Making the Brand

 Making the Brand

U! Creative doesn’t want to be a typical advertising agency.

Tucked between classic Victorian homes on the east and the Miami River to its west, historic downtown Miamisburg resembles a Mayberry-like atmosphere with its street-lined boutique shops and locally owned restaurants. The quaint and orderly backdrop contrasts greatly with the imaginative “idea collective” at U! Creative.

“We’re not your normal advertising agency,” says Ron Campbell, president of U! Creative. “We are out to grab the consumer’s attention.”

The ponytail-clad designer and musician helped launch U! Creative in 2008 during the depths of the recession. Six years later, the company, along with partners Ike Imhof and Shiela Siefer, has expanded its footprint locally as well as nationally.

“[U! Creative] is a change in the mindset at how creative agencies have been behaving for nearly the last 50 years,” says Campbell. “We hate the words ‘ad agency.’ ”

Housed in a 100-year-old two-story building (that once served as a record store), the U! Creative offices look more like a trendy workstation in a cosmopolitan metropolis than a Dayton advertising company. Enlarged logos from past clients and colorfully designed skateboards hang from the office’s brick walls, while designers in jeans and t-shirts click away on oversized LED screens.

Through advertising, branding, design and social media, the agency has taken a wide range approach towards marketing. U! Creative has acquired a long and reputable list of clients, including Kings Island, Cassano’s Pizza and the J. Peterman Company, among others.

Campbell, who’s worked in the industry for 25 years, travels to Miami, New York and California to work and court clients.

Campbell admits that telling an executive from a major coastal city why a small company from Dayton can market his products is a challenge.

However, the city’s diverse population and close alignment with Middle America make it an appealing candidate for test markets.

“I met a high profile business colleague and he said, ‘So goes Dayton, so goes the nation,’” says Campbell. “We’re a great test market because of the wide demographics in a concentrated area.”

At roughly 20 employees—including apparel designers, web designers, application developers and graphic artists—the U! Creative team manages a variety of avenues for companies promoting their products.

Their operation also extends to something called the Social Farm. Although there are no tractors or clucking chickens running around, there is a group of dedicated social media enthusiasts planting seeds of brand loyalty making their mark there. The “service silo” helps less adroit businesses tap into the marketing potential that YouTube, Twitter, FourSquare and blogging offer.

“It’s for the companies not getting the social media traction they would like to,” says Campbell. “Through the Social Farm, we can help them get the word out about a product launch or a marketing campaign in relevant ways that gets them the visibility they are looking for.”

The social media, creative logos and unconventional marketing campaigns cultivate a relationship with customers, but the communicative street runs both ways in the idea market.

“If you’re not listening to [the consumers], they’re not listening to you,” says Campbell. “And if you have nothing meaningful to say, don’t expect to draw a crowd.”