Grow Your B2C Audience With These 3 B2B Marketing Tools

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing often comes more naturally to marketers than business-to-business (B2B). It’s in our nature to relate to other people – to draw from our emotions, passions and other human tendencies – which is what B2C is all about. It feels less natural to appeal to whole organizations rather than the individuals within them – to rely on numbers and logic more than shared experience.

These differences have given B2B an unsexy reputation in the marketing world, distracting us from a surprising truth: B2B and B2C are more similar than most of us are willing to admit.

Though their end goals are seemingly different, running a successful B2B or B2C strategy means knowing your audience. And most audiences’ decisions are shaped by information they receive through multiple platforms –platforms customary to both B2B and B2C strategies. Adapting certain traditional B2B tactics to a B2C strategy can help to meet your audience at multiple points in their lives.

Consider using these three traditional B2B tools to fortify your B2C marketing strategy and up your chances of broader audience penetration.

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great tool for both building trust in your organization and diversifying your social media audience, especially if you’re marketing to millennials.

Younger audiences are often mission driven in their behaviors. They’re looking for organizations whose beliefs reflect their own, and they want to see those beliefs put into action through products and advocacy. On LinkedIn, you can draw audiences with in-depth content that unpackages complex, mission-focused topics and helps build brand authenticity.

Further, while you’re more likely to reach women on channels like Instagram or Facebook, LinkedIn leans slightly toward men. If professional males are a segment of your audience that’s proven trickier to connect with, you’ll have better luck finding them on LinkedIn.

  1. Inbound Marketing

Inbound is typically a B2B tool because it’s great for marketing anything involving a high price point or long-term investment. Products such as business information software, machinery and consultation services have longer sales funnels, and leads spend more time weighing their options before they buy.

But prolonged sales cycles happen in B2C, too, with expensive products such as cars and homes – or long-term investments like meal kit subscriptions. Successfully marketing these consumer-facing products means nurturing leads through the awareness and consideration stages all the way to final decision.

Take our client GOGO Band, which specializes in tech-based solutions to childhood bedwetting. While our work with them is primarily B2C, their product includes complex electronic equipment and a recurring subscription model – a pricey, long-term investment. So we’re guiding prospects steadily through the sales funnel via email workflows, educational e-books and other lead-nurturing methods.

Remember that B2C inbound marketing should focus on anticipating your audience’s questions and answering them before they even ask. Rather than addressing these major questions in business-friendly formats like white papers and hours-long seminars, do it with bite-sized content like social media posts or newsletters.

  1. Longform Content

I know, I just said to keep things brief. But longform content lets your brand unpackage complex, often data-driven topics in a way that engages the consumer’s whole brain and helps them identify with your business objectives.

Our client Worksite Labs provides quick-turnaround PCR COVID-19 testing for business, travel, events, schools and other purposes. While testing is a high-demand product (especially during the recent Omicron surge), the inner workings of the test product – and the disease it addresses – are highly complex and scientific in nature.

By producing a three-part B2C blog series that explained COVID-19 immunity, preventive practices and treatments, our team helped Worksite Labs speak its audience’s language and educate them on a complicated, widely misunderstood topic. In turn, these blogs emphasized the importance of Worksite Labs’ product and concretized the company’s healthcare expertise.

Whether you use traditionally B2B or B2C tools, you can connect with your consumers if you take the time to understand them. Depending on your product and your goals, you can send different value props to different audiences or the same value prop across multiple platforms. Whatever you land on, be consistent. At the end of the day, it’s consistency that drives consumer decisions.

Are you looking to broaden your audience and meet prospects where they are? Our team of creative, content and brand strategy experts will develop a framework that can help your ambitious brand do more business. Click here to reach out.

Tuesday Thought: How the Golden Rule Drives Success

“A successful team is many voices with a single heart.” – John C. Maxwell

“Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships.” – Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson

•••

Dotted Line’s core values guide how we work with each other and with each client every day. At the top of that list: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. But it tends to be the least talked about and most misunderstood value.

We intentionally listed this first among our six values because it’s our guiding star for how we operate in our team-based model. In other words, if we do our best to treat others well in our daily work and interactions, living the rest of our values will come to us more naturally. It’s a big reason why this is a rule we’ve encouraged our team to follow since our earliest days.

Our decisions can impact more than just ourselves. How we treat others is how we invite others to treat us. This goes beyond simply being kind to each other. It’s thinking about others the way you want to be thought of. Feeling about others the way you want to others to feel about you. Speaking to others the way you want to be spoken to.

A well-intentioned culture, competitive benefits and rock-star team members who are known and recognized by our clients – these things are all wonderful. But if we don’t build strong one-to-one relationships within our own team, nothing else really matters. Treating others the way we want to be treated is an easy start to relationship-building. If we forget this, the risk of becoming our own worst enemy becomes greater.

Bringing this Value to Life

Each day, I approach how I engage with those around me – in my family, at work, among friends and within my communities – by aiming to live this value. To start, this means treating people with kindness and respect, but it goes much further. For me, that means I want to know:

  • my hard work will be noticed and recognized by my people leader;
  • team members are excited when I join them on a new assignment;
  • I can contribute new ideas in a group setting without being shot down or ignored,
  • others value my contributions to making our team and agency better;
  • if I have an off morning, someone will notice and ask;
  • my leaders listen and understand where I want to go with my career and are proactively helping me perform at the next level; and
  • my peers see I’m committed to an amazing work product – one we’re all proud of – and that its completion makes the client happy and generates a big team win.

How we embrace and interact with each other will differentiate how we elevate our work and deliver consistent successes for the good of each team member, our agency and our clients.

So, ask yourself: Does the way I treat others within my organization lift them up and further our collective goals? How can I go beyond merely treating people with kindness and respect?

Is Your 2022 Marketing Strategy on Target?

Here are 3 questions mid-size brands should ask themselves to find out.

Growing a middle-market brand is no small feat. You’re often competing in markets that are dominated by big players and saturated with energetic startups.

Many of our clients come to us looking to solve this challenge through marketing, trusting we’ll turn their promotional budget into maximum ROI. An iron-clad marketing strategy is key to keeping any organization afloat, but how do you ensure lasting impact over time?

By always understanding your audience.

If you don’t know what matters most to your key demographic, and how they learn and consume information, you will lose your relevance. Why should they keep you on their radar if you cannot empathize with (and solve) their problems?

My goal is to help our clients ask the right audience-first questions to keep their marketing strategy on track. So, let’s run through the three questions you should ask yourself when putting your own strategy under the microscope.

Are you driving value for your audience?

The entire purpose of a product is to solve the customer’s problems. If your customer-facing content doesn’t focus on how your product can ease their burdens, you will lose their attention, fast.

And that would be a simple charge if you served just one audience, but that’s often not the case. Organizations need to spend the time to understand each audience (their hopes, obstacles, and behaviors), understand their potential impact to your organization (lifetime value), and prioritize marketing spend accordingly.

Thankfully, if you’re already in business, you likely have ready access to your customer base. If you ask them to help improve your services, they’ll often be more than happy to oblige.

An in-person or online customer survey is perhaps the simplest branding “health check” you can conduct. Ask customers whether you’re meeting their needs and, if not, what you can do to fix it. (And it never hurts to offer participants a small incentive as a thank-you.)

Is your message relevant to your audience?

There are two types of relevance to consider: cultural relevance and industry relevance. As the speed of business and culture continues to quicken, it’s important to show customers that you’re in touch with what currently matters in a way that separates you from the competition.

Culturally relevant brands share their messages in a way that customers resonate with and understand. This extends beyond simply using keywords, phrases, and concepts your audience is familiar with; you should mirror their values as well.

A brand’s cultural involvement drives a whopping 25% of the average consumer’s purchase decision. If your brand gives back to the community, supports social issues, and otherwise conducts itself in a way that matters to customers, they will notice.

Brands should also maintain industry relevance by taking note of major changes, challenges, and opportunities in the marketplace. A brand that adapts its messaging to respond to its audience’s excitement or concerns about these changes will come off as trustworthy and well-adjusted. COVID-19 is a great example of this – brands that pivoted to meet their audience during this unique time earned brownie points in dividends.

Marketers can pursue both cultural and industry relevance by simply keeping a steady eye on conversations in the news and on social media. It also helps to study the discourse between your competitors and their audiences to determine what works and what misses the mark. Brands that want to stay in the know should consider regular assessments of competitors’ websites and social channels to gain a quick view of market conversations and untapped opportunities.

Are you using your audience’s chosen platforms?

Every brand has a customer base that interacts with the world in a unique way. We know millennial moms are oftentimes driven to the stimulating visuals of Instagram while their boomer parents tend toward more traditional social channels like Facebook. When you focus the bulk of your budget and energy on your audience’s chosen mediums, you can maximize your marketing impact.

Also ask whether your activity on those platforms is driving the actions you want in your business. Are your customers being led to your website? Does that, in turn, lead them to make a purchase or ask for a quote? Conduct quarterly and annual analyses to see whether your strategy is yielding the desired business outcomes, not just marketing outcomes.

An effective marketing strategy requires dedicated attention to many different aspects of your audience and brand. Asking yourself these three questions – on a daily basis, not just once or twice a year – is critical to identifying diverse strategies and creating holistic solutions that may be grounded in marketing but are revenue-generating – which is the ultimate goal for all middle-market brands.

How the search for clarity fueled our latest brand refresh

A lot has changed in the past year for Dotted Line: our size, our clientele, our growing presence in the Richmond marketing space. But one thing that we didn’t expect to change as much as it did was our brand identity.

Earlier this year, as we began re-assessing our target audience, we tapped one of our brand strategists to simply crisp up our message – we expected a refresh at most. However, once we dug into insights collected from our clients and network, we realized an equal need to more clearly define Dotted Line’s product offerings and perspective.

And now, months later, perhaps you’ve noticed the fresh look of our website, but that’s just one result of our dedicated efforts to update Dotted Line’s brand positioning and messaging.

Of course, you might think that a marketing firm has the ready tools and resources to consistently update its brand, but a targeted exercise ensures you’re doing that strategically and effectively. At the same time, we saw the opportunity to practice what we preach to our clients about continuing to analyze your brand. So, we invite you to peek behind the curtain on our process and re-walk that journey with us.

The meaning of meaning

The secret to effective branding is creating authentic, personal connections between the business and the customer to foster greater trust in the buying process.

Studies show that 84% of millennials don’t trust advertising, but that 82% of individuals base their purchases on reviews and effective content that engages with consumers. In short, consumers trust other people’s perspectives before they trust a company’s paid message. Brands that communicate like people wanting to help other people create trust more quickly – facilitating a faster, more effective sales process. And the positive effects of these brand touchpoints last long after the immediate sale.

We all know actions speak louder than words. People trust actions, not lip service. Demonstrating that your organization is oriented toward its stated goal by living it through your work and beyond is the best proof point you can give a consumer.

At Dotted Line, the insights we collected – which prompted a search for deeper clarity – led us to develop a set of belief statements to serve as a North Star for Dotted Line’s brand and our team’s day-to-day work.

Beliefs fuel brand identity

Our first step was to ask ourselves some central questions. To name a few: What has happened in the past to drive our passion? What’s happening now in our world that gets us fired up? Why do we exist? And what really matters to us?

From there, we dug into what our target clients care about. We interviewed several core clients and augmented that research with team observations, which informed the creation of several target personas.

Ultimately, we arrived at four powerful belief statements:

  1. We put creativity to work to grow businesses because problem-solving is the fastest way to achieve ambitious growth.
  2. We start by putting the dots in a row because we know a strategically led approach fights inefficiency and ineffectiveness for our clients’ marketing.
  3. We bring together top performers in new and traditional media to execute omnichannel campaigns.
  4. We are people who care as much as you do. Strategic partnership requires co-ownership of goals and results.

By determining which beliefs drive meaning for our agency, we could then analyze our visuals, messaging, and client experience to see if they were consistent in executing our ideals. Moving forward, we’ll continue asking ourselves what actions we can take to generate the right moments that prove our beliefs, and how we’re teaching and reinforcing these beliefs to our team.

Brand building is never finished

The operative words in that last sentence? Moving forward. As Dotted Line continues to grow and evolve, we’re always working to build our brand: enhance our visual identity, sharpen our message, and create meaningful moments for clients.

It’s tempting to view brand building as a destination, but it is, in fact, a journey. A company that consistently evaluates its own beliefs, and whether those beliefs drive its brand identity, is better equipped to drive traffic, leads, and conversions.

That’s not just conjecture. Lucidpress and Demand Metric found in 2017 that brand consistency drove an average 23% revenue increase for companies. If your beliefs don’t align with your messaging, identity, and moments, it’s time to consider a shift.

As a team of creative, content, and brand strategy experts, Dotted Line is equipped to build your brand through collaborative, research-driven methods that yield lasting results. Click here to reach out.

Tuesday Thought: Re-Engineering Our Habits for Success

“Vision without action is just a dream.” – Joel Arthur Baker

“Destiny is not a mystery. Destiny is daily habits. It’s mind over matter. It’s nurture over nature. It’s a daily grind in the same direction. Show me your habits. I’ll show you your future.” – Mark Batterson

•••

I’ve never been a big fan of setting ambitious goals or dreams without having a supporting action plan. I talk with many people who share grand hopes for the future, but in follow-up conversations a year or two later, I learn most didn’t achieve what they’d dreamed.

Days turn into months, and behavior changes never happen to instigate the necessary activities that turn actions into outcomes. For example, a big problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we fail to consistently practice the action that’s needed for us to succeed. Whether it’s getting out of debt or getting into shape, the habits we adapt dictate our progress.

A recent Duke University study shared that 45% of our daily behavior is automatic. So if we want to see meaningful change in our lives, we must reverse-engineer the steps toward a goal to put the right habits in place to achieve that desired outcome. As I think about some of my goals this year – for me personally, for my family, and for our agency team – this topic of habits and building a successful system is top of mind.

I recently heard author Mark Batterson talk about how he thinks about his habit formation, as he explores more deeply in his newest book, Do It For a Day. He assesses his habits with three questions: “Are my habits measurable? Are they meaningful? And are they maintainable?”

  • Measurable: We map miles, count calories and budget dollars. Our habits are quantifiable.
  • Meaningful: If I take on the desired persona, I believe I can do it. I believe I am a runner, so, therefore, I am able to run 30 minutes today.
  • Maintainable: Can I do it for one day? If so, I can do it again tomorrow. I spent time writing today, so, therefore, I can also write tomorrow.

Batterson looked at the habits of some of the most successful leaders in American history to hack their routines. What he found is that the top trend across all of them was their ability to focus and put discipline around their daily habits. Batterson shares that we often overestimate what we can do in a year or two and vastly underestimate what we can do in five or 10.

The encouraging news is that you’re always only one habit away from any goal you set.

In those moments when I feel like I just don’t have the time, I remember that a friend told me the average person spends two and a half hours per day on social media. That’s 15% of our typical waking hours. Unfortunately, when I look at my weekly iPhone activity report, my social media usage isn’t far off (even if some of it is work related).

So how do I accomplish big goals? This week, I’m focusing on one new habit to integrate daily.

What one habit could you adopt this week to see if it makes an impact in a month?

Six Ways to Produce Award-Worthy Marketing Content for Clients

Getting to great work starts and ends with a trusting and collaborative relationship.

The most memorable modern marketing campaigns (the Geico Gecko or Progressive’s Flo come to mind) are the ones that play off relatable, human interactions and remind audiences a bit of themselves. These and other popular advertising mascots show us that, behind the brands we trust, there are people with personalities and ambitions just like us, and we bond with them emotionally.

But one-on-one connection (simulated or otherwise) doesn’t just play a role in the final commercial, print ad or radio spot; it’s a crucial tenet across the entire marketing lifecycle. Great business is built on strong and trusted client-account relationships that form with time, patience and dedication.

In my 20-plus years in account-based work, I’ve found that behind every award-winning marketing campaign is an account team that’s committed to maintaining a healthy and collaborative relationship with the client.

Here are six relationship-based approaches every account team should take toward delivering top-notch work for clients.

  1. Communicate and over-communicate.

Nothing leads to a great relationship than clear communication. If everyone understands each client request, its individual components and the implementation plan, the resulting product will be more cohesive and powerful.

Consider Commander’s Intent, a military principle by which leaders outline the who, what, when, where and why (five W’s) of a mission’s execution plan. While your approach to team-based organization may differ slightly, the longstanding success of Commander’s Intent demonstrates the usefulness of detail-oriented planning and communication.

Communication also enables deepened personal relationships with the client, making them to feel seen and appreciated for their vision and goals. This requires patience (it took months to break through to one of my most demanding former clients), but the quality content and friendships that result are well worth it.

  1. Keep an open mind.

Great ideas can come from anywhere. Whether a spectacular vision for a marketing campaign comes from you, the client or the most junior member of your account team, don’t ignore it, especially based on seniority. It may just become your client’s next great claim to fame.

  1. Be detail oriented.

Details are the backbone of any successful process. Account leaders should take the time to develop and implement protocols and tools for every team member, so that even the minutiae of a client-facing project are fully addressed. From holding kickoff meetings, briefs and check-ins to setting deadlines and conducting follow-ups, each step in the process pays dividends when executed well.

  1. Stay positive.

Not every marketing project can be award-worthy, but it’s an account leader’s job to believe it can be and look for ways to make it so. By showing enthusiasm, providing the tools and language needed to succeed and removing team members’ barriers to success, leaders create an environment most likely to foster greatness.

Even when a client gives undesirable feedback or a final product doesn’t remotely resemble its far superior storyboard, take the challenge or disappointment as a learning opportunity. The lesson learned will ultimately fuel the quality of your next piece of creative or content.

  1. Build trust.

Keeping a client up to speed on the agency team’s every development ensures nobody is left in the dark, waiting to be delivered a product that’s vastly different than what was initially pitched. Meanwhile, providing clear expectations for team members and welcoming all questions, doubts and requests for help creates trust on the account side. The best work happens when even the most outlandish ideas can be freely and comfortably shared.

  1. Be honest and direct.

Don’t be overly sensitive or cautious with your feedback — we’re all adults, so let’s treat each other that way. Understanding one another’s priorities, even if those priorities clash at first, is the first step toward aligning the client’s goals with that of the account team.

And if someone in your charge delivers sub-par work, the most helpful response is always constructive criticism, never disingenuous praise. Otherwise, you put the quality of the final product — and thus the client relationship — at risk.

Getting great work can seem increasingly complex with so many marketing tools and tactics at your disposal, but it can and should be pretty simple by following these steps. While it’s the account team’s responsibility, every agency team member — creative, strategy, media, etc. — can apply these key principles to improve outcomes and outputs of any client relationship. After all, we’re all in this together.

Winning Ad Themes from the Super Bowl

The 2022 Super Bowl featured two unexpected teams that reinvented themselves and evolved throughout the season to get to the big game. Similar to the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, businesses looking to take advantage of the hype around this perennial celebration of broadcast advertising prowess approached this year a little differently, operating with a greater level of intentionality to make sure their message reached their target audience. And with the price for a :30 spot crescendoing this year at a cool $6.5 million, it’s no wonder big brands took the time to ensure they were leveraging their media dollars in the most strategic and effective ways.

Below, we have outlined some of the most prevalent themes and highlighted an ad or two that we feel did an exemplary job of following through on the execution of each.

Not Joining the Party

Sometimes the best move is not to play at all. That’s what Hyundai thought at least. Given timing uncertainty around whether the Ioniq 5 would be on the market in time for the game, the longtime Super Bowl advertiser opted to stretch beyond the edges of the nearly 4-hour telecast with several smart tactical moves. While it still produced two smart (and epic) spots – check out History of Evolution – with familiar brand spokesman Jason Bateman, it was able to leverage the NFL playoffs and consumer focus on ads during the big game to its advantage.

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the brand focused its media relations message about the decision to sit out, citing the need to balance its marketing priorities. Being based in Los Angeles (where the Super Bowl was held) and leveraging its existing sponsorships with both the NFL and SoFi Stadium, the brand opted for OOH (Out of Home) paired with a product placement on the ABC sitcom Black-ish.

Know Your Audience – Part I. Millennials

Although Gen Z commands much of the silver screen these days, there is still a fervor within the advertising world to engage with the juggernaut generation: millennials. No brand capitalized on that opportunity more than Expedia during the big game.

A core value of most millennials is valuing experiences over possessions or purchases, so in Expedia’s Stuff spot, they cast Ewan McGregor to speak specifically to this sentiment. Over the :60 piece, Ewan poses a philosophical question around consumerism and the impact of those items on our legacy…setting the brand up as the hero that can provide its audience with the things that matter.

In addition to speaking directly and effectively to their audience, Expedia also hit the nail on the head by capturing the anguish that many of their prospective clients may be feeling from not being able to travel freely during the pandemic, strengthening an already persuasive message.

Know Your Audience – Part II. Gen X

No, the Super Bowl advertisers haven’t forgotten about you, Gen Xers. In fact, this demographic was the main target in what most are viewing as the best ad of the 2022 Super Bowl. The spot that sits atop this throne is Dream House with Anna Kendrick and Barbie from Rocket Mortgage.

Just as Expedia tapped into a core value for many millennials, Rocket Mortgage crafted a message that struck the nostalgia chord for Generation X and also spoke to a relevant topic most in that demographic are familiar with: how gosh-darn-it to buy a house these days.

As USA Today commented, the brand left “no stone veneer uncovered,” attempting to solidify its top ad position from several angles. By casting Anna Kendrick as a celebrity spokesperson (and having her tweet consistently in the lead-up to and during the game) and pairing her charm with a comedic, yet realistic view of the current housing market, Rocket Mortgage was able to ring the pop culture gong in their :60 spot and keep them talking long after the game had ended. Another lead-up activity included an Easter egg listing on the Rocket Homes site, and then the brand brought it home at the end of its spot with a fixer-upper castle on the Homes sub brand.

Going Beyond

More so than in years past, advertisers focused on how to expand their messaging through third screen experiences. From omnichannel offers to in-app experiences and contests, brands wanted to leverage their audiences’ fractured attention spans to capture engagement in as many places as they could.

No Super Bowl advertiser did that better than Coinbase with their bouncing, multi-colored, screensaver-esque QR code. Also making a nostalgia play that harkened back to prestreaming DVD days, Coinbase’s low production spot (whose simplicity was shocking unto itself) paired the gamification of chasing the moving target with a contest tie-in. And other brands took notice…quickly and comedically playing off the messaging.

(Captain Morgan was one such brand that shortly after tweeted out a black screen with a floating Captain Morgan logo bouncing around and changing colors à la the Coinbase QR code.)

While not necessarily a fan favorite, Coinbase’s ad has drummed up a lot of excitement and their success is quantifiable. Curious internet sleuths quickly broke down just how successful the ad was in the first day since it aired.

Ad Cost: $14M

• 117,000,000 people watched the spot

  • 20% scanned the QR code (The site had 20M visits in the first minute)
  • 10% signed up
  • 20% linked their bank account – which equates to ~500K new customers

500K new customers are worth a lot to Coinbase. But exactly how much?

According to their last quarterly report, the average customer generates $90 in revenue per year. If the customers who came from the Super Bowl spot are even 50% as valuable, then we can assume $45 of annual revenue from each. 500,000 new users x $45 = $22.5 million. That certainly covers the cost of the spot, and then some.

Creative Spotlight

In lieu of a fifth theme, we opted to highlight one of our Creative Director’s favorite spots from the Super Bowl, a throwback to his childhood, in Irish Spring’s Welcome to Irish Spring.

Over the decades Irish Spring, a very utilitarian consumer packaged good, has always been unabashedly over-the-top, even stereotypical, with its “Irishness” and laser focus on getting you clean and smelling fresh. Their first foray into Super Bowl advertising is no different. But they’ve taken it one step further. Along with their nod to the Emerald Isle and hyper focus on the importance of smelling fresh, they’ve added a cult, led by a white rabbit, that believes in ridding the world of all things smelly. The result is a twisted and funny touch of spring.

The Bottom Line

While Super Bowl spots are an opportunity for brands to briefly steal the spotlight from one of the nation’s most-watched annual broadcasts, smart advertisers are using the moment to extend beyond :30 or :60, attempting to form authentic connections with their most important audiences and sustain that electricity well past Sunday.

Scoop creative campaign embodies the spirit of Dotted Line

Last year, Dotted Line began taking steps to expand beyond its business-to-business (B2B) marketing foothold and deepen its business-to-consumer (B2C) portfolio. And when Associate Creative Director Mitchell Jordan and I hopped aboard in January, we came equipped with ideas to help Dotted Line make a real name for itself in B2C.

One of our first steps was to demonstrate the agency’s knack for consumer-facing work by taking on several strategic pro bono projects. Mine and Mitchell’s partnership began several years before joining Dotted Line, where we worked on several grassroot creative campaigns, including an award-winning poster campaign for King of Pops, so that felt like a natural starting point. Beyond the obvious promotional incentive for the recipient, pro bono campaigns also offer creative marketers the opportunity to gain attention, attract clients and indulge in creative output that fuels the agency.

For our first pro bono creative campaign with Dotted Line, we pitched Scoop, a small-batch ice cream shop in The Fan of Richmond. (After a popsicle-based campaign, ice cream seemed like the logical next step). Dotted Line Account Director Christie Hach knew one of the shop’s employees, which helped us get our foot in the door. From there, we collaborated on, tinkered, went back to the drawing board several times and ultimately delivered a campaign as unique as their ice cream for the brand to feature on social media.

Scoop loved the final product and began sharing the new visuals online earlier this month. But beyond that success, our pro bono project was a real-world example of several of our agency’s key virtues. By exhibiting creative ingenuity, off-the-clock ambition and a bold embrace of fun, our Scoop campaign demonstrates the spirit of Dotted Line and hopefully gives other marketing professionals something to think about.

In-house innovation

While a contracted client would typically expect us to deliver a product that adheres to a set of previously established standards, our partnership with Scoop was a little different. We approached the company and said, “This is something we would like to do for you — money isn’t an object.” This less formal relationship allowed Mitchell and me to flex our creative muscles a little more and jump off from Scoop’s established visual identity to create something eye-catching and unique.

Since the shop first opened several years ago, its social media content has largely consisted of two-dimensional imagery, a pastel color scheme and close-up photography highlighting its frozen treats. This strategy has clearly been successful, earning the brand more than 12,000 Instagram followers and considerable levels of engagement.

But we wanted their images to take on a singular visual language of their own — not just for the sake of being different, but to parallel the uniqueness of many of Scoop’s culinary concoctions. (The menu features such flavor choices as “sweet corn and blackberry” and “strawberry-hibiscus sorbet.”) We opted to pair an eccentric visual sensibility with messaging that would promote Scoop ice cream as a rescue for hot weather — which turned out to be a fitting choice for this sweltering summer.

Our team eventually landed on visuals that blended photographs of Scoop ice cream with sunny outdoor landscapes as well as quirky, even psychedelic visual frills, topped off with punchy messages like “Treat the Heat.” Aside from photos of the Scoop product itself, everything in the frame was produced in-house, including photographs by Dotted Line Production Designer John DiJulio. This display of creativity is, we hope, a testament to our creative team’s range of skills and “let’s have some fun,” do-it-yourself spirit. But to see just how dedicated we were to the project, one must look beyond the final product.

Initiative, self-improvement and the extra mile

As our previous pro bono campaign earned us awards attention (including two Gold Cannonballs from the Advertising Club of Richmond) and inclusion in industry publications, Mitchell and I already knew that some of the most attention-worthy marketing work isn’t necessarily contracted. By taking on a creative side project to help put Dotted Line on the B2C map, we embodied the value of creating one’s own opportunities in the marketing space — even if those opportunities aren’t necessarily billable.

While we weren’t held to a concrete deadline (another plus of pro bono work), we wanted the campaign to come together by summer’s end so the weather-based messaging would remain effective. One early idea for the campaign involved engaging consumers in an online and in-store cups-versus-cones debate. Another involved close-ups of people eating ice cream while sporting face mask-shaped tan lines — which hit the cutting room floor when Virginia dialed back its COVID-19 mask mandates.

We could have gone with the first idea that came to mind, but a drive to refine the Scoop campaign to its best possible version kept Mitchell and me cranking. This ambition ultimately earned our product a spot in Scoop’s social media feed — and exemplified the extra-mile mentality that fuels all of Dotted Line’s output.

A feel for fun

While promoting Dotted Line and Scoop was our primary impetus, we were especially driven to take on the pro bono campaign because we simply enjoyed the work and the Scoop product. Passion projects with increased creative freedom serve as a reminder that — as Mitchell puts it — we marketers are “pretty lucky to do what we do for a living.” He and I also kept the rest of the Dotted Line staff up to speed on the creative campaign, and their enjoyment while watching the project unfold only motivated us further.

Even if it sounds paradoxical at first, having fun with creative marketing projects is a time commitment. It took us time to stretch our brains and stimulate our creative juices so that the product could embody the whimsy and spirit it was meant to evoke. You can’t come up with a graphic featuring an old-timey zeppelin, unicorn balloon animal, parrot and garden gnome all congregated around a cup of ice cream on the beach without having a good time.

Our creative team and the rest of the Dotted Line family bring innovation, ambition and enjoyment to every task — whether on or off the books. By employing these attitudes, creative marketers can both foster their own growth and deliver the most effective possible product for their client. If that’s the mentality you seek in your own marketing strategy, we’re here to create exponential impact for your business. Click here to contact us.

Tuesday Thought: Be The Buffalo

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

Before the start of the school year, I spent an intentional couple of days away with Dotted Line’s leadership team in the West Virginia mountains. We talked proactively about the health of our business, what’s coming up for our team in the next few years, and some current challenges. The good news is that the business is healthy and growing, and we have exciting opportunities on the horizon. Much of our conversation focused on the complexity facing our team right now. As a positive consequence of that growth, we’re aggressively staffing up, refining processes, and working hard to preserve our core, our mission and values – all at the same time.

I invest a lot of time speaking with and listening to other founders and business owners, learning the practices and tools that can enable our growth while making it as painless as possible for everyone involved. As I chatted with a friend recently, he mentioned a story about buffaloes and cows in Colorado.

For those that don’t know, Colorado is divided almost exactly in half by the Rocky Mountains. The western part of the state is the mountains, and the east part is the Plains. Because of this unique geography and landscape, this rare spot has both buffaloes and cows living together. As a storm builds from the west and spills over the Plains toward the wildlife, the cows and buffaloes respond very differently. In their lumbering way, the cows walk away from the storm, which prolongs how long they’re in the storm and maximizes the amount of pain, time, and frustration they experience from the wind and rain. The buffaloes take a different approach. They wait for the storm to roll over the ridge, and then turn and charge directly into the storm.  By running into the storm, the buffaloes run straight through it, minimizing their pain, time, and frustration.

It’s the same storm, but their experience is wildly different.

In life, we will always have storms. At Dotted Line, we’re constantly trying new things. One thing I love about our culture is that we’re not afraid of complexity or storms. Maybe we have a struggle with a client. Or a difficult conversation with a team member. Or a new idea that could revolutionize how we do service but could be difficult to implement.

Procrastinating on a problem usually amplifies the pain. But when we address it head on, we’re more apt to act with greater intention.  This week, I’m working hard to be mindful of which direction I’m running when faced with a storm. How can our team be like buffaloes and charging into a storm? And how can you and your team live that spirit?

Tuesday Thought: Filling Up The Bucket

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Charlie Jones

My daughter Savannah has become fixated on trying to help with chores around the house. I think it’s the act of watching my husband and I complete certain activities, and her trying to mimic them as part of her quest for independence. One of the chores that she has taken to is helping to water our plants every day. Our daughter has her small watering bucket, and each morning, she follows me outside to try to help me. This morning, she was growing frustrated because she kept trying to tip the bucket to water the plants, but she was forgetting to fill her bucket first with the water.

While this seems so obvious, I can see how it might not be for someone at her age. At Dotted Line, we talk a lot about the importance of personal growth and development. This interaction with my daughter this morning was a timely reminder, particularly amid the back-to-school season, the importance of filling our buckets to grow our abilities. 

I’ve learned that growth, whether it be me as a person, or the plants in our front yard, just doesn’t happen. Developing my abilities is the best chance of becoming the person I was created to be. I must be intentional about it. In practicalities, it is asking myself…am I growing to be the leader Dotted Line needs in to be successful?  This same thinking can be applied to all areas of our lives, professionally and personally.

What does growth look like? It’s developing the right attitude, learning your strengths, tapping into your passion, getting in touch with your purpose, developing your skills. And becoming a more effective and fulfilled individual starts with having a plan. For many years, I was intentional about working, reaching my goals, and being successful. The strategy was hard work. But working hard doesn’t guarantee success and hope isn’t a strategy.

I’ve learned that most people underestimate the importance of growth, and they get distracted. I know I have done that. As a result, I put growth on the back burner. Famous author and speaker, John Maxwell writes “If you want to reach your goals and fulfill your potential, become intentional about personal growth. It will change your life.”

This week I am thinking about what I am doing to fill my bucket so I can pour into others more effectively. It’s hard to build strength without growing my capacity to do and be more.