Class: 1973, journalism and mass communication
Then: Iowa State Daily
Now: President, Co-Owner at Hanson Watson Associates
Jim Watson’s connection to Iowa State began well before he enrolled at the university in the 1970s. One branch of his family tree, the Grays, moved to Ames from Scotland and owned the farmland that now holds up Jack Trice Stadium. And a major street in the Greek community south of campus bears the family name – Gray Avenue.
Watson’s family members had a knack for writing. His grandfather founded a magazine called the New England Homestead, which Watson’s father helped operate for more than 50 years.
Watson, ’73, his father and his wife all studied journalism at Iowa State. (His daughter broke the mold by studying business.) During Watson’s time at Greenlee there was not a specific major for advertising, so he studied journalism and took as many advertising classes as he could.
“I got most of my experience from working at the Daily in its advertising department,” said Watson. “It helped me build a good portfolio.”
His most influential professor was the late Gene Bratton. “He was talented at focusing your attention on the right things and how to create a good ad,” Watson said.
For the past 44 years, Watson has worked at Hanson Watson Associates. He started as a copywriter, but now is the company president and co-owner. He is one of 40 certified brand specialists in North America.
As a brand specialist, he helps companies discover their own unique brands. According to Watson, the most important part of branding is the discovery process.
“Their claim of distinction becomes a lens that is the focus of internal and external branding,” said Watson.
The firm’s most recent success was with a company called Weber Inc., a food processor machinery company. The company originated in Germany, so it needed the firm’s help on how to brand in America. Over the past 13 years of Hanson and Watson and Weber working together, Weber grew into the No.1 supplier of like brands.
Another company Watson is involved with is Isabel Bloom, a company that handcrafts sculptures in Davenport, Iowa. Not only did the firm help Isabel Bloom establish a national presence, but the company’s revenue rose fivefold.
A piece of advice Watson has for those who are still in school is to “do something that interests you…marry a passion with persistence and that is a perfect recipe for success.”
Written by Olivia Kudla