Q&A with Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger
Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger are co-founders at Motto, an award-winning comprehensive branding firm. Motto helps visionary entrepreneurs and companies build inspiring purpose driven brands using their most powerful asset: their purpose.
Sunny and Ashleigh are notorious for their unorthodox leadership style, inspiring point of view, and purpose-driven positioning approach. Their branding and professional web design work has been featured in various design and business publications including Forbes, AMEX, MSN Business, CBS News, Inc. 30 Under 30, HOW, PRINT, The Dieline, and most recently GDUSA’s “25 Creatives to Watch in 2014.”
Sunny and Ashleigh will give attendees an in-depth look into the journey of building a world-class brand by taking you through a recent comprehensive branding project. Check out the webinar to learn how to build a world-class brand using clients’ most meaningful asset—their purpose.
Ashleigh and Sunny spoke to me about their drive to inspire others to pursue their passions.
Tell me a bit about the work you do.
Ashleigh: We work with visionary entrepreneurs and purpose-driven companies to build inspiring brands using their most powerful asset: their purpose. We are comprehensive in our approach, from developing the culture/brand framework to bringing the strategy to life through design. We work with clients all around the world on issues from brand strategy and brand identity to packaging, print, web and mobile apps.
Can you explain the meaning and value of purpose-driven branding as the basis for your work at Motto? How does it “turn businesses into a force for good”?
Sunny: Having a deeper sense of purpose is the greatest of all human needs. We all want our work to have meaning, and to feel like we’re doing what we’re passionate about and what we were born to do. A company that is driven by its purpose knows what it stands for, what it believes in, and why it exists. Purpose serves as a guiding light – shining on everything in its path.
Ashleigh: Companies who lead with their purpose understand that the currency we trade is emotion. Purpose-driven businesses work to restore the good in the world and fully embrace the values they stand for. We’re here to help our clients align these internal truths with their external brand, so it can make the difference it was born to make.
What do businesses need to focus on to succeed with purpose-driven branding?
Ashleigh: Branding is a process of self-discovery — to uncover the one meaningful idea at the center of a brand that makes it rise above. Branding is the deliberate effort you make to help your clients say “This is who I am” to the world. It’s the process of defining, shaping and influencing — both strategically and creatively — the purpose, story and authentic meaning of a brand that the audience should experience.
Sunny: Businesses should focus on crafting their vision, clarifying and documenting their purpose, mission, values, beliefs, and story, articulating who they are, what they stand for and why they matter, crafting a brand personality and tone of voice, establishing a brand look & feel, designing a visual voice that authentically reflects the soul of the brand, and most importantly, delivering on the promise the brand makes.
You say market research can lead to mediocrity in branding. How so?
Sunny: Market research matters and can provide valuable insights, but it can also impair creativity, innovation and vision. There can be a lot of flaws when it comes to testing, analyzing, interpreting, predicting outcomes, etc. and often times the data is misleading because it doesn’t get to the real issues.
Ashleigh: People struggle with communicating why they do certain things, what their unmet needs are, and how they would behave in the future. Human behavior is influenced by so many factors, the majority of which aren’t conscious or rational. The more you depend on research for decision making, the more you play it safe.
What have been the greatest influences on your work? What inspires you?
Ashleigh: We’re inspired by people who simply love what they do. When you love what you do and do what you love, you ignite the secret yearnings of your heart and beautiful things happen.
Sunny: We also find great inspiration in traveling, meeting new people and listening to their stories. We recently finished a 9-month cross-country road trip, where we worked on-location with different clients, went to business conferences, and worked remotely from the road. We traveled from South Carolina to Southern California and back. From road-side diners, a shoot-out in Tombstone, AZ, Willie Nelson’s favorite music joint in Luckenbach, Texas, to a horseback riding dude ranch, we roamed from town to town getting tips for our next location from the people we met along the way. We drove through deserts, the Texas Hill country, Louisiana swamps, giant white sand hills in New Mexico, and up the California coast. Each day we were met with a sense of excitement for what the day would bring, people we would meet, stories we share, and memories we would make.
What can you tell me about Motto’s history? What led you to launch your own branding and design firm?
Sunny: Ashleigh and I met in our teens in a snowball fight in Chicago. We grew up together, went to college together, and in our early twenties, we started working together as a design team. We were a few years into that when we realized we’d lost the passion for our work. We were making decent money, but nothing felt quite right and we were incredibly unfulfilled — and that lack of fulfillment made the days so much longer and the work so much harder. And so we became obsessed with discovering why we were doing what we were doing, and to find more meaning in our work. We discovered a simple idea — that having purpose is the most meaningful asset for any brand. That revelation inspired us to radically alter the way we approached business and how we wanted to work with clients. We realized our gift and passion was pushing our clients to make the connection between what they do and why they do it. And so Motto was born from our need to fulfill that deeper purpose.
How did you come up with the name Motto?
Ashleigh: We chose the word Motto as our name, but it is more than our name; it’s a symbol of who we are and what we stand for. Historically, mottos were war cries of sentiment, hope, and promise. Today, mottos serve as a rallying call — a reason to exist. Our motto, “Lead, never follow,” is an expression of our purpose: to help our clients find their path and create brands with greater meaning and influence. We believe brands that embody a deeper sense of purpose have a significant advantage over those that don’t — they have something to say, something to stand for, and something to believe in. And that belief is what drives everything we do.