Greg Johnson is Taking Brands & Talent to the Moon

Written by Meg Seitz · Photography by Julia Fay

Greg Johnson has worked in marketing for over 20 years for some of the world’s biggest brands. We’re talking brands like Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, and Nike. While at Nike, he was one of the driving forces in the launch and marketing direction of the Jordan brand.

To back it up a bit, he launched his career at two New York advertising agencies, places where marketing and advertising execs dream of cutting their teeth. He was President at Charlotte’s own internationally-known, award-winning agency, BooneOakley, for 4.5 years.

Given all that, you’d think Johnson would be stone-cold serious and intimidating, with that high-power New York or Nike edge. And, seriously, I wouldn’t fault him for it. He touts one impressive, professional story.

Yet, I’ve never experienced anything more opposite.

Johnson is calm, welcoming, approachable; he has a big smile and a warm vibe; he wanted to know more about me and what I do before we ever started talking about him. His personal brand is about other people.

Today, Johnson serves as Managing Director and Founder at Orbital Socket – a brand strategy and engagement firm that utilizes innovative practices and experience design to help brands dream bigger than they ever thought possible. The Orbital Socket team is serious about engaging people. They’re serious about helping clients to grow their businesses.

They can do both because of their precise work around customer development. That process is about supporting brands in the process of finding that place in the market which they can truly own; the place where they can be uniquely and unequivocally #1.

Ironically, that’s what Johnson is also helping the world’s freshest and most talented do.

“Charlotte has always been a city of economic growth,” he says. “I believe in Charlotte, and I want an equitable, accessible Charlotte for the people here. This can be the next great American city, but we have to be cognizant of where we come from and the truths.”

For the first three years of Orbital Socket’s life, the team worked from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s PORTAL – or The Partnership, Outreach, and Research to Accelerate Learning (PORTAL) facility. Located on UNCC’s campus, the PORTAL is a world-class workspace, research, and innovation hub.

Working from the PORTAL introduced Orbital Socket’s team to not only the entrepreneurial energy there, but also the young talent and skill driving that energy – the interns. In those three years working on a university campus, Orbital Socket brought on approximately 30 interns. Johnson saw the talent – but also the difficulties ahead for them.

“There are a lot of really talented young people out there right now because the youth today are starting companies in their dorm rooms or maintaining their own blogs,” he says. “And unless they’re given opportunities it’s hard to break into this business regardless of talent.”

Orbital Socket was able to help by providing opportunities. Johnson also saw the flipside – that skill and talent was impacting Orbital Socket’s brand and work.

“I felt really driven by the idea of how to provide this young talent with more opportunities and real, live projects,” Johnson shared. “I wanted to give them hope and vision for what’s possible in and for the marketplace because of their talent.”

Which is why Orbital Socket’s Leadership Team launched Moonbus – a brand development incubator. Moonbus is built to transport people and brands to new destinations at an affordable cost for start-ups or non-profits. It also connects budding, young talent with real, live projects.

Moonbus consulting services include (but are not limited to): Brand Strategy, Brand Story, Digital Strategy, Automated Marketing Strategy, and Graphic Design.

And Moonbus is moving. There are assignments percolating and students with passion and vision from local colleges and universities including UNCC, Davidson, Queens, and CPCC who want to get on board.

It’s a solid match – start-ups and non-profits, also full of passion and vision, now have a more affordable way to develop the process of connecting to their marketplace.

“We put them on a bus and we take ‘em to the moon,” Johnson notes with a laugh. “The more we thought about it, it’s really about transporting people – whether they’re clients or young talent – to where they want to go; we want both to know you can far exceed what you think you can achieve.”

“The more we thought about it, it’s really about transporting people – whether they’re clients or young talent – to where they want to go; we want both to know you can far exceed what you think you can achieve.”

Meet the Author: Meg Seitz is the Founder and Managing Creative Partner of toth shop, an agency with one goal: Elevate your brand’s content through powerful writing, creativity, and strategy. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor with Queens University and Founding Partner of the children’s book series, “Bea is for Business”.

She’s an English major with an MBA, so she can talk Homer’s “The Odyssey” just as well as she can talk sunk costs – though she’d much prefer the former.

Meet the photographer: Julia Murray, owner of Julia Fay Photography, feels most at home behind a camera with a story to tell on the other side. Her business began during her sophomore year of college, while majoring in radio and tv broadcasting. Now residing in Charlotte NC, she primarily shoots weddings and other local small businesses like her own. Her favorite part about her job is the connection it brings between art and people.