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Imagine this: One day out of the blue you receive a text message from someone at an agency you worked with once on a project. This person invites you to a one-of-a-kind digital experience. You accept the invite (uh, obviously) and click through to a beautiful site where you get to choose your own well-crafted gift—as a thank-you for supporting the agency in the past and for being generally awesome.
You’re probably feeling pretty special right about now, yeah?
Good. That’s exactly what the creatives at digital agency Grow were going for when they created the promotional project For you. On us.
No Swag Bombs Allowed
The team at Grow wanted to celebrate the agency’s 10th anniversary with a bang. Beyond the conventional act of giving gifts to clients, friends and fans, the creatives wanted to introduce the gift recipients to both the people and places that really define Grow’s culture.
“The goal with For you. On us. was to improve on the impersonal swag bomb that so many agencies use to promote themselves,” says creative director Eric Lohman. “We wanted to focus on a real connection and let the recipient choose their new favorite T-shirt, sweatshirt, or pillow—something they’d actually wear.”
Not Their First Rodeo
This wasn’t the first time that Grow has gone above and beyond for a gift for their clients, friends and fans. Nor was the For you. On us. project the first time the team introduced Grow apparel.
“Years ago we had a lot of success with a site called “Thank You Begins With a T” that was created to fulfill a similar brief,” Lohman says. “We knew right away that we wanted to do something with Grow apparel to pay homage to that piece of work.” (If you haven’t seen “Thank You Begins With a T.,” be sure to check it out. The engaging website features the entire Grow team, with each of them creating something on the screen in front of them. Upon completion, the drawings then “activate” and became a part of the website, allowing visitors to interact with the team members in fun ways.)
Putting in the Work
As most creatives at design firms can attest, one doesn’t normally get to devote long stretches of time to self-promotion design projects. These sorts of things tend to come together piece by piece, between paid client work.
Operating on such a schedule, Grow was able to produce the goods, complete all of the photoshoots and launch the entire experience in about six months of work, spaced out over the course of a year.
And these photoshoots didn’t just happen inside the agency walls. Lohman says the team went to great lengths to highlight their city of Norfolk/Virginia Beach, traveling all around to photograph each Grow employee in his or her favorite restaurant, bar, museum, brewery, independent shop, park or beach.
“Our industry is often associated with big cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, so it was important to us to show off a little bit of what makes us unique,” Lohman says.
But the photoshoots weren’t as challenging as the creation of the Grow apparel each employee wore.
“Creating small batches of custom clothing is a real process,” Lohman says. “Every T-shirt and sweatshirt has a small accent patch on the hemline. None of our printers were capable (or interested) in sewing on several thousand of them by hand. Eventually, the sister-in-law of one of our producers volunteered to do them—she saved the day!”
“Regardless of whether you’re reaching out to new clients
or reengaging with old ones, [promotion design is] an opportunity to
show them how you’ll treat their work—with care and creativity.”
—Eric Lohman, creative director
The final product is one the Grow team is proud of.
They succeeded in giving clients and friends a highly personal and engaging experience that started with an email or text sent from the Grow employee that person knew best. That message—whether sent from an executive creative director, producer, developer or other creative—contained a unique URL to the experience, where the recipient could then pick his or her own item, color and size.
The entire digital experience was built to impress. “We challenged ourselves to really push what is possible in a modern mobile browser,” Lohman says. “We even surprised ourselves a bit at the level of app-like performance and responsiveness we were able to achieve.”
The judges of the HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards were certainly impressed. Grow’s “For you. On us.” promotion design won a Merit winner last year. In light of their win, Lohman notes that the details make the difference. “Regardless of whether you’re reaching out to new clients or reengaging with old ones, it’s an opportunity to show them how you’ll treat their work—with care and creativity.”
All awards aside, Lohman says that the most important reaction, of course, has been from the people for whom they created the experience in the first place. “We’ve had countless clients old and new connect with us to say thanks, and we’ve even had a number of new projects come into the shop because of it,” he says. “From the site experience, to the photography, to the super soft T-shirts’—it touches a lot of creative ‘creature comforts.’”
Click here to check out For you. On us. in action.
Creative Team for “For you. On us.”: Drew Ungvarsky, executive creative director/chief executive officer; Quan Hoang, creative director; Brian Walker, technology director; Eamon Wyse, production director; Sonya Parker, producer; Eric Lohman, associate creative director; Ricky Williams, associate technology director; Bruno Porrio, art director; Joe Branton, design director, Nate Witte, lead developer; Darius Pilapil, Ann Yuan, Lookmai Rattana, Stanley Zheng, developers; Janice Pang, Brian Villalon, designers; Hannah Zaino, copywriter; Shawn Fenton, strategist; Echard Wheeler Photography; The Prince Ink Co., screen printing; Custom Boxes Now, The Yebo Group, box vendors