Dragon Horse reintroduces Naples Art to the community.
As people strolled by the two-story building near Cambier Park in Naples, many wondered what it was. A museum? A gallery, maybe? After 65 years, Naples Art Association needed an image overhaul. New residents of the expanding community seemed to be unaware of the visual arts organization’s mission and offerings unless they had taken one of its classes, according to CEO and Executive Director Amy Schlehr.
“It was a challenge to get our name out there,” she says. “Some knew about the kids’ classes, but they didn’t know about the adult programs. Some thought we were a clubhouse for artists. Our message is very clear now.”
Marketing for the art center—which houses rotating exhibitions, hosts outdoor shows and offers public arts classes and master-level workshops—had been handled internally until five years ago. But the nonprofit still wasn’t reaching its goals after hiring its first marketing agency, so it decided to change direction last year.
Julie Koester is co-founder, managing partner and president of Dragon Horse Ad Agency, which won the current three-year contract. “All of us [at Dragon Horse] have known about Naples Art for years,” she says. “We knew about the value of their organization. They do extraordinary things, and we love them and wanted to work with them.”
Schlehr said she and the board liked Dragon Horse’s aggressiveness and its scope of service beyond traditional marketing. “They put out their vision of what Naples Art should be in the community,” she says. “They had a real plan. They’re very comprehensive. They’re not just putting their mark on it. They said, ‘Let’s understand where you are and put a plan together.’”
Patrick Blake Renda, co-founder, managing partner and chief strategy officer of Dragon Horse, said the agency’s DragonOne platform offers unique, integrated business consulting and marketing strategy solutions. The agency assists clients with everything from human resources growth strategy plans to interior design.
“We take four to six weeks to do due diligence, examining everything a business does,” Renda says. “We want to understand the product—why they do what they do, sales—and [then] create brand imaging that goes out to the public.”
After vetting, Renda said, Dragon Horse creates a package based on consideration of the client’s needs and budget, and of what would generate the best results based on the client’s core objectives. Schlehr said she shared with Dragon Horse her goals for the organization and what she felt were its marketing struggles.
Dragon Horse then did a deep analysis of the nonprofit’s business model and existing marketing, interviewing the board and staff. They also interviewed students and artists, because Koester says to properly serve the client, they must work on behalf of the client’s customer.
In addition to the general lack of public awareness was a need to boost donations and sponsorships, and a need to reach a younger audience.
“We discovered innumerable great ideas that had not been connected into a strategy,” Koester says. “They didn’t know how to manage production, delivery, execution—and how to let people know about it. We’re somebody who can continue to witness you at the 60,000-foot level—who also knows your books.”
Dragon Horse created a 25-page strategic review, offering ways to increase profitability and money-making opportunities that became Naples Art’s five-year plan. “Our goal is to make those organizations the most profitable nonprofits around,” Renda says.
Schlehr said the plan was presented to the board, tweaked and adopted. Naples Art will complete its first year with Dragon Horse in April, having prioritized the order of demand for various strategic elements. “It’s visionary,” Schlehr says. “I have huge dreams. My job is to make [them] happen.”
“Year one was all about branding and identity,” says Edward Clay, Dragon Horse managing partner and chief creative officer. “Year two is growth. Year three could be—who knows? The expansion of international artists? Everything is done with the board and Aimee’s leadership. Our job is to dream and play and create, strategize and execute.”