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Mark and Graham: The Power of Personal

In a world where mass-production is the norm, lifestyle brand Mark and Graham from Williams-Sonoma is something of a maverick. It offers timeless gifts and elegant accessories adorned with complimentary personalized monograms, as well as the ability to add special words in colors and typefaces of your choosing. The result is a one-of-a-kind feel bestowed on such products as jewelry, leather goods and accessories.

  • Retail Website
  • Catalogs
  • Brand Copy
  • Name Consultation
  • Packaging
  • Blog
  • Email

Williams-Sonoma, which also happens to be the parent company of Pottery Barn and West Elm among other retailers – worked with San Francisco’s Morla Design to ensure the marketing for Mark and Graham was every bit as unique, personal and enduring as its products.

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‘Beyond just Putting a Name on Something’
At the brand’s inception, Williams-Sonoma tasked Morla Design with creating every consumer touch point, from the name, packaging, website and catalogs, to the product photography assets, brand copy, blogs and emails. All that in addition to more than 50 custom monograms that would be applied to the company’s assortment of products. All of this the studio did in a scant few months: between May 2012 until Mark and Graham’s launch in November.

When it came to developing the company’s name, Morla Design wanted it to reflect a personality, but also have some connection to monogramming and personalization. The studio met with Mark and Graham’s president, starting out with the idea of a monogram to allow customers to make their unique mark on their purchases. The resulting name is a play on the words “Making your mark” (Mark) and “Monogram” (Graham).

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The packaging set the tone for the entire brand with its beautiful boxes and grosgrain ribbons; it exudes elegance, conveying a high-end and lasting feel.

Next, when creating the monograms, Morla Design wanted to surpass expectations. “Personalization goes beyond just putting a name on something,” says President and Creative Director Jennifer Morla. “We came up with symbols that would resonate with our customers.”

For example, a couple might choose a monogram featuring each person’s first initial with a plus sign in between. Morla Design also established which font libraries would be used.

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A Dash of Personality
Morla Design wasn’t afraid to add a touch of humor to the brand’s copy voice, which would resonate with multiple generations, probably best typified by the line “Why wear somebody else’s initials when you can wear your own?”

More than 50 website templates were designed incorporating the typographic and color vocabulary they had established. While these and other digital assets didn’t necessarily mimic each other, “we created a consistent visual vocabulary across all channels,” she says. It was also important that when customers visit the website, “the product had to be the star.” To accomplish that, the backdrop is fresh, crisp and white.

There were practical concerns to consider as well, such as being able to use assets in different situations while maintaining a consistent look. For example, all photos are cropped square, allowing them to easily be incorporated into print elements and online.

When creating the catalogs, they once again went outside the norm. Instead of making the typical 8.5”-x-11” book, the Mark and Graham catalogs are perfect bound measuring 7.5” x 8.5”.

It’s clear the marketing message has made a great impression on its audience. Mark and Graham is now one of the fastest-growing brands in Williams-Sonoma’s history despite the fact that there is no print advertising.

“There’s a sense of pride that the design decisions we made early on were the right ones,” Morla says. “The brand is doing phenomenally well.

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Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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