President and Chief Creative Officer,
Smith & Jones
A co-founder and President at Smith & Jones, one of Newfangleds Agency Partners, Marks chief thinking responsibilities include translating insight into strategic and creative direction, and ensuring that all brand communications reinforce their clients’ upmarket brand positions.
CB: What fascinates you about the web?
MS: In the olden days, when I wanted to know something new about anything, I would have to go find a reference source: the library, the phone book, the newspaper, magazines, look under a rock, etc. When I wanted access to some obscure piece of media, I usually couldnt find it – or if I could, not without significant effort. Now, I can look up just about anything with a simple search. I can cross-check multiple sources to assure validity. I can find people, places, contact info. I can watch film footage of Traffic performing Mr. Fantasy and Genesis performing Suppers Ready.
But what fascinates me most is how small the world really is: when I do searches, Im often bumping into colleagues, old friends and people I admire. In life, the connections are close but often invisible. On the web, the six degrees of separation is transparent.
A great, recent example: I am in the process of recruiting an executive assistant. After the initial telephone screenings, I had narrowed it down to one candidate. There was another candidate that top-graded, but I ruled her out because her interests and level of experience didnt seem perfect for my needs. The day after I telephone screened her, I went out to grab a bite to eat and ended up at a restaurant that I wrote about in my blog. As I was standing there deciding what to order, I saw a familiar name on all of the hand written menus: The Jane Doe Special. Turns out a friend of hers reads my blog and told her that I wrote about the restaurant in a post. They went to the owner and convinced him to put her name on all of the menus, to keep her top of mind in my selection process. I ended up calling her in for in-depth interviews and it looks like she will get the offer. That would have been so much harder for her to pull off before the web, and I would not likely have been able to appreciate her ingenuity because it would have been harder to figure out how she connected the dots. This is a beautiful thing.
CB: Do you have a blog? If so, what makes your blog unique?
MS: Currently, I have two blogs – one business and one personal. Brand Spanking News, my business blog, is a free form stream of thought discussion about the little things that impact a brands position, from the consumers point of view. In many posts, I share my personal experiences and random thoughts and discuss how they form brand associations for me as a consumer. When Im particularly busy and not experiencing, I share what I am reading and my take on it. Paddle Me Here, my personal blog, is a work in progress. Im an avid kayaker and I find it difficult to find good information on where to paddle. Im sure Im not alone, so I am in the process of documenting all of the places I have been and am going so that others can find them more easily.
CB: What technology has had the greatest impact on how you do your job?
MS: Im not quite sure: either FedEx or the fax machine. Before both of these, there was much more time to think and craft. Today, thinking is a luxury that few have time for, and crafting is something most people do in their spare time or after they retire. I still do both, but it is far more of a challenge to find the time.
CB: What makes you uniquely suited to your role at Smith and Jones?
MS: For someone with as big of an ego as mine, Im pretty humble (I know that statement contradicts itself, but its true). Im not afraid to learn, to admit my mistakes and to change. I look to the people that I work with for guidance and input, but Im not afraid to make the final decision. Im enthusiastic, but Im also realistic. Im creative, but I want to see the ROI. When a client trusts us with their brand, I take that trust very seriously. I may, on occasion, beat the proverbial dead horse, but then I move on. No one dies here and everyone is given a chance to make magic happen.
CB: What makes your company a cut above its competitors?
MS: Thats a secret only paying clients are allowed to know about.
CB: If you had one sentence to pitch a potential client, what would it be?
MS: What makes you so sure Smith & Jones is the right fit for your company?
CB: I believe that everyone has a specific and unique talent that comes in handy at just the right time. It might be something most people know about you or something very few know. What is your super-power?
MS: Im told by my clients and colleagues that I have an inherent ability to look at a sea of ideas and zero in on the one thing thats sure to work (idea, strategy, tactic, headline, layout, message, etc).
CB: If the worlds technological and economic systems were to collapse and revert society to locally-focused, agrarian communities, what role would you assume (i.e. I would become a mapmaker to help rebuild societys knowledge of geography)?
MS: I would still do what I do now – help spread the fertilizer and look forward to the upcoming harvest. Only I would be using a pitch fork instead of a keyboard.