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Smart Working: Interview with Anthony Pappas of The Pappas Group

by Steve Fisher on September 28, 2009

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Pappas_Anthony_headshotI recently had the opportunity to talk with Anthony Pappas of The Pappas Group. He is a really friendly and knowledgeable guy who is a brand expert in not just the “how” of creating a brand but what he calls “the why” of creating a brand. We sat down and talked about branding and entrepreneurship plus we got him to share his five favorite brands. Here is the transcript of the interview:

Steve: Anthony, thanks for being here today. I guess the best way to get started is to ask you how you got your start and what lead you to start the Pappas Group.

Anthony: Thanks Steve. Well I got my start as a designer in college and worked in ad agencies in NY as an art director and was always working on brands. I joined a local firm in the 90′s called Proxicom and eventually worked my way up the ranks over 10 years to become Senior VP of Creative globally for the company. During that time I not only advanced my design skills but alos got really experienced at building teams. When Proxicom was acquired I looked at NY and DC and around here saw many boutique shops but no one focusing on helping a client build their brand. Let’s face it, these days brand are built online. They are built in other ways, but for the most part today they are built online. So I decided to go out on my own and start the Pappas Group.

Steve: Your firm approaches clients as a branding company where it used to be traditionally the domain of advertising agencies. Why this type of differentiation?

Anthony: Because the boutique firms where most design agencies the first thing we identified was that we were not first and foremost a design agency. Let me explain why. You can’t come at a brand strictly from a design perspective. You must start with the strategy. I learned this firsthand when I was at Proxicom and we worked with large ad agencies that owned the brand and dictated how they wanted their sites built. Unfortunately, there was a large conflict of interest because what they wanted wasn’t always beneficial to the client, especially in an online space. So what I wanted to do was help companies “change”. We want to help them reach a goal or launch a product. How you execute is not the point but rather how a company wants or needs to evolve. Every company’s brand is different and there is no perfect service mix.

Steve: Being here in the DC marketplace, what are your hopes for bringing a bit the flare of the brands that are in places like NY?

Anthony: Place like New York have big brands that take risks (i.e. Nike, Liz Claiborne) and while we have great firms here, there is not the same sex appeal which makes it hard to retain the talent here in the area. So I want to help the DC market get awareness and tell the rest of the country that we have the skills here to do it. We start by working with the brands that are here in town.  This is kind of my soapbox right now.

Steve: You will be presenting at the Grow Smart Business conference next week. What should we expect to see and hear from you?

Anthony: One of the things I am going to talk about is that for any company to create a strong brand, it has to come from the inside.  You can’t just build a brand from the outside, it has to come from the people inside the company first. Strong companies are strong companies because their employees are living the brand so people believe it. If they are faking it, people will see right through it.

Steve: I like to wrap up interviews with a top five list. In this case, what are your top five brands?

Anthony: Hmm, let’s see…

1.) Apple – They are really intelligent about marketing. I use their products and I knew they were good. They said they were going to break convention and they said they would do it their way and people would follow. And they have, which is why I really like that brand. They are a serious brand that is making money.

2.) Porsche - The brand that they have built, beyond their cars being excellent, is that they have built a brand that is a good reflection of their product. They hired a great firm and the brand exudes a certain essence about the drive. It is understated which is elegant and powerful.

3.) Target – They have done an amazing job breaking out of the mold of low-cost warehouse store. Target just raised its awareness and said they aren’t playing the game that has been done in the past. People believe that Target doesn’t have the same stuff as other stores and their brand has been the factor that convinces people.

4.) Nordstrom – Their experience is fantastic and the people that are there actually seem like they want to be there which shows that people live the brand.

5.) Zappos – The brand is still new and they are doing the right things like Nordstrom does and is trying to build that it is about quality and service.

Steve: Thanks for the time today. Great interview.

Anthony: Great to be here. See you all next week at the Grow Smart Biz conference.

Register for the Grow Smart Biz Conference and See Anthony Speak

GSB-ConfComing next week on September 29, in Washington, DC, Network Solutions is hosting the Grow Smart Biz Conference where you can see Anthony Pappas speak along with keynote speaker Chris Anderson and Governor Mark Warner. The Grow Smart Biz conference is a premier one-day event featuring renowned small business leaders and well-known industry experts. If you haven’t registered, then click here to learn more and register now. Tickets are going fast!

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