Vote for TJA for Ranking Arizona 2021!

Voting is now open for AZ Big Media’s Ranking Arizona 2021 and we need your help! Follow the simple steps below to help TJA rank #1 again this year. You may vote once per hour through July 31 at 11:59pm.

How to Vote:
1. Visit the Ranking Arizona website
2. Register with your email address and create a password OR use your login information from last year
3. Vote for TJA in the following categories by clicking the VOTE button:

  • Advertising and Marketing
    • Advertising Agencies
    • Best Workplace Culture
    • Graphic Design Firms
    • Internet Marketing
    • Public Relations Firms
    • SEO/Social Media Marketing
  • Business Services
    • Best Place to Work
    • Event Planning
    • Women-Owned Businesses

Thank you for your support!

Your brand’s digital presence is more important now than ever before

“I want to be where the people are”

I think everybody can relate to The Little Mermaid these days; we all want to be where the people are. Thankfully, conversations surrounding COVID-19 are finally turning toward recovery. However, even as the world reopens, the effects of the quarantine will be lasting and businesses need to adapt to how consumer digital behaviors have shifted. The bottom line: to be where the people are, you need to update your digital strategy. Doing so will benefit your business both in the short- and long-term.

Improve your website

One simple way to invest in your website is to regularly update your content to ensure its relevancy, something that will be especially important post-coronavirus. For example, adding video content can increase time on site. Likewise, virtual experiences allow your customers to take your product for a spin from the comfort of their home. We recently developed a new website for Camelot Homes, a luxury homebuilder in Arizona, which included more imagery, video content, interactive floor plans and their professionally-shot virtual home tours that maintained buyer interest when in-person tours weren’t available.

Streamlining the design of your website can guide consumers more naturally through your site and increase conversions. Staying on top of your site’s SEO will help consumers find you through search engines. If you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend a website audit, which is the foundational service we offer our web clients. An audit will reveal what’s going well with your website and what needs improving, providing you with clear direction and actionable next steps.

Email is low-risk, high-reward

Maintaining open communication is crucial in gaining trust with your consumers. In a time of crisis, transparency is even more important. Newsletters are great digital tools that offer direct lines to your brand’s biggest fans: people who voluntarily opted to receive updates from you. So, give the people what they want.

The economic landscape is shifting constantly in reaction to the coronavirus. With recovery around the corner, it’s imperative to keep your consumers informed with updates to your business, like shifts in offerings, changes in hours of operation or new content. Whatever the messaging, make it consistent, relevant and timely.

An email campaign also is a relatively inexpensive marketing channel with a historically high ROI. According to Litmus, for every dollar spent on email, marketers saw a $42 return. With so many advantages to email, creating a newsletter strategy is essential.

Create content constantly

When stay-at-home orders were declared, streaming services and social media apps experienced a rise in traffic and usage. According to The Next Web, 29 percent of internet users reported they were streaming significantly more movies and shows, while 23 percent said they were spending significantly more time on social media platforms. People quarantined to their homes crave content, presenting an opportunity for businesses to bolster their organic social media.

When compared to the last quarter of 2019, Instagram saw a 22 percent increase in campaign impressions in the first quarter of 2020. Even as the world eases back into a normal cadence, and people once again can meet in-person, we anticipate the high rate of social media use will continue. Undoubtedly, consumers will feel compelled to share their first experiences out in public. Preparing and scheduling timely and visually engaging content maintains your relevancy and increases brand awareness.

Earn trust and impressions

Right now, news sites are seeing big increases in readership as even more people want to stay informed. The New York Times reported in March that news site page visits increased 57 percent, and subscriptions to U.S. news sites were 57.5 percent higher on Sunday, March 15 compared to an average Sunday.

Submitting bylined articles or expert commentary on how trends or current events are affecting your industry can lead to earned media coverage in online news sites, increasing your business’s exposure and strengthening your expert positioning. Providing insight and thought leadership in news outlets also garners trust with readers, deepening your brand awareness. Partnering with experts like The James Agency can not only help you create an effective PR strategy, but also execute on that strategy and prepare you for the inevitable media opportunities. 

Be prepared

We’re all experiencing a harrowing moment in our history, and the full effects are yet to be seen. One thing for certain has changed: the customer journey. The brands that will continue to win have a few things in common, one of which being a strong digital presence that allowed them to stay in contact with their customers throughout the days of quarantine. At The James Agency, we leverage 15 years of experience and a wealth of data to evolve our clients’ digital assets, ensuring they are prepared for anything. Drop us a line to determine how we can do the same for you.

The billboard is still relevant to your marketing mix and here’s why.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

It all began when Dracula showed up on our team Slack channel. Our Boss Lady posted a billboard advertising the Netflix original series in a remarkably clever way. Take a look

Neat, right? As the sun goes down, the light source on the left edge of the billboard casts a strategically constructed shadow by refracting light off the “stakes” to paint a portrait of the notorious bloodsucker himself. Considering the subject matter of the show, this portrait in shadow seemed poetically appropriate. More than that, the advertisement took full advantage of the medium. We’re all existing in a digital world saturated with digital ads. Still, the Dracula billboard owned its medium by integrating elements that literally can’t be replicated online: an interplay between light, shadow and three-dimensional objects. 

Executions like these keep us believing in the billboard as a viable and sustainable media decision. The industry at large seems to agree, too. Over the past decade, while radio and print advertising took hard hits as companies flocked with their media budgets to digital advertising, out-of-home (OOH) advertising has seen 31 consecutive quarters of growth. Part of the reason for OOH’s continued success has been its ability to incorporate the same data-driven decision making that make digital ads so effective. Taking those insights and applying them to a medium that exists offline allows marketers to get the best of both worlds: an ad that boasts repeated exposure to a broad audience in their day-to-day lives, but is also specifically targeted. 

The right place. The right time. The right people. 

In order to capture the attention of the right audience, use tools and services created to layer data filters that enhance targeting and performance tracking. Our Senior Media Planner and Buyer chimes in:

“Understanding where your ideal target lives and where they work is key to getting on the right billboards, so working with a partner that can layer in census data and traffic patterns can make a night and day difference. Just because a board gets a ton of traffic doesn’t mean it’s the right board for you. It’s important to use all the tools to make sure the right eyes are seeing your billboard.” 

Instead of guesstimating where your optimal audience is looking, get pinpointed information on where they are and when, as well as where they’re heading. No ad exists in a silo, and billboards are especially context-dependent. Through diligent research and reliable partners, you can rake in the results by capturing the attention of your consumer base by being in the right place at the right time. Lean on the information that your company already has access to, because it can inform and support placement decisions. Then, consult with expert product partners to layer on advanced informatics that will accelerate goal actualization.

Omnipresence. 

Since billboards have the benefit of repeat exposure to the right audience, it is equally advantageous to have your message follow your audience once they reach their destination. Most quality digital partners will provide you with the capability to retarget the pool of people who passed by your sign. You can then further refine that pool based on behavioral or demographic preferences. That way you’ll capture IRL impressions through your billboard’s geographic placement, and accumulate a refined pool of consumers that you can put purposeful dollars toward since they resemble your ideal audience. Your message will pursue this target audience, giving them opportunities to reencounter your brand across multiple touchpoints. This multi-dimensional approach brings your audience into your world across mediums—both in the digital realm and in real life. Geotargeting with further filtering is a strategic tactic to strengthen your staying power and front-of-mind positioning. Some considerations to keep in mind though: with a narrower audience, CPM rates (cost per thousand impressions) will increase for digital ads that get served. If you’re going for a broad reach, this may not be the tactic to use. While initial exposure includes anyone who passes your billboard, remarketing efforts will be restricted to a narrow point on the funnel. This is a quality over quantity move. 

It’s a matter of scale.

Whether you’re aiming for maximum brand exposure or are hoping to capture the attention of a specific audience, billboards can help you maximize your return when they’re a part of your marketing mix. Knowing your end goal for running an OOH campaign is key—are you promoting a one-time event like a 3-day sale at your location, or are you launching a new product? There are effective tactics to accomplish wide range goals utilizing OOH and other mediums to complement those efforts. The good news is The James Agency has experience with mixed media campaigns and OOH placement. The experts on our team can help you wherever you are on the spectrum of broad reach to narrow targets. Start the conversation to begin exploring your options today. 

Get in touch > 

IRL: The power of face time in an email world.

In an industry where “fast” is often hailed as “good,” slowing down and taking the time to meet in person may seem like an outdated way to get shit done. Emails can be shot off with approvals, signatures and questions, and calls can handle anything requiring an extended discussion, right? Right. But in addition, there are just some things you need to see to believe. We’re going to lay out which instances merit some quality time face-to-face.

  1. 1. First engagement
    When engaging with destination clients like Travel Costa Mesa, pictures just won’t do it justice. Our team takes the time to get the ground-zero experience and internalize the look, feel, sound and scent of the place. Our clients give us first-hand accounts of why the people they cater to appreciate what they’re offering, and then we see it for ourselves. What gets them excited? How does the culture of the organizers align with the culture of the audience? Getting to experience the answers to these questions makes marketing them more authentic. It demonstrates there’s a genuine understanding between the brand and the people they interact with.
  2. 2. Campaign presentations
    The launch of a new campaign is an exciting time for everyone. Market research is translated into strategy, that strategy is executed by creative, web, media and PR. Due to their intricate nature, we prefer to present campaigns in person as much as possible. That way, clients can see tangible versions of logos and ads, visualize PR activations, and thoroughly understand media plans. Meeting in person prompts healthy dialogue, making it easier to ask questions and get answers for both parties. This ensures everyone is on the same page; if there is any confusion, it’s easily addressed in the room. Additionally, nonverbal communication comes across clearly, which enhances everyone’s understanding. By encouraging as much clarity as possible, campaign concepts can be delivered in the spirit they were intended.
  3. 3. Major events & milestones
    We love to celebrate big wins with our partners. Whether it’s a grand opening, a significant anniversary or a noteworthy happening, it’s exciting to see these functions in person, especially when they’re events that our team got to work on. Showing our support in person also strengthens the bond between our clients and us: we love to show up for them during moments when they get to see the fruits of their labor.
  4. 4. Ongoing touchpoint
    We have the privilege of working with several longtime clients. They know our rhythms, we know theirs, and this creates a productive harmony between our efforts and their goals. Even in relationships like these, where we’re familiar with what needs to be done and how, it’s important that we still treat the engagement like it’s on the front burner. Getting face-to-face temperature checks helps keep the work from stagnating. It also is a good time to course correct. Is the aim of the campaign aligned with upcoming goals? Have any objectives changed? Take the time to catch up and keep your longstanding clients happy.
  5. 5. “The Taste” by LA Times
    An example of how we go the extra mile to meet our clients, Travel Costa Mesa hosts an annual event called “The Taste” by LA Times. The event brings restauranteurs from all over Orange County together for an elevated food festival, complete with chef demonstrations, live music and limitless sampling from the stalls. Multiple departments were engaged in marketing efforts for the event, from our PR pros coordinating influencer engagement to the creative team making digital designs for media placements. Beginning with the inaugural event in 2018, the account manager from Client Services and PR Director went to see how the event was executed and ensure branding efforts went smoothly. In 2019, our Creative Director, Production Director and Content Strategist went to experience the event to capture footage and better convey it through creative. This boots on the ground understanding helps us create an even more authentic portrayal for the next event.

If you’re looking for an agency that actively pursues your best interest and takes the time to meet you face to face, then you’ve come to the right place. See our services and get inspired by what we can do for you.

We can help with that >

How to use decision filters to prioritize your life.

In good company.

TJA has the good fortune to welcome inspirational individuals into our fold. They share their hard-won knowledge so we can benefit from their expertise. During our most recent quarterly huddle, the whole company came together to review our wins and strategize for the upcoming months. Speaker and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Russ Perry of Design Pickle, was invited to give us the low down on an indispensable tool for prioritizing our objectives: decision filters. His insight resonated with our firmly-held beliefs about establishing boundaries, maintaining personal integrity and setting goals. If those are values you want to integrate more into your personal and professional life, read on.

Shiny object syndrome.

Decision making is unavoidable, especially when there’s a never-ending torrent of content, opportunities, challenges, to-do lists, obligations and indecisions. How much energy do you spend deciding what to do before you even begin a task? Does it add up? Does it weigh down on you? When your options are seemingly infinite, and the people, places and things demanding your attention are endless, you are forced to streamline and prioritize. It’s time to break the chains of shiny object syndrome.

Decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is real, y’all. The more you invest in making decisions, the more energy your body consumes, the more depleted you are at the end of the day. The real kicker is that longer sessions of decision making actually result in deteriorating quality of judgment. Here’s the science to prove it. Feel free to use this rationale next time you’re trying to get out of a long meeting, but don’t blame it on us if it backfires. Knowing that our attention is a precious resource that gets spent, how can we be more selective with what we dedicate our energy to? 

Use a filter.

Time to dig deep. The concept of a decision filter relies entirely on what you value in your life. If you’re looking at your aspirations from 30,000 feet, and are thinking about your long-term goals and overarching ambitions, what matters most to you? Where do you want to go? We broke the categories into personal and professional, but you could have a set of decision filters for any area of your life—family, finances, relationships, etc. The point of adding this tool to your cognitive arsenal is to increase your certainty in each move you make. With certainty, you can make decisions faster and trust their outcomes, which brings you closer to your dreams in a shorter period of time. Sounds like a good deal, no?

Make it personal.

Once you’ve done the soul searching and come up with your top priorities, apply your filter throughout the day. If one of your top values is to travel more, take a moment before each task and hold it up to your filter. Will spending the time, money or energy on this particular activity bring you closer to taking a remarkable trip? If your main ambition is to build your own business, will the conversations you’re having and people you surround yourself with help you get there? It’s impossible to live your whole life according to your filter, but one of the most useful traits of employing a decision filter is that it shows you how often you’re acting for (or against) your best interest. That knowledge in and of itself can encourage corrective habits to get you closer to your goals.

Scale it up.

Decision filters can go beyond the individual. We have agency-wide filters that keep us honed in on our objectives and keep us from straying from our purpose. Through clearly written mission and vision statements, the entire agency knows what matters, and every decision—whether it’s acquiring new clients or taking on new talent—is measured against our values. This sometimes means turning down enticing opportunities. It’s hard to rebel against shiny object syndrome, especially when it comes in the form of a promising prospect. Through experience, we’ve learned that even the best-looking possibilities can work against our best interests. Every organization stands to benefit from aligning their team over the goals and values that pave the path toward success. Here are a few of our filters to inspire you and prompt you to create some of your own:

  • Comparing potential clients and partners to our core values and making sure they walk our walk
  • Holding fast and steady to who we are and who we aren’t to vet team members
  • Ensuring there’s a “why” for every “what” to help us keep on the correct path as we grow as a business

Energy and attention are resources you can’t afford to waste, so utilize your decision filters wisely to achieve the goals you set for yourself. If your organization is looking to have a deeper discussion about how to accelerate toward its aspirations, we’d love to learn more about what your organizational filters are and how we can apply them to creative marketing endeavors.

Let’s strategize >

2019 Year-in-Review Highlights

Let our work speak for itself.

16 times on the podium:

  • Entrepreneur 360 | 2019 Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America
  • AZ Central Top Companies to Work For in Arizona, Small Company
  • Phoenix Business Journal Best Places to Work in the Valley
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | National Harbor
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promo Campaign/Branding Refresh | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promo Campaign/Branding Refresh | Spinato’s Pizzeria
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promotion/Guide | Travel Costa Mesa
  • Addy Award | Elements of Advertising-Logo Design | Loft+Manor
  • Addy Award | Branded Content & Entertainment | Travel Costa Mesa
  • Addy Award | Sales & Marketing | Hotel Valley Ho
  • Addy Award | Integrated Advertising National Consumer Campaign | Mountain Shadows
  • Addy Award | Print Advertising, Branded Content & Entertainment | The Cliffs Hotel & Spa
  • Spaces Arizona Awards 2019 | Best in show
  • 2019 PRSA Phoenix Award of Merit | Colleen’s Dream Foundation Butterfly Effect Campaign

6 Brand Videos:

10 Rebrands & New Brands:

  • Camelot Homes
  • National Harbor
  • Starfire Golf Club
  • Cabana
  • Mavrix
  • Spinatos Pizzeria
  • ECD Systems
  • ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
  • From the Rooftop
  • Poppy

16 New Websites:

2020 promises to be filled with more of the exciting projects and people that make TJA so special. Cheers to the new year!

5 things you have to do before shooting a brand video to make it a success.

Everything that comes before “Lights, camera, action!”

Creating a brand video is the ultimate creative project. Storytelling harmonizes with videography to become a money-making, movie-quality video the client gets to splash across their website, paid media and social media platforms. However, there’s more to creating a film than storyboarding and day-of shoots; myriad decisions that involve other departments are critical to the final result. In this blog, we’re highlighting four considerations that go into making our award-winning brand videos. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on behind the scenes.

How media buying influences videography. 

One of the biggest influences on a brand video comes from the media department. How will the video be used? Has ad space been bought that comes with sizing and timing constraints? Taking the endgame usage into consideration at the very beginning will eliminate many challenges during the editing phase. If you know you need a fifteen-second, vertical video for promoted stories on Instagram, writing that into the storyboard will align the creative process with the practical application. 

Add this to your to-do list:
Start a “future project” section part of your storyboard that lists all the applications for this video. Where will it be posted? How long will it be? What are the specs for social media platforms where it’ll go up? Usage can determine content, so having a written-out understanding can constructively guide creative brainstorming. 

KPIs and client objectives.

Keeping the measurable goals in mind is not a very sexy part of the creative process, but it’s essential. It actually makes telling your story easier by supplying queues on what to include and what to leave out. Understand upfront how the value of this brand video will be determined. Knowing what will be considered a success from the client’s perspective will prevent difficult conversations down the road. Better to course-correct toward the beginning than realize at the very end that your goals and the client’s objectives are entirely estranged.

Add this to your to-do list:
Before any work is done on concepting the video, agree upon three measurable KPIs and write them at the top of any documents relating to the shoot. Get a written statement from the client stating what they will consider a success and keep that as a North Star throughout the duration of the project.

How casting and data go hand in hand.

Did you know Google Analytics can help you narrow in on whom you should cast in your video? Here at TJA, we do significant research on target audiences to understand who they are and what they want. Casting decisions should take demographic and psychographic data pulled from reliable sources into consideration. Choose actors whom your audience can empathize with or aspire to be. 

Add this to your to-do list:
Have your team source information about your audience from your first-party platforms, like Facebook Audience Insights and Google Analytics. Combine that with third-party industry data to make data-backed casting decisions. 

Location, location, location. 

You’ve seen pictures online; maybe you spent some time on the Google Street View scoping out the area. Now it’s time to visit the locations IRL. It’s critical that you get face-to-face with your shooting spots. Assuming that the space will work without walking through it is like trusting a kindergartener with your dental work. Get a grasp on the variables, so that they don’t end up undermining the whole operation. 

Add this to your to-do list:
Walk through all of your pre-planned shots in the space so that you can check how angles, lighting and framing are going to turn out. Nine times out of ten, you’ll discover there’s a shot that isn’t quite as feasible as you thought. Do this far enough in advance so you can make edits to the shot list without throwing everything into chaos. 

So where does creativity come in?

Even with all these external considerations, the core of filming a brand video is to tell a story. The narrative thread will be the heart and soul for creative efforts. Media, target audience data and location provide the structure to build the story around. Additionally, once shooting begins, there will inevitably be improvisation. You’ll need to get creative with shots when timing gets tight, or when things on set don’t go to plan. Stay loose and go with the flow; it’s better to think on your feet than to force a shot just for the sake of the storyboard. Keep standards of quality high and the finished product in mind: an unexpected, dramatic sunset can be the money shot that pulls the whole video together. 

Add this to your to-do list:
During the lead up, think hypothetically about multiple ways you can achieve the same effect if an obstacle crops up. How will you handle talent running late? Adverse weather? Set malfunctions? Lost props? By employing problem-solving before you even reach the set, your mind will be primed to handle any situation you find yourself in. 

High stakes and tight turn arounds.

A project manager’s perspective.

You never know what will come your way when you work in advertising. The most painstakingly coordinated tasks and schedules can become little more than color-coded scrap paper when the perfect opportunity pops up out of the blue. When a shot too good to pass up comes our way, it falls to the project managers (PMs) to be the eyes in the sky. They’re the ones rearranging the pieces so our clients can make the most of every opportunity.

In the words of Tim Gunn: “Make it work.”

We’re can-do kind of people ‘round these parts, so when we have the chance to make national impact for a worthy organization, we take it. That sometimes means putting the pedal to the metal and generating all the creative collateral in two days. Organization is the make-or-break factor for any high-stakes undertaking, and our PM Riley gave us some tips for how she approaches a project where every minute counts:

  1. Get organized and make a plan of attack to avoid any snags that come along. And trust us, there will be snags.
  2. Detail! Be meticulously detailed when you write up the expectations for each deliverable. This is majorly important when it comes to facilitating an efficient project.
  3. Most important: communication. Over-communicate with your team. Even when there’s only a short amount of time allocated to a project, you need to work in tandem with your designers, copywriters, developers, etc. Being overly-communicative with your clients will also help alleviate any confusion that pops up along the way.

It takes two to tango and four to pull off a campaign.

The collaborative nature and tight schedule of the World Ovarian Cancer Day fundraiser meant there were a lot of parties with a vested interest in making sure it was successful. TJA was the creative agency (and center of communication), Colleen’s Dream Foundation was the recipient nonprofit organization, seven Pacific Retail locations across the country hosted murals made by the Butterfly Effect, which was the nonprofit agent that facilitated these flash fundraisers. In addition to these main players, there were print vendors and overnight shippers to keep in touch with. Riley shares how she keeps communication straight between everyone involved for seamless handoffs and no missteps:

  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page across the board: the clients, account managers and team members should all have identical expectations of the outcome.
  2. Clients should receive consistent updates on the status of each deliverable. Radio silence never ends well.
  3. Identify and address any potential hiccups as soon as they occur. It’s easier to solve problems when they’re small than once they’ve exploded. Frequent communication is the key to troubleshooting.

A recap is worth $1,000. 

The fundraiser was a success. All the collateral arrived in time at the Pacific Retail destinations across the nation, and lots of posts went on social media featuring pictures of people posing against the Butterfly Effect murals. All told, about $1,000 was raised during World Ovarian Cancer Day for Colleen’s Dream, and the campaign won a 2019 PRSA Phoenix Award of Merit. But the most crucial part of any project is reflecting on the results—what went right and what can be improved upon next time. What are the most important aspects to include in a review? Riley’s so glad you asked:

  1. Compare the goals of the project to the outcomes. Provide explanations for how these goals were met and identify opportunities for improvement.
  2. Highlight any eye-catching issues and successes so the team can remedy or replicate them next time.
  3. Memorialize successful processes so they can be employed in the future. Share these internally with the team so everyone can benefit from the knowledge.

Give your PMs some love (and take a page from their book).

We know we’d be lost without the scheduling savvy of our PMs and their on-top-of-it-all-ness. Just for fun, we also asked Riley to share what would make a PM’s life easier as well as what we can take from her process and apply to our everyday lives.

  1. It’s important that the team communicate with the project managers, of course, but it’s also vital that they communicate amongst themselves. If you’re working on a project, explain your thought process, and share any suggestions you have before you hand it off to the next person.
  2. We know it’s no fun to admit you’re struggling, but it truly makes everything easier in the long run if you’re upfront with any issues that arise. Your team won’t judge (at least not too hard), because everyone is working toward the best possible outcome.
  3. It’s corny, we know, but have fun with your tasks! It makes work interesting, it keeps you engaged with the projects and, oftentimes, clients will end up loving adventurous takes on their brand.

The James Agency’s Creative Wins Big with U.S. Travel Association

Ad agency’s ‘Split Decisions’ campaign for client Travel Costa Mesa wins two ESTO awards

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (August 22, 2019) – A marketing campaign created by hospitality and tourism advertising agency, The James Agency (TJA), was awarded two Destiny Awards at the U.S. Travel Association’s ESTO conference in Austin, Texas this week. The annual awards ceremony recognizes excellence and creative accomplishment in destination marketing at the local and regional level.

TJA’s “Split Decisions” campaign was part of a total brand refresh for client, Travel Costa Mesa, a Southern California destination marketing organization (DMO). The campaign utilized a “two halves of a whole” design narrative that transformed stereotypical branding into an authentic realization of the fresh and urban experiences that Costa Mesa has to offer. Of the 16 Destiny Awards presented, Travel Costa Mesa won two: one for a branding campaign in the $500,000 – $1,000,000 marketing budget category and another for the People’s Choice Award.

The campaign included the creation of brand videos and the design of traditional and digital ads targeting a younger market of foodies and weekend travelers. Within a year of the campaign’s initiation, Travel Costa Mesa saw a 23 percent increase in engagement by its target age market and a 22 percent increase in leads to its hotel partners.

“TJA was tasked with captivating a younger age group – a generation that dreams of travel and curated experiences,” said Veronique James, CEO of The James Agency. “I’m proud of the amazing creative my team conjured up that captured the notion of limitless possibilities in Costa Mesa.”

TJA, an integrated advertising, public relations and digital marketing firm, lead the research, brand development, website redesign, email and content marketing for Travel Costa Mesa, which is located in the heart of Orange County.

“The Travel Costa Mesa team is thrilled to be recognized for our work in destination marketing this year for the unique and vibrant City of the Arts®,” said Kim Glen, Director of Marketing. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Travel Association and all those who voted for us, and big kudos to the creative talents of our partners at The James Agency, who were instrumental in developing this fun, integrated branding campaign.”

Founded in 2005 by James, TJA specializes in working with hospitality, restaurant, real estate and experiential brands. In addition to Travel Costa Mesa, TJA is the agency of record for the National Harbor Convention and Visitors Association on the East Coast.

A complete list of the Destiny Awards finalists and winners can be found online.

About The James Agency

An integrated agency specializing in consumer advertising, public relations and digital, The James Agency (TJA) custom fits a comprehensive, insights-driven marketing strategy for each client. Founded in 2005 by Veronique James, TJA represents travel, tourism, hospitality and lifestyle brands.

About Travel Costa Mesa

Located in the heart of Orange County in Southern California with a population of approximately 113,000, Travel Costa Mesa was established in 1995 with the primary goal of promoting tourism to the city and to fund programs and activities that benefit the hotel and motel businesses within the city of Costa Mesa. For more information on travel to the city of Costa Mesa, visit www.travelcostamesa.com  or follow @travelcostamesa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Travel Costa Mesa is a 501(c)(6).

Considerations for collaborations: How to make unique brands work together.

Marketing is a group activity.

However, branding is often created and deployed in a silo. There are some external considerations of course—industry trends, competitor sets, etc.—but beyond that, brand development is not a decision that necessarily needs to be “coordinated” with anything outside of the company. Even nested organizations or those under the same ownership tend to be visually independent of each other.

Right, so what’s the issue?

We are operating in a collaborative age: companies, influencers, popups and celebrities are mixing and mingling their brands. With all this crossover, it takes real work to keep all those logos, color palettes and keywords from turning into a puddle of melted crayons. When brands collaborate, talented designers—like the ones we’re fortunate to have here at TJA—are responsible for keeping aesthetics consistent but complementary, without muddling or diluting the impact of the organizations involved.

Join us as we share our top tips for keeping cooperative branding from becoming a mess.

Don’t just smoosh them together and hope for the best.

You have the logos for both organizations, so why not just paste them in the same area? You have pictures of both products, so why not just collage them together? No. Please don’t. Trust us; we know whereof we speak. You could probably get away with asset dumping, but that doesn’t mean you should. For the sake of brand (and visual) integrity, we encourage you to explore some of these alternative strategies before you Salt Bae logos and photos all over the place.

  • Cut to the core.
    A great place to start is with why these entities are collaborating in the first place. Did they come together to support a cause? Are they selling complementary products? By looking at the end goal, you’ll be able to create a narrative for the partnership as a whole.
  • Symmetry is your friend.
    Sometimes it’s impossible to work with perfectly coordinated colors, logos, assets, fonts and voice. Strive to find equivalent content, and then mirror it in layout. I.e. do you have two photos of people having fun? Two illustrations of buildings? Using subject material that’s as similar as possible can show how well the two brands go together.
  • Have the elements converse with each other.
    Try a call-and-respond methodology when you’re selecting which photos to use. If one has a couple at breakfast, pick another that has someone walking through a street during midday. End with a photo of a family at night. There’s a way to create a continuous theme throughout the piece even when you’re working with seemingly unrelated content.

Respect the integrity and individuality of each brand.

It’s a good idea to unify the palette and marry the messaging of the players involved to a certain extent. It becomes an issue if your audience isn’t able to tell that you’re portraying more than one brand if you took the names of the organizations involved out of the equation. Be sure to pay homage to what makes each brand unique.

  • Play up the contrast.
    There’s harmony in opposition; allow the brands to become foils for each other. It creates an interesting dynamic when the distinct traits of each brand play off each other. Execute this well, and the entities will appear more complimentary than ever.
  • Give the brands a platform.
    Even if brands are working toward a goal that is separate from self-promotion, the secondary goal of any collaboration for the brands involved is to expose themselves to a new audience that shares traits with current loyal fans. Always keep in mind what will pique the interest of the individuals who may not have encountered the organizations before, displaying what qualities align with the audience’s affinities.

Speaking from personal experience.

Mountain Shadows and Hotel Valley Ho—two of our long-held clients—run an annual, cooperative 3-Day Sale in the springtime. While both properties have histories that begin in the midcentury, they have unique brands, looks, voices and personalities. Both hotels appear together on the collateral, billboards, emails, social posts and more during the lead-up and duration of the 3-Day Sale.

In previous years, the 3-Day Sale was hosted simultaneously but separately: each hotel used its own branding and promoted the sale through their specific channels. This year, the hospitality concepts came together to maximize exposure and broadcast the event to a broader audience than ever.

The properties are distinct, but the creative team utilized the similarities the hotels share to create symmetry for visuals and narrative. We also pulled out and highlighted the differences, which allowed each concept to shine where they specialize. For example, Hotel Valley Ho has a lighter, brighter, mid-century-mod vibe, whereas Mountain Shadows has an elevated, secluded, contemporary aesthetic. By choosing colors from the brand standards that are complementary, photography that created the narrative we knew would be appealing to both audiences and crafting copy that conveyed the urgency of the sale, the collateral came together and made the brands look like they always belonged together. 

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