McKee Is in the Business of Giving it Away
Chris McKee, who majored in business economics at UMF, is now vice president of corporate programs for Maine-based promotional-products giant Geiger.
Ask him—as more than 130 high-end clients like Delta Air Lines and TD Banknorth do—how Geiger can enhance corporate visibility, and he’ll explain how putting a company logo on soft-shell jackets, t-shirts, hats, notebooks and USB flash-memory drives creates “durable brand resonance.” And once a business gives those Geiger-produced, brand-consistent promotional products away, customer loyalty soars.
Which brings McKee to a critical truth in explaining how he helps companies improve their market share: “Everybody loves free stuff,” he says. And McKee is no exception.
Last year, he explains, he flew more than 200,000 miles with Delta during 44 weeks of travel to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts with an array of blue-chip companies—all seeking ways to dominate market share. In return for the year’s patronage (a hefty tab for Geiger, he estimates), Delta gave him two Geiger-procured tokens of appreciation: a 1/100 scale replica of a Boeing 767 and a platinum luggage tag. McKee, pointing out the model airplane that now adorns a window sill in his Lewiston office, is still tickled about the gifts.
“The whole experience proved to me that the way a company acknowledges you, the way they say ‘thank you’ doesn’t have to be a big deal. Almost anything that helps a person form a positive relationship works,” he says. “I’ll definitely keep flying Delta.”
Beyond managing contract negotiations with product vendors and corporate entities, McKee now oversees an on-site call center and development of client Web solutions like custom online merchandising stores for “large relationships” like Discover Card (whose sales force can rapidly procure logoed goods for customers and courted clients alike). He also oversees Geiger’s employee-recognition program, which handles employee years-of-service awards with everything from notifying the corporate client of an upcoming anniversary to procuring the gift.
Asked if overseeing 130 high-end clients and Geiger’s myriad business services causes a few sleepless nights, McKee simply says, “You sleep better at night with diversification.” Plus, he explains, “I really work in order to do other the other things.”
Chief among McKee’s extracurricular pursuits is mountaineering. He’s climbed Mount Rainier, several Colorado 14,000-footers and, most recently, Mount Kilimanjaro. (Winter ascents of Mount Washington, arguably home of world’s worst weather, are but minor day trips for McKee.) He’s now contemplating the possibility of tackling Everest, but McKee—a Scuba-certified diver and a single-engine Beechcraft pilot—claims he’s not a “risk-taking daredevil,” just someone who, “enjoys learning new things and new challenges.”
“Sometimes, when I’m standing in an executive washroom of some Fortune 500 company, I look in the mirror and think to myself, ‘I shouldn’t be here,’” explains McKee. “I like having a mission and getting outside.”
-- By Marc Glass, managing editor of the UMF alumni magazine.