How I started my agency: Sarah Ryan Hecht
Welcome Sarah: Was branding something you always wanted to go into?
When I was in college, brand as a degree wasn’t an option — the nuance of it didn’t exist yet. I found (visual and verbal) communication from company to consumer fascinating. I studied advertising and marketing communications, which felt like a natural choice.
Brand as a profession really came into my radar when I interviewed for a role at Interbrand. I ended up accepting a position as a Verbal Strategist.
Ha! Such a niche role! Can you describe your role in more depth?
I was building a verbal foundation for clients — their positioning, the messages they could own, and the voice in which they should communicate. I’d then work with designers and copywriters to develop the brand. With brand building in general, we’re setting the foundation for execution — defining the parameters for which all creative should live within to keep a brand differentiated and cohesive.
After Interbrand: Where do you go next?
I accepted a position as a strategist at Red Antler. That was game-changing for me. I got to move away from bigger corporate brands, and work incredibly closely with founders that were disrupting giant categories.
Red Antler was much smaller back then, and I got to inform so many critical parts of the brand process. As a strategist, I got to see the work all the way through to the finish line. I loved this. I became so interested in seeing the strategy executed in the real world (specifically the website). It was important to me that the positioning we crafted was coming to life in the right way, instead of isolated in a style guide.
Was there one brand you worked on that you really fell in love with?
I’m most proud of my work with Supergoop. We redefined every facet of the brand: The strategy, the identity, the website experience, the development. We did it all.
The category was tricky, too, so the strategy was a fun challenge. We had to change consumer behavior to be excited about something preventative — and consumers love instant gratification! We needed to get people excited about applying sunscreen every single day, beyond a beach vacation. We also didn’t want to lead with scare tactics to highlight the risks of not applying sunscreen daily (fine lines, skin cancer, etc). We wanted Supergoop to be synonymous with products that let you live brightly (or freely).
The best part about the brand and the site that we built — it still exists today. The foundation we crafted is still ever-present. That’s always the greatest badge of honor.
So when did you decide to make the jump to start your own agency?
I had been freelancing on the side for a while. Forming deeply collaborative relationships with founders fueled me, so in 2019, I left Red Antler to freelance full-time. I enjoyed every minute of it, but to my surprise, it was short lived. Heyday Skincare reached out and tasked me with building their brand team from scratch. I never anticipated going in-house, but it was a great opportunity and a challenge that excited me. So, I took the job and it literally changed where I am today.
I met my Mostly Sunny co-founder, Cori, at Heyday. It was honestly kismet. We both had very similar careers — agency-side for our entire careers, until going in-house for the first time at Heyday. She led design at Heyday and I led strategy. We defined a new brand positioning, evolved their identity, relaunched their website (and increased sales 730%!), and oversaw the email marketing, paid and organic social, and the in-shop experience. Every consumer touchpoint was funneling through us.
We quickly learned that when you’re in-house, the line between brand and marketing is blurry. And you can’t think about one without thinking about the other. It was the first time in our careers that we had access to metrics, to data! We were able to truly build a brand that worked. Heyday went from a local NY facial shop, to a nationwide skincare company.
This experience also set the foundation for Mostly Sunny — building brands that perform.
So what do you offer today as your core service on Mostly Sunny?
Our bread and butter is Brand Strategy, Naming, Brand Identity, and Website Design + UX. No matter which phase we’re working on with clients, we’re *always* considering the end application — how does the brand actually exist in the world, and what levers do we need to pull to make it function?
Even at the style guide level, we’re thinking about the applications that are most impactful to the business — and that’s what we show them! We want to test the brand in relevant applications early on. This way clients have the tools they need when they’re working with the brand on their own.
We focus *heavily* on the website application — it’s the most important touchpoint, and the place where the user is invited into the brand’s world. Since we’ve managed websites in-house before, we’re designing a front-end experience while knowing how the client will manage it on the back-end. Our handoff to development is extensive. We annotate every element of the build, making sure clients can both manage and scale their site with the foundation we’ve set.
Last question: What’s the key to success so far on Mostly Sunny?
Building brands that perform. We’re thinking about how a brand lives in the real world from day one — and the tools they need to rise above the noise. The end deliverable for us is a brand that works, not a style guide. Ultimately, our clients’ success is our success.