Kansas City company successfully marries marketing skills with production know-how.
It’s a design company. It’s a marketing services company. It makes high-quality, precision vehicle wraps and in-house displays for retail settings, trade shows and corporate events.
But what kind of company, exactly, is Unchained Creative? Perhaps the best way to describe it comes right off the Kansas City company’s Web site: “A Convergence of Graphics and Experiential Design.” That means Unchained Creative helps clients produce the right marketing messages for the right forums, whether that’s stationary or moving down the interstate at 70 mph.
Founded in 2004 by Jody Barrett, who serves as president, and Kevin Simms, the creative director, the company blends marketing expertise with production savvy to produce a wide range of products that both drive a message and promote a brand. Unchained Creative was spawned, Simms said, from what is now its sister company, Custom Mobile Designs.
Unchained Creative is small—it has only six on the payroll, Simms says—but punches above its weight with front-office employees who supply the marketing and business development experience, and skilled professionals in the workshop.
Armed with the right equipment for precision cutting of store displays and printing of monstrous vehicle wraps able to cover a 53-foot semi trailer, the company’s craftsmen can tackle most any size project in their 12,600-square-foot workspace.
In its infancy, Unchained Creative was largely about the experiential work, as much as 80 percent of overall volume in the early years, Simms said. That has grown into a balanced portfolio of nearly one-third experiential, one-third environmental design and one-third vehicle wrapping.
The experiential entails design, management and branding of custom mobile marketing trailers, such as expandable exhibits, hospitality trailers and trade-show exhibits. Much of that work is done in collaboration with Custom Mobile, and done seamlessly: “When we’re dealing with clients on the experiential side, most clients think they’re dealing with one company,” Simms said.
The environmental design functions account for graphics that support retail operations, corporate events, trade shows and other functions. They can be produce on different materials that are selected based on the placement, purpose and needed life span of the graphic, but always with one overarching mission: Upholding each client’s brand standards.
And the vehicle-wrapping work is premised, as Simms notes, on the need for clean design and font-selection that meets the challenge of grabbing attention and making a lasting impression within the normal eye-scan window of mere seconds.
“You have to keep ’em clean,” Simms said. “That’s the key, knowing that you only have a few seconds to get the message across. You don’t want that to get lost in the ‘Wow!’ That’s the first conversation
I have with clients, saying, ‘I am going to fight with you to keep it as clean as possible.’”
That aspect is where the company’s marketing skills come into play, Simms said. “A lot of people get hung up on crazy stripes, designs or fonts that are hard to read,” he said, “but that will be a disappointment once it gets on the road.”
With its experiential operations and design work, the company has clients nationwide, in-cluding big corporate names like Build-A-Bear Workshops (Unchained Creative handles almost all of the St. Louis company’s graphics), Waddell & Reed Financial, the New Jersey Nets, Husqvarna power products and others. Most of the vehicle work is done within a radius of about 150 miles.
One key to success has been increasing the productivity of the team through repetition and stability, Simms said.
“It’s all about the processes,” he said. “Back when we started, we had about the same number of employees as we do now, but the business has grown 10-fold, and we’re doing it with the same number of people because of the equipment and mastering the process.”