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Brendan O’Shaughnessy

Justin Watkins

October 2014

Brendan is an art director at Springboard Creative but you may know him as the Captain of Ocean & Sea. The clothing, prints and accessories brand is just over a year old and growing just as strong as Brendan’s renegade beard.

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Starting a new brand from scratch isn’t necessarily hard. Unless of course you want people to take notice. What challenges are you pushing past to keep fickle consumers’ attention?

The competition is stiff. There are so many brands out there creating excellent products with presentation that is simply captivating. From the beginning, Ocean & Sea has focused on making a world in which our creations can live; not just the products themselves. To launch our company publicly, we began a creative exercise called the Daydreams Project. Five days a week for the first 6 months of the year we posted a creative imagination. The imagery varied between photography, design, illustration, painting, video and mixed media. It was a way to flex our creative muscles and to openly share our fun with others.

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Lifestyle photography, supplemental graphical visuals and meaningful engagements with customers is just as important as creating high caliber goods. People desire more than just a graphic on a t-shirt; they want to be inspired. Everything begins and ends with a story. Telling our story in engaging ways continues to be our focus as we refine our brand message.

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What tools and methods are you using to get your name out there?

We utilize a variety of touchpoints to get our name out there including all of the obvious social channels. The focus from the start has been the consistency of new content; be it with a Daydream, new product releases or lifestyle photography. Creating meaningful experiences (and doing so repeatedly) is the holy grail of any brand on the market. One of the unique ways we creatively engage with our customers is through a game called Hide & Sea. It is essentially a glorified excuse for adults to become kids again in a treasure hunt for goods we place around the Kansas City area (think wooden waveform cutouts and large scale sailboats). On select Saturdays — if you follow us on Instagram — we give everyone a reason to get out and explore. Another way we promote our brand is through events that give us face-to-face time with those who follow alongside our journey. We crave to engage with our followers in meaningful ways.

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I’ve heard you’re not a real businessman until you’ve been sued. Are you glad you’ve checked that one off your list?

It’s been a roller coaster ride over the past 2 years. To give some history, I helped begin a clothing brand at age 17 that would soon become the biggest learning experience of my career. Fast forward 10 years, and I found myself in a precarious situation with a clothing manufacturing giant from California. Although I had legal rights to the usage of the brand name I chose to not battle it in an extended court brawl. Dream Again is the slogan of our restart as Ocean & Sea and is a concept we feel applies to anyone. At some point in time you’re going to have your dreams stolen from you, it’s up to you to persevere and maintain a long-term vision for your future.

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You’ve been pursuing this idea for a while. What’s the driving force behind it?

It’s simply my passion. I can’t turn it off and it’s taken me a decade to understand and articulate why I gravitate towards creating brands. Identity design has always been my focus and most valuable skillset. For me, creating a timeless brand is the greatest identity design challenge. Most can create a solid logo, and many can create a great identity system but few have the rare opportunity of continually creating a rich brand experience of their own.

What is your latest epiphany?

Life is harder and better than I ever thought it would be. For all aspiring designers out there, just remember this when you’re months into your job search with no results. I graduated in the worst point in the US economy since the Great Depression and I’m certain I’ve broken second interview records without actually landing a job. I’ve cut thousands of lawns, sold mulch, worked at an alternative florist design studio and installed decals on dump trucks through a small sign shop. Every single season, every single job, I have made the best out of every opportunity that I was given and wouldn’t trade the unexpected moments for anything. It’s rewarding to see the skills you previously deemed meaningless in your career path to eventually aid you in strategic ways. Don’t give up on your dreams even when situations are not ideal. With perseverance and grit, your investments and detours within that passion will be worth the pursuit. Don’t be afraid, dream again!

Interviews with KC Makers & Marketers