Storytelling: Start Here


Define the gift that your company offers to your customers.
Find out what that gift means to them.
Create authentic conversation around that meaning.

Make sure all communication is created for people: Connecting, inspiring, giving, entertaining.

Focus: Brevity. Simplicity. Structure.

Tools: Design. Photography. Writing. Video. (Motion)-Graphics. Beauty helps!

If you get stuck, listen to your heart. It’s the best marketing consultant you never paid for.



It’s not the new and shiny that tells stories. It’s not the perfect, the cookie-cutter, the predictable. It’s not the straight road. Not the easy, not the painless.

You find stories in the cracks. In the light that gets in. In the gold that fills them. Mends them.

They talk about sweat and tears, those cracks. About gritted teeth, hard work and courage. About the refusal to give up. They talk about detours and getting lost.

They talk about trust and faith and grace. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. About learning and growing, and about the strength that is vulnerability.

Hope, mostly. Beauty, of course. And love. It always comes back to love.

Showing the cracks takes courage. But here’s the thing: It’s the only story worth telling.

Family Portrait: Ranchers and Farmers

When my friend Susanne asked me to take pictures of her beautiful family, I spontaneously and immediately loved the idea. I haven’t done much people photography in the busy-ness of the last few years and I had started to really miss it.

We all fell in love with the idea of a ranch setting: California land, rolling hills, golden grass, a winding trail, weathered wooden fences and a winter sunset.

Susanne and her husband Tom picked the most adorable outfits and prepared their kids, Liam and Annika, by telling them they were going to be Ranchers and Farmers for the day.

The ice broke because cattle kept walking into our picture, because we laughed about avoiding the piles of cow poop, because the little ones watched the horizon through spy glasses and because Liam got to pull his sister up and down the trail in a wooden wagon. When it all started to feel like a big outdoor family adventure, we got these pictures:

Interior Design Photography for Caitlin & Caitlin

A young San Francisco tech startup.


A charming, remodeled Victorian townhouse:
Light, airy and organic.


A powerhouse designer duo:
Strong colors, mixed patterns, contrasting textures. Smart pieces and clever details.


A new-generation workspace:
A creative combination of modern and earthy, hip and cozy, understated and inviting.

Architectural Renderings – Comparing Finishes

Our client, Suffolk Construction, is building an apartment complex in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. Future buyers of the apartment units can choose between three different styles of finishes. Suffolk asked us to visualize these three styles with architectural renderings. Below are two views of a sample unit, each showing the three different finishes. We added furniture to emphasize the differences, add personality and spark imagination in potential buyers:

Architectural Rendering Comparing Finishes


Architectural Rendering





I was named after her first-born daughter, who passed away not even a year old. She never called me by that name, though. ‘Kindchen’ is what she called me. A loving expression for ‘little child’ in the German of her generation.

She wasn’t like the grandmas in story books. She wasn’t the soft, motherly, cookie-baking type. This morning, lying awake in the dark hours before sunrise, I was suddenly able to name the gift she gave me instead: She was an example of strength. Of courage, resilience and independence, of self-respect, pride and tenacity.

She was whip-smart. A savvy businesswoman. A matriarch. Loud, heated conversations about politics over whiskey and cigars were part of every holiday dinner at her house around the heavy, antique oak table in her majestic living room. It sounded like they were fighting, but even as a kid I could sense how much she was loving these debates with her three sons.

I believe to know that she loved life. Her laugh came straight from her heart. She skied, a woman born in 1912. She loved dogs. She loved the mountains, too. We always agreed that going up is much easier than going down. During air raids in World War II, she did not go into the shelter like they were instructed to. She wanted to die outside, not buried in a basement.

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of thunderstorms. One summer night, I must have been about five years old, the sky went dark while we were having dinner around the barbecue in my family’s backyard. Everything was rushed inside the house as the rain started pouring and thunder and lightning began raging. I was hiding in the darkest corner of the checkroom when my grandma’s calm voice reached my terrified mind. She asked if I could be very brave for just one minute and I was curious enough to follow her outside. She sat me down on the porch in a chair next to her. Sheltered by the eaves, but just inches away from the pouring rain. A shaking little girl, covering her eyes in fear. And then she presented the lightshow. She searched and pointed. She held her breath. She marveled at the beauty, the color, the shape of each lightning strike. The more strikes, the louder the thunder, the greater her excitement. I forgot to be scared. There was simply no room for fear. I wanted to sit there with her forever.

The intervals became longer, then the storm was gone. She gave me at least two gifts that night: She gave me storms. And she taught me an invaluable lesson about fear…

She died yesterday, 101 years old. Thousands of miles away, I did not get to say goodbye. I didn’t get a chance to thank her, either. I would have loved to tell her that she’ll always be with me. Every storm I weather, every mountain I climb. She’ll be there.

While I am starting to understand that she is gone, I hope she has made it safely to her next destination. I hope she has met up with the ones who went before her: Her husband and her beloved sister. Her daughter, her dog Ingo and all the others who shared her journey here. I hope they’re all sitting around a big table, drinking Underberg and playing a deck of Rommé. I hope they’re laughing and debating. Talking about the wild ride they had. And I hope that when it’s my time to go, they make a little room at that table. I just want to sit with them. Just sit, listen to their stories and hear her say my name. Kindchen.

Marketing Goals

Marketing GoalsIf you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.  ~Lawrence J. Peter

When you start building your Marketing Strategy, please feel free to use the example goals below to determine your organization’s goals. I’m hoping this work will help you spend your marketing resources (time and money) wisely and more efficiently:


    1. Increasing revenue
    2. Increasing profit
    3. Increasing profitability (ratio of profit to revenue)
    4. Increasing Return on Investment (ROI)
    5. Growth
    6. Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit)
      1. Increasing contribution to society
      2. Investing in sustainable business practices
      3. Improving employee benefits, happiness, comfort, salaries…
    7. Increasing market share
    8. Developing new markets
    9. Optimizing service portfolio structure
      (creating opportunities to offer specific products/services)
    10. Optimizing pricing structure
      (creating opportunities to charge a certain price)
    11. Optimizing distribution structure
      (creating opportunities to use or expand specific distribution channels)


    1. Increasing brand awareness
    2. Increasing brand recognition
    3. Conveying benefits
    4. Cultivating preference
    5. Lead generation
    6. Image change
    7. Increasing conversion rate
    8. Increasing customer value
    9. Customer retention
    10. Deepening brand loyalty
    11. Differentiation
    12. Collecting customer feedback
    13. Increasing intensity or frequency of use


    1. Getting permission for continuous contact
      (Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter)
    2. Upgrading permission
      (Twitter follower to email newsletter subscriber)
    3. Building brand ambassadors
    4. Collecting public endorsements
    5. Increasing website traffic
    6. Extending website visit time
    7. Reducing website bounce rate
    8. Increasing Search Engine Ranking
    9. Improving Organic Search Engine results
    10. Increasing number of blog subscribers
      (total or number of target group subscribers)
    11. Increasing number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Google+ connections…
    12. Receiving more comments on a company blog
      (or more high quality comments or more comments from target audience members)
    13. Receiving more incoming links
      (or more incoming links from high quality sources)
    14. Getting people to interact with content more
      (sharing, commenting, tweeting, pinning, liking…)

Why People Share Ideas

Why people share ideasI attended an online seminar by marketing legend Seth Godin a few years back. I have used the following part of his advice in my work ever since and I hope you will find it as eye-opening and helpful as me:

In the Digital Age, the success of your marketing (and ultimately your business) depends on people spreading your story. Knowing this, it’s a great idea to think about the actual reasons people spread ideas: What motivates them to share something with their network? What moves them to talk about you? Once you know this, you can craft your stories and create your content in a way that makes them share-worthy for people.

Here are the reasons people share ideas:

  1. Because your idea says something that they have trouble saying directly
  2. Because sharing your idea makes them feel smart
  3. Because the idea is funny, and they don’t want to laugh by themselves
  4. Because they feel lonely, and sharing an idea makes them feel less lonely
  5. Because they are angry and want to share that anger
  6. Because they want to connect people to one-another
  7. Because they want to be generous
  8. Because they want to help people by providing them with valuable information and insight
  9. Because they want you to succeed
  10. Because they have no choice
  11. Because there is a financial benefit
  12. Because they want their network to avoid an external threat
  13. Because they have no other way of re-paying you for the work that you do other than to share it
  14. Because if everyone knew what they know, they would be happier
  15. Because they want to amaze and entertain their friends
  16. Because they want to reveal aspects of their true selves to friends to build stronger relationships

If you can think of more reasons, please share them with everyone else in the comment section.

And as always: Thank you for reading!

Business Plan, Marketing Strategy and Communication Strategy

Marketing Strategy

I have a thing for logic. I cannot work or be at peace with or even memorize information that has flawed logic.

When I started studying marketing, I couldn’t find a comprehensive model of a marketing strategy that combined all the seemingly complex marketing terms into a logical order of how they relate to one-another. So I built my own from the information I could find in books and publications. I refined, restructured and extended the model with the experience of building marketing strategies for companies in real life in the Digital Age.

Please feel free use the model below to help you develop a Marketing Strategy for your own company. It will take more time upfront to use a systematic approach, but you will have a chance at actually building a consistent, recognizable brand with measurable results from your marketing efforts. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help or explain.


    1. Business Description
    2. Business Goals
    3. Business Organization/ -Structure
    4. Financial Projections
      1. Business Calculations
        1. Cost Calculations
        2. Revenue Projections
      2. Projected Service/Product Unit Cost
      3. Profit- and Loss Projection (Bottom Line. Income Statement.)
      4. Cash Flow Projection (Money in versus money out.)
      5. Projected Balance Sheet (Needed resources and funding.)
      6. Breakeven Analysis (Marks the beginning of profit-making.)


    1. Market Analysis
      1. Rich description of 2-3 major competitors: Service portfolio, distribution- & pricing model, USP, UVP, UAP
      2. Market size. Market trends. Market segmentation.
      3. Keyword research:
        1. Commonly used words
        2. Words used by target audience
        3. Search volume
        4. Rankings of competitors for keywords (page-/domain-) authority
    2. Target Market
    3. Target Audience (3-7 Marketing Personas)
    4. Distribution Model
    5. Product-/ Service Portfolio
    6. Unique Product-/ Service Style
    7. Pricing Model
    8. Marketing Goals
    9. Positioning
      1. History
      2. Story
      3. Unique Selling Proposition
      4. Unique Value Proposition
      5. Unique Advertising Proposition
      6. Brand Gift
      7. Proof Of Benefit
      8. Brand Identity
        1. Mission
        2. Brand Archetype
        3. Brand Personality
        4. Tonality
        5. Corporate Design


    1. Communication Goals
    2. Budget | ROI Calculations
    3. Media Mix
      1. Website
      2. Search Engine Optimization
      3. Facebook
      4. Google+
      5. Twitter
      6. Other Broadcasting Platforms
    4. Content Strategy
    5. Tracking | Analysis | Optimization

Virtual Construction on the Transbay Transit Center

Webcor’s Virtual Building Team under the direction of Frank Haase uses Virtual Construction on the Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco to provide unprecedented planning- and management capabilities to all project stakeholders for efficient, fact-based decision-making.

For the production of this movie, special thanks go to Christian Hedberg for setting up the most sophisticated render farm I know of and to Blair Hinojosa and Juani Fernandez for your comprehensive plan to organize endless export files and for your other tireless, skillful and supportive work on this project. Special thanks also go to Frank Haase for your vision, direction and leadership and for your much admired talent to always see both the forest and the trees.

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)

Virtual Design and –Construction is a fundamental change in the construction industry. Traditional processes are replaced with a data-centric approach that increases the efficiency of the building process.

Major changes in business processes and -procedures are known to cause fear. People are afraid to leave familiar territory, get left behind or become obsolete. A natural reaction to ignore, stall and ostracize the change, which can cost a company business opportunities, a competitive edge and reputation.

We created this video for our client Webcor Builders as an internal and external marketing tool to help replace that fear of Virtual Design and –Construction with understanding, excitement and hope.

Many people have helped with the creation of this movie. I want to thank each one of you for your hard work and dedication, for your creativity, passion and ideas, and for your spirit of making things happen and doing remarkable work. I appreciate you:

Michael Brown, Alan A. Chun, Juani Fernandez, Joanne Filipas, Kurt Forsegren, Rich Gangitano, Frank Haase, Christian Hedberg, Blair Hinojosa, David Hungerford, Clay Kempf, Duston Leary, Todd Mercer, Anne Merics, Jocelyn Mezofenyi, Pete Rainier, Peter Sosnowski, Jansen Tredway, Sven Van der Sluis, Roy Wanguhu and Matt Zwetzig.

Talking Heads Video

A “Talking Heads” video production for our client Tasha Beauchamp with “Elder Pages Online.”

The team spirit, professionalism, skills and kindness every single one of you brought to this project has made the job and the day on set special and unforgettable for me. Thank you all: Darren Angus, Tasha Beauchamp, Doug Boyd, Laurel Garwin, Lori Grbac, Frank Haase, Karen Kahn, Ray MedVed, Chris Morrell, Kris Ravetto, Charlie Rowland, Chaya Rowland, Cynthia Seats and Anne Stark-Robertson.

Helping is the New Selling

Helping is the New SellingWhen you sell, everything you say is about YOU. When you help, everything you say is about THEM.

Here’s how a “sales meeting” is different when your objective is helping, instead of selling:

  1. You spend more time listening, understanding and advising than posturing, pitching, and bragging.
  2. You don’t waste anybody’s time by telling them things about you that don’t apply to them.
  3. When you understand their problem, you offer a solution.
  4. The solution you suggest is designed to optimize their bottom line, not yours.
  5. You occasionally say: “I don’t know and I’ll find out.”
  6. You also occasionally say: “For this part of the job, I know people better than me, and I’ll bring them on board.”
  7. It’s a conversation more than a presentation, although you may be showing the same material.

When you walk away, you leave behind a feeling of honesty and sincerity. They have confidence in your ability to solve their problem. They feel understood because you listened. And you walk away with something that’s more valuable than everything else: Trust.

How’s that for a successful sales meeting?

P.S.: The New Sales Person is not the one with the thickest smoke and the shiniest mirrors…

Summer of 2012

7 Weeks, 6 Countries, 5000 Kilometers. Two People. Two Bikes. One Great Adventure.

Construction Sequence Animation (8 Washington Street, SF)

Our client, Webcor Builders, used this clip in a business development presentation to communicate to the building owner how they were planning to build the project:

Winter in the Grand Tetons

Frank and I (and Finn, of course!) spent two beautiful winter vacations in the Grand Tetons. We stayed at a ranch in Swan Valley, skied in Jackson Hole, visited Yellowstone National Park and snowshoe-ed and cross-country skied wherever the snow conditions would let us. (And a lot of times also where they didn’t…) Go visit if you ever get the chance. It’s a magical place.

Dear “Hampton Inn and Suites:”

Hampton Inn and Suites Marketing I’ve been traveling for the last couple of weeks. In Maryland, I chose to stay at the “Hampton Inn and Suites.” It’s a hotel I was prepared to like. I would call it upper middle class; rooms run at about $170 a night.

The service underwhelmed me with each interaction: Staff members were bored, inattentive and impersonal, going through scripted motions in their conversations. They also fell short on the few services I asked: A toilet that kept flushing every 3 minutes never saw a handy man in 4 days. (I ended up disabling it myself by strapping up the float valve with the cord of the (complementary!) hair dryer.) A door key that kept locking me out of my room, room service that made one attempt at cleaning and then never came back, a laundry service I needed to be returned slightly sooner than their standard 1½ days declined with a shrug…

On the road the next day, we passed a series of massive billboard ads on the freeway for… the “Hampton Inn and Suites”. Promising, you guessed it, heaven and earth. And the moon.

Here is the thing about Marketing: It does not stop once you get people in your door. That’s when it STARTS. That‘s when you have your opportunity to show off: Overwhelm people with your greatness, delight them, enchant them. Make them life-long, enthusiastic customers who go out of their way to stay at your place. And bring their friends.

If you already have the infrastructure of a hotel chain empire in place, the difference between underwhelming and awesome comes down to your people. The effort is minimal compared to what you have already invested:

Hire outstanding human beings and pay them outstanding money. Find a way to make them fall in love with their job. Make sure they are happy about the way they are treated. Make sure they are being heard, and their needs are being met. THEN ask them to pass that level of care on to your guests, and give them the guidance and education how to do it. Make sure they know how you want your guests to FEEL instead of giving them a soul-less script of what to say and do. Give them authority to do the right thing. Trust them to know what the right thing is. Allow them to be human beings.

Give them a way to communicate. Let them share their experiences with one-another, so they can share their pride and learn from each other. Take part in that conversation so they can learn from you. Take that opportunity to instill your culture. Social enterprise platforms make it so easy.

If you need additional funding to do it, here’s a tip: Skip the billboards. Make fewer promises, keep more.

Render Compositions

Wedding Photography

I have photographed a handful of weddings throughout the years. I didn’t want all of the pictures to be stored and forgotten, so here are a few of my favorite ones:

Video Production

    1. More than pictures and text ever could, video adds a human dimension to your website. It’s the closest your visitor can get to a face-to-face conversation with you. Video makes your company feel more authentic, accessible and relatable. “Meeting” you in a video makes it much easier for people to reach out to you. It’s human nature: We’re more comfortable with people we’ve met.
    1. Welcome visitors to your site.
    2. Tell your story.
    3. Explain your service. Showcase your product.
    4. Share your mission.
    5. Introduce your people.
    6. Visualize your brand image.
    7. Create interest. Drive action. Motivate. Inspire.
    1. Brainstorming session: Story, audience, goals, idea.
    2. Storyboard development.
    3. Location-, talent- and crew scouting.
    4. Shoot.
    5. Post production.
    6. Search-Engine-Optimized hosting and implementation.
    7. Distribution optimized for traffic-, link- and lead generation


    1. Talking Heads Video Production









3D Animation: PUC Building in San Francisco

3D Visualization: Key sustainability features of the PUC building in downtown San Francisco.

Our video below was used to present the building’s sustainability features to the Obama administration to apply for -and ultimately secure- the national funding needed to finance construction.

After completion in 2012, the building is slated to achieve a LEED Platinum certification by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Commercial Photography

Equestrian Photography

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”  ~Winston Churchill

Back in 2004 when Frank and I first moved to California, I started a business called “Bay Area Equestrian Photography.” Moving thousands of miles away from home was an exciting adventure, but America was also a new world whose differences I didn’t fully understand. Far away from everybody I knew, a language I didn’t speak fluently… I’m eternally thankful to the people who, at the very beginning of this journey of building a company, gave me a chance and went out of their way to support me in this dream. Because of their belief in me, their generosity and kindness, I had the courage to keep going. I will never forget or take for granted how strong they made me.

These pictures are my favorite ones from that very beginning:

2d- and 3d Animations

    1. Modeling services based on your 2D documents.
    2. High-end video showing your photo-realistically rendered, animated 3D models and their environment, enhanced with animated 3D people and -equipment, professionally edited and cut, integrated with titles, traditional video, type, animated 2D graphics, charts and drawings, and composed with voice-over, music and narration.
    1. Brainstorming session: Story, audience, goals, idea.
    2. Storyboard development.
    3. Design- and animation process with mockup presentations for input and feedback.
    4. Rendering, cut, edit, composition.
    5. Modeling- and animation workflow integrates seamlessly with 3D design- and engineering software like AutoCAD and Revit for maximized efficiency and flexibility.
    1. Simplified explanation of complex messages:
    2. Visualization of concepts, ideas and developments | Product- or service explanations
    3. Presentation of design options | Visualization of building- or construction sequence



3D Renderings