Financial Planning is a Life-Long Journey

Even though financial planning is the heart and soul of our client, the Birch Cove Group, they felt the need to add another level that would differentiate them from the competition in this market. Co-founder and current partner, Robert Bjork, discovered the value of financial planning early on as a student at the University of Minnesota when a financial planner helped his family after his father passed away from cancer. It was this experience that caused Mr. Bjork to change his studies and embrace financial planning as a life long calling.

From the very beginning, Mr. Bjork has differentiated his practice by recognizing that his clients prosper best by providing them with tools for both financial planning and life planning. It is this approach that we focused on to help rebrand Birch Cove Group.


With over 300,000 financial advisers nationwide, it is a competitive landscape, especially for those FPA’s who want to attract high-net-worth individuals with significant assets. A sophisticated group, many of whom are retiring from the C-suite of large corporations, or some who have acquired significant assets from selling a business, or others that are high-income professionals. These are clients that require the Birch Cove Group to offer a complete and comprehensive suite of tools in order to satisfy their complex needs.

In addition to recreating their website, social media and collateral, key messages were developed to accurately express their core brand essence.

Birch Cove recognizes that the growth and protection of assets are closely tied to the life issues that clients experience throughout their lifetime prior to retirement. The two are intertwined, and BCG takes a very active role in bundling together the financial and life issues.

A meaningful life is the new currency of retirement, which is why Birch Cove puts financial planning and life planning together for every client.

See what your life can look like


The new Birch Cove Group homepage:


Birch Cove Group's capabilities:


View the live Birch Cove Group website here.

2017 Is A Wrap

. . .  but not so fast.

Love this business. There’s constant change, new businesses, new opportunities, new people and new ideas. There is one bit of wonder about new ideas. Just when you think that you have had your last good idea two weeks ago, and you are in a panic mode, all of a sudden you get new ideas in bunches. We experienced all of this and more this past year.

We facilitated several branding sessions for new clients, married up new logos to the new brand, created the corresponding brand identities, created and developed a very diverse group of websites, worked collaboratively with some insanely creative partners, and headed the business association for all of the retailers and restaurants located directly out the front door of our office here in northeast Minneapolis.

Before we move on to 2018 though, we would like to linger for just a short while on 2017 and how we ended up. The ending is a good one, so stick around for this.

Believe in Good(nola)!

I started as a graphic design intern at Kazoo in May, and my very first project was to create a label for Goodnola, a homemade granola. What a great first assignment! The Kazoo team had already gone back and forth with the client a few times, and knew the label should have a old-fashioned look to it that references the homemade nature of the granola, while also evoking the sense of a high-quality product. With some guidance from Mila, I pursued a Delft Blue inspired design because the style's association with homemade craft fit with our client's business.


The above examples of Delft Blue helped inspire the Goodnola design.

I used a monochromatic blue color scheme, and incorporated floral illustrations that borrowed characteristics from oat and barley grains. For a typeface, I chose a serif font that fits with the classic look of the Delft Blue, and also evokes an old-style, homemade feeling.This project only required the design of a front label, but I decided to expand the identity system by designing a back label as well. To do this, I took an illustration from the front and created a pattern out of it. Solid, blue outlines ground the pattern and prevent it from feeling too busy, and copy sits inside a white box where the text is easy to read. 

This was a fun project to work on, and I enjoyed having the challenge of creating a design that references a particular art style. If you've got any package design needs, send them over to Kazoo and we'll work with you to give your product a personality that stands out and speaks for itself. Bonus: I'll be one happy intern!

Branding for a Newsworthy Event

Every year, the Northeast Business Association (NEBA) hosts a dog parade in the neighborhood. The purpose of this event, in part, is to show off the Northeast neighborhood and all of its locally owned, small businesses in a fun way. Kazoo Branding has the job of creating posters, flyers, and social media postings for this event. This year our work resulted in a huge turnout and spots on two different news outlets. Read on to find out how we drummed up attention for the Northeast Dog Parade.

We started by creating an eye-catching visual identity.

IMG_4198 copy.jpg

Posters and flyers in bright, primary colors catch the attention of passerby from a distance and stand out on a bulletin board full of competing information.

Then we posted on social media. A lot.

Using the visual identity created for the print materials, we designed several graphics specifically for Facebook. These were posted about twice a week for the month leading up to the event.

Finally, we helped make sure the event ran smoothly.

We took lots of pictures and handed out promotional materials for local businesses, as well as cute Dog Parade buttons that Kazoo designed.

The rigorous campaigning for this event resulted in the Northeast Dog Parade being featured on Channel 5 news later that night, and given a spot in CityPages as well. Given that NEBA hoped to draw people and attention to the neighborhood through this event, we chalked it up to be a great success. Whether it’s for a new restaurant or a dog parade, Kazoo Branding knows how to build buzz.

Behind the Scenes: SUPPYS Product Shoot

Now and then, we find ourselves in a situation where a client needs on demand, high quality product photography.

Such was the case with our client, SUPPYS who recently began to offer a children’s chewable multi-vitamin through a monthly subscription plan. Following closely was the launch of their new Omega-3 fish oil smoothie. The “mom bloggers” were showing great interest because it is such unique product - really good for kids, and it tastes great.

Very quickly there was a need to simultaneously get product photography ready and available to the bloggers, on the website and in social media.

Out came our light set, down came the white sweep, and in comes the camera. Combined with the available light in our office along with our strobe lights, we were able to bring out the color, texture, and life of the subject. Mila was able to manipulate the light so as to minimize undesirable shadows and to bring the colorful SUPPYS product to life.

After shooting the individual product, we added shots of the SUPPYS fish oil with a few visual clues to help viewers understand how they might use it. The target market for SUPPYS are moms who are concerned about their kids health, and placing the fish oil product next to healthy foods put our audience on the path to envisioning how they could use the product in their own lives.

Kazoo has the ability to economically shoot professional photos quickly and without a hassle. Overall, it took the Kazoo team less than two hours to get several amazing shots of the SUPPYS fish oil. Whether you need product shots or portraits, Kazoo Branding has the ability to deliver great photos.

Bada Bing Bada Boom: Ludwig Drum Jam Session

Kazook designer Mila Samson had the chance to shoot some fun product shots for her husband, who teaches drum lessons at Murco Music School. Todd has been drumming all over the world for years and is endorsed by Ludwig Drums. The manufacturer of percussion products is known as the “most famous name on drums” and is celebrating 108 years of business.


Pack a room full of Todd’s students with sugar rushes from Glam Doll Donuts and you’ve got yourself a killer jam session. Mila was able to capture the energy from the Ludwig Drum Company Appreciation Day in the photos you will see below. Her tip? Keep it as fun as possible, even when shooting still lifes of cookies.


New Website for a Timeless Neighborhood

Welcome to Northeast, our trendy and charming neighborhood that offers something for everyone. In order to continue to elevate Northeast’s presence in the Twin Cities, we needed a new website to match the dynamic neighborhood’s bustling personality. Since February, the Kazoo team has been working on creating the new Northeast Minneapolis website. This project has been a great reflection on user experience; how viewers are able to interact with our website in an efficient yet engaging way.

Paying attention to how consumers interact with a website is especially important in today’s tech-savvy world. While we worked on creating the website, we kept specific aspects of the neighborhood in mind that we wanted for our users to be able to learn more about; location, businesses, and events. Where exactly is Northeast located? Where can I shop? Where can I grab a bite to eat or a drink to sip on with friends? All of these questions and more we kept in mind as we rebuilt the website. See for yourself at


It’s been child’s play, literally, designing packaging for SUPPYS, a children’s multivitamin. The name SUPPYS originated from owners Jackie and Jonathan nicknaming their children’s daily vitamin supplements to make the ordeal more fun. Along the way the couple realized the need for not only good for you, but also good tasting children’s vitamins. With over 17 years of experience in the nutritional supplement space, Jackie and Jonathan formulated SUPPYS. After consulting many healthcare practitioners and keeping in mind their kids’ input for taste they were ready to launch.

Enter the Kazooks to help create playful packaging for the vitamin bottles and a new website linked to a robust social media campaign for customers to interact with as they subscribe for monthly SUPPYS packages delivered right to their doorstep. Check out the work below that is coming to a doorstep near you.

A Fresh Website for Fresh Food

We had the chance to sit down with our graphic designer Kelsey Duncan to hear about the vision behind Slim's new website. Read below to learn why fresh websites are necessary to keep brands current. 

What are the benefits of keeping a brand's website fresh and current?

Slims was in need of a website that was more current and on brand. They needed something that really focused on their brand graphics and also highlighted some great food photography. They had bits and pieces, but they were missing the overall package that really hit a home run

How do customers view websites?

It is so important to stay current. Design is ever changing, and the world of web is highly competitive. If your site doesn't look current and with the times, the customer is going to go to someone else. It's all about building TRUST. If you look like you know what you're doing, the client/customer will trust you know what you're doing. In this case, you almost have to judge a book by its cover.

When is it time to rebrand?

Companies evolve over time. They can retain their core competencies while at the same time add new services; or, philosophically change their approach to their target audience, speaking of which, my change as well.

When changes do occur, many companies avoid taking the steps necessary to refresh the way they express their brand. They think refreshing their brand to more accurately reflect how they currently do business will be too much – too much work, too expensive and too confusing to their current customer base. Here’s a better, more opportunistic point of view.

Our client Birch Cove Group is an independent personal financial planner. They call on Kazoo Branding because they wanted to express how they evolved from being purely a financial ally to add being a psychological ally, as well. However, they didn’t need to completely change their corporate identity, but rather create a new graphic system that was relevant to who they are currently and how they evolved. Very simply, we rebranded their overall look without changing the logo.

The first step? Brand strategy, in which we developed, defined, and refined the core brand essence that makes Birch Cove Group unique relative to the competition. The core brand essence became the driver we used to more accurately define the company and inspire creative development of all future marketing initiatives. We added key messages to the graphics that took us to the next step.

The second step is brand execution which included a brand audit to evaluate the need for marketing initiatives to include printed collateral, website revisions, media relations, newsletters, blogging, social media, and email marketing. The end result? On-brand communications to build clarity, simplicity and a buzz that will ultimately lead to more growth.



Q & A with Graphic Designer and Photographer Kelsey Duncan

Slim’s has been a client of ours that has left our mouths watering every time we visit the restaurant. But what would the restaurant experience be like without seeing visually appealing images of their menu items? Or grabbing our orders from the signature graffiti-like wall at Slim’s? These small details in a brand’s visual presence can go a long way in the customer’s experience when done right. Kazook Kelsey explains how photography played a part in Slim’s brand essence.

What was the idea behind the shoot for Slim’s menu?

Our goal was to shoot photos that could not only be displayed on Slim’s website and social media, but also have the ability to be cut out and placed on any background to go with the urban illustration feel.

  Kelsey in Action. 

Kelsey in Action. 

What was the idea behind the wall of graphics?

We wanted to create a hip, urban, graffiti-like vibe for the brand. The illustrations help tie in the neighborhood as well as the ideal customers that go in and out of Slims.


Why do you think photography is important in capturing a brand’s essence/products?

Shooting new food photography was extremely important. Not only had their food menu been updated and needed to reflect their current food, but the food itself needed to be photographed from various different angles so we could use them on different promotional materials. ALSO, the food photography is the customer's first introduction to the menu. If the images aren't enticing, they won't be as apt to want to eat at Slim's. The reason that the food items are cut out and placed on the physical menu itself is so that customers can see just how yummy the food at Slim's is right off the bat.

Slim’s fresh food for any mood brought to life with the help of Kazoo’s photography.

What does your website express to consumers?

Your brand DNA, from your logo to how your employees interact with customers, says a lot about the kind of business you are. Every so often, it is a smart idea for brands to reevaluate their current brand expressions that consumers are interacting with to make sure their unique story is being told in the strongest way. This past year, we had the pleasure of helping Red Seat rebrand their website to do a better job of telling their story. Enter our graphic designers, Mila and Kelsey, who helped refresh Red Seat’s website. The mission was to make their website more brand-centric to capture the personality of their business: a cool, helpful group of people who you can depend on. See below to see how we brought the Red Seat’s brand essence to life with the launch of their new website.

Why investment in photography pays off for your brand

When you’re first getting your business off the ground, investing in a professional to help you with your branding can seem like a costly, daunting task. The thing is, it’s probably a more crucial tool for growing your business than you think.

Here is a great example: A client recently came to us with her facial beauty products that she is selling online. She said she wanted to look more professional; really knock it out of the park and give the appearance that these are the facial beauty products you need to buy. The distributor had given her photos to post online, but they certainly were not up to par with what she wanted.

No need to fear; Kazoo is here.

We got her set up in the office, grabbed a white sweep, and gave her the photos she needed to really get her business up and running.

Before (photo given by the distributor to sell online).

Photo taken at Kazoo


Why does it matter?

Whether a client is roaming through the aisles at Target, looking at products on Amazon, or staring at a billboard, they’re going to take notice in the quality of your product. Does it look generic, homemade, and unprofessional? If so, what is going to entice them to want to buy your brand? Furthermore, why should they trust YOU?

In todays world, we are bombarded with choices. We are confronted with an abundance of images on the web and social media. This can be a wonderful, yet terrifying situation for businesses these days. With so many choices out there, the consumer only has seconds for an image to catch their eye. This being said, if your product does not look the part, you’re going to lose out to a competitor who HAS taken the time to invest.

The power of branding

There is a lot of power perceived in branding. It can make a huge difference in the way people perceive the quality and value of your business. For example; If you put two products in front of a customer and tell them that the one on the left is more expensive, they’re going to automatically assume that it is of higher quality.

Why would I pay tons of money for a photographer when I can easily do it myself?

Websites and brands that are done by amateurs, look amateur. It’s as simple as that. Professionals understand the market and know how to successfully communicate your brand.

You may know your business, but we know design.


The Beauty of Infographics


The use of visualized information has increased 9900% on the internet since 2007, according to Google Trends. But why does this matter? Enter the graphic designer, who takes information and turns it into understanding through design. For our client, Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, Mila had the task of creating an infographic that focused on how Jewish Federation can build a cohesive and inclusive Jewish community. The beauty of Infographics is that they can  explain difficult information in a clear and understandable way. As Mila says, an infographic is more than just using the brand’s colors. It is the brand essence come to life through visuals. This is especially important because infographics cut through the information overload we experience daily and make it easy to gather a brand’s essence in an engaging way.



Event Marketing

Kazoo Branding leads the marketing and promotion efforts for the Northeast Business Association (NEBA), which includes an area bordered by 1st Ave, Main Street and Central. NEBA’s most recent event, Ladies Night Out, invited ladies to hit the Northeast area to enjoy great deals at local businesses. If they visited all 8 participating stores, shoppers had the chance to win a $250 gift certificate. Participating ladies also had the chance to win a gift bag from JL Beers based on who posts the most fun photo from the night. 

Reflecting on our process of creating and marketing the event has reminded us of key points to consider when promoting local businesses.

Our first step was the creative. We started with the creative idea of putting together women’s fashion accessories such as a woman’s purse or a scarf to create a design for posters, postcards and the website. The visual helped us hone in on the aesthetics to keep in mind for the event.

The next step was to promote the event on Facebook. Social media is crucial, especially in order to best reach the demographic you are hoping to attract. We are proud to say we have seen the NEBA facebook page reach almost 5,000 likes. We are looking forward to giving away the $250 gift certificate to one lucky shopper!





Graphifying Life

It’s March… It was March, now its April but I started this in March!
The weather is absolutely gorgeous and all I want to do is go outside.
I’ve been wanting to draw cool graphs for a while now and pushing clients a little but they did not bite… so no graphs for me to make… (poor me!)
I’ve also havent blogged in a while so this is where everything comes together!
I will keep track of my outside time and turn it into a cool graph for the Kazoo blog! Yeah!

screen shot

So when I started this the sun was going flippin crazy! It was awesome, and then the weather turned and it rained… for days! I walk to work so I still got some outside time but if could take the car I would have spent exactly 0 time outside on the dark rainy days!

I had my graph concept ready and sketched out and filled it in every night. Super! I was going to turn it into a nice and clean vector file but that idea got super boring after 10 days. I wanted to go NUTS! And nuts I went. if you were able to go all matrix and jump in the computer and walk around in this 3d world you’d see it all makes sense! Alas you cant… but my itch got scratched… sort of, Now I want to make one thats pretty AND easy to read.

Stay tuned!

What is a Responsive website and why do I need it?

Responsive websites have been around for a while but unless you are in the design-, web- or marketing business chances are you are just going “huh?”
About 10 years ago Websites just needed to work on a desktop computer. You would build your website for a medium sized screen and that was that.

responsive website desktop

With the introduction of smartphones phones and later Ipads you really can’t get away with a one size fits all anymore.

A responsive website is a website that changes shape, letter and image size to always have an optimal viewing experience no matter what kind of device you are using.  


  This is a non-responsive website viewed on an Iphone. It’s not user friendly, it’s like scrolling trough a maze.

This is a non-responsive website viewed on an Iphone. It’s not user friendly, it’s like scrolling trough a maze.


  This is a responsive website viewed on an Iphone. It’s user friendly and easy to navigate.

This is a responsive website viewed on an Iphone. It’s user friendly and easy to navigate.

Are you not sure if your website is responsive or not? Test it

Visual Identity - Font


A font serves three purposes:
• Communication
• Readability
• Identity

I’m not talking about the actual words, this is purely focussing on the shape and expectations of the font. 
a simple example is serif- v.s. a sans serif typeface. 
a serif type has strokes at the ends of a letter, a sans serif type does not. 

 Good Delivery

Good Delivery

a serif font ‘feels’ more authoritative than a sans serif font. This could be because we are used to seeing this kind of font in news papers and important documents.

 Bad Delivery

Bad Delivery

'The medium is the message' could also be 'The typeface is the message'. When you have the proper typeface for a message, it will be easier to deliver. 

Technology has taken huge leaps forward when it comes to the screen, the images can be so crisp and clear there is hardly any difference between paper and screen. However, just because that technology is out there does not mean everyone uses it. 
When using typography for web, its still smart to use a type that is easy to read on an older screen.

These next two images should look similar in quality on a low resolution screen. On a high resolution screen the 2nd image will look bad. 

The same goes for large slabs of text. When the font is skinny and tall your eyes will become tired. When a font is open and spacious its easier to read. 

 easy to read

easy to read

 hard to read

hard to read

It’s almost always a bad idea to go crazy with the regular text, you don't want to scare people away by making it hard to read, but a headline can go bonkers! 
A headline can help an identity be distinctive and recognizable. It’s not ment to be really easy to read, it’s ment to attract and lure. The New Yorker and Wired magazine are good examples of using an eccentric font for their headlines.

 The New Yorker

The New Yorker



Visual Identity - Color


Why is color important for a brand?

visual identity ikea

If an IKEA employee would go to the grocery store for some shopping on their way home, you would not take them for an employee at that grocery store. You’d instantly recognize the bright yellow and blue uniform as IKEA.
This is because IKEA is consistent with the use of these colors. They use it for EVERYTHING, even their buildings.

Color only takes a fraction of a second to translate from your eyes to your brain. Reading a word would require more energy and focus than registering a color. When you are driving, you can’t focus on just one thing, you have to pay attention to your surroundings, the other drivers, the traffic rules and that piece of scrap metal in the middle of the street. This is why a stop-sign looks the way it does. It’s always the same color and always the same shape. This is so you recognize it as a stop-sign from far away. You have plenty of time to adjust your driving to safely come to a full stop before you are even close enough the read the words.

Color can persuade someone to pay attention and a color can be associated with a brand if that particular color is consistently used by a brand. Color is a powerful tool when it comes to Identity.

One of the strongest color brands is that of KLM, the Royal Dutch airline. Anyone who has ever flown with KLM recognizes this color from miles away and will associate it with KLM.

strong brand color
strong brand color
strong color brand

There you have it. Color is an important tool for identity because it’s easily recognizable when used correctly.