The Shipyard on Engineering Brand Love with a Digital-First Strategy

da Carol Mason , AdForum (NYC)

The Shipyard
Sacramento, Stati Uniti
See Profile


In the latest of our interview series on Turbo-Charged small agencies, we chatted with Lori Bartle, Chief Marketing Officer of The Shipyard on branding and growth through the pandemic.

Can you give us a brief overview of your structure and some of the clients with whom you work?

We are one fully integrated, digital-first agency with full service capabilities and expertise all under one roof (see below). This equates to greater flexibility, scalability and efficiency in attacking our client’s business and marketing challenges. We can dive in at any point in the consumer journey, pivot on a dime when necessary, and deliver highly creative, strategic, data-driven solutions to meet even the most accelerated timelines.

  - Strategy & Insights, Media, Data & Analytics, Creative/Content, Design and In-House Production


Our active client roster has both leaders in their categories as well as challengers/ disruptors:

  - Visit California, Premiere US & global travel destination

  - Thrivent, the nations largest fraternal financial servies company. $170 B in managed assets

  - CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen), top 10 global accounting firm/wealth management

  - T Marzetti Co., leading CPG portfolio of 13 brands

  - In-N-Out Burger – iconic restaurant chain

American Electric Power – Major Midwest Utility

  - San Diego Travel Authority – Leading Destination Marketing Organization

  - Vision Service Plan – Leader in Vision Care


Your elevator pitch please! How do you position your agency to a brand? Why should they work with you – what do you bring to the table?

We Engineer Brand Love. This means we’re ideally suited for brand marketers who believe in and derive value from brand building and creative excellence but seek enhanced performance and full funnel growth.  In collaboration with our client-partners, we build performance-driven brands audiences can’t help but love.


Can you talk us through a campaign and how you solved a problem for the client or made a difference to a brand?

Many of our clients grew during the pandemic and our clients continue to grow in challenging economic times.  Here’s a great example of our agility and creativity in action on behalf of a client.

We’ve been the agency for Visit California for over 20 years. In that time, we engineered the reversal of declining share, consistent delivery of industry leading ROI and sustained growth in visitation and revenue, interrupted only by the Great Recession and the Pandemic. Our key strategy is (and always has been) to let our competitors duke it out over rational attributes while we build our brand around the thing that’s truly unique and drives desire to visit: Californians and their aspirational California lifestyle, the unique California attitude of living life to the fullest and the pursuit of dreams.

When the pandemic hit and the lockdown ensued, a strange thing happened: we became busier than ever, helping Visit California to maintain a relevant presence even when we couldn’t actually encourage travel. We became a more agile, content creation machine, evolving our ‘Dream Big’ messaging over time to align with the ever-changing sentiment of our audiences based on the situation. 

Earlier this year, the State officially re-opened its doors and invited the public back to California with a new campaign called ‘Am I Dreaming.’ To highlight the importance of the travel stimulus effort, the campaign launched on the biggest of stages, the 2022 Super Bowl, with a rip-roaring, joyride of a flying dream.

During Super Bowl week, Am I Dreaming was chosen as the #1 spot Worldwide!


Our innovative approach and commitment to agility has paid off. The latest forecast compiled in partnership with Tourism Economics projects travel spending in California will reach 89% of 2019 levels this year and market share is beginning to rebound. The brand never lost its relevancy – and in doing so, built significant pent up demand for the unique Calilfornia experience. 


Without giving away your secret sauce of course, what does your roadmap for growth look like? Is it, for example, geographic expansion (if location is still a thing), or joining one of the growing indie agency networks? Developing more project work for other clients?

Based on the unprecedented new business success and momentum, our story of Engineering Brand Love and performance branding is strongly resonating. We will continue a full court press on new business to focus on full funnel growth with customized application to specific verticals.