As a writer, creative strategist, marketer, and children’s book author, Sheryl Kravitz Johnston is the founder of Tugboat Brand & Business Development, a strategic B2B branding firm, a name she originally coined “SK Consulting” because she had no idea on what to call it when she struck out on her own way back in 2001. Fast forward a few years, she aptly renamed the firm Tugboat because it seemed like the perfect metaphor for her (she is 4’10”) and her firm (a small and potent consulting practicing that helps organizations get to smarter, faster brand decisions.
As the lead consultant for Tugboat she specializes in taking the fuzzy and complex (and any silly industry jargon about proprietary methodology) out of brand development. Sheryl is passionate about linking brand with business performance. Whether she is speaking with CEOs, CFOs or marketers, every client meeting and presentation is designed to entice and educate and change the field. In the words of one COO she has worked with, “Until Sheryl presented to me, I really thought of marketing as just “fluff”. Her firm has received a Stevie Award for Women in Business and has been recognized by the American Graphic Design Association.
Since its beginning, Tugboat has been driven to challenge the status quo in how branding services are provided. Sheryl believes in strong fundamentals, not cookie cutter approaches or solutions. She approaches brand development as a composite of culture, business model and leadership style, and therefore, works closely with every client to ensure that its unique brand footprint is understood and developed to its fullest potential.
She originally bit the brand apple while working as a marketer at a healthcare start-up in the early 90’s that brought the first HIV home test to market. Her work there was recognized by the PRSA, but more importantly led the way in reducing the stigma associated with AIDS and helped thousands of people who refused to see a doctor or go to a clinic get tested and counseled anonymously over the phone. It was a noble, ground breaking endeavor that truly spoke to the idea of brand purpose. (Also, while working in Washington, DC for Porter Novelli she helped elevate the 1st National Day of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS to the Clinton White House, after it received national media attention for elevating the impact of HIV/AIDS within the Black Church. Something that she is particularly proud of.) Prior to that she was an intern in corporate relations at FANNIE MAE headquarters where she first was exposed to an ARM before it became a method of mad destruction for home buyers who didn’t know better.
Her branding chops were honed while working side-by-side with Katherine Button, as the lead Interbrand consultant on the Emerson rebrand. Here she was directly responsible for driving Emerson’s corporate brand strategy and brand architecture alignment. This was a two year endeavor that laid the groundwork that propelled Emerson into the forefront as one of the world’s leading B2B brands.
Across her career she has worked on a number of assignments that span the gamut and include the likes of 3Com, Blackbaud, Motorola, Harris Corporation, Symmetricom, GVW Group/Autocar, Abbott Laboratories, E. Lily, Boehringer Ingelheim, Marrion Merrell Dow, Merck, USAID, CDC, NIH, the American Red Cross and a slew of nonprofits that she won’t bore you with. You can get in touch with her directly at Sheryl@tugboatbranding.com.
We view every client and assignment as unique. Not every team has the same make-up. Your team will be cherry picked based on your scope of work, the industry you operate in, personal preference and the level expertise you require. A team member, who is outstanding for one client, may not be appropriate for another client. What we do guarantee is that you will have a seasoned group of professionals working on your business; we don’t believe in staffing with early career account executives. We don’t pitch with one team and have your account staffed by another team.
Many of us have worked for large-scale clients that involved multiple global agencies; we know that establishing mutual respect and boundaries is fundamental to success.
One of the things that distinguish Tugboat is our ability to help a prospective client establish clarity around scope, objectives, and most importantly, management’s expectations on return and success rates. We recognize that the success of a strong firm/client financial relationship is based on having a clear understanding of the project upfront.
We are on-demand firm, this means we don’t have the same operational structure or overhead of a traditional bricks and mortar firm; this translates into greater value for our clients.
Traditional agencies take into consideration the total cost of running the agency and divide that number of billable hours available from all non-administrative employees. The equation can be thought of overhead divided by total billable hours = hourly rate. Depending on the size of the firm, this can be costly for a client to pursue. This means that the same identical (e.g. a design director or strategist) operating on your behalf is literally twice the cost in a traditional firm because of the associated overhead and structure.