4 Ways to Shake up Your Marketing

December 11th, 2015

by Carrie Brown

Creative Advice from Mig Reyes of Basecamp

This week, the AMAWM welcomed Mig Reyes to Grand Rapids. In case you missed it, we’ll fill you in. Mig heads up marketing and design at Basecamp, which is the world’s best way to keep teams on the same page. He also presented Upside Down and Inside Out at MozCon earlier this year, which is one of the most respected inbound marketing conferences on the planet.

Mig Reyes AMA Burn Your Business Cards

He shared insights on how to shake up our approach to marketing by exploring, experimenting, and being creative. In his eyes, giving ourselves limitations can extend to our professional lives, and we have the tendency to pigeonhole ourselves. Simply by introducing ourselves and saying “Hi, I’m so-and-so, I’m a designer.”

Mig says that’s the wrong way to look at it, and he has a bigger picture approach.

“At Basecamp, we don’t really like the word “content.” We like great ideas, and we share them. Emily, who is a Basecamp customer support team member and a writer, took it upon herself to blog about what we’ve learned about customer support, and it became really popular. It wasn’t part of a content marketing campaign, it was just something she thought was important to do,” Mig says.

Mig discovered that the customer support team was interested in learning even more, so he created a way for them to update content on the website. He gave them the tools to get their hands dirty, and they learned to use markdown language to write web pages. The attitude toward programming and design has typically been to not give that access to staff because they might break things. But in letting go of that limitation and fear, people free themselves to explore and learn.

Mig says, “It’s having the spirit of doing what you’re not supposed to be doing. Your job description says X, but there’s so much you can do to create value. If you’re working with a designer, ask them to show you how to do it. Learn how to do other things.”

This leads us to Mig’s 4 pieces of advice:

Break Things

The best approach for becoming an artist, growing your skill set and being a better person at your company is simply by breaking things. When Mig began working at new job, his boss told him, “If you don’t break a few things then you aren’t trying hard enough.”

Mig Reyes AMA West Michigan

Make Ugly Things

Everyone expects content on the web to be beautiful, but we lose a human element when we over-sanitize everything. Mig shared some of his earliest, ugliest designs, then some of his favorite designers. “The first stuff you do is going to be bad, and that’s okay. Because tomorrow you’ll look at that, and know how to do it better,” he said.

Mig says, “Then you start to think, maybe ugly is good – maybe we should be doing that.

A great example of this is Craigslist. They’ve never updated the design, which is intentional because it matches the medium of what they’re doing. Sometimes what’s beautiful isn’t what sells. Sometimes ugly is what sells, and that’s ultimately our goal, right?

Spend Less Time on Things

In today’s market things change fast, so we need to be present and work in the now. Challenge yourself to do something totally different and new, and do it in 15 minutes. Mig used this strategy by focusing on a single concept.

When Mig was working an ad agency job and hated it, he started playing Layer Tennis, which is an Internet competition where you only have 15 minutes to create a design. Then you go back and forth with a designer in real-time. He won the national championship, and that’s how he went on to do other things, all because he was bored and tried something different.

You just need to get started. 

Early in his career when he was asked to speak, Mig decided to take a different approach to his presentation. He created a website called Humble Pied, where he compiled interviews from his mentors and idols. The advice his mentors shared includes:

  • Rip something off
  • Celebrate your lack of plan
  • If an opportunity comes your way that scares you, take it
  • Ignore your job title
  • What you do when you procrastinate is what you should do for the rest of your life


Questions?! You can find Mig on social media or connect with him on his website.