AC&C Marketing Proudly Receives Four Golden ARC Awards

Golden ARC Awards 2020

We’re thrilled to announce an evening of big industry wins for AC&C from the Agricultural Relations Council’s “Golden ARC Award Contest.” In October,  AC&C was awarded four coveted awards featuring 2020 client work ranging across video production, design, copywriting, and social strategy. 

Earning these four Golden ARC awards is a huge testament to our teamwork and sheer passion we have for our client work,” mentioned CEO Ali Cox. “Many thanks to the Agricultural Relations Council for the accolades and our wonderful clients for trusting us with their brands.” 

  • The tactical award for Print Publication was earned for the Dave Wilson Nursery “Your Legacy Is Our Legacy” campaign featuring print ads that were published across numerous trade publications and county farm bureaus publications. 
  • Riverbend Wagu’s brand guide earned the tactical award for Collateral/Literature.
  • California Beans’ “Good Quality Beans, Good Quality Life” campaign won the tactical Social Media award for its sharp yet playful mix of branded graphics, user-generated content, nutritional details, and recipes. The campaign ran on Instagram and Facebook
  • Sun Valley Rice’s “The Mill” video won the tactical award for best Video and Film, which highlights their unparalleled milling processes processing in a manner that could’ve easily felt cold and industrial but instead brings life and interest to the technology within it.

The Golden ARC Award contest allows public relations professionals working in the agriculture industry to see how our work compares with the best in the business. Categories for the contest demonstrate the myriad of talents expected of today’s PR professional, recognizing everything from full campaigns to tactics in areas like video production, media relations, and digital advertising.

To see the full list of Golden ARC Award winners please click here.

How Our Senior PM Abbey Stith Keeps It All in Scope

When client work is clipping along well and our team is feeling busy but not burdened, AC&C founder and CEO Ali Cox will tell you that project management is responsible. Project managers might seem the quiet ones in the meeting, but only because they are closely mapping out timelines in a separate browser window. Scrolling and dropping in tasks, coordinating with vendors, all to make certain we can do the work well and in a timely manner without mounting stress on any one part of our team. 

Abbey Stith is our Senior Project Manager and frequently our “win of the week” for her ability to keep all teams moving without colliding.  She once chose “favorite wooden spoon” as the kitchen utensil she most identifies with because everyone benefits from her and she can be trusted to get the job done – big or small. In an email tête-à-tête from Turlock, CA to Columbus, Ohio, our Content Manager, Renae Bowen, got to the bottom of how Abbey Stith makes difficult work look easy.

Renae Bowen: Okay Abbey, what gets you excited for the day when your feet hit the floor in the morning?

Abbey Stith: Some days, it’s fresh air on my walk to yoga or an iced coffee on my front porch. Other days, it’s chit-chatting with my parents via Facetime then dancing to Taylor Swift’s latest album while I get ready for the day. It might be a little cliché, but like a snowflake, no two days are the same and that is how I like it!

RB: Aside from company values, what personal values drive your work?

AS: I think it’s pretty simple for me. Create margin. Margin is the space between our load and our limits. Decide to be a thermostat not a thermometer and always leave things better than how you found them.

RB: How do you describe project management to those that don’t know what it means?

AS: Project management is the glue that keeps projects and people together. Project managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of planning, organizing, managing and executing projects from beginning to end. Project managers are also responsible for keeping our team members motivated, excited, responsible, and involved. Our project scopes can vary from single pieces of print collateral to multifaceted, multichannel marketing campaigns. Without project management, we could not serve the clients we do and achieve the successes we do.

RB: There are a whole lot of tools out there meant to support project management across teams, are there any apps or tools that you like working with?

AS: Slack for easy team communication and collaboration. Dropbox to store, organize and send files easily. Focus Keeper to keep productivity high, avoid burnout and track personal to-do lists. The World Clock to keep up with different time zones for coworkers, clients and partners across the globe.

RB: What would an alternate career path look like for you?

AS: If I didn’t enjoy the wild ride of a creative project manager, I would own a boutique flower shop in downtown Columbus. I dream of spending my days surrounded by stems of garden roses and peonies. Being able to celebrate special moments with flowers and gifts has always brought so much joy to my life.

RB: Are there marketing campaigns past or present that you consider memorable?

AS: The Bud Light “Victory Fridge” Campaign is one of my favorites. In 2018, Bud Light decided that it would give away free beer in Cleveland, but only if the Browns won. The Cleveland Browns had been the worst team in the NFL for years, at the time only winning one game in the previous two years. 

To make the potential win a little sweeter, Bud Light installed “Victory Fridges” in 10 Cleveland-area bars and FirstEnergy Stadium. The fridges were to unlock simultaneously when the Browns won, allowing fans to celebrate with 200 free beers per venue. After a 635-day losing streak, the Browns beat the Jets and Bud Light hadn’t ever tasted better! 

RB: What is the super-strength that you bring to the AC&C team?

AS: The ability to see many options or solutions and how that can impact everything else we have moving. Or high levels of energy and optimism, it depends if the team has had their coffee yet hah!

RB: What are you reading, watching, or listening to these days?

AS: ALL. THE. THINGS! I just finished reading Normal People and Never Split The Difference. I am currently reading Malibu Rising and honestly can’t put it down. I’m watching the new HBO series, Gossip Girl. It feels like 2007 all over again and I’m loving every minute of it. While I work, Taylor Swift plays on repeat. 

RB: What is the top-secret, little-known best thing about working for AC&C?

AS: Aaron Himmel, our VP of Operations. If you know you know!

 

Want to join Abbey, Aaron, and Matthew on our team? Check out open positions here.

10 Lessons in Leadership from an Olympic Medalist 

Every four (or in this case, five) years, my past as an Olympian comes roaring back — and I’m always thrilled! I competed on the U.S. Women’s 8+ boat in rowing at the 2004 Athens Games, earning a silver medal and breaking a 20-year-long winless streak in the boat class. (Fun fact: The Women’s 8+ boat has created a dynasty by winning a gold medal at every single Olympics since our race in 2004.)

Now that I’m 17 (gasp!) years past my athletic prime, I’m able to reflect on what the Olympics taught me. Not surprisingly, reaching that level of international competition has informed the way I lead. Here are just a few of the many leadership lessons I now apply to my life as a founder and CEO of AC&C Marketing.

Competition is fuel. I thrive on competition. Without question, the fiercer the competition, the better I’ll perform. These days, I’m my stiffest competition – oh, and the clock.  

Joy is winning big as a team. Yes, I’m a self-starter, but I get more energy and more pride from a team win. Would I rather win big individually or win huge together? I’ll take huge in sports or business any day. 

Look for the calmness. Before launching for a race, I would always find a quiet spot to collect my thoughts and do a mental race-walkthrough. Seventeen years later, I have a similar experience before making big business decisions or closing deals.  In both scenarios, I can feel the nerves turn to focused, productive energy.

Welcome the nerves. If I’m not nervous, then I’m not at my best (and likely bored). If you’re somebody who shuts down when the pressure is on, then likely competitive sports or business, in general, won’t be a good fit. For me, it’s the only way to live. 

Pick your battles. Every day cannot be flat-out if you want to win big when it counts. As a racer and CEO, remaining consistently excellent is critical, however, it’s also important to strategically pick when to unleash the beast! I’ve learned when it’s time for me to lead with gusto and when it’s time for me to listen and empower my teammates to take the lead.  

Ego is not confidence and confidence is not ego. The biggest egos fall or give up the quickest when the pressure is on. A person with a humble, checked ego wins races because they’ll put the team goal before their pride. Same at work. Scrappy team players who have the audacity to commit, resourcefulness to ask for help, and confidence in their ideas will succeed.   

Persevere relentlessly.  Success in business and sports mean enduring a lot of loss. Losses mean that you’re pushing yourself outside of your comfort level. If you stay in the safe zone and simply pursue easy wins, you’ll never make it to the big time. Losers inevitably become champions!

Details matter. In the Olympics, regardless of the sport, one sloppy bobble is the difference between winning and losing. It’s the same in business. How do you eliminate the bobbles? You practice. What do you practice? The details. The details always matter, and it’s always worth taking extra steps to achieve the highest quality. 

It takes a village. In rowing, we were supported by coaches and every type of therapist: physical, mental, massage, you name it. In my marketing business, I’m supported by my leadership team, strategists, developers, planners, designers, and more. In both cases, my family and army of friends were and are critical for success. Embrace the village to win big (and perhaps go back and read my point about winning as a team).  

Grit and guts (and vulnerability) are a requirement.  Dreaming is easy, but (re)committing day in and day out when it’s hot, cold, hard, or painful is the hard part. With a little luck, only the strongest will accomplish their dreams. This is how I feel about building, scaling, and leading our AC&C Marketing team. As with the Olympics, digging deep is required.

Ali Cox, CEO of AC&C Marketing

P.S. Here’s a link to our race if you would like to check it out for yourself. My phenomenal teammates and I are in lane 3. I’m the fourth woman from the back of the boat. GO USA! 

JKB Energy Selects AC&C Marketing To Continue as Agency of Record

JKB Energy Solar Panels and Fields

After seven years of partnership, JKB Energy continues to entrust AC&C Marketing to drive strategy and execution across all their marketing initiatives as their agency of record.  Since 2014 AC&C has helped to solidify JKB Energy’s position as the top solar provider in California’s agriculture industry. Over the years, AC&C has worked to heighten and elevate the JKB Energy brand through various marketing strategies including campaign development and grower-specific initiatives from video to media planning to content development. Each with an eye towards return on investment to support business objectives. 

“We chose Ali Cox and AC&C Marketing because of the agency’s effective strategic agricultural approach and steadfastness,” mentions Chad Cummings, VP of Sales and Operations for JKB Energy. “Ali and her team have been loyal, trusted partners over the years, and we look forward to accomplishing new goals together.”  

Moving forward, AC&C will continue to develop compelling content, digital marketing strategy, media planning, and marketing assets to expand brand reach and generate partnerships with large operations that make an even greater impact.

“Working together with the JKB Energy team has been a wonderful and fulfilling partnership,” mentions AC&C Marketing CEO, Ali Cox. “Our values align in that we’re continually looking to explore and crush new goals. When JKB Energy is successful, we’re successful.”

Farmers & Processors: Want more power? Here are three tips to get closer to the consumer. 

Farmer Processor Consumer Brand

Over the past several years, our ag and food ingredients marketers have watched as other industries have rewritten traditional marketing rules. Brands interact directly with consumers via social media and drum up their own sales. They go behind the scenes to tell their stories and share their thoughts, providing an opportunity for consumers to connect. Now, the focus is on authenticity, and that authenticity drives the brand loyalty that bolsters sales. 

Increasingly, our ag processing clients are asking: Why not us? 

Ag and food ingredient clients are quick to adapt to changing technology, but their approach to commodity marketing is still fairly traditional. Brokers and door openers — the people who connect these clients to the store buyers who in turn put them on shelves — are capable of making outstanding connections. There is still no better way to move a big crop quickly. And when prices are great, complaints are minimal. 

However, there are a few natural gaps in this process. For starters, what happens when prices aren’t as good as they could be? Farmers and processors without a consumer brand become price takers who have little control in their fiscal outcome at the end of the year – regardless of operational costs.

Second, these door openers can’t connect with consumers in the same way that individual brands can. A broker might be able to get product on the shelves, but will they be able to give a behind-the-scenes tour of the farm and post it to Instagram stories? Will they share the values that define the brand’s culture? Will they respond directly to consumers posting a question on Facebook? 

No, of course not. And, quite frankly, it’s not their job. When ag and food ingredients develop a brand and then tell their own stories, it kills two birds with one stone: It gives them greater ability to move the needle when prices fall short, and it allows them to build the real relationships that lead to sustained customer devotion and brand loyalty.

That said, as marketers, how do we help our ag-based clients who are interested in taking the offensive and carving their own path outside of the normal commodity-based sales process? 

First and foremost, we help them understand that investing in their story and their digital reputation as a consumer-facing brand is the only path forward if they truly want more say in the process. To be closer to the consumer means that the consumer can:

  • Find their food brand on the internet. That means a solid website, a social media presence, and (oftentimes) digital advertising. 
  • Align with their authentic story. Consumers want the opportunity to align with a brand’s purpose and values. A brand that stays true to its core purpose will succeed.  
  • Buy product easily. An e-commerce platform or online marketplace is essential — consumers say their pandemic habits of buying online are here to stay. 

At AC&C, we specialize in telling agriculturally driven stories consumers love. We find the special qualities that make brands stand out, we engage with audiences, and we help ag and food ingredient clients build the customer zeal that drives sales. 

If you’re ready to take the leap, we’re ready to help. Contact us and discover how telling your story and really savvy digital marketing can lead to a more stable business and a customer base that sticks.

Ali Cox, CEO of AC&C Marketing

 

 

AC&C Creative Director, Matthew Grier

We owe so much of the power in our campaigns and tactics to our creative team. Strategy comes to life through the gaze of a sharp artistic eye, and ours belongs to a talented team of writers and designers led by our creative director, Matthew Grier. Our food and agriculture client work has to appetize and delight, ho-hum visuals will never do, so it’s worth asking how Matthew continues to draw from the creative well for each new project. Our content manager, Renae Bowen, caught up with Matthew while he was visiting Turlock from Los Angeles last week.

Renae Bowen: The first thing I’m eager to ask since we’re talking creativity is, what are your greatest sources of inspiration?
Matthew Grier: A really good idea. I think that’s really all you need. Maybe it’s easier said than done. Honestly there’s no shortage of inspiration out in the world to draw on, and they all have their place in the creative process. But an idea that’s smart, and simple. That comes on quiet and unassuming. A good idea starts as a spark but can become a big blaze if you give it room to grow. If you put in the work. A really good idea is an engine for inspiration.

RB: To get at the opposite side of that question, what can totally de-motivate you creatively?
MG: Not having a problem to solve — no challenge to answer for. The “problem” is the motivation for creative thinking in the first place. I’m not in the business of making wallpaper. Or poetry. I don’t want to make something pretty for pretty’s sake.

RB: What are some myths about creative work that you’d like to debunk?
MG: I’ve always believed that good creative thinking is not exclusive to designers or writers or editors or directors. Whether it’s in the context of a professional agency setting or not, everyone is creative in some form or another. Creativity exists in everyone.

RB: How would you describe your creative tastes?
MG: A relentless strive toward effortless minimalism while absolutely seduced by the detail and delicate magic of maximalism.

RB: Whose work out in the real world do you admire?
MG: Tommy Ton. Ocean Vuong. Anna Wintour. Everything David Sedaris writes. Everything Claire Saffitz bakes.

RB: What would an alternate career path look like for you?
MG: A fashion stylist. Or a florist.

RB: Are there campaigns past or present that you consider memorable?
MG: The NY Times Truth campaign. That work came out in a time when politicians were working hard to drag journalism through the mud. And I think it was the Times’ way of not taking it lying down. It was sharp, and assertive, and confident, while also being empathetic. And more than anything, it was culturally relevant and relatable to every person, regardless of political affiliation. I’ve also always loved the “O Pioneers” spot by Levi’s from their Go Forth campaign. Named after the Walt Whitman poem it borrows language from, it just beautifully captures the American spirit that’s synonymous with denim, and the sense of being young, and wild, and free.

RB: What are you reading, watching, or listening to these days?
MG: Reading astrology memes. Watching Hacks on HBO. Listening to the Minari soundtrack, it’s mesmerizing. Mariah Carey’s Daydream album, and the podcast Ja’meizing by Chris Lilley. It’s about everything and nothing and I can’t stop laughing.

RB: With summer right around the corner, and a much-anticipated one at that, what are you looking forward to?
MG: Watermelon for every meal. New White Claw flavors. And dancing in crowded bars.

Nobody Works Harder Than a Working Mom

working moms ali cox

Let’s hear it for moms! While we’re at it, let’s talk about how working moms are some of the hardest working humans we know. These moms are a force to be reckoned with considering 40.4 percent of households with children under 18 have moms in them who are equal, primary, or sole earners1. While moms with children under 6 are less likely to participate in the labor force to stay home with their children (77.5 percent participation versus 81.2 percent for children ages 6-17), it certainly doesn’t discourage all of them from choosing to work2. Even after a year that saw a decline in labor force participation among parents, especially mothers, due to job losses and compounded by distance learning for children and hard-to-find childcare during the pandemic – working moms stay at it.

Our own founder and CEO, Ali Cox, is a working mom of two young children and a mom who did not let distance learning or scant childcare options stop her from having a year of professional growth. Ali recently spoke at a Women’s Leadership Forum for CSU Stanislaus’ College of Business Administration and addressed her feelings on being a working mom and founder.

Listen in here:

1 U.S. Department of Labor https://www.dol.gov/agencies/wb/data/mothers-and-families

2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

A Year After Shelter in Place

It’s Been a Year. Transformation Was Hard, But Worth It. What Have I Learned…

In December 2019, I knew that 2020 would be a big year for AC&C. I was already quietly, and in some ways unknowingly, planning for the transformative future ahead. I published my goals for the first time and put my daunting professional wishes out to the team. It was scary, but it was worth it.

I hired a professional culture and leadership coach who recommended I conduct a 360 evaluation on myself — a daunting and vulnerable move. The coach offered many recommendations, but the most instrumental was around the type of key hires I needed in order to grow. As my entrepreneurial spirit animal, Sara Blakely, says, “Hire to your weaknesses.” This was the golden advice I needed at just the right time: February 2020.

When the pandemic hit in March, I had already begun scouring the United States for an A+ team of experts who could help me lead AC&C. Turning lemons into lemonade, I tapped into my resources and leaned on my trusty network to identify and connect with key talent. I found the ninjas who were ready to believe and inspire others to follow AC&C’s vision.

I’m proud to say that the agency thrived while helping our agriculture clients embrace new marketing channels. The team culture is stronger than ever. We’re stable. We’re entering new markets. Our long-standing retainer clients are experiencing elevated leadership on their accounts. Our creative and strategy are stronger than ever, we have international clients, and we recently announced our first global agency of record (AOR) partnership with Sun Valley Rice.

I identified allies and asked respected professional friends to help by serving on the newly-created AC&C Advisory Council. These folks talk real talk and challenge me in ways I need. I’ve also learned how to get really comfortable with bankers, financial memos and spreadsheets. Exponential growth and a corporate restructure are not cheap, as you can imagine.

While the verdict is out on 2021, I’ve never been so confident in the team, our creative, our strategies, and our purpose & company values. More than ever, farmers need our help to tell their stories and consumers are hungry for information about their food sources.

So, what have I learned? We are stronger together than apart. Together has many forms. And risk is worth taking when you feel a fire in your belly and see only green lights ahead.

This season marks our anniversary for our “Shelter-In-Place” email campaign. We published our first of 41 “Shelter In Place” articles on March 30, 2020 and our last on May 29th. We’ve collected all 41 articles in the series into one e-book. It’s packed with tips and insights into marketing during the pandemic, and I’d love for you to check it out.

DOWNLOAD OUR SIP E-BOOK HERE

Here’s to another transformative year.

Be well,

Ali

Ali Cox, CEO of AC&C Marketing

AC&C Marketing Named Sun Valley Rice’s Global Agency of Record

AC&C Marketing has been selected by Sun Valley Rice Company to lead marketing efforts for its global brands, and we could not be more grateful or elated to share the news. Sun Valley Rice, based out of Arbuckle, CA, is a global rice and food products development and production company. Our team will work across their multiple international business units while supporting Sun Valley Rice’s grower relations and digital properties. 

Though we have partnered with the Sun Valley Rice team for over five years, our expanded role will mean sharing a far broader range of touchpoints and audiences, deepening the roots of the Sun Valley story.

Our team will report to their global executive sales committee as we drive growth through a variety of marketing endeavors, including a focused effort on one of the company’s natural food brands – Planet Rice. AC&C’s key responsibilities include the development of consumer/media strategies, brand development, campaign planning and production, digital/social management and sales support. We look forward to working closely with Sun Valley’s internal teams to roll out grower relations and internal communications initiatives as well.

We are appreciative of the tremendous opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the industry leader of the specialty rice category. Our agriculture expertise will serve as a great advantage in connecting with the many audiences that Sun Valley Rice impacts globally. This partnership will inspire sharp strategy and striking creative work that we cannot wait to share.

Beer Style Suggestions for Beer Skeptics on National Beer Day

three beer styles

On this day in 1933, the Cullen-Harrison act was signed into law, reversing the prohibition on selling beer in the United States. Eighty-eight years later, I want to encourage those who wouldn’t call beer their alcoholic beverage of choice to see beer as a drink worthy of further consideration. Removing the ban on beer released floodgates of creativity. Today the Brewer’s Association recognizes 79 beer styles from 15 style families. There’s a very real chance that our understanding of beer is confined by the limited number of styles we’d usually find at our local grocery store or bar.

My intention is to build a way back to beer for drinkers of the other stuff. If I can supply ideas for the next time there’s a row of bright beer handles across the bar, maybe those unenthused by beer will place an order and try something new. There may be no better place to begin my customized beer suggestion than with the usual drink order that wins over beer.

Red Wine

For red wine fans, my suggestion starts with Flanders Red Ale or Lambic. These two sour ale styles have acidity and dark fruit flavors (cherries, plums, raspberry, prunes) reminiscent of red wine. 

Trappist Dubbel offers dried fruit flavors and light sweetness from the malt, while Dry Stout or Doppelbock will have a heavier taste with notes of roasted coffee and dark fruit.

White Wine

The Lambic style of beer can have a range of different fruit as its backbone, so I encourage both red and white wine drinkers to try the style. However, white wine drinkers will want to grab a peach or apple Lambic instead of cherry or berry to align with the notes usually in their wine. 

Sour beers and wild ales, especially styles like Berliner Weisse, are a great way for white wine drinkers to find light, fruity, acidity in a beer.  

If a drink with a delicate balance that can pair with every meal is crucial, Kölsch is a clean and crisp beer style with a whole lot of range. Though it is more of a beer-ish beer than Lambic or Berliner Weisse, the four core beer ingredients get balanced in a way that makes it feel elevated for those who find big brand ales ho-hum. 

Sauvignon Blanc drinkers in particular can find something promising in Saisons. Belgian Saison yeast gives a peppery, spicy character to this beer style, which is brilliantly set off with pear and Meyer lemon flavors.

Though on the boozier side, Belgian Tripels and Strong Golden Ales also have a spicy and fruity flavor fit for white wine fans.

Cider

The dryness and light spice of a Saison and even the more classically beer-like Belgian Witbier have the right profiles to please a cider drinker.

Kombucha

For something bright and playful, cider and kombucha fans should try out a Radler – a Bavarian beer cocktail that is 50/50 beer and citrus soda (often lemon or grapefruit).

Whiskey

Barrel-aged beers are a great start. Sipping beers, like bourbon-barrel-aged stouts, will deliver on the warmth & smoothness that Whiskey drinkers like.

Gin

Tart German Gose is the right beer for Gin drinkers. Citrus peels and coriander seed serve as aromatics for both drinks.

Sweet Mixed Drinks

The lightly sour, but mostly fruity flavor of a Lambic will hit the spot for a sweet cocktail fan. Not every brewery’s Lambic will be as sweet as the next, so mixed drink fans will want to taste around to find their desired level of sweetness.

 

If I achieve nothing else, I hope that these suggestions will encourage some curiosity and exploration. Feeling beer-literate will allow you to navigate beer menus with better insight than “stout is the dark one” and “ABV means it’s boozier, so let’s do that one.” There are too many styles, and breweries bending those styles, for myths about beer being boring to continue.  Instead, I say Happy National Beer Day!