Marketing Re-Imagined: Max Sheffield-Baird Of Max Wilde Stories On How We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction
An Interview With Drew Gerber
Our marketing can be affirming and validating to people. People want to feel like they’re not alone. In the right application, copy can make people feel seen, not sold to.
From an objective standpoint, we are living in an unprecedented era of abundance. Yet so many of us are feeling unsatisfied. Why are we seemingly so insatiable? Do you feel that marketing has led to people feeling unsatisfied and not having enough in life? If so, what actions can marketers take to create a world where people feel that they have enough, and they are enough? Can we re-imagine what marketing looks like and how it makes people feel?
In this interview series, we are talking to experts in marketing and branding to discuss how we might re-imagine marketing to make it more authentic, sustainable, and promote more satisfaction. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Max Sheffield-Baird.
Max Sheffield-Baird is the Founder of Max Wilde Stories and lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Max develops messaging and content strategy for service-based businesses to grow their business with empathy. Max has been helping business owners feel confident about their marketing since 2018.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
As a child, I wanted nothing more but to write for a living but was discouraged from this while I was in college in the 2008 recession. I started my career as a nurse instead. It left me feeling creatively unfulfilled and I suffered from burnout for years, but I didn’t know what else I should do. I got a health coaching certification back in 2017 and started my own practice attempting to work with other healthcare professionals take better care of themselves. But even though I felt this was needed, there wasn’t much interest. I felt like a failure.
Through a mastermind I was in, I began to help healthcare providers with their content strategy and providing them with feedback on how to make their copy resonate with their ideal clients. I finally realized that I loved creating content and thinking through the marketing for other service providers. I wasn’t a failure after all. I just needed to find a place for my own strengths and expertise to shine. I’ve been helping service-based entrepreneurs tell stories that matter since 2018.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
While I don’t regret my journey, I wish that I had followed my passion from the beginning and not listened to outside criticism. But I also think that becoming a nurse has offered me a unique perspective. My copywriting and content framework is informed by what I’ve seen in the people I worked with as a nurse. People don’t often come to a clinic or hospital when they’re feeling well. They’re wanting answers and to feel heard. I think that in every facet of our life, we can aspire to making those in our life feel heard and appreciated.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful for that support to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for him or her?
In my business life, there have been multiple people through my life who have believed in me and supported me. If I was forced to choose one person that’s proven pivotal to my journey, it’s Lauren Conaway. She’s the founder of a leadership group in Kansas City called InnovateHER KC. I met her at an entrepreneurship event and through her found a community full of inspiring people that have helped me to not give up on myself and my dream. It’s far beyond a business relationship. I invited my InnovateHER friends to my baby shower.
What day-to-day structures do you have in place for you to experience a fulfilled life?
This is hard because I’m not as consistent with my daily habits as I’d like to be. I try to ease into my day by taking it slow in the morning and enjoying coffee or tea outdoors when weather permits.
I enjoy planning my day by creating a daily to do list, but sometimes that would heighten my anxiety when things don’t go the way I expected. I don’t do it regularly anymore, but meditation has helped me to let go of what I expect to happen and be present with what is happening.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I’m working on a course about polishing your elevator pitch because through working with my clients, I’ve noticed that many service providers struggle with describing what makes them unique while also being succinct. The people I work with are doing incredible things, but if no one knows about them they can’t make the impact in their own clients’ lives.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Now let’s discuss marketing. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority on marketing?
I’m only an authority due to the influences and mentors I’ve had through the years such as Racheal Cook, Kelly Diels, CV Harquail, and Joanna Wiebe-Bain. I’ve worked with several community based organizations such as InnovateHER KC, Catcall Magazine, No Divide KC, Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity on developing marketing initiatives, community management, and content strategy.
An article I wrote on Medium, “Why Storytelling Matters in Your Biz,” was featured for distribution in the marketing subfield among thousands of articles. I’ve spoken to Startup Grind and will be presenting sessions for Global Entrepreneurship Week later this year.
Throughout history, marketing has driven trade for humans. What role do you see that marketing played to get human societies where we are today?
The word ‘branding’ comes from when guilds would physically stamp a brand onto their goods (and on livestock). Since the Industrial Revolution, marketing has been a central aspect to our culture and how we communicate. Art informs marketing communication and vice versa. Would the Super Bowl be as culturally relevant without the anticipation around the commercials? In many ways, we’re going to see a further eroding of the barriers between art and marketing, but these have always been intertwined.
I work in marketing so I’m very cognizant of this question. What role does marketing play in creating the human experience of “I don’t have enough” even when basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are met?
Traditional marketing, specifically mass media, has made it a chief objective to encourage feelings of inadequacy and striving for status symbols without forethought if that’s the best decision for the audience in question. When you experience negative emotions, buying objects can help fill the hole — shopping or ‘retail therapy’ is a central part of our culture. It’s unhealthy but fortunately, many brands and organizations are moving away from this school of thought.
What responsibility do marketers have when it comes to people feeling that they aren’t enough?
From a purely legal standpoint, we can’t make claims that are misleading or false. But it’s deeper than that — marketers shape culture through the messaging we create, we have a significant responsibility towards the people we’re trying to reach. Cialdini called it ‘persuasion’ but some tactics are more akin to manipulation. They’re meant to short-circuit folks’ decision-making process. I believe that this, among other reasons, is why marketers struggle to build trust. Affirming where people are and working with their psychology instead of trying to ‘beat’ it is a better financial decision as well.
Many 21st-century marketing professionals in a capitalistic society will discuss solving human “pain points” as a way to sell products, services, and other wares successfully. In your opinion or experience, has aggravating pain points led to more pain?
To me, this isn’t a black or white issue. You can call upon what someone is struggling with, put a name to it, and discuss how this may make them feel without aggravating or agitating the existing pain. People need to know that you can help them, and the more specific you can talk about their problem, that shows you understand it better than other people out there. The better you understand their pain, the more trust you build that you can solve it.
Different cultures view trade/marketing differently. While some may focus on “pain-points” others may focus on “purpose-points”. How do other cultures differ in how they approach marketing? Please give examples or studies you may know about.
I love this question because it’s not something we talk about enough in the marketing industry. While businesses develop a mission or purpose statement, it’s not something you often see in juxtaposition to the common concept of pain points. A study in 2020 from Zeno helped to establish the importance of purpose in business growth. Consumers are 4–6 times more likely to trust, purchase, and champion a company that they perceive to have a strong purpose. While our perceptions and beliefs are shaped by our culture, there’s a lot of dispute about how much we should localize our marketing content. This is something that we need to better understand as an industry, and a vital aspect of this is having diverse voices in the room when we make decisions.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: It seems as if we have never stopped to question marketing. In your opinion, how can marketing professionals be more responsible for how their advertising shapes our human experience of feeling safe, secure, and knowing that we matter? Based on your experience or research can you please share “Five Ways We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction”?
- Instead of focusing on what people lack, our marketing can focus on what we aspire to be, feel, and experience. It’s more successful and creates people who will advocate for your brand.
- Brands need to be outspoken about the social issues that people care about. People are already making purchasing decisions based on this; the sooner we realize it’s a non-negotiable the sooner we can lean into it and attract customers based on shared values. As the study I linked previously shows, this will prove to be a wise investment in growing your business.
- I believe that ideal customer avatars (ICAs) are well-intentioned but if not don’t intentionally, can end up being exclusionary. I’m non-binary and I see a lot of marketing that doesn’t include me even if I could benefit from the product. Instead of focusing on external demographics such as age or ethnicity, I prefer to think about what challenges, barriers, emotions, and aspirations my ideal clients experience. You can get specific while being inclusive — you don’t have to make a choice.
- Our marketing can be affirming and validating to people. People want to feel like they’re not alone. In the right application, copy can make people feel seen, not sold to.
- I believe that informed consent should be the foundation of our marketing strategy. This comes back to my background as a nurse. I believe that ethical marketing can be about helping people make the best decision for themselves. When I would explain complex subjects in my previous profession, the goal was not to get them to say yes but for them to truly understand the decision that they’re making. I bring that mindset into my marketing practices. Sometimes we’re not the best decision for someone for that point of time, and that’s okay — there are a lot more people out there who are. And we’ve built trust with those people. They’ll either return when they’re ready or recommend our product/service to someone who really is the best fit.
For you personally, if you have all your basic needs met, do you feel you have enough in life?
I think that having your basic needs being met means that you have the capacity to be able to solve complex problems, either in your life or in your community. There’s a natural tendency towards curiosity and wanting to improve ourselves. That also translates to wanting to improve the world around us. I think that marketing can affirm the barriers we face while also tapping into our aspirations for a better life and world.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut and he approached big social issues with humility and good humor. He helped you to think differently and be entertained in the process. Alex Soonjung-Kim Pang wrote the book “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” and it helped me reframe rest as an inherent part of the creative process. The book discusses how people who have made history, created great works, and made groundbreaking discoveries worked a lot less than we do in our current society. They knew that deep, creative work can only be sustained for so long and they’d move onto something else. While I still tend towards workaholism, I think reading this helped me realize that it was counter-productive so I try to intentionally recharge.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m a champion of stories, especially from people who have been marginalized or pushed out. Our history is full of many stories that never got told but nonetheless, changed the trajectory of our culture and society. We’re seeing consistent backlash around people being uncomfortable that some of their beloved stories are shown with people that don’t look like or have the same lived experiences as them. But discomfort is the first step toward growth. I think that marketing can be a force for good as we elevate stories of people who have never had their voice heard. That’s what I do with my own work and it’s a part of a broader cultural movement.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world. Schedule a free consultation at WasabiPublicity.com/Choosing-Publicity.
Marketing Re-Imagined: Max Sheffield-Baird Of Max Wilde Stories On How We Can Re-Imagine The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.