A Minneapolis agency that specializes in health care advertising is offering a new perspective on creating pro bono work for nonprofit organizations with an effort that combines elements of all-nighters, hackathons, sleepovers and team-building exercises.
The agency, StoneArch, also known as StoneArch Creative, offers organizations in the Twin Cities area a free marketing makeover through a program it calls RedEye Rebrand. The first was held in January 2013 and the second was last month.
Through the initiative, employees of StoneArch and agencies with whom StoneArch often works spend 24 hours strategizing, developing and producing new marketing materials for a local nonprofit. Depending on the organization’s needs, the output of a RedEye Rebrand session could include redesigned versions of its website, logo, letterhead and business cards; new advertisements and related materials like brochures; and video clips.
Twin Cities residents are asked to nominate nonprofits that they believe could benefit from a marketing makeover. Staff members at StoneArch narrow the nominees to three finalists. The public votes on the RedEye Rebrand website to choose the winner; the two runners-up each receive a $500 donation from StoneArch.
The first organization that won a rebranding from StoneArch was The Bridge for Youth in Minneapolis, which helps homeless young men and women. The winner last month was the Wiggle Your Toes Foundation in Bloomington, Minn., which helps amputees regain mobility and independence as well as assisting their families with emotional and financial support.
“We’re committed to giving back to the community,” says Jessica Boden, president of StoneArch, and as a result have “pretty much done the full gamut” of charitable efforts, including creating public service campaigns on a pro bono basis, donating money to organizations and encouraging employees to perform volunteer work.
“It was our interactive designer, Allison Balow,” who came up with the idea for a makeover marathon, Ms. Boden says, and “people were pretty excited about it” from the beginning because “they could see where we can make an impact for an organization.”
“Sure, there was a little fear and trepidation at first,” she adds, but that faded as the first effort got underway.
For the rebranding effort last month, about 20 employees of StoneArch took part, Ms. Boden says, along with about 10 employees of three firms with which StoneArch frequently works: PineappleRM in Minneapolis, which specializes in tasks like reputation management and public relations; NordicClick Interactive, a digital agency in Excelsior, Minn.; and Rat Race Studios in Minneapolis, a commercial and editorial photography studio.
“We went through the same discipline” for the Wiggle Your Toes Foundation “as we do for clients, only we condensed six to eight weeks into 24 hours,” Ms. Boden says, from 9 a.m. Feb. 6 to 9 a.m. Feb. 7.
The process included interviews with executives and board members of the foundation, she adds, to “understand the needs, goals and objectives of the organization; getting to the heart of what it’s all about and stands for; and positioning, identifying its value proposition.”
Then, at around 10:30 a.m., “it was off to the races,” Ms. Boden says, as the foundation’s representatives left and the 30 people began determining what the foundation needed and then working to bring it all to life.
“We presented it to them and they said, ‘Go, go, go,’” she adds. “That’s part of the fun and the fear — you have to have a partner willing to make decisions very quickly.”
Throughout the process, there were employees of StoneArch who looked after those working on the makeover, Ms. Boden says, adding, “They took on hydration, keeping people energized, fed, making sure we were happy little worker bees all night.”
There was also “a massage therapist in a conference room, giving 15-minute massages,” Ms. Boden says, along with “stretch breaks.”
For all those measures, “we lost a couple of people to catnaps,” she adds, laughing. “There was definitely some snoring coming from the edit suite at one point.”
Ms. Boden recalls that during the marathon “I was copywriting, I was proofreading” and “I was making sure the bathrooms were stocked.”
“I hadn’t done an all-nighter since graduate school 20 years ago,” she says.
The following morning, when the results were to be unveiled, “we had fun with the reveal,” Ms. Boden says. “We set up a custom omelet bar and invited in all our folks, all the participants, 10 or 11 people from Wiggle Your Toes.”
“The best part is the reveal, I have to say,” she adds. “They gave us a standing ovation, and standing isn’t the always the easiest thing for these folks to do.”
Rose McKinney, president of PineappleRM, praises how StoneArch handles the marathon. “They really went all out,” she says, offering special praise for the omelets: “Nobody went hungry.”
PineappleRM also took part in the rebranding event last year. “When StoneArch came up with the idea of doing an overnight, it was very intriguing,” Ms. McKinney says. “It’s a great way to reinforce your culture internally,” she adds, at the same time “you get some really great work.”
The work produced for Wiggle Your Toes during the RedEye Rebrand included a redesign of the organization’s website, at wiggleyourtoes.org; the production of a pair of video clips, which can be watched on YouTube as well as on the Wiggle Your Toes website; and the creation of a brochure that urges amputees to “Take the next step.”
The foundation also received a series of poster ads, which carry inspiration messages like “Own the new normal,” “Never look back” and “Wiggle forward. Our mission is to empower those who have lost a limb to move forward, take action and get back to the life they want.”
Aaron Holm, founder and president of the foundation, says he “stumbled across” the StoneArch announcement of the 2014 RedEye Rebrand “on Facebook or one of the other social media.”
“It too me three minutes to fill out” the application, he adds, “and then forgot about it, but two months later there was a call from StoneArch.” Wiggle Your Toes was one of the three finalists, along with Hearts and Hands, which provides nonmedical support services to families who have, or have had, a child with a life-threatening illness, and Store to Door, whose volunteers shop for and deliver groceries and prescriptions to aging and homebound senior citizens.
The foundation then mobilized to encourage people to vote for it on the RedEye Rebrand website. “It was a social networking effort,” Mr. Holm says. “The board of directors all went out on their Facebook and Twitter pages and a member of our staff who calls herself the ‘social media nanny’ got the word out.”
His reference is to Lanae Paaverud, who handles social media for Wiggle Your Toes and is known as the Social Networking Nanny.
He also enlisted, he adds, his “three kids, 14, 12 and 9,” whom he calls “social media geniuses,” and they took advantage of two days when they were home because their schools were closed by cold weather.
Mr. Holm became a bilateral amputee — losing both legs above the knees — in January 2007 after an automobile accident. After returning home, he says, he remembers being stymied “trying to get a cup out of the cupboard for a cup of coffee.”
“I was worrying about climbing mountains or running marathons,” Mr. Holm says, when his immediate problem was learning how to deal with a million everyday life moments. “I compiled a ton of information through family and friends,” he adds, which “morphed into” a website.
The people who took part in the rebranding effort “hit a home run,” Mr. Holm says, adding: “They nailed it, and we’re very happy with the outcome. We got nothing but positive comments.”
As for next year, Ms. Boden at StoneArch says, “Our intention is to continue this on.”