Knoxville Weekend Feature: Building Brands

Video produced by Knoxville Weekend

Written by Susan Alexander

Three execs talk about branding and why it matters

If we’re going to discuss branding, we’d best start with what it is: According to, the process involves creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer’s mind. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

Two Knoxville business owners and a nonprofit exec share their thoughts on branding below.

The Maker City

Charlotte Tolley, executive director, Nourish Knoxville and Market Square Farmers Market

“When we first started meeting about the market in 2003, we decided to use a poster by YeeHaw (a Knoxville letterpress company at the time) to promote the market. Design makes things look professional or legitimate. People liked the poster; we started selling them immediately. The poster was probably better than the market. It had a modernish feel with classic agricultural style, which was the idea of the market overall.

“In 2013, when we started Nourish Knoxville, we wanted a more clean, cohesive look to both
organizations. We went to Nathanna Design Studio for that. Because we started as a farmers’ market, we wanted something simple and easy to understand that we can use over multiple platforms, not something overly stylized. We wanted fresh produce, whole food, green fields: farmers are our wheelhouse.

“I think the biggest thing about the makers movement and buying locally is people want to hear the maker’s story – who they are, what they’re passionate about. Use Facebook and Instagram to promote yourself as a brand, and tag us (or other venues you sell in) to make it easy for us as a promoter to reshare.”

The Maker City

Shaun Parrish, co-owner with wife Meg of Wild Love Bake House, Old City Java and Pearl

“We wanted to really bring a flavor of Knoxville to what we were doing. We wanted to do it right; not take shortcuts. All our croissants and pastry were rolled by hand for the longest time. We use lots of local products —eggs, dairy, seasonal fruit – we base our menu around what’s available.

“Naming a business has got to be one of the hardest thing to do. Naming a child is a whole lot easier. We called it Wild Love – the phrasing came from a song title, but the idea was unbridled passion, how passionate we were about the work we are doing.

“We had worked with Jesse and Lauren at Nathanna to help us define our branding for Old City Java, so it wasn’t a question of who we would work with when we opened Wild Love in 2015. We had some ideas on the front end; it’s a process of conveying what’s in our minds to them and they interpret it. It was important to work with people who are experts in our field. They patronize our businesses, they’re a part of this community and understand what we’re looking for and who we want to appeal to. That was instrumental in defining our brand.”

The Maker City

Lauren Wagner, co-owner with husband Jesse of Nathanna Design Studio

“When we meet with clients, we want to create a relationship. We love to hear where they’re coming from, what they’re passionate about. We help them to see their business for what it is but through a branding mindset. They’re often so close to what they’re doing it makes it hard to see what they are to the outside world. We like to talk to our clients about what they do really well and how they are perceived by their potential customers and present solutions for them that can set them apart.

“Our services include branding, social media strategy, logo identity and developing a web presence so they can compete in the world and be successful. We provide custom hand-lettered, hand-drawn illustrations at a one-of-a-kind level.

Nathanna is coined from the parts of the Wagners’ names they don’t use – Anna Lauren and Jesse Nathaniel. “We intentionally keep the branding elements that surround it simple and clean. Our signature brand color, a pop of reddish-orange, is consistent throughout all collateral represented by Nathanna, and our logo mark, a N-A lockup, speaks to our name being a combination of names. We like for our branding to be subtle, clear, and playful in an effort to demonstrate that branding can be visually effective without being overbearing.”