Discover JAM Prints & Marketing – the female-led advertising agency who thrive on anything weird and wacky
For 17 years, JAM have used their marketing magic to bring some of the weirdest, wackiest and most creative campaigns to the North East. We caught up with founder and MD, Jackie Marston, and new Director, Geeta Ral, to find out why their clients come back time and time again…
What’s JAM Prints & Marketing all about?
[Jackie] JAM Prints & Marketing is about offering a loyal service to our clients as a full-service agency, basically trying to make their lives easier. At the end of the day, if your marketing company is doing their job properly, that should be one less job for you – which means that you can concentrate on what you do best: running your company!
What makes us different is the way we work with the companies we represent. We work as a team within JAM, and that means that no matter what any one client is asking for, we’re all aware of it. It’s not the case that each member of staff is looking after a different client. We all know what stage we’re at with each and every client, which allows our clients to relax – knowing that whatever it is they want doing at any point, it will definitely be done.
You pride yourselves on your client retention. Can you tell us how you go above and beyond for your clients?
[Geeta] We prefer to work on long-term relationships, rather than constantly look for new ones. Longevity is definitely key for us and, as we’ve had some of our lovely clients on our books for over 17 years now, we must be doing something right!
We think that nurturing relationships is vital, which is why – when the pandemic hit and our clients needed us, but couldn’t afford to pay us – we worked on their accounts as much as we could, for free, to ensure that they kept trading during the hardest year of business. We are always moving with the times and the latest trends, so we’re able to offer our clients up-to-date strategies and marketing plans – keeping them ahead of the game, too.
Jackie, what made you first decide to set up JAM?
[Jackie] I was working at Newcastle Arena (now the Utilita) and as much as I loved that job, there was literally no way of getting promoted. My boss was waiting for the GM to stand down and that showed no sign of happening; until it did, I was stuck. I knew my 40th birthday was fast approaching and I decided that if I didn’t set up my own business by then, I never would – so I took the plunge.
In February 2004, JAM was born. The name of the business comes from the initials of my children: my son Jordan, my daughter Ayesha and our surname, Marston. I turned 40 in June 2005, so I got there by the skin of my teeth!
How would you say the North East has changed during your career, in terms of its marketing and publishing landscape?
[Jackie] It’s a case of keeping up with the latest trends and moving with the times. If you’re stagnant in your marketing strategies, then you’re basically going backwards. We’re always on courses in JAM and education for us all is vital to ensure that we’re always ahead of the game.
A lot of the printed publications have now gone online and, although I still believe there is a platform for print, a lot more can be done digitally now than ever before.
Geeta, you part-owned Peace and Loaf before buying into JAM. What attracted you to becoming Director of the business?
[Geeta] We’d used JAM’s services for the restaurant, so I’d got to know the team extremely well and knew that I could trust them implicitly. I knew Jackie had plans to sell the business and there was a buyer on the table. After a night out, I asked if she wanted a business partner instead of selling and, to my surprise, she said yes! She wasn’t overly keen on the company that wanted to buy JAM out anyway, so we came to an agreement that night and the rest, as they say, is history!
We tested the water for about six months, just to be on the safe side. But I quickly found that the hours suited me better and we worked well as a team, so I decided to invest. I’m so glad I did – I’ve never looked back!
Marketing is a creative industry. Where do you both find your inspiration?
[Jackie] From everywhere! We literally have meetings with the Jammy Dodgers every week to put any ideas we have on the table. The saying here at JAM is: there is no such thing as a daft idea. Sometimes, the wackier the better!
We’re all quite creative and can often see a much bigger picture from a solitary idea. We also go to as many networking events as we can to keep ourselves in the loop, so we’re always aware of what’s happening.
A big part of the business is also Events. Are there any limits to the events you can help to organise for your clients?
[Geeta] Not really! We’ve done everything from intimate book-signings through to the large curry festival in Newcastle, which brought 13,500 visitors to the region. We can expand the team quickly thanks to our collaborations with other businesses and, thankfully, the reputation that we have has meant that we’ve never struggled to attract the right personnel for the jobs we need to fill.
More than marketing and PR, JAM is also a registered advertising agency. Can you break down the main differences between marketing and advertising?
[Geeta] Some clients just come to us for our buying power, which means that they are getting much cheaper advertising than they can secure themselves. This allows their advertising budgets to be stretched, and for longer periods.
All our marketing clients are on retainer, which also means that any commission paid to us by advertisers is given back to them. This is our guarantee that we will never advertise your business on a media platform that isn’t right for you, just to get the commission (which I know other agencies do). With marketing, we include market research, strategy, implementation and follow-up for every single business and, because we’re a full-service agency, companies can pick and choose what services they want included. Keeping it simple is, by far, the best policy.
Like HLN, your team of ‘Jammy Dodgers’ are all women. Was that a deliberate move on your part?
[Jackie] No, we’ve had quite a few guys working for us in the past and we always welcome them. But at the moment, the Jammy Dodgers are all of the female variety!
You’re the brains behind some of the region’s most recognisable brands. What do you love most about working here in the North East?
[Geeta] It’s the same as what most people say: the friendliness of the people. Marketing can be a stuffy industry and we try and keep it real by being down-to-earth, honest, moral and ethical in everything we do – qualities that we feel the business-owners here in the North East really appreciate.
Your team likes ‘all things wacky and creative’. Can you tell us about some of the more wackier marketing campaigns you’ve created?
[Jackie] We did a condom campaign for a local taxi company, which was launched ahead of Valentine’s night once. It got national coverage to the tune of £270,000, and even a letter from the Health Secretary congratulating the taxi company on their forward-thinking strategy!
We’ve organised singing and dancing street mobs before they were even a thing, and brought the first ever Dine in the Sky to the North East – with a floating table for 20 around 100 feet above the Tyne, where people could dine with some of the finest chefs in the region.
Without giving away too many of your trade secrets, what advice would you give to local business owners to help market their brand most effectively?
[Jackie] If you don’t market yourselves, you’ll get left behind. I used to teach students about marketing and branding and I always asked them: What is a brand? Their answers always amused me, as they would say: logo, trademark, product etc. The answer is simple – it’s an emotion.
Whether it’s a positive emotion or a negative one, when you see a brand it’s about what it represents, to you. Others may differ from your opinion, but branding is about making sure that the emotion your brand creates is a positive one across the board, and is one that people will choose to buy into.
JAM has been going since February 2004 and work doesn’t look to be slowly down any time soon! What would you say is the secret of your success?
[Jackie] The longevity of the clients we work with is built on morals and integrity, which means that they trust us to always do our very best for them. Some clients dip in and out of this industry, but we always want them to come back to us. We keep in touch with them, and just because they’re not a client all the time doesn’t mean that they’re not included in anything we do.
We always strive to get things right for our clients but, like anyone, we’re only human and sometimes mistakes happen – it’s then about how those mistakes are resolved that makes the difference. If we have made a boob, we’ll move heaven and earth to rectify it!
And what does the future look like for JAM?
[Geeta] Post-pandemic, we’re hoping to fly as high as we did before, if not higher. As we operate mainly in the leisure, hospitality and retail industries – and these are the last to be fully operational after Covid – we’re just hoping we proved our worth and loyalty during the most testing of times by supporting them, and we welcome them all back with open arms.