6th Ave Storytelling
PAUL K. HARRAL
Jamey Ice admits that launching a new company in the middle of a pandemic might be unusual, even risky, but he thinks that the need is greater now than ever for the special type of marketing that he visualizes with 6th Ave Storytelling.
That the latest addition to the group of companies under the 6th Ave brand he and 6th Ave Homes co-founder Jimmy Williams launched in 2014.
If Ice’s name is unfamiliar to you, think lead guitarist with Green River Ordinance. And he and some partners founded BREWED, whose location at the time jump started the continued eastward expansion of businesses and renovation on Magnolia Avenue.
That group turned the corner on Main Street toward downtown with the 4 Eleven meeting venue, an early investment in redevelopment along that corridor as well.
In an interview, Ice was quick to note that 6th Ave Storytelling is different from more traditional branding and marketing companies in Fort Worth.
“There’s a lot of really great ad agencies in town. There’s companies who do just beautiful websites and beautiful design, and do really good, witty and clever ad campaigns,” Ice said.
But they didn’t do the kind of marketing and development he developed at the launch of Green River Ordinance.
Storytelling was the way our primordial ancestors passed on the history and traditions of their tribes before there was written language and printing presses and social media. Good – and memorable – vocal music also tells a complete story in just a few words that stay in the listener’s memory.
“I had been doing marketing since the days of Green River Ordinance, when I started the band and did it. So, I’ve been doing it fulltime since I was, like, 21,” Ice said.
“The biggest part of it was creating good content, music and songs, and good performances. But the second part was really inviting people into our story. And we did that mainly through Instagram, through Facebook, through YouTube.”
The idea with the band was to cultivate super fans, not just someone who would buy a single CD or come to one concert. They wanted fans who would come a concert every time the band was in their city, buy every CD and every piece of merchandise the band released.
“Those were the most valuable fans,” Ice said.
“We found that the more we invited people into our story and told our story and gave people a message why we did it, it really helped the band grow. We created this fan base that would support us and follow us wherever we went. And so that was how I made a living for 15 years,” Ice said.
6th Ave Storytelling already has worked with clients such as Bird Café, Craftwork Coffee Co., Istanbul Grill, Eno’s Pizza Tavern, the Sid Richardson Museum, and more, but is looking to help other local brands through this crisis by offering their services at a major discount, a news release announcing the launch said.
“In my generation, as soon as I hear someone showing up on my feed or on my TV saying, ‘Come buy this’ I immediately tune out. We’re just so jaded and inundated by advertising, we tune out,” Ice said.
“However, when someone starts telling a story – when I hear Paul Harral start telling me a story or when I read something compelling – you can’t help but focus and pay attention,” Ice said.
For Green River Ordinance, what worked was when the band invited fans into their lives – here’s what we’re doing, here’s where we’re eating, here’s what it looks like in the van, here’s what it looks like in the bus, here’s what it looks like backstage.
“And that resonated with people and made them feel like they knew us,” Ice said.
Storytelling is content marketing built on the basis of story, and building a follower base through authentic, steady, organic content.
Ice said when BREWED opened, he followed the same plan.
“Instead of selling things, I’m just going to tell the story of it. With BREWED, we never spent a penny on traditional advertising. But we spent a lot of time and energy and resources on great content.”
He says BREWED has one of the biggest social media followings of any restaurant in Fort Worth, because instead of saying here’s a great cup of coffee, the marketing focused on the story.
“What we said was, ‘Here’s a cup of coffee. Here’s the story of where it came from.’ Or, ‘Here’s a cup of coffee. Here’s the story of the person who’s making that cup of coffee.’ Or, ‘Here’s a cup of coffee and here’s the story of the customer who’s drinking it and why we love supporting them,’ ” Ice said. “We always said we’re not going to sell anything at BREWED. We’re just going to tell great stories and it really worked.”
He applied the same strategy with 6th Ave Homes.
“Part of that is, if you go look at we do online, you see faces. We don’t just post houses, which is what most real estate companies do. We post the people who are going into those houses, the process of the houses, the history of the houses and that’s why people have loved that brand,” Ice said.
That also was the plan with the 4 Eleven – the event space.
“It’s why that event space is booked for two years in advance,” he said.
His wife, Melissa, founder and executive director of The Net, a nonprofit that works with homelessness, poverty and survivors of sexual exploitation in Tarrant County, followed the same strategy and has developed a large volunteers base and following.
When he and Williams were starting 6th Ave Homes, he wanted to base the marketing on the experience with Green River Ordinance and BREWED.
“What I found was nobody does the daily organic content storytelling with the same philosophy that I had always embraced,” he said.
Big agencies are not going to post six days per week on social media and take photos every single week. It’s not their business – they are advertising agencies, he said. And if they did, it would cost “an arm and a leg.”
“With all my brands, we post six days a week and we take great photos and great videos and it’s a lot of content. And most ad agencies just don’t want to touch it,” Ice said.
There had been an ongoing conversation about starting a marketing company that specialized in storytelling.
“And it really opened itself up last year,” Ice said. “We started working with some commercial clients and some business owners and some kind of big developers to help them buy, sell design and renovate some of their properties.”
Turns out, small businesses were also interested in the concept and that allowed Ice to put together “just a really, really great team.”
“I have nine people on the 6th Ave Storytelling team, that do that. That do just daily content and storytelling and it has gone really well. We’ve seen a lot of just success with those brands and other businesses,” ice said.
Until now, the company was under-the-radar although a public announcement was planned eventually.
“But when I saw what has happened across the board with COVID-19, we thought, ‘Brands need this.’ The reason they need this is, I think, I really believe that the brands and businesses that are going to survive and come out of this are the ones that have cultivated a following.”
He cited Jon Bonnell.
“The reason he is selling out of food every single night is because he has spent the past several years taking care of his following, telling a great story, and people love him. And people support him, and he has a big enough network that when he posts on Facebook, ‘Here’s what I’m offering today,’ people show up,” Ice said.
6th Ave has more construction businesses and real estate business than it can handle, “because we’ve spent so much time cultivating a following and inviting people into compelling stories.”
Ice says he thinks businesses need this kind of audience development now, “and a lot of them just don’t know how to do it. Most businesses make the mistake of treating social media like advertising. They go on social media and they say, ‘Hey, come buy this T-shirt or come buy this product. Come buy this.’ ”
“It may seem odd, even risky, to launch a company during a global pandemic, but we’ve seen a problem and want to help solve it,” Ice said in making the announcement. “People are struggling, money is tight, and small businesses need help telling the world they’re still here, open, and ready to meet their customers’ needs.”
The firm’s current specials include discounted pricing on photography, graphic
design, social media management, strategy counseling, recession guidance and custom packages, the news release said.
“There’s still a need for advertisements, but I still think there’s a hole in the market for people doing what we’re doing. And you’ve seen a lot of great businesses who do that. Melt Ice Creams has a huge following, and people love and support what they do because they give them great content, day in and day out, and invite them into their story.”
The marking company is a sister company to 6th Ave Homes, which itself is undergoing a rebranding.
“We’re rebranding everything from 6th Ave Homes to 6th Ave, and under 6th Ave we’ll have 6th Ave Homes, which is the residential buy, sell, design. We’ll have 6th Ave Commercial, which is that thing that we’re doing where we help business owners buy, sell, design real estate and 6th Ave Storytelling, which is the marketing arm,” Ice said.
In 2019, the company was named Grand Forte Small Business of the Year by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.