Around Chautauqua County in 72 Hours

Posted May 21, 2019 by Keith Seiz

When Jonathan and I decided to step away from the growing agency we founded and start all over again, the idea was to:

  1. Stop being business people and return to being creative people
  2. Only work with clients, products or services we truly believed in

We also wanted to focus as much as possible on working in the food and beverage industry. This meant that we may have to turn down opportunities if we felt an ingredient or manufacturer was not contributing positively to the health and wellbeing of society, or to the environment.

We recently took on a new client that meets these criteria and more. We kicked off the engagement last week with a whirlwind tour of Chautauqua County, New York. Not familiar with this part of New York? Neither were we until a couple months ago.

This Western New York county borders Lake Erie as well as Pennsylvania. It’s one of those places where farmland and water dominate the landscape, and cities, towns and villages play a supporting role.

Unfortunately, the agriculture composition of Chautauqua County is mainly occupied by concord grapes and dairy farms, two great products that happen to be experiencing significant declines in consumer demand. Simply put, our society doesn’t drink as much dairy or eat as many concord grapes as we used to, and farmers are struggling.

Our new client is determined to change that by establishing a new growing base of crops and ingredients that will return farmers to profitability and keep the food supply more local. We strongly believe in and support in both these missions, and we’ve been brought on board to brand these initiatives.

To kick off the project, Jonathan and I spent 72 hours immersing ourselves in Chautauqua County’s history and heritage while gaining an understanding of the current plight and future visions. We interviewed county executives, village mayors, business leaders and community developers. We visited local businesses of all types, from diners to historical museums to libraries to breweries. We spoke to farmers and leaders of agriculture education institutions.

It was an incredibly busy trip, often stressful and sometimes sublime. All of it was necessary. When we take on a branding project, it’s not an office exercise where we sit around a table and pitch ideas. In branding, you have to immerse yourself in the project by being on-site and solely focused on the task at hand. No distractions.

That’s why Jonathan and I traveled to Chautauqua County. We needed to feel the crisp air, see the farms and get our shoes dirty. We had to talk to the people, regardless of how far they were removed from our branding task. An hour conversation may only provide a snippet of information, but it helps us build a narrative.

We can’t wait to share more about our project and the results. Stay tuned!


Let us know your pursuits. We’ll find the best way to get you there.