NEW DAY. NEW BATCH OF STORIES TO TELL. Being in the communications business gives us an incredible opportunity. Our job (believe it or not) is to learn new things, every day, and then tell the world about them. Wearing a wide array of hats, we move back and forth between assembly line robotics to remote capture of deposits, sometimes discussing fiber optic networks in the morning and moving on to wholesale nursery trends in the afternoon. Every client is different and with every challenge, we glean something new. One thing is consistent though. We love learning, and then telling, the stories that come with each new adventure. We’ve learned a lot over the last 30 years, and we’re always excited to share the inspiring stories we collected along the way. Below are just a few of our favorites.
From a small company selling plants around the Southeast to becoming the largest grower of veggie and herb plants in the United States. Bonnie Plants’ story is one of success and growth. We hope you already know them because Ellis-Harper has been behind Bonnie’s brand for a long, long time.
But we can’t take all the credit. The most dynamic and foresighted management EVER led the vision of the Bonnie Plants of the future. And, they looked to Ellis-Harper Advertising to help them establish and realize their marketing goals. So, how exactly did we become part of the equation?
Two ways: building the Bonnie brand in the marketplace, i.e., creating and supporting veggie and herb gardeners, and keeping the big box retailers on board and happy. Lofty goals with huge stakes.
First, we needed data. We needed research. Our research partner, Parker Consulting Inc., revealed initial brand recognition of 25%. We jumped on the challenge and brought recognition to 55%.
Next, we developed and implemented a multi-faceted media plan that encompassed national network television as well as spot markets; digital search and display campaigns; broad circulation and affinity market magazines and print media, FSI newspaper circulars; streaming, syndicated and local origination radio; personality partnerships; PR and trade show exhibits; collateral and fleet graphics. And, we did this on a modest budget. Creative content was data-driven so we could showcase Bonnie’s PROVEN key selling points and make every dollar count.
But wait. There’s MORE. There’s the delicate balance among competing big boxes who all sell Bonnie veggie and herb plants. Liaising between Bonnie’s marketing team and the big boxes, we created unique, individual marketing programs for each of the mass retail merchandisers, for regional retail chains and independents. Signage, point of purchase, packaging, product displays, collateral based on customer experience and retail requirements, unified into the BONNIE BRAND.
We gotta admit that to gain consensus on this level, from this many parties taps into our skills of finesse, standing our ground, acquiescing and hand-wringing. Then at final approval, there’s our team HAPPY DANCE and high-fives all around! At Ellis-Harper, we exemplify high level retail marketing skills and the ability to celebrate success! Talk about buy-in. Big time.
This is a story we’re proud of. Not only has Bonnie grown, but Ellis-Harper has too. We love and appreciate good clients who trust us and work together to get the job done.
Here's to Bonnie Plants.
“What do we do?” they asked. “We see the financial world changing, and we want to be ready to go with it. Can you help us?” This from Charter Federal Savings and Loan.
The year was 1988. Even then, Ellis-Harper had years of banking experience working with independent and community banks. Maybe that our CEO was a banker in a previous life helped. How do we set them apart, what made them tick? Digging out that information was the first order of business. To do our job right, we needed to either tell it like it is, or like it needed to be. What was their belief system? Who were they?
After excavating the minds of the e-suite, managers and staff, we knew what it was—them.
Turned out, they had a dynamic corporate culture. These were dedicated people. This was the story we would tell, with gusto! We built their brand by showcasing the Charter “personality”. It was an amazing place to do business because of the cool, smart people. (And people sell products.)
Today, nearly 30 years later, through many transitions to become a full service bank named CharterBank, Charter people are still what their marketing is all about. “At CharterBank, We’re Out to WOW You!”
And they have. Hand-in-hand with their management, Ellis-Harper helped craft new and innovative services, position them uniquely in expanding markets, develop customer-centric retail environments and stay on message that THIS was not just a trip to the bank. It was the “CharterBank experience.”
CharterBank grew from that original market in West Georgia, with $115 million in total assets to 15 locations throughout Georgia, and along the I-85 corridor in Alabama and in Florida. Assets stood at $1.1 billion as of September 30, 2014.
It’s been a great partnership for a long, long time. There’s nothing like great PEOPLE to tell a great marketing story.
When the new president of Middle Georgia College (MGC) called on Ellis-Harper, he had a problem: he was at the helm of a small, but beautiful two-year college that nobody knew about. Enter EHA, branding irons blazing! There was stiff competition for students. How could we fill those classroom seats?
Immediately it hit us. MGC had TWO totally different markets. They needed a double brand! One brand we aimed at students and prospects. It was out-of-the box, a little wild and crazy and fun. On the other hand, MGC had development, governmental and inter-academic audiences. They needed distinguished, handsome and institutional and that’s exactly what we created for their communications.
We turned their recruitment system upside down. For the students, we took a young, energetic design concept and translated it into an innovative recruitment brochure that the controller and the recruiters loved. It was cost-effective AND it doubled as a view book, and made a triple play as program brochures. We made the components flexible—they could be consolidated into a customizable kit bound with a cool stretchy-band, or each piece could be used separately. Annual updates could be made in the “cheap to print” inserts rather than starting over each year. (That’s the part the controller liked.) Then we layered in a series of direct mailers that nailed different aspects of MGC—all positioned in a fun-loving, go team voice.
We supported this targeted marketing with a selective a media plan. Trendy, fast paced TV, radio, outdoor and digital, pulsed throughout the central/southern portion of Georgia. Pulsing allowed us to maximize the impact of media dollars. More bang for the media buck. We caught the attention of prospects. The increase in enquiries and enrollments was staggering.
It wasn’t long before Middle Georgia College ascended the ladder to become a 4-year college, part of the University System of Georgia. We didn’t cause that to happen. Visionary leadership did. But we helped. And that makes us very proud. At Ellis-Harper, we know education.
As the first city in the state of Alabama to build a community-owned 100% fiber network, Opelika Power Services (OPS) had a great story to tell. They also needed customers. Fast.
Question being, how could they best do that?
Ellis-Harper joined forces with OPS to develop an integrated marketing plan and new customer recruitment began.
We analyzed the unique benefits of OPS’s gig-powered fiber network. We decided our best strategy was to educate prospects by breaking the huge number of benefits of OPS fiber service into smaller, more consumable bites. Our theory was that once people understood what OPS fiber offered vs. their “old fashioned copper cable provider”, the choice would become obvious.
Because this was a network owned by the city, all power customers were potential fiber subscribers, we reached out to the people who knew OPS best. We leveraged this delivery channel and created a series of direct mail, featuring well-known local subscribers. Naturally, the mailers reinforced the OPS brand we’d established. Since the local newspaper is still widely read, we translated these same messages into full page, full color ads to drive the ideas home. Because this concept of a 100% fiber technology was new and complex, we created a comic strip that boiled down the concept into an amusing and educational graphic. “Oh, now I get it!” was the response.
Social media was a major component of our Marketing Strategy. A facebook ad campaign, constant facebook updates, and Twitter posts, e-blasts and OPS’ YouTube channel are all integral parts of the plan.
Enquiries and sales picked up.The problem became how to install all the new residential customers!
Public Relations and event planning were also important aspects of our plan. We launched OPS Business Services with a “ball"—an allusion to a child’s ball pit ball that was to be used as the key to physically interpreting fiber-for-business technology. The invitations designed to the “Lunch and Launch” event were fun, upbeat teasers that created curiosity and encouraged attendance. It certainly worked. The event attracted a full house of interested businesses and media.
The future of OPS fiber is bright! A great service and savvy, sustained marketing are the keys to success. But then, that’s the key to any product’s success!
Opelika Utilities was in the final stages of a 10-year project upgrading its water processing facilities. This process culminated with a new state-of-the-art water treatment, service and administration campus unparalleled anywhere in the country. It was to be the W. Warner Williams Water Resource Park.
They realized their image needed to be revamped to align with these extraordinary new facilities.
We know what you’re thinking. Water treatment doesn’t sound very exciting, but to Ellis-Harper, we couldn’t wait to jump in! It was a classic case for re-branding, creating an identity. We set out to develop a whole new persona for this utility that had largely been taken for granted for decades.
The strategy was layered in three tiers: Rebranding, Grand Opening, Sustaining.
Our tactics were to present the new facilities to the public as a point of pride and functionality without appearing flashy. A new logo and tag line were first up for the rebranding. From building signage and environmental graphics, letterhead, website, social, collateral and social graphics to uniforms and vehicles, we applied the new logo consistently. The clean lines and green and blue color palette complemented the breathtaking, award-winning building design. The tag line was simple and direct—“Clean, Plentiful Water.”
We built a new website, a social presence and ad campaign, brochures and print ads for magazine and newspaper. For the Grand Opening, we knew from many years’ experience working with large organizations that when you’re promoting, it’s vital to involve staff as well as other stakeholders.
We worked with Opelika Utilities’ general manager and administrators to throw one heck of an employee kick-off, “The Picnic in the Park.” (The Water Resources Park, of course.) The entire event—invitations, decorations, menu, games and prizes were all family oriented. For example, the invitations were hand- delivered in red checked tablecloth fabric envelopes, complete with a supply of picnic ants.
Dignitaries from all over the state and across the country came in for the gala VIP opening. A video looped on large screens throughout, showcasing the planning and building of the facilities.
Sustaining elements of Opelika Utilities' new persona positioning are low-key, by design. Monthly statement inserts we named “H2Opelika. Water Wisdom… on Tap” keep customers informed and Opelika Utilities front and center. Twitter attracts followers every month.
Reflecting on the water rebranding campaign for Opelika Utilities sends waves of satisfaction through us!
At Ellis-Harper, we believe in the arts. It’s what we do. And we believe in giving back to and investing in our community. One of the ways we do this is to help underwrite the East Alabama Arts Association.
For more than 20 years, we’ve created their performance series book and membership recruitment campaign materials.
The caliber of the performances East Alabama Arts brings to the area is superb and we want their brochures, outdoor and other materials to be no less outstanding. We’re proud that the work we’ve done has been recognized for its quality by its national association.
It’s our pleasure to work with these dedicated, wonderful people. Each season East Alabama Arts presents world class theatre, symphony, dance, musicals and virtuoso performers from every conceivable genre. The magic of live artists sharing their talents. It’s an honor for us to be “Part of the Art.”
For a while, people lost sight of what an amazing resource the community had in the Opelika City Schools (OCS) system. To Ellis-Harper, all that was needed was a way to point out how incredible it was. A clever public relations and marketing campaign.
“Shake ‘em up” is what we said. We’ll do a campaign to “Embrace the Awesomeness!” Don’t think it was an easy sell to a superintendent who was visionary yet answered to a conservative Board.
Our idea was to showcase the great things Opelika City Schools were doing. Academics, the arts, sports, scholarships, AP and advanced technology. We created a print and PR campaign that nobody could miss. Translated into posters for store windows, banners on buildings, hand-outs and a big kick-off rally at the beginning of school, students, parents and residents all began to buy into the idea that OCS was a source of great pride. And, importantly, the place you wanted to enroll your child.
Then, the piece de résistance. The completion and grand opening of a brand new Opelika High School. It was glorious. A beautiful school with all the amenities. Talk about Awesomeness! Ellis-Harper helped remind the community just how awesome OCS really was.
The tides are turning. It won’t be overnight, but the message of the highly qualified, devoted teachers, staff and administrators and the second to few facilities of Opelika City Schools are winning the battle of perception. After all, perception is reality.
It’s a story of David and Goliath.
You’re the small bookstore in a college town, home of the University of Alabama, the Crimson Tide. You have a great bookstore but you have to go head-to-head with the behemoths.
What’s a little guy to do?
Get noticed, that’s what. When the owner of Off-Campus Bookstore called us, we were flattered. After all, U of A is the archrival of Auburn University, right here in our hometown.
He told us, “I’ve been impressed with what you’ve done for Anders Bookstore and Tiger Rags, and I’d like you to do that for us.”
Our “sling” was to create EXCITEMENT—to generate name recognition for Off-Campus Bookstore. Consider our audience: ROLL TIDE students. Tech savvy, who lived and breathed Crimson TIDE sports, lined up for the hottest, newest spirit gear.
The “stone” in the sling became “TIDEOLOGY”, a new field of study we created for Off-Campus Bookstore. Tideology was “The Pursuit of Perfection in All Things Crimson Tide”.
Our “hero” was the quirky but appealing Tideology Professor! (Who, by the way, was a venerated, retired psychiatrist we conned into modeling.) He unified all the elements of the campaign into an extremely recognizable, cohesive message that stood out.
The website we created set the tone for the other graphics.
Cool TV and radio spots, point of purchase posters, bag-stuffers and life size in-store cut-outs of Professor Tideology supported the campaign. At a PR event, we even handed out hundreds of black-rim geek-glasses just like the Professor's.
We launched a video contest “What TIDEOLOGY Means to Me” which appealed to techy students. The prizes did, too, including a MacBook, a big screen TV and other electronics.
Add a TIDEOLOGY direct mail catalog for a nice lift in sales and Off-Campus Bookstore was a direct hit! “Tideology” was a fun, effective campaign and a great example of out-of-the box creativity.
A “cohorts” program. We’re sorry. What? Who outside of academia understood that term? What we at Ellis-Harper figured out was that it was one great innovation in post-graduate education. Don’t make the students come to campus, take the campus to them. For a master’s degree!
Troy University didn’t invent the idea, but they could OWN it if it was marketed first and well. At Ellis-Harper, we loved this program!
In an Aha! moment, we understood that to succeed, the campaign had to work on two levels: for the decision makers (HR directors) and for the end-users (employees of large corporations). In these two totally different markets we needed to both increase awareness and encourage engagement. In other words, we had to get the employees to SIGN UP for Master’s@Work by winning over the HR directors.
We started with a new name, “Master’s@Work” and slogan, “Where Success Comes to You”.
Here’s how we engaged the HR directors. First, we grabbed their attention. What’s more fun than getting a package in the mail? Our targeted HR directors got not just one package, but three. We developed a series of direct mail boxes, each with the goal of enthralling the recipient and overcoming a potential objection to adopting the M@W program.
The other half of the marketing equation was the student body prospects …the employees of the corporations who participated in M@W.
We chose as our main graphic a pack of nice, friendly, yellow pencils to position M@W as simple. The pencils evoked early school days, when things really were simple. We wanted everybody in the work force to know about M@W, so everywhere employees gathered—cafeteria, break rooms, hallways, etc., bright yellow “take one” table top displays, posters and brochures awaited them. The message was “Rise to the Top of the Pack”.
We fleshed out the communications plan with M@W business materials for a total, turnkey package, easy to administer, cool and it worked. “Cohorts” was a thing of the past and Master’s@Work prevailed. Thanks to some ingenious thinking and targeted marketing, Master’s@Work propelled Troy University into a new chapter in distance learning.