The MadAveGroup Blog
Scott Greggory, Chief Creative Officer
Exercising creativity in one form often inspires creativity in other forms. That's one of the reasons for the MadAveGroup Art Show.
On Valentine's Day 2020, we opened our first in-house display of employee artwork, complete with wine and cheese. Many of the pieces are shown below.
"While none of us make our living as fine artists, many of our team members work as visual communicators," said Chief Creative Officer Scott Greggory. "Others have an art background or have just wanted to experiment with painting. This is a nice opportunity to stretch a little bit and practice a different skill set."
The ongoing Art Show is open to all members of the MadAveGroup team. We hope to show new work every three to four months.
MadAveGroup was chosen as a Top Workplace based on responses to an employee survey conducted by Energage. They study successful organizations and apply the findings to their Intentional Culture Platform to help other companies improve.
And culture is a subject that MadAveGroup founder and CEO Jerry Brown takes seriously. “Most of us spend more time with our workmates than we do with our families,” he said. “So, it’s imperative that we do all we can to make sure that time is enjoyable and rewarding.”
One of the aspects of MadAveGroup’s culture that many staff members enjoy is the openness and authenticity. “It’s honest and direct, and yes, it’s politically incorrect sometimes,” said Brown, “but everyone is free to express themselves without having to worry about the consequences of offending someone.”
We also earned one of seven special awards. We were singled out for "Superior Appreciation" since so many of our team members wrote that they feel appreciated at work.
According to the Energage website, “Creating a top workplace is about more than offering great benefits and vacation time. It’s about organizational health. Employees want to align with the company’s vision, be challenged by a high-performance culture, and feel that they are valued and that their voices are heard.”
“At MadAveGroup, our employees come first, their family comes second, and work comes third,” said Brown. “We also work to ensure that people are in the right roles by matching both their technical skill sets and personality propensities with their job.”
Brown also stressed that “we train heavily, provide the tools and direction, and then give our people the freedom to do the work as they see fit.”
And while we work hard, we play hard, too. MadAveGroup employees can take advantage of the annual President’s Club vacation, our in-house Social Club, and many events, including the MadAveGroup Olympics, quarterly fitness days, the Downtown Toledo scavenger hunt, the Chili Cook-Off and others.
Roiann Gunnells died Monday, January 20th.
She was our Fulfillment Coordinator from the fall of 2013 until December 2019 when cancer started to get the best of her.
“When I would make client calls, Roiann would sit next to me and ask if I needed anything,” remembered Courtney Buczkowski, our Service and Production Coordinator. “Or she would tell me to give her some of my work to do because she wanted to help me out. She didn’t ask if she could help; she told me she was going to.”
That's how Roiann was. “She always put aside what she was doing if anyone needed a hand,” said BusinessVoice Director Steve Evert. “Roiann was always a team player and willing to help anywhere she could, even while she was sick,” said Accounting Associate Cheri Stewart.
Roiann struggled with her illness for several years, yet her sass and resilience still came shining through. “Once I told Roiann I was having a bad day,” recalled Cheri. “She looked at me and, in her typical Roiann tone, said 'just because you're having a bad day doesn’t mean it's okay to be a jerk to people.' It was the best advice I ever got, and now I smile more every day because of her.”
Nikki Brown is the Director of the MadAveCollective. She knew Roiann long before they worked together at MadAveGroup. “After 20 years of friendship, I have more than a few stories about her. I'll miss hearing her answer the front desk phone and helping callers who just couldn’t get her name right. I’d hear her say, 'It's Roiann. ROI-ANN. No, ROOOIIIII-ANNN.' That always cracked me up.”
“Roiann would bring me lunch sometimes,” said Courtney. “She'd bring in meatloaf when she made it at home because she knew it's my favorite. And hers was the best. I also made her write down her sloppy Joe recipe. I still keep it in my wallet.”
“She always wanted the work done right,” said Fulfillment Manager Susan Harris, yet “I'll miss her laugh and her sarcastic sense of humor the most.”
“She was outgoing; always the life of the party,” according to Cheri.
Courtney said, “Roiann would sing along with the songs that came on the overhead [music system], especially 'Diamonds' by Rhianna. She would sing it obnoxiously, and then we'd just 'shine bright like a diamond' for the rest of the day. Oh, and whenever 'You Raise Me Up' by Josh Groban played she would intercom Jess down the hall and let her know it was on. She knew Jess doesn't like the song, so Roiann called her just to kind of torture her about it. She thought it was funny.” (It was.)
“I'll miss our daily lunch conversations, her hugs after work, and the light that beamed from her beautiful soul,” said Cheri. “I loved her so much.”
“I could go on and on about her, but I think my eyes may float out of my head,” said Courtney. “I miss her already.”
Roiann was just 48 years old.
Portions of a video we produced for Toledo Public Schools have been incorporated into another video that's part of the Robert F. Kennedy / Discovery Education compilation called "Speak Truth To Power - Master Class Series."
"TPS asked us to create a documentary about the Ohio Teacher of the Year, Mona Al Hayani," said Michael Seay, Director of our branding, advertising and design agency d2i. "Mona is also part of the RFK Human Rights group. She was honored by the organization for her focus on human trafficking after she created a curriculum on the subject to educate both teachers and students."
Click here to access the RFK video. After a quick scroll, look for the title "Speak Truth to Power's Cross-Curricular Ties" and click "View Video."
It’s the season of gift-giving, but we have a client that gives gifts nearly every day of the year.
Grand Home Furnishings is a 19-store furniture and mattress retailer with locations in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Since 1953, they’ve given a free 8-ounce glass bottle of Coke to everyone who walks through their doors.
It started as a nice gesture; a way to thank people for coming to the opening of their new location. But the gift was so well-received by the thousands of people who stopped in that first weekend that management decided to hand out free Coke every day at every store.
Now, Grand Home Furnishings gives away more than 1,300,000 bottles each year!
You might think that represents a huge expense, but the people at Grand Home Furnishings don’t. To them it’s a worthwhile investment.
- It’s a tangible way to say “welcome.”
- It’s the daily perpetuation of a charming seven-decade tradition.
- It’s an easy way to put a smile on a visitor’s face and maybe even begin a long-term relationship.
- It’s a unique branding tool that helps the company stand out, not just among their direct competitors, but among all stores in the markets they serve.
And if those positives lead to a sale - or many sales over the years - then the modest cost per bottle is a small price to pay for the acquisition of a customer.
Here’s what Grand’s founder George Cartledge, Sr. said about the ongoing giveaway. "Let me emphasize how important it is to give out Cokes with enthusiasm and a smile. Don't ask customers if they want a Coke; greet them and hand them a Coke when they walk in. It puts them at ease. Our image has been created by the Cokes we give away.”
Mr. Cartledge continued, “Remember, when a customer walks in our door, they are doing us a favor and we should treat them special. Of all the things we do, handing out Cokes is one of the most important. It is the best advertising we can get."
“It's no different than when someone comes into your home,” said Grand’s Director of Advertising, Mike Virok. “You offer them something to drink.”
In the spirit of appreciation, what can you give to the people who come to your store or visit you online?
Sure, you could hand out promotional items that relate to your main service. Or you might partner with a neighboring or complementary company to promote their brand by sharing samples of their products with your customers while they do the same for you.
You don’t need to give a physical item, though. Could you provide easy, free access to your new research on every page of your website? Maybe a no-charge review, check-up or audit? Or are you willing to offer a commitment as human and meaningful as eye contact, a handshake, and your undivided attention?
My series of posts featuring answers to questions posed by the Forbes Agency Council continues. The theme of this article: brand.
Question: A big part of growing your personal brand includes public speaking. In your experience, what’s one important element that all professionals should incorporate into their speech to make it more memorable and impactful?
Answer: If one of your goals is to build your personal brand, you'll want audience members to look for more of your thoughts after your speech, and then follow you online. So, pack your presentations with engaging content, but keep them shorter, so they feel like just a taste of what you have to offer. That can encourage people to actively seek more of your unique perspective.
Question: Just because a brand isn’t involved with a public-facing crisis doesn’t mean times aren’t tough. What’s one way for a brand to seem authentic even when the company isn’t doing particularly well?
Answer: The best way to "seem" authentic is to BE authentic. When you're always truthful and transparent, you never have to worry about coming clean if something goes wrong. If the things your brand "says" and "does" are legitimate representations of who you are as people, you're acknowledging that "we aren't for everyone," but those who identify with your message are likely to stick by you as customers.
Question: Recent grads are beginning to develop their personal brand to differentiate themselves in the competitive workforce. What’s your top tip for personal branding?
Answer: The part about a personal brand that really matters is the "personal" part. There's only one you, so don't squelch whatever passions burn inside of you. Pursue the work that matters to you, while presenting yourself in your own unique way. You may not be right for everybody, but you're going to be perfect for somebody. Maybe a lot of somebodies. And that's likely where you'll find fulfillment.
I have an opportunity each month to answer marketing-related questions for the Forbes Agency Council. Thoughts from council members are then published at Forbes.com. This blog post is the fifth in a series featuring a few of my responses to those Forbes questions. The theme: Content Creation.
Question: It's one of the top goals of any company's marketing campaign - a strong, unique voice that unmistakably belongs to and reflects their brand and puts them top of mind with consumers. What's one way companies can create and cultivate a strong voice for their brand?
Answer: A brand's message can get watered down with marketing-speak or when trying to appeal to everyone or offend no one. If there's a leader in your company who talks in a bold, no-nonsense way about your mission and your customers, pattern your marketing content after his or her communication style. It'll likely be perceived as unique because it's so personal. It'll also ring true with your audience.
Question: Whether it's topic, venue, voice or other factors, what's your best tip for writing content that will have a long shelf life?
Answer: Yes, hot topics can attract lots of eyeballs immediately, but they can also quickly fade in relevance. If you've been doing what you do for many years, you've likely learned many valuable lessons along the way. They may be simple, foundational truths that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. As blog posts, those truths can serve both your current audience and future readers.
Question: User-generated content in the form of reviews can be one of the most powerful and effective marketing tools, but it can be hard to get happy customers to take the time to write it. What's one clever method a business can use to persuade customers to post a review?
Answer: We've worked with clients who seem almost embarrassed to ask for reviews. But when consumers are excited about a buying experience, they often want to share their opinions. So, encourage that. When someone is happy at the point of sale, ask them to share their feelings on social, a review site or with an email. Everyone wants to feel like their thoughts matter. Let your customers know theirs do.
Question: A blog can position a company or brand as an industry leader and attractive potential business partner. What's one piece of advice your client should adhere to when launching a blog to highlight their brand?
Answer: Your blog doesn't have to be about your brand directly in order to benefit your brand. If your posts are just thinly veiled ads for your company, no one will read them. So, tell stories about your customers and industry, your personal experiences, even odd topics that support your brand story. The goal of your blog should be to provide your readers with valuable insight and a unique perspective.
I’m not a runner. Never have been. But for the hour that I watched last weekend’s 2019 Chicago Marathon from the streets of my daughter’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, I was completely drawn into the event.
I’d never seen anything like it: an endless stream of determined people running through a chilly Sunday morning. And most seemed in remarkably good spirits at mile 10. (I'm drained and cranky after driving ten miles.)
Later, I learned that more than 45,000 people ran the race and that 1.7 million spectators lined the route to cheer them on.
It was truly inspiring. The marathoners. Their friends and family who turned out in support. The planning and cooperation and logistics of it all. I was in awe.
And yet, I had to laugh when I saw several young women holding signs that ran counter to the many messages of encouragement. One of the signs simply asked, “Why?”
“Why?” is a funny question when posed to long-distance runners, but it also made me wonder: why would a person - let alone 45,000 people - put themselves through the tremendous struggle of running a marathon?
As a non-runner, I may be going out on a limb, but I’ll suggest the “why” is at least partly about a story. Or maybe several stories.
It might be a story about other people: I’m running for my sick mom. I do it to feel closer to my late friend who was a lifelong runner. I run to raise money for people who can’t run.
It might be the story the runners tell themselves: I can do this. I can beat this. I am strong enough.
Or running marathons may be one way they define themselves: I am an athlete. I conquer obstacles. I don’t stop until the race - literal or figurative - is won.
Whether you run or not, you can likely identify with some of those feelings. Your career or your business has had to endure challenges and uphill battles, or times when you wanted to quit or thought you couldn’t make it. Maybe you even wondered “why am I doing this?”
How did you get through?
The answer to that question is a story you can tell.
In your marketing content, share what you learned about yourself or your company during those tough times. How did adversity make you lean or hone your team’s skills or help you evolve into a better partner?
In what ways did pushing through the pain give you unique insight or change your perspective?
And how can you present your story in a way that inspires your audience and allows them to appreciate you and your efforts on an entirely different level?
(Photo Credit: Top image from ChicagoMarathon.com)
The list of the 2019 MarCom Award winners includes national brands like Nationwide, AARP, Cisco, Dell, Fender and Morgan Stanley. And once again, MadAveGroup is on that list, too.
Platinum Award: Lakeland Auto & Marine - “Previously”
Platinum Award: Binkelman - “Time Stands Still”
Gold Award: Binkelman - “All Roads”
Honorable Mention: Med-Line - HIPPA-tastic”
On its website, the MarCom Awards is described as “an international creative competition that recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals. Entries come from corporate marketing and communication departments, advertising agencies, public relations firms, design shops, production companies and freelancers.”
Entrants range from individual communicators to media conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies, and come from throughout the United States, Canada and dozens of other countries.
MarCom Award judges reward those entries that “exceed a high standard of excellence and serve as a benchmark for the industry.”
In April 2019, our CEO Jerry Brown proposed five challenges to our staff. They were encouragements on how to approach not only our work, but our lives.
Jerry urged us to be:
Curious - Inquisitive and eager to learn.
Dauntless - Fearless, bold and not easily intimidated.
Diagnostic - Willing to analyze the cause of a problem, then provide a solution.
Persistent - Capable of carrying on, especially in the face of opposition and obstacles.
Resilient - Able to recover from adversity.
To reinforce those challenges for our team, we produced a series of 20 posters featuring quotes that support the five ideas. We hang a new set of posters every couple of weeks. You can see a few of them below.
What are some of the ways you communicate important philosophies or strategies to your employees? How do you promote teamwork or new ideas? Read a few thoughts in our article “Internal Communication: Your Team is an Audience.”