December 2, 2021

Malcolm Holmes: Heart of the Matter

One national search, two busy years, 10 auditioning firms, 6,000 consulted constituents.

UMW Director of Marketing Malcolm Holmes has been leading the arduous effort to launch a new Mary Washington brand. Following nearly two years of research and consultations, rollout is just around the corner.

UMW Director of Marketing Malcolm Holmes has been leading the effort to launch a new Mary Washington brand. After nearly two years of research, in collaboration with the Atlanta-based firm Mindpower, rollout is just around the corner.

Malcolm Holmes’ world is awash in data. As UMW’s director of marketing, he’s wrapped up in recruitment, advertising, web and social media content, photo and video shoots. And for many months, something else – new branding.

Honing in on the essence of UMW has been quite the process. Of the 10 firms that vied for the job, Holmes said, Atlanta-based Mindpower best aligned with Mary Washington’s mission and culture. A flurry of forums and focus groups, surveys and meetings, churned out a new brand – “Matter” – which President Paino shared with the Board of Visitors in February. More than a tagline, Holmes said, it’s an “accountability measure,” a “claim of distinction,” a “promise.”

“A guiding light for the stories and images we use to promote the university, and most importantly, in how we treat and speak to each other, our students and those we encounter each day. As members of the UMW community, we’re all representatives of the brand.”

When he came to Mary Washington in 2013, Holmes brought a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from VCU, a master’s in public relations from Norfolk State University and a wealth of experience. Director of marketing communications and public affairs, and special assistant to the president, at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, he’d earned a spot on the Reynolds Executive Cabinet.

You Matter. stickerSuccess, Holmes said, hinges on teamwork: “We cannot meet our marketing goals without collaboration across departments.” Nor if a pandemic puts the brakes on your project.

When the branding campaign resumed this winter, “the world looked a lot different,” he said, providing an “opportunity” to re-test and re-visit, make sure the effort was on the right track.

“A lot is happening behind the scenes right now,” said Holmes, who plans a brand rollout with new visuals, Web pages and admissions materials, plus a targeted advertising campaign. “We are extremely excited to begin this process!”

 

Q: What does “Matter” mean to you?
A: This project took me on a spiritual journey. So much has happened over the last year. It’s comforting to know that I’m part of an organization that’s making a difference. Just as the University as a whole matters, our individual contributions matter. We all matter! 

Q: Anythingfun” involved in the rollout?
A: A big celebration on Ball Circle the first week of fall classes with T-shirts and other surprises (if COVID protocols allow).

Sample advertisement guided by UMW's new brand, "Matter."

Sample advertisement guided by UMW’s new brand, “Matter.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: The collaboration. You cannot work in a silo and be successful in this business. I’m blessed to be surrounded by a mission-focused team that understands it takes all of us to make marketing magic.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Keeping up with innovations in digital marketing that seem to appear overnight.

Q: What’s the best thing on your desk?
A: A picture of my three kids – all young adults. They’re my motivation, my inspiration and my “on-call” focus group for anything related to social media!

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: Visiting Virginia wineries. There are more than 300 across the state.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I started attending Mary Washington when I was in high school. I came every summer as part of the Upward Bound program. Dr. Venitta McCall was the program director at the time. I credit her with setting me on the trajectory to be where I am in my career today.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: To whom much is given, much is required.