John Knox University – Geneva, Switzerland
Depaul Chicago – B.A., International Studies
Brook Jay and her business partner, Sarah Eck-Thompson, launched All Terrain because they noticed brands were missing the mark when it came to connecting with consumers. While businesses from big to small were doing a whole lot of talking, customers weren’t doing a whole lot of listening. What was missing? Authentic experiences that connected with consumers. This new type of thinking helped All Terrain leave marketing and advertising convention in the dust.
Whether creating pop-up denim shops that replace size with empowerment for Special K or warming up Black Friday shoppers with Dyson, Brook and her team at All Terrain are committed to leaving a mark for their clients. And they’re doing just that, working with Fortune 500 companies and winning awards – most recently a Gold at the REGGIE’s – for totally out-of-the-box thinking. It’s no wonder that Brook admits it’s one of the things that keeps her up at night. “I think about maintaining our originality and coming up with game-changing ideas,” she says.
While that sounds like a full-time gig in itself, Brook assures us that a well-maintained Outlook calendar and “good gut instincts” are a few of the keys to success in a career built on throwing out the roadmap. We might just throw out the roadmap too if it leads to spending time with Beyoncé.
Don’t ask someone to do anything you would never do yourself.
What led you to your current job?
My business partner and I were working at an event company that was hired to produce all the events inside the Athletes’ Village for the ‘96 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Day in and day out we would walk into the Athletes’ Village with VIPs and production people and be bombarded by brand messaging from the sponsors of the games that felt like a great deal of “shouting” and one-way conversations.
The only messaging to break this mold ended up being right outside our production trailer. It was a 20x20 foot wall with cubbyholes and each cubbyhole had a flag of a country that was participating in the Olympics and T-shirts stuffed inside. Sharpie markers where attached to the walls with signage that read, “If you want to take one, you have to give one.”
Sarah and I watched this social experiment for about 30 days. Strangers walking up to the space, pulling a t-shirt with their country flag on it and looking at one another to acknowledge they were about to sign and exchange shirts. As the month went on, we discussed how these shirts were going to become part of these people’s social currency (the more shirts you got the more people you met) and how the shirts would eventually become part of their storytelling of their time at the Games. Most importantly though, we talked about how we knew that this experience would down the road have an impact on their purchase decisions. The brand was Champion. Sarah and I talked for weeks about how we wanted to create these types of authentic experiences between brands and consumers every day. Three months later we founded All Terrain with that purpose. Now, 17 years later, the philosophy still drives our businesses.
How do you organize your day?
I live and die by my Outlook calendar. Every Sunday night I start breaking down the week/weeks ahead. Monday I meet with my assistant and make sure we have all our bases covered. The early part of the week is dedicated to leadership/ownership meetings and check-ins with key department heads. When I travel, I try and go mid-week and either make a weekend out of the trip or get home by Friday night. Our industry is very relationship focused, so there is a lot of entertaining and attending events. The perk is they’re usually great events or invites.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love the variety of creative thinking and problem solving on a wide range of consumer brands. I also enjoy getting to mentor and grow future marketers and entrepreneurs. The travel and access to great places and events is pretty great too!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I think about maintaining our originality and coming up with game-changing ideas.
What are some of the rules you live by?
- When people show you who they are, believe them.
- Don’t ask someone to do anything you would never do yourself.
- Lead by example.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Since my work has a very social element to it, there is a ton of crossover. So yes, it is hard to turn off work completely. When things get too hectic the surefire cure is packing up my dog and my fiancé and heading to our lake house in South Haven, Mich. If there isn’t enough time to do that, yoga, massages and dinners with my close-knit friends help.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I don’t believe a true entrepreneur ever feels like they have “totally” made it. That said, there were several moments during The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas campaign (specifically every moment spent with music icons like Jay Z, Beyoncé and Coldplay) where I was blown away.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
It takes drive, the ability to collaborate, good gut instincts, creative problem solving skills and very little need for sleep.
What advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
- You can’t be everywhere at once.
- Believe in yourself; trust your gut.
- Saying “no” isn’t going to get you exiled from future opportunities.
If you weren’t running a national experiential marketing agency, what would you be doing?
I am sort of doing it now and that’s finding a way to empower girls during early development. I want to help them to think of themselves as empowered entrepreneurs and good friends.
This year I partnered with Dr. Amelia Case to launch Princesses with a Twist, which is a 17-part book series that seeks to expand the narrative of what happens after ‘happily ever after.’ The books show us that the lives of princesses are a lot more interesting than we ever thought. In most of our stories the Princesses become entrepreneurs!