The do’s and don’ts of experiential marketing

By Matt Suttmiller

You’ve definitely encountered or participated in experiential marketing before – even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Experiential marketing involves creating memorable and innovative customer experiences that create deep emotional connections between a customer and brand. It’s a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground type of marketing that you’ll most often see in action at in-person events.

Some experiential marketing campaigns you might have seen out in the world include:

Yes, high-profile companies tend to make the biggest waves and earn the most online views with these kinds of campaigns. But experiential marketing can move the needle for any business of any size – if it’s done right.

Let’s dig into how experiential marketing can benefit your business, how it’s changed in recent years (hello, pandemic!), and some do’s and don’ts that’ll help you make the most out of it.

Why should you invest in experiential marketing?

Experiential marketing can create an impression that lasts – and often converts:

  • 65% of brands say experiential marketing increases sales.
  • 91% of consumers say branded events and experiences make them more likely to purchase.
  • 46% of consumers feel more positive about a brand after engaging in one of its events.

Digital marketing and other kinds of content often involve making a quick impression on consumers. With experiential marketing, you get to forge a personal connection that helps the consumer remember you months or years down the road. This especially helps brands whose products are more expensive or have a longer sales funnel.

For example, customers rarely impulse-buy insurance; it’s a longer, more carefully considered decision that they might not even need to make right now. That’s why companies like GEICO and Progressive pour massive spend into experiential marketing: It helps consumers remember them when the time to buy insurance finally comes.

Branded events also help you collect more in-the-moment data from your target audience. And they can even be a launchpad for online publicity. (Influencers love promoting branded experiences.)

How has experiential marketing changed recently?

As in most industries, the experiential marketing world experienced some massive changes triggered by COVID-19. But some of these changes are arguably for the better.

Marketers tapped into their creative juices to come up with virtual solutions to reach and engage prospects while maintaining physical distance. When in-person events did happen, they got rid of tangible lead-capture tools like iPads to minimize touchpoints. Instead, they opted for more cost-effective routes (with an added focus on personal health) like scannable QR codes so the consumer journey stayed within each consumer’s personal device.

Now, as in-person events are ramping back up, marketers have new insights for strategically spending their experiential marketing budget. They better understand which goals they can effectively accomplish through virtual or hybrid events rather than fully in-person ones. They’ve also started to favor more cost-effective engagement tools – no more dropping thousands of dollars on a bunch of tablets to collect email addresses. Plus, since the pandemic has kept people closer to home, it’s led marketers to seek out more localized initiatives to promote their products. 

Which, incidentally, leads to the first do of experiential marketing…

Three do’s of experiential marketing

  1. Do go where the customer is. Tempted to take your experiential campaign on a big circuit around the country? Before you get too ambitious, ask yourself: “How do I meet my customers where they are?” Unless you’re a nationwide company selling something everyone and their mother needs, you probably need to narrow your scope. Identify your target audience, then determine the cities and events where you’re most likely to find them. This will keep your campaign targeted and help you maximize spend.
  2. Do show return on investment (ROI). Like any worthwhile marketing campaign, experiential marketing is an investment. If you can’t show ROI, you’re not going to get buy-in for future experiential efforts. Gather the data you need to prove that you accomplished what you set out to do. And if you exceeded expectations, even better.
  3. Do conduct post-event research. Use surveys to understand how your experiential campaign impacted (or didn’t impact) your audience. A month or two after your event, reach out to people who likely engaged with it and ask them their thoughts. Then leverage that information for a pulse study to see if your event improved your audience’s overall perception of the brand. (If it did, that’s another point in your favor when seeking buy-in for future campaigns.)

Three don’ts of experiential marketing

  1. Don’t skimp on logistics. The event is only a piece of an experiential marketing effort. Have you accounted for the time it takes to produce supporting materials and collateral? How will you transport those materials – and how long will that take, particularly on a campaign with multiple stops? How much will you need to pay truck drivers, setup crews and on-site brand ambassadors? Tie up those loose ends so the campaign goes off without a hitch.
  2. Don’t forget to define your key performance indicator. If you start a campaign unsure of what you want to accomplish with it, you won’t be able to measure its success or ROI afterward. Determine exactly what you want to gain from experiential marketing. It could be a certain number of email opt-ins, coupon code activations or some other outcome. Set a realistic expectation – and if you don’t reach it, use the data you gather to optimize future campaigns.
  3. Don’t overlook smaller, more local opportunities. Everyone wants to give their brand the biggest possible platform. Maybe it’s your dream to set up an experiential event at a nationally renowned trade show or at major league sporting events. But don’t let these super-sexy prospects distract you from reaching your target audience. If you’re most likely to find prospective customers at less glitzy events – like a farmer’s market or the spring fling at your in-laws’ church – put those at the top of your list.

Not sure where to begin with experiential marketing or how to get it to work for you? Our brand strategy, content and creative experts can help pinpoint your audience and execute a great campaign that’ll forge lifelong customer relationships. Contact us to get started.

Jonathan Goldberg Joins Dotted Line as First ECD

Dotted Line has named Jonathan Goldberg the agency’s first executive creative director. He is tasked with elevating the creative output Dotted Line produces for brands including Worksite Labs, Bon Secours Mercy Health and Shades of Light. A 25-year advertising veteran, Jonathan has served as a senior creative at Ogilvy DC, Mono Minneapolis and Arts & Letters (to name a few), helping to promote such major brands as AT&T, FedEx and General Mills.

Continue to AdAge, Little Black Book, Campaign US and MediaPost to learn more about Jonathan and his role at the agency.

What does happiness in the workplace mean for your agency?

After two-plus years of the pandemic, our world’s relationship to work looks completely different from the way it used to.

We have a better understanding of what makes us feel fulfilled on the job and what leaves us feeling high and dry. We’ve learned that a rigid 9-to-5 schedule doesn’t work for everyone. We’ve decided that we deserve to do work that matters to us. In short, happiness in the workplace is more important than it’s ever been.

But happiness can easily fall to the bottom of your company’s priority list, especially in a high-burnout industry like marketing. Obligations to clients, deadlines and agency growth can overshadow whether the people you work with even like being there.

If you’re a leader at your agency, try asking your team a few questions to see how you can help them be happier on the job.

“Do you have the flexibility you need?”

One of the key lessons learned from the pandemic is that everyone works differently.

Some of us operate best with our coworkers buzzing about in the background. Others find a day at home helps them focus on pressing tasks. Some feel they only really need to be in person for important meetings, while others rely on in-person collaboration to spur creativity.

Your team members might have found that their pandemic-era setup worked unexpectedly well, but they might be hesitant to say so – especially if your agency has largely resumed in-person work. Given the nature of professional services, most agencies can offer some work-from-home flexibility without much trouble.

Try asking your team if your current attendance model works for them. If not, dig deeper and see what kind of flexibility they need to thrive.

“Do you feel valued?”

Nobody wants to be in a friendship or relationship where they feel unwanted. That sentiment applies to the workplace, too.

Feeling valued at work doesn’t necessarily mean a beefy paycheck. The highest-paid person on your team might feel undervalued if they get a paltry vacation allowance. Perhaps they’d like more learning and development opportunities, like going to that fancy conference next month. Or maybe they just want you to give them and their work the occasional shout-out.

People also feel more seen when others invest in them as people, not just coworkers. Sure, that office social hour or end-of-quarter party might seem insignificant. But events and team-building exercises help us bond over what makes us human: family, hobbies, culture – even embarrassing high school stories.

Show your team that you want them to feel appreciated, and then work with them to determine how you can make that happen.

“Are we doing meaningful work?”

People can’t be happiest at work if they don’t want to do … well, the work.

Doing work that helps others and feels meaningful can significantly boost your happiness, well-being and even your lifespan. (We’re not kidding.) That’s what’s so important about bringing on clients you and your team believe in. When your team gets to help make a difference, it will motivate them to perform their best.

But having the right clients isn’t the answer for every struggling team member. Sometimes, people just aren’t satisfied with their role on a team. When their responsibilities don’t play to their strengths, they’re bound to feel less accomplished, even if they’re doing passable work. Imagine being a knockout swimmer. Wouldn’t you be bummed if your triathlon relay team assigned you to the bicycle leg, even if you’re a decent cyclist?

Ask your team if they find their work meaningful. If not, encourage them to seek new responsibilities or (if possible) ask to work on a different client.

Finding our Happier Place … and helping you find yours

We’ve done some rethinking lately – about our goals and our motivations, how we perform best, and what makes Dotted Line a great place to work.

Creating a positive work environment is one of our top priorities, especially given how fast we’re growing. Thanks to open office dialogue, we recently took a few actionable steps to make our team a little happier:

  • We started letting people work from home up to three days a week;
  • We adopted an unlimited paid time-off policy with a four-week annual minimum;
  • We adjusted our profit-sharing model to more accurately reflect team members’ hard work; and
  • We scheduled a series of activities in May to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, including in-office yoga and a weeklong walking challenge.

One thing hasn’t changed: the happiness we get from doing work that makes others happy, too. That’s why we launched our Happier Place project earlier in May.

The Happier Place involves a simple, easy-to-use landing page. Just click a button to cycle through a roulette of smile-inducing GIFs hand-picked by our team. (We’re especially fond of the rabbit taking a sink bath and pretty much anything involving a hedgehog.)

It’s been a tough stretch for everyone in every industry. We hope this humble piece of creative helps you brighten a dull moment or wind down from a long day. Visit https://findyourhappier.place/ for a quick and easy mood boost.

If you think you need professional mental health services, it’s never the wrong time to seek help. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services for important resources.

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.

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.

Dotted Line Drops Its First Non-Fungible Token

Unless you’ve taken a month-long, off-the-grid vacation, chances are you’ve noticed the massive NFT boom. From coveted “packs” of NBA video clips reminiscent of physical trading cards to a digital collage by graphic artist Beeple that sold for a whopping $69 million, everyone’s eyes (and crypto wallets) are opening to the baffling new world of blockchain-secured digital assets.

What exactly is an NFT?

If you’re still wondering what exactly an NFT is, you’re not alone.

For starters, the acronym stands for “non-fungible token.” “Non-fungible” means that something has unique value and can’t be substituted. For example, a dollar bill is fungible: you can swap one dollar for another and no one will notice the difference. A work of art, on the other hand, is non-fungible: if you swap Van Gogh’s Starry Night with a cheap gift shop replica, you’ll have a huge art heist on your hands.

A “token” refers to a digital asset (like an image, GIF, or video clip) registered on a blockchain. Every NFT corresponds with a unique bit of code, which stores an unalterable public record authenticating the token’s provenance (when it was minted, who bought and sold it, and for how much). This level of traceability is unprecedented for digital files—it enables clear ownership verification and commodification of everything from world-famous memes to iconic tweets, fueling a new market for rare virtual status symbols.

With even the most mundane of NFTs—like an image of a New York Times column about NFTs—racking up substantial press, all the buzz got us thinking. If anyone can make an NFT out of just about anything, why not make our own and put it up for sale?

Introducing Untitled 01 (1/1), an NFT by Dotted Line

Armed with a newfound appreciation for fungibility and inspired by the permanent, unalterable nature of tokenized artworks, we set out to create a digital time capsule for our inaugural NFT. As is our brand promise, we started with strategy. Our team met to discuss the tokenization trend, how Dotted Line could effectively demonstrate our creative capabilities within the NFT medium, and how best to engage the entire agency in the effort. After taking a little time to identify the intersection of the format and our marketing goals, Mitchell Jordan (our Associate Creative Director and digital art mastermind) suggested a digital collage of snapshots from the team.

From there, Account Manager Tom Hinkes gathered nearly 100 images of everyday moments from the Dotted Line team and clients. Mitchell then wove the shots into a collage memorializing where the agency stands at this specific point in time. The colorful brush stroke overlay speaks to both the diverse spectrum of people, interests, and stories at Dotted Line as well as the arts and crafts trend that we see as very “of the moment.” With our digital artwork finalized, we moved on to the critical step (or more literally, the convoluted series of steps) of actually minting the file to transform it into a bona fide NFT. 

The Nitty-Gritty of NFT Registration

Selling an NFT is a bit more complicated than traditional e-commerce since all transactions take place in cryptocurrency, not dollars. An array of different cryptocurrencies can be used to buy and sell tokens since multiple blockchains support NFTs. In an effort to be purists to the process, we selected Ethereum—the predominant blockchain network for NFTs—and its cryptocurrency, ether, to mint our token.

All NFT-related transactions require a digital wallet for storing, sending, and receiving cryptocurrency funds, so before we could acquire any ether, we needed a place to store it. We identified MetaMask as the ideal place to house our digital wallet—it’s a browser-extension that easily integrates with mainstream NFT marketplaces to simplify buying and selling.

With our new cryptocurrency burning a hole in our (digital) pocket, we could finally focus on transforming Mitchell’s digital artwork into a digital token by selecting a marketplace to house the creation. Several marketplaces facilitate NFT minting and trading, each with their own curatorial specializations buying and selling terms. We used Mintable, a free, open platform that streamlines the complex, technical nature of blockchain contracts and makes minting and selling an NFT straightforward and user-friendly. After linking our MetaMask wallet, we uploaded the collage to our agency account, set our selling price, and launched it on the marketplace.

Once we listed our NFT, we realized we couldn’t bear to part with it. To mark this singular milestone for the agency, we purchased Untitled 01 ourselves, adding an authentic, minted, NFT to Dotted Line’s digital portfolio. To buy our creation, we used a credit card to purchase ether through MetaMask and moved it to our digital wallet in the same way you’d transfer money to an external bank account. With enough ether in our wallet to purchase Untitled 01 and cover Mintable’s associated fees, we finally secured Dotted Line’s one-of-one digital collage. But we weren’t completely finished yet. The costs of trading assets on the blockchain aren’t just financial—there are environmental costs stemming from the energy required to generate complex code associated with the minting process. To offset our carbon costs, we purchased carbon credits from Aerial, a startup that distributes funds to forest conservation groups.

In a world of boundless NFTs, why does Dotted Line’s matter?

Everything we do at Dotted Line, from crafting a client’s repositioning strategy to dipping our toes into the digital art market, ladders back to our mission as an agency: to discover possibilities through creativity.

Our mission of discovery is just as embedded in our agency DNA as it is in Mitchell’s NFT design. That key verb—discover—means that we’re constantly on the lookout for groundbreaking innovations and planning ahead for the ways in which they’ll impact our clients’ businesses. To us, “discover” doesn’t simply mean skimming a daily news digest. It means rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty—in this case, setting out on the arduous journey of minting an NFT to get a feel for the process inside and out. Much more than simply creating a digital artwork, Dotted Line’s NFT was all about process. The transaction in and of itself—surveying the NFT market, digging into cryptocurrency, and putting in the grunt work to actually execute the sale and purchase of Untitled 01— became the essence of the creative journey. The artwork itself is just an album cover!

NFTs are already making their way into the mainstream advertising world as brands experiment with their rich storytelling potential. Taco Bell leveraged an NFT drop to simultaneously promote new menu items, raise funds for charity, and generate a burst of positive press mentions. Even more relevant, the blockchain technology underpinning NFTs has the capacity to revolutionize an endless list of everyday business operations—think buying stock photography, issuing coupons and discount codes, and more.

Whether you’re ready or not, buzzwords like “blockchain” and “non-fungible” will only become more commonplace, so drop us a line if you want to learn more about our NFT journey or explore the possibility of an NFT for your brand.

Introducing Dotted Line’s Creative Department

Jason Anderson and Mitchell Jordan: The Dynamic Duo at the Helm of Dotted Line’s Creative Department

As 2020 thrust us into unforeseen campaign revisions and workflow innovations, I took stock of our progress over the past 8 years and reflected on where Dotted Line is headed in the coming 8. The changes and challenges of 2020 kicked our growth mindset into hyperdrive, inspiring us to think above and beyond traditional, short-term solutions and lean into exploring lasting, strategically-grounded transformations.

To realize efficient and effective transformations for our clients going into 2021, I knew we needed a top-tier creative department who’s seen it all—from leading huge national brands in large-scale creative endeavors (hello, Walmart and Showtime) to mastering cutting-edge methods for brand storytelling (from experiential activations to original NFTs). That’s why I’m so excited to have Jason and Mitchell on board: they’re not just best-in-class creatives, they’re strategic heavyweights with the invaluable capacity to think across multiple platforms and connect the dots for our clients with bold, brilliant strokes.

With experience spanning a breadth of industries and mediums and countless awards between them (literally—we lost count), this dynamic duo brings a wealth of creative firepower, strategic expertise, and contagious enthusiasm to Dotted Line. Between Jason’s mastery of copy and Mitchell’s unmatched eye for design, these two are a creative agency’s version of a match made in heaven. We’re thrilled to welcome Jason Anderson and Mitchell Jordan on board full-time to lead our creative department as Creative Director and Associate Creative Director.

Introducing Jason Anderson and Mitchell Jordan

Jason has covered some serious ground over his twenty-year agency career. After graduating from Atlanta’s Creative Circus, he cut his teeth copywriting for big-name brands including Walmart, Time Warner, Kellogg’s, Honeywell, and Best Western. Jason found his way to Richmond by way of NDP Agency, where projects under his creative direction racked up impressive accolades—notably, an Emmy for a campaign with Children’s Hospital of Richmond and multiple features in Lürzer’s Archive.

A self-proclaimed design nerd, Mitchell effortlessly marries his creative eye and aesthetic expertise with a proven strategic backbone. Following his graphic design degree at Parsons, Mitchell spent a decade rising through the ranks at Showtime, where he honed his conceptual and technical skills working on print and digital advertising for Dexter, Homeland, and Smithsonian Channel. In Richmond, he pivoted to agency-side work, building NDP’s Design Studio from the ground up and managing a team tasked with everything from production work to custom illustration.

Chasing the “Purely Organic Fun Moments”

When it comes to Jason and Mitchell, it’s not just their individual strengths that make them game-changing agency assets—it’s their teamwork, too. Case in point: during Mitchell’s particularly eventful first week in his Design Studio role, the two kicked off an enduring partnership over long hours of perfecting a new business pitch for a major client—and wound up winning the account. Leveraging their complementary content and design strengths while working side-by-side, they quickly established a creative process marked by effortless collaboration and strong strategic focus.

From there, their natural teamwork brought dozens of campaigns and creative projects to life. One of my favorite projects of Jason’s and Mitchell’s embodies their signature approach. Based on an idea born out of a “purely organic fun moment,” the two devised an interactive holiday greeting: a trivia game called “Pie-jinx” where each colleague’s wrong answer earned them a pie in the face. The end result wasn’t just for laughs; their off-the-wall greeting was rooted in a strategy to showcase the agency’s new “concept, craft, produce” capabilities in a memorable way. At Dotted Line, they’re already bringing the same out-of-the-box collaboration and thoughtful executional expertise to large-scale strategic projects as they do to impromptu jam sessions in undisclosed basements (their recent SpinnakerFest rebrand is a great example).

Trust in the Process

When the three of us reflect on what makes their teamwork—and any team dynamic— so effective, we all agree: it’s trust. First and foremost, a sense of reliability and responsibility among creative partners paves the way for seamless, efficient creative executions. When they undertook an ambitious pitch for Westerly’s comprehensive rebrand, Mitchell and Jason knew without a doubt that they could depend on each other’s high quality of work, and were able to hit the ground running without second-guessing each other’s capabilities (and yes, they won that pitch, too).

But on an even deeper level, trust is the primary ingredient in forming bonds between colleagues that spark brilliant innovations. Often, great ideas don’t start out as great ideas—they first materialize as an impracticable “what if?” in the office, or over lunch that gets built up, wrestled with, and fleshed out into a reality over time. A strong foundation of trust encourages those spontaneous magic moments that precipitate the most innovative solutions for our clients. And when a project inevitably hits a speedbump, trust is the main element motivating colleagues to face a daunting challenge together. Jason and Mitchell credit their longstanding trust in each other’s work with developing an “it’s you and I against the struggle” mentality that’s critical to teasing the best possible execution out of a complicated project brief.

As Dotted Line continues to grow, our culture assumes an even greater importance for me. With our clients’ needs expanding and their ambitions soaring to new heights, it’s not enough to simply bring on board talent that’s qualified on paper. Any new addition to our team at Dotted Line must be a true team player, one that goes above and beyond the call of duty to deepen our philosophy of trust and inspire best-in-class executions for our clients. Jason and Mitchell represent just that: they’re the dream team that I can trust with even the most challenging of creative briefs, and the duo whose upbeat energy make logging into a Zoom brainstorm feel like a treat. Have a creative project for Jason and Mitchell to tackle? Reach out to us here.