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Ken Etheridge & Associates: Creative Technology Partners in Branding and Positioning Strategy

“We are unique, in that we are equally good with small businesses, large corporations (Fortune 500 companies), entrepreneurs, and Asian businesses entering the North American market.”

~Ken Etheridge, CEO of Ken Etheridge & Associates (KEA)

Ken Etheridge & Associates (KEA) is a full service marketing and advertising agency. Office locations include Bellevue, Florida, and Vancouver, BC. KEA has won national and international marketing awards including twice winning the highly prestigious CLIO Award.

Corporate clients have included: General Foods Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers, Gulf Oil, Harry Winston Jewelers, Eastern Airlines, Schaeffer Beer, Doubleday Publishers, Mobil Oil Company, Deloitte & Touche, Bank of Montreal, North American Life Assurance, Armstrong World Industries, The Toronto Stock Exchange, Burger King, and TNT Skypak International Express.

Q: What makes your company successful?

A: A major factor that determines which companies prosper and differentiate themselves from the competition is the attention they pay to market research. The second is how well they use that research to create a “branding and positioning” strategy.

We excel at helping companies do this successfully. We are great listeners and researchers, we understand culture and communications as part of the marketing strategy, and we understand the impact of rapid technological change on the economy.

We also try to be creative technology partners. For example, KEA is a partner in developing a separate business, called SAVVEO. This will be a web-based platform for making ad purchases across North America, with discounts, volume purchasing options, and portfolio management capabilities. This function has not been automated prior to this. It will revolutionize the industry, we think.

We are unique, in that we are equally good with small businesses, large corporations (Fortune 500 companies), entrepreneurs, and Asian businesses entering the North American market. And, the phenomenal success of our clients gives us satisfaction.

One of my favorite accolades came from David Schmalz, an executive at the Bank of Montreal. He said “KEA went beyond marketing and advertising, to create a new way for the bank to service its small business customers.” The Bank of Montreal gained 10,000 new commercial clients after only three months. This was a direct result of the work KEA did for it.

Q: How exactly does “branding and positioning” work?

A: “Strategic branding” is meant to describe a company or its products in a way that speaks with passion and conviction to customers. Our experience is that it is more successful to speak to hearts and the problem or complaint on people’s minds than simply talk about product features.

Whether by focus groups or other means, we distill the essence of what is important, unique and compelling to our clients and their audiences. The framework has four elements: Purpose, Promise, Values and Voice.

The word “positioning” means finding a way to become highly visible in the marketplace. In essence, we devise tactics to effect consumer behavior, including a communications strategy and ways of measuring the return on investment.

Q: What new opportunities do you see for KEA in China or other parts of Asia?

A: I see more Chinese companies that are ready to enter the US market. Many of them make the mistake of thinking they can hire one American executive to lead their marketing effort or concentrate on an online ad buy campaign alone. In my experience, they also need a quality partner like KEA who can shape their branding and positioning strategy for North America.

In the US-China relationship, there also are a growing number of entrepreneurs. The pace of innovation is tremendous. It is in many business areas, including mobile communications, animation, consumer products, information technology and technology services. They often need a good partner like KEA to help them think about their marketing strategy while the company’s is still in an early stage of start-up and growth.

Q: Is there any new initiative or project you are engaged in or hope to start that will help further these opportunities?

A: We are trying to be innovative in reaching across language barriers and geographic distances. I will give you a few examples. First, in our KEA Seminars program, we offer workshops that teach small business owners and managers how to carry out successful marketing efforts. We plan to add streaming broadcast, so that this is accessible online.

Second, in our Global Marketing Networking Group, we are adding a translator to our conference calls to encourage China entrepreneurs to join GMNG.

Third, we offer affordable logo animation for the web. This is done by NorthStar Animation, our China-based affiliate that specializes in animation, special effects for TV/internet, feature length films and architectural images. (Editor’s note: See our profile of NorthStar Animation)

Q: What advice do you have for others about how to be successful in this region or line of business?

A: Community involvement can help your business grow because it promotes trust with customers. It builds solid relationships and puts a personal face on your business in ways that cannot be duplicated. We can help a business learn how to incorporate community involvement into an overall marketing strategy. Some of the most successful businesses, such as East West Bank, are successful in part because they do this extremely well.

Q: Why did you locate your home office in Bellevue?

A: Bellevue is a good city for living and doing business. The Mayor and other leaders are pro-business. Bellevue is also the shortest distance by air to China and a short distance to Canada. With the growing relationship and business opportunities between the US, Canada, and China, Bellevue is a very strategic location for any business headquarters.

On a personal note, I came to Bellevue in December 2007, both as a business and to live here. In the short time I have lived in Bellevue, I have formed some lifelong friendships. I am proud to call it home.

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