Thanks to many different types of evolving technology, the world of retail branding has changed rapidly in recent years. Shoppers have gotten smarter, and retail businesses have had to update their branding and marketing efforts to reflect that. Chute Gerdeman is a local company that has carved out a national niche in this sector, working with some of the largest retailers including Whole Foods and Disney.
We recently spoke with Brian Shafley, President & Chief Creative Officer at Chute Gerdeman, to find out more about the history of their business and how much things have changed in the world of retail marketing over the past twenty years.
Q: What can you tell us about the history of Chute Gerdeman?
A: Chute Gerdeman began as an effort to create the prototype retail design firm by Elle Chute and Denny Gerdeman in 1989 at a time when department stores were clamoring for branded “shop-in-shop” concepts. Since then, the company has emerged as one of the most recognized and admired retail design firms in the United States and has created flagship and transformative concepts for clients worldwide including Disney, M&M’s, Dominos, Foot Locker, Lowe’s, Mattel, Whole Foods, and Smithsonian. Located in the very cool and historic 1885-vintage Brewery District Icehouse Building, the company is owned by a small team of active business partners who represent the diverse disciplines of retail intelligence, brand strategy, design and implementation.
Q: Being over two decades old, how has the realm of branding and design evolved and how has Chute adapted to the changing landscape?
A: The advent of e-commerce, social media and technology has been a game-changer for our business as we create and implement a complete brand experience picture for our clients and their customers – and not only within “brick and mortar” stores. Over that time, CG has evolved into a “brand experience” agency because as the retail market has matured, our clients have demanded an integrated approach of brand, business, and merchandising strategy, consumer insights, 2D and 3D design, and now “omni-channel” digital media. We like to say: “Brand in Every Dimension”.
Q: How does Chute view Columbus as a city where businesses can grow/thrive, and how has Chute benefited from being located in Columbus over the years?
A:The geography of Columbus has always been a huge asset to our business by providing centralized access to the nation’s largest population, education and business centers. But beyond that, the vibrant, open-minded and youthful attitude that is characteristic of Columbus is absolutely ideal for creative firms like ours. The growing service, research and technology economy in Central Ohio attracts some of the nation’s best talent to our city. Here in Columbus, we have global connections but also a finger on the pulse of North America’s mass market.
Q: Would you say that Columbus has a place on the national stage as far as the branding, creative, and design industry goes with as many creative firms that we have here?
A: Without a doubt, Columbus is known as one of the top three cities in the nation for retail branding and design. It must be something in the water here! Actually, Columbus has long been fertile ground for retail creativity and entrepreneurship for many reasons including the area’s retail DNA, top design and marketing schools, and the city’s long history as a top consumer test market. The city’s reputation for creative design excellence is getting a lot of attention on the coasts and abroad.
Q: What advice would you give to any small business owners or entrepreneurs that want to have a strong brand, but have little time/budget to get things started?
A: Make a name for yourself with interesting and meaningful project work. Mix in diverse and entrepreneurial clients who have a thirst for shifting the paradigm, for shaking up the bag. And take a position on thought leadership, get out there and interact with others, mentor emerging young talent, and share ideas. Retail and design are all about thinking young and being open for anything. For us, it’s not really about the size of our company that’s important, but the culture, creativity, and results that keep clients happy and coming back for more.
Q: Are there any big plans or upcoming announcements in the near future at Chute?
A: This is a most exciting time for CG as we are in strong growth mode, we’ve significantly added to our creative staff in the digital, design and business intelligence areas of our business. Retail design and branding is in a very dynamic period of change. Our network of business partners is growing more global every day and we have a series of breakthrough concepts to be revealed this year.
More information can be found online at www.chutegerdeman.com.