An Interview with MJ McBride, Brand Evangelist and Agency Co-Founder of REBEL INTERACTIVE, and a Business Ethics Alliance Trustee
By Amit Pandya and Sarah McKito, Creighton MBA candidates.
"Do what you say you are going to do, be authentic, and be clean with yourself."
-Wise words from MJ McBride
MJ McBride - The Brand Evangelist
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in adverting and psychology from Iowa State University, MJ McBride chose advertising as the path she wanted to take and continued to enhance her knowledge with another degree in Marketing at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. MJ graduated from most of the schools she attended, early, and began her career in Marketing at a young age, which she then, became known as the marketing guru.
Ms. McBride is originally from the Midwest, a small neighborhood called Dogpatch, in Iowa. Once she started graduating from schools early, she wanted to put her skills into practice, and did just that. She started working at Mutual of Omaha as a Marketing Manager in 1991, and became one of the youngest executives there. In 1994, she was then recruited to work for a Global Software Company as a Global Branding Director.
The largest and most important concept/discovery she learned, was while working at the Global Software Company. She was working in London at the time, when it hit her - when she saw and became one, with the authenticity of branding, discovering her true self – a brand evangelist.
Ms. McBride came back to Omaha in 1999, to put this branding authenticity to use, by becoming an Agency Partner where she is currently working today, at REBEL INTERACTIVE. MJ McBride has been with REBEL INTERACTIVE for the last 18 years, practicing what she believes in. Also, due to the series of events that has led her to where she is today, she gets to be her authentic self - The Brand Evangelist. Not many people can say they like what they do for a living, let alone, have had the ability to create and discover their talent, then actually do something about it.
Ms. McBride says, “It amounts to a series of good choice that are real, and if you do that, you will have found what it is you are looking for.”
REBEL INTERACTIVE was founded in 1999, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska and has positioned itself in the Marketing and Advertising Industry as a breakthrough branding agency specializing in brand momentum. This company helps organizations increase awareness, align, meet revenue and profitability goals, create culture, and expand with ease. Internally, REBEL INTERACTIVE uses Brand Strategy to define the brand, and externally they use Brand Management to build brand momentum and create exponential value.
REBEL INTERACTIVE, will use internal brand strategies such as: gathering background and brand equity, internal brand alignment or the soul of the brand, breakthrough consulting in working with how to position the brand, and brand agenda as in what is and will be the brand’s plan. External Brand Management is that of, Brand Asset Development such as: consulting, creative work, websites, videos, social, media, events, and spaces, as well as launching the Brand through internal, existing clients and prospects, sales, marketing, and advertising campaigns.
REBEL INTERACTIVE has placed themselves in a unique niche that helps organizations, nonprofits, as well as the community, from start to finish, through each step of the way. REBEL INTERACTIVE is highly specialized in branding, website development, video production, media and advertising, marketing automation, print, user experience, and creative, which has allowed them to grow and be where they are today.
Ms. McBride said she came from a family of integrity. If you lied, you cried about it, and said you were sorry right away. She had carried with her throughout her career and life, this integrity as well as morals and ethics she was brought up in.
Ms. McBride opens our eyes to a whole new definition of ethics, stating, “Ethics is a concept that challenges people to be better, faster, and slower when needed to produce thoughtful answers.” Ethics to Ms. McBride is, “being able to land with what feels right, seems right, functionally with herself, so she can be clean with herself and nothing is hidden.” Ms. McBride says “say everything that you are thinking, because that is basic authenticity. If you cannot share your thoughts out loud, then you are not clean or authentic with yourself.”
These same ethical values she was fortunate to grew up with, she brought with her to REBEL INTERACTIVE. Ms. McBride expects these same values that she brings to the company, from others, and that each employee should, “be committed to do the right thing at the right time”, as she strives to do. At REBEL INTERACTIVE, there are strong business core values that she shares with the Business Ethics Alliance as a Trustee - accountability, community responsibility, financial vitality, integrity, and moral courage.
Ms. McBride says, “accountability is expected from everyone within the organization to make sure they communicate, account to one another and make sure they are also clean with themselves.” The main purpose for this company is to make the world a better place, and everyone at the company must be onboard with this and be extraordinary. If they are not, then that is when they need to be clean with themselves as well as the company and move into a different position or move into a position best suited for them somewhere else. Being clean with yourself, is the most important step to being able to work as a group and make extraordinary things happen.
When I asked Ms. McBride about community, she was on fire to answer this one because she wants to work with and be around other people that want to do extraordinary things and make the world a better place. She will not work for or promote companies that do not fall into that category. REBEL INTERACTIVE is also part of helping many non-profit organizations, as well as the community, such as: Voices for Children, Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and Nebraska Families Collaborative, as well as putting together community events and fundraisers.
“Financial vitality”, Ms. McBride says, “is what everyone needs to hear, but just does not want to do. It can be riskier to make money at what you are proud of and happy at doing.” But, she is fortunate enough to be placed into a situation at a company where she can do just that. “When people can figure out a way to add more value than what they are charging, that’s extraordinary-financial vitality, which is what she makes sure her company does. REBEL INTERACTIVE will stop billing an organization once there is no more value being added.
With integrity, Ms. McBride is very much a believer in, “do what you say you are going to do. Do not be a maybe, be authentic.” She believes there are levels to integrity. First, she believes, a person must follow the rules that they agree to, then a person can commit to things, then a person will level up to self-integrity, meaning, you believe and do what you say. Once you have integrity for yourself, then you can commit to integrity within the community. Then, once these are achieved, you can level up to getting involved in the world in a positive and meaningful way. “Once you have reached this level of integrity”, Ms. McBride says, “then that generates real fulfillment”.
Finally, moral courage, Ms. McBride says, “this is where you must look at communication in a different way”. For instance, the name of the company itself, REBEL INTERACTIVE, as everyone knows, rebel means to rise in opposition or resistance against an established normal standard and/or tradition. The agency meant to rebel in a non-traditional sense by being extraordinary and thinking outside of the box as opposed to sticking with the normal standard. Ms. McBride and her agency partner, had to have the moral courage to stand by their company name, within the Marketing and Advertising Industry, as a breakthrough branding agency.
Ms. McBride, stated it was hard in the beginning to get organizations to see this company for what it was, because the name itself caused uproar. However, once the smoke cleared, and the name of the branding agency was no longer seen as, “REBEL”, but REBEL INTERACTIVE, Ms.
McBride and her agency partner could start growing as a business. Ms. McBride says, “You must have moral courage, no matter what you are facing - be it, an agency’s name, a tough client, a coworker that disagrees - in a creative environment, you must contribute and work as a group”. You should always stand for what you believe in, and Ms. McBride says, “do what is right, but also, be thought leaders, and help pioneer new ideas.”
Ethical Situations with Positive Outcomes
Regarding ethical situations REBEL INTERACTIVE has had to experience throughout the years, frequently easy ethical situations as well as, unfortunately, frequently hard ethical situations come to mind, for Ms. McBride. However, she always finds a way to turn an ethical situation into a positive outcome.
An easy and yet common ethical situation Ms. McBride must face sometimes, is when a company just wants to push a product. REBEL INTERACTIVE is 100 percent about setting prices on a product or service to the customer rather than, according to the cost of the product or the time put in. This is a value-based price strategy company, where relationships are so important to the process that it is a necessity, which is where the value and the worth comes from. When a customer just wants to promote a product, without building a relationship, this does not follow REBEL INTERACTIVE’s ethical values, so they guide the customer to other places that can help them with those needs they are looking for.
Regarding a hard and common ethical situation Ms. McBride comes up against, is when customers might consider going to competitors based on price. However, she states, it is all “smoke and mirrors, and it never lasts” because these other Branding agencies cannot get what they need in the long run, without a relationship. REBEL INTERACTIVE’s Brand is based on relationships, not just pushing a product and saying goodbye. However, if a customer decides they want to go somewhere else based on price without a relationship, she will, without giving it a second thought, direct them to other places that will provide this for them. Ms. McBride will never give up or stop helping a customer, because that is not the REBEL INTERACTIVE, ethical way, of doing things.
To Ms. McBride, these are ethical situations, because she always believes in doing what is right and making the world a better place. She does not want to just push a product, then let the customer see if they can make it on their own without helping them along the way – that is why she feels these are ethical situations, because customers need help from start to finish, but if that is not what they want at that time, then she is not going to force them to do something they do not want to do.
Ms. McBride just wrote a book which is coming out soon called Hello, my brand is… Her book is about personal brand power as an individual, in a team, or within the community, and how to live with authentic personal brand power. Ms. McBride has no plans of retiring from REBEL INTERACTIVE anytime soon, not only is she not leaving anytime soon, she also invited us to participate at one of her own community events she is hosting, called REBEL YELL 2017, held at REBEL INTERACTIVE.
Ms. McBride, the REBEL INTERACTIVE family, and agency itself, are of the most welcoming people, persons, and company, we have ever had the opportunity to work with. With a drum set in the corner, a big screen TV, an adorable pup named Bella, and a large conference table in the middle of the room – you can just sit, relax, and enjoy all the commodities, Bella, friendly faces all around, and the company itself. This Branding agency is so inviting, that you are welcome to come back anytime, and you never want to leave.
© 2017, Kracher & the Business Ethics Alliance