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Small Business Snapshot | VIA Studio

Louisville advertising and digital agency has created modern branding and design for 24 years
via studio
VIA Studio’s Ben Wilson, left, and Morgan Plappert, at a 2018 workshop about how they collaboratively bridge the gap between strategy and creative design. The Louisville company often hosts events on a variety of web design and marketing topics.

By Lorie Hailey

(Editor’s note: Small Business Snapshot is a new monthly feature of The Lane Report. About 99% of businesses in Kentucky are considered small, and they employ 44% of Kentucky’s workers, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Small Business Administration.)

VIA Studio has been behind the scenes of some extensive corporate rebranding and website redesign efforts in Louisville. It has also helped some of its clients stay operational during the COVID-19 pandemic by incorporating online ordering options on their websites.

The brand identity, design, marketing and web development company first opened its doors in 1996, when the internet was so new that not many businesses even had internet access, let alone websites. Times have definitely changed.

“Until about 2010, a website—and your online strategy—were more of an afterthought to more traditional advertising initiatives,” said Jason Clark, president of VIA. “The biggest change is that digital strategy is now the foundation for marketing programs. We’ve seen more digitally focused agencies like ours grow and thrive, while more traditional agencies have had to make massive pivots in their offerings.”

VIA Studio has about 18 full-time staff members and a network of specialists to assist with projects that require video and photography.

Here’s what Clark had to say about VIA Studio:

Where is VIA Studio located?

223 S. Clay St., Louisville

What do we do?

Brand and marketing strategy, brand identity, design, web development, and advertising initiatives

When you meet someone new, how do you describe your job?

I lead the greatest team of agency talent in the region. My job is to make sure that they are providing impactful branding, marketing and digital services to our clients. Sometimes this is business development and sales, sometimes it’s research, process improvements, or company culture.

What’s your favorite most recent project?

My most favorite recent project was our rebrand and new website for Kentucky Performing Arts (formerly the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts). It was an 18-month project to rename, rebrand and build a new website focused on a simple ticketing experience. It was a combination of all our talent, and exactly what we’re best at: solving complicated branding and digital challenges on a national level.

We also really enjoyed our work for GE Appliances/FirstBuild on their Forge Clear Ice System. We helped brand a product and find an audience for a really awesome luxury product. We played a big role in that product launch, which achieved 300% of its funding goal in the first 30 days of pre-ordering.

Before COVID-19, what would you have said has been your biggest challenge as a small business? 

Our biggest challenge is retaining a good balance of project and retainer work. Oftentimes it can be feast or famine. In service of that, our operations have gotten more sophisticated over the years, which I attribute entirely to our COO, Christal Glover. We strike a great balance of looking out to the community and our reputation, and looking in to keep great processes, workflow and culture.

When the quarantine was first put into place, a restaurant client, Mayan Cafe, needed help communicating their take-out options. We spent the first weekend of the quarantine working on a new menu and amplifying that message over Facebook. That initial message received over 40,000 interactions on Facebook from views and shares to increase business for the first few weeks of the shutdown.

We’re currently working on some ecommerce initiatives for clients, now that the value of ecommerce is undeniable.

What do you think will be the long-term effects of the changes we’ve made during COVID-19?

Definitely more remote work. I know several small-business owners who were reluctant to allow remote work, but in some ways they are seeing that it’s actually better, as long as you have a good culture established.

I think businesses will take their digital strategy more seriously now. With most advertising and communication happening online right now, it’s critical to find ways to gain awareness and conversion in a very noisy marketplace. Luckily, that’s something we’ve been doing for a long time, so I think this positions us well now and during the recovery.

Is VIA Studio involved in the community? How so?

It has always been important to me to be involved in the community. I am currently serving on a steering committee for GLI (Greater Louisville Inc., the Metro Chamber of Commerce) to advance technology initiatives in the region. I’ve served in a similar way with the Fund for the Arts, to advance the Imagine 2020 initiative.

As a company, we are proud of our alliances with community organizations such as Kentucky Performing Arts, Louisville Parks Foundation, the Jewish Community of Louisville and many more. We understand the unique challenges of nonprofits and strive hard to serve the organizations that serve our community.

Lorie Hailey is special publications editor of The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]

To nominate a business to be featured in the Small Business Snapshot, email [email protected]