Generating Creative Assets to Support In-Store Promotions

Promotions. Sales. Events. You may consider these the most time consuming efforts of your business. Conceiving your next event idea may come easily, with staff brainstorming during a quiet moment in the store. But the execution is a different story. How do you get the right customers to show up? To know about it and to tell their friends? You’ll want to think about your traditional methods, your in-store use of conversation and how your broad-reaching tactics like radio and other broadcast media do their part to raise awareness of the promotion or event. But often, the simplest elements are overlooked, ones that can simplify a multi-channel marketing push.

Developing A Small Collection of Creative Assets

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First, you’ll want to collaborate with your staff. Talk about the “selling points” for the event or promotion. Is your event part of something larger, like a community art fair or sidewalk sale, allowing you to describe both as reasons for attendance? Is it a shop-for-a-cause event, where a percentage of store sales would be matched for a meaningful nonprofit? Really hone the way that your associates will describe the activities of the event to your clientele. While it might seem silly, role play with your team. They will find their words, and you’ll be sure you know just what they are saying.

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Find four images that Represent your Event
These four images aren’t all images of engagement rings. In fact, if you must have inventory in any of them, limit yourself to a single photo. The others should be things that show the emotional experience of the event, your own staff serving a customer, the experience of watching the gift as its given. If you look at the image and have an audible response—that’s the image you should pick. When showing these images or ranking them in order of importance, the order should showcase inventory last, smallest, or least. This might go against what you think is important, but remember, your customers are connecting with you before and at the event. The piece they purchase won’t be decided upon until they are in the store itself.

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Use Words Sparingly
Pen three text components about the event. First: A 100-140 character statement that describes the event in a single line. Keep it short but get the emotion into the statement. Some examples might be “Literacy Has a Real Ring To It. Support XYZ cause At Jay’s Jewelers this Saturday” or “Drop In During Sidewalk Sales to Beat the Heat and Make Your Wish List” or “Tuesday Ten Percent: You name the Nonprofit and We Write the Check.”

Next: a two sentence description that expands on the statement.

And finally: the time and place details.

I Have My Materials Collected. Now what?

Now that you’ve collected the materials, you’ll use them in different combinations, in the following places.

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Hero Image. You know the slider on your home page that probably shows a blend of your inventory items? Take one of the emotional images, and lay the Text Statement over it, headline style. Finish with a softer, smaller listing of the time and Place details. Link it to the next item: a calendar event on your site.

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Calendar event. If you don’t have a calendar of events, your blog page or where you list newsy items on your website will also work. An emotional image as the thumbnail, with all three text components inside the event listing should work perfectly. Reminder—there’s no need to use your inventory image yet, as the customer is seeing this item on your website, where much of your inventory can already be explored.

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Blog. This is where the inventory image can go. Is the event a trunk show? Invite your supplier to provide the text! Is this a fundraiser? Ask the nonprofit to pen a blog about the mission of their organization. Remember, the blog needs to also describe the event and include the time and place details. Put it in a callout box or column alongside the article itself. After all, you’ve already written it.

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Facebook or Instagram, or Both. Post the third emotional image in your feed. Use the two sentence description and the time and place details as the post. Link to your website’s calendar listing, blog, or news, where you’ve placed the information natively. Boost your post to your ideal customers, using what you know about their characteristics and geography.

Create a carousel ad for social media, with the three emotional images first and the inventory image last. The statement is your headline. The supporting sentences, the post that accompanies the ad. And guess what? The details will be found after the link to—you guessed it—your calendar entry, blog, or news.

Make a Facebook event, using the same hero image you’ve used on your home page, and all of the text you’ve already written. Invite all of your friends on Facebook, and encourage them to do the same.

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Digital Ads. If you are marketing digitally, make four ads for use in the digital space. Statement (headline) is already written. This headline goes on top of each of the four images. It clicks through to your calendar page, blog, or news.

With just four images and three small pieces of text, you’ve armed yourself with a multi-channel campaign that will generate a flurry of activity. If you do direct mail or place ads in print, they should contain these very same components, generating a cohesive, recognizable identity system for your event.

Choosing Visual Elements that Drive Impact

Optimization is a word that marketers overuse. Put simply, it means we try and then test, rework and try again. Like medicine, marketing is a practice, and one that is finely honed over time.

On the first day of a campaign, any great marketer has put a lot of thought into audience segments, content artifacts and visuals. They’ve described, in painstaking detail, just how the campaign will go to market, launch, and convert. Landing pages or sections of a website have been built to collect and inspire action for users. This level of detail can’t be overlooked whenever a campaign is crafted, otherwise the conversions we all hope will come surely fall short.

But how does one know when a marketing effort requires new creative? At Advance 360, we often say that gut isn’t a strategy. Just because you feel that a piece of creative isn’t effective doesn’t make it so.

No campaign is ever as inefficient as it is on day one.

Ideas about Changing Creative to Entice Engagement


Consider using animation to highlight certain portions of the imagery or text. In this example, the ad’s behavior draws the eye and entices more interaction. In this case, the example is around casting for a local theatre’s upcoming performance. Notice how the ad, in the first position, is largely black and white. While appealing, it is positively illuminated when changing color. The contrast in the before and after views as well as in the difference surrounding the content is engaging and enticing.


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In this initial set of creative ad units our designer captured the concept of “a transparent experience.” Our clients were hopeful for units that truly told a story of building trust with their organization. They wanted their ad units to speak the way they spoke, and illustrated the many ways that they were available to talk. In this case, the artist chose white and pale grey as a way to illustrate this.

As this campaign progressed to a place wherein it was clear that clients understood and accepted this transparency as part of the brand, the use of transparent panels was a natural next step. Lacing multicolored, ombre panels over and behind the subject matter created a new, more colorful take on the ad units and the experience.


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When building material to live online, we must keep in mind the native space and how the web world is built. Crafted to fit together like building blocks, with one bumping up to the next in repeated grids, ad units can begin to look like wallpaper. Consider any design element that disrupts that concept, creating negative space to be interruptive to the eye.


Baby Boomers prefer more “meat” in their advertisements, and are not hindered by greater detail. Millennials, by contrast, prefer modern looks with a great deal of negative space. Generation Z needs us to break up swaths of text with icons, graphics, or images with a greater frequency than any generation that came before them. We don’t need to buy an ad space and display a single ad unit anymore. Split your audience types, and serve each their own ads.


Review the campaign’s performance. Is it pacing properly to achieve the number of impressions needed to create lift?

Are the audience segments well refined? Too broad and you aren’t maximizing your spend — instead wasting marketing dollars, hopeful that the wrong audience will engage.

Are you properly identifying behaviors that indicate a consumer is ready for more? In the engagement phase, use pixels wisely to remessage those that are already raising their hands.

Don’t concentrate on clicks. A solid CTR is a great thing to have, especially since true attribution is so rare. But don’t rely on this metric as the sole proof that a campaign is working. If organic traffic is noticeably up, your campaign is creating the awareness you desire, even if it isn’t seen in the direct click through.

These optimizations aren’t the only ones that should be considered. But these small adjustments in a design strategy can garner big results. Don’t adjust too frequently, or you won’t know when changed direction created impact. But don’t miss out on the chance to optimize creative for better performance.

6 Reasons to Rebrand your Business

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You Have Changed, but Your Image Hasn’t

Life happens at a fast clip, and your brand matures with every deal. If your brand promise, products or services have changed in time but your brand hasn’t kept up, it may be time.

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You Aren't Memorable

Your potential customers see you frequently, but don’t remember your brand or worse, your mission.

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You Look Dated

Your choice of date-night clothing has changed since you graduated high school. If your brand has been around a long time and never shrugged off the bellbottoms, it’s time to refresh your wardrobe.

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Brand Promise Isn't Clear

Do you have a mantra? Do you stand for something? Do you have a shared mission? That should be evident visually to those that encounter your brand.

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Poor Sentiment

Your brand has poor consumer perception and needs to reinvent.

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New Competitors

When the competitive set changes dramatically, you need to choose: stick with what has worked, change, or simply refresh. “Updating” is not the same as “Start Over.”  Act in accordance with what reality is now, not what it once was.

All About Color: A Guide to Color Management

What is your favorite color? What colors does your organization use in their branding? There’s a science behind translating the color you see to applications, and they have limits. We’re going to shine some light on color spaces and share color management recommendations.

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A color space is a set of colors also called gamut. The largest gamut represents the entire visible color spectrum that a human eye can see, called L*a*b* space. From the visible color gamut we can reproduce a visible color’s best match since other gamut’s have their own color spectrum limited to their device.

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When printing with spot color (likened to paint), the Pantone Color System provides a library of premixed solid colors which include opaque white, fluorescents and metallics.
APPLICATION | printing on paper, color matching reference

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When printing with transparent inks/toner, the CYMK gamut is a smaller range of colors. CMYK is a subtractive color system where transparent ink dots of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black are applied to a material. Since CYMK is a transparent ink, the material and its color effects the final applied color.
APPLICATION | printing on paper or other substrates

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For color representation on digital screens the RGB color gamut is the largest device-driven color space. RGB is an additive color system using transparent Red, Green and Blue with light shining through.
APPLICATION | TV, monitor, websites, or mobile device screen

Color Management

The aim of color management is to keep the same relative color from one device to another; I want to see the color I selected from Pantone on my monitor and then in my print. As you now understand, it can get a bit complicated as these different platforms don’t “see” or reproduce colors the same way. In addition, software such as Adobe uses their own methods for translating color into various gamuts. Instead of using Pantone’s recommended conversions, Adobe uses its own ‘Lab’ conversion which is mathematical and based on one’s color settings/profile.


We recommend first selecting a Coated Spot color from Pantone color library. Pantone is an industry-standard, consistent system for aligning color in ALL reproductions: digital, print, paint, signage, silkscreen inks, etc. For acquiring the best color match formulas in RGB, CMYK and Web(html) gamuts, we recommend using Pantone’s as opposed to Adobe. The Coated Pantone formulas have been tested to provide the best visible color match for each gamut.


• When specifying/designing for spot color printing (rare), silkscreen, solid vinyl –
use the Coated Pantone color.

• When specifying/designing for
process printing (mainstream) –
use Pantone’s CMYK formula mix.

• When specifying/designing for digital
use Pantone’s RGB or Hex formula mix.

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Brand guidelines should include their Pantone colors as well as other formulas clearly identified for vendors, partners, and designers. Check out some examples of successful Advance 360 branding projects:

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What does your favorite color say about you?

Content Contributed by Sheri Nicholson, Advance 360, Senior In-House Creative Strategist

Local Real Estate Professionals Rebrand Under New LARA Guidelines

Not every client of Advance 360 brands within rigid guidelines, but in the real estate industry, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs dictates what’s possible. Add to that the branding guides for their real estate affiliate partner and you have a highly regulated system for your brand. Such was the case with Steve Volkers Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan.

“When we first began refreshing our brand identity we vetted a few local creative agencies for the project. We were impressed by Advance 360’s professionalism and strategic approach and we decided to jump into this crazy journey with their team leading the charge,” said Steve Volkers. But more important were the guidelines the brand was required to follow. The Advance 360 team spent time with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ staff, to ensure the end designs would align with corporate policy.

The Group Sets the Tone

Research must come first, and that means that the feelings and ideas of the team and how their brand is viewed is paramount. The group, together in a room, must articulate the aspirational vision for their brand. With guidance from the Advance 360 team, these concepts are harnessed and consensus formed, crafting a shared language around the purpose of the brand.

Of this process, the Group’s Director of Marketing, Amber Gray, had this to say. “Our project started with a full team working session. It was a great way for our entire group to level-set on how we see our brand, what we want for it in the future and why those pieces are important. The outcome of that working session was a strategic chart that was shared every time we regrouped so that we all knew how we got to where we are.”

“It was not only helpful but humbling to know that our voices and opinions were heard and taken into account along the way.”

“Once the creative output started coming in, we were beyond thrilled. Andrew Olson, Creative Strategist, nailed it with the overall design theory of our new brand identity.”

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Co-branded Logos

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Now in the process of web development/programming, the Steve Volkers Group is putting into action Advance 360 designs for their digital footprint. The team, including Senior Account Manager Kristin Hartwig, “took an immense amount of care and effort to propose a user experience based on our analytics and, of course that initial team working session,” said Gray.

This effort included content architecture recommendations for the numerous sites in the Steve Volkers Group portfolio: GR Downtown Condos, Steve Volkers Group, Alger Heights and West Michigan New Homes. The end result: a content stream that would be easily navigable, intuitive for the user, and preserve the SEO quality previously established by years of exceptional content generation. The look and navigation of these sites is under construction (hidden from view of the public) until its official launch summer, 2018.

“We are confident that the final result will exceed our performance expectations. Not to mention, it’s so pretty! This group of creative and talented individuals has been a dream to work with. Their knowledge and hard work shines in every step of the way.”

Graduating Godly Individuals: Grace Christian University

Grace Bible College, a Grand Rapids, Michigan based institution in the community of Wyoming, is completing a comprehensive rebranding project. The scope of this effort included not just a rebrand and retooling of the organizational identity, but also a name change.

As the College was transitioning to its newly-awarded University status, it was also analyzing consumer sentiment, brand equity, shifting perceptions, and marketing efforts of recruiting in the Christian higher-education academic environment. “Our mission is to graduate Godly individuals prepared to serve Christ in Church and Society,” said Grace President and graduate Dr. Ken Kemper. “The transition to Grace Christian University will honor their legacy and strengthen our future.” This change positions the University to continue its great work under a new name.

“Our mission is to graduate Godly individuals prepared to serve Christ in Church and Society,” said Grace President and graduate Dr. Ken Kemper. The transition to Grace Christian University will honor their legacy and strengthen our future.”

Of the decision to bring a professional firm into the Grace environment to assist with the process, Brian Sherstad, Executive Vice President had this to say. “Even the decision to investigate the potential of a name change was significant for Grace. We knew we only had one chance to get it right and sought professional guidance. As we began the selection process for a firm able to guide us through the rebranding process, we saw a clear difference between Advance 360 and other firms.”

“Advance 360 brought to Grace’s rebranding exactly what we had hoped. They accepted our initial data collection efforts and added to that body of data. They understand the dynamics brought by multiple layers of institutional stakeholders and helped us gain buy-in. The entire process had clear deliverables as well as a clear path to reach the end goal.”

The years-long process to reach a new name and brand included town hall sessions, charrette style workshopping with stakeholders, and prayerful discussions by the Board of Directors and Administration. The new logo and image of the University will be integrated during summer 2018, and the first graduates of Grace Christian University will occur in 2019.

The Stages of Renaming

“All existing data should first be analyzed,” said Anne Drummond, Advance 360 Senior Creative Director. “Once we’d read, questioned, and discussed the available information, we were able to craft exercises that would help stakeholders to clearly articulate missing pieces.”

Workshop activities resonated with participants, but also provide opportunity for a broad spectrum of stakeholder participants to share individual ideas, listen and comment on others’ thoughts and feelings, and identify ideas and elements that most closely resemble their vision for the organization. This information was combined with prior survey results, town hall meeting sentiments and analysis of other colleges’ experiences in rebranding from either a college to a university including a name change. In addition, a study by Barna Group, produced in partnership with the Association for Biblical Higher Education offered market context and statistically relevant input.

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Of this process, “Advance 360 clearly identified both intended and unintended consequences at each point of decision giving us the information we needed to make good decisions with confidence,” said Sherstad.

From an initial 163 unique naming conventions, the final name was fashioned, and the design work begun. Using a three-step process of a) compass point b) exploration and c) refinement, the brand’s visual identity took shape.

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Former Name and Logo

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New Name and Logo

The new name and logo have been shared with students, faculty and donors.

“The attitude Advance 360 demonstrated at the beginning, as well as through the entire process, was one of being honored that Grace would trust them with such important work as our institutional identity. From beginning to end, Advance 360 demonstrated that our trust was well placed.” ~Brian Sherstad, Executive Vice President, Grace Christian University

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.

“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 targeting (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.