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As we celebrate our 30th year as a collective agency, I wanted to go back five years to the most formative milestone for me: creating CHIEF.

CHIEF was founded as a labor of love. Our official launch was at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2012 where we made it known that we were setting out to create the greatest branding agency the world has ever known. We called CHIEF a lifestyle brand that does branding. I had always been drawn to this idea, and tried to turn everything I touched into a brand.


In my drawings as a kid, logos feature prominently. There’s a picture of a plane I drew when I was six that looks in every way like a kid’s drawing, except for the Pan Am logo on the tail, which was perfectly executed. Brands spoke to me then, as they speak to me now. The underlying principles fascinated me, and I recognized how brands could add meaning and change how people live their lives. Great brands brought power. I wanted to be part of it.

We put a lot of effort into creating the CHIEF brand—the narrative was critical. We knew we were creating the mythology that would guide us. We had to get it right. We had a simple statement:


“Fearlessly going where others dare not tread, bringing humanity and truth to everything we do, taking chances, risking failure, going for it. That’s what we do.”

That said it all. We also built a culture around our physical environment and used branded language to help define it:


“Our place is noisy, hectic, chaotic, and wonderful—just like the world we live in and the markets we serve. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”


The philosophy that connected everything was summed up in our most powerful signal, “Be Brave.”

This was the tone we set. We wanted to be a place that pushed for possibility, chased aspirations and delivered brilliant work; work so smart that CEOs and boards would want us in the room. We stayed focused and began turning that dream into a reality. Some of my most formative experiences came during this period—working with the owners of Sandals resorts and flying all over the Caribbean, once just for lunch in the Bahamas; being onstage with the 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus in Saudi Arabia; convincing Paul Newman’s son-in-law that we were the right team to help push the Newman’s Own Foundation vision; going head-to-head with General Wesley Clark; and so many other great experiences working with influential and creative leaders. It was exciting. And it was all because we were a team that understood our purpose, and pushed each other to achieve what we thought impossible.

CHIEF be brave poster sxsw

Since that time, we’ve come to a new place, and we’re a new CHIEF with incredible capabilities and expertise. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve changed since combining forces with Rock Creek Strategic Marketing in 2015. And even though it’s a whole new world for us, what I see now are those values and aspirations that drove us in the beginning shining through in every corner of this building and across the country in our Portland office. It’s what makes me so excited to be here every day. I wouldn’t want to miss it.