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Zehnder: The Birthplace of Country Music, Jazz and Creative Communication

Published on November 22, 2021 at 7:10 p.m.
by Lady Reynolds.

Zehnder Communications is a fully integrated agency that offers both traditional and digital marketing services. With its primary offices located in Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans, these culture-rich cities offer a creative lens for all of Zehnder’s endeavors.

The influence

Zehnder’s tagline, “The Birthplace of Beyond,” highlights its creative inspiration. Agency President Henry Chassaignac provided insight into the origins of the tagline.

“When we were talking about positioning and trying to differentiate ourselves from other agencies, we kept coming back to the locations of the two bigger offices: Nashville and New Orleans,” he explained. “They both have lots of things in common — Nashville is the birthplace of country music, and New Orleans the birthplace of jazz. There’s historical markers around both cities … [and] there’s a lot of creativity in the air.” Chassaignac revealed that positioning the agency to work in a way that draws creative influence from its locations’ cultures is something that makes Zehnder so special.

Photo by Zehnder Communications

The people

Although “The Birthplace of Beyond” highlights the culture of each city, Chassaignac attributed the true success of Zehnder to its people. Zehnder, which was founded by Jeff Zehnder, has been around for 25 years earning over 500 awards and has an eight-year employee tenure. It has served over 400 clients and is comprised of 55-plus total employees.

Photos of Henry Chassaignac, William Gilbert and Stephanie Funti by Zehnder Communications

William Gilbert, the creative director at the agency, described the significance of Zehnder being in Nashville and New Orleans. “It’s beyond the creative aspect,” he said. “We have art directors that are photographers; we have social media directors that are musicians. … Not only are we dedicated to the art and craft of advertising and marketing, but also as much as we can be a part of the culture outside of Zehnder’s walls.”

Chassaignac expressed similar sentiments. “By default, you’re getting to recruit people that have that passion or that talent because they are attracted to cities that have culture woven into the fabric of it,” he explained.

Stephanie Funti, Zehnder’s human resources manager, mentioned how Nashville and New Orleans are both cities of pure talent. “It’s wonderful from an employer perspective,” she noted. “They are both cities that are rich in culture and in personality and presence. I think that speaks to the kind of people Zehnder employs, too. … I think it’s just a great marriage of geography and people.”

Funti outlined specific attributes she looks for in potential Zehnder employees. “They have to be absolutely smart with initiative. They have to have a dedication to client service,” she stated. “At the end of the day, we are providing a service, and people are paying us for our skills, knowledge, expertise, etc. Keeping that client-focused service mentality is important.”

Chassaignac agreed that every employee at Zehnder must have an “entrepreneurial spirit.” He explained, “It’s one you know has initiative, one that has positivity and values other people’s opinions. They realize that the team comes first.”

The difference

It’s no secret that Zehnder is one of the top integrated agencies in its respective locations.

Photo of The Listen Hub by Zehnder Communications

Gilbert attributed this success, particularly in the creative field, to Zehnder’s opportunities. “It’s the freedom to experiment and explore that makes us different,” he asserted. “Zehnder puts a lot of effort and time into that creative exploration, and it is what led us to developing this Listen Hub data studio for research analytics.”

Gilbert also mentioned specific examples of experiences the team has been able to explore. He described a time when Zehnder was able to explore new avenues for Teslasuit’s marketing initiatives. The Teslasuit is a cutting-edge technology piece with a handful of different uses — all of which Zehnder helped discover. Gilbert noted that experiences like this give Zehnder the freedom to explore innovative strategies that set it apart from others.

Chassaignac further explained how a full-service agency is able to touch on different disciplines. He stated, “We try to be on the leading edge of a lot of technology, speaking beyond traditional advertising, which is how we began, and of course, we’ve transcended that.”

The changes

Chassaignac and Gilbert have worked in the creative space and across departments over time, meaning they both have seen a change in how advertising, marketing and public relations have blossomed. Chassaignac noted, “We started in the agency before digital marketing had taken off. … It’s transformed our industry and the ways to talk to people.” He disclosed how consumers, customers and clients feel like the two-way communication streams that have stemmed from digital marketing, specifically social media, have allowed them to further develop relationships.

Funti revealed that technology has been one of the biggest changes since joining Zehnder. She said, “I think for a full-service advertising and marketing agency, the rise of digital advertising on any and every platform you can imagine has been a shift and a change.”

The success

Chassaignac acknowledged that Zehnder’s success would not be possible without the support from its founder and its employees. “Most people will say what makes an organization is the people themselves. So, having people that have their passions, whether they be an artist, a musician or a programmer, goes beyond their work life,” he explained. “They can bring those experiences to work and help us innovate. It doesn’t always feel like you’re going to a 9-to-5 gig all the time — it’s always something different and that’s what makes it fun.”

Zehnder’s fully integrated structure allows employees who span across all its offices to cohesively work together on campaigns and projects. Chassaignac said, “It’s a distributed working model to where we’ll have project managers in Nashville and art directors in New Orleans” on one project.

Virtual Staff Meeting Photo by Zehnder Communications on Instagram

Although Zehnder currently has a remote work environment post-pandemic, Gilbert and Chassaignac praised how the staff has maintained a successful stature. Gilbert stated, “We get to have more face time between offices as a result of virtual meetings rather than just having a call in a conference room to connect to.”

Chassaignac agreed that working remotely has been a success. Even still, he believes it’s important to be together. “There is a lot you miss on video, especially in the creative space. I think physical togetherness is important in developing those trusting relationships,” he proclaimed.

While every agency has a niche that highlights its essence, Zehnder Communications is one to specifically note. Because of its love and understanding of its respective cities’ cultures, the creative minds at Zehnder are directly inspired to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table.

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