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October 2, 2023 Business Strategy

CashmanKatz rides wave of digital marketing growth

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED CashmanKatz’s partners include (from left) Eric Cavoli, SVP, creative director; Amanda Mueller, SVP, client services; and President and CEO Tony Cashman.
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Glastonbury-based marketing and communications firm CashmanKatz has seen a significant shift in client demands in recent years — with more customers seeking digital services to boost awareness of their products and messages.

Tony Cashman, the firm’s owner, president and CEO, said CashmanKatz has significantly transformed itself in response to that change.

The 30-year-old firm started pivoting to offer more digital marketing services, in addition to traditional advertising, about seven years ago.

“About three or four years ago, our clients caught up with us — the COVID-19 pandemic made more people realize they need to communicate more online,” Cashman said.

The 25-employee firm has seen more demand for digital, social media, SEO and analytics services. In response, it has added more of those offerings, invested in technology and recruited staff with expertise in these areas. The social media department is experiencing the firm’s largest growth.

Cashman anticipates the trend will continue, with increased demand for digital advertising throughout the marketing and communications industry.

Global digital advertising spending was around $522 billion in 2021, with projected growth to $836 billion in 2026, according to Statista.

“A key to our success has been our ability to adapt, pivot and grow to accommodate the changes in the marketplace and how people consume information,” Cashman said.

‘Quite a metamorphosis’

Five years ago, traditional marketing, such as print ads and billboards, represented two-thirds of CashmanKatz’s workflow, and digital marketing was about one-third.

Now that spread is about even, with the digital side continuing to grow, Cashman said.

“Five years ago, about half of our clients were dabbling in digital, and now all of them are robustly pursuing digital marketing,” he said. “Clients have realized assets like websites and social media needed more of a focus. It has been quite a metamorphosis, and it has really catapulted our growth.”

CashmanKatz’s annual net fee revenue is about $6 million, he said, with the firm recording about 25% revenue growth in the past three years.

The industry as a whole has changed, notes Cashman, who says other firms have also had to pivot to focus more on digital marketing, from online ads and social media to blogging and SEO.

“(With digital), you can see results in real time, like web traffic and engagement, and what is performing and what isn’t,” Cashman said. “Now, you can create content, check if it is working, then tweak and optimize it.”

Bryn Tindall, CEO and owner of Cheshire-based marketing firm Rebel Interactive Group, said COVID accelerated the shift away from traditional and toward digital marketing strategies.

People want interactive capabilities like QR codes, which provide an easy way to direct customers to a website, he said.

“Years ago, it was all about trade shows, print ads and billboards,” Tindall said. “Increasingly, that has pivoted. With digital, you can measure and show results. You can measure engagement. People want to see a digital strategy too.”

Reaching a milestone

A strong shift toward digital is the latest evolution for 30-year-old CashmanKatz. It started small, operating out of Cashman’s Manchester apartment.

After a stint in Cromwell, the business has made its home in a 15,000-square-foot, octagon-shaped Glastonbury building for the past 25 years.

It features office space and a focus group facility for research. It’s where focus groups can test products, such as food, and review political advertisements. Participants give their honest reactions, while clients look on from the other side of a one-way mirror.

The firm also has an in-house production department that includes a studio, editing suites, cameras and equipment.

CashmanKatz’s clients have included the state Department of Transportation, Department of Children and Families, Connecticut Lottery, BIC, Mylanta, Yankee Candle, Foxwoods Resort & Casino, Avangrid, Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN), Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Yale School of Public Health, among others.

Nina Kruse, chief communications officer and senior vice president of strategy for ECHN, said her health system has worked with CashmanKatz’s team for about eight years, using its graphic design, copywriting, video production, website, SEO, and digital screen management services.

She said the firm has helped ECHN, parent company of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals, implement new digital engagement opportunities.

CashmanKatz has done a lot of work for the state of Connecticut in particular, such as campaigns on distracted driving, pedestrian safety, wrong-way driving and work zone safety. Its “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt campaign is among its longest running.

With the legalization of cannabis, it has added campaigns like, “Driving High = DUI,” focused on preventing driving while under the influence.

The firm is also behind a Yeti AKA Abominable Snowman campaign, featuring the creature in “Don’t Be Abominable” messages about promoting kindness.

Eric Cavoli — a partner, senior vice president and creative director at CashmanKatz — attributed the firm’s longevity to relationships and creative ideas. The firm has hired people who are flexible and can perform many different roles.

“With the amount of work — people wear many different hats,” Cavoli said. “Everyone does their jobs and can cross into other departments, which has been a big part of our success.”

Most recently, artificial intelligence is beginning to impact the marketing and communications industry.

The firm is currently exploring how it can use AI to make tasks more efficient, Cavoli said.

“But it is not to replace our core offerings,” he said.

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