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Brand Futures: Portland, 2023 

Portland is where Opal (and much of the team) call home. Not only is Portland the location where we reside, but the city’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit is at the core of Opal’s identity. 

Throughout 2023, we have brought our Brand Futures series to marketers all over the country. For our final event of the year, we came home for the holidays – via Brand Futures: Portland.

On Wednesday, December 6th, we brought together marketers from the city’s top brands for one of our best events yet! On this classic, rainy Portland evening, we gathered in a cozy downtown loft for conversations, charcuterie, and connections. 

Here’s how one guest described the event:

“I’m a fan now, I got inspired and I’m gonna share with our team! It was authentic and the conversations afterwards just flowed!”

Connecting Our City’s Top Talent 

Talented and creative professionals love meeting each other. The goal of any Brand Futures event is to foster as many authentic one-on-one connections between exceptional marketers, creatives, and communicators. 

We’re proud to share that representatives from brands like Nike, Adidas, Microsoft, Keen Footwear, Portland Trail Blazers, and Conde Nast were in attendance. 

Hip, Yet Homey Atmosphere 

We knew we needed to find a space that matched the vibe of Portland. We found a trendy downtown loft, complete with exposed brick and tall windows that overlooked the city. With crowd-favorite holiday carols and cozy furniture, the scene was set. 

The food and drink selections certainly earned attention and started conversations as well. The centerpiece grazing table featured a varied selection of meats, cheeses, countless dips for the vegetable platters, and a dedicated caprese section. The two signature cocktails of a Pomegranate Paloma and an Espresso Martini also added to the holiday atmosphere. 

Fireside Chat with Marcus Harvey of Portland Gear  

For the evening’s main event, Opal CEO George Huff hosted a fireside chat with Marcus Harvey – the founder and CEO of legendary local brand Portland Gear. 

Their conversations touched on larger conceptual topics, the city of Portland, and Marcus’ story. These are the key pillars of their fireside chat: 

From Nike to UofO, in life, Marcus was inspired by the great storytelling of legendary Oregon brands. 

At 17, Marcus got to run the high school student store where he loved organizing t-shirts for the student section. This was a foundational opportunity for him.

While he wasn’t an “artist” per se, he got the opportunity to design and screen print shirts for the school. By the end of the season, everyone in the stands were all wearing the shirts. It created a sense of community and sparked his interest to not just run a business but to bring people together through gear.

In 2014, he grabbed the @portland Instagram handle and started posting pictures around town. He noticed people wanted “printed in Portland” on screen-printed shirts. He started printing shirts, and anytime there was an event, he was there with shirts for sale. 

A mission of Marcus’ is keeping a positive narrative around Portland, despite the hardships the city has experienced.

In business, the two CEOs agreed that too often, we track lagging indicators like a drop in sales. However, we don’t spend enough time focusing on leading indicators like investing in ad spend or a new event.

For Marcus, Portland Gear is more than just its products – it represents Portland.

He gets to work with the Portland mayor and tourism board. Positive pictures for Portland Gear are great, but shaping the genuine vision of Portland is something he’s very proud of. 

“A brand is more than a logo” – it’s about the story and how people feel about it. 

More Brand Futures in 2024 

In 2023, we hosted Brand Futures events across the country, holding events in Minneapolis, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Portland.

Next year, we’ll be back on the road, bringing Brand Futures to a city near you. Stay tuned to our social media for more details – and we hope to see you next year!   

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