Alumni Profile: Matt Diefenbach

September 2013

Although he never took a business class, as principal and business director of Turnstyle, Matt Diefenbach ’98 is no stranger to Fortune 500 companies.

“We are typically contacted when businesses have a marketing problem to solve,” Diefenbach said from his Seattle office where posters for Haiti earthquake relief, advertisements for businesses, and a snowboard for K2 line the walls. “They are looking to the creative process to genuinely connect with their audience. That’s where my psychology degree comes in handy.”

Turnstyle, a design and branding firm with offices in Seattle and Portland, works with companies of all sizes on marketing communications. Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Starbucks are joined by the NW Children’s Fund, World Concern, and Treehouse in the client list. The Turnstyle team helps companies and organizations understand how best to communicate their products and services.

Diefenbach came to marketing through the back door. A natural leader, he worked as a volunteer, counselor, and then director of the summer day camp program at his local community center. As a Sullivan Scholar, he took full advantage of campus life – facilitating retreats through Campus Ministry, tutoring adults learning English and at-risk students in after-school programs, advising incoming students – while meeting the academic requirements for a double major in Psychology and French and a minor in English.

“Psychology helped me understand what motivates people, what makes them tick. French gave me a great cultural perspective on what influences people, why they choose what they choose, but it was a Seattle University professor [Fr. Jerry Cobb, SJ] that introduced me to marketing,” he said.

Diefenbach worked for Puget Sound Personnel right out after graduation. Responsible for screening people who were unemployed, including those with disabilities, he sought employers who had tasks and environments that fit his clients. “Marketing for the good, solving business problems” is how Diefenbach refers to that time. A chance conversation with Fr. Cobb soon led to a position with Fitch International, a leading brand communications firm. There Diefenbach worked with GE, Nissan, and Microsoft, among others. Nine years ago, he and two colleagues started Turnstyle.

Organizations come to Diefenbach because they have an issue to address, usually limited time, and a need for a thoughtful and innovative solution. With his background in psychology, debate, and oral presentations, he zeroes in on their core strengths and values, gets to the heart of an issue, and determines the best way and in what context they need to communicate.

“Too much gets lost in translation, especially in the digital age,” Diefenbach said. “Businesses and organizations need to cut through the clutter so their messages can be heard.”

Whether doing pro bono work for schools, the Salvation Army, and people in need or watching a newly rebranded Air Seychelles Boeing 787 roll out on the tarmac, Diefenbach maintains balance between work, family, and service. At Turnstyle, he has put his Jesuit liberal arts education to work.