As a part of our series about “Marketing Strategies From The Top” I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurel Mintz J.D., M.B.A.
Laurel is the CEO and Founder of award-winning, Los Angeles-based digital marketing agency Elevate My Brand. Laurel’s gift is connecting with people and their stories. After all, companies are made up of people, and stories are just narratives that are the foundation of great marketing. Laurel’s energy has been the driving force behind the agency’s growth since it launched in 2009. Her awards include: 2017 Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Award; 2016 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Company; Los Angeles Business Journal 2016 Women In Business Award; and more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
If you had asked me in college where I saw myself in 10 years, I would never have predicted that I’d ever run my own marketing agency. I was in my twenties and I had just earned my J.D. and M.B.A., and I was getting my start in the legal world with a myopic focus on partner track.
I fell into entrepreneurship when I had to run our family business right out of school. My father had become ill and I had to make sure that our family could survive. I was 26 and had a team of 60 and ran two 20,000-square-foot custom retail shops. It was definitely a trial by fire, but I learned about buying, merchandising, marketing, sales, advertising … you name it. I even baked cookies in store for big events.
When my dad recovered and I was able to step away, I was asked to consult for other retailers I had developed relationships within the time I ran the showrooms. In 2007, I partnered up with a friend in San Francisco who ran a venture fund and we worked to put together projects for our clients and get them off the ground. It was really exciting.
A few years later, I was asked to be a founding member of the Los Angeles Consulting Group (LACG). That was a great partnership, but the firm was focused on financial services, so I exited and started Elevate My Brand. At that point, I realized what I was good at and, more importantly, what I wanted to do and for what kind of clientele. And I never looked back.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We built a plush toy brand a few years ago called Squishmallows that we are extremely proud of. When we first started executing social from them, we were using the hashtag #squish or #squishsquad. Thanks to the Jersey Shore show, we came to find out that this hashtag was definitely not family friendly at least at that time. Of course, our whole demographic was kids and families. We had to pivot pretty quickly and clean up the channels. The lesson we learned was that even if you think you have a totally unique product, that doesn’t mean the social avenues haven’t been explored by others who are not necessarily aligned with your brand. Luckily it was in the early days and didn’t damage the brand. That was a funny, somewhat inappropriate and definitely comical lesson.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I’m still waiting for that tipping point. As an entrepreneur, I always do what I call “moving the goal post”. That means that every time I hit a benchmark, I move the goal to something grander. That way we are never complacent and are always striving for more as an agency. The lesson though truly is that it is important to celebrate the small wins because those incremental moments are what add up to greatness.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The fact that I have my law degree is definitely something that makes our agency stand out. Marketing and the law work hand in hand in many industries. Having legal knowledge has really helped us in working with clients specifically in finance and the growing cannabis industry. We are also WBENC certified which has been critical in getting us in front of some of the biggest brands in the world. I really walk the female empowerment talk and I’m glad corporations are starting to sit up and recognize the importance of diversity.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We just celebrated 11 years which is a huge milestone internally at the agency. We are also thinking about fundraising to grow the agency exponentially which is a really scary and exciting project we are currently working on which would also include building out a digital product as a part of that to scale the agency, take on more clients, and work our magic with more brands.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Being in a creative mindset is crucial to success in the marketing business. When the team is burnt-out, they are not excited about the projects they are working on, so they won’t be putting their best foot forward. In situations like these, it is my job to shake us out of it and get us back into a creative mindset.
A couple things we like to do here to avoid burn-out is to step away from our work and go outside for a walk. Sometimes we’ll even play some games in the office to get the energy and creative flow back. That and a well-timed happy hour helps a lot
Part of our value proposition here at Elevate My Brand is about play and creativity, which is why bringing that back to the team when we’re having a little bit of a stale moment is so critical and important. If we’re not creative and if we’re not being playful and having a good time doing it, it’s going to really show in our work. So, make sure to get out there, play with your team and have some fun doing what you’re doing.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad pushed me into entrepreneurship before I even knew what that was. Having to take over his business awakened my entrepreneurial spirit. While it was incredibly challenging to be 26 running a staff of 60 with no experience, it is definitely what turned me into the leader I am today.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much?
The Dove “Real Beauty” campaign always comes to mind. It was really the first major brand that created a national campaign focused on real women, not the magazine retouched unattainable supermodel. It was the beginning of a new marketing era one that I’m proud to be a part of.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.
A successful campaign starts with a strong foundation in data. We listen to our client brand’s competitors first to see where the white space is and then develop a scope that plays to their strengths within that space. For example, we had a client in the plush toy category who was creating a brand from scratch. That takes a lot of energy and time and they didn’t have production capacity on the creative side. So we implemented a massive national micro influencer marketing campaign and they went from 0 to over 50k followers in less than 6 months.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going?
I think micro influencer marketing has yet to hit its peak. We have been using aggregation platforms that help us wrap our hands around hundreds of super targeted influencers with highly engaged audiences to create a groundswell that creates amazing brand lift. I do, however think that FB is going to somehow own that through acquisition. And of course AI will continue to improve and better our ability to take the feels out of marketing and base even creative on actual metrics. I think that’s pretty cool.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Always have your legal shit together — I can’t tell you how many times being a lawyer and having a rock-solid contract has saved my ass
- Your no to yes ratio will astound you but the wins are that much sweeter.
- Process will push your business further faster than anything else.
- Numbers read like a diary of your business so pay close attention.
- Always stretch yourself to goals that seem unattainable…in 3–5 years you’ll look back and laugh about how small they were compared to where you are now
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers?
It’s all about technology these days. We use Brightpod for our project management, Harvest for time tracking and Pipeline for lead tracking. And Slack of course is a no brainer.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skils?
Well we just launched our first podcast “Elevate Your Brand” where we are inspired by other entrepreneurs in the space so check it out and let us know of any companies that would be a good fit. Other than that I always read AdAge and of course stay up on all things marketing through influencers like Gary Vaynerchuck.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you?
My team is my hero right now. They are so dedicated and committed to the success of our agency and of course our clients. I feel so lucky that they are following me into the fire and that we are killing it together. I couldn’t ask for a better team.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m all about empowering women and children. I think that I walk the talk by sitting on boards like Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Women Founder’s Network. I also cover a lot of those topics in my personal social, my business content as well as on our new podcast “Elevate Your Brand” So if anyone reading has the same mission please connect with us!
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow us on our social channels!
EMB instagram — @elevatemybrandla
EMB facebook — @ElevateMyBrand
My Personal Instagram — @laurelmintz
EMB website — https://www.elevatemybrand.com/