work with likeminded people has proven prosperous over and over for our clients and for us.

Don’t take our word for it, hear it from one of our clients:

“Leading sales and marketing for a quickly growing, mission-driven telehealth company in one of the fastest growing segments in healthcare, I was frequently approached by marketing agencies that wanted to work together. I initially had hesitation about partnering with an external partner because, as a leading telehealth provider owned and operated by clinicians, I wasn’t sure that external partners would understand our business like we do — until WHYFOR came along. They are truly an expansion of our team and they understand our business and customers like they are their own. When we have a challenge, they find a solution. And usually more than one. It’s that simple. It is not their team or mine, we are a team together, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Lauren Lashbrook, Director of Strategic Partnerships for innovaTel

Successful relationships have helped us become one of the fastest growing agencies in town.
So what we’re really saying is, we’re picky for good reason. Our values, and our commitment to them, allow us to be. You should be, too. Good relationships take time, require trust and are sustained by positive outcomes.

When our pickiness allows us to bypass potential clients that don’t align, it only means we have more room to embrace the client relationships that speak to our values.

Now do you feel like talking? Perfect. Reach out and let’s see if we align.

This is what we’re made of

Sometimes you can talk to someone for hours at a party (remember those?) and never really get to a meaty, meaningful conversation until it’s late and you find a quiet spot on the patio to toss around philosophies and principles.

That’s where we’re at.

Imagine a chill soundtrack in the background and twinkly bistro lights overhead, because we think it’s time you know what we — at WHYFOR — stand for. And yes, guy-who’s-known-us-too-long, we’re talking about our values, which we actually have.

Wisecracks aside, our values at WHYFOR honestly guide our work. They’re not just some words we cooked up in a brainstorm, inserted into a presentation and then buried in a folder in the depths of our server.

Some companies do that. It’s a mistake. And we’re not “some companies.” We’re the people who actually take our own medicine, because we believe in it and because it works. So, as a brand that works with other brands to identify, formalize and embrace their own values, here’s what we value.

This is us.

We influence the world we want to live in. That means, we don’t just partner with anybody. We partner with brands we believe in, knowing they give us an opportunity to influence the world for the better. It also means we easily find pride in our work, which is a nice byproduct of solid values.

We have an intrepid nature. We go. We look for answers, we discover new ways to do things — especially if they make more sense — and we look for those traits in our teammates. We’re not really satisfied with “enough,” so we’re constantly relying on our inner ambition and drive to lead us to “better.”

We take action. Reacting is not our game. We prefer the view out front, from a proactive perspective. So, we seize opportunities, embrace an ownership mindset within and we meet every commitment. We don’t really know any other way to work.

We adopt respectful candor. Difficult conversations are … difficult. But we encourage them, within and with clients. It’s part of what makes us genuine, along with the fact that we always say what we mean. In the end, we’re confident that our words and actions lead to positive results, even if it means wading through some uncomfortable exchanges.

We are purposeful. If we can’t measure it, we don’t do it. How about that? We are always driven by purpose, which means we always start with the “why.” And for us, solid “whys” are solidly measurable.

When absorbed in one big bite, like those incredible stuffed mushrooms your friend made at the last get-together you went to nine years ago (or so it feels), all of our values flow right into each other. To be purposeful, we need to have squirmy conversations. To be intrepid we need to be actionable.

It all fits together nicely, because it’s our genetic code.

So, there you have it. The party’s over and now you know a little more about who you’ve been hanging out with for this last little bit. And hey, don’t feel weird about asking — we’ll totally give you our number.

There’s more to talk about.

Avenues: Celebration of Fine Art

Client Background

For 30 years, the Celebration of Fine Art has connected art lovers with artists by hosting a 10-week art show in Scottsdale under what has become known as CFA’s “big white tents.” The show brings together 100 juried artists who work in a variety of mediums and set up temporary studios inside the tent in order to engage with collectors as they create new pieces.


The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic cut short CFA’s 2020 show, which begins every year in January and runs through March. Gatherings were suspended, which led to travel restrictions and local quarantine periods. In order to recoup lost revenue and prepare for a 2021 show that may still face similar social distancing restrictions, CFA had to meet collectors where they were — at home. As an in-person event for its entire existence, CFA needed a strategy to determine which avenues to use to reach a new audience in a new era.


The Tools


The Opportunity

As an iconic event that leveraged the in-person connections attendees could make with artists, CFA had long considered developing an online marketplace where collectors and artists could connect at any hour of the day, during any season. The pandemic, and the impact it had on business, inspired CFA to implement that vision. An Avenues Plan, guided by WHYFOR’s proprietary L.A.B.S. process, allowed CFA to see which audiences it would be targeting with its new platform and understand how to reach them.

Because the online art-buying world is different than the in-person one. Different audiences use different avenues.

The creative concept:

Since branding remained consistent, WHYFOR worked with CFA to build its marketplace as an integrated experience on its current website. When creating the shop, WHYFOR was mindful of keeping it user friendly and artist friendly, since CFA wasn’t sure how many artists would participate in the online version — especially if the process was complicated.

This marketplace was to be an extension of the premium in-person experience people have come to know and it would also act as a gateway for new audiences experiencing CFA for the first time, which meant every detail was crucial.

The aha moment

After WHYFOR completed a thorough analysis of CFA’s in-person and online audiences, it finalized an Avenues Plan that dovetailed with CFA’s content marketing plan. In addition, WHYFOR helped CFA manage artist relations by crafting an email campaign, developing painstakingly detailed instructions on how to create a virtual storefront and producing video tutorials to complement those written instructions.

The end product? An easy-to-navigate online marketplace that allows artists to create individual storefronts and collectors from around the globe to browse and buy at any hour of the day.

Knowing the participation of its existing artist base was crucial for the success of its new e-commerce presence, CFA aimed to have 60 artists integrated into the platform by the time it launched, just after Thanksgiving in 2020. Coordinated external communications in print, digital, email and across social channels aided awareness for the launch effort.

How’d it go? It almost seemed like the artists, and the collectors, were waiting for something like this.

The Results


Right Turn: An Avenue To A New Audience

A braid is only a braid if each of its three sections are woven together just right. If one section is off, you can see it — you can even feel it. We didn’t expect to compare WHYFOR’s proprietary L.A.B.S. branding process to a bohemian hairstyle, but here we are.

The Avenues Plan, the third section of hair for that beautiful rhetorical braid, brings all of our branding work home because it weaves together the intel we gained from our Anatomy Profile and our Audience Personas. By now, we understand a brand’s DNA and we know who it wants to talk to. The Avenues Plan strategizes the route.

It’s exactly what we did for the Celebration of Fine Art, a juried, 10-week art show in Scottsdale celebrating its 31st year of connecting art lovers with artists as they work. For 30 years, CFA hosted thousands of artists and welcomed tens of thousands of collectors who would gather under white tents and witness the creative process, live.

A global pandemic prompted a new approach, as gatherings were limited and social interactions needed to be distanced. CFA would continue as it always had, while following suggested guidelines, but it needed to reach out to a new audience — one that felt at home collecting art online — in order to sustain the annual show and expand its influence in the art community.

So, we went to work creating an online marketplace, an integrated shop CFA had long considered but had realized was now necessary for future success. We researched what that audience looked like, what it liked, how it engaged and purchased, and we built a platform that met that audience exactly where it was.

Because the online art-buying world is different than the in-person one. Different audiences use different avenues.

WHYFOR’s Avenues Plan dovetailed with CFA’s content marketing plan for maximum exposure, included artist relations to recruit the show’s participants to create shops online, and involved the development of tutorials and instructions that detailed how to build those shops. All of it came together on an expedited timeline, too, so the marketplace could launch during 2020’s holiday shopping season.

So, how did it go? Pretty great.

After coordinating messaging that announced the launch of CFA’s new online store across print, digital, email and social channels, artists and collectors responded in a way that helped WHYFOR and CFA exceed the goals that were established before the launch.

Would stats be helpful? Our case study tells the story.

Our Values Are Helping Us Be Part Of History

Half of our team at WHYFOR has recently made their mark on history. That’s a bold statement, we know. More than a statement, it’s been a bold effort. And more than being bold, every effort was honest and heartfelt and moving and rewarding.

That’s what you come away with after volunteering at a mass vaccination clinic — set up in response to a crippling and lethal global pandemic.

Yeah, we have work to do. We have websites to design, banner ads to build and meetings to take. We have projects, some that push us to squeeze in a little extra time after 5 or before 9. This wasn’t because we had time to fill.

It was because helping the people in our community who need it most just seemed like a bigger priority. So, when time slots were assigned to WHYFOR team members, it just happened. What’s one day, anyway, if it means you’re helping to save lives?

For perspective, none of our client work is deadly. But a pandemic is.

And what did WHYFOR see and experience while volunteering at the clinics, an effort that completely aligned with our values as a brand? A range of emotions, including a sense of gratitude for being part of a professional team that values humanity in a way that goes beyond just saying it — but by doing it.

“I lost it.”

That’s what one of us said after seeing an elderly couple come through the line, holding hands, eyes glossed over with tears, saying they were excited to see their grandkids again.

“That was really special.” 

That’s how one of us felt after seeing people who were old enough to qualify for a vaccine arrive at the clinic without an appointment, but — with the help of volunteers — properly register on site and receive their vaccination.

“We had people lining up in cars, registering, so we didn’t have to throw any (vaccines) out.”

This is what one of us experienced early on, when things were still confusing and people were still figuring out how to register. This same team member started driving elderly friends and neighbors to receive their vaccinations and later reported:

“Now, you’re in and out in 15 minutes.”

And then there was this, thoughts from WHYFOR’s main man, to all of us after he volunteered. We aren’t a pomp and circumstance people at WHYFOR. We’re more of a “hey, this is cool” nonchalant-type people, which means we all did this history-making volunteer thing on our own.

No company mandate. No heavy suggestions. Nothing. It’s just built into our culture that if something is important to you, as an individual, do it. Being part of this moment in history was one of those important things that needed zero explanation, even when it’s during a workday.

“I do encourage (if you can and if you want) everyone to consider volunteering so you too can experience the joy, hope, thankfulness, love, support and connection. Don’t hesitate to use work time if you are interested.”

News outlets have reported that more than 85,000 volunteer hours have been accrued at just one of the Valley’s vaccination sites. It’s cool that WHYFOR logged some of those.

And of the 1 million vaccinations administered in Arizona as of early February? Half of our team had a hand in that. Not in giving the shots — because we’re good, but not that good. But, you know, in getting people there.

So, we’re quietly proud over here. But also filled with gratitude. It’s a privilege to be able to help, and it’s also one to be able to see, feel and experience brand values with zero effort. It’s just who we are.

How It Feels to Delicately Slice and Dice an Audience

The word “audience” can be deceiving, especially when it comes to branding. Audiences, in general, are made up of dozens, hundreds — and if you’re the chart-topping pop star of the moment — thousands of people in one place.

At WHYFOR, we narrow audiences down in a strategic way. We hone in on a target, examine a particular slice and build an informed, research-based marketing plan around individual types of audience members. We talked about the process recently by explaining our work with innovaTel, a national telepsychiatry provider that partners with community organizations to improve access to care.

But, hearing from innovaTel directly might better explain the experience, its benefits and how the work can be used once it’s completed. Lauren Lashbrook, innovaTel’s director of strategic partnerships, reflected on the Audience Personas process.

And, full disclosure, we’re blushing a bit.

Q: Where were you, as a brand, before beginning the Audience Persona process with WHYFOR?

A: Prior to the Audience Persona process with WHYFOR, we had not done any formal brand work with an agency partner. We had done all of our marketing in house and made some updates over the years to evolve our brand with the industry, but had not done any persona-specific work.

Q: Why did you feel it was important to go through this process?

A: As our company has grown and evolved, we have really made a name for ourselves in our industry; however, we really wanted to take our brand to the next level. We are known for our clinical excellence and wanted all of our marketing and branding to align with that clinical excellence.

Q: What struck you about the process?

A: I had met with a number of agencies prior to working with WHYFOR and was really looking for a partner that understood our business model, target markets and, most importantly, our mission as much as we did. After handling all of our marketing internally, it was a bit intimidating to look for an outside partner because we’re so close to our business model and, to that point, we had been the experts at what we do, day in and day out. I was worried that there may be a disconnect, but that was not the case at all with WHYFOR. They proved that right away to us. It was clear that they understood our business model and many times I found that the WHYFOR team was completing my sentences and often joke that they are reading my thoughts. I truly feel that WHYFOR is an extension of my team, not an outside agency.

Q: Do you recall gaining new insights about the audiences you’re speaking to as a result of the persona research?

A: Absolutely! Taking such a deep dive into our audiences was incredibly valuable. The WHYFOR team spent a tremendous amount of time understanding the pain points of each of our audiences, and by doing this work on the front end, it allowed us to use this persona research to craft all of our marketing messaging specific to each individual audience. All of our partnerships are customizable and much of our success has been due to the fact that we really do understand the pain points of our customers. Through our work with WHYFOR, our marketing and branding now truly paint the picture of how and why we do this work.

Q: What did you think of the end product?

A: It was fantastic! The end product really gave us a playbook for our marketing strategy. We know our customers inside and out; however, our marketing didn’t necessarily reflect that and now that work that we have done together helped us shape our entire marketing strategy for this year.

Q: How do you plan to use this analysis?

A: It really gave us a roadmap for our entire marketing strategy. It was also very helpful to share with our entire team, our board and then also new hires, specifically on the sales and marketing side.

Q: Have you seen its benefits, yet? If so, how?

A: Absolutely! We use this as a working document for all of our marketing and sales strategy planning. This was a fundamental tool in updating our website and all of our marketing content. Our industry is not a one-size-fits-all landscape, and by deeply understanding our personas and target markets, our marketing will now reflect the pain points and relevant solutions that we can offer our customers through our partnerships.

I also used this tool for new sales representatives we brought on board so they can really understand our DNA and the pain points of our target customers and how our solutions uniquely align with their needs.

WHYFOR can do the same for you. Let’s see how our Audience Persona work can benefit you.

Understanding Bob: Audience Personas At Work


When we talk about “audience work,” that might sound vague. It might conjure a scene of someone tapping a hot mic, tossing out jokes, trying to warm up a studio full of fans awaiting a headliner.

We’re not talking about an opening act. We’re talking about targeted outreach informed by an in-depth analysis of who a specific brand or organization is trying to reach. There’s a big difference.

Much like opening acts like to tailor their set to the type of audience that appreciates the headliner (think: skip the ballads for the headbanging crowd), brands need to tailor their messaging to speak to the challenges, pain points and solutions their audiences are experiencing. This gets to the heart of WHYFOR’s Audience Personas.

It’s how innovaTel, a national telepsychiatry provider that partners with community-based organizations to improve access to care, better understands Bob.

And who’s Bob? He’s a composite character we developed during our Audience Persona process to help us, and innovaTel, get a better picture of what matters to someone managing a community mental health center.

And we didn’t just pluck him out of thin air. That’s what magicians do. Instead, we determined target audiences during a thorough workshop with innovaTel and gathered intel through a series of validation interviews from other Bob-types — none of whom were named Bob — to understand the pressures, goals and opportunities a professional in this field faces when trying to deliver care and improve outcomes for patients.

It was during those interviews that we discovered how Bob likes to receive information, what type of information he’s interested in receiving and how the information helps him, and other decision makers on his team, move forward with a new partner. Every Bob is different, but we were still able to see themes emerge that allowed us to create an illustration of a valuable audience specific to innovaTel.

And for innovaTel, we went through the same process with two other audiences because we understand the importance of nuance.

With those characters outlined, and then colored in thanks to first-party research, innovaTel came away from our Audience Persona work with a more informed visual of exactly who they’re talking to, and exactly how they should approach each of the audiences they’re trying to reach.

Like magic. Or an opening act that makes sure it knows who it’s playing to.

How well do you know your brand’s audience? Let us introduce you to Audience Personas.

Big Game Blowoffs: No Guts, No Glory


You can’t see me right now, but I’m starting a slow clap. Because it’s exciting to see brands that are daring enough, even during “unprecedented” times, to tackle a marketing landscape that has become so tricky it has scared the gnarly, big dogs from the yard.

I’m talking about the Big Game. Specifically, brands like Chipotle, Mercari and Fiverr. Those Big Game newcomers are seizing an opportunity to have millions of eyes on them for 30 whole seconds for the low-low price of $5.5 million, despite the “let’s-walk-on-eggshells” energy out there right now.

But, more importantly, those guys have a firm grip on who they are. That’s why they can afford to dive into this thing as soda and beer kingpins opt for the sidelines. For the record, we’re cool with Bud sitting out since they’re funding vaccines and all, but what has you so scared, Coke? I’d be more spooked about staying on the bench — looking at you, Pepsi.

Why? Because the companies that don’t take their foot off the gas during recessions score — pun somewhat intended. Statistics show brands that lean in and push ahead with growth and investment experience 277% more growth than brands that pull back.

That’s why $5.5 million, if you’ve got it, is the easiest decision ever. It’s impossible to argue with that kind of success.

Yes, Chipotle — spend that cash! Because I’ve seen what happens when companies decide to double-down during economic downturns instead of sitting in a bunker and waiting for the storm of the moment to pass.

But let me be clear — as a fiscally responsible branding veteran, I’m not advocating for companies to start throwing cash around that they don’t have. There’s strategy in everything, and it all begins with authenticity, which by its very nature can’t be engineered.

The CEO of Mercari, an online marketplace advertising in the Big Game for the first time this year, totally gets what I’m saying, and I’ve never even met the guy. He told Variety that his team went with its “gut and heart” when it developed their spot for the game.

Isn’t that where authenticity lies? Inside, in a brand’s gut? The answer is yes.

It’s why, at WHYFOR, we believe so ferociously in working with brands to ensure they understand their anatomy — the “who” and the “why” of what they are. When companies know that, and embrace it, they don’t have to walk the tightrope that so many of today’s brands are trying to do. 

They want to be light-hearted and funny, but not disconnected. They want to match the tone of the nation, but don’t want to come across as somber. They don’t know how to support causes because they don’t even know if they believe in them.

That tightrope is a dangerous, ambiguous gamble. Authenticity is the safe bet, even when it costs $5.5 million.

As far as I’m concerned, first-timers like Mercari, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Chipotle and Fiverr are in the driver’s seat this weekend, no matter what. I mean, we’re talking about them, I’m already slow-clapping them, and I’m about to Google Triller — because they’re advertising, too, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost on who the heck they are.

But after Sunday, everyone will know.