Interview with Cara McCarthy Hutchins, Founder & CEO of Communications, Ink, US

Carol Borchert | Morris Animal Foundation | Muse Awards
Interview with Carol Borchert, Vice President of Marketing & Brand Strategy of Morris Animal Foundation, US
September 30, 2019
2020 MUSE Hotel Awards Call for Entries
2020 MUSE Hotel Awards Call for Entries
October 1, 2019

Cara McCarthy Hutchins

As Founder and CEO of Communications, Ink, Cara builds brands by creating links between people and experiences, using her breadth of knowledge to create integrated communications programs that help her clients succeed.

Communications, Ink | Muse Awards

Interview with the 2019 Muse Creative Awards Winner
- Cara McCarthy Hutchins

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself, your company, job profile, etc.
I am a right + left brain entrepreneur who builds brands by creating links between people and experiences. As a hands-on generalist, I use my breadth of knowledge to create integrated communications programs that help our clients succeed. I’m not afraid to rock the boat but I am also collaborative and enjoy partnering with clients and colleagues. I founded Communications, Ink to help clients find their marketing focus and to be a refuge from the rat race of traditional advertising agencies.

I believe we’ve built a supportive environment where women can earn a fair wage, live a balanced life and create their best work. From a client perspective, I focus on helping them efficiently reach their goals rather than simply fulfilling projects. For that reason, I am personally involved in each project. I spend my clients’ budgets as though they were my own and I’m never afraid to offer advice. I also lecture on branding and have sat on numerous non-profit boards including Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, The deBeaumont Foundation, Pingree School and The Women’s Fund of Essex County.
2Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.
Communications, Ink is an award-winning marketing agency that transforms brands and builds businesses by partnering with our clients. With a careful balance of listening and asking, we create integrated communications programs and strong visual designs. This includes a mix of strategic marketing, branding, web design, market research, collateral development, social media content generation and analytics. We enjoy a positive reputation for the quality of our work and affordability. Our all-women team, led by Cara McCarthy Hutchins, has a 20-year track record of building marketing strategies and campaigns that succeed.
3Congratulations! As the winner of the 2019 Muse Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
This has been a very exciting year for Communications, Ink. We are humbled to have your judges recognize our work as we have doing these types of projects for more than 20 years. It validates both our approach and execution.
4Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2019 Muse Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
Communications, Ink was hired by the founder of WholeMade Kitchen to create a new, luxury brand for an artisanal food niche. WholeMade Kitchen offers paleo-inspired food inspired by a certified Nutritional Therapist and prepared by a professional chef.

The design intent of the project was to visually represent ancestral cooking, build awareness for WholeMade Kitchen and create interest for its products and services. The logo lockup references the kitchen equipment used to create home-cooked meals from the Victoria era. The wording is contained within a metal plate much like the ones found on oven doors. We used an ornate font called Balford to create a luxurious feel for the brand. The primary color is inspired by the hue of a cast iron skillet and the bright white of a porcelain plate. The secondary colors reference healthy ingredients like tomatoes and integral kitchen items like tea towels and enamel skillets. The logo embellishments are handcrafted providing a high-touch feel to the overall brand. They are also used to create a custom pattern we used for the store awning, banners and packaging.

We also created a visual icon for WholeMade Kitchen’s unique approach to build a nutritionally-complete meal—raw greens and dressing, animal protein, vegetable side, condiment and bone broth. We color coded the map assigning a unique color to each meal element. This was then translated to the meal packaging where the custom belly bands reflect the colors in the custom map graphic that explains how to build a healthy meal. We designed the interior of store marrying the clean white wall surface of subway tile with a custom-burnished wood countertop. We also hired a food truck fabricator to design a custom broth cart. It’s retro camper design stands out at farmer’s markets, fairs and special events encouraging people to come by and sample their bone broth. It’s hand-burnished wood siding is visually interesting and references the butcher block counter also found in the retail store. We wrapped a delivery van with the branding elements to ensure WholeMade Kitchen stands out when it’s delivering meals across the North Shore of Massachusetts. Everything is custom-designed from the shop to the cart, truck and packaging to convey the Victorian provenance of food preparation and the benefits of scratch-cooked meals. Given the crowded field of prepared meals, we created two psychographic profiles to differentiate WholeMade Kitchen.

The first profile—Gaia—is a busy, stay-at-home mom who is over-programmed and concerned about her family’s nutrition and health. “Helen,” the other psychographic profile is an empty-nester who lives in a large, suburban home with her husband. While she has a state-of-the-art kitchen, her job in Boston doesn’t afford her the time to make homecooked meals. These profiles were built on secondary research as well as an email survey. Not only were we able to identify a target audience who would be interested in this offering but we were able to roll the brand out consistency across many different platforms with consistent messaging. We did this very affordably as well by forging a strong partnership with owner. Our collaboration created strong marketing materials and a very effective budget. Together we reacted and responded to launch results by adding more budget where needed (print advertising, email campaign, adwords and special events) and backing off where it wasn’t getting adequate traction (Facebook and direct mail). We chose to enter this project as we were pleased with the final outcome.
5What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Like most startups, the biggest challenge is how to make the most of a very limited budget. Where do you spend money and where do you save? We also partnered closely with the founder. She is pulled in so many directions as she grows here business. We were able to help focus her very limited time and deliver what she needed. The client is very satisfied by the return on her investment.
6How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

It just happened so we will have to report back to you ;-)!
7What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
1. The fast pace and how no two days are ever the same

2. Our industry’s ability to inform and inspire audiences.

3. The power of collaboration. No one person can provide all the services required in advertising therefore it’s critical we work together as a united team.
8What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?
The sheer financial size of the industry in the United States. Where else can a 30 second spot go for $5.1 million? Additionally, the use of data analytics and the freedom of speech and creative expression is especially unique in the United States.
9Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
I see it expanding. The generation of creative materials is very hard to automate. So, while we will continue to rely heavily on data analytics, the creation of custom logos, compelling campaigns and visually-arresting materials will be even more valued and remain human-generated. I’m an optimist at heart but I honestly believe creative talent will be more in demand in the next decade than it has been since the Renaissance.
10If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Muse Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Be original. Find your inner voice and listen to it. Stretch your mind by trying new things and sitting in on meetings with people in other departments. Learn how to see your industry from the vantage of other audiences. Never stop learning.
11What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
I hate the word “networking” but I think getting out and talking to people is so very important. Don’t hide behind a screen… meet people in person, informally. Join meetups and get a subscription to at least one industry magazine. You never know what you’ll learn.
12Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
I have a large collection of political campaign pins and stickers. I also collect random printed pieces (matchbooks, tissue paper, bags, business cards…) that have fonts I like.
13Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My first boss is very special to me. I was working as a phone clerk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. At that time, there were no women on the Floor and the culture was that of a boy’s club. In fact the Luncheon Club only accepted male members. My boss encouraged me to persevere and find my voice. My children and my dog also inspire me as they always see the best of every situation. I honestly believe their love drives my work as I strive to be the person they think I am. And, being a mom has encouraged me to focus a good deal of my work with non-profits.
14What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Be kind and laugh. Success doesn’t require being mean or unreasonable. I have built a business where we get to know one another. We take the time to have lunch together and do something out of the routine as we forge new friendships. I approach our client relationships the same way… getting to know all of our clients and taking a little time to find out about them and their day.
15Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Thanks for asking me these questions. I’ve enjoyed the exercise as it’s allowed me to do some valuable reflection.

Winning Entries

WholeMade Kitchen Brand Launch | 2019

WholeMade Kitchen Brand Launch | Communications, Ink | Muse Awards
WholeMade Kitchen offers Paleo-inspired food sold through a retail store, home delivery and broth cart that visits local farmers markets and office parks. They also offer nutritional consulting services... (read more)

Communications, Ink

Communications, Ink is a woman-owned and run firm that offers strategic marketing services to startups and non-profits as well as website development, inbound campaign management, collateral development and market research.