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Prolific Brand Design’s Ryan Kettering’s best advice: Find something authentic to you

Patrick McManamon
December 5th, 2023
6 Min Read

Aspen trees dot the north and south side of Aspen Mountain, some 12 miles outside Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Near the peak (8,120 feet) is Three Patches Recreation Area, a go-to spot for Lance Ball and his family.

“It’s got an emotional attachment to me,” Ball said.

That’s one of the reasons Ball turned to the mountain for a business name when he founded and opened Aspen Mountain Plumbing in December of 2013.

“I knew that if I had that name, I’d have an emotional attachment to the business, and it would help me drive the business into being something more,” Ball said.

That encapsulates one of the main branding tenets and beliefs of Ryan Kettering, owner of Prolific Brand Design, a business that creates cohesive, clear and authentic brands that identify a business with its market—including the one he helped Lance Ball build. Geared toward the trades, Prolific can help a company succeed by guiding customer perception, all based on a tangible set of realities Kettering gleans from clients.

“The easiest way to build a good brand,” Kettering said, “is just be more of you.”

Put differently: Understand who you are and where you are, and make that your brand as opposed to pushing to be something you are not. It may seem like basic insight, but Kettering goes deeper by using a process he calls “logical creativity.”

“I use objective reasoning and objective thought processes and come to these conclusions for people through a very clear, objective set of rules and guidelines,” he said.

He does that with half-day interviews with the owner of every company he represents. By using a systematic and intuitively designed series of questions, Kettering does all he can to delve into a person’s core beliefs.

“I’ve had grown men break down and cry on that call,” Kettering said. “The whole goal is to figure out what that person believes more than anything in life.”

He then applies those core beliefs to the brand.

“Through that whole process, I'll have already figured out what their personality is, and we take that into the brand personality,” he said. “It’s all based on who they are.”

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Badass or teddy bear? 

Kettering has seen some people advocate for what he called “a badass logo.” But after the half-day session, he realizes that approach does not match the person. In the same way, some people will not match a cuddly teddy bear logo.

“We start with who they are,” he said, “and then we guide from there.”

To Kettering, it’s all a part of creating impressions about a brand. He points out that in the course of a normal day, a vehicle gets 50,000 impressions per day – which adds up to 10 million per year.

“The effort is to create those impressions, then leverage them,” Kettering said. “You look at pop stars and rock stars and actors. They have very distinct looks, and that’s their visual brand.  You start to understand that there’s a reason for this, and how that plays out.”

Trust comes from the impressions. Kettering told of an anecdote he read where a person goes regularly to a coffee shop and often sits near the same person, yet they never introduce themselves or talk to each other. After time, one might ask the other to watch a laptop while they got a refill.

“Why do you trust me?” Kettering said. “It's just that you've seen me over and over and over again. Just being seen, just being present, just being frequent on its own does something. It builds trust.

“Then if we can attach ideas to that frequency, to that image that we have, then all of a sudden now we're actually building more. We can direct that trust, we can direct those thoughts, those perceptions into something that we want. And now we can position who we are.”

Kettering worked with Ball on the branding of Aspen Mountain Plumbing, based in the wide open spaces of southwest Wyoming. To Ball, Rock Springs is home – and it’s as close to his heart as a place can be.

So his entire branding approach centers on home.

It starts with the name, which carries the emotional attachment to the actual mountain. But what Kettering calls the other brand assets – color, logo, name, typeface, vehicle representation -- were selected with intentionality as well.

“Brown and gold may seem ugly to most people, but they mean home to Wyoming people,” Ball said. “The only four-year college that Wyoming has is the University of Wyoming, and their colors are brown and gold. And it's resonated throughout the community and throughout the state, from license plates to all sorts of different things.”

The Aspen trees on Aspen Mountain have gold leaves, the countryside and rock formations are brown. Wyoming’s school colors are based on the Brown-Eyed Susans native to the state.

“We knew that if we picked brown and gold as our colors, that that would basically give us a flagpole that we're a local company, we're born and raised right here in Wyoming,” Ball said.

The result: Home resonates through every Aspen Mountain Plumbing impression.

“To me, the brand is really, ‘Who do people think you are? What do people think about you in the market?’” Kettering said. “And so that comes from a lot of different things and everything contributes to that.”

Kettering recalled working with a power-washing business called SP Wash. When Kettering asked what the SP referred to, he learned that the ‘S’ stood for Sky, the owner’s dog. Kettering suggested a rebrand to Sky Power Wash, with a smiling pooch on the logo.

“They doubled their revenue in one year,” Kettering said “Without any additional spending in marketing.”

Which is another key for Kettering: A business can spread its good name, culture and beliefs through a brand without spending a lot on marketing. Because the brand markets itself.

“It's about really finding yourself and just being more of who you are,” Kettering said. “That's what we help people to do, to have the courage and clarity to do. Most people don't mind the idea of being themselves. They actually like that idea a lot. They just don't know who they are clearly.”

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