Brand Refresh vs. Rebranding

A brand refresh is a makeover for your company.  

Not attracting new customers?  Business slowing down? Is your logo out of date? If so, then a brand refresh can help revitalize your company.  Think of it like a makeover ... a fresh coat of paint, up-to-date fixtures, and new landscaping that transform how a home is perceived. It's the same with your brand.  A refresh can keep or update recognized visual elements. Or a new look, tone and presentation of the overall style will bring new recognition and new business.  A brand refresh maintains a visual connection to how the brand identity was seen before. But the makeover is up-to-date, vibrant and designed for today's audiences.

Rebranding is like getting a new identity.

A company rebrand goes much further than a refresh.  It's a completely new house in the same zip code.  A total transformation or new identity for the same name. It includes a new logo design, fresh messaging, and a transformed marketing program to drive the company forward.  The rebranding process is not a simple task. It demands time, attention and a deep dive into who you are now and how you want to be perceived in the future. 

For proven experience and extraordinary creative design that demands attention and inspires response, contact ToriStar to discuss your brand objectives.  

How Much Does Marketing Costs?

This is a question that we hear quite often.  Although this varies by company and industry, as a general rule of thumb, companies should spend a minimum 5 percent of their total revenue on marketing to maintain their brand. However, companies looking to grow or increase market share should budget a higher percentage of at least 10 - 15 percent.  Using this small metric should give you a idea if you're doing enough to support your brand.

Hiring Freelancers: Hourly or Fixed?

Amelia Winkle via Amplified Concepts

Hiring freelancers for the first time may make you nervous. Will the freelancer I choose do the job right? Will this person work well with me and other members of my team? These are some of the same questions you ask when hiring employees for your business, and they definitely should be asked. But, you also need to consider payment. If you already have employees, you may want to keep freelancers on the same hourly structure as your other employees. Is that the right thing to do, though? 
There are many articles online discussing whether you should hire freelancers on an hourly or fixed rate. The problem is that there are so many opinions. If the writer of the article prefers hourly, that’s the slant taken in the article. That might not be right for your business, though, or the freelancer you choose. So the answer to this question is really…it depends.
Choosing the Right Rate Structure

When you decide how to pay freelancers, there are a lot of factors to consider: 
Is this an ongoing or one-time project, and what type of project is it?
Do you know how long the project will take? 
How much do you trust the freelancer?
How flexible is your budget?
What’s the Type of Project?

Many companies hire freelancers for one-time tasks, like writing the copy for a web page or designing a logo. If you need a one-off project like those, you may want to consider using a fixed-rate payment. This is one project, and your relationship with the freelancer will only continue afterward if you both like their work, and you have another project that needs to be done. 
But if you want to hire a freelancer as a virtual assistant, that might be different. Presumably, the virtual assistant will work for you indefinitely. Would you want to pay $500 a week, but find that you have nothing for that assistant to do at least one week a month? No, you wouldn’t. An ongoing relationship with the assistant means that you may want to use an hourly rate unless you know exactly how much work you’ll need to be completed each week. 

How Long Will the Project Take?
If you can estimate the time of the project, it may make your choice easier. If you know the project takes about 10 hours, you can easily determine whether a freelancer is charging you an unusually low or high fixed rate. 
Why does that matter? If you pay too little for the project, the quality may suffer, and then you may have to rework the project or pay someone else to fix it. On the other hand, you don’t want to pay too much. If you know that the project will take about an hour, and the hourly rate for employees in that field is $25, you probably don’t want to pay someone $300 to complete the project. 
If you don’t know how long the project will take, try to do some research, or ask the freelancer how long the project should take before you hire. This does two things: For fixed-rate projects, you know when to expect the work back. For hourly projects, it helps with your budget. If the freelancer doesn’t have a clue, you probably want to dig deeper in your interview of the freelancer, and you almost definitely want to pay on an hourly basis. 

Do You Trust the Freelancer?
Whether you trust the freelancer is one of the most important questions. For a fixed-rate project, the quality of the work and the timeliness will tell you that they put in the time and effort to do the project correctly. Most freelancers include a certain number of revisions in their estimate, and you should always be clear on what is included before you start a fixed-price contract. 
For an hourly project, however, you need to be able to trust that the freelancer is working when they say they are. There are time tracker tools available – some that take screenshots of the freelancer’s computer screen as they work – and those are helpful. If you require the freelancer to be on-site when working, you can see what they’re doing. But keep in mind that many freelancers are self-employed, at least in part, because they want to call their own shots. They don’t want to feel that someone’s over their shoulder watching 24/7, and they are ethical about their work. So, you can also usually tell if a freelancer on an hourly rate is working just by the results; you will get projects on time. 
If you hire a new freelancer for an ongoing relationship, and you’re concerned about work ethic, you may want to start with an hourly rate. This helps you see how long the job takes and ensure that you get your money’s worth. 

Is Your Budget Flexible?
For most businesses, the budget is a concern. Let’s say you need an ebook edited. You think it will take five hours, and your budget is $100. You have a choice of hiring two freelancers, both equally qualified. Freelancer A wants to charge $20 an hour, and Freelancer B quotes a rate of $75. Which do you choose? 
The $20/hour rate might be great if it takes Freelancer A only three hours to edit the ebook. But what if her computer crashes when she’s almost finished, and she has to do more than half the editing again? Then, it might take 8 hours. In that case, you’re going to pay $160, which is over budget. That’s the risk. 
If Freelancer B takes the project, you pay $75 whether she takes 2 hours or 20 to edit the book. For all you know, it takes an hour, and you just paid $75/hour. That’s another risk. But, if you get what you need and don’t go over budget, does that matter? 
I once had a potential client who offered $15/hour for blog writing, which is much lower than my normal rate. Instead of politely refusing, I asked about a fixed rate. It turns out, he was hiring entry-level writers who took four hours to write a 500-word blog post. I was happy to accept a $60 fixed rate, and he was happy to pay it. Why? Because he got a higher-quality article with a quicker turnaround, and for the same rate he was paying less experienced writers. 

What Are You and Your Freelancer Comfortable With?
But do you know the most important question when deciding whether to use an hourly or fixed rate? After reading the options, and scenarios when using each, it all comes down to this: what do you and the freelancer agree on? If you and your freelancer are both comfortable with an hourly rate, but not a fixed rate, then pay him hourly. If you prefer paying by the hour, but you find an amazing freelancer who only works on fixed-rate projects, then you need to decide whether the right freelancer is worth changing your opinion. You need to find the right freelancer to work with you, and then work out a payment system with that person. Consider your budget, the results, and the pay with your freelancer, and you’ll have a more productive working relationship.

The Pound Cake Co. Launches First TV Ads

Seven years after the launch of its online store, The Pound Cake Company launches its first television campaign.   
Online sales were slow to grow initially in part fueled by a lagging economy but as their fan base developed things began to change.  Referrals and word of mouth have been the brand's bread and butter, supplemented in more recent years by display advertising and search marketing.  "We created a marketing plan that looks at different mediums and at ways to build awareness by showing potential customers a step-by-step way to order products," explained Starlyss McSlade, who serves as Creative Director.  "When we took a look at the marketplace, it was just the perfect time for TV.  Especially since the client is a mature business that has developed unique products and product offerings."  The Pound Cake Company isn't the first gourmet e-retailer to jump into the TV space. Other national brands such as Harry & David and Sherries Berries have also run TV campaigns. "Because they're an e-commerce brand, we should advertise on TV even more", Starlyss explained.

Two 15-second spots aired regionally on local and cable networks, including Food Network, Hallmark, OWN, HGTV and 13WMAZ.  One of The Pound Cake Company ads, titled "Thanksgiving Dessert," serves as an introduction for the brand as well as promoting the wide variety of gourmet pound cakes that would make the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving dinner.  Chef Milton is featured while product images stream in the background.  The second ad also features Chef Milton but this one promotes corporate and holiday gifts for Christmas. 

Due to the exceptional performance of the campaign, additional ads will be further developed. The Pound Cake Company experienced increased metrics in new-membership growth, local brand awareness, site visitation and improvements in natural search. 

ChiChi+PePe Premium Pet Accessories

ChiChi+PePe Logo

Atlanta, GA - July 2017

Pet lovers rejoice, ChiChi+PePe has arrived!  Following successful regional pop up trials, the online pet store from Atlanta is now delivering to homes across the U.S. ChiChi + PePe Premium Pet Accessories is a boutique retailer of luxury products for dogs and cats offering customers an extensive range of unique products including pet apparel, carriers, collars and high end pet furniture. 

Amanda Perry, General Manager at ChiChi+PePe says, "We know that pets are very much a part of today's family.  We created ChiChi+PePe to help our customers find high quality products to compliment their lifestyle and allow their pets to lead happy lives.  ToriStar Media has built a website to showcase our products in the best light and will continually work to deliver a consistent brand message."  "I have longed to have my own pet now working with ChiChi+PePe has given me an even greater desire to have a new addition to our family.  On behalf of ToriStar Media, I would like to extend the warmest welcome to our client." said Starlyss McSlade, Partner at ToriStar Media.

Engage with via its' social media outlets on

Southern Haute Luxury Men's Accessories

Southern Huate Logo

Atlanta, Ga  - June 2017

ToriStar Media announces the signing of new client, Southern Haute Luxury Men's Accessories. ToriStar Media will serve as the agency of record and brand ambassador leading all marketing initiatives. Southern Haute has worked tirelessly to curate the finest selection of men's accessories and develop product profiles to reflect the latest fashion trends in watches, wallets, cuff links, neck wear and more.  ToriStar's extensive experience in the development of ecommerce platforms played a pivotal role in Southern Haute's decision to use the company's services.

"At we chose to work with ToriStar Media because of their in-depth product branding experience and make-it-happen attitude", said Mathew Laughton, founder of Southern Haute.

"We are excited to welcome Southern Haute on board and look forward to making their products and website the best it can be for their customers", said Milton Stephens, Partner at ToriStar Media.  "Choosing our marketing methodologies will help to create a foundation for future growth and consistent brand awareness."

Engage with Southern Haute via its' social media outlets on

StarMc Studios Fine Art Photography

StarMc Studios Logo

Atlanta, GA  - May 2017

After years of successfully working alongside her husband as creative director and principle partner at ToriStar Media, Starlyss McSlade has merged her talents into the world of fine art photography.  The graphic design and product photography specialist announced today the launch of her solo project, StarMc Studios.  Recognizing the cultural role and potential revenue the art world represents in terms of retail and licensing, Starlyss has created galleries of rustic, modern and natural fine art photography as well as limited edition original works.

It doesn't hurt that her agency ToriStar Media has the ability to create the perfect website to showcase her work.  "We will create an online gallery built around Starlyss that not only illustrates her work but also give customers the ability to preview what the art piece would look like in their home or business."

Fine Art Photography as seen through the eyes of artist Starlyss McSlade. Art investment pieces offered in large format gicleé prints for interior design, home decor and commercial use. Be sure to visit

Engage with StarMc Studios via its' social media outlets on

High-End Gourmet Pound Cake Phavor® Now Available in C-Stores

 Gourmet Pound Cake Phavor ®  Packaging - Design by Starlyss McSlade

Gourmet Pound Cake Phavor® Packaging - Design by Starlyss McSlade

Certainly not your average snack cake, The Pound Cake Company spins their signature recipe into an addictive savory experience. ToriStar Media led the creative process of The Gourmet Pound Cake Phavor®'s product packaging, point of purchase displays, sales materials and branding efforts in preparation of their official launch. Available in select C-Store retailers as of 2/17/17.

"The Phavor®Debuts On C-Store Shelves!"

Click Below to learn more...


Follow Pound Cake Phavor® via its' social media outlets on

- Facebook: @PoundCakePhavor

- Instagram: @poundcakephavor 

- Twitter: @PoundCakePhavor

Celebrating a Year as Agency of Record

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  -  January 14, 2015 - Atlanta, GA

CONTACT:  Milton Stephens, The Pound Cake Company - 888.884.7560

ToriStar Media Selected as Agency of Record for The Pound Cake Company.

The Pound Cake Company has selected ToriStar Media, innovative independent brand-building shop, as the agency of record.

In its 10 year history, The Pound Cake Company has grown its family-owned and operated business from household start up to a artisan gourmet gift center. ToriStar Media will be responsible for branding strategy, creative, digital, social media and promotions that will launch in 2015. 

“We’ve made major improvements to our online experience and expanded our service offerings,” said Milton Stephens, founder and executive chef of The Pound Cake Company.  “We need a partner who can help us tell our brand story and build an emotional connection with our audience, while simultaneously drive sales. ToriStar Media is the best boutique branding and retail agency we have worked with and the best agency for the job.”

The Pound Cake Company creates hand-crafted pound cakes presented as gourmet gifts.  Our reputation is built on the highest standards of quality and customer service.  Starting with a variation of an old family recipe, we created the original "Mother's Butter" pound cake which has since gained notoriety as the best tasting pound cake!  Using innovative blending techniques and flavor combinations, "The Pound Cake King" now boasts over 80 flavors of this traditional Southern dessert.  Our products are available exclusively online and are all made fresh to order and national and international shipping options.  Our online store is designed to provide you with a safe and secure environment to browse our menu of gourmet gifts.  From special occasions and business gifts to fundraising, The Pound Cake Company provides a memorable experience.

Starlyss McSlade, partner at ToriStar Media, said, “The Pound Cake Company has done a phenomenal job evolving its business with a buying experience that is consistent with consumer expectations and attractive to online shoppers. That’s the kind of brand story that we get really excited to tell.”

ToriStar Media - Creative for Collaborative Product at Chateau Elan Winery

June 02, 2014  /  M.Toris Stephens

With the arrival of The Pound Cake Company's "Summer Cake" at the Chateau Élan Winery and Resort, savory parings will never be the same!  Chateau Élan selected The Pound Cake Company to create a unique dessert treat using the natural peach essence of their Summer Wine to serve as a perfect paring complement.  With agency of record, ToriStar Media leading the creative for packaging design and marketing, the collaborative effort is expected to be mutual beneficial for both brands.

The Power of Co-Branding:

There are some foods that just naturally go together - think of peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, or rum and Coke, and that creates the idea of co-branding advertising!  While all of these foods are natural compliments to the other, very few of them are created by the same company.  That’s where the idea of co-branding products can help you make the most of your advertising dollar. Co-branding promotion is even more important than ever as companies vie for new customers and hope to increase sales and improve brand recognition.  When co-branded promotion is used to its fullest potential, this form of advertising can be even more effective than traditional advertising methods.

The key to making co-branded products successful is to partner with the right company that has a good reputation, strong brand recognition and also makes a logical pairing with your company. You should never attempt co-branding with a company that competes with yours.  Instead, work with a company whose products compliment yours.  Many companies who have used co-branding choose to create websites specifically dedicated to explaining how products can be used together. Other companies simply choose to launch campaigns that promote the products together.  Campaigns are often based around a particular season, to attract shoppers who are often looking for new food ideas for entertaining. For example, a three company team has launched a campaign aimed at summer entertaining that combines graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate which are marketed together for the purpose of making (S’mores) in the summertime. The options for food companies are endless.  Turkey and stuffing companies at Thanksgiving, florists and chocolate manufacturers at Valentine’s Day, and now we have a gourmet dessert brand that personifies decadence and a premier resort-winery that is known for pampering their guests.

Stay tuned to see how they entice new and old customers with their unique combination of products and services...