Sullivan Higdon & Sink Breaks New Ground with Unique Brand Position, New Name - Signal Theory
Signal Theory Formerly SHS

SHS is now Signal Theory — a brand development, marketing and design firm.

After almost 50 years, Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) today changed its name to Signal Theory.

Even with its highest-ever employee count and profitability – more than 170 employees in its Kansas City and Wichita offices, with capitalized billings of $150 million – and with industry-leading clients holding household brand names, it’s no time to get comfortable, according to Signal Theory co-CEOs Ali Mahaffy and John January.

“We challenge ourselves every day to serve our clients more efficiently and effectively. With an increasingly complicated marketing landscape and clients who expect deeper expertise specific to their industries, we need to continuously evolve to best serve our clients’ changing needs,” says Mahaffy.

Constant state of beta: A mindset for employees

The firm’s leaders recognize new and increasing pressures faced by clients in this world of marketing fragmentation. Clients today must juggle everything from consumers’ on-demand expectations to data privacy protocols, business transformation and keeping current with the opportunities and threats associated with emerging technologies. In addition to traditional marketing efforts, agencies must be geared to support clients in these and other areas.

“In 2016, we embarked on a mission to add critical talent, services and expertise to further strengthen our organization in this rapidly evolving industry,” says Mahaffy.

“We asked our staff to remain in a constant state of beta as we began a deliberate process to evolve on multiple fronts. We’ve been transforming internally and now it’s time to reflect that in all aspects of our brand,” says Mahaffy.

Creating resonance in the signals between people and brands

While the agency has worked on enhancing and expanding capabilities in areas such as data science and talent across the digital ecosystem, January says that the firm’s mission of delivering deeper, more powerful strategic insights for clients drove the firm’s rebranding.

“The centerpiece of this transformation is a new, proprietary strategic framework called Resonance Branding. It combines cultural systems analysis with data science, design thinking and methods and principles from the social and behavioral sciences to give us more complete and relevant insights into the way people think, behave and make decisions,” says January.

“These insights are already driving more effective and meaningful solutions for our clients. When we create deeper resonance in the signals that flow between people and brands, both benefit.”

Hence, “Building Brands That Resonate” is Signal Theory’s new tagline.

Signal Theory is for brands that feed the human spirit.

Last year, the agency announced a narrowed focus on the food value chain and animal wellness. These focus areas remain, and Mahaffy says the firm’s new approach is uniquely suited to work with clients who are looking to grow their businesses and brands in the food and animal health and wellness spaces.

“We work with brands that feed the human spirit — you know, the good stuff in life,” says Mahaffy. “A great meal or an indulgent treat. A family trying a new restaurant together or a snuggle with a furry best friend. Or maybe it’s the satisfaction that comes from caring for a whole herd of creatures. Our new strategic framework enables us to understand more deeply the decision-making process and what those experiences mean to people.”

Preserving company culture

Something that hasn’t changed is the firm’s unique work environment, which was recognized when the Kansas City Business Journal in 2018 named the firm one of the city’s Best Places to Work.

“It was important to retain the values, culture and extraordinary talent that have always defined SHS,” January says. “Now, we have arrived at a new and different place, with new expertise, new practice areas and a radically modern theory that gives us unique insights we can turn into meaningful solutions for our clients.”

Signal Theory’s 170 employees were introduced to the rebrand during a recent all-hands meeting. The rollout of new branding elements, the tagline Building Brands That Resonate and a new website – – has started and will continue through 2019.

Signal Theory is positioned to take on big challenges for clients

Industry veteran Tim Williams, the founder of Ignition Consulting Group, worked with SHS to redefine the company’s offerings.

“The market rewards those who build a niche and offer experts to solve problems,” says Williams. “That’s exactly what SHS – now Signal Theory – has done in narrowing its focus and overhauling its strategic framework, solutions and brand position to lead clients through big challenges, and not only reacting to pressing needs.”

Learn more about the rebrand and agency transformation at


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