Profile: Steven Addis

Steven Addis, CEO of Addis Creson, doesn’t put much stock in titles or disciplinary designations. “Are we an agency or a branding firm? I don’t really care,” he says.
 
What the UC Berkeley business graduate does care about is the marriage of strategic thinking and design, as well as the collaborative nature of the enterprise. When it comes to problem solving at the 30-person Berkeley, Calif.-based branding firm, “there is no division of labor,” he says. While his primary role is business development, Addis  says he gets to be “a utility player.”
Over the years, Addis’s company has evolved from being solely a package-design firm to one that also acts as a full-service agency, one dedicated to positive change. It divides its clients into four categories: Healthy Lifestyle (e.g., the Kashi brand of foods); Social Change (including Better Place, an electric car services provider, and the Green Employer Council, part of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights); Sense of Place, for “unique immersive experiences,” per its Web site (e.g., the Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas); and Future Tense, for brands that define “what’s possible” (e.g., UC Berkeley).
 
Addis, who grew up in San Diego, says his creativity was encouraged by his father, whose day job was real estate, but whose hobby was  photography. “He would buy a camera, hand it to me, tell me to learn it and then [to] teach him” how to use it, he remembers. Addis’s photography is often used in the company’s collateral materials.
“What I was really interested in was the idea of creative persuasion,” adds the 48-year-old. And while he loves art and to write, he says, he studied business and marketing at UC Berkeley to be “more well-rounded.”
After graduation in 1983, The Clorox Company hired him as a brand assistant. It was there he became schooled in marketing. “Clorox is not just a manufacturer, it’s a marketing company,” he says. “The hub of the wheel is the marketing department.”
Within a few years, he was named brand manager on new laundry products and tested new brands such as Act and Clorox Super Detergent. But Addis says he grew tired of the corporate environment. In 1987 he joined Monnens & Associates, a promotion and packaging firm he once hired to do package design for Clorox. The company was renamed Monnens-Addis Design and, in 1996, became Addis Group after Addis bought out his partner Ken Monnens. John Creson, who became the ecd, joined in 1999. The  name morphed into Addis Creson in 2006.

The firm has worked on assignments ranging from the redesign of Pepsi packaging in 1997 and identity work for Intel to agency of record for Ariat, an equestrian footwear and apparel company recently added to the roster.
For Better Place, which offers an automated battery switch system designed for electric vehicles, Addis Creson has created a brand platform and identity program. “It’s time to switch from the pump to the plug,” says the voiceover to an animated online video the shop created to explain Better Place’s mission.
“We have to sell a very complex story in a very simple way,” says Addis, whose team is currently working on naming the interface and creating a brand identity for the company’s technology system.
Better Place’s logo, explains Addis, is designed to express a “blue” planet as well as optimism: “If you flip one component down [as if it were a switch], it creates the teardrop shape. That’s the switch from the pump to the plug.”
“The success of business and the planet are interlocked,” says Addis. “We’re simply acknowledging that fact and want to help companies think of ways to market their products in the most sustainable way they can.”