The Marketing Moleskine® is my digital outpost for marketing ideas. Just so you know, I haven't always been interested in marketing. It all began way back in 1993.
I attended Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. It's really the party capital of Western Kansas. That's not exactly why I went there, but it turned out to be a great experience.
While at FHSU, I received a BFA in Graphic Design. I began my college career as a Art Ed major. During my third or fourth semester, I took Graphic Design as an elective. My professor, Chaiwat Thumsujarit told me I might have a future in it. I enjoyed it, so I changed my major and continued on.
About that same time, some of the graduating students had broken in to the Ad scene in Chicago. A few were catching on at Leo Burnett, a few more were catching on around Minneapolis. This was a big deal. A small graphic design program smack in the middle of Kansas was all of a sudden getting a lot of attention from some big name firms.
In 1995 I got an internship with Media-Net, an ISP (Internet Service Provider) in Hays who designed webpages for small businesses around town. The Internet was very new, and I was all over it. I loved the marriage of design and computers. In fact, I was the first student in the FHSU Graphic Design program to create a website as one of my Portfolio class projects. I didn't score very well on it, but then again, my instructor didn't really know how to grade something like that. We were all just kind of fumbling our way through it at that point.
I went on to work with Media-Net through graduation, and quickly became the webmaster for the company and its clients. The ISP was owned by a group of 3 or 4 radio stations. I got a lot of experience working on cross promotions with print, radio and web back in the early days of the Internet. Pretty cool stuff.
While there, I started working on a project that would stay with me to this day called McState.com.
Somewhere around 1997 right after graduation, I decided I was good enough to try my hand at Chicago. I had 2 years of web experience at this point, which was a lot for 1997, but I didn't know jack. One of my friends, Paul Kraus, was working for a company called Giant Step in Chicago. He pulled some strings and got me an interview and I flew up to Chicago on October 30th, 1997 to interview at Giant Step. How do I remember the date? I'll get to that!
Because it was in Chicago, I had to ship my portfolio up there. At the time, Chicago was notorious for having horrible UPS delivery. I didn't get my portfolio in time, and I had to show up at the interview with a box and unpack it. I totally bombed the interview, and didn't even get the ubiquitous "we'll be in touch."
That night, we went out to drown our sorrows, and I ended up meeting my future wife. That's how I remember the date.
I went back to Hays with my tail between my legs and worked my ass off for the next 10 months. I worked 16 hour days, everyday, for those 10 months. All the while getting to know my future wife via "the Internet." ICQ was all the rage in 1998.
In those 10 months, we really concentrated on McState.com which was a system that provided restaurant websites at the local level for McDonald's. In fact, on those sites we created the first online job applications for any QSR restaurant in the world... and a shitload of them at that.
After 10 months, I decided to move to Georgia to be with my wife. Luckily, I had the coolest boss ever and I continued to work remotely (which was another unheard of thing for 1998). Internet service sucks in LaGrange, and I frequently would not be able to work for days on end.
I worked for Media-Net and freelanced until after 9/11 when Media-Net closed it's doors, and then freelanced exclusively on McState until 2003 when I couldn't handle all load plus the side jobs I was working on. I stuck my neck out, hired my first employee, and opened the doors of Brant Kelsey Design in March 2003. Before I knew it, we had grown to 10 people by 2007 and then changed the name to Kelsey Advertising & Design to reflect the shift in our business.
Since then we've taken McState national, and now service 100% of the U.S. McDonald's restaurants. We have dozens of local and regional clients, including a few clients from across the country.
I've been very fortunate to be able to use the McDonald's name on my portfolio to build up a huge client roster. The experience you gain by handling 2 million monthly visitors on a website is golden. It's fascinating to be able to change something and instantly see what works, and what doesn't. That type of experience is something a very select number of people get to work with, and I am very grateful.
In 2008 the "Great Recession" hit, and we were in a good place. Our biggest client is recession-proof, and I was thriving in the digital space. The print design and traditional advertising revenue fell off a cliff, but web-based work flourished.
I decided to find something that would differentiate me and position me in a good way when the recession broke. I found a group called the Brand Establishment. They are a tight knit group of brand development professionals from cities all over the country. They work on regional and national brands like us, including Nikon, Tyson Chicken, WebMD, Tractor Supply, NFL, and Intel.
Since being in the group, I have completely changed the way I look at the work I do for clients. I've been able to provide even deeper value for my clients, and being able to tap into a group of 30+ experts at anytime is a great thing, for me, and my clients.
I hope you enjoy my blog, and if you want to chat, drop me a line!