06/19/14

Creating an Impact: 5 Secrets from The Mars Agency

Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Being a little fish in a big pond is scary, as it takes patience, perseverance and ambition to make any sort of impact. Impact is something The Mars Agency has in spades.

Launched in 1973 by Marilyn Barnett, Mars Advertising (initial name) stepped into the retailer advertising scene as a little fish. Her son, Ken, joined the firm just a few years later knowing full well they needed to find their niche in the saturated market. They knew they had to do something to stand out, and while retailers were their clients, they made a bold move to also involve consumers and manufacturers to carve out a spot in "shopper marketing," a strategy of studying consumers' behaviors as shoppers in various formats.

As the world changed, shopper marketing evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. And that transition was great for Mars Advertising. While the Detroit-based company used to get the leftovers, they were now one of the leaders globally. They built offices near every major retailer and wrote marketing strategies unique to each brand -- a move that helped them stand out among their competitors.

But after being in business for 40 years, Mars Advertising realized even with all the success, it was time to rebrand. The company knew they weren’t all about advertising but instead, a way of thinking.  As they recast their vision and approach, they changed Mars Advertising to The Mars Agency but that's not where it ended.

Their new tagline, "Create. Impact.” isn’t just smoke and mirrors: It’s a lifetime mission. "Everything happens incrementally, says global CEO Ken Barnett."We create impact in everything we do in our company, with our clients and in the community.”

During rebranding, they knew they had to make sure every aspect of the company and its focus fit the new brand.

Here are the five areas they focused on.

1. Give back to your community AND your team.
The Mars Agency gives back to their employees personally and professionally while also being focused on community growth. Their employees, also known as "Martians," run programs like "Start Small," a social-responsibility program. With Start Small, Martians run donation drives for non-profits like the local fire departments and the company matches donations.  The company even gave five employees a month off to volunteer for their own charity projects. On top of it all, The Mars Agency promotes ad-hoc random acts of kindness as part of their culture.

Read the other 4 at Entrepreneur.com

Written for Entrepreneur Magazine & published June 17, 2014