CMND SHFT Speaker: Meghan Phillips

“We think the best things happen when you sit down and break bread with people.”

Meghan Phillips

Meghan Phillips of The Honey Agency was a little surprised when she was asked to speak at CMND SHFT — not because she doesn’t think of herself as a creative, but she wasn’t sure the creative community did.

“I’ve always felt like an outsider to the creative world. I don’t think I’m even classified as a creative by a lot of people. It’s been a struggle.

I thought, why isn’t Rebecca [co-founder and creative director at Honey Agency] talking? But she said, ‘You ARE a creative. There’s so much creativity to marketing.’ Marketing gets a bad rap for focusing on things like target audiences, KPIS, and SWOT Analysis. But these are fundamentals which I believe lay the foundation which helps everybody, including the design team. There is a yin and yang of marketing and design. There’s always been a battle between who leads the conversation. Is it the creatives that need to come in or is it the marketers? But I think that’s changing. Now there’s this idea that you can be a creative in so many ways. If we work together and respect each other, we’ll create a better experience for the client.

”That’s why it’s so important that you are putting on events like CMND SHFT. It’s exactly what we need in Sacramento. I think we should rethink what “creative” means so that more people can feel like they are part of a creative community. Whether your a chef, a stain glass artist, a motivational speaker – there’s this idea of breaking down barriers of what is creative. It’s about inspiration. Do you inspire others through what you do? Do you have passion for what you do?

Photos from the Honey Agency Instagram Page.

Embracing Food & Wine

Meghan grew up in Sonoma, CA where her love of food and wine began early. “Wine has always been part of my life. I would clean tanks during the summer, I had friends’ families that owned wineries. And when I think back now to what drew me to wine– it was agriculture, it was farmers, it was the people who labored with love – and it was a fun, awesome product that I could taste and enjoy.”

Her love of wine continued as she entered Sonoma State and decided on Business Administration. “My concentration was in Wine Marketing, I think it was the first year they started it – today they have a full wine business program”

Meghan worked at a winery while getting her degree, and after graduation was hired at Viansa Winery where she worked for 4 years. “That’s where I really learned about in-house. You have to wear so many hats and really learn one brand very well.”

For people thinking about jumping into agency life right out of school, I suggest taking a minute and considering going in-house where you can learn one brand really well. Because, when you go into an agency, you’re doing 15 brand in one week. And if you’ve worked in-house, you’ve learned the ropes, you know what a brand needs.”

Meghan made her way to Sacramento after being recruited by Java City to help build their direct-to-consumer programs, and while she enjoyed her time there (and where she met Rebecca), her first love was constantly calling her back into its arms… wine.

A Guide to America’s Farm-To-Fork Capital

In 2007 she branched out on her own and started Wine Country Consulting. She began working with boutique clients up in the foothills and commuted heavily to Napa and San Francisco. During this time the wine industry was going through a transition. “Economies were tanking and wine was needing to adjust to a new marketing strategy”

Honey Agency is Born

While working on her consulting, Meghan missed having a partner-in-creative. “Rebecca always took the marketing strategy, listened to the client, and brought designs to life.” Meghan says she eventually convinced Rebecca to quit her job, partner up and together, start Honey Agency. “We were getting a little burnt out and thought some of the human connection was getting lost. So, we went back to craft – craft beverage, craft food… even craft Ag. We want to work with people who are experts at their craft.”

The first project the two worked on as Honey was Cupcake Vineyards. “The Honey Agency was really launched with Cupcake Vineyards. We worked on that brand for two years supporting their internal team on marketing strategy as well as the look and feel.”

Honey Client: Cupcake Vineyards

Honey Agency continued working with a large wine conglomerate for several years helping launch brands and more brands.

Rebecca and Meghan having fun with Food Literacy.

One of the secrets to their success happened early on, and is something Meghan thinks they should share more. When they were able to hire their first employee it wasn’t a designer or a copywriter… Our first employee was a personal assistant for Rebecca and I. We have found that it’s one of the best things we have done. We are stronger people when we know that our families are being taken care of. We can focus.

Their second employee was a bookkeeper, then designers and then everything blew up when web design and digital came into play. Now Honey Agency works with local and national brands including: Dr. Praeger’s Purely Sensible Foods, Silk Road Soda, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Farm to Fork Capital of America, Food Literacy Center, Passmore Ranch, Save Our Water and many, many more.

What does the future hold for Honey Agency? I think we’re going to stay a boutique agency focusing on wine and food right now. We know Ag, we know food and beverage and we know consumers – that’s our niche. We want national clients who respect the fact that we are in Sacramento and know farm-to-fork so well.”

Graphic created for Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s Annual Report.

The Yin and Yang of Marketing & Design

So how does Honey Agency approach marketing and design internally?

“We make sure our process is always asking “why.” We believe in collaboration of design and marketing and everything we touch needs to both look good and be purposeful. Creative builds on marketing’s foundation and then we refine together.”

Dr. Praeger’s Website

Another trick – mood boards. “We don’t do anything unless the client approves a mood board. And it helps me as well, because I know that the designers already have something in their mind that I can’t see. And their descriptions don’t always mean anything to me. Like modern. What your vision of modern is might not be mine. I need to see it.”

The Future

“I’d like to see more respect for Sacramento agencies, outside of Sacramento. There are phenomenal, talented people in this town, and I think that we’re under rated and untapped. But we’re about ready to blossom. Don’t sell yourself short and let’s start bringing eyes on this town.”

We hope you can come hear Meghan’s talk at CMND SHFT on August 13th, but if you can’t make it, here are a few links to more information on the Honey Agency crew.