Like most working couples, Oran and Michelle Parker rise each morning and travel to their place of employment. For this pair though, the commute is considerably shorter than most. They
simply walk down the hall of their Carlyss home. What was once their living room is now an upbeat energizing office space with L-shaped desks marking the four corners of this cozy, creative
Between the desks are comfy chairs and thick carpets. Unique artwork adorns the burnt orange-painted walls. “We toyed with the idea of having an office elsewhere,” said Oran. “But we’re doing well. We were worried we’d mess up our vibe here.”
After years of working in various Lake Charles area ad agencies, this husband and wife team opened their own company, Parker Brand Creative Services, in January 2011. Though their business is relatively new, the Parkers have already established themselves a driving force in the Southwest Louisiana marketing industry.
Establishing a Brand
Branding is the new buzz word in business circles. According to Oran, brand can mean a lot of different things. “Most of the time, it boils down to the public’s perception of a company and its name. Part of our job is trying to get the public to think a certain way about a product, service, or event.”
The Parkers work with small companies and larger businesses with both regional and national markets. Some of their clients include Big Easy Foods, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Southwest Louisiana Chamber and its new SEED Center, LeBleu’s Landing in Sulphur, and numerous festivals and fairs.
Creating a Brand of Their Own
Branding is what we are good at,” said Oran. “Our logo itself is a brand.” The Parkers unique logo originated from a painting they created together as part of their wedding ceremony. They each painted a stroke of two intersecting lines, representing their unity. Initially it served as a family mark, similar to a cattle brand. One day, the mark was misprinted and it made an unfinished circle that resembled a P and a B.
“It’s the Parker Brand. We’re the Parker Brand. It represents our family. It symbolizes what we believe and how we operate. We wanted it to mean something personal to us and it does,” said Oran.
"Our brand is our living, but more than that, we want it to help other brands and businesses make a better living too. It's the higher purpose that drives everything we're doing,” Michelle added.
The Parkers excel at taking an idea from a client and turning it into a unique reality. Oran recently created a logo for Hale Law Firm. “He shared his vision with us and we were able to take that idea and bring it to life,” he said. “Mr. Hale and his sons were very pleased with it.”
Oran has also illustrated the logos for Contraband Days, DeltaTech, Crossfit Adino, Culture Fest Louisiana, the Oncology & Hematology Institute, Protecarb and many others. For more examples of Parker Brand’s work, check their website.
This dynamic designing duo encourages potential clients not to let anyone tell them that they can’t do something. Michelle understands this positive thinking firsthand. When she told her Barbe High School art teacher she planned to attend Sowela Technical Community College for commercial art, the teacher told her she’d never find employment in that field. That negativity challenged Michelle to succeed.
While in school, she interned at Louisiana Marketing & Design. After graduation, she worked as a marketing assistant in the local casino industry. She moved on to Knight Media (KMI), was the lead designer for Whitbeck Advertising, and then worked as the senior designer for Lake City Printing. She has won numerous communications awards for her work as a designer.
Raised in Sulphur, Oran attended McNeese State University and Northwestern State University, majoring in graphic communications. He met Michelle when they both worked at Whitbeck Advertising. They started dating but kept it low key and professional. On Valentine’s Day 2006, they decided their relationship was serious. They married in 2009 in a lovely candlelit evening outdoor ceremony at the historical Sunset Hotel Cajun Café in Lake Charles. The couple has three children – Lily, 14; Jonah, 9; and Eben, 2. Oran said becoming business partners was meant to be. “We worked well together at Whitbeck. After we got married, starting our own business was a natural progression.”
The Monkey Box
Oran and Michelle found a unique box at a flea market in Natchitoches with curious monkeys painted on the lid. “It stood out on the shelf,” said Oran. “There was nothing really special about it; it was just odd.” For the Parkers, the box represents their desire to think outside the box. They steer away from the conventional ways of operating their business and strive towards innovative results-oriented marketing methods.
“We’re not like other ad agencies,” Oran said. “We don’t follow the same model.” In fact, they would prefer people not think of their business solely as an ad agency, as the concept of business branding encompasses so much more than advertising. In some ways, Parker Brand is likened to a business consulting company.
Oran gladly coaches clients on internal communication, organization, and structure issues. They like to describe themselves as “nimble.” They’re versatile and work quickly to create good media for their clients and are driven to meet deadlines, often working late at night.
How does an advertising agency advertise? They do print ads in local magazines, online text and display ads, web video and direct mail. They have a mobile billboard in the form of their new video production van. And because of their stellar reputations established over years of working in the ad industry, word-of-mouth advertising also serves their brand well.
“We look for new customers – people who want to work with us,” said Oran. “We do not go after our competitors’ clients. Competition does not drive us. We prefer to compete with ourselves internally. Our model is about service, not just making a play for media dollars. We focus on how much creative work can we do for our clients without hitting their bottom line. We’re efficient, reliable and we get the job done.”
Overcoming Challenges Through Effective Marketing
At Parker Brand, they understand the challenges small businesses on a budget face. One of the biggest hurdles confronting new businesses is knowing how to get their message out there to potential clients. The Parkers meet with business owners and help them assess their market. They ask, “Who do you think your customers are? What are you doing to reach them?”
Many entrepreneurs don’t plan ahead and have a budget for advertising. Oran is honest with his clients. “Anything else would taint our brand. If they don’t have enough money for effective advertising, I tell them,” he said.
Oran helps business owners put together a plan and encourages them to set aside money for advertising. He helps them determine effective marketing tools. Often, he sees entrepreneurs open their businesses without first setting the groundwork, establishing a plan for marketing, and designing a logo. He suggests they work with a creative team early on in the process to improve the chances of success.
Since Oran and Michelle each worked for several other Lake Area advertising and marketing companies, they know the industry well. Oran dislikes the transient culture of most ad firms. “People just don’t stay,” he observed. “They bounce around from company to company a lot. We call it musical chairs. When someone leaves a company, there’s a chair open. Then we watch. Everyone shifts. Everyone vies for a better position.”
Oran and Michelle are trying to change that traditional culture in their own business. “We want to make new chairs,” said Oran. “We’re not looking to move people around. We might add a chair, but we don’t want to lose a chair.”
The Parkers recently hired Chad Blankenbaker. A native of Rosepine, he attended Sowela and majored in graphic communication.
“I always wanted to be a graphic designer,” he said. “When I was in school, I didn’t know what that truly meant; I just knew it was something I wanted to do it. I’ve been an artist my entire life and was compelled to do something with my creative energy.”
After graduating from Sowela, Chad was hired by Signs Now of Lake Charles. He became fast friends with Oran and Michelle. The Parkers saw his talent and strong work ethic and wanted him to join their team. Their second employee, Erin Hood, also a graduate of Sowela, recently joined Parker Brand on February 4.
A Tight Knit Team Approach
Unlike traditional ad agency models, where each employee does one specific job, the team at Parker Brand works together like fingers on a hand. “We take a tight team approach,” said Oran. “We work in the same room. We lean on each other.”
Oran acts as the project manager and deadline enforcer. He does most of the illustration and drawing, especially the logos. Michelle is the art director and does visual aesthetics and graphic design. She has an emerging talent for video production and a good eye for how things should look in a completed piece and puts this skill to use before anything leaves for production.
Chad has production experience and is quick with print design. While they each have their niche, they work together as a team and keep projects moving forward. Each of them can perform any role, from drawing and photography to answering their clients’ questions.
Keeping the Mood Light
Because of short deadlines and the nature of their work, the team often experiences a great deal of pressure to get a job completed on time. How do they relieve the stress and keep the creative juices flowing? “We sing a lot,” said Oran. “We come up with silly jingles on the spot, then sing them out loud. It’s fun. It takes the edge off.”
The Parkers admit that, for some businesses, there can be a stigma associated with working out of a home. But for Oran and Michelle, they feel it’s a strong point. “We see it as an advantage,” Oran said. “When we have a tight deadline, Michelle and I can put the kids to bed and burn the midnight oil. And we don’t mind doing that. Of course, we don’t do it every day.”
“But when it has to be done, it can be done,” Michelle said. “It allows us to be business partners and still be parents.” Experts might advise couples who work together to leave work at work, but not these two. “We always talk shop,” Michelle said. “We enjoy keeping the creative energy alive.” They talk about projects while eating dinner and relaxing in the evening and claim it’s often in these down times that they come up with their best ideas.
Orange is Their Signature Color
An integral part of Parker Brand is the color orange. They’ve decorated their office with orange walls and accessories. The background color of their logo is orange. Their mascot is a little squishy blaze-orange oddity called Parker Pal whose magnet head holds orange paperclips. Pens, mugs, and other freebies they hand out – all orange. Why orange? Oran says they chose orange for a lot of reasons. His name is almost Oran(ge). The color adds creative energy. It’s fun and bright. “We try to own it,” he said.
The Parkers five-year plan includes expanding their business by building a new office and videography/photography studio on the property behind their house and hiring a fifth employee.
“We are constantly evolving,” said Oran. In the meantime, the monkey box sits on a side table in their office as a reminder of who they are, what they believe, and how they want to run their business.
For more information about Parker Brand Creative Services, go to their website www.parkerbrandcreative.com/or call (337) 214-1119.