A spirited creative company.
We are DO NOT DISTURB, an independent collective of award-winning creators, branding maestros, strategists, brand activists, designers, makers and producers located in San Diego.
The content we create aims to be respectful, relevant and entertaining. The kind people actively seek out and engage with.
And never shut the door on.
"They were wonderful about doing things that agencies don’t usually want to do."
DO NOT DISTURB did marketing for two product lines as part of a partnership. They created collateral including merchandising design and pieces for radio, video, and digital. They also helped with the process.
"They were wonderful about doing things that agencies don’t usually want to do."
Apr 2, 2019
The team’s consultation on process helped streamline commitments while identifying areas of expansion. DO NOT DISTURB scaled their commitment as needed to meet demand. They offer relevant business expertise and they’re completely committed to their campaigns.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
Qdoba Restaurant Corporation is a chain of fast casual Mexican restaurants. I’m the director of creative strategy, which is a mix of creative direction and brand strategy. It entails having a relationship with the advertising agency. I have an internal creative team, and I take care of social media. We do a bit of retail design so that everything looks and sounds like the brand.
What challenge were you trying to address with DO NOT DISTURB?
It was an interesting time for the brand. Our company moved from Denver to San Diego in 2017, and not a lot of people made that transition, which meant that not a lot of processes made the transition. We’d also fired our previous agency without having one to replace it. We brought DO NOT DISTURB in to help us launch two limited-time-offering products, one during the summer, and one during the fall.
What was the scope of their involvement?
DO NOT DISTURB came in to do the whole 360, including in-restaurant collateral and merchandising design, and pieces for radio, video, and digital. It was the whole gambit for a consumer-facing campaign.
There was not a lot of processes when they came in, and one of our expectations was that they were going to be aware of that, and would help us figure out our processes at the time. We expected them to be flexible enough to work within that model. Agencies often tend to be rigid in that regard—if there isn’t a clear process on the brand side, it can be difficult for the agency to mirror a similar workflow. That was one huge expectation when they came in to work with us. They’d have to work within our nebulous process, but also help us figure it out. They did quite a bit of that, helping us not only from what they showed but also figuring out what worked well for our brand.
We’d rebranded, but our previous CMO didn’t do a lot of consumer testing on the rebrand work. It turned out that the brand just wasn’t resonating with customers, so we had to go back and scrub a lot of the communication, from tone of voice to copy and iconography. DO NOT DISTURB helped us do that as well. It was my goal to be incremental in how we rolled that out, so the customer wouldn’t feel it 100%. They helped us develop better color palettes, a different tone of voice, and different iconography—all the touch points we have in the toolbox. As they were working through those campaigns, they were also helping us sharpen our pencils and be tighter in our resources and assets.
Thirdly, they were asked to help launch these projects and campaigns, to drive sales lift. Taking the product out of the mix, I think the marketing and creative helped drive people into restaurants and create buzz for the project launches. That helped us deliver our financial goals. At the time, we were part of Jack in the Box and were beholden to a quarterly earnings report system. We’re still a financially-driven company, but we’re privately owned now. At the time, being publicly traded, the results were there for everyone to see.
We’ve used them for another project, less about our product launch and more about a product expansion. We’ve moved into serving alcohol in restaurants, and they worked with us on that.
What is the team composition?
At the time, they had a senior creative person, a senior project manager, and a senior strategy person, and they gathered different freelancers from their network to work on the project. We didn’t have retainers with those. We had two producers at a time, a copywriter and a designer, and not all these people were based in San Diego. The model seemed to flex on whatever the need was.
We agreed on a scope early on, and they took care of business. We weren’t arguing or negotiating over how many resources we needed. We would ask for 50 lines and 4 commercials, and they took care of the resourcing to get that done.
How did you come to work with DO NOT DISTURB?
We looked for agencies local to southern California. Face-to-face conversations were critical. DO NOT DISTURB’s account management and creative leads had recently split from another agency. We knew people who’d worked with or for that agency, and who had glowing things to say about DO NOT DISTURB’s two principals.
I was introduced to them, and it made total sense. They could get to our office within 15 minutes, and we could have a face-to-face conversation to align on feedback. We could have meetings after hours if things needed further refinement. At that moment in time, they were the perfect fit for us in terms of scrappiness and willingness to be here, to almost work as a true extension of our marketing team in San Diego.
How much have you invested with them?
We’ve spent $400,000–$600,000 in total.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working with them in December 2017. That project went on for six months, we had a month-and-a-half hiatus and then worked for another two and a half months.
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
I don’t have metrics off the top of my head, but I know that there was a sales and brand awareness list for the two projects DO NOT DISTURB worked on. Those are the most important numbers for a for-profit corporation. One of the products was something we’d never had in a restaurant before, namely shrimp. A seafood offering is extremely complex to do and risky in its nature, just because many people are allergic to shellfish, and, in a kitchen where many things are prepared in the same place, there’s a lot of risk. There was some nervousness in our organization, but DO NOT DISTURB’s work, in combination with the operational things going on here, put a lot of those nerves at ease once it got to the restaurant.
They were wonderful about doing things that agencies don’t usually want to do, such as disclaimers and things like that for a product that could cause a massive allergic reaction in someone. They understood that, but there was no pushback from them. They saw it as a business problem and proposed to solve it in a fun, clever way. That product in particular was really wonderful, and the work they created brought new people into the restaurant and drove sales for us.
From an anecdotal standpoint, as the person overseeing the brand and creative strategy here, I can absolutely say that they helped us from a streamlining standpoint. We probably had too much going on at the time, and DO NOT DISTURB was wonderful in helping us recognize that. They were also wonderful and helpful in pushing us into some places I don’t think we were at the time looking to go to, but we’ve now gone. This was not only from a process standpoint, but from a brand strategy standpoint as well—what was resonating with customers.
They have a rich history with food service and restaurants, and they brought a ton of that to the table. Their head strategy person worked for years with another fast food chain, so her insights were super helpful for me, as we were sharpening the strategy and thinking about where the brand would go in 5–10 years. I’m still working with DO NOT DISTURB, and I appreciate the place we’ve gotten to as a team.
How did DO NOT DISTURB perform from a project management standpoint?
They were wonderful. We were in an area where our processes weren’t as tight as they could’ve been, so we were the slowest wheel in the machine at a certain point. DO NOT DISTURB was good about deadlines and deliverables, and making sure that things got out on time. Also, they were great communicators when an edit wasn’t up to snuff. They would call to ask if it was a huge issue if they took six more hours to get it to a point where they could show us. They were wonderful from a communication standpoint, and, as the client and as a former agency person, I appreciated that. I wanted to hit the hard deadlines, but there were some soft deadlines in the middle, and we were flexible on those.
Their senior project manager is also their senior account person, and she did a lot of the day-to-day scheduling and communication. Their senior creative was also really involved in the business and in staying on top of feedback and our asks. They also added value by helping us out with the process and with some strategic elements, and they shared ideas about opportunistic moments we could go after.
What did you find most impressive about them?
Like many agencies, they draw people from across the globe and are multinational. Their two principals in particular have experience in Canada and the US with some pretty large agencies. They just bring a worldliness that many other domestic agencies don’t. They’re also really scrappy. Everyone’s looking for a retainer, but they’re happy to take on projects on a project basis.
It’s also interesting how they’re able to expand and contract the team. They’re always in our agency roster, and it’s likely we’ll work with them again in the near future. If we were to hire them now, the team would look different than eight months ago. I think it’s an interesting model. Every project is different theoretically, so the team should reflect the project. If the project is photography-heavy, we’ll probably want to have a couple of art directors on it.
It took some work on the frontend to look at the scope of work and align it to what the project actually required, but once the rubber hit the road on that, it really paid off. We weren’t strapped for resources, and, the resources we needed more from, we had.
Are there any areas they could improve?
I think we were their first client, and they were going through some of the same growing pains we were. That was really nice because we did it together. I think they’ve gotten a lot tighter, and they have more staff on the team now. They’ve probably solved the problem, and they were definitely more process-oriented than we were. In terms of their model of pulling people from all over the world, their roster is much larger now. Freelancers will work for other brands, so that’s useful.
Do you have any advice for future clients of theirs?
Clients should align on their team and scope of work early, and be clear on deliverables. DO NOT DISTURB estimates one-lump sums, and they don’t bill for hours, or they didn’t at the time. I only knew 90% of the scope at the time, so I needed a 10% flex on assets. We tend to adapt to what’s resonating in the marketplace, which can vary between now and six months from now. It was good to have that discussion upfront and tell them that the deliverables would probably change.