Interactive Storytelling

Physically engage your audience to get more from your marketing.

As a limited-time holiday promotion, coffee shop chain Caribou Coffee printed the opening lines of various feel-good stories on their beverage cups. Customers were encouraged to go to the web to learn the ending of the story that began on their cup. The chain’s current promotion asks customers to submit “what you stay awake for” via numerous social media outlets. The best answers will be printed on forthcoming cups.

The McDonald’s “Signs” commercial we’ve mentioned previously is another example of interactive storytelling. Then there’s the Heinz 57 ketchup bottles with a QR code that leads to an online game of Trivial Pursuit. Families are encouraged to play while they await their food orders at restaurants.

Cross-Channel Interaction

Encouraging people to move from one channel to another can get you added mileage from your marketing promotions. On a very simple level, it causes people to linger longer with your brand. Beyond that, moving your base online from offline puts them in a place to share your stories socially.

Another important aspect of these campaigns is their interactivity. An old school direct mail technique is to have audience members move a sticker from one part of the mailer to the reply card. This simple interaction leads to a boost not only in response rate but in sales closed. It seems that people who physically interact with a brand feel more connected to it and are thus more likely to make a purchase.

While an element of interaction might seem like a gimmick, it could be just the thing your organization needs to connect with your membership. It’s easy to delete emails, toss junk mail, and forget about TV commercials. It’s harder to forget about a story that hooked us on one plane and moved us to action on another.

A Win-Win

Take the current Caribou Coffee promotion. This interactive storytelling as a marketing technique is a stroke of genius. The brand gets priceless word-of-mouth marketing and the people who provide it feel like they’ve won something. Same goes for the interactive ketchup bottle. Heinz facilitates family fun at the same time it drives traffic to their web site.

Imagine how you might create a similar win-win to engage your audience and create greater brand attachment.

Share this post in LinkedIn:



As you look around the room at your annual conference, there’s a good chance you’re seeing more and more gray hair. This realization is probably followed by a sense of panic. What will happen to your organization in just a few years when the bulk of your members decide to retire? How can you attract and retain a younger base? And how can you preserve the knowledge and experience of your veteran members?

Step away from the panic button. Consider implementing a few of these ideas to attract younger members and keep your organization thriving.

Stay connected on social media

Social media is a one-to-one, 24/7 link between you and your base. While you might not see a concrete ROI in terms of new members signed up or conference registrations paid, the connectivity social media affords is invaluable. Your events happen a few times a year at best. Stay connected year round with a strong social media strategy.

Freshen up your visuals

Feature younger people in your membership brochure, on your website, and in any of your other marketing collateral. Seek them out for testimonials and success stories. Aside from showing younger faces, it might also be time to freshen up your logo or other visuals with a more contemporary look.

Actively recruit younger members

Fish where the fish are. Speak to your local young professionals group, purchase a mailing list based on age, or look for partner organizations with your desired demographic. Consider reaching out to university students to generate enthusiasm for your organization and your industry. A little investment now could pay off for decades to come.

Encourage involvement

Invite new members to serve on committees and get involved. Pair newbies with veteran members to make them feel welcome and to pass down that valuable knowledge and experience. Consider hosting a new member cocktail hour or open house to encourage connectivity beyond your annual events.

Explain the why

Lots of today’s young people want to be involved in something that matters. Share your authentic brand story and explain the reason why your organization exists. People of all ages will be drawn to you.

Some organizations dismiss social media or an updated look as unnecessary. They think, “We’ve never needed it before and we’re doing just fine.” But as your membership nears retirement and attendance numbers dwindle, you’ll need ways to reach new people—and the value they’ll bring for years to come.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


Are you in the Loop?

Inspiration and connection move in a noiseless, effortless, infinite loop.

People want to be inspired to connect. They connect to feel inspired. Again and Again, one desire chases the other.

Inside the loop, people put down their phones. They are present in the moment. They yield to their hardwiring for connection. They let inspiration direct them.

Inside the loop, they can hear.

Too many organizations operate OUTSIDE the loop. Where it’s loud. And crowded. And difficult. They try over and over to find their way in. They tap and hammer and e-blast with messages swimming in logic. They get a toe in, spin around in their analytics, and fall back out.

The problem is that they’re missing the access point.

We’ve spent our share of time outside the loop. Leaning on numbers and facts and bullet points. This webinar and that expert. This industry report and that status quo. We’ve circled around and over and through and found the access point. It’s so simple, but yet, so easy to miss in the disconnected haze outside the loop.

You invite people into the loop of connection and inspiration through human storytelling—person to person to person.

Effective storytelling finds people in their emotional centers. Their limbic brains. Where memories live. Where neuroscientists say the majority of decisions are actually made.

Everything else is important, but secondary. Without the ability to tell great stories, you won’t get there. And you should be there. Because inside the loop, people and organizations are the best versions of themselves.

Inside the loop, you can fulfill your organization’s core mission. Which, one way or another, is always about CHANGING LIVES.


It’s not a human concept at all. It’s beyond what we can even imagine. But that feedback loop? Th at’s 100 percent human. We’d love to meet you there.
Give us a call at 301-753-4226 or email

Share this post in LinkedIn:


Pay with Lovin'
Continuing its efforts to be viewed as a caring corporate citizen, McDonald’s released another heartwarming commercial—this time during the Super Bowl.

“Pay with Lovin’” shows random McD’s customers ready to purchase their food when a cashier asks them to perform various tasks in lieu of payment. For a few customers, payment means calling mom to say “I love you.” Others need to dance, hug, or say nice things about family members. If they “pay with lovin’” their food is free. The promotion is set to run until Valentine’s Day.

Feel Good People Stories

Coming on the heels of “Signs,” McDonald’s local feel good commercial released a few weeks ago, Pay with Lovin’ continues the restaurant’s focus on humans rather than food. It encourages connectivity among customers and, by extension, to McDonald’s who facilitated the connection. It does more tugging at emotions than actual sellin

Pay with Lovin’ another example of storymaking in the vein of Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. The idea is to create situations in which customers create their own meaningful stories, which they then spread through word of mouth.

Is it working?

Feedback on this campaign is about as mixed as the Signs campaign. While some of the Lovin’ encounters were tear jerking and heartwarming, others were stiff and awkward (clearly, strawberry sundae guy didn’t really want to raise roof). But even the awkward moments lend an air of authenticity to the whole thing. And it’s hard to argue with a campaign centered around love and positive vibes, not to mention free food. As of writing this post, the chain has given away nearly 1 million free orders.

Collectively McDonald’s new commercials are an attempt to halt declining sales and improve public perception of the brand that’s still under scrutiny for low wages and questionable ingredients. Even if it’s not working, they’re getting a ton of social media mileage out of these attempts. Search #paywithlovin on Twitter or take a gander at to see just how much traction you might get out a clever feel good campaign.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


How Much Does Visual Matter?

We know that visual matters.

If your brand doesn’t engage with the eyes, any words you use to tell your story will likely fall short. But just how much do brand visuals matter?

A new infographic from HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform, suggests people remember 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read.

A few more compelling stats from the infographic:
  • 65% of people are visual learners
  • 93% of all human communication is nonverbal
  • 55% of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds actively reading content on a page

Tweets and Facebook posts with images get more than double the social shares as the same tweets and post without images. Here at Rottman Creative, we can attest to this personally. Switching from cartoon-style line drawings to compelling photography for our social media updates led to a major boost in post and page likes and an exponential increase in clicks. Our revamp of was motivated by this same need for a greater visual presence to engage and inspire our audience.

The evidence is pretty compelling that if you’re not including a strong visual component in your branding, you’re missing out on reaching a lot of people. But simply having visuals isn’t enough. You need the right visuals.


Color impression can account for 60% of the acceptance or rejection of a product or service. Red, for example, can suggest excitement and passion, while black implies luxury and sophistication. Choose colors that reflect your brand’s mission, personality, and services.


Also consider the format of your visuals. HubSpot found that Twitter users tweet images 361% more often than videos, and the images get more than double the retweets of videos. While this trend might be a symptom of our limited attention spans, videos still hold the power to increase conversions on landing pages by 86% and boost visitor understanding of your product or service by 75%, so don’t count them out just yet.

The Bigger Picture

The big idea is to make sure your visuals make sense. Choose compelling visuals that represent your brand, your mission, and the audience you want to attract. Then provide greater context with polished, descriptive copy. Even the best visuals will fail at inspiring your audience if they aren’t a part of your larger, authentic brand story.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


A Tale of Two Images

Only the right picture is worth a thousand words.

A great image can do a lot for your organization. It can portray your personality, tell your story, and rally your members around your organization. It can build loyalty, raise brand awareness, live in infamy on social media, and pay dividends when it comes to engaging and retaining members.

Consider the following two images from a brochure promoting the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association’s annual conference.

Visual Storytelling

They both show the same individual, Todd Anderson, CEO of Hub Hobby Center. The first is a corporate headshot that looks polished and professional but doesn’t tell us much about Todd’s story, industry, or capabilities.

The second image is more illustrative. There’s Todd, now wearing bunny ears, surrounded by people, and deeply engaged in an activity. This image tells a story about what it’s like to attend an ASTRA conference. Given the bunny ears, this obviously isn’t a traditional business conference. The background is crowded, implying a good turnout. People viewing this image might feel like they’re missing out on a lot of fun if they don’t attend, that perhaps “everyone” will be there so they should go too.

In combination, these two images work together to suggest that serious business happens at an ASTRA conference, but some major fun and connectivity happen too.

Show and Tell

It’s worth mentioning the importance of original photography and design. Because your visuals do so much heavy lifting when it comes to showcasing your organization and events—your story itself—stock photography will almost always fail at projecting your authentic brand personality.

You have limited space to visually represent your brand. Make every image count by choosing photographs and graphic elements that do some real work. Show and tell members why they must attend your event and what they’ll miss if they aren’t there.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


These days, data is big business. You have unprecedented access to information about your audience’s location, age, income, education, and employment history. But it goes further than that.

Like never before you have purchasing habits, personal preferences, values, affiliations, and routines—all trackable via social media, rewards programs, location markers, and more. Big players in the industry are incredibly adept at piecing together all your data to more effectively market to you. (Target took the prize in this arena when it accurately predicted a customer was pregnant before she announced it to anyone.)

Personalization Potential

Variable data print, email, and web advertising allow marketers to customize messaging down to the individual. A simple example: If you frequently buy chicken from your grocery store, you’re likely to get a coupon for chicken in your next circular. Since I like steak and buy that frequently, I’ll get a coupon for steak.

With all this personalization made possible through data, marketing is more engaging than ever, right? Wrong. It turns out data isn’t enough to reach people on an emotional level. Remember that our emotions are responsible for as much as 90 percent of our decision-making abilities. In other words, a coupon for chicken won’t cut it. While this type of personalization is a great start, the effectiveness of data is vastly enhanced when accompanied with artful storytelling.

Find the Story

What story could chicken possibly have, you ask? Well, for starters there’s a great American tradition of family meals around the dinner table—the place where events of the day, stories, and information are shared. Perhaps chicken is a healthy alternative to hamburger. There’s a story there. Knowing your audience and telling compelling stories that resonate with their worldviews is the key to marketing success. The data helps you get to know your audience, but unless you forge an inspiring emotional connection, you’re wasting your efforts.

Your organization has a story. Each of your events has a unique story. Use your data to know your audience, but use emotion to truly engage, inspire, and connect.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


The New Rottman Creative Website

We’re pleased to unveil a brand new! Here’s what prompted our change and how we went about crafting a more inspiring site:

Rottman Creative exists to connect the unconnected, to inspire people to act. We accomplish this by reaching people on an emotional level with dynamic visuals and relevant compelling content. We create event brands that attract people, light them up, and connect them to the event, the organization, and each other.

The “old” wasn’t actually old—just over a year. But when we took a step back and asked ourselves if we were “walking the walk” when it came to connecting and inspiring people with our own brand, we realized we fell short. We had plenty of content, but not much connectivity. And there wasn’t enough visual appeal to engage visitors and encourage them to click through and stay a while.

Visual Storytelling

The next version of our site had to include a strong visual component. We engaged a photographer to shoot our portfolio pieces in interesting settings with complementary colors and textures. As opposed to including a slider of digital pieces, this approach added depth to our work by providing real-world context and thought-provoking settings. The photographs hint that each piece has a story.

Large environment images greet you when you visit the home page. These big simple visuals represent our passion, inspiration, and thought process—images include everything from worker bees collaborating in a hive to a perfect surf wave beckoning me catch it.

Simple Structure

When it came to the site’s structure, our approach was to simplify the interface to make all parts of the site easy to access and navigate. Our blog, newsletter, and portfolio are the three core areas of our site; we wanted visitors to seamlessly navigate each and realize at a glance that all three are connected.

We used a combination of the large environment images and smaller tiles throughout the site to complete the bigger picture of our capabilities. This visually interesting format is an emerging trend in web design—and we think it will be around for a while because it’s so compelling.

There is still plenty of content on our site, but the new format connects it more coherently. The next phase of our rollout will include “Front Row” content streams that link our work to the big ideas behind it. This feature will really show you how our work demonstrates our core beliefs in connectivity, inspiration, vulnerability, and storytelling.

Please have a look at the new Click. Read. Stay a while. Be inspired.

Share this post in LinkedIn:


A Thing of Beauty
As we were going through the process of reinventing our online image, I came across a cool design story about John Mayer’s latest album cover.

Mayer wanted to do something unique and compelling for his album artwork that truly represented his music, his passion, and his personality. He called upon a traditional turn-of-the-century sign painter in the U.K. to help him out. The two collaborated via web chat to make Mayer’s vision come to life—first in glass and gold foil, then in digital design. The resulting album cover is a stunning blend of tradition and technology that compels people to pick it up, admire it, explore, learn more, and listen.

Make Something Beautiful

Mayer said something about the process of making the cover that really resonated with us: “In this world we live in where everybody is trying to figure out the next strategy for PR, all we did was make something beautiful.”

We set out to create a thing of beauty and quality with the new It was painstakingly crafted to reflect our work and our passions. The creative process was a lesson in authenticity. We knew we had to demonstrate our visual and branding capabilities by making something beautiful, inspiring, and engaging of our own. But we also knew we had to match that beauty with quality content that mattered to our audience.

Photo Storytelling

The backbone of our new site is the photography. You will see not only the actual pieces of collateral we completed for our clients; you’ll see them juxtaposed with interesting colors and textures in real-world settings. The images complement our content and help to showcase our work and tell our brand story. But on a very basic level, they’re just plain beautiful and they compel you to linger on our site.

As technology changes, all of us adapt our stories to fit new formats. But human nature never changes. Beautiful things will always compel people.

We hope the new will pull you in, inspire you, and encourage you to take your time and explore.

Share this post in LinkedIn: