Stinson Liles & Martin Wilford
Stinson Liles and Martin Wilford were friends and collaborators well before they started Red Deluxe together in 2002. “My background was as an art director, and his was as a writer,” says Wilford, “and that’s sort of what a creative team is. So when we were on our own, we would hire each other out for projects and it became a good working relationship.”
Today the firm they launched as a small brand design studio has evolved into a full-service advertising agency with people who handle campaigns in print, radio, television, and online media, as well as web programmers, site designers, and account managers. “People ask us how we do it, because for 10 years we’ve been equal business partners, and for a lot of people I think that would not work,” says Liles. “One of the reasons we started working together is we have a very similar sensibility about what’s good and what client relationships should be like, how people should be treated, how problems should be solved, and a lot of the bigger issues.”
From their office in downtown Memphis, the company works with clients to develop brands and campaigns that change minds, delivering strong ideas for major national and regional organizations in a variety of sectors. They represent Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation and the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team and have completed pro bono campaigns for Memphis City Schools and the Memphis Police Department.
Red Deluxe has also taken on special projects for companies around town. For instance, the firm created The Dixon Gallery and Gardens’ new logo, and converted the International Paper concession area inside FedExForum into The International Paper Blues Gallery, a photography exhibit featuring Memphis and Delta blues musicians that celebrates the Fortune 500 company’s connection to local arts, culture, and history.
“I think we have a reputation that people come to us for creative, strategic stuff. But we’re great listeners and have all the things that make for a good collaborative relationship,” says Liles.
The company’s recent work has been focused on national nonprofit organizations such as the American Lung Association, Youth Villages, and the American Heart Association, understanding that communications are central to their operations. But the biggest change the company has seen in its 10 years has been a shift toward online and social media and all of the ensuing developments. Among one of their latest creations is an application for the American Lung Association that can test air quality, available as a free download through the ALA’s website.
“With social media you have to woo consumers a lot more than you used to,” says Wilford. “People skip over commercials, so you have to win them over. You can’t just stick a commercial in front of them.”
Fortunately, new opportunities are emerging as well. “There are a lot of different ways to engage people,” says Liles, “a lot more tools in the toolbox than there used to be, so that has really changed.”
NAMES: Stinson Liles (pictured, left) and Martin Wilford
COMPANY: Red Deluxe
ADDRESS: 120 S. Front Street
SERVICES PROVIDED: Brand consulting, media advertising, web design, app development, and social media
How Long With Company: Since the beginning
NUMBER of EMPLOYEES: 20
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CEO: “The ability to adapt and recognize that every situation is customized, and as much as you strive to find a cookie-cutter solution to every problem and streamline it, every challenge is nuanced. You’ve got to hire people that are smart and can solve problems on their own. You’ve also got to build relationships in which you can openly collaborate with the client.” — Stinson Liles