May 10, 2016
Posted By: Marc



Join Sheri L Koetting as she gives insider tips about packaging, brand strategy, and overall brand positioning at three upcoming events. These talks are perfect for beauty brands who are thinking about their next steps.


“Customizing Stock Packaging to Create a Luxury Experience”
Luxe Pack  |  May 11  |  10:00 am  |  Pier 92, NYC
Sheri will be speaking with sustainable production expert Eva Lundqvist of Stora Enso. They will discuss utilizing on-demand printing, working in small batches, and out-of-the-ordinary production techniques to create the feeling of limited edition, hand-crafted luxury.



“Effectively Using Packaging to Tell the Right Brand Story” 
EastPack: Packaging Design for Health & Beauty
June 15  |  3:30 pm  |  Javits Center, NYC
Sheri, Victoria Neilson from VSN Brand Innovation, and Michele Sawyer of Sawyer Design Vision will uncover how to successfully create a brand story, establish a “pass around factor” through brand narrative, and how brand packaging can provide the most ROI by making it your “silent salesman.”



Beauty Entrepreneur Summit
May 16 – June 5
This beauty summit gives attendees the opportunity to learn key insights from beauty industry experts and successful brands every day. Sheri will be interview by Private Label brand consultant, Melody Bockelman, about how to stand out in a competitive market. Online viewing is free, contact us for registration details.



May 9, 2016
Posted By: Marc

Sheri L Koetting's latest GCI Magazine Article, "When Green Isn't Enough"

MSLK Partner and Chief Strategist, Sheri L Koetting’s latest article for GCI Magazine tackles the concerns brands face when positioning themselves as “natural” or “organic.” What may have worked well only a few years ago is likely not to be a best practice in today’s highly-competitive retail environment. Sheri emphasizes that while brands may have once been able to make a name for themselves as leaders in the green beauty space, a well-defined brand story needs to tell more than how pure a brand is. Read the full article here:

March 16, 2016
Posted By: Sheri

Does Your Beauty Brand Have a Purpose?

Many businesses are seeking ways to develop a brand story in order to form deeper connections to staff and customers. Giving back to a cause is a powerful way to enhance a brand story while helping others.

Being associated with a cause helps communicate that your brand exists for a purpose other than profit. If done correctly, your charitable contribution creates opportunities to showcase the issues you care about most.

The merger of making a positive difference in the world and letting your community know about it is called cause marketing, or cause branding.

Read more

March 11, 2016
Posted By: Marc

Communication-Arts-Avivi-MSLK-2016-interactive-arrts-issueWe’re thrilled to have our work featured in the new issue of Communication Arts Magazine! It’s always great to be recognized amongst our peers — and in as a prestigious publication as this. More info here:

January 29, 2016
Posted By: Marc

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.28.17 PM

Recently, our Strategy Director, Sheri Koetting, was asked by Packaging Digest about ways in which brands can effectively communicate their stories. Read all about it here:

Sheri will be moderating two conference sessions during WestPack 2016, Feb. 9-11, in Anaheim, CA, including a panel on Using Packaging to Tell the Right Brand Story on Wednesday, Feb. 10, from 3:15PM – 4:00PM. Planning to attend? Use the discount code ‘DSCSPK’ to get 10% off your registration.


September 10, 2015
Posted By: Marc


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This adage seems to make perfect sense, from a marketing standpoint. No one wants to settle on a bad idea that leads to no measurable success. Too often, brands try “even if you succeed, try, try again.” This results in brands which appear to suffer from ADD. Brands with multiple messages — no matter how individually great they are —  will still find there is consumer confusion. We see this happening in advertising campaigns, packaging, websites. Shockingly, this happens with logos, where there are endless variations, sometimes related, sometimes not.

Initial marketing success is often found by relying on help from friends and  relatives. Typically, there is little or no budget allocated for marketing. When brands experience rapid growth, they often end up with separate marketing strategies for online and print. This rarely happens by design. It’s likely the result of no plan, or lack of communication. 

The larger issue is that there is no one within the organization in charge of the messaging. Without any documentation of what is “on-brand” vs “off-brand,” nothing is communicated. Smart brands abandon this slow, inefficient, and expensive process. A simple and clear approach is what’s needed to refine the brand’s message.

The Brand Audit
When messaging can be viewed all together, brands can understand how many messages exist. MSLK’s Brand Strategy process studies an organization’s messaging across all media. During this process, themes usually emerge. Social and online statistics can also be become powerful tools for insight into the most effective messaging to use.

Just One Thing
For design and marketing, “Just One Thing” is our internal mantra. We believe having one great thing is more powerful than five. In branding, this can mean a simple logo rendered in a distinctive color. A memorable material used in a product’s packaging could be the “One Thing.” Sometimes, it could even be as simple as a word. The key is simple and distinctive within the context of the marketplace. 

Coping with Internal Fatigue
Successful brands often become bored by their own successful campaigns. (Or packaging, logos, whatever…) The knee-jerk solution is to scrap it for something new. This happens most with internal marketing departments, the desire to create something new.

Experience shows that a well-laid marketing plan should serve a brand well for years. If you’re tired of the same messaging for the past two years, this does not mean that your audience feels that way! They do not interact with your brand with this intensity day after day. Unless this sense is coming from the outside, you are likely just beginning to reach people. It is usually a matter of refining the focus, and trying a few minor variations on it to keep things fresh. Seasonal promotions are great reasons to use theme and variation.

The Key to Simplicity is Focus
Simplicity can be difficult to embrace. It forces you to limit your options and focus your efforts. Steve Jobs built the world’s most successful company based on simplicity and focus:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”


July 9, 2015
Posted By: Marc

Sheri recently made a presentation at the Westchester Digital Summit on “Defining Your Brand Audience and Need.” After her presentation, she sat down with Chris Dessi, the CEO of Silverback Social. Amongst other things, they discuss the creative process, working with brands and the importance of Style + Substance™

April 22, 2015
Posted By: Marc


Mark your calendars, there are now four chances to catch MSLK partner and Chief Strategist, Sheri L Koetting, as she discusses topics such as how to define your brand, how to position you brand, and packaging design considerations for brands of all sizes. See the info after the jump for dates, and registration information & more!

Read more

March 25, 2015
Posted By: Marc


There’s the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” which applies to much in life. However, in branding, a part can often be equal the whole — if not greater.

Today’s modern brands need to effectively communicate their organization’s message to an ever-larger and ever more distracted audience. This requires more sophisticated branding tools to properly connect.

In the past, brands needed to do little more than be consistent with their visual presentation. That is, an organization would create a logo and then apply it to, well, just about anything: stationery, packaging, television, billboards, etc. This generally served brands well for decades. Yet, today’s audiences are far too savvy to accept messages from brands who feel content to “set it and forget” by  blasting their message out robotically, regardless of context. The most successful, dynamic, and thriving brands today have adapted to the swift changes in media (and media consumption) by creating powerful visual identities that are contextual and responsive. More often than not, they have developed identities whose parts can often act as a shorthand for the brand as a whole, allowing for maximum recognition in the widest variety of contexts.

The term “extractable branding unit,” or EBU, is a common term in the realm of consumer packaged goods, referring to any recognizable part of the larger whole brand identity. Often, this is a discernible graphic style, color, or image helping to convey brand cohesion across multiple products in a retail setting. However, we find that the concept of an EBU is very useful when referring to the entire brand, and the best place to extract from is the logo itself.

Read more

July 25, 2014
Posted By: Sheri

DSC_5248-copy2When Marc and I first started MSLK back in 1998, I was armed and ready with lots of training as graphic designer. However, like almost every other design business owner before me, I’d never received any training on how to run a business, much less a graphic design business, which has its own unique challenges.

My formal training had shown me how to translate the spoken and unspoken needs of a business into compelling visuals. I could simplify messaging, choose the right typeface, colors, and imagery, but I barely knew how to guide a client through that process. After all, I wasn’t pulling a prefabricated design off the shelf, but rather creating something unique for each client and starting from scratch each time.

So that’s how I sold creative. We are going to create something unique and custom-tailored just for you. It will never have been done before because it’s just for you. Then I’d show them all the beautiful visuals in my portfolio of lovely artifacts I had created for other clients. If I was lucky there was a solution in there that was similar to a challenge the prospective client was experiencing. Then I could talk about that similarity; but mostly what I was selling was style alone. I was also inadvertently selling risk. Take a chance with us because we are so innovative and creative we don’t have a set process.

It was around this time that some colleagues, Marc, and I started the group Spark. Spark is a group of design business owners who get together each month to talk about the issues relevant to running a design firm. Instantly, I saw a few themes emerge:
1. Every design business owner felt exactly the same as we did, and were experiencing the same challenges.
2. All of them were trained as graphic design practitioners with little to no experience running a business.
3. Each designer was inventing his or her own solutions, akin to silently working on reinventing the wheel without even knowing that a wheel exists.
4. Everyone was lonely and sought more camaraderie and support. Read more