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VOL. 126 | NO. 119 | Monday, June 20, 2011

Hemline Creative Marketing: Women Serving Women

By Sarah Baker

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Just eight short years ago, Cynthia Saatkamp and Kelley Morice sat at the Beauty Shop restaurant, sharing a Wi-Fi connection and a unique vision.

Hemline Creative, left to right, Cynthia Saatkamp, Heather Gates, Laura Doty, Aimee McMillin, Kelley Morice.

(Photo: Kyle Kurlick)

Both women previously worked together at Conaway Brown Inc. and since then had been in pursuit of individual marketing ventures. Little did they know one phone call would bring them back together less than three months later to collaborate on an account for FTN Financial, a division of First Tennessee Bank.

“They asked us to help with their national sales meeting, and because we were in a non-compete, we said we would love to, but we need to go back and work with the agency we just left,” Morice said. “(Conaway Brown) was like, ‘Yeah, we’re not happy, but good luck.’ A lot of people leave agencies to start their own thing and many of them can’t say that they actually got a lead from their former boss. I think that really speaks well of our character and of our work ethic.”

And so Hemline Creative Marketing LLC was born. Saatkamp and Morice chose the name because of its historic reflection of good and bad economic times – depending on the length of the skirt hem – with the tagline, “Because marketing that works never goes out of style.”

“During the Depression, ladies couldn’t afford silk stockings so the skirts got longer,” Morice said. “In the ’80s, there were miniskirts. Then not too long ago, they were asymmetrical and that’s when things were like, ‘I don’t know where it’s going.’ Now it’s long again – maxi dresses are in.”

Today, Hemline’s client circle is made up of about 30 clients, FTN Financial included. The marketing firm’s portfolio is made up mostly of project-based work – which can be anything from Web design to brochures to logos. It also has a handful of long-term, fixed rate accounts called retainers, such as Ballet Memphis.

About 40 percent of Hemline’s clients are nonprofits, including the Memphis Farmers Market, which it does work for on a pro-bono basis.

“We never pitched ourselves as a nonprofit agency, but I think the kinds of needs they have where they really need that out-of-the-box thinking and more strategic collaborations, we bring that to the table,” Morice said. “They need a lot of direct contact besides marketing.”

Because project work entails constantly anticipating the road ahead, Morice said, it’s often a difficult model for smaller agencies. But the firm’s reputation precedes itself. In fact, almost every new client has found Hemline through a referral.

“Helping people really sustain their brand over the long haul really goes back to the Hemline theory,” Saatkamp said. “When we started off, we really focused on kind of rebranding folks – we talked how people could change with the times without changing the core fabric of their brand. So people could stay fresh, stay relevant, they could keep engaging their customers and they wouldn’t lose them, they would actually grow their businesses. These projects that start off as a project end up being year-long campaigns year after year because people appreciate the way we think and the way we can execute.”

Also setting Hemline apart is its six-person team, all of which is either at senior level or has a master’s degree in communications and marketing. The firm also works to connect to women decision makers.

“Eighty to 85 percent of all purchase decisions are made by women, so you can connect the dots,” Saatkamp said. “It’s not just what food to buy and what school to go to, it’s cars, stocks, life insurance, it’s everything. No matter what clients are coming to us, from medical parts to high-end financial products, they’re still coming to us for that touch, that voice, that sound because we know how to speak peer to peer better than just about anybody else.”

That’s not to say Hemline is completely female-oriented. While its staff is all women, there’s not a project the firm works on where it doesn’t seek a male’s expertise.

“We have some wonderful men that support us and it really works well,” Morice said. “Art directors, Web designers, copywriters, you name it.”

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