Meet the Mindstreamer – Meagan Cox

She’s as much a strategic thinker as she is a certainty to make you laugh. She knows the ins and outs of digital and traditional media, is consistently contributing to client growth and can transform an otherwise business-as-usual discussion into a joyous occasion by adding in her own unique brand of humor.

Her name is Meagan Cox, and she’s a Senior Media Planner based in Mindstream Media Group’s St. Louis office.

What excites Meagan the most about her job is precisely what those in another profession might find intimidating. The fact that the advertising and media industry never stays the same and is constantly evolving keeps Meagan on her toes. She shares, “The challenges are new but the same all at once.  I love being challenged to continuously innovate digital and traditional media.”

Meagan says she’s inspired by her coworkers each and every day. “I love the honest relationships I have with my peers because good and bad ideas are shared equally… and I’ve shared some bad ideas.  Everyone at Mindstream has this incredible voice that lends it’s light when we can get bogged down with a problem. The collaboration is truly incredible.”

She first became interested in this industry in college, when she followed Wieden and Kennedy religiously, “I loved the creative genius behind their Nike campaigns. W+K has a wall of about 100K pushpins that draw out the idea of “Fail Harder”. “Fail Harder” means to never hold back, trust others around you, because they will show you a greater idea than you ever knew you had. It led me to think I could be a brilliant creative director, but I settled on media planning. *insert double guns*” (Yes, the double guns are part of the quote.)

When asked about advice she’d give to someone wanting to pursue a career in this industry, Meagan likened it to the show Mad Men, but clarified that “it’s much better though…” Interpret that however you wish – just like her description of her role within the agency. Meagan had this to say about her responsibilities, “I like to think of it as a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

In her almost 4 and a half-year tenure as a Mindstreamer, Meagan (lovingly dubbed Morgan by her coworkers thanks to a coffee shop misunderstanding) has made an impact both on client business as well as the people around her. Talk to her long enough and you’ll undoubtedly hear a casual mention of the Royal family (she’s a big fan partially due to living in the UK during high school), a golf reference or a cute story about her doxie pup, Romeo. She also volunteers on the agency culture committee and has been known to organize a happy hour or ten.

Over the last several months of quarantine and working from home, Meagan’s mom has even become well-known to other Mindstreamers for making an appearance on internal team calls. Meagan had this to say about her mom, “She works in the medical field but will often give her ideas randomly from time to time. One time she popped in to snuggle the pup unknowingly, but everyone saw her. I could see her in my camera view, and it took all of my concentration to not focus on her. Now my coworkers ask where she is. She’s an honorary Mindstreamer now.”


An enormous part of what makes Mindstream Media Group successful is the collective talent and collaboration of its employees across the country. While we as an agency love to share stories about client successes, industry news and product updates on our MMG Blog, we also want to feature the actual people behind the work we are doing to grow client business.

 Our recent video series, Fast-Forward the Conversation, discusses the HOW behind supporting client growth through media strategy, with topics like shopper marketing, franchise work, influencing the customer journey, QSR challenges, agency partnerships and more.

 We’re also now featuring a Mindstreamer (as we like to call ourselves) periodically to share their stories and celebrate the diverse people, backgrounds, interests and qualities that make us unique.


Tackling Restaurant Challenges Through the Pandemic

There have not been many industries more severely impacted by the pandemic than the restaurant industry. Coming into 2020, the restaurant industry was projected to gross $899 billion. As of the first week of December 2020, the restaurant industry was estimated to have grossed only $659 billion. This $200 billion shortfall impacts small business owners, restaurant workers, industry partners and subcontractors, and even advertising partners.

As an experienced digital marketer responsible for national restaurant campaigns at Mindstream Media Group, I wanted to share my learnings from this experience in order to help any restaurant or marketer out there in some small capacity.

It may be obvious to point out, but the pandemic has seismically affected user behavior, both in real life and online. Under normal circumstances, 60 percent of dining is done off-site. During the pandemic, that figure has swelled to 90 percent.

This shift in consumer behavior increases the importance of placing a greater emphasis on carryout, catering and delivery. Unsurprisingly, restaurants with drive-throughs have generated a noticeably higher portion of visitors and sales than those without drive-throughs. 90 percent of Wendy’s 2020 sales is attributed to their drive-through business.

Source:  Wall-Street Journal

Many restaurants were not preemptively equipped to handle this increase in carryout and drive-through business initially, so they got creative. Several restaurants we work with have added meal kits and unusual carryout items (like charcuterie boards) to their menus to help boost sales. Some restaurants are now selling wholesale ingredients to ensure their surplus inventory does not spoil. And I would say many of us are thankful that some restaurants now offer alcohol for carryout and delivery.

Adjust Keyword Targeting

With an additional 30 percent of diners choosing to eat at home, how does that affect their online behavior? Simply put, user search behavior has shifted to what is local, and what is available. Searches that include the words “available near me” have increased 100 percent globally year over year, and searches that include the words “restaurants open for” have increased 1,000 percent year over year.

Based on these statistics, one of the most important changes we’ve implemented in our client campaigns is to make sure keyword targeting reflects these consumer behavior changes, both for SEO and SEM. Some examples of these keywords include: “local restaurants open for delivery,” “restaurants open near me” and “nearest restaurant open.”

It is important to also keep in mind that other restaurants have taken this into consideration as well, which has led to a noticeable increase in SEM cost per click due to the increased competition among these keywords. In order to mitigate these cost increases, smart digital marketers are now looking for opportunities to add both exact match and longtail keywords and putting less emphasis on phrase match keywords. Another best practice is identifying variations of these more popular searches that are less competitive, by adding in the specific city or street name into campaign keywords.

Google Ads’ Keyword Planner can be used for ideas and estimates of keyword costs, as well as perform frequent search query reports within search campaigns to see which search terms are performing well, and which aren’t. If certain keywords aren’t performing well over a long period of time, the decision can be made to pause them, or look for opportunities to add negative keywords to the campaign.

Google keyword research also shows an uptick in search behavior that includes the words “safe” and “safety,” so those keywords are worth exploring as well. With that being said, I would encourage marketers to watch the performance of any ad text or messaging that focuses on “safety” closely. At the beginning of the pandemic, safety messaging performed extremely well. However, as the pandemic has continued, we are seeing across multiple campaigns that consumers have become less and less responsive to safety messaging, and more responsive to general brand messaging and Limited Time Offers.

Leverage Google Offerings

In addition to adjusting your SEM and SEO, it’s also critical that each Business Profile of all Google My Business restaurant locations are kept up to date. Make sure to update any changes to business information due to the pandemic, including hours of operation, menu limitations and safety measures you have taken. Users can reserve tables and order online through your business profiles, so this is just another avenue that can be can utilized to generate business and keep customers informed.

Another option Google offers small businesses that has helped greatly with the onset of the pandemic are Google Local Campaigns. Local Campaigns run dynamic creative across 4 different Google platforms: Google Search, YouTube, the Google Display Network and Google Maps to local customers in a business location’s service area. The campaign optimizes in real-time, mixing and matching the different headlines, descriptions, images and logos uploaded to the campaign, and automatically shows the best performing combinations. These algorithms utilize 7 million data points in a split second, determining when, where and to whom to show your ads, based on performance.

There is a caveat for running Local Campaigns: Google does recommend that a business run Local Campaigns with a Store Visit-focused strategy in an account that has at least 10 different restaurant locations, so this option lends itself more toward medium and large sized businesses. However, there is a separate bidding strategy for smaller businesses to run Local Campaigns: optimize towards phone calls and/or Google Maps driving direction clicks. So, while the primary option of Local Campaigns is to drive as much foot traffic as possible, Local Campaigns can use the same algorithmic data points to optimize towards driving customers to call and/or search for directions to your restaurant. Even during a pandemic, Local Campaigns remain one of the best digital marketing tactics a restaurant business can leverage – whether big or small.

Overall, marketing budgets are going to be much tighter in 2021 than they would be under normal circumstances, and marketers may not be able to execute all the digital marketing tactics they would otherwise. Being flexible and staying up to date with Google’s offerings and best practices can help businesses succeed and thrive in a changing environment.

Stay Creative

Saying that 2020 has been an unpredictable year would be an insulting understatement. It is difficult to tell if consumer behavior will return to normalcy in the long-term, or if this will drastically affect customer behavior permanently going forward. Regardless of that answer, it is important for all of us to remain creative and ensure that we’re not stagnant in our strategies. If I have learned anything from both digital marketing and 2020, it is that flexibility is imperative.


–Brian Pappas is a Sr. Digital Manager at Mindstream Media Group. An experienced digital marketer for over 7 years, Brian enjoys helping clients with their goals, voice acting and taking long walks on the beach.


Google’s Continued Investment in Local

2020 has been quite the year. Not only has it reminded us of the importance of accurate information in local listings, but it has also shown us how valuable local businesses are to Google. As such, Google has been busy releasing a number of updates to help businesses deal with COVID-19 and aims to continue updates throughout Q4 to help local businesses improve communication and engagement with consumers.

Local Business Messages Expansion

Since the beginning of the year, people have initiated more than twice as many messages to businesses right from Business Profiles on Search and Maps. In that timeframe, Google has continued to invest in upgrades in Google Maps and local search capabilities, recently releasing its expanded messaging feature, allowing verified businesses to message with customers directly from the Google Maps app. Once messaging is turned on, a business can start replying to customers on Google Maps from the business messages section in the Updates tab. Additionally, customers can also initiate a message from any Posts a business creates. Google is also now teasing, “soon you’ll also be able to see your messages right from Google Search (via the Customers menu on your Business Profile) and message customers directly from your computer.”

Source:  Google

Updated Performance Insights

This month, Google is expected to release more robust performance metrics giving businesses deeper insight into how customers discovered the Business Profile, starting with a more detailed list of the search queries used to find the business. Beginning in 2021, more updates will be released to the performance page showing whether customers found the business via Search or Maps, as well as their device usage.

Source:  Google

Google’s Community Feed

The Community Feed is a new “social feature” of Google Maps. Found under the Explore tab of Google Maps, this feature offers more opportunities for local business exposure and could eventually become an effective promotional tool.

The new Community Feed presents different types of content (lists) tied to a user’s location showcasing places and activities, which appear to be compiled by Google Local Guides, and resemble Instagram feeds. Examples are “Parks & Gardens in Paris” and “Best Dog Parks from Sacramento to San Francisco.” There is also a “Trending Weekly: [city]” list.

Source:  Google

The Community Feed is also creating more exposure for Google Posts. In early testing, Google found that users are seeing Posts from businesses two times more than before the feed existed. While individual businesses cannot be followed, users can save places and those Posts will appear under the Update tab on Google Maps.

Looking Forward

There is no doubt that Google will continue this trend into 2021 and will most likely work even harder to safeguard its relationships with local businesses. As we look forward to 2021, many industry experts speculate Google will make a greater effort to provide leadership in uncertain times by becoming a stronger partner to businesses, educators and healthcare providers while extending its reach and providing some measure of certainty, while trying to be a more purposeful brand.

One thing is certain, consumers are seeking local information. A robust GMB profile is not only a great way to connect with them, but certain features even impact rankings in Google search results. At Mindstream Media Group, we have the solutions and insight to fast-forward your business by designing and executing sophisticated media strategies. Connect with us to learn more about the role your local business data plays as part of a holistic media plan.

Mindstream Media Group Partners with Varo Bank

Varo Bank initially approached Mindstream Media Group for help with a media audit in the spring of 2020. We began by leveraging our research tools to ingest invoicing and data logs associated with their campaigns. Our team then analyzed Varo’s digital and non-digital media campaigns for things like cost efficiency, creative separation and dayparting, all the way down to showing how an individual campaign did against the rest of the media landscape including an assessment of whether a fair value was received for the media investment.

As we progressed through the audit, the Varo Bank team was growing and expanding. COVID-19 accelerated their need to reach the market, efficiently, with their message of accessibility and industry disruption. We again put our research tools to use, this time around their competitors to learn what media they were running and how much they were spending.

Varo Bank is the very first neobanking app on the planet to become a real bank. FDIC insured, built from the ground up. An independent bank with a visionary CEO whose mission is to be a bank for all of us.

Being a bank for all comes with responsibility and it’s something every person at Varo Bank embodies to their core. The next step in the research process involved finding communities negatively impacted by the banking industry and areas of the country with the least access to traditional banks. 

When a client asks for a unique research assignment like this, you know they truly care about their core mission. It’s not just something they post about on social media, they put action to their words. This resonated with our research and planning teams as well and together we leaned in to help develop a unique audience profile that would guide our media planning efforts moving forward.

We are all excited to see this transformational brand come to life with a thoughtful and well-timed media campaign and we are proud to be working alongside Varo Bank as they trailblaze a new category.