Jim McKinley

Jim McKinley


As a founding partner of (un)Common Logic and an Adjunct Professor of Digital Marketing at Baylor University, Jim McKinley has a range of experience in online marketing, growing companies, and technology that's both wide and deep.

Jim is one of the two co-founders of (un)Common Logic, which started as a lead-generation company in 2005. Initially, Jim managed all aspects of the business: tactical digital marketing expertise, account management, training and development of talent and new customer acquisition.

In 2008, the lead-gen unit spun off into its own firm, 360Connect, while the digital-marketing unit, which had been growing, became an agency named 360Partners. In the intervening years, 360Partners has become (un)Common Logic, and Jim’s role has evolved to that of an active board member who still likes to go deep on things.

Prior to founding the company, Jim was an entrepreneur-in-residence at SSM Ventures and co-founded SmartPrice, Inc. in 1999. The company raised $8M in venture capital and provided a free service that helped businesses and consumers compare, select, and manage telecommunication services. In his role as VP of Marketing and Sales, Jim and his team acquired more than 250,000 customers in the early days of digital marketing.

Before SmartPrice.com, Jim worked for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Dallas, focusing on strategic and marketing issues in the high-tech and utility industries. Jim also served as an information technology consultant for Andersen Consulting, where he designed computer applications, interfaces, and associated business operations for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.

Jim earned his MBA with high honors from the University of Chicago, with a concentration in Marketing Management. He also completed a BBA in Marketing from Baylor University, summa cum laude, and has returned to Baylor as an Adjunct Professor of Digital Marketing.

Jim currently serves as an informal advisor to several small companies in the Austin area and enjoys basketball, travel, and spending time with his family.

What are your responsibilities at (un)Common Logic?

My title is Principal, which means I am responsible for everything or nothing – just ask the rest of the team. I actually spend a lot of my time identifying and getting to know new potential customers for (un)Common Logic.

What’s your favorite thing about working at (un)Common Logic?

Easy. The culture and the people I work with. Where else can one work with a philosophy major, former basketball, baseball, and lacrosse players, a huge fan of Japanese anime, a former professional poker player, etc. I love the diversity of the backgrounds and interests that everyone brings to work – all united by a passion to do great work for our clients.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Knowing what to do next. To use Stephen Covey’s framework, there are a lot of aspects of my job that are in “Quadrant II” – not urgent, but important. The largest challenge for me is making sure I am thinking about all of those things and doing something about them.

Anything big happen this year outside of work?

I am old and boring. My life is a lot like Will Farrell described in “Old School”:

Frank (Will Ferrell): …I got a big day tomorrow. You guys have a great time.
College Student: A big day? Doing what?
Frank: Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.

So the highlight of my year is going into Home Depot. Also, I have two kids, Marshall (8) and Ellie (7). They pretty much keep me and my wife busy.

What makes Austin special?

Wow, great question. There are a lot of things I like about the city (i.e. I live only 5 minutes from work) and there a lot of things I don’t like about the city (i.e. traffic if you try to go anywhere during rush hour). If I were to pick something that really makes Austin special is that as a city it reminds me of a favorite movie or book. Even if you are familiar with it you are always discovering new things about it.

I find myself constantly discovering (and rediscovering) cool things about the city I did not know existed. Just two weeks ago I went with a group of friends out on Lake Austin. After swimming in the lake for a couple of hours we went to dinner at County Line BBQ. I have been to County Line probably 50 times but had never driven up to it in a boat. It was awesome!

What makes you (un)Common?

I guess it would be that I have always thought about marketing through a data lens rather than a creative lens. Sort of an anti-Don Draper way of viewing the world. I remember back to my first start-up during the .com era. We were going through design options for our first ever website. During the meeting the designers were extolling the aesthetic nature and beauty of their design while I was thinking “will it work?” Of course, a data view of marketing has become much more “common” now but it was an exception to the norm.

Other (un)Common things about me:

- I have run 28 marathons
- I can pick up a tennis ball with my toes
- I am related to Stephen F. Austin

What’s the biggest digital marketing change you think will occur this year?

The biggest change that I expect this year is getting clarity around data and ad targeting. Every freshman level marketer knows that the key to success in marketing is getting the right ad to the right person at the right time. In that pursuit companies (both advertisers and publishers) have gotten much better at targeting individual prospects rather than groups. The degree that marketers can target is astounding.

One of the things I have the privilege of doing is teaching a class on digital marketing. One of the discussions I have had every semester with my students is if Facebook or Google is listening to them through their phone. Every semester several of them swear that they were talking about something with a friend and BOOM! Later that day they start getting ads for the discussed product or service.

No, Google and Facebook are not listening to you via your phone. However, they know an incredible amount of data and are introducing the capability to predict how you will behave and what you will buy. This is scary powerful for advertisers and lucrative for the ad platforms (if you don’t pay for the product, you ARE the product). While this is going on, we are starting to see a backlash from users about data privacy. The most visible examples of this is the GDPR regulations in Europe and the #DeleteFacebook movement. Both are reactions to the amount of data the platforms are collecting and using.

While I don’t think it will be resolved, I believe by the end of 2018 we will have some clarity around data privacy and how the platforms can use that data to target advertising.