If you follow us on social media or read this blog, you know that we have a special trophy we like to pass around when a member of the NDG team has had a great month.13723_NDG_QA_Thumb_Dax_July31

The most recent recipient of the Giant Thumb Award is Vice President, Operations Dax Eckel. Dax always has a lot on his plate. It comes with the job and the sweet corner office — OK, he shares it — but in recent weeks, he has been especially busy. And he’s handled it all as he always does, with great skill, a positive attitude and many cups of coffee.

The Thumb helps, obviously. He was gracious enough to take a break from his hectic schedule to indulge us in this Q&A. Enjoy.

Growing up as a musician, you have no doubt dreamed of winning a Grammy. But this is pretty close, no?

My Grammy hopes and dreams may be buried in the past, but it’s always nice to be appreciated for the hard work every day.  Could I paint it gold?

The Thumb is a great honor, but it also means you have to live up to it. How has The Thumb inspired you to do your best work?

Although the Thumb is a great reminder, it’s really my co-workers that inspire me.  Every morning when I walk thru the door it’s game on. I’m just trying to keep pace with the talent around me.

Have other NDG team members seemed to treat you with more respect — reverence, even — now that you are in possession of The Thumb?

Well, I find people knocking on the closed office door more often, rather than just walking in. Is that because of The Thumb? Who knows? It could just be because the door is locked.

Kathy Albrecht, who passed The Thumb on to you, decorated it with pink fingernails. How might you be accessorizing the trophy before it moves on to the next recipient?

As an avid Minnesota sports fan, it may be passed on to the next person with Viking horns or a Kevin Garnett #21 marked on it somewhere.

Winchester Homes has never had trouble selling the craftsmanship and personalization in their beautiful luxury homes. But at The Villages of Piedmont at Leopold’s Preserve, the quality of life extends far beyond the walls of the home.13723_NDG_Social2015_FreshPrints_July24_Blog

Our client recently asked us to create a variety of pieces to help convey the lifestyle in this beautiful community, so close to nature in Haymarket, VA.

Direct mail pieces still hold extraordinary value, so we made this the centerpiece of our approach. The tri-fold mailer successfully illustrated this lifestyle — “Naturally Better Living” — and invited home shoppers to envision themselves at home in the nearly 500 acres of preserved green space or strolling the seven miles of walking trails.

Powerful lifestyle and product photography paired nicely with messaging that shined a light on the relaxed, beauty of life here. With variable data printing, we created a personalized URL with each piece. That let us know exactly who visited the accompanying landing page, as well as how much time they spent on the site and how many pages they viewed.

Several prospects who used the personalized URL stayed on the site for more than 20 minutes, clicking through to more than a dozen pages. Immediately, we know those people are more seriously interested than those who spent far less time on the site. Our client can use that information to prioritize their efforts and work closely with the most interested prospects to help them find a home that they’ll love.

So this piece was not only visually beautiful, it told a compelling story about the community and it gave Winchester’s New Home Advisors the actionable data that they need to be successful.

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Brittany Darr to the team as our new Social Media Manager. She came to NDG loaded with ideas and strategies for helping our clients engage with their customers online. She’s making a big impact already.Q&A Meet Brittany Darr

Here’s a quick Q&A to get to know a little more about Brittany:

You’re originally from West Virginia, now live in Virginia and work here in Maryland. But between college and work, you’ve been all around the country. What has that experience been like?

You left out Maine, Germany, Georgia, Costa Rica and California! Just kidding. Though moving around as a teenager was not easy, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It kickstarted my love of travel, language and food, and the number of people I have met along the way is exponentially larger than if I had lived in the same place my whole life. It has also made me empathetic toward people in tough situations and flexible when it comes to change.

Social media marketing is a relatively new field. What drew you to it and what gets you excited about how we can use social media moving forward?

Typically, I don’t think of social media as a standalone field. While many campaigns can be successfully executed via social platforms only, I prefer to look at social media as part of a larger, integrated “storytelling” process.

Marketing, as a whole, is about telling a compelling story that drives people to take some sort of action. As social media continues to evolve, the stories that we tell on online will become more and more important to the overall story arc.

The thing I like most about social media is that it thrives on the fact that “one-way” conversations in advertising don’t work anymore. People want to connect and interact with their favorite brands in a meaningful way, and social media is the perfect platform for that.

Also, social media is always evolving, so you have to stay vigilant in order to stay relevant. The constant learning process is part of what makes social media so challenging and exciting!

Share A Coke Campaign

What’s one recent social media campaign that you thought was brilliant?

I loved the #ShareACoke campaign which promoted Coke’s new personalized cans. It made buying a can or bottle of Coke almost like a scavenger hunt as you tried to find your name or the name of a friend. My sister even sent me “virtual Cokes” on Facebook, with my name and my husband’s, that she found when she was en route to visit me and my family in San Diego. It made my day.

Who are three people, alive or dead, who you really wish would be on social media — and why.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I would definitely follow these three of my favorite (very dead) authors:

Jane Austen – I would love to hear her dish about Mr. Darcy on Instagram.

William Shakespeare – He knew that “Brevity is the soul of wit” long before the 140 character limits of Twitter.

e.e. cummings – I would like to see how “autocorrect” formats his punctuation and grammar.

Many children, myself included, look up to their parents and family members and seek inspiration in the way of career choices, education and hard-to-deal-with-situations. I was lucky enough to have family members who took the time to explain their careers to me, in an attempt to guide me into the professional world.13509_NDG_Jackie_InspiredAtNDG_Blog_June12

One of my biggest role models was my Aunt Jean. She was the Brand Manager for TUMS and she’d invite me sit in on meetings with her. I even tagged along on the occasional business trip. Everything about her job amazed me. I listened closely when they talked about strategies to increase sales. I was astounded that advertising had such a tremendous effect on sales and on consumer opinions of products. I was just 13 when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in marketing.

My mom was another role model. As a single mom, she had to spend a lot of her time at the office. She worked in real estate and I grew up hearing about master-planned communities, developers and homebuilders. Because of her, I developed a passion for real estate. As a child, I knew more about planned communities and real estate than most people learn in a lifetime.

Ultimately, I combined both passions and started down the path of real estate marketing. NDG was the perfect fit for me.

I am inspired more and more every day when I hear the stories of families finding the homes of their dreams and the lifestyle that they desire. These dreams become a reality often because of the marketing behind the community or homebuilder. Portraying the lifestyle that the family will be buying into is a huge challenge, but it’s tremendously rewarding to see your marketing translate into a happy family in a new home.

My Aunt Jean and my mom are still huge resources and continue to help me in any way possible as I pursue my dream of real estate marketing. I’ve been blessed to have such amazing people in my life and couldn’t be more thankful for their guidance that got me where I am today.



Jackie was born and raised in Southern Maryland, but most of her family lives in Pittsburgh, making her a die-hard Steelers fan. She graduated in 2010 from Salisbury University with a BA in Communications, specializing in PR. After working in customer service and community management, she decided to pursue her education further, and she’s now in the process of earning a Master of Management in Public Relations through University of Maryland University College. In her spare time, she likes to jog and hang out with friends, including her boyfriend, Kevin, and her pleasantly plump English Bulldog, Chunky!

It’s been a fun couple weeks at NDG. Our agency continues to grow and we’ve welcomed some new talent to the team. We thought we’d have some fun and give everyone a chance to get to know them. First up for our New Hire Q&A’s is Digital Marketing Manager Amanda Webb.


Rumor has it that you go through about 3 cases of Diet Dr. Pepper each week. Is it true that NDG’s complimentary soda policy was a critical factor in accepting this position?

I don’t know who told you that. That’s just crazy. I only drink 2 cases of Diet Dr. Pepper a week—just kidding. I actually had no idea about the complimentary soda until my first day, so this is just icing on the cake!

What’s been the most unique or interesting digital marketing effort you’ve ever been involved in?

I’ve been lucky to have the chance to be involved with some awesome campaigns over the years. One of my favorites was a social media campaign for a hotel group to promote their ski properties. We developed a ski personality quiz and sweepstakes that matched the individual’s vacation preferences with their ideal ski resort.

I also was involved in the launch of a new hotel brand. It was awesome to be involved in the brand creative development conversations and see the brand go from concepting to launch.

What’s one recent digital campaign or tactic that caught your eye and you wish you’d have thought of first?

I really love the Oscar Mayer bacon campaigns. They were genius in leveraging people’s passion for bacon. First they had “Say It With Bacon,” where you could send an actual gift box of bacon for Father’s Day. Then they had the “Wake Up and Smell The Bacon” app. I think it is a fantastic example of how to successfully integrate digital and experiential marketing.

You’re now James Madison grad No. 5 on the NDG team. What is it about JMU that produces such awesome marketing professionals?

JMU has a great marketing program that stays as dynamic as the digital industry to prepare its students for a successful career in marketing. About 13 years ago, JMU was one of the first schools to offer an e-commerce marketing concentration to its marketing majors (way ahead of their time). They also participate in the Google Online Marketing Challenge, and there has been a winner from JMU for the last few years.


At NDG, when you do good work, you get a thumbs up. An actual thumb.NDG_ThumbsUp_Blog_Kathy_May29

Well, OK, we pass along a giant “thumbs up” statue to someone who crushed it on a project, made life easier for others on the team or generally did an awesome job in any given month. This month, Office Manager Kathy Albrecht gets the big thumbs up.

Kathy basically runs this place. She keeps us organized and stocked up on everything we need, from office supplies and archive files to coffee, sodas and snacks. Anyone who can keep more than two dozen creative types happy is a special person.

The previous recipients, Art Director Ola Elrefai and Senior Graphic Designer Cheryl Macatangay, chose to recognize Kathy for a variety of reasons, but Ola put it best.

“Whenever I need something, I go to Kathy and she fixes it,” Ola said. “Even if it’s in my personal life, I tell her and she fixes it.”

So thanks, Kathy, for taking care of us and agreeing to this quick Q&A.

First off, congratulations. Second, have you added “Thumb Award Recipient” to your LinkedIn profile yet? If not, why not?
Because I have found the perfect career with NDG, I don’t require a LinkedIn profile. Why mess with a good thing?

How have you chosen to display The Thumb this month?
First, I gave HER a much needed manicure (I offered a Pedi too but she said her toes are a mess!), wrapped her in some fine jewels and proudly let her welcome our guests from my desk. She is summer-ready!

Do you ever feel like The Thumb is watching you?
The Thumb IS watching me. Like all good women, she has eyes in the back of her hand!

If someone wanted to receive The Thumb next month, what’s the best way to bribe you?
There are two very good ways to bribe me if you want the Thumbs Up next month… Find your own darn folder, archive disk, photo disk, paper, etc. … and put your dishes in the dishwasher. 😉

When asked to write this month’s “Inspired at NDG” post, I had a really hard time narrowing down just what it is that inspires me.

As a designer, I feel like I’m inspired by everything around me — music, fashion, architecture, interior design, film, science, books, a quiet walk in the woods, a great piece of furniture — the list could go on for days.

Of those, fashion and interior design have given way to my love of patterns. There’s something about symmetry and repetition that can be really fun and exciting. While I love creating logos, I love creating visual brands even more. It’s designing supportive elements like patterns that elevate a brand and help it take on a life of its own.

Can you imagine brands like Coach or Louis Vuitton without their signature patterns? A simple pattern can help something go from “plain Jane” to interesting or luxurious.

While a logo is most often thought of as the piece that creates brand recognition, a pattern can be just as powerful, if not more. Burberry has it’s plaid. Missoni has chevrons. Even Charles and Ray Eames had their dot pattern.

Two of my all-time favorite pattern creators have to be interior designer Jonathan Adler and mod fashion designer Orla Kiely. Whether creating textiles for a sofa or a handbag, both designers have a clean, vibrant aesthetic with a touch of whimsy that speaks to the mid-century designs of the 1960s. As their patterns have gained popularity, both designers have expanded their reach beyond interior design and fashion. Now, their patterns are available to the masses via phone cases, notebooks, housewares and even wallpaper.

Working on various brands at NDG, designing a pattern is a challenge that I will take on any day of the week. I like to see what elements I can pull out from a logo to create something new and fresh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always nice to experiment and watch a brand’s aesthetic grow and evolve. A pattern can be the main focal point of a design or used as a subtle background texture. Either way, it leaves a lasting impression of how we perceive and remember a brand.

It could be said that Beverly feels pretty at home in the homebuilding industry. She has focused on real estate advertising and branding for the vast majority of her career. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from James Madison University, Beverly went on to work for some of the leading Washington, D.C., advertising and interactive agencies, including Pixels & Ink, Delucchi+ and Six Half Dozen. Away from advertising, Beverly loves to spend her time outdoors with her fiancé, Dave, and their two golden retrievers, Izzy and Loki.

NDG Communications recently kicked off a new client partnership by creating and launching a new website for Winchester Homes, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier homebuilders.

WinchesterHomes.com is now more user-friendly, allowing new home shoppers to easily find information on available homes and communities, through improved search filtering and maps. Visitors also have access to a wealth of resources to assist them during the home search process.

The mobile version of the site functions much like an app and makes it easy for potential homebuyers to pull up information on the go and even call sales managers with a single click.

With 35 years of success in the industry, Winchester Homes has a strong reputation and more than 11,000 loyal homeowners in prominent communities across Virginia and Maryland. Winchester Homes builds expertly crafted, highly personalized homes, including its line of luxurious Camberley by Winchester homes.

Winchester Homes is a member of the TRI Pointe Group, a family of premium homebuilders that design, build and sell homes in major U.S. markets. TRI Pointe combines the resources, operational sophistication and leadership of a national organization with the regional insights, community ties and agility of local homebuilders.

NDG Communications has been Winchester Homes’ agency of record since the start of 2015 and is now handling a full range of marketing responsibilities across a variety of platforms.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the new WinchesterHomes.com,” Winchester Homes President Alan Shapiro said. “NDG Communications did a wonderful job. I’m excited about the way our partnership is growing and I’m looking forward to the great things we’ll do together in the future.”

The new website is linked to NDG Communications’ proprietary RealResults homebuilder sales and marketing system, which blends content management, prospect management and results tracking into a single program designed to increase traffic and reduce the homebuilder’s cost per lead.

“The new WinchesterHomes.com is certainly one of the best websites we’ve ever created,” NDG Communications President Tom Nelson said. “By incorporating our RealResults system, we’re already beginning to see the impact that it’s having. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to work with Winchester Homes and to help them continue their long tradition of building excellent homes and communities throughout the region.”

About Winchester Homes

Winchester Homes, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the area’s premier homebuilders. By focusing on personalization and unique features, Winchester Homes has helped more than 11,000 families create their perfect home. This focus on personalization is backed by award-winning craftsmanship, sound environmental building practices, a commitment to charitable giving programs and is a member of the TRI Pointe Group.

About NDG Communications

NDG Communications is an award-winning advertising and marketing agency with an emphasis on the homebuilding and real estate industries. The agency serves its clients by acting as a true partner and delivering real results through a measured approach to advertising, branding, digital development, production and media services. For more information, visit NDGcommunications.com.

Our clients don’t do it for the awards, and neither do we.
But it still feels good to win.

The NDG team celebrated with one of our great clients on Thursday night as Mid-Atlantic Builders took home four trophies at the Maryland Building Industry Association’s MAX Awards.

We were honored to share the stage on two occasions with Executive Vice President Stephen Paul and Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing John Lavery. NDG worked closely with them on two of Mid-Atlantic Builders’ award-winning projects.

The sales center touchscreen inside the Somerset model at The Villages of Savannah in Brandywine won Outstanding Use of New Technology. And the Sorrento model at Parkside at Westphalia in Upper Marlboro won for Outstanding Sales Center.

Mid-Atlantic Builders’ Modena and Sorrento designs each earned Outstanding Home awards within their respective price categories.

It was a fun evening and one of the highlights of our 8 years as Mid-Atlantic Builders’ agency of record. It’s easy to do great work when your client builds award-winning homes.