KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two West, Inc. is a branding and communications firm providing research-driven, strategic consulting services and agency solutions for high-growth companies and products. While the firm offers experience in select verticals including telecommunications, retail, automotive, human and animal health, and professional services, it has also developed horizontal expertise in brand strategy for companies needing next-level marketing guidance.

Part niche, part quest, Two West’s commitment to clients with brand challenges has led the firm to create an internal research practice and marketing think tank called Two West Brand Lab. The program’s primary mission is to provide qualitative research services such as focus groups, user roundtables, and depth interviews to companies seeking perspective and insight into their brands.

Two WestThe lab team conducts much of this work in a high-tech, high-touch idea spa, which treats research participants like VIPs. Amenities including an on-site coffee and wine bar with a full-time barista and conference tables that double as whiteboards fuel the conversation and inspiration.

“Primary research and creative thinking are at the heart of our branding process,” says Ethan Whitehill, CEO of Two West. “Our goal with Brand Lab was to create a facility that encourages both.”

When not leading focus groups or brainstorms, the Brand Lab’s other job is to evangelize the power of branding through ongoing pro-bono research, white papers, articles and a weekly radio show.

“Brands touch our lives in thousands of ways every day,” says Whitehill. “They shape our culture, our economy and our environment. As consumers become more brand literate, it’s increasingly critical for businesses to develop their brand proficiency.”

To help companies expand their brand fluency, Two West started a weekly talk radio program entitled, “The Brand Show,” on Kansas City’s Hot Talk Radio KCTE-AM 1510. According to Whitehill, brands are those intangible assets that don’t appear on a balance sheet, but have a profound impact on a company’s strength and value. Brands live beyond logos, colors, sounds and tag lines and are only as strong as a customer’s last experience and an employee’s most recent decision.

The Brand Show conveys wisdom about branding and explores the brands people love, hate, and love to hate. With on-air personalities from Two West’s team of marketing professionals, the program entertains and enlightens listeners in one-hour chunks.

Through regular guest interviews, the show has featured marketing legends the likes of Al Ries and Hayes Roth.

Ries is widely-recognized as the father of the marketing concept known as, brand positioning, and co-authored several books on the subject including the book many marketing MBAs regard as gospel, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.”

Hayes Roth is the Chief Marketing Officer for Landor, a prestigious global marketing company that provides complete strategic brand consulting and creative design services.

Nearly two years ago, it became apparent to Whitehill that the opportunity existed for Two West and The Brand Show to reach a wider audience using the emerging technology known as “podcasting.” Now, not only can listeners tune in to the weekly talk show on the radio, but each program is archived and made available as a free podcast via iTunes, Odeo or iPodder. Two West receives positive feedback regularly from The Brand Show’s podcast subscribers all around the planet.

Presently, Two West is in the process of expanding into an online community that will extend the firm’s relationships with its radio guests, listeners, clients and consumers the whole world over through forums, blogs and e-newsletters.

“Know and grow. That’s the mantra at Two West,” says Whitehill. “Knowledge is power when it comes to building brands, so we’re constantly asking questions and learning new things. You never know when or where you’ll uncover the next big idea.”

Two West was founded in 1997 by Whitehill and his business partner Kris Flint. The two principals met right out of college while working at a leading ad agency in Kansas City. Three years later, the two men found themselves together again; this time working “in-house” in the same corporate marketing department. The entrepreneurial experiences Whitehill and Flint shared at their previous employers, combined with the lackluster service they received from agencies as clients, provided the inspiration to start a firm of their own.

During its 10-year history, Two West has worked with several national and regional clients, including Hallmark Cards, Time Warner, Sprint, American Century, H&R Block and YRC Worldwide, (formerly Yellow Freight).

Two West has been listed among the 100 fastest growing companies in Kansas City five years running and has been nationally ranked as a top 100 inner-city company by Inc. Magazine. More information: .

[tags]Two West Brand Lab, Ethan Whitehill, next level marketing guidance[/tags]