The Brandlab

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Creativity. An equal opportunity employer.

Our mission is to change the face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding and preparing students for careers in marketing.

Creativity. An equal opportunity employer.

Our vision, a marketing industry that thrives on the insights and creativity of people with diverse backgrounds.  To make our vision a reality we bring together agencies, companies, and volunteers in the Twin Cities to create opportunities for students to learn about and become connected to the creative industry.

Creativity. An equal opportunity employer.

The BrandLab students gain valuable career skills, and the marketing industry gains valuable insights from individuals with diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s a win-win.

The BrandLab Founder,
John Olson
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The Program

  • Classroom

    In our classroom program, students learn about marketing as a viable career option. A cooperating teacher and BrandLab instructor work together to deliver an experiential curriculum based on the most current industry trends, including classes in strategic thinking, research, presentation skills, and creative ideation.

    Field trips to local agencies and corporate marketing departments help students learn the foundations of our business while industry volunteers offer mentorship and guidance.

    The best and brightest students will continue with our internship program where they’ll benefit greatly from the additional opportunities in our business.

    2012-2013 Partner Schools

    • Kennedy, Bloomington
    • Johnson, St. Paul
    • Harding, St. Paul
    • Como, St. Paul
    • St. Paul College
    • South High, Minneapolis
    • Richfield High School
    • FAIR School, Minneapolis
    • PYC, Minneapolis
    • Minnesota Transitions School
    • Highview ALC, Crystal




  • Internships

    Our  summer internship program allows students to work on specific projects in marketing departments and agencies under the supervision of an agency mentor. These internships prove to be invaluable as they nurture our students’ career potential and job skills.

    The Summer Program:

    The BrandLab Summer Institute- to prepare our students before they began their internships held on the campus of Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The program, developed by volunteers, offered BrandLab kids skills in everything from career development and goal setting to luncheon etiquette and financial literacy to working with supervisors to what to wear (and not to wear) to work.

    Mondays@MCAD- Weekly sessions on Mondays from 10-3 where interns have a chance to connect with each other, check in with BrandLab staff, learn some new skills and meet with a coach from the industry.

    Summer 2013 Intern Hosts

    • 3M                                          Weber Shandwick
    • Target                                    Medtronic
    • General Mills                       Tunheim Partners
    • Land O’ Lakes                     Magnet 360
    • Carmichael Lynch              ideapark
    • Colle + McVoy                     Wingnut
    • Olson                                     Minnesota Public Radio
    • Cargill                                   TPT
    • Yamamoto Moss                Fallon
    • BBDO                                    Adopt A Classroom
    • Caribou                                 Periscope



  • Connect

    The BrandLab Connect is a new program effort focused on creating a pathway to take students from where they are to where they want to be in the marketing industry. To do this, we believe Connect must:

    • Keep students connected to The BrandLab and marketing industry,
    • Provide opportunities for students to develop professionally and personally and;
    • Create a holistic experience that gives students a sense of community and ownership—not only with The BrandLab, but the Industry and their careers.

    Ultimately, from the moment they hear go, our students will be ready to jump into an exciting career in marketing—whether at an agency, corporation, small business or nonprofit.

    Connect Advisory Committee

    • Nathan Tuggle, General Mills
    • Aneela Kumar, Fallon
    • Jack Chandler, Marketing Lab
    • Kevin Hughes, Campbell Mithun
    • Ayo Kuyinu, Target
    • Erica Harris, General Mills
    • Thomas Osmonson, BrandLab Alum
    • Jamir Hopson, BrandLab Alum
    • Mai See Vang, BrandLab Alum
    • Waleed Abdulawahab, BrandLab Alum


  • Fearless Conversation Series

    One of the four objectives of The BrandLab is to partner with and support employers as they seek to attract and retain diverse talent. Our Fearless Conversation series, held in the spring each year helps our organization meet that objective. It allows conversations about race and advertising to happen in our community.

    This last years topic was ” Specialize or Integrate? A coversersation on race and age in advertising”. Moderated by Carmichael Lynch CEO Mike Lescarbeau, panelist included Carla Vernon from General Mill, Alfredo Martel, Caribou Coffee and Mike Fernandez, Cargill.

    As a community solution to a community problem we actively partner with our local agencies and marketing departments. We also work with other local non-profits such as the Career Readiness Collaborative and Career Tech Education Advisory Board, to make sure we are not duplicating services and can offer our students access a variety of mentoring, skill building and career services.

    And we collaborate with local organizations such as AD2, part of the America Advertising Federation and Twin Cities 4A’s, part of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. These organizations provide valuable volunteer and financial support to our organization. Their members help in our classes, supervise interns, and donate to our programs.

Who We Are

  • Staff


    Ellen Walthour, Executive Director
    Monica Mason, Program Director


  • Sponsors

    The mission of The BrandLab is to change the face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding and preparing students for careers in marketing. Thank you to our sponsors for their support.

    Founding Sponsors:
    General Mills
    The Schwan’s Food Company

    Industry Partners:
    Land O’Lakes
    Best Buy Children’s Foundation
    United Properties
    Caribou Coffee

  • Board Listing

    Barry Wolfish -Chair
    SVP, Corporate Marketing
    & Communications,
    Land O’Lakes, Inc.

    Christine Fruechte- Vice Chair
    President & CEO,

    Carol Willenbring – Treasurer
    Director of Innovation
    & Research, Schwan’s
    Food Service

    Erik Erickson – Secretary
    Marketing Consultant &
    Retired VP Target

    Mark Addicks
    CMO, General Mills

    Kevin Bennett
    Principal Fair School

    Kevin DiLorenzo
    Senior Consultant, Olson

    Sean Gallimore
    VP Marketing, Phillips

    Mike Lescarbeau
    CEO, Carmichael Lynch

    Howard Liszt
    Sr. Fellow, University
    of Minnesota

    Alfredo Martel
    SVP Marketing, Caribou Coffee

    Chuck Porter
    Chairman, Crispin

    Sonya Roberts
    VP Sales and Marketing 
Cargill Salt

    Sue Williams
    VP Operations, Olson

    Founder of The BrandLab
    John Olson

  • Agency Partners

    We are proud to partner with local agencies offering financial support for our programs through donations and internship opportunities.                      * Intern Host 2013

    Olson*                               Carmichael Lynch*
    Campbell Mithun*         Fallon*
    Colle+McVoy*                 Wingnut Inc*
    Weber Shandwick*

    Fame                                     ideapark*
    Little and Co                       Padilla Speer Beardsley*
    Tunheim Partners*          Fast Horse
    Knock INC                           Clockwork Active Media System
    Hunt Adkins                      Maccabee
    VSA Partners                     Sprig
    Owl Marketing                  Marketing Lab
    b-swing                               FRWD
    Yamamoto *                      BBDO*

How You Can Help

Contact Us


    • Mailing Address
      110 N 5th Street Minneapolis, MN 55403-1629

    • Office Address
      c/o Fallon 901 Marquette Ave S. Minneapolis
    • 612-483-0167

    For the Media Download