September 18, 2017
FOCUS: Advertising & Media

Ad campaign seeks to rebrand Hartford Club

Tony Cashman President and CEO, Cashman + Katz

Q&A talks with Tony Cashman, president and CEO of Glastonbury integrated communications firm Cashman + Katz, about the Hartford Club's ongoing ad campaign and other industry trends.

Q. Cashman + Katz helped launch the Hartford Club's first-ever major media campaign at the end of last year. What was involved in the campaign?

A. When the Hartford Club approached us, it had been experiencing a significant drop in membership and new membership growth had slowed markedly, especially among the younger demographic. The Club was feeling its age and it wasn't alone. Similar clubs around the country had been closing up shop at an alarming rate, a failure to adapt to the changing times. This, along with some other factors had many questioning the Club's viability.

Fortunately, the Club had far more supporters than detractors, including a group of really dedicated directors, members and area business leaders with their hearts and their heads fully engaged in not just saving the Club, but rejuvenating it. That goal would require a rethinking of how to make the Hartford Club brand more relevant to a younger generation in a much more highly competitive environment. It needed a re-positioning, perhaps the Club's first real repositioning in decades.

We joined the supporters and worked closely with them to develop that new positioning and a multi-touchpoint campaign to articulate it. The campaign includes television and radio advertising, digital tactics, print and outdoor.

Q. What were the challenges around trying to change the perception of the Hartford Club, which had been experiencing financial troubles in recent years, and making it seem more amenable to a younger and more diverse membership?

A. The biggest challenge was making the Club relevant. Not just to a younger demo, but in a social and business environment quite different than when the Club was in its heyday.

Quite simply, the core of what the Club provides — social interaction and business networking — is now more often done online. To paraphrase one of our ads, people today connect through social media instead of by being social. Our positioning had to acknowledge that reality while showing how the Club can augment your online life with "Real Life Connections."

Q. What impact has the campaign had?

A. Facing foreclosure only two years ago, the Hartford Club is certainly on the upswing, with growing membership and a recent reinvestment resulting in some very exciting renovations to the physical Club. The repositioning, along with the amazing efforts of the Club directors and staff have helped achieve some bold membership goals. The most important impact though is a renewed energy and spirit within the Club and its membership. It really feels like The Hartford Club is back, and has a very promising future.

Q. There are a lot of other advertising/marketing trends going on right now. One is native advertising. Can you explain the concept? What are you seeing in terms of client interest in it?

A. As the world of online marketing continues to evolve, native advertising has experienced significant growth over the past few years. But this concept is not new — it has been around for decades.

With the rise of the internet and online marketing, however, it has a new feel and can be more efficient in terms of delivery. To explain it more simply, native advertising is paid content that is delivered as an unobtrusive ad placement — and in many cases, it resembles editorial content. In a world where banner ads are a commodity, for many brands, this is what is most appealing — its ability to blend into its surroundings on platforms or websites where users are already consuming content.

Native advertising can be more effective because the audience does not perceive it as advertising. Many of our clients both national and local are engaged with some form of native advertising and we expect that interest and engagement to continue.

Q. Virtual reality is also starting to become more mainstream these days. How are organizations incorporating VR into their marketing strategies? Do you expect it to increase in popularity?

A. One of the reasons I love advertising and marketing is discovering new ways to engage with our target audiences. New technologies and trends — like virtual reality — make what we do so exciting. VR provides brands and organizations the ability to put a consumer at the center of an experience. This can truly open a whole new world for marketers. While many larger brands are incorporating VR into their marketing strategies, it is still a new frontier for many organizations. VR isn't really about ads, it's about helping brands create great content. And for us, that's what is most exciting.

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