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Tag: marketing

December 21st, 2018

MWB 411 • December 2018

Season’s Greetings to all. This is our final MWB 411 alert of 2018. We hope that the holidays find you very merry, indeed. To everyone that we’ve worked for, with, and by this year, the MWB crew wishes you the absolute best for 2019 and beyond. Now, on with the 411…

Introducing MWB AMPLIFY

We’ve über-excited to announce a new service fully rolling out in 2019: MWB AMPLIFY. It’s a local influencer marketing service developed an managed by MWB with the objective of utilizing the power of social media and the reach of notable local influencers to help raise awareness of brands, services, and organizations. MWB has partnered with several dozen central Mississippi high-profile social media personalities who can maximize the positive visibility of brands and products in the 601 area code.

“Our influencers specialize in a number of interest areas including dining, fitness, interior design, fashion, lifestyle, nutrition, luxury brands, and more,” said MWB president Tim Mask. “We believe this service will be of particular benefit to more localized brands and services who don’t typically invest in the traditional services offered by advertising agencies.”

MWB Amplify matches brands with influencers whose interests are aligned with those of the brand’s audience, delivering authentic content across the influencer’s multiple social media platforms. It is a powerful new marketing trend, localized. If you’re interested in tapping into the power of MWB Amplify, contact us for a more detailed review of our services.

Check out some recent work…

We recently completed and launched a new website for Madison-based global aerospace services company Vertex Aerospace. Vertex Aerospace is a global single-stop solution for aftermarket aerospace services for both government and private sector clients. The company maintains over 100 locations and thousands of employees across the globe. In addition to the new website, MWB is also producing a series of corporate videos for Vertex. Click below to visit their new site.



We recently visited the Meridian-based manufacturing facility of GRASSBuilt, a sustainable building materials company focusing on end products and building supply material sourced from North American bamboo. Tapping into the sustainable building and LEED architecture markets, GRASSBuilt is on the leading edge of creating a vibrant, domestic bamboo economy. MWB’s chief photographer/videographer captured the facility in action, along with some great shots of their finished products. We’re looking forward to helping GRASSBuilt realize their role as the leading, rapidly-renewable building materials source for 21st century sustainable architecture.


In 2018 we helped Visit Jackson, the destination marketing organization for Mississippi’s capital city, fully implement a new strategic marketing strategy. The branding campaign focused on impacting Millennial travelers, now the nation’s largest generational group and biggest leisure tourism spenders. The effort incorporated travel decision drivers that are especially important to key Millennial sub-groups – foodies, career women, crafters, artisans, and lovers of indie music – and presented the brand in a manner especially friendly toward social platforms. The branded campaign is also supported by longer format content, including a “docutainment” series, original music video, the culinary-focused web show “Chefs with Soul,” and the entertainment program “Soul of the City.” Check out what it means to experience the City with Soul at JXN.ms.


We’re proud to help these partner clients stoke their creative fires!

What’s new with the family?

MWB Operations Manager Erica RobinsonAccount Executive Erica Robinson recently completed an Advanced Grant Proposal Writing course courtesy of Mississippi State University. Erica is now a certified grant writer, and looks forward to putting this new skill set to work for partner clients and organizations under MWB’s CreateForGood initiative. If you’re interested in seeking grant funding for any of your projects, please feel free to reach out to us. To stay informed about grant opportunities, please follow @growMWB on Twitter.

As mentioned last newsletter, MWB Senior Account Executive Ray Harris has obtained her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership. We’re bringing it up again because Ray actually walked in the graduation ceremony this month…so it’s official!  Ray is an invaluable MWB talent who is active in strategic planning project management for MWB partner clients including Visit Jackson, HOPE, the Mississippi State Department of Health, Vision First Advisors, and the Mississippi Emergency Management Association. Props, Ray.

And the graduations keep coming. MWB president Tim Mask is now an alumni of Leadership
Mississippi, the second oldest statewide leadership program in the United States. Leadership Mississippi is a program administered by the Mississippi Economic Council. During the 2018 class, attendees visited Jackson, Tunica, the Gulf Coast, Columbus, and Oxford. For more information on the program, visit the MEC website.

MWB VP of PR Jana Bell has relaunched her legendary “Landmass” campaign on Instagram. If you don’t know the story, following the Weather Channel’s faux pas in 2006 referring to the Mississippi Gulf Coast as “the landmass” between Louisiana and Alabama. Jana’s Facebook campaign sold Landmass-related merch, raising several thousand dollars for the Salvation Army of Gulfport. Jana hopes to re-invigorate the Landmass Movement by re-starting the irreverent discussion of all things Mississippi Gulf Coast on Instagram. Check it out @thelandmass.

Classy. Classic.

To kick off the Holiday Season, we’ve launched the #MWBClassicCovers series. Our MWB talent re-creates classic vintage vinyl album covers from years past. In our initial outing, Tim MaskRay Harris, and Linzy Gressett pull off icon impressions of Lou Reed, Diana Ross, and Frank Sinatra, respectively. Stay tuned through 2019 as we roll through out talent pool paying tribute to the great crooners of the 20th century. (Sneak peak – vintage Stevie Nicks and Bob Dylan are on deck…)








Marketing, with IMPACT: Flashback Edition

We like to highlight projects that align with our company’s CreateForGood mantra. Here’s a great case study from our recent past that demonstrates how creativity can lead to positive impact:

Rise Up Mississippi: College Access
From 2005 – 2016, MWB developed and managed a college access outreach initiative for partner client the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. MWB developed a brand, Rise Up! Mississippi, and a sophisticated web portal that featured a number of interactive tools, including the first ever web-based state-specific database-driven scholarship finder. In addition to television and web advertising, MWB developed a reality-TV style multi-year web series called College Discovered, designed to give aspiring college students a view to what college is actually like, from the students’ point of view.

College Discovered was birthed from the realization that incoming college students had a totally different set of questions and preconceptions that had nothing to do with admissions and financial aid. They were curious about what, exactly, to expect from a college experience. We cast a group of incoming college students, each with a unique backstory, who were each going into different college situations. Some were transferring from community college. Others were traditional freshmen. Some came from challenging economic conditions. Others had been the BMOC in high school and were now facing an environment in which they were essentially another face in the crowd.

There’s really one key result that reflects the success of the Rise Up Mississippi initiative. In the original grant proposal, the main evaluation metric used to measure the campaign was how many individuals actually used the Rise Up Mississippi website. Upon the conclusion of funding for the effort, registered users for the web portal topped 212,000 individuals, far exceeding the original goal.

Click here to see more College Discovered


Walking the Walk

At MWB, we invest our own resources into powering initiatives that reflect our CreateForGood mantra. Here’s an update on some related projects.

Kids Code Mississippi

Randy Lynn, MWB partner, creative director, and co-founder of Kids Code Mississippi, was the subject of an interview for The MagPi, the UK-based magazine published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The article focused on efforts to promote and implement coding and computer science training for students and teachers across the state. Click the spread below to read the piece.


Tangents: These are Things worth checking out.

The Mississippi Light Collaborative is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) oriented organization that was responsible for the first ever Mississippi Light Festival in 2017. Since that time, the organization has launched a STEAM lab, an education program, and has been planning the next light festival for 2020.

The organization is also raising funds to help bring opportunities in programming, STEAM exhibitions, and enhancements in the STEAM Lab to benefit the creative youth of Mississippi’s capital city. If you’re interested in helping, please consider donating a little to this worthy cause. Click the image below to learn more.


From Around The Web: Our Obsessions

Education. Apparently, there’s something to this “good night’s sleep” thing. Also, teenagers might not actually be THAT lazy. A Seattle school district has experimented with starting its school day just a half hour later, and the results have been extremely encouraging. Test scores are up, absences are down, and students report feeling less stressed. Read more about it here, and follow us on Twitter at @MWB_ed.

Public Health. A new study released by the National Institutes of Health indicates that over exposure of screen time for kids may be even more mentally harmful that we all supposed. Check out results from the research here,  and follow @mwb_pubhealth.

Sports. Extreme Sports athlete (emphasis on “extreme”) Ross Edgley recently became the first person to ever swim AROUND the island of Britain. That’s 1,780 miles of non-stop water. It took him over five months, swimming up to 12 hours a day, and never touching dry land. Upon finishing the feat, his tongue was partially dissolved due to prolonged exposure to salt water, and he had to re-learn to walk. Take THAT, Aquaman.  Read more about Edgely’s crazy impressive feat here, and connect with us @MWB_sports.

Space. Awesome story. In March 2019 South Africa will launch the continent’s very first private satellite. The best part? It was designed by teenage school girls who were participating in a STEM bootcamp. Learn more here, and join us over at @MWB_cosmos.

See you next month, er, year!

MWB is an idea + creative content  company that focuses on creating positive impact in helping partners maximize their brands.


November 21st, 2016

Ad agencies know they’re getting it wrong, but not for the reason they think.

Saying “advertising” isn’t connecting with “consumers” is only a symptom. Thinking in terms of “advertising” and “consumers” is the underlying disease.


It was inevitable in a political season driven by marketing and positioning that post-election analysis would filter into the larger marketing/advertising industry. A recent article published in the WSJ discussed how ad agencies bemoaned the “disconnect” with Middle America. So much so that the CEO¬†of Leviathan agency network McCann Worldgroup convened a meeting of top brass to discuss the surprising election results.

“One takeaway for him and his staff was that too much advertising falsely assumes that all U.S. consumers desire to be like coastal elites.”

Ahhhhh. This sounds like exactly the conclusion that erudite coastal elites would arrive at…but it’s wrong and the reasoning behind it is wrong, as well. The article goes on to describe how ad agencies have taken the tact of “elevating” brand messaging to what they believe is impacting with these “coastal elites.” The supposed takeaway idea being that Middle America aspires to “be like Mike” has been exposed as an exploded system.¬†In other words, fly-over country doesn’t have the same value system as Atlantica and Pacifica. The 2016 POTUS election highlighted this and reactionary advertising agencies assume that their flaw has come from not connecting with these “values.”

No. NO. NO. 


Have many ad agencies become disconnected from the people they are trying to reach? Yup. Does it have anything to do with some formula that balances coastal elitism with red state values? Not by a long shot. In this case, the fault lies with the paradigm under which ad agencies/marketers continue to operate. The issue isn’t missing the mark on making a “connection” with people, but rather not appreciating how drastically the whole system itself has changed. Let’s say that you are a horse-and-buggy manufacturer circa 1910. You see sales decline. You learn that people are using the new fangled “horseless carriage” to go farther distances in less time, and seem to like this.¬†¬†The conclusion you then draw is to blame the decline on the fact that the horses being attached to your product aren’t of sufficient stamina to transport people as far as they¬†would like to go, as fast as they can. Your solution? Breed horses with more stamina. Or better yet, invest in breeding a new species of turbo-camel. This approach will then make your core business for creature-drawn buggies relevant again. Sounds ridiculous, yes? In this scenario, the truth was that there simply was no more market for animal-pulled carriages. It wasn’t a matter of not “connecting” with people’s wants or needs, it was the fact the entire paradigm that¬†the¬†business was built upon was changed to the point that it wasn’t really identifiable as an enterprise anymore.

Stick an engine in that carriage, or retire

The solution for this perceived problem of consumer disconnect is to “spend more time with consumers in their own habitats,” or to hire more talent hailing from Middle America and observe what they do. My first question is – when did ad agencies start taking lessons from Jane Goodall? Frankly, this approach, while patronizingly well intentioned,¬†is a fail. The reason that “advertisers” miss the mark with “consumers” is because they continue to think in terms of “advertising” and subsequent “consuming.”

At some point during the big bang that has littered the media universe with so many platforms, people became aware that they were viewed¬†as “consumers.” Prior to the bang, The BIG 3 TV networks and all the mass media iterations beforehand were basically marketing channels for products and services. Advertising drove content. Which was fine. People will take what they can get, and if I have to sit through six minutes of commercials to get 22 minutes of¬†Cheers, I’ll gladly do so. But the thing is, I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to subject myself to ADVERTISING, at least not in the traditional sense. I’m now in control of my own content. I can schedule my own content, I can¬†create¬†my own content…hell I can even¬†distribute my own content.

Now couple this with the shift that has occurred in the sentiment related to¬†goods and services. There are a couple of different macro-trends here that have been game changers. First, there’s a trend toward brands that have an underlying social purpose. From legacy social brands like¬†Tom’s Shoes and¬†Warby Parker, the landscape has extended to small companies learning how to do good and turn a profit, to larger corporations¬†leveraging their Corporate Responsibility initiatives for marketing purposes. To quote Frank the Tank from¬†Old School, EVERYBODY’S DOING IT.


The other macro-trend that has occurred is the quality of content available to the populace. Netflix, HBO, Amazon, etc., have been HIGHLY successful in developing and producing a real quality product that is not advertising-driven. With the high price of the cable network model, folks are perfectly OK paying relatively small subscription fees to access super high quality content, on-demand, and often without ads. And this isn’t just video, either. The same goes for music and some “print” content. As this trend proliferates, smaller non-media companies that have been primarily product driven have¬†gotten¬†into this¬†space (e.g. GoPro and RedBull). Apple did it way-back-when with the iTunes store.

So the lesson here is no big revelation at all. What matters is CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT. And increasingly the content no longer exists to house advertising pods. The content is standalone, and many marketers and agencies don’t treat it as such. That’s where the change has to be made. That’s the engine to stick in your horse carriage.

Middle America watches GoT, Westworld, The Crown, Mr. Robot, etc. 

The media habits of Middle America aren’t that different from the coasts. Content that is popular in Palo Alto is also popular in Peoria. Yes, there are some regional variations, but as a whole, we are fairly homogenous in the types of content we consume, and create. And “create” is an important component of this, because we all now have a platform that, from a technical standpoint, puts us equal to NBC, ABC, or CBS. The reach of those networks PALE in comparison to the number of people who use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Ad agencies and marketers should abandon the new found epiphany that they have to better connect with non-coastal non-elities. Good content is good content, period. Ad agencies and marketers should rather make efforts to be authors and distributers of this content, and do so in a way that doesn’t segregate brand messages from the underlying narrative. Yes, I’m talking¬†branded content. Marketers in general and ad agencies in specific have given lip service to branded content for a long time now. A handful have done it well (I mentioned RedBull, GoPro…Nike also falls in this category). Most, however, have viewed branded content in much the same way as the old :30 commercial paradigm – in that the content is separate and possibly secondary from “getting the advertising message out.”

That doesn’t fly anymore.

Forget “advertising.” Forget about trying to define your audience as “consumers” of your product or service. These are outdated concepts. The people want narrative, and increasingly interactive narrative. Soon this will evolve into immersive narrative. My advice? Start there, at narrative development. Then weave in brand messaging as it fits the story. You aren’t an ad agency anymore, you now have the opportunity to truly be a¬†creative shop…as in “creation.” You aren’t a marketer anymore, you a developer and producer of content into which your brand nicely fits.

No more connecting with “consumers” through “advertising.” That’s not just a lesson from election 2016. It’s the trend that we’ve all been lax to recognize and slow to adapt to. But those of us who are will be real winners.

September 13th, 2016

Top Three Tips for Fast Casual Startup


Chipotle: the smell of money
Panera bread: this classy dough is on the rise
imageLum’s: the collapse of an overextended wiener

Many a food lover/business owner has wanted to create an easily replicable food chain that becomes a well-loved cash cow. If you are looking to start your own, here are our TOP Three Tips for a Fast Casual Startup.

Tip #1. Be known for something.

This is master chef Gordon Ramsey’s basic Kitchen Nightmares‘ rule #2 (right behind “keep it clean”). It holds especially true in the Fast Casual startup market. You must be famous for one thing. Just one. You‚Äôve got to make the best “something.” Make that the fail-safe option for your customer to order. “If it’s your first time here, we really want you to try ‘this’. Because, once you try it, you‚Äôll be back again and again.” As a kid who grew up on the Florida coast, there was a Greek restaurant that ran a spot on the radio for years. At the end of the commercial, the owner said, in his heavy Mediterranean accent, “You no satisfied, I pick up the tab.” His voice cracked on the word “tab” sparking visions in the minds of the listeners of that drunken party of 20 deciding (nightly) they needed George to conveniently pick up their tab.

No voice cracking allowed! In Fast Casual, you say it like you mean it. Every time. Stand behind every aspect of your customer’s experience. This includes the ads, the social media, the signage, the parking lot, the greeting, the interior, the menu, the food, the staff, the restrooms, the pricing: all of it! Return business is your cash cow. Your business will thrive or die based on whether or not you can consistently gain (and grow) repeat business. So focus on your “one thing!” If you aren’t known for something delicious, to put it bluntly, your Fast Casual will not last.

Tip #2. Keep Your Menu Simple.

Both Five Guys and Chipotle have nailed this concept with mouth-watering results. Both of these fast casual titans follow Tip #1. They‚Äôve also mastered Tip #2. The only thing you should ever contemplate “adding more” of are customizable toppings for your clientele. If you add another entree, you must take off the one that is performing poorest. Too many fast casual startup restaurants have menu lists that exceed 50 or 100 items. Overwhelming your customers and your staff with too many menu items guarantees people feeling stupid, and trust me, people do not like to feel stupid.. Re-read Tip #1. Remember to keep it simple.

Tip #3. Grow Small and Steady.

According to investors The Motley Fool, the number one mistake made by many fast-casual brands is promising too much growth too quickly. This is based, in large part, on the Chipotle’s wildly successful rise to the top. After all, Steve Ells has a personal net worth of reportedly $200 million and ranks #48 on Forbes list of CEO Compensation. Yet, Ells has parents who, in 1993, could stake him $85K to start his first Chipotle in a college town. Furthermore, they gave him an additional $1.5 million in investment to continue company growth. Mr. Ells then partnered with McDonalds in 1998 who invested $360 million into the company, till it went public in 2006.

When you look at numbers like that, you quickly understand that the Chipotle growth-effect is a myth. Odds are, you did not go to the Culinary Institute. Most importantly, you do not have, nor can you hope to have, that kind of investor backing. Learn from Steve. Take copious notes. Eat at every Chipotle you pass. Learn from his mistakes, as well as from his successes. Thoroughly understand; however, that gaining his level of financial backing is like getting struck by lightning: twice. It happens, but this is such a rare phenomenon as to make it happening to you a virtual impossibility. Therefore, make realistic promises to yourself and your investors. Grow steady by growing small. This is where the magic happens, as you work out all the foibles of your Fast Casual startup and gain your following.


There is room for creating enduring Fast Casual Startups that meet the taste and sensibilities of today’s modern eater. Consider that Mediterranean or Asian food chains are still virtually untapped, especially here in the U.S. Dare I say, “Noodles: a potential fortune in one hot pot.”

Maris, West & Baker has been helping Fast Casual Restaurants succeed for nearly 20 years. Producing effective, award-winning concepts from start to finish, we’ve helped multiple local eateries expand their profit-driven footprint beyond their owners imaginations. We’d love to sit down and talk about your idea. Together, we can help your fast-casual startup grow.

About the author: Erica Robinson once worked as the pastry chef for a local Great Harvest Bread chain here in Mississippi. Her ninja skills with dough, and all things food, are the stuff of legends.

January 6th, 2015

Big wheel keep on turning

Yes it’s that time for the ubiquitous “look ahead” to what’s expected in 2015. Actually, I read a great article from Fast Company Create that was a list of prognostications from brand managers and creative types. Letting author Jeff Beer do the heavy lifting, we’ll comment on excerpts from his well-done piece. Read the full article on Co.Create.

What are the things (technological, societal, media-related, economic, or otherwise) that will most impact the work you’ll be doing next year?

Tor Myhren, worldwide chief creative officer, Grey: Our industry’s obsession with celebrities became massive this year, and I see this as an even bigger trend next year. Leader brands are using them to flex their dominance, challenger brands are using them as a shortcut to quick buzz, and everyone is using their social media tentacles as a cheaper media channel. I have never seen our industry lean more on celebrity, both as “the idea” and as a media outlet, than we did in 2014. Of course this simply mimics what’s happening in society as a whole. We are and forever will be a culture that cannot take our eyes off the stars. Micro-celebrities (like YouTube celebs) will continue to grow and become a more central part of media and partnership strategies.

I couldn’t agree with Tor more. Especially in regard to the “YouTube celebrity” phenomenon. Back in late 2013 MWB ran with a series of faux YouTube celeb shows as part of our youth tobacco prevention campaign (check out the exploits of Trip and Trey, Coach D-Blast, and Masterdaters here.) I actually believe you’ll see more marketing campaigns creating their own faux celebs on YouTube and other social media channels. It is an uphill battle to push product or even brand attributes via social media simply because it consists of platforms built for personal interaction, not passive messaging. Personifying messages solves that. It’s the evolution of the “spokesperson.” Used to celebrities were hired to be spokespeople because of their celebrity. Today, being a spokesperson actually generates the celebrity. This is a trend on the upswing.

Ben Priest, founding partner and executive creative director, adam&eveDDB London: The only real challenge facing us every year is finding great people. That never changes. 2015 will be no different. Great talent is a rare thing but when you find it your business hits fast forward.

I SWEAR there was no collusion between us and Mr. Priest on this quote. The “Fast Forward Mississippi” initiative is designed to address this very challenge for Mississippi on a statewide level. This is certainly true for creative firms such as ours – we want to find the best, most innovative folks we can and retain them. It’s also true for most other industries in an age in which we are moving into a full fledged global knowledge economy. Sorry for the tangent, but this issue is something in which Maris, West & Baker is deeply involved and I found it interesting that it came up in this article.

Adrian Belina, partner and creative director, Jam3: As people’s interest in Facebook continues to fade we will see fewer requests from brands to do campaigns and apps that reside within Facebook. In the last year, we’ve definitely seen a return to the microsite format, especially for digital campaigns, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of it as brands continue to use Facebook as a conversation tool rather than as their main platform.

I totally agree with Ms. Belina. I never believed that Facebook should be an anchor platform. It’s a great conversation tool, buzz generator, and can be useful for PR, but not as the “home” of a brand. There are actually other social media platforms that are better suited for such if that’s the route you take, particularly tumblr. I’m not sure I’m on board with the idea of microsite, though. At least not in the traditional sense. They can be really cool, but you risk having a dilutive effect (depending on the product/service). Not to mention being a management headache. To accomplish the effect of a microsite, I’d recommend a technology overlay such as Get Smart Content. (I’ve also learned that “dilutive” is apparently not currently a word…. so now I own it Dilutive‚Ñ¢.) We actually penned an article about this very topic here way back in February of 2013 titled “Clearing the Digital Kudzu.”

Jon Jackson, global creative director, Huge: People don’t have as much room for b*llsh*t in their lives anymore. With social and political issues top-of-mind for so many right now, we’ll need to employ a greater sense of empathy and understanding in everything we do. Companies that are honest with people and really trying to make their users’ lives a bit better are the ones that will do best. The work we execute next year will be focused on braver ideas, honesty, and empowering people with a little more control over their lives.

Mr. Jackson, I hope you are correct. I do believe there is movement in corporate America toward more of a Tom’s Shoes-esque model. Time will tell how genuine these efforts are, and how genuine consumers perceive them to be. I can foresee a rise in the prominence of “Benefit Corporations” in the global business landscape. The big question will be, if everyone and their brother starts making this empathy aspect part of their brand DNA, how special will it really be? Brands spent the better part of a century convincing everyone that “the customer is king.” A shift to “the greater good” may be the right thing to do, but those who do such at the expense of their consumer experience will likely become non-profit companies (and not in a good way). On a related note:

John Patroulis, chief creative officer, BBH NY: How a company behaves in the world is becoming increasingly important, which is a wonderful thing. Wonderful for the kinds of ideas we can create and the kinds of behavior we can inspire. In a world of perfect information, the activities, values, and stances you take really matter, and affect the health of your business whether you like it or not. A nice side benefit just happens to be happier, more inspired employees, customers, and planet. Using our strategic and creative muscle to help a company find its soul, its authentic space of good, ­and creatively express that in actions as well as communications (or, when done right, actions that are themselves communications) will be an important focus, along with everything else we do with them.

That’s a great point about happier employees, Mr. Patroulis. Many times the “customer is king” model was at the expense of the employees. Remember, that’s how Brad Hamilton (Judd Reinhold) got fired in Fast Times? Dennis Taylor was a total jerk.

Linda Boff, global executive director of brand marketing, General Electric: Virtual reality! We‚Äôre fascinated by the limitlessness of it and began creating content for Oculus Rift this year. It’s a great storytelling platform, particularly for GE, because it gives us another incredible way to show how our big machines perform in extreme conditions. We can take someone on a journey to the sea floor or into the human brain.

We’re also paying a lot of attention to connected TVs and thinking about how brands can play with original content. We love that media is becoming more ephemeral through platforms like SnapChat, Yo and Yik Yak, and at the same time, more long form with platforms like Medium.

Data is also going to have an impact on what we do next year. With data, you enable things, and there’s an opportunity for GE to tell stories with smart light bulbs or thermostats as media.


Not sure how compelling stories via light bulbs and thermostats will be, but the potential for wearables such as Oculus Rift is exciting. This from a guy who had his first experience with Google Glass late last year, and totally geeked out over it. The issue will be how well these items integrate into our everyday lives. They may never become as ubiquitous as some prognosticators claim, but then again after growing up watching Zack Morris talk on a brick, who would have thought I’d turn around and go back home just because I left my iPhone!

Those interviewed in Mr. Beer’s article go on to talk about how they are increasingly thinking through branding and consumer touch points at the holistic level. I think this is always the way we need to approach marketing. In an age when message delivery systems are literally customizable down to a person, we tend to let the media platform do the heavy lifting. We have to keep in mind that the media channel is an end to a means. It is FedEx. What is really important is what is in the package when it arrives. Content is and always will be, king.

Full credit of all content in quote blocks above to Jeff Beer and Fast Company creative. I encourage you to read the entire article.

stonehengeAs for Tim Mask predictions of what tactical marketing trends we’ll see congeal in 2015 – I think we’ll begin to see more executions created specifically for aerial¬† drones. Marketing messages for people looking down from above isn’t new. Messages have been painted on the rooftops of barns and big buildings for years. According to Erich von Daniken and Paranoid Rob Lowe, mankind has actually been messaging to flying audiences for centuries. Arial photography and video have traditionally been rare and purpose-specific. As we see camera-ready drones become more affordable and content taken from the air becomes more ubiquitous, it won’t be long before advertisers see the opportunity for product placement. It won’t surprise me a bit if we see a handful of novel ad campaigns this year that are only discoverable from the air. Remember, when it happens, you heard it here.

I suspect 2015 will also see a profusion of viral social-media based “challenges.” The Ice Bucket Challenge was brilliant. There have already been numerous copycats and I suspect more are on the way. Nothing wrong with that. It will be interesting to see what news twists can be incorporated into the concept, though. We may even do a little something for Kids Code Mississippi (… that was a teaser if you didn’t notice… stay tuned).

So we ask the millions of readers of the MWB blog, what are your predictions for 2015?

August 6th, 2014

Why market when you don’t have to?: Talent Recruitment

Head Hunter - RecruiterThroughout my career I have run across corporations who are the market leader in their industry, have products that have the bulk of the market share, and/or have no viable direct competition. In many instances, their attitude toward marketing is summed up in a simple phrase:

Don’t need it.

Ad agencies have a ready answer for this. Usually involves a metaphor using Coca Cola or Budweiser… market share leaders with insanely high brand awareness who among the world’s biggest advertisers. “That’s how they maintain their market share,” we say. And there is some truth to this. A truly consumer facing brand like a Coke or Bud must maintain awareness levels or their market share will slip. However, this example isn’t as applicable to more specialized products in narrow verticals or B2B spaces. So do we have to bite the bullet and admit that such companies really don’t need marketing?

Nope. Marketing and brand development is just as important. It is not that marketing is not needed, but rather that the objective of the marketing is different. The objective is talent recruitment and retention.

Brands are built by companies, but companies are built by people. To have a great company, you need to attract great people. The way to attract great people is increasingly reliant on a company’s culture. Company culture is best reflected in a brand. To keep your talent pool stocked and growing, you do, in fact, have to market your brand. Google and Facebook at far and away the market leaders in what they offer. They don’t really have to advertise their product offerings. Rather they are marketing their company cultures. It’s no accident that Google and Facebook are consistently ranked among the top places to work in the world, and the target of every other computer genius coming out of college. These people – the best at what they do – in turn feed back into growing the companies.

So in actuality HR and PR aren’t – or shouldn’t be – that different.

I think most corporate leaders don’t correlate talent recruitment to marketing because of the highly segmented nature of business organization. For years companies have been divided into divisions and departments, each with its specific function, goals, and processes. In the 21st century economy, the companies who are rising to the top seem to be those who replace departments with initiatives – placing the emphasis more so on the end result as opposed to the process that gets one there. Under the old convention, advertising was strictly to help sell products and services. Under the new model, advertising is an important component of communicating who a company is, and what it represents. This has a direct impact on the type of employees a company is able to recruit.

So Mr./Ms. Market Share Leader, in respect to advertising,

You do need it.

It just might not be for the reason you think.


July 29th, 2014

Fast-casual restaurants, mobile media and taking over the world

Close up of hands woman using her cell phone in restaurant

One of the keys to maintaining a successful fast casual restaurant is being highly accessible to your customers. That means being accessible for website visitors, not just those “real world” visitors. Yet surprisingly, considering the massive popularity of smartphones, many restaurants don’t have a mobile-friendly website. Consider this:


Consumers use their smartphones and tablets to search for restaurants more than any other industry, according to a 2013 survey from the research firm¬†Chadwick Martin Bailey. But restaurant websites can be a major barrier‚Äî62% of those customers are less likely to choose a restaurant if they can’t read the menu with their mobile device.


Additionally, mobile web searches for restaurants have a conversion rate of nearly 90 percent, with 60% of those searches converting to sales within one hour of their search. In other words, people using their phones and tablets to find dining options are ready, hungry and willing.


There are three immediate advantages you gain by investing in a mobile-friendly site:

1) Better user experience ‚Äì Other than your unique food or customer service, customers are always looking for a better experience. It’s no different with your mobile site. Features such as responsive design, click-to-call buttons and location-aware mapping will make your website much easier to use. Mobile-responsive websites automatically resize elements, such as text and images, to display correctly on the smaller screens of mobile devices. You can even rearrange and prioritize web elements to showcase content specifically tailored to mobile visitors, such as limited-time offers and seasonal menus.


2) Greater engagement ‚Äì When you get a new customer walking through your doors, you want them all warm and fuzzy so that they come back soon. Your mobile site needs to do the same thing. If it’s difficult to navigate and read using a smartphone, many visitors will simply move on to someone else. No more warm and fuzzy. Just disgruntled. And changing a bad opinion is a lot harder than starting off with a good one.


3) Improved search engine performance ‚Äì Ever been in a situation that you couldn’t get out of fast enough? Bad date? Wrong turn into a seedy neighborhood? Gas station sushi? These are the bounce rates of everyday life. Bounce rates happen by visitors hitting your website and quickly exiting without going to a second page. Search engines penalize websites with high bounce rates. Slow load time (common with non-optimized websites) is also a factor in bounce rates. If you correct these issues, your position should improve. You can also take it a step further by adding social sharing buttons to gain traffic from social networks. After all, mobile users spend more time on Facebook and other social networks than they do on search engines.


4) Perfectly suited for LTOs ‚Äì I ate kale once. It was disgusting. But it is different and gaining popularity, which is why¬†you will see an LTO for it some time in the near future. When your restaurant takes the next¬†leap of faith on a new idea, you need something that gets your message out to the greatest number of people in the quickest way. Like I said earlier, if you don’t have your menu on a mobile site, you have a 62% chance of losing that customer.¬†Your mobile site, coupled with social media platforms, is the most efficient way to get that word out. So when you‚Äôre ready to promote your kale salad with the tagline “Kale Yeah!”, think mobile first.


The key to designing a great mobile website is providing the kind of information people on the go want most—your hours of operation, menu (avoid PDF files which are not mobile-friendly), phone number (click-to-call is ideal) and your address. It is also preferable to give your customers the option to order online.


Mobile websites serve as a great platform for limited time offers and loyalty clubs to entice new customers, as well as a way to retain existing ones. Using special deals and promotions that are only available on mobile devices is a method that is not only effective but also trackable.


Share your comments with us. How has your mobile website impacted your restaurant business?



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January 27th, 2014

MWB Launches Digital Magazine

We’ve launched a new digital magazine focusing on creativity and innovation in the world of marketing. MWB staff Tim Mask, Randy Lynn, and Marc Leffler are the magazine’s primary content wranglers. The magazine is created via a platform allowing for optimized viewing via tablet or smart phone. New editions will be available every 7 – 10 days, and will chronicle the innovation happens that make advertising one of the world’s most rapidly evolving industries. The publication, called INNOVATIONS is available by subscription or can be viewed by clicking here. MWB’s Twitter feed will also note when a new issue has been posted. We all hope you enjoy!

August 20th, 2013

Cannibalism, Dystopia and Product Marketing

The year is 2022. The earth is overpopulated. The skies are polluted, the oceans are dying, and food is desperately scarce. For most people, daily sustenance is provided by an affordable plankton-based food called Soylent Green. But there’s a problem. (Spoiler alert!) You see, Soylent Green is people. It’s manufactured using one of the few sources of protein left on our hopeless planet ‚Ä쬆dead human bodies.

That’s the premise behind the 1973 movie, Soylent Green. The movie isn’t remembered for its great storytelling, acting or cinematography. Instead, it’s Charleton Heston’s melodramatic shout, “Soylent Green is people!” That famous line was ranked as one of the American Film Institute’s 100 top movie quotes. It was even spoofed by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live back in 1993.

The topics of human cannibalism, dystopian science fiction and marketing don’t often intersect. That’s why I was intrigued to come across a Kickstarter campaign for a meal-replacement drink named, you guessed it, Soylent.

100% People-Free Soylent

100% People-Free Soylent


Soylent was conceived by a 24-year old engineer, Rob Rhinehart, from San Francisco. He wanted to create a low-cost alternative to traditional food that would eliminate the time, effort and drudgery of shopping for food, eating and cleaning up. Of course, the product, if widely adopted, would benefit the planet as well. Less food waste. No kitchen fires. No factory farming. The obesity problem solved. The end of global hunger and malnourishment.

I can only imagine what I would have said if Rhinehart had come to me for advice:

Rhinehart: I have this new product I want to market. It’s called Soylent.

Me: You mean like Soylent Green? But Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: Yes, I know. But my Soylent is 100% human-free. Actually, it’s totally meat-free. And, anyway, I named the product after the book, not the movie.

Me: Yes, but Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: I’ve been testing the formula on myself, and I plan to get FDA approval soon.

Me: Soylent Green is people!

Rhinehart: I’ve eaten nothing but Soylent for the past 60 days, and I feel great.

Me: It’s people! People! Peeeeople!

So how has Rhinehart’s Kickstarter campaign been going?

In less than 30 days, Soylent achieved its goal of raising $100,000. Currently, they have more than $1 million in funding from more than 10,000 Kickstarter backers. The Washington Post, The Economist, The Telegraph and Business Week have all covered the story.

So much for conventional wisdom.

That’s the frustrating thing about marketing. It’s never easy to predict the collective behavior of people. Something that sounds ridiculous to you can make perfect sense to a particular audience of people that thinks differently. And, when you‚Äôre pitching your product directly to the crowd, rather than through typical mass media channels, boldness often trumps prudence.

If Rob Rhinehart had gone to a product naming company, he would have probably come out of the process with a name like Inspiralite or Nutriyum or Vitaquaff. Not Soylent. Because, Rule #1, you NEVER EVER associate your product name with negative imagery. Like, um, cannibalism.

But in this case, it’s very likely that Rob’s quirky product name is responsible, to a large extent, for his success to date. For the news media, a name like Soylent has a ready-made hook. The story practically writes itself. Publicity is a no-brainer.

With that awareness they’ve gained, Rhinehart and his crew have an opportunity to pitch their product directly to people concerned about issues like hunger, sustainability, obesity, animal rights and so on. With Soylent, these same people can invest just $65 and maybe, just maybe, help alleviate those problems in some small way. Well, that’s the promise, anyway.

Some questions: Now that their startup capital is secure, will Soylent be successful as a commercial product? Will Rob and his team stick with their product name or opt for something without the negative connotations? Will we all forgo breakfast, lunch and dinner and drink Soylent instead so that we never face the grim future portrayed in the movie, Soylent Green?

I won’t even try to guess.

July 18th, 2013

Brand Rejuvenation: Getting Your Mojo Back & Working

My colleague Tim Mask had¬†posted an article a few days ago¬†about not allowing negative circumstances to overpower your brand. Based on my experience, I wanted to offer my take on this idea. Before coming to¬†Maris, West & Baker¬†over a year ago, I held positions in project management and marketing for many years at the storied wireless communications company SkyTel. For any of you not familiar with the company, SkyTel was founded in Mississippi in 1988 and became the worldwide leader in two-way paging (yes, back when paging was ‘cool’). Thinking about it now, the company basically invented commercial wireless communication, which takes us right to the age we live in today. (more…)

May 10th, 2012

Clarion Ledger – Battling Teen Pregnancy: The Right Plan is Key

MWB’s Tim Mask wrote an opinion piece for the Clarion Ledger regarding Mississippi’s initiative to reduce teen pregnancy rates. The text follows:

Addressing teenage pregnancy is the key to Mississippi’s social and economic future. But to be successful, it must be done right. (more…)