Building a successful brand is no small feat. When you look at iconic brands that have captured hearts, minds, and consumer loyalty over time, what you don’t see is the long list of creative and strategic decisions that went into telling their compelling brand stories. The best brands out there make it look easy—but any marketing specialist will tell you that brand development is a fine art that requires a deep dive into who you are, what you offer, and why you’re different.
This exercise can be tough for entrepreneurial firms to pull off without support. While they know their business inside and out, bringing this knowledge to life in a professional, scalable brand takes careful planning and execution.
Here, we explore how two affiliated firms brought their one-of-a-kind brand stories to life in partnership with Commonwealth’s Advisor Marketing team.
Soar Wealth Strategies Embraces Independence—and a New Brand
Before they were Soar Wealth Strategies, they were Brent Connelly and Jon Schuetz, CFP®, AAMS®—newly independent and full of ideas for growing their business. Coming from a captive environment, Connelly and Schuetz had big dreams of tailoring their business to reflect their niche expertise, client commitment, and Midwestern sensibilities.
“It was a little bit unique, coming from a different broker/dealer with a national brand, but Jon and I knew from the beginning that in order to stand out in the independent space, we wanted to make sure that there was something different about our brand,” explained Connelly.
A guiding vision. Connelly and Schuetz began brainstorming how to tell their brand story. Putting their heads together, they found instant alignment in branding elements that emphasized positivity, possibility, and patriotism. “We came up with this vision of an eagle,” Connelly said, “and then we thought, ‘What’s a name we can use around an eagle?’” We searched online and found this quote that [now] hangs in our outer office,” Schuetz continued, reciting it by heart. “All birds find shelter during rain. But eagle avoids rain by flying above the clouds. Problems are common, but attitude makes the difference.
It was their aha moment. The image of an eagle soaring above it all and solving problems instantly resonated with Connelly and Schuetz—they viewed their business as a place clients can turn to for guidance and a calm, strategic perspective.
Refining the vision with creative input. By the time Connelly and Schuetz connected with Commonwealth’s Advisor Marketing team, they had a strong sense of where they wanted to head with their new brand. But they needed help refining their vision and bringing it to life. “It was fun to brainstorm together, but we clearly knew that this wasn’t our area of expertise,” Connelly explained.
“We threw a lot of ideas at them,” he continued, describing their first meeting with Advisor Marketing. “But they never shot us down. They never said, ‘No, that’s not very good.’ They were very good at letting us explore what was in our minds, and then they took that and really helped us narrow our focus.”
“What we settled on is perfect,” said Schuetz, referring to their sleek, sophisticated logo design. “They really took into consideration the shape of the eagle, the color of the eagle,” said Connelly. The new logo sets the right tone for Schuetz and Connelly’s personal style and also appeals to a broad audience.
A firm—and flexible—foundation. Settling on a brand expression that would be amenable to future changes was key for Schuetz, Connelly, and the Advisor Marketing team. “There is always a view towards what can be next as we build this brand,” said Schuetz. One brand touchpoint Soar is especially excited about is their new podcast, Financial Flight Academy, a platform for stories about people who have overcome adversity or taken a leap of faith.
For two advisors who have navigated a successful transition into the independent space, it seems that Schuetz and Connelly know a thing or two about leaps of faith—and how to guide and inspire clients to take strategic leaps of their own, too.
Element Financial Group Grows Up—and Launches a Bold New Brand
Unlike Soar Wealth Strategies, Element Financial Group had a longstanding brand—one they liked quite a bit. It was a brand that cofounders Alex Levi, AIF®, and JoanAnn Natola, AIF®, curated in 2006 when Element was still in its infancy. “We did it ourselves, so it was our baby,” Levi explained.
A lot has changed since then. “We’ve built a very strong business,” Levi said. “We grew up, and our firm grew up and matured . . . and we wanted our website to reflect that,” Natola continued.
A modest goal for an established brand. The itch to evolve the brand started off small, with “refresh” being the word Levi and Natola used to describe their goal. They wanted to change the images and tweak the language, but the objective was to brush things up while keeping the brand bones in place. When they connected with Advisor Marketing, their expectations were categorically modest.
“We had a wonderful conversation with the whole [Advisor Marketing] team,” Levi said. “They did a really great download of who we are and what our business is. Again, the whole time, we’re thinking ‘Refresh, refresh.’”
Activating the brand’s full potential. But when Levi and Natola regrouped with the team for their first project checkpoint, they received more than swapped-out imagery and light copyedits to review. After such a detailed kickoff meeting, the Advisor Marketing team recognized the distinctiveness of Element’s style—a delicate balance of expertise, empathy, professionalism, and personability—and saw that a refresh would sell them short.
Presented with a contemporary new logo, vibrant color palette, and a warm, inviting voice, Levi and Natola were stunned to see the heart and soul of their business reflected back to them in a new brand. In an instant, their refresh-only mindset was out the window. The Element brand was full of potential, and they were going to seize it.
“The first reveal was shocking to JoanAnn and I. In that instant, we realized it was more reflective of who we had become,” Levi recalled. “Welcoming, open, direct, fresh—we wanted that reflection of who we are that also reflected the business we have.”
The brand’s new look was edgy yet approachable. It expressed what Levi and Natola had long felt about their roles in a male-dominated industry that can sometimes be creatively one-dimensional. They were doing things differently in both their business and their brand, bringing a deliberately personal touch to their work. Over years of practice, there was no question that money is an emotional subject for many people. And that’s okay.
“You come to an advisor to talk about the most personal things in your life . . . for us, you can’t tiptoe around those conversations. Let’s get personal, dive right in,” Levi said, referring to core brand language that evolved through collaborative conversations with Advisor Marketing.
Putting the brand into action—and into the world. Like Soar, Element started building an entire ecosystem of branded touchpoints once their brand was in place. “Wealth advisory agreements and new client onboarding kits were immediately branded. We call it ‘Elementized,’” said Natola. “Everything from the signatures on our email, every educational deck that we create for retirement services clients—100 percent Elementized. Any invoice, any action items, any communication that goes out . . . always has our Element Financial Group logo, and it’s generally speckled with some other component of our brand.”
Levi and Natola are proud stewards of their new brand and are excited by the positive feedback from clients, prospects, and recruits. The “let’s get personal” take on advising feels good because it’s a brand slogan that comes from an authentically Element approach.
Helping Advisors Tell Their Brand Stories
As these two advisor firms will attest, investing in your brand to ensure that it represents who you are, whom you serve, and how you serve them can be a rewarding experience with valuable outcomes. If you’re ready to go down a brand-building path, don’t go it alone. Just like your clients turn to you for financial planning expertise, you may benefit from engaging the services of a brand development specialist.
At Commonwealth, our Advisor Marketing professionals partner with new and existing advisor firms to not only do the hands-on work of crafting logos, polishing messaging, and building websites but also mentor every advisor on being a strategic brand steward that inspires confidence in existing and prospective clients.
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