It was a real pleasure hearing about Maneesh Goyal’s journey in creating uber-agency MKG – a company that today counts Heineken, Google, Audi and Delta Airlines as clients.
Maneesh, who was recently appointed by Barack Obama as a member of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, truly embodies his ethos of ‘living in the grey’, blending personal passions with professional endeavors. So much so, he founded an organization based on this principle, and notes his career highlight as making his lively creative office feel like a home he enjoys going to every day.
What does your company do?
MKG is an experiential marketing agency. Our roots are in production, but we have evolved into an insight driven creative agency which gives us equal parts brawn and brains. It’s what sets us apart - we combine strategic thinking and creative vision with impeccable design and flawless execution.
We’re a team of Gen X-ers and Millennials working with some of the world’s biggest brands - including Google, Audi, Delta Air Lines, and Heineken - to dream up experiences that help shape the way people think about, interact with, and ultimately align with the brand. And, we have a lot of fun doing it.
NYC has been our home base since 2003, but we have also grown to include an office in West Hollywood and recently welcomed the newest addition to the MKG family - 214 - a separate, stand-alone company that specializes in all aspects of branding, including website, logo & collateral development and design.
How did you start the business? What were you doing at the time?
It's certainly not the most expected journey. My background was in non-profits, and actually, I had hardly any relevant experience in event production or marketing. But I did have a passion. I founded MKG with the goal of combating my own "Sunday Night Blues”. I wanted to go to work at a place that reflected who I was and what I loved doing - creating memorable experiences. Then, as I began hiring employees, it was a self-instructed basic requirement that all employees loved coming into work as much as I did. (My first full-time employee, hired in 2005, is still part of the team. Makes me proud!) Funny thing is, it all started a hot December night in 2001 in Miami when I found myself single-handedly producing Diddy’s New Year’s Eve Party in South Beach. And the rest, as they say, is history.
You also have an organization called Live in the Grey…what’s it all about?
The idea of ‘Living in the Grey’ was inspired by my own journey. I recognized that if life & work are black & white...the magic happens in the middle, when you blend (not balance) work+life. I know I felt happiest and did my best work when my work felt like play, my colleagues and clients felt like friends and the black and white lines between passion and profession were blurred. I wanted to help my own employees, and people around the world, experience the same fulfillment so in January 2013 I founded Live in the Grey (LITG) as a movement that challenges the work/life divide and encourages the blend of personal passions with professional pursuits. Over the past couple of years, LITG has built a highly-engaged community through live events - with some amazing supporters from Warby Parker to Charlie Rose - and content which is syndicated through media partners including TIME Magazine and WeWork.
What’s really exciting is that we’ve come to realize that companies are the ones who want to evolve their culture. So we’ve put out a product we call the ‘Grey Assessment’ (check it out on our site) which assesses culture within your company’s walls. And this fall, we’re super psyched to launch a mobile app which will help companies to positively impact culture from the bottom up. Check out the site & sign up for our newsletter to ‘stay grey’ yourself!
What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say getting appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board this past November is at the top of that list. It has been an incredibly eye-opening and inspiring experience.
I can also truly say that walking into the office every day, and having it feel like home is a career highlight. We love creating experiences for clients, and over the years there have been so many amazing moments. But the experiences we create for the MKG family - from our epic summer parties to end-of-year agency-wide retreats - those encapsulate some of my best moments and favorite memories.
What are some of your current projects that you’re excited about?
I bet you wouldn’t expect my answer to this one to be applesauce - but it’s true! I’m really excited about the work we’ve been doing with GoGo squeeZ - an amazing, fun brand that shares our quirky personality. This is a really unique opportunity to work with a like-minded brand to build out their experiential strategy and activate some crazy ideas from our kid-fueled imaginations. We’ve spent the summer with GoGo bringing their Goodness on the Go program around the country and just last week ended a 3 city tour of The Goodness Machine in L.A. The Goodness Machine - which we dreamt up and brought to life with the help of a NASA engineer - shot GoGo squeeZ pouches into the sky which then floated down by a parachute into the hands of a waiting participant. What’s really exciting about our work with GoGo is that it’s a great example of what MKG does best - seamlessly translating a brand’s campaign and personality into a great experience, from ideation to design to execution. We’ve already started conversations for what’s ahead for 2016 and can’t wait to see where that takes us!
What are a few key pitfalls you’d advise against in creating a thriving business, and your tips for success?
It’s OK to start small, but aim for bigger. Make Experiences. Actions trump intentions. Actively blend personal & professional.
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