Award-Winning Blog

Insights, attitude and inspiration

The BigMouth Covid Credo


This is the time to come together, deepen roots and get ready to grow.

To help make it happen, we’re working with clients a little more flexibly than normal.

We’re investing in new relationships. Call us and let’s do something great.

Wealth managers, this is your window of opportunity


In recent years, we’ve built some of the most progressive wealth management brands in the country.

We’ve learned two things through all our interviewing of high-net-worth individuals and families:

1. People can be very dissatisfied with their financial advisor, and still be afraid to leave them.

2. They WILL make a move after a financial crisis like we’re experiencing now.

This is not the time to go silent. It’s the time to:

• Find your unique voice amidst all the RIA brand sameness

• Provide people with a superior option to their current advisor

• Reassure your current clients

• Lay the foundation for big-time new client acquisition.

Specifically, you can:

• Refine your brand messaging

• Communicate skillfully with team members, clients and centers of influence

• Develop an original content strategy to reach the hearts and minds of prospects

The big banks are all over this. So are the robos, even though they’re not your direct competition.

There’s no reason to panic. But there is strong impetus to ACT. Send a message to to discuss in more detail.

Our role in this thing


There’s a ton of work to do right now. Coming together to protect and support each other outweighs everything else.

That mission intersects with an economic one. Helping people also means helping businesses survive and thrive.

As communicators, we love our role. We’re busy helping leaders define and articulate reassuring near- and mid-term visions for their team members, clients and partners.

We’re also helping them prepare for the growth opportunities that await out there beyond this gnarly pain point.

There will be an afterward. The work we all do now will have a big impact on what it looks like.



Great communication changes you, and your business. Talking about it in the abstract is cool. But when it actually happens for you, it brings the spirit of your business to life, and introduces you to a more thrilling, prosperous level of operating. Here’s the third of five practical observations we’ve made on the subject.

3. Great communication is rooted in a strategy

The Saatchi agency coined the phrase “brutal simplicity of thought”. We love, love, love this. The “brutal” part comes from relentless focus. Focus comes from strategy. So what exactly is strategy, and where does it come from?

Communication strategy has a lot of components. For purposes of this discussion, let’s zero in on the most important one. Strategy articulates the single concentrated idea you want people to take away from your web site or logo or campaign or brand. This strategic idea is the product of an insight.

An insight is the product of asking a lot of people a lot of clever, carefully considered questions, then listening closely to the answers. The answers contain many versions of the truth, from the perspective of many audiences – management, customers, potential customers, past customers, the competitors’ customers, influencers.

The process of eliciting all this input, sorting it, debating it endlessly and whittling it down to a single strategic idea is essentially creative. Imagination is key. Difficult choices must be made. Once you have a great strategy – a brutally simple thought – you have significantly increased your odds of creating great communication.

Great brand strategy is both analytical and creative.The title of our brand strategy for ground-breaking chef and restaurateur Charles Phan quotes the man himself. It expresses the rebellious attitude and brand position of Charles’ entire organization in three provocative little words.

How your brand can be great, No. 2 of 5: Great communication has to come from the top



Great communication is rare and beautiful. It can transform businesses from the inside out. At its most potent, it can generate juicy, sustained spikes in revenue and lay the foundation for years of prosperity and stability. Here’s the second of five practical observations we’ve made on the subject.

2. Great communication has to come from the top

Great communication comes from a person, and very rarely from an organization. But it’s the product of an organizational process. Good luck with that one. The more people are involved, the more mushy the communication is likely to get. That’s why most communication doesn’t register. It’s not real. It’s a big, bland word cloud, signifying nothing. Need examples? They’re everywhere.

The process of creating communication has to be carefully managed. Everyone involved has to have a goal that is counter-intuitive — to keep their hands off, as much as possible. There are two primary debates for everyone to participate in. The first is about the strategy that guides the creative. The second is about the creative itself, and whether it does what the strategy says it should. If it does, the debate is over. It doesn’t matter if everyone likes it. Fall into the trap of trying to please everyone at your own peril, and the peril of your brand.

Ultimately, the most powerful, influential person in your organization – usually the CEO or president or, maybe, the CMO – has to bless the strategy and approve the creative. They have to believe in the investment and the potential outcome. They have to have confidence and an open mind. That’s pretty much the only way it can work.

“We can do great work for Apple because I can have a conversation with Steve Jobs.”
Lee Clow, Worldwide Creative Director, TBWA/Chiat/Day

Closing frame from Applied Materials television commercial created by BigMouth

We created a global repositioning campaign for a $10 billion capital equipment firm. It was based on a deadly simple strategy and creative idea. We developed it working directly with a small group of C-level executives. The campaign was extremely bold, single-minded and emotional. It was also extremely successful. Was that a coincidence? No, it was not.


A photo of San Francisco Bay Guardian [publisher Bruce Brugmann with the ehadline "Great communication requires a littel courage" superimposed on him



At BigMouth, we’ve been delivering “branding” and “strategic communication” to clients for nearly 25 years. This is powerful, ethereal stuff. It can transform businesses from the inside out. At its most potent, it can generate juicy, sustained spikes in revenue and lay the foundation for years of prosperity and stability. It can also be a humongous waste of time, energy, talent and resources. Sadly, a lot of the time it’s the latter.

Great communication is rare and beautiful. Here’s the first of five practical observations we’ve made on the subject.

1. Great communication requires a little courage

Many businesses want the benefit of great communication — the extra attention, the human connection, the customer loyalty, the surge in revenue — without actually participating. Look, you either say something or you don’t. You either stand out or you don’t. In reality, it’s very, very difficult to stand out in the right way. The noise level is overwhelming. People’s attention spans are tinier than ever. The real risk is that no one will notice you at all.

Great communication involves entering into a relationship with strangers. It means opening up and having a point of view, and a personality. It means being a little vulnerable. Imagine trying to connect with someone without revealing anything about your true self. That wouldn’t be a much of a relationship, would it? If you really want to have a brand, you have to move past a fear of intimacy. Once you taste a little success, you’ll be surprised how quickly you become comfortable.

We presented our San Francisco Bay Guardian client with a bold campaign bearing the tag line, “Try my paper. Dammit.” They loved it, but made one small suggestion. “It should be, ‘Read my paper. Dammit.’” Clearly, these people got it. The resulting campaigns were smash successes. They generated national headlines and burned themselves into newspaper lore.

NEW: BigMouth introduces Counsel!, an efficient new way to access brand-based business thinking


Now you can integrate strategic brand thinking into your business planning — even before you make the big investment in your brand.

Functioning as your chief branding officer, we will:

  • Add a sophisticated dimension to your business, at a pain-free price point
  • Help you determine when and how to invest in your brand
  • Provide authoritative counsel on strategic and tactical brand questions
  • Advise you on how to maximize available branding and marketing budgets
  • Help you avoid costly mistakes from impulsive branding decisions
  • Give you peace of mind knowing your brand thinking is solid

Our entire worldview expressed in a single picture


After 25 years, this simple graph neatly sums up how we see the world. There are a ton of safe, dull brands out there doing nothing for the bottom line. And far too few that are actually driving righteous business growth. Those are the ones we love to create. Read more about limiter, pretender and driver brands at

Distinctive new logo for ICC, an innovative wealth management firm based in Las Vegas. Design by BigMouth in San Francisco.

Sharp new ID for ICC


The challenge: Create a fresh, modern, distinctive logo, using an inert series of initials. Here’s the solution we came up with for ICC, a progressive Las Vegas wealth advisory. The mark is structured, dimensional and dynamic, reflecting the core elements of the wealth management experience ICC delivers. If you’re into logos, check out some of our favorite creations at

The naming is the hardest part


Nothing is more creatively, intellectually or culturally brutal than naming – or renaming. You have to imagine how the name feels and functions not at inception, but in the future, when it’s infused with your positioning and all the right brand attitude and associations. Here are a few of the more than 750 prospective names we developed for a major Bay Area non-profit that helps young people survive horrific trauma.

Note: These are not logos. However, we do present names with preliminary type treatments, to suggest the personality they can take on. It’s amazing the endless ways you can inflect a name by the way you treat it typographically. You can see more of our naming work at

Advertisement for the San Francisco Bay Guardian featuring then-mayor Willie Brown trashing the Guardian. Created by BigMouth in San Francisco.

FROM THE VAULT: Willie Brown and the Ultimate Anti-Endorsement


Long before the advent of social media, we were huge fans of creating what we called “advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising.” When then-Mayor Willie Brown went on the radio and slammed our client — the legendary and sadly now defunct San Francisco Bay Guardian — we knew we had received a beautiful gift. The public dis by the Guardian’s nemesis handed us a valuable “anti-endorsement” that got the whole town buzzing.

Listen to the experts


Otis, my soul music side project, is finishing its debut album. The mix was done by a wicked young talent in LA named Steve Kaye. The guy has incredible ears and impeccable creative judgment. As we got to the end of the mix, I realized how vital Steve’s judgment was to the power of the end product. “Should we bump the B3 in the outro?” “Honestly, this section is all about the vocals, not the organ.” “I don’t know if we need the horns here.” “I’d leave them in, it’s their best moment in the whole song.” We challenged each of Steve’s recommendations, but in the end he was pretty much always right.

Being the client for a change reminded me of the value of specialists. And it made me reflect. Our clients hire us to do something we’re excellent at. Still, many of them have no hesitation to impose changes that dramatically weaken the impact of our work. Like Steve, we always listen to clients. But we also articulate our rationale and recommendations, based on judgement honed over 25 years. There’s a direct correlation. The clients who follow our guidance reap the biggest rewards from our work. By far.

– Mike