All posts by Sheri Nicholson

A New Face with a Familiar Voice: Advance 360 Rebrands Statewide Organization

It’s official: the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association has a new name, and a new look for its legacy. Together with partners and members throughout the State of Michigan, Advance 360 guided their journey to their new name and brand, now known as Check In Michigan.

Who is Check In Michigan?

Check In Michigan is an association for the hospitality and tourism industry, leading efforts to benefit hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures through out the state.

The Scope of Work

Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, as it was formerly known, knew that they were poised to reinvent themselves. Under new leadership and with a changing landscape for lodging entities with the surge in short-term rental companies like Airbnb, the collective efforts of advocacy on legislation around Post-Labor Day Academic Year, minimum wage and Pure Michigan funding, the work of the association was stronger than ever, but their dated identity no longer served them well.

Advance 360 was contracted to develop charrettes for the stakeholder groups across the state, use the findings to develop a logo and identity system, and launch a new web presence for the association’s conference and institutional websites.

Of this work, Deanna Richeson, President and CEO of Check In Michigan wrote, “Our association has a rich history of 112 years representing a widely diverse industry, and we wanted to forge a stronger future for our hotels, attractions, and hospitality ventures. We envisioned honoring the contributions of those who were before us, and yet opening our arms to embrace younger generations of rising leaders. Clearly this required the skills of master communicators! Over several months, [the Advance 360 Team] created a process that was inclusive, reflective, expansive and thorough. We held several focus groups with a diverse kaleidoscope of hospitality stakeholders, including engaging exercises that gleaned rich insights into the values, emotions and preferences of our participants.”

The Charrette Experience:

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The association’s team recruited a diverse group of open minded individuals to share their thoughts and stories. Activities generated forward iterations on individual ideas, and the groups were able to weigh in personally as well as in groups. From 68 ideas that emerged during these discussions, 16 common themes were forged, crossing the generational, business, and personal preferences of those in the rooms. These themes became the source for creative inspiration for logo designs.

But These Journeys are Rarely Linear

“Just when we thought we were nearing our final stage, MLTA realized we were envisioning a new culture and decided to choose a new name as well a new logo. We were also racing against the clock to announce our new brand at the annual industry conference,” said Richeson.

Advance 360’s regroup was immediate. An additional focus group, called the “Groundswell” was formed to further explore the concept of a new name, build further “buy-in” to this change in direction, and build upon what had already been explored. Activities during this session built to a crescendo around the strategic priorities that would need to be reviewed by the Board of Directors.

This charrette was followed by two board planning sessions to do just that. These sessions were intense for everyone, but harvested the best version of commonality across all the collected data and overcame any hesitation around change for the organization at large. The board was a united team and was energized to “grow forward.”

Now What?

Now the design began. Over a months-long process, the guiding principles of the association were built into a verbal representation of the brand (name) and the visual representation (logo). The group that carried us forward toward that end was formed with executive team members, board members, and a cross section of industry representation.

“None of us looked back, but instead focused on the tasks ahead with a team of stakeholders who met to guide the design process with their input. The result was stunning … a look that was strong, professional, inclusive, inviting, and even a tad fun.”

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Former Logo

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New Logo

The former logo represented a time when the State Capital served as the center of the lodging and tourism universe for the association. This simply is no longer true. The association has transitioned to an immersive model. The team and board are truly wherever their membership is, and wherever their membership requires them to be. Their multi-faceted mission is more than just advocacy, but has expanded to include education, workforce, and community.

Alongside this rebrand was also the digital presence of the organization, which needed to reflect the energy, momentum and credibility of Check In Michigan to the public. View their new site which will launch on April 2.

“Once the brand identity was complete, the final leg of our marathon was creating the “brand reveal.” Our Advance 360 partners created the presentation that will inspire nearly a thousand conference attendees, from scripting to creating an animated video that excites the imagination and “cool factor” among our audience. I am completely confident in the positive reception of our new brand identity, and in the electrified energy the audience will experience at our brand reveal,” said President Deanna Richeson.”

See what conference attendees saw, here.

Advance 360 is an affiliate of Advance Travel & Tourism

Creative Tells the Story

Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa is a unique client. They have a strong sense of self, understanding what niche they want to fill for their clientele: a chic, boutique hotel experience with exceptional amenities, offering ocean view banquets and weddings and al fresco dining in West Palm Beach. Unfortunately, their changing ownership and management companies, along with a deflagging from a franchise hotelier left them without a usable logo, identity system or creative assets.

In addition, they needed a web presence worthy of the property itself. The vast majority of their reservations were taking place with online travel agents (OTA’s), and unnecessarily sacrificing margin to those third party entities. The return on marketing investment was untraceable, as the technology was not being used to its potential. In short, this resort needed an identity and a campaign, quickly.

Our team first performed a market analysis of competitive properties in the area. Our review included all that would appeal to the core customer of Tideline Resort, rather than focus on like-sized or properties with similar entities. What we discovered: The property’s beach was exceptional, better than the competition in space and size. The dining offerings were fresh and desirable, with a credible sushi chef and sought after brunch buffet. The spa offered traditional services, specializing in bridal groups. All of the pieces were in existence, the hotel simply needed to generate the creative assets to tell the story.

The Advance 360 Creative Team then came on site to collect video and still photo assets, staging hotel spaces, vignettes, and amenities in order to capture just the right pieces of the story.

From there, a new website/digital environment was produced and launched, as well as a campaign to generate lift in brand awareness and site visits, and reduce third party booking agents.

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Creative Examples

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William & Mary Athletics’ Social Campaign Draws Record Attendance

The College of William & Mary sought assistance with ticket sales for their basketball season. With a layered targeting approach, Advance 360 used lat/long targeted (also known as geo-fencing) to target students on campus, with messages specific to student ticket pricing. List-matching and social media targeting was used to find alums within a specific radius of campus, and those viewers were encouraged to engage with the purchase of season or single tickets. Additional audiences with an interest in basketball, special events or sports were also targeted and delivered messages around the affordability of tickets, and specific athletic events and dates.

Overall, this campaign achieved record attendance for the University, tripling the men’s basketball audience and quadrupling the women’s audience YOY.

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2018 Digital Marketing Trends

Who is your most valuable audience? Your digital strategy should lead them directly to you. But the landscape changes quickly. How do you keep up? Here’s our take on actionable insights you can (and should) incorporate into your marketing strategy, including advances in online display targeting, content marketing and video.

Fruit Company Offered Finest Products, but Lacked Measurements for Success

With zero ability to measure ROI on marketing initiatives and zero integrated digital marketing strategy, Shoreline was operating at a disadvantage. Though their website effectively meets the needs of direct visitors, Shoreline Fruit was missing a vital component – a holistic marketing strategy designed to expand their audience, reaching those still steps away from the “visit a website” piece of the customer journey. They had built the piece, but the audience wasn’t coming. We dug into the data-driven realities of Shoreline Fruit’s ideal and targeted audience. Using this market research data and our understanding of the stages of the customer “path to conversion,” Advance 360 fashioned a comprehensive campaign. The campaign focused on identified targets as well as other targets determined during our collaboration with Shoreline Fruit. Next steps involved converting this knowledge into action.

“One of the things Advance 360 will be helping us with specifically is social media. Since January, our Facebook likes have already grown 116% and our LinkedIn followers are up 146%.”

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Peter & Company Jewelers Increases Awareness and Revenue with Strategic Marketing

By all accounts, Peter & Company was a successful Cleveland jeweler. With their concentration on special occasion jewelry, diamonds and engagement, and specialty brands, they had all the devices to gain and keep their clients’ attention.

But at Advance 360, we knew that with a strategy centered around events and special occasions, true gains could be made. We built for them a layered campaign with evergreen, event, and other segments, targeted at those that could be most influenced.

Marketing Challenge

Peter & Co. is a single point customer service oriented jewelry retailer that has been in business for 30 years. They have/had partnered with jewelry specific agencies over the past decade. Peter & Co. wanted to understand how their marketing efforts were performing, have a better knowledge of their customer base, and be able to better leverage the digital space.

Our Solutions

  • We proposed becoming their Agency of Record to handle ALL marketing efforts
  • A full CRM and POS data analysis was performed
  • Custom reporting was created to track both web analytics and POS performance in one place
  • We built them a 12 month media calendar including digital, video, print, radio, signage, etc.
  • Our team coordinates and/or activates and optimizes all of the media plans
  • Our creative team initially designed campaigns for Always On, Mother’s Day, Spring, and Summer

Capabilities:

  • Display impressions
  • Campaign management
  • Design
  • Video
  • Photography
  • Responsive rich media
  • Social media marketing
  • Print advertising
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Blog
  • Exterior signage
  • Store collateral & signage
  • Swag items
  • Catalogs
  • Holiday website
  • Campaign analytics
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Creative Samples

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Technology Changes the Nature of Online Giving

Understanding your audience is the sacred piece of any puzzle. Who are your donors, and what drives them to engage with your organization? What characteristics can you count on your donors to have, and how can you strategize to find more like them? As the digital agency of record for a large mid-west nonprofit organization, Advance 360 began with these questions.

But there were real goals to solve. Donor relations is becoming even more important, but with resources waning, the hand-to-hand nature of these relationships is being eclipsed by a desire to drive transactional gifts. These automations, when done well, can still feel personal, allowing staff the time to concentrate on the kinds of relationships that might still require them to be present.

Such was the case for our client.

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This activity was generated in Q4, 2017, and compared to the same periods of the prior year.

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Creative Strategy

These results represent a creative shift as well. With the personal connections missing, it became increasing important for the creative to generate the emotion that might have been conveyed by discussion. Stories about how contributions served individuals in the community became the currency of the engagements. Multiple stories were tested, and determinations made on the value of each based on their conversion metrics. Optimizations were performed in accordance with the best performers, amplifying the work of single stories and pieces of creative over time.

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Notable

As is often the case in nonprofits, budgets must be fluid based on audited revenue from previous years. In Q4 2017, the organization needed to decrease spending by 20% over 2016. Even with this decrease, the Return on Investment (ROI) improved by 2.8 times.

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Essential Tools for Marketing Managers

Marketing Managers have a lot to juggle when planning and executing their business strategies. From developing content marketing to managing campaign schedules, developing quality creative and tracking its performance, campaigns can become overwhelming, fast. Use these tips on ways to streamline these efforts and keep your project management affordable.

Rebranding can be Daunting, but Results Exciting

Just as our own lives have seasons, generations, or iterations, so do brands. Businesses that experience dramatic growth find themselves telling new stories about capacity, e-commerce, or new product availability. Perhaps the physical space is remodeled, creating an enhanced, in-person experience for your customers. Or, you simply recognize that the brand identity system you have has existed for a number of years, and deserves “refreshing.”

This was the case for a jewelry client. A long-time business, Plata y Oro, was acquired by an established local jewelry designer. With the purchase of the business, the new owner had to evaluate and determine the company’s branding moving forward. Lengthy discussions took place to tackle some tough questions like brand equity in the market, preserving existing clientele, communicating this change. The new iteration of the business would also get a new physical space within the year, and a new website. In all, it was determined that the business would use a new name, as well as a visual identity authentic to the new ownership and business design.

Original Designs

The original Plata y Oro mark was comprised of rounded script, evoking familiarity and warmth, while retaining the strength of the name as its central focal point. It served the business well for a number of years, and was very true to feeling of the business for that season of its life.

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New Designs Reflecting the Name Change

The new design changes retained the circular component as the strongest visual que. But the breaks in its border offer an openness, an inclusion of the negative space surrounding. Also important was a modern representation of the name: Teel Jewelers (the last name of the new business owner). It is graphic and modern, but readable, and iterations were crafted to provide opportunities for using a more concise mark when required.

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Final Deliverables

Developing a new mark isn’t enough alone. It’s the entirety of the identity system, the way that colors, images, type, and visual elements function in congress that generates new brand assets. At Advance 360, we don’t just develop a logo. Instead, we provide a guide or playbook that offers the framework of how these elements should be used now and into the future. This guide provides printers and third party users of the brand reference material for their creations on behalf of the business.

From our clients, “The process for designing something as seemingly simple as a logo is somewhat magical. Looking at what we had before and looking at what we have now is an impressive difference. Our staff sees the difference and is excited and motivated to promote and expand the brand. We love the guidelines, it will be a valuable tool in our marketing going forward.”

Building a Lasting Social Media Strategy

Building a brand. Great positioning. Reach and frequency. Content is king. We’ve heard these mantras again and again, but do you really know how to approach any of it to get results for your business? Take it one step at a time, and start with building out your social media strategy. We’ve compiled these social media rules of the road get your started.

  • Facebook, Instagram and other social channels are inexpensive, but you still must pay to be seen. It isn’t enough to post daily, as you won’t be seen by the majority of your friends or followers. Only promoted posts or advertising on the platform will generate the attention you are looking for. Too frequently, we think of social media as “free,” when in fact, while economical, you must invest to reap its rewards.
  • Engagement is the most important metric to measure. Yes, you want to increase those that follow your brand, but people who interact with you and share your stories on your behalf provide more value because they are extending the reach and affinity for your brand. A regular stream of content that offers a unique view into your business or behind-the-scenes activities will generate that activity (when used in conjunction with paid posts as noted in our first tip).
  • Don’t expect to be a viral, overnight sensation. We’d all like to hit the grand slam the first time we step up to bat. But it takes practice and patience to learn what will be well received.
  • Be consistent. Don’t lose sight of the long term goal: that you’re building a foundation for lasting relationships with your audience. Your strategy is akin to a marathon, not a sprint.

See how a consistent, long-term strategy can perform. This example offers real statistics from an Advance 360 client for the first eleven months of 2017.