Published January 21, 2016
Volume 24, Number 1

Mike Maurice of Jack Nadel International is

Looking to Provide a Good Brand Experience

By Jay Hipps

The easiest way to explain the approach Mike Maurice takes to branding is this: While traditional agencies choose between TV, radio, and print outlets for their ads, he not only creates the message and the brand merchandise that acts as a media for it but also attempts to shape his target audience’s experience of those elements. If that sounds complicated, perhaps an example from Maurice, vice president of business development for Jack Nadel International (JNI), will better serve to illustrate the point.
Mike Maurice““I just did a program for a client, a mailing piece. The outside box says, ‘Pour something hot to see what unlocks.’ The person opens up the box, inside is a mug and when you put hot liquid in it, the ink disappears, it goes translucent, and it reveals a message,” he explains. “Inside each box is a personalized note, so each mailing would have gone out to you, personally. It’s for financial planners. It says, ‘You know your planning season: endless days, stressful nights, unexplainable errors, and impossible deadlines. It’s miserable.’ And it goes on to talk about your numbers, and that’s what the design on the mug is.
“We not only produced the design but we also produced the mug, did all the packaging, and drop shipped this to 1,000 people in a one-week window.”
The idea is to create a message for a company, deliver it in a way that is memorable, and continue reinforcing that brand awareness by providing merchandise that is used on a regular basis. While the concept of creating a brand would not be foreign to Mad Men’s Don Draper, the scope of what is now possible in the age of targeted marketing, one-off custom printing, and overnight delivery might make his head spin a little.
“We like to call it ‘concept to invoice.’ We created this for a client, they wanted something that reflected the word unlocked, we wanted to keep a certain design in mind, but they wanted it to be in the hands of their target person,” says Maurice. “We thought about a nice luggage lock, but it doesn’t sit on your desk — it sits in your attic until it’s time to go travel. We wanted something that every time a person goes to get their hot tea, they were exposing that brand and that message and that relationship to their coworkers or to their sales rep who calls on them from this client. I call it ‘building community.’”
An Alameda native who studied business at San Jose State, Maurice has childhood memories of what was then called “remembrance advertising.”
“I remember when I was growing up, Harry Grier Mortuary always sent a calendar to the house. I always thought it was kind of creepy, but that was his way of keeping his name in front of you,” he recalls. “That’s kind of what brand merchandise does — you can motivate people to take an action.”
He also recalls the first time that the value of a brand really made an impression on him. “My dad was a design engineer for Del Monte, and RJR Nabisco had bought them and I asked at the time, ‘Why would you want to buy an old methodology? The microwave is coming into play and people aren’t eating canned goods like they used to.’ And he said, ‘Really what they bought was our distribution and our label.’ The Del Monte label is a label of quality food, and that’s kind of what a brand is.”
Maurice graduated from San Jose State in 1983 and has spent his entire career at JNI. “I was the first intern at Jack Nadel, and I liked coming out of school with a marketing degree and seeing the effects of branding and how branding was changing. It seemed like a good place to be,” he says. “JNI just had this vibe — going back, if you’re selling peaches, all you’re doing is selling peaches. If you’re selling golf equipment, you’re just selling that brand of golf equipment. With JNI, we were working with all the brands, so it made everyday different and everyday a new opportunity, very entrepreneurial. That’s the foundation of this company. I said I’d give it five years and here I am 30 years later, working for the same company.”
The ongoing growth of the company — “when I first started with JNI, it was just a $12 million company and we’re going to do $100 million (in 2015)” — has provided Maurice to work with some of the most impressive brands in the world.
“We do a great new hire program for Facebook, their campus recruiting program,” he says. “We do a new vehicle delivery gift for Tesla, so when you buy a Tesla and take delivery, they give you their owners manual and all of that but also that piece of branded merchandise that makes you feel good about your purchase. Of course, you wear it with pride, and you become a brand ambassador.”
More than anything else, the variety of projects has been what has held his interest, encouraging Maurice’s remarkable longevity with the company. “Every day is different. If you went in and sold a copier to a client, the only other thing that you can engage the client in is when there’s a problem,” he says. “Every time we engage a client, it’s always a new opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to go to work everyday for new opportunity? There aren’t too many jobs out there. If you’re a design engineer, your job is to complete a task, and it could take you two days, it could take you 10 years. I don’t know that I wanted that kind of job. We have new opportunities every day. The person whose office is next to mine has those new opportunities, and the girl in the next office, she has these new opportunities. If we sat in a lunch meeting, we would only talk about new opportunities. Tomorrow may see the birth of the next new company, where last year’s great brand may be out of business. But we continue to be the company that attracts those new brands.”
The other element to the job that keeps Maurice engaged is the fact that he gets to design an entire experience based around a simple object.
“In the case with this coffee cup promotion, it’s a vehicle. It’s a different way to deliver the message. Where do you want that message? You want that message right where the person is working,” he says. “What was also done is that each of these people was followed up with by their field sales rep, to say did you get it? Did you like it? Is there anything I can do for you? Can I come in and see you? It engaged the client prospect in conversation, whereas a TV ad never does that… It allows us to be more creative and problem-solving than just an order taker.”
And that creative, problem solving approach has allowed Maurice to rise from intern to vice president.
For more information on Jack Nadel International, access their web site at http://www.nadel.com


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