By Daniel Allred
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Chase Rohlfsen has always had a knack for standing out in the crowd. Just take his signature white Adidas, for instance. They might seem like nothing more than a casual choice of footwear, but there’s a story behind them, and that story exemplifies Chase’s unique ability to leave a lasting impression.
You see, Chase Rohlfsen made his splash into the archery industry back in 2008. Fresh from his role as a sales and marketing expert for General Motors, Chase attended the ATA Trade Show to promote his brand new company, RubLine Marketing, and this is what happened:
Chase Rohlfsen, founder and president of RubLine Marketing, started the company from a home office in 2008.
“I came from a pretty corporate background,” Rohlfsen explained. “I wore a suit and tie every day to work, but in the evenings I would always go back to my comfortable white Adidas. I went to my first trade show in 2008, and on the first day I wore cowboy boots and jeans, just like everyone else. At the end of that day, my feet hurt so bad I could barely walk, and so on the second day, I wore my white Adidas. I didn’t care because my feet hurt so bad from those cowboy boots. Someone who ended up being a client later told me that they remembered the marketing guy in the bright white shoes, and I realized that a lot people may not remember my name or my company, but they’ll remember those white Adidas. So it’s been my tradition ever since then to bring a brand new pair of white Adidas to every ATA Trade Show.”
This out-of-the-box thinking extends far beyond Chase Rohlfsen’s taste in fashion. As the founder and president of RubLine Marketing, he and his company lend their marketing expertise to dozens of leading brands in the archery and outdoor industries.
In 12 short years, Rohlfsen has gone from the “marketing guy in the bright white shoes” to a definitive specialist who has surrounded himself with other definitive specialists from different fields. Altogether, RubLine Marketing is continuing to find success in an ever-changing market, and it’s continuing to help a variety of leading manufacturers find success, too.
Keegan Rohlfsen is following in his father’s footsteps by learning how highly professional brands gather and present content in different advertising mediums.
Starting from Scratch
Before Chase Rohlfsen distinguished himself in the archery industry, he first distinguished himself in the marketing division of General Motors.
“After working for GM for a few years, I got an offer to move into management, and I started running a small team of marketers,” Rohlfsen said. “After about three years in that role, I pitched a marketing program to the higher-ups. They liked it, and they let me take the lead and run with it. It ended up working pretty well. I was able to make a name for myself in the company, and from there I led a lot of different sales and marketing initiatives for GM.”
In the meantime, Rohlfsen was also developing a deep passion for archery and bowhunting.
“My love for hunting started out with upland game,” Rohlfsen said. “I wasn’t introduced to archery until about the year 2000. A friend of mine—who I’d gone waterfowl and pheasant hunting with—really encouraged me to pick up a bow, so I did. I went out to a treestand with him, and I had a couple opportunities that I blew. Then he kind of pushed me out of the nest and encouraged me to learn more on my own. I ended up knocking on doors to find property to hunt on, and I put up a treestand, and that first year of bowhunting on my own, I was successful. I shot a 120-inch eight-pointer, and I was hooked—just hooked like crazy.”
Chad Billick is a strategy specialist and account manager for RubLine, and he works closely with the company’s clients to deliver powerful messages to curious consumers.
In fact, Chase Rohlfsen was so hooked on bowhunting that he bought his own piece of hunting property, and this led to a chance encounter with Mark Drury, host of Drury Outdoors and founder of M.A.D. Calls.
“One day I got a call from Mark Drury,” Rohlfsen said. “He had purchased a piece of property next to mine, and he was just calling to introduce himself as my neighbor. From there, we became really good friends. We talked about strategy and the differences between our businesses, and it just became a phenomenal friendship. I had nothing to do with the hunting industry at the time, but there were a lot of similarities between our marketing projects and plans. Then, when General Motors fell on hard times in 2008, I lost my position, along with 3,500 of my coworkers. That actually just set things in motion for me, though. I was talking to Mark after I lost my position, and he put the idea in my head that I should bring my background and skills to the outdoor industry, and in 2008 RubLine Marketing was born.”
RubLine Marketing has certainly come a long way since those early days. Rohlfsen has proven time and time again that he has a keen eye for brand development. Accordingly, RubLine’s client list has grown steadily over the years, and so has its staff.
“When I first started out, I was mostly doing short-term consulting,” Rohlfsen said. “I would come in, look at the company’s product, get an understanding of their business, and I would develop a plan for them. The only problem was that after I came up with a plan, I lost control of how exactly the plan was executed. How well did they put their catalog together? How well did they construct their commercial time? How well did they buy their media? Did they pay the right price, or did they overpay? All of those lingering questions gave me the inspiration to really grow, and after a few years of consulting, I started to expand my operations to include specialists like graphic designers, photographers, videographers and social media experts. I built a team around myself, so now when I develop a plan, I can count on my team to execute that plan.”
Chase Rohlfsen, center, meets with two of his key team members: Mark Watson, creative director; and Tina Rausch, executive assistant.
One of those specialists on the RubLine team is Mark Watson, the company’s creative director. A graphic designer by trade, Watson has over 35 years of experience in his field.
As an old friend of Chase Rohlfsen, Mark Watson watched RubLine Marketing grow and flourish from the very beginning.
“I met Chase about 20 years ago, when he and his wife moved here to Traer, Iowa,” Mark Watson said. “It’s a small town, so just like anyone in a small town would do, my wife and I invited them over for supper to meet them and welcome them to Traer. We became friends and stayed in touch, so I saw when he first started RubLine out of a small office in his home. I knew right away that he was passionate about it, and he had his eyes on a much larger goal. I would contract with him here and there before I joined full-time, and he was always bringing in other talent to give the customer a better experience. There’s been a lot of steady growth over the years. He started out with that home office, then rented a small office in town, and then he bought the building we’re in now. We still have plenty of room to grow, and Chase is still very forward thinking.”
Modern Marketing Experts
It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded modern world of advertising, but Chase Rohlfsen and his team have figured out how to do exactly that. As a full-service marketing firm, RubLine has developed and executed countless successful advertising campaigns for a variety of archery, hunting and outdoor brands.
How do they do it, exactly?
Well, if only there were a simple answer to that question. The truth is that it takes a lot of knowhow and smart decision-making, along with a complex mixture of different advertising mediums. Chase Rohlfsen calls it his “balanced diet” approach.
“You have to look at every marketing opportunity that’s out there and understand that your goal is to create a ‘balanced diet’ of those different options,” Rohlfsen said. “Lately, the buzzword has been social media, and a lot of people get way too hung up on that option. Our goal is to work in several different mediums because consumers of different demographics get their information from different places. Your seasoned hunter—who owns land, a pickup truck, lots of blinds and treestands, and an ATV—he’s the kind of guy who reads print magazines and watches outdoor networks on TV. Then you look at the 35- to 45-year-old demographic, and they love researching on Facebook and other places online. They are active in different groups, and they might have a few favorite blogs.
Bo Adams is one of RubLine’s dedicated specialists, and he helps outdoor brands capture top-notch photos and stunning videos.
“Then you also have to consider the younger, incoming consumers,” Rohlfsen continued. “They might not have much disposable income to their names, but they are learning and figuring out what their favorite brands are. You have to set the stage for them, so they are already brand-loyal once they’re ready to buy. Our balanced diet approach considers all those different kinds of mediums and uses them to deliver the right message to all those different demographics. The product that’s being advertised also factors heavily into the equation. The demographic makeup of a handgun buyer might be very different than the demographic makeup of consumers who are looking for a replacement treestand cushion, for example. You always have to figure out who that demographic is and what pieces of media they consume.”
Chase Rohlfsen also places a lot of value in printed media like Inside Archery.
“Print is the longest standing medium we have, and when you read something in print, it validates the message more than any other place you see it,” Rohlfsen said. “Chances are, the first place you see a product or a message is on social media, and that’s because it’s instantaneous. We are absolutely flooded with messages online, though, so it might not really stick. Then you might see it again when you’re watching TV, and more of the message is there, but it still feels like you’re being sold to. When it gets to print, it becomes validated. It’s almost like hearing it from a buddy, like word of mouth, because you subscribed and asked for that message. You buy a magazine from a newsstand because you want to read what’s in there. You truly value that content. So it might not be the first place you see the message, but it’s the place that validates it for you.”
Sara Rissi is the company’s digital marketing strategist, and she gets hands-on with outdoor products to deliver impactful messages online.
Simply put, RubLine’s strategy works, and the company’s clients will tell you the same thing.
“Building a brand name in today’s outdoor industry has got to be one of the most challenging, time-consuming, expensive tasks a company faces, outside of simply building a world-class product,” said Steve Greenwood, general manager of Victory Archery. “In the case of Victory Archery—although we make the world’s most advanced carbon composite arrows and crossbow bolts—we very much lacked the understanding of how we should market and promote our product line through all possible venues, ranging from popular TV shows, to social media and print media.
That’s where RubLine Marketing came to our rescue, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience since Chase Rohlfsen and his experienced marketing team took over the Victory account. I’ve worked with multiple advertising companies over the past 30 years in our industry, and I can honestly say this is the very first time I’ve felt 100 percent comfortable allowing a marketing firm to handle all of our marketing needs. With the help of RubLine, our business has definitely seen a noticeable positive increase in Victory brand recognition.”
Mark Watson, RubLine’s creative director, brings over 35 years of experience in graphic design to his current role.
Other RubLine clients shared very similar thoughts.
“Working with RubLine has been a great experience for our company,” said Derek Amaral, director of sales and marketing for ThermaSeat. “Chase and his team are committed to excellence with everything they do. Our website upgrades, social media marketing, media production, and overall market reach has consistently been proven successful. RubLine is committed to their customers, going above and beyond in the entire scope of their work.”
For the team at RubLine Marketing, these happy customers serve as a badge of honor and proof that the company is doing things right.
“Our growth has really only come from word of mouth,” Mark Watson said. “If we weren’t doing our jobs well, then that word of mouth wouldn’t be happening. If we were letting our clients down, they wouldn’t recommend us. In fact, they would probably tell people not to come to us. That’s the thing about word of mouth, right? A customer has a positive experience, and they tell one person. They have a negative experience, and they tell ten people about it. We know this industry is very tight-knit, and we strive to give everyone a positive experience so that good word of mouth continues.”
Big Plans for the Future
RubLine Marketing is really just hitting its stride. The company has come a long way in 12 years, and it plans to go even further in the next 12 years and beyond. To get there, it’s going to keep doing what it does best: provide marketing solutions for outdoor companies in need.
It’s also worth noting that RubLine’s full service package is a one-size-fits-all deal, meaning the company can be equally beneficial to manufacturers both large and small.
“We really enjoy working with clients of all sizes,” Chase Rohlfsen said. “With newer start-up companies, we interview them and make sure it’s a product we can get behind, and a lot of the time it’s just a phenomenal invention. Take CWD-Free, for example. We got to work with them from the very grassroots beginning and help develop that brand from its infancy. And there’s a lot that goes into that, including how a product is priced and packaged, and how it hangs on the shelf. It’s amazing watching them grow. We’ve had clients who started with us when they were brand new, and now they are doing tens of millions of dollars in sales.
Tina Rausch, executive assistant, is a key player in the RubLine team.
“But we also have a lot to offer our larger clients, like Can Cooker, Victory Archery and Scent Crusher, as examples,” Rohlfsen continued. “For them, we’re here to fill all of their marketing gaps. They might not want to hire someone to do that position in-house, or they might not have a large enough need to justify a full-time employee. They bring us in because we have videographers, photographers, studio design, art direction, writers, bloggers, IT and SEO experts, and social media development groups. We have all of these skill sets under one roof. They can hire us to fill their gaps, instead of hiring—for about the same price or more—a single marketing person who is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. That’s a common situation, and they end up outsourcing bits and pieces of it anyway.”
Looking ahead, Rohlfsen and his team are going to continue to stand out from the crowd and deliver exceptional results, and they’re going to do it through sheer will and hard work.
“I know that Chase’s goal is to continue to grow the business and create a lasting legacy of success,” Mark Watson said. “Chase isn’t one of those absent owners who isn’t around much, and if he was, we wouldn’t be able to go above and beyond like we do. He always expects the best from us, but he’s right here with us, shoulder to shoulder. He’s always here working late, always going the extra mile for his clients. At the end of the day, that’s what will keep RubLine growing. Nobody is going to outwork us. Nobody is going to give you the same kind of attention and service that we do.”
Chase Rohlfsen works with Mark Watson and Tina Rausch to form strategic marketing campaigns for the company’s many clients.
Today’s media landscape is teeming with different brands and messages vying for attention. Consumers are often over stimulated, and it takes something special to break through the noise. This simple truth makes RubLine Marketing’s success even more noteworthy. Chase Rohlfsen and his team have solved the puzzle, and they have offered their insights to help dozens of manufacturers stand out from the crowd.
But like any other company in the industry, the fuel for this company’s fire is raw passion. The RubLine team is passionate about their work, and they’re also passionate about the industry we all share.
“My team is extremely passionate about delivering a superb product,” Chase Rohlfsen said. “They are perfectionists, and you can see it in their work. They might do a photo session for hours and hours, and if they look at that photo and it’s not perfect, then they will go right back to the studio and reshoot. We’re also happy to be in an industry with so many other passionate individuals. Their passion creates incredible products, and we work with a lot of those family-owned companies that are still very close to their products because they created them. We talk about what their success means to them, and then it’s our job to deliver that success to them. We also try to put it on a human level. It’s not transactional for us. It’s all very personal, and we take their success very personal. Everyone at this company believes that. We want our work to truly contribute to our clients’ success.”