Established in 1988, MWA operates and has clients in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, specializing in higher education, healthcare, insurance, building products, sports team and franchise business. The firm supports a range of national household names, including Morton’s Steakhouse, Auto Owners Insurance, Paul Mitchell Schools and the World Champion Chicago Cubs.

Jim, who has been with the firm since inception, talks us through his role and leadership style.
“My primary role at MWA is to continually build a culture of creativity, openness, caring and a genuine passion for our clients ’ success. I also work with our senior leadership to set creative and media strategy for our clients.

“Fundamentally, our leadership style revolves around teamwork and collaboration. Everyone at MWA has a voice in our culture and is key to our continued success. Our management is governed by our basic principles: to treat people like adults and they will behave like and assume the responsibilities of adults; hire good, caring people; work as teams and let people do what you hired them to do. In addition, we always have our clients ’best interests and success in mind, and every one of our staff is passionate about everything they do. Overall, we try to have fun and enjoy ourselves.”
Remaining at the forefront of emerging developments is vital in advertising, with technology being key to providing clients with the service they need, whilst remaining at the forefront of the latest industry innovations.

“One of the advantages of our diverse client roster is our ability to always be early adopters. We placed our clients on Pandora when it was in its infancy and most listeners were very young. Since then, it has become the mainstream for adults of 35-54 years, while millennials move on to other platforms. Since we market to people between the ages of 16 and 85, we endeavour to evolve with the trends.

“We never try to keep up with these trends; we stay ahead of them. Everything we do and every dollar we spend on behalf of our clients involves A/B testing. That process never ends. We keep testing and targeting to deliver the best ROI. That’s why all of our clients are experiencing double digit growth, regardless of industry.

“Ultimately, keeping up with technology is imperative for survival in our industry. When we moved to our office in Chicago, we wanted to be near the newspaper offices. Now, we never run print. Over 50 per cent of our media is digital. Every day we try new options like geo-targeting and behavioural modeling. But, while the new technology is amazing, we also know people still watch TV, still listen to the radio and still respond to billboards, and therefore, we always try not to lose sight of what consumers want.”

“But, while the new technology is amazing, we also know people still watch TV, still listen to the radio and still respond to billboards, and therefore, we always try not to lose sight of what consumers want.”

One of the clearest examples of MWA’s field-leading work in rebranding and marketing of companies and their mission has come through the firm’s work with New York-based municipal bonds insurer Build America Mutual (BAM).

BAM’s mission is to improve municipal bond liquidity and market access for issuers by providing municipal bondholders with an unconditional, irrevocable guarantee that principal and interest will be paid on schedule. Their desire to redesign their brand led MWA to create a solution based around extensive market research, followed by a robust media plan focussing on investor sources, targeting Financial Advisors and Municipal Finance Professionals, so as to reintroduce BAM to the market, garnering greater exposure and interest.

Long-term brand building such as this requires careful and diligent management to maintain a consistent, relevant presence in the hearts and minds of the target audience. MWA is especially devoted to efforts to derive a very particular brand philosophy, one which upholds the company’s proprietary ‘Map to Market ’process, which has been developed over the course of 25 years. This allows MWA to dive deeper in the target audience of its clients and understand who exactly they are and what motivates them to succeed in their chosen area.

This is the most important aspect to creating a successful rebrand. “The process begins with the gathering of pertinent information that will be critical to understanding where the client is currently. This starting point allows us to identify key potential pitfalls and barriers that have impacted the company, perhaps causing it to degrade in some aspects over time. Positive feedback can then be harnessed as we develop the new brand structure. Only by understanding where the company is now and where it has been, can MWA effectively start their development process.”

“Tools that are routinely used in the process include a survey of current and potential customers, which are identified by the cloning of current and past customers. The surveys will uncover a wide variety of information that will include demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, brand
perception and ultimately begin to frame the brand as it stands currently.”

“Following this, the next step is to take the current brand perception based on the survey answers and validate it by utilizing focus groups (both external and internal audiences). This will allow MWA to dive deeper into the survey questions and further expand on the respondents ’answers, so as to uncover more of the emotional and motivational factors associated with the client.”
Looking ahead, Jim is excited about the future, as he concludes by discussing the firm’s goals and
how it aims to achieve them.

“In five years ’time, I see myself continuing to lead MWA into the high-tech future of advertising. At the same time, we will adhere to the old-fashioned principles of respect and consideration, in order to continue providing our clients with the services they need. This aim will provide us with many opportunities for growth and we look forward to taking advantage of these going forward.”

Company: Michael Walters Advertising
Name: Jim Lake
Address: 444 N. Wabash, Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: +1 312-585-1760