“Advertising Champions” with Wendy Coulter of Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.

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On “Advertising Champions,” our host, Tony Stanol, interviews bright and engaging members of the digital advertising and media community. On this segment, Tony speaks with Wendy Coulter of Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.

Short company description:

Hummingbird Creative Group is an award winning brand strategy agency that helps leaders of growing companies and organizations looking to increase the value of their business define and communicate clear, sustainable, and differentiated brand messaging that brings them closer to “monopoly control” and directly impacts the EBITDA multiplier, and in turn the brand equity valuation, at the time of a sale, merger, or acquisition, or when seeking investment capital. Our proprietary branding process leads our clients to a new level of differentiation that sets the stage for their overall Brand Strategy. Defining a company’s brand strategy fuels sustainable brand messaging and builds business value.

How do you define success?:

Our clients’ success is our success. That comes in many forms, from increasing a business valuation, attracting funding, increasing sales and profit, saving clients time and money, and achieving award-winning creative work.

How did you get started in your field or work?:

In the early 1990’s, after I graduated from the College of Design at N.C. State University with degrees in Architecture and Industrial Design and a minor in Communications, I entered the workforce for a bit working for a very small non-profit. In my job, I was able to explore some projects related to product design, but I also jumped in to marketing, graphic design and public relations activities to help build the organization’s support and fundraising because that was a bigger need. I learned so much in my role, from creating a consistent identity for the organization, developing graphics and promotional tools, promoting our events, placing PSAs, and enticing the media to cover the organization in an effort to get the word out about what we were doing in the local community. It was very rewarding for a while, and I loved the small team I was working with each day. However, as time went on, I learned my most important HR lessons that would follow me throughout my life – to respect everyone around me, to show gratitude for my team, and to ensure my employees always get paid for their work. I recall sitting in staff meetings where my boss announced our performance for the week on a scale from A to F, as if we were in grade school, which destroyed everyone’s morale, and certainly created unnecessary conflict and competition. I was subjected more than once to a pat on my backside and degrading comments from him, which I felt was best to ignore in order to stay employed. In less than a year in that role, when it became a regular practice to call the bank to make sure sufficient funds were available to cover my paycheck, I was the first team member to make the decision to move on. Within two weeks, the entire team had left the organization. With no job, in the early Fall of 1995, I walked into the Cary Chamber of Commerce Expo and signed on my first 3 clients. Acknowledging my ability to sell, which I learned through working in my family’s business as a child, I was excited to found my new company, Hummingbird. With a desire to escape the workforce and show respect to everyone I work with and for, I was able to put my own ideas to work, creatively solving problems for small businesses through graphic design, marketing and pr services.

What’s one thing we should know that makes your company unique?:

We help clients find their HUMMINGBIRD EFFECT! In the world of branding and marketing, the Hummingbird Effect translates the relationship between the flower, which evolved specific shapes and colors to attract pollinators, and the hummingbird, an unexpected pollinator which evolved unique wing mechanics to hover in order to efficiently access nectar. This co-evolutionary process demonstrates how seemingly insignificant changes and small innovations in one area can lead to surprisingly large and positive outcomes in another, like increased business valuation or stronger culture.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your business?:

In almost 30 years, there have been at least that many challenges. From starting a business on a shoestring, to overcoming 6 digits of debt in under a year, to having to reinvent and stay current in a marketing world that is now driven by technology that changes everyday. I think the biggest challenge is staying fresh and relevant while maintaining tried and true strategy in a world of bells and whistles.