If there’s one thing we at TONIC have in common – apart from our love of a great cocktail – it’s our love for great stories and the people who tell them. Our “Behind the Bar” series is dedicated to exploring the stories and insight of some of our favorite people, and giving them a platform to tell us who they are.
We’ll ask the tough questions, like “What surprising song do you know all the words to?” and “What’s a drink you love that you’re too embarrassed to order in public?” Oh, and we’ll also get their insight on branding, design, marketing, and more. Think of it as the TONIC AMA.
Today, we’re kicking the series off with the inimitable Mary Marantz. If you’ve heard Mary speak (and we hope you have), you know all about her honest eloquence and marketing knowhow, her quick wit and heart for others, and obviously her sheer, raw, polished talent. What you probably DON’T know about her is her love for Poison… We’ll let her tell you more about that…
So, let’s start off with a tough one so people know we mean business. What’s the coolest light bulb moment you’ve had about your brand?
I think for us, it was the moment that we had this light bulb realization: that connection without more soon becomes a commodity. When we did our first real professional brand in 2008, connection marketing was a pretty new thing. And we were among the first to really start putting us and our personalities out there as a big part of our brand. And at the time, because not a lot of people were doing that yet, it really helped us stand out quickly and take a BIG jump in our business.
But there is this great moment from Seth Godin in the book Purple Cow, where he talks about how things that start out as purple cows (remarkable, brand new, exciting, worth talking about) can quickly become brown cows (mundane, normal, who cares because they look just like everyone else) in a very short amount of time if you’re not careful. And I think that’s something that has happened with connection marketing. Everywhere you look now, there is another pretty website from another truly adorable photographer sharing some really funny and relatable quirks about themselves. And there would be nothing in the world wrong with that…except that everyone is doing it. There is honestly no shortage of good personalities out there in our industry.
“…And now that thing that once made you stand out quickly becomes the new normal. It becomes standard…”
– Mary Marantz
And so the problem becomes, when you make that thing that separates you from the rest of the pack (“there is only ONE you!”) something that anyone can do, then pretty soon everyone chases the ball over to that side (picture a game of grade school basketball, where everyone chases the ball wherever it goes) and now that thing that once made you stand out quickly becomes the new normal. It becomes standard. And since there is no shortage of good personalities, potential couples go back to treating those personality brands like one of many (commodity) rather than something that truly stands out from the rest of the pack in a saturated market. Once we realized that, we knew that if we were going to stand out from everyone else over the long haul…we were going to have to do the things that most people are unwilling to do. Things like a lifelong commitment to getting better and better at our craft, and really digging in to what we wanted our work and our Legacy to stand for. Because as it turns out, that Why that drives us (show them How you see the world because of Who you are) is the real game changer in getting people to see you as a market of one.
“…We knew that if we were going to stand out from everyone else over the long haul…we were going to have to do the things that most people are unwilling to do.”
– Mary Marantz
One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever read is from Simon Sinek where he says, “When a company states what they believe- and WE believe what they believe- then we will go to extraordinary lengths to include them in our lives. For they have become a symbol for all that we hold dear.” Now that’s the kind of brand I want to build.
That’s such a fascinating take on the industry, and you’re so right – we have to stand for something, and make clear exactly what that is, before anyone will stand with us. So, on a less serious note, we know you’re a song lyric savant – what song would people be surprised you know every word to?
Poison’s Every Rose Has Its Thorn….sung in the voice of Andy Dwyer from Parks & Rec. You’re welcome!
Um, audio or it didn’t happen, please! This when I’m sad we’re not in person. But moving on: you and Justin make killer hosts, and it seems like you’re always entertaining. What’s your hands-down-always-a-win entertaining food / drink go-to?
Ohhhh this is SUCH a good question! I think one of the best things you can do when you’re entertaining is to share an experience with someone. So one of our favorite go-to’s is to share some of the favorite dishes we fell in love with while we were in Italy. So we’ll do prosciutto and melon on the porch with some of our favorite wines we discovered there. And then we’ll end with lemon sorbet that we have frozen in hollowed out lemon halves with mint on top…something we had on the Amalfi Coast and life was pretty much never the same! 🙂
Now it’s 8am, and I want lemon sorbet. Thanks, friend. What piece of advice would you give anyone beginning the branding and website design process?
To stop putting together brands that look like what you think they are SUPPOSED to be or what everyone else is doing (they’ve already been done!) and start putting together the most honest, brave representation of you that you can. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to get you the clients you actually want and break you free from always competing with everyone else. Life is too short to be anything but the most honest & brave version of you.
What’s your favorite part of your website?
Hands down, The Legacy section. We knew we wanted to do something unlike what anyone had done before AND we wanted that to really stand for something (not just be different for the sake of being different). The Legacy section turned into kind of a mini cinematic trailer of our business in two minutes or less. It’s our best work paired with all the words from our heart that I hope our work will stand for, for the next sixty years. Things like “the truth is we don’t take these photos just for the bride…we take them for her granddaughter to find one day” and “Life goes along and this moment is gone and that moment is gone. But photography steps in and says ‘Not this one. This moment stays.’”
The Bourbon Bomber….courtesy of Jen Olmstead! (Editor’s note: recipe here, friends. Don’t worry, I got you!)
Favorite guilty pleasure cocktail (you know, the one you’d never order with anyone you want to impress)?
Hahahaha. The Dirty Banana (think a mudslide with a banana blended in to it). We had them on our honeymoon and LOVED them.
You’re the undisputed queen of quotables (I mean, like half of your talks have been turned into Instagram word art at this point). What’s one saying that keeps YOU going when you need it the most?
Ohhhh THANK YOU!!! 🙂 For me, I ALWAYS go back to a quote that Justin said to me early in our business whenever I was getting impatient at things not growing fast enough. He would always say:
“Slow growth equals strong roots. Only weeds pop up over night and then they get knocked down with the first storm that comes along. We’re building something that was made to last.”
– Justin Marantz
AMEN. Amen. So, here’s a good one: what’s one personal fact most people probably wouldn’t know about you?
I’m a really good dancer. The dance lives in me. Especially if Bourbon Bombers are involved.
You guys have done such incredible job establishing your brand in the industry. How did you guys know when it was time to rebrand?
It was when our work had just so far outgrown the brand we had. There was this huge mismatch between these dark, moody, iconic, emotional images that STOOD for something….and us talking about loving Mario Kart Wii in our Stuff We Love page. 🙂 We’ve grown up over the last eight years. Our work has grown up. And we needed a grown up brand to represent that.
We’re fellow devotees of the (literal) Netflix and chill. Here’s your challenge: give us a movie and cocktail pairing for a great night in. 🙂
Ohhhhh LOVE! Ok how about The Rock (you know how I love me some Sean Connery!) …with Scotch on the Rocks (because he’s Scottish…see what I did there?? 🙂
I see what you did there, and I’m loving it. This is why we love you. So before we let you go, is there anything exciting you guys have been up to that the TONIC readers should know about?
Yes! We are working on a brand new Lighting in Tough Receptions Course that will hopefully be out this Fall!
Oh man, we can’t wait to see it.
Mary, thanks so much for taking the time to share a little behind the bar. We were honored to have you and we can’t wait for the next time we get together… when we’ll immediately make you do that Andy Dwywer impression for anyone within earshot. You can follow along with all things Justin & Mary via their blog and on Instagram at @marymarantz.