Case Study

Going above and beyond to make you its top priority.

For more than 80 years, Hylant has been a leading privately-held provider of insurance services and software to small and medium-sized employers. Hylant is originally from Toledo, Ohio, but it wanted to expand, so it moved an office to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Back in Toledo, everyone knew Hylant’s name, but Grand Rapids was a different story. When Hylant approached Deksia, it was frustrated with the lack of brand awareness in the GR community. The company had a large sales force and had built an impressive client roster in the area, but remained largely unknown in the business community. The lack of brand awareness created a huge hurdle every time one of its salespeople tried to land a new client.

Deksia analyzed Hylant’s brand and values, and then it began to formulate a plan to generate brand awareness in the Grand Rapids community. Historically, Hylant has been reluctant to market in ways that celebrate its own brand. So we developed a campaign strategy to celebrate and share Hylant’s values while avoiding the taint of self-promotion and virtue signaling.

Hylant logos

Brand Development

Thinking Outside The Box

Prior to approaching Deksia, Hylant had made efforts on its own to generate brand awareness in the community with little success. It had spent a copious amount on billboards that didn’t successfully represent Hylant’s values and lacked any sort of narrative. 

As we got to know the company and the brand better, we faced a paradoxical challenge. Research indicated that Hylant’s positioning was little understood in the market and that there was a hunger among business customers for more humanity from the insurance companies they use. 

Hyland did have a compelling story to share. Its primary motivation, the heart of its mission statement, was being of service to the community and advancing people’s well-being as its primary motivation. Its employees didn’t just pay lip service to those values either. Its employees sat on around 80 nonprofit charity boards across West Michigan. The owners and employees are passionate about giving back. This isn’t an idle passion either. Its West Michigan employees donated more than 10,000 hours a year to more than 100 charitable organizations. Yet at the same time, Hylant was an incredibly humble company. Not only did it not want to mention its tremendous investment in the community, it didn’t want to say or do anything that might look like boasting, especially when it came to its generosity.


A paradoxical challenge called for a paradoxical solution: we proposed increasing Hylant’s brand awareness by… not promoting Hylant’s brand. What if Hylant’s advertising budget became an instrument for spreading its values and celebrating the unsung organizations and heroes that were working so hard to make West Michigan a more welcoming community?

Each year, Hylant donates money to a multitude of charities, and it didn’t really know where it went or how it was used. We proposed to redirect those funds to make an even larger impact by doing something for the nonprofits they couldn’t do themselves—tell their stories—while doing so in a manner that would also create brand awareness for Hylant.

We called it “GR Stories.”

Marketing Strategy

Curiosity is a Powerful Tool; Use It

GR Stories is a campaign that promotes nonprofit organizations by sharing testimonials from volunteers and people who have been positively affected by the organizations. The campaign puts nonprofits in the spotlight and calls the audience to action, increasing donations, recruiting volunteers, and building overall awareness of who they are and what they do. With Hylant operating in the background as the sponsor of the campaign, not only was the audience drawn to learn more about the profiled organizations, but the audience couldn’t help but be intrigued by the campaign’s mysterious benefactor, Hylant.

To pull off this campaign, we developed a concept, a message, and a strategy:

  • Build a brand for GR Stories
  • Create a website and landing page
  • Generate curiosity with billboard, radio and social media ads
  • Create emotional and powerful videos

The campaign urges the audience to “continue the story” and volunteer their own time. The campaign’s outdoor, radio and digital advertising substantially increases brand impressions in the marketplace and positions Hylant’s values without overt self-promotion. With Hylant as a sort of ghost in the campaign, a sense of mystery drives curiosity and gets people to find out more about who Hylant is.  

When people visit GR Stories landing page, they’re encouraged to submit a story of their own, which elicits responses and grows community engagement in the campaign. In this way, the audience takes ownership of the campaign. As GR Stories built on itself, and reached more communities in West Michigan, awareness would increase organically.


Building a Campaign that Stands on its Own

In order for GR Stories to live as its own brand, we created a campaign specific website with its own non-profit URL, GRStories.org.

Several goals drove our website developers and design team as they created the GR Stories website with several goals in mind. The website allows for people to learn about these nonprofit organizations, to watch moving and emotional testimonials, and to submit their own stories. 

Using storytelling structures, dominant colors, and other visual techniques like bolded/highlighted words, the website became a living place for people to share their stories and have their voices heard.


Video Production

Powerful StoryTelling Drives Action

Hylant video screenshot

GR Stories featured documentary-style stories told by the people who benefited in their own voice. We wanted to produce videos that capture the raw emotion and genuinity of the people who have been affected by these organizations. Our video production specialist’s goal was to achieve an authentic aesthetic without being too gritty. 

The video needed to be shot in the right environment, in the right way, to ensure that the videos are honest and straightforward, while remaining emotionally impactful. Keeping the stories candid and relatively uncut achieved a raw emotional impact that  kept viewers engaged.

The heartbeat of this entire campaign is the videos. Finding the right words, the right person to interview, and the right story to tell are vital to their success. These videos also lend themselves to powerful social media advertising, allowing us to create emotional and intriguing ads that encourage people to find out more.

Hylant photo assets

Digital Advertising

Multi-Channel Strategy Grabbed Attention & Drove Engagement

We strategized advertisements across multiple platforms in order to expose as many people as possible as frequently as possible to GR Stories. We provided a piece of the story to create interest around these organizations, hopefully resulting in positive results for the nonprofits, and inadvertently Hylant. 

We designed billboards that utilized bold colors, intriguing images, and quotes from the testimonials that created tension and suspense, leaving an impression that would hopefully last long after the board was viewed. The billboards create an emotional impact that strikes hard, and gets people interested in finding out the rest of the story on their own. If the phrases left an impression on the viewer when displayed on the billboard, their recurrence on digital ads is more likely to trigger the viewer’s direct action and engagement with the landing page. 

We created radio ads that allowed people to hear the voice of the storyteller, creating a stronger connection between the person consuming the ad and the story introduced. Like a song, a radio ad can have a big impact on someone listening. 

We created digital advertisements that utilize both photos and clips from interviews to provide a glance into these people’s stories and to feel encouraged to find out more about the organizations. 

We also designed lapel pins with the GR Stories name on them for people to wear. The more people are exposed to the GR Stories name, the more likely they’ll eventually be curious enough to discover more, and hopefully submit their own stories. Our multifaceted advertisement strategy is designed to build on itself in the community. 

GR Stories provides a platform for underappreciated, underrecognized people and nonprofits to have a voice and share their stories.


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