ARS Blog

Craftsman Smart Lawn Wins at 2017 Edison Awards

April 21, 2017

We’re proud-jazzed-honored-humbled-pumped…The Craftsman Smart Lawn™ Connect Kit just won Bronze at the prestigious 2017 Edison Awards.

Partnered with the iconic American tool brand, Aisle Rocket Studios built the Smart Lawn Platform and smartphone app around Craftsman’s new Bluetooth-enabled mowers.

This project allowed us to showcase a philosophy and process over which we’re nothing short of obsessive.

What is it? Tracking, reminders and fast-answers that make maintenance easy — plus weather, daylight tracking and more to mow smarter.


All so Craftsman owners can focus on keeping the best yard on the block.

2017 Edison Awards
The awesome part? This project allowed us to showcase a philosophy and process over which we’re nothing short of obsessive. That means designing the experience of owning a Craftsman versus buying a tractor. And creating relationships over a product lifecycle instead of just “selling a thing.”

And this recognition is a great thank you for the hard work.

Learn more about Craftsman Smart Lawn here.

ARS Helps Caesarstone® Make a Virtual Splash at KBIS 2017

February 20, 2017
Caesarstone KBIS 2017 Booth

Caesarstone KBIS 2017 Booth

 

The future is here. And it has arrived in the form of a black, beetle-eyed headset. Seriously. This fully immersive virtual reality (VR) experience practically screams The Matrix. Users put on the headset and then step into a kitchen so real, so homey, they’re compelled to put on a kettle for tea, pluck an apple from the fruit bowl and read the paper that’s waiting on the counter.

This isn’t fantasy; this is reality. A reality that made its debut with Caesarstone quartz surfaces at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS).

KBIS is the destination for industry professionals annually showcasing the latest in products, trends and technologies. The event provides an unparalleled opportunity to network and see what’s new. This year, nearly 600 leading brands exhibited, and hundreds of designers, builders, dealers and suppliers descended on Orlando, FL for the mega event in January. No wonder Caesarstone wanted to make a big (back)splash.

ARS, Caesarstone Contemporary VR Kitchen

ARS, Caesarstone Contemporary Virtual Kitchen

From Real to Virtual

Luckily, ARS was ahead of the curve. We believe in investing in innovation and had been experimenting with what VR could do. When we showed Caesarstone our prototype, they were thrilled to bring it to KBIS.

So what, exactly, did our creative team envision? Two virtual kitchens. Show attendees would be able to not only move around within the environments, but switch out the countertops and backsplashes, mixing and matching the show’s featured surfaces: White Attica, Georgian Bluffs, Noble Grey, Statuario Nuvo, and Sleek Concrete.

Our team had just one month to turn the prototype into a complete, polished experience, a feat of sci-fi proportions. But we worked diligently, leveraging our knowledge of 3-D, set design and photography to make the virtual environments as highly realistic as possible. The process was tedious and intricate, requiring just the right shades, nuance and depth to mimic real life — but the creative team made it happen.

“This is just the first generation, and we’ve been able to push the visual experience to be authentically immersive,” said VP, Creative Director Renee Martin. “And that’s pretty gratifying.”

ARS, Caesarstone Traditional VR Kitchen

ARS, Caesarstone Traditional Virtual Kitchen

Kitchen 360°

Our tech brainchild addresses a considerable pain point for dealers and customers. The kitchen is the heart of the home — and its focal point is the countertops. They’re a critical concern in a redesign project and inform the rest of a customer’s aesthetic choices. As high-investment products, they’re worth getting right.  

Small, square color samples are helpful but ultimately ineffective in allowing the customer to imagine what the countertops will actually look like. It’s like zooming into a painting and cutting out a swatch of it — what happened to the big picture?

But with virtual reality, you get a 360° view. With ARS’s creation, you can see what Caesarstone’s surfaces look and (perhaps more importantly) feel like in a real kitchen — from all angles, in fine detail. You don’t have to imagine your new kitchen design anymore. You can see it, walk around in it, decide whether White Attica really feels like home.

Account Director Erin Taylor Guides Show Attendee Through VR Experience

Account Director Erin Taylor Guides Show Attendee Through VR Experience

This Booth’s Got Buzz

Caesarstone’s KBIS booth was already inviting with its polished kitchen setups, innovative Transform displays, adult coloring book station, and coffee, wine and dessert bar, but VR was where it was at. Show attendees were initially hesitant to try on the bug-like headset and timid to interact with the virtual environment. But as soon as they saw how easy, effective and strangely addictive it was, word started to spread.

Soon everybody wanted to try it. Small crowds formed, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Dealers couldn’t wait to use it; customers wished they’d had it when redesigning their kitchens. Everyone was struck by what a natural fit interior design and VR are.

Caesarstone was pleased with the show’s success and the hot buzz surrounding their countertops. We look forward to expanding and refining the technology, putting it on showroom floors and ultimately allowing customers to overlay Caesarstone surfaces in a virtual replica of their own kitchen.

As our VP of Digital and Omnichannel Kashif Zaman put it, “We’re just scratching the surface of a completely new dimension of storytelling, and we are really excited about the possibilities.”

Welcome to the new reality.

*We want to give a shout out to the creative team who lent their talent and hard work to this project and made it a (virtual) reality. Senior Front-End Developer Nam Pham, Associate Design Director Erin Pine-Moore and Account Directors Erin Taylor and Megan Cook, you rocked it. We’re over the moon.

If you’d like us to help you brainstorm some of the ways VR could play a role in the future of your business, give us a buzz.

Crowds Form at Caesarstone KBIS Booth

Crowds Form at Caesarstone KBIS Booth

2015 Krasl Block Party

July 15, 2015

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Good music, great conversation, local brews and plenty of sunshine—these barely scratch the surface of what this year’s Krasl Block Party had to offer to members of the community and those who traveled from around the nation to attend. From setup to teardown, visitors were able to experience, firsthand, the excitement of the Block Party along with the hard work that went into making it happen.

Just three years ago, ARS first teamed up with the Krasl Art Center to support the annual Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff. What started with creating the official poster, guidebook and T-shirt has turned into a true passion for promoting creative outlets within Southwest Michigan. This year, ARS took its involvement a step further.

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The agency’s own Mandy Lattin rallied the troops here at ARS to volunteer their time, along with volunteers from Krasl, Whirlpool Corporation and the community. Together, they effortlessly juggled both work and play. It was great to see every worker and volunteer enjoy the night as much as every artist, community member and visitor.

Over 600 people were in attendance, making the turnout even greater than anticipated. Partygoers had the pleasure of greeting some of the 200 artists who were to be featured at the Art Fair—painters, sculptors, jewelry makers and more. Even Josh Coté, the featured artist chosen for this year’s poster, was in attendance along with one of his spectacular pieces.

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The lot started filling up even before the start time of 5 p.m. Crowds continuously poured in all night, up to the last minute, where some were sadly turned away, and all were disappointed to hear that the 2015 Krasl Block Party was coming to a close.

It was a great way to say thank you to all of the artists and volunteer support and a perfect way to kick-start the 2015 Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, which has an annual attendance of over 50,000 people from around the United States.

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Everyone came together for some dancing to the rock and reggae sounds of Mike Struwin and Roots Down. Food trucks lined the parking lot with Camzies Pizza, Baja Gringo Tacos and GelatoWorks. Those in attendance (and of age) were able to cool down on a warm summer’s night with a taste (or should I say, a cupful) of Southwest Michigan thanks to Lemon Creek Winery, Round Barn and Tapistry Brewing.

It was a Norman Rockwell painting come to life … or maybe just a Krasl original.

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Reaching Out to Generation Z

June 22, 2015

Aisle Rocket ADstronaut Andrew here.

Last night, I read a great article on AdAge.com, Still Obsessing Over Millennials? Here Are 6 Rules for Reaching Generation Z, written by Bill Alberti. I’m not often a fan of thought pieces, mostly because they meander (as mine might) and don’t have anything of value to say except to the echo chamber of agreement. However, Bill gets straight to the point and offers a lot of great insight into a new and emerging audience with his list:

1. Show ’em your true (weird, quirky, funny) brand personality.
2. Have #NoFilter.
3. Find a cause, ’cause it’s important to make a difference.
4. Get social in the channels where Gen Z lives.
5. Find their tribes.
6. Break through the clutter.

Maybe I’m being contrarian here, but I feel like “6 rules” are almost too absolute for this group. Why? Well, even though Generation Z (persons born after 2000) is easier to find and is more active online than any other generation at their age, they’re still so new and still so often misunderstood, even by me. Many of them are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do, so trying to solidify any rules or strategies this early on could ultimately be pointless. We are at a Socratic paradox with Generation Z; we only know that we don’t really know too much about them.

This is an incredibly unique generation of buyers. For example, every one of my cousins under 10 knows how to use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and has his/her own iPhone or Android tablet. This emerging generation is even more deeply entrenched with technology than any other, including my own, and that’s going to be crucial to the future of marketing. However, this doesn’t give us any indication as to what they are looking for in a product, service or brand or how they want to be reached.

As a Millennial, I’ve been targeted lately by brand campaigns tied in with charities. Similarly, according to Bill, Generation Z “wants to know that what they’re doing, however small, is enough to make a difference.” While I think it’s a great and necessary step forward for brands, I’m not entirely sure that this is important to them. That’s not to say that I don’t think they care, but rather that it’s not as highly ranked for them. For decades, Baby Boomers and even Millennials have been driven by loyalty toward certain brands. It seems to me like Generation Z is more driven by the popularity of the brand, swayed more powerfully by trends than we were.

Although, sometimes even solid attempts to reach out to them with loud and colorful content can be ignored. Much like I’m sure any parent with a child can relate, sometimes even raising your voice will get their attention. When everything is loud, nothing can stand out. So it’s not about volume, it’s about strategy; how you approach and how you create loyalty. I’m certain that this is true for any generation: past, present and future.

A great example of a strategy I think works on Generation Z is Oreo. The famous cookie brand has stayed relevant by talking WITH Generation Z, as opposed to talking AT them. When the lights went out at the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo was the first to respond on Twitter with a clever response. Oreo regularly updates their Instagram and works alongside their marketers when a new flavor comes out. So when Oreo S’Mores (“S’moreos”) were announced, the social media team helped keep people talking about them. Generation Z followed suit to the trend, and it seems to be a pretty successful campaign so far.

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How your brand speaks to them and how you keep them interested in this “Age of Distraction” is the challenge, but it’s one we’re all figuring out. At the end of the day, the only absolute we can all agree on for now is that to reach Generation Z we will all have to be creative and take chances. Until then, they’re just a younger extension of the Millennials.

ARS Rebrand for Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor Receives Regional MAC Award

June 08, 2015

BGC Rebrand4

For over 15 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor has been helping kids between the ages of 6 and 18 create great futures through after-school activities that promote academic success, character and leadership development, and healthy lifestyles. And for nearly the past decade, ARS has proudly partnered with the Clubs to support this important work in our community.

The agency’s involvement with the Clubs touches nearly every individual in the office, from SVP/General Manager, Kim Finch, who serves on the Board of Directors, to the account executives, designers and writers who have developed strategies, branding and collateral for capital campaigns, fundraisers and signature events. ARS also sponsors and contributes materials to the art and drama rooms at the Fettig Youth Campus.

So when the Clubs approached ARS about rebranding all marketing touchpoints and communications, the agency eagerly got to work exploring concepts. The resulting new branding Each Day Makes a Difference is fresh and bright, capturing the energy and optimism that Club members, staff and volunteers bring to the organization’s activities every day. It provides an excellent canvas for the countless youth success stories that begin at the Clubs.

With Each Day Makes a Difference, the Clubs aimed to show capital donors the impact of previous gifts and the ongoing need for financial support, raise awareness of Club programs and grow its network of supporters. The rebrand achieved its goals, gaining community recognition with media impressions, funds raised, new recruitments and positioning within the community. In recognition of this success, Each Day Makes a Difference recently received the Michigan/Ohio Area Region of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Marketing and Communications Award.

Our clients’ success is reward in itself, and even more so when their work does as much for our community as the Clubs do. Congratulations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor on its many accomplishments and the well-deserved recognition!

5 Tips for Instagram Success from Brands That Are Rocking It

May 20, 2015

With over 70 million photos uploaded every day to Instagram, how do you keep your brand’s posts from getting lost in the volume? Whether you’re just getting started or looking to step up your brand’s game, check out some of our favorite tips, picked from the feeds of the 20 most popular brands on Instagram.

photo 1 nike

1. Share inspiration

Instagram’s visuals help your fans connect with your brand’s lifestyle and bring your products’ benefits to life. Take a lesson from Nike. With action shots of athletes, both famous and everyday, and captions that urge fans to #justdoit when it comes to making each performance better than the last, the brand’s content encourages fans to aim high, makes their goals feel attainable and motivates them to share photos of their own feats with the tagline/hashtag.

photo 2 gopro

2. Regram your fans’ content

The best messaging comes from happy customers. Show them you appreciate their engagement by liking, commenting on and regramming their posts. And be sure to thank them for sharing! Or do it like GoPro and encourage submissions with a link in your profile. Their photos and videos of the day highlight their customers’ active lifestyles, with images of skydiving, surfing, motocrossing and all the other activities your average camera isn’t up for.

photo 3 zara

3. Engage influencers

In addition to posts featuring the latest styles, global fast fashion retailer Zara peppers its Instagram feed with images of bloggers, creatives and models sporting their favorite pieces and sharing a bit about themselves with the hashtag #zarapictures. Make a list of bloggers and social media personalities who would be interested in testing or modeling your product and start connecting.

photo 4 bmw

4. Take fans behind closed doors

Behind-the-scenes photos give your fans an intimate look into your company’s culture and mission. Whether it’s sharing milestones in the brand’s history, early concepts of a newly launched product or a sneak peek of what’s coming soon, your fans will love feeling like insiders. BMW does this with frequent posts on the evolution of their cars over decades, connecting today’s drivers to the brand’s legacy of luxury.

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5. Mix it up

Keep your fans’ attention by keeping your posts fresh. To avoid repeats or forgetting to post regularly, manage Instagram as part of your overall content strategy and calendar. Plan ahead for holiday-themed posts, new product launches and other important dates, while interspersing branded posts with images from fans. And experiment with both photo and video posts to see which get the most comments and likes. For inspiration, look at how the NBA’s posts give each team its moment in the spotlight with photos and videos of game highlights.

Of course, some tactics work well for some brands, but not others. The great thing about social media is the opportunity it presents to find out what resonates with your fans, so don’t be afraid to try out new ideas until you find what works best for achieving your goals.

Staff Picks: 5 Favorite 2015 Super Bowl Ads

February 02, 2015

Some people watch the Super Bowl for the football. Others watch for the halftime show. And then there are those of us who tune in for the advertisements. (Hey, we’re marketers. That’s just how we roll!) We asked our ARS blog contributors to watch the Super Bowl ads from a consumer’s perspective and then choose a favorite. Check out what our Rocketeers had to say about their favorite Super Bowl commercials below:

 

Alex’s Pick: TurboTax’s “Boston Tea Party”

Honestly, I thought anything with a puppy or kitten would automatically win out as my favorite Super Bowl commercial of the night. But it turns out the real MVP for me came from TurboTax, with a funny, yet bizarre period piece. This spot starts out with the (very dramatized) events of the Boston Tea Party, with colonials rebelling and fighting redcoat British soldiers. Suddenly, the course of history is halted and rerouted by the British offering free tax preparation. Immediately everything is hunky-dory. I actually laughed out loud at the colonial woman removing her bayonet from a redcoat with just a simple shrug, wave and apology, as well as seeing Washington reverse his infamous crossing of the Delaware. This ad didn’t need to focus on inside jokes or current fads, but weaved together its own humorous version of history with the exact product it’s promoting. There’s no question about the message of free tax prep, or how easy it makes life once you’ve got it. Honorable Mentions go to: Avocados from Mexico, seeing Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel in an Esurance commercial, and the super awkward Loctite Glue, which got me googling just who the company was.

 

Emily’s Pick: Always’ “#LikeAGirl”

The only ad to get a cheer from our Super Bowl party, “#LikeAGirl” has to be my favorite, mostly for its unexpected placement among a sea of ads targeted to men (dads in particular this year, it seemed). It brought to mind last year’s Little League World Series starring pitcher Mo’ne Davis. Why should throwing like a girl still be considered an insult when girls display talent like that every day?

 

Jason’s Pick: Loctite Glue’s “Positive Feelings”

There were a number of really good ads this year. From Fiat’s Viagra-themed commercial to that hilarious avocado ad, agencies brought their A game to the Super Bowl this year. But if I must pick a favorite, I’d have to say it’s Loctite’s. Maybe it was the beer or the chicken wings or some combination of the two, but when the Loctite commercial aired, I was mesmerized. I immediately wanted to see it again. That’s not something that we usually expect from advertisements. Apparently Loctite hadn’t gotten the memo that the theme for this year’s commercials was dark and depressing. And thank goodness for that! The ad was fun and cheerful, and they even worked in a few product shots. And it finally put to rest the question of what Urkel is up to these days.

 

Leah’s Pick: Coca-Cola’s “#MakeItHappy”

If the video that “Like a Girl” was based on hadn’t been circulating for months now, my favorite ad of the night would have been from Always. But since I’d already laughed, cried and tweeted about it, I figured I should pick one that was new to me. So my favorite ad of the night was from Coca-Cola. No surprise there. This time they took on cyberbullying, which could have gone wrong in so many ways. People are mean, yes, especially when they’re anonymous. But the world can be a little nicer with Coca-Cola. Essentially, Coke turns hostile statements like, “No one likes U,” into compliments like, “There’s no one like U.” It’s a simple idea, but so brilliantly executed. As a consumer, it made me smile. As a marketer, I was proud of Coca-Cola for taking on something serious such as cyberbullying, and instead of using scare tactics (cough … Nationwide), the company addressed it in a meaningful, heartfelt way. YOU ROCKED IT, COCA-COLA!

 

Marie’s Pick: Bud Light’s “#UpForWhatever”

Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever” commercial scored some major points with me this weekend. But really, when you bring a classic arcade title like Pac-Man to life, it’s guaranteed to be a touchdown. The setup plays out like a favorite joke: a regular Joe walks into a bar and the bartender asks him, “If I gave you a Bud Light, would you be up for whatever?” He answers yes, and the rest of the night turns into an epic adventure straight from the ’80s. What I loved most about the ad was the way it went beyond the scope of demographics (even if millennials were its main target). Instead, it focused on telling a larger-than-life story that people want to share. According to spokesperson Nick Kelly, “It’s really just finding people at drinking events, and if they’re drinking Bud Light, rewarding them with awesome experiences.” It’s a strategy that’s simple in theory, but difficult in execution. As creative problem-solvers, asking “How do we get people to tell our story?” is less impactful than asking “What is it about our story that’s worth telling?”

Emerald Avenue + Aisle Rocket Studios

September 26, 2014

Emerald Avenue challenged Aisle Rocket Studios to create a Destination Marketing Campaign to raise awareness and boost tourism to Southwest Michigan’s agribusiness destinations — wineries, distilleries, orchards and farm markets.

As part of the year-long campaign — and inspired by the subscription boxes like Birchbox, Julep and Graze — ARS created a fun and casual way to engage members of the media — an actual media kit. Included in each were artisan products and rural charm from each Emerald Avenue location (cherry jam, dried cherries and blueberries, whiskey barrel wood chip, wine bottle cork, and a vintage wine bottle label) and a new publication that acted as a source of material for the media to write their pieces.

MediaKit

The publication was The Emerald Avenue magazine — that helped define the brand’s essence and served as the focal point of the kit. The magazine’s purpose was to function as more than just a large brochure, as the magazine used imagery — both graphic and prose — to let consumers know what Emerald Avenue was all about.

The kits were sent to 40 members of the regional media and were bundled with Edible Michiana and Edible Chicago magazines. Sarah Jollay, Emerald Avenue president, received numerous inquiries from media reps to obtain more information about the cooperative. Editorial content was also posted to media blogs and online newsletters in addition to call-outs in a handful of publications.

Emerald Avenue was so enthused about The Emerald Avenue magazine they wanted to publish it annually and use it to add new members to the cooperative. Several of these members are also part of other tourist organizations and let Aisle Rocket and Emerald Avenue know they’d never received this level of attention and understanding for their businesses.

ATK Visits Aisle Rocket Studios

May 13, 2014

Above and beyond what I could have imagined.

Those were the words used by Mary Mccubbins to describe her recent field trip to Aisle Rocket Studios (ARS) accompanied by her fellow Illinois State University undergraduates. Enrolled in the Arts and Technology (ATK) program, these students were given an agency tour by ATK alum and lead ARS developer Chris Smith, who also provided what other tours hadn’t: real-world experience.

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Students participated in a mock brainstorm – complete with a creative brief and deliverables – moderated by Smith and Matt Jansick, ARS’ Director of Emerging Retail Experiences. Called “one of the most successful parts of the tour” by Mccubbins, she and her fellow students were able to experience and participate in actual agency activities. “Ultimately, we were trying to give ATK students a real-world sense of the kind of work they’d be doing in an agency,” Smith said.

Giving ATK students a sample of what interactive agencies do is ideal, as their post-graduation opportunities are incredibly diverse. The traditional route entails students seeking employment at a tech company, where they code endlessly with little room for creativity. Some take the entrepreneurial path, creating innovative products/services/industries that haven’t been thought of before. Then, there’s Interactive Advertising Agencies – like Aisle Rocket Studios – where creativity and technology go hand-in-hand. An interactive agency is where ATK grads can apply both sides of their degree and their expertise to the work. The philosophy of these agencies is best detailed in a video by Robert Wong, Chief Creative Officer of Google, in which he speaks about the line between arts and science being blurred, leading to creatives collaborating with engineers and coders to solve problems.

At ARS, we take this idea further, as the creative team doesn’t just collaborate with technical staff — they’re one and the same. ARS includes technology at the onset of the creative process instead of treating it as a ‘box to tick off’ during the process. We build solutions for legendary clients that are more than just creative. They’re user-friendly. This makes the connection between the ATK program and ARS a no-brainer, as students apply everything they’ve learned in school to real-life projects.

Great work. Awesome clients.
Who wouldn’t want to join this team?

Better yet, who is ARS looking for? In terms of adding to the agency’s roster, our technology team prefers developers who are artists versus those who just code, a sentiment echoed by Alyque Ajani (Director of Technology and Innovation). “It’s more important to recruit those with passion over just the skills,” Ajani reveals, “as well as having the aptitude and willingness to learn, figuring it out and doing good work.” So if you’re a self-starter, a coder with an addiction to creativity, or a designer that knows how to code, we’re looking for you, you and you. We’re looking for those who not only want to change the world, but can. As Robert Wong so eloquently said in his video, “If you’re in the creative arts, don’t underestimate the role you might play in helping to shape the future.” That future is now. The place? Aisle Rocket Studios.

Bold New Look. Same Awesomeness.

May 29, 2013

Refueled. Reignited. Relaunched.

 

Have questions? There are answers below.
1) What does ARS stand for?

Aisle Rocket Studios

 

2) What does Aisle Rocket Studios signify?

Well, it all started in the Aisle. For 30 years, we’ve learned what motivates people to purchase, in-store and online. Rocket represents a spirit of adventure, energy and innovation. In our Studios, sleeves are rolled up and a sense of experimentation and collaboration are ever-present.

 

3) What’s changing?

We’re always changing. This change reflects the idea that shopping is a seamless experience that can happen everywhere, not just in-store or online. We now have a strategic focus to bridge the physical and digital spaces. See our services.

 

4) What’s not?

We’re the same group of 250-plus über-achievers with a deep passion to be the most flexible partner for our clients.

 

5) Is there a new URL?

Yes, we’ve just launched AisleRocket.com.

 

6) Will email addresses change?

Yes, those too. Our new email format will be first initial + last name + @aislerocket.com. So if your contact is John Smith from Aisle Rocket Studios, his updated email address will be jsmith@aislerocket.com.

 

7) Has ownership changed?

No, Aisle Rocket Studios is a privately owned company. Our fearless leader, Scott Norman, remains CEO and owner. Check out the rest of our leadership team.

 

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