Remembering the Marketplace of the Midsouth

Dennis Allen

Former Marketing Director at the Mall

I stumbled across this site and a flood a memories hit me. The Mall of Memphis holds a fond place in my heart. And, judging by the comments of visitors and the the site's founder, I am not the only one.

I joined MOM after a transfer from the Hahn Company's Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas in 1986. Upon joining the mall management team, headed by then Mall Manager Jim Anders, we set out to broaden the appeal of the Mall. Research showed the property drew from 3 states, but the previous marketing efforts were a bit more localized. So we started to develop an ad campaign we felt was fitting for the Mall and it's customer base. Working with me at the onset was Lisa R. Massa, my assistant. Lisa's talented were soon recognized and she entered the Hahn Company's Marketing training program. She eventually returned to MOM in 1992 as the Marketing Director.

"Memphis is Happening" was our first campaign. We began to use a lot more radio and television advertising to reach out to a wider audience. The jingle "Memphis is Happening" was our "base". Written and produced by the talented Dan Milner of (now) Wintermoon Music, I recall we tried to recreate a "Pointer Sisters" sound. (Dan and I had previously collaborated in an award winning jingle for Fashion Show). With the mall's dominance and a strong marketing budget, we soon began to "co-sponsor" major events with local media like K-97, Channel 13, FM100 and others. A Hahn Company retained PR firm had tracked our efforts for a good while. During one quarter year the mall had been "positively mentioned" (either with paid advertising or "free" generated publicity) every single day in major media. It's no wonder there were traffic backup's on the freeway of shoppers trying to get to the mall during the Holiday shopping season.

A few of the "big" events I recall for no reason were: The appearance of "Ernest P. Worrell" (the late Jim Varney) for a Valentine's Day "meet and greet"; The "Newlywed Game" with Bob Eubanks we staged on the Ice Rink; the appearance of "Mouth of the South" Jimmie Hart with a WWE/K-97 promotion; and the annual base for the Children's Miracle Network telethon. Each event drew 1,000's and helped cement MOM as an exciting shopping destination.

I recall one Christmas we did something unheard of: we delayed Santa's arrival until the day after Thanksgiving. We ran a full page age that basically took a shot at the other malls for "rushing" the holiday season by bring in Santa the Saturday before. We told our shoppers to enjoy Thanksgiving and to join us for the "real" beginning of the Christmas shopping season the day after Thanksgiving. It took a lot to convince our merchants to take such a "risk" but it paid off. Our crowds were huge the day after Thanksgiving. We also received a lot of letters from shoppers thanking us for our stance and, I believe, we even received some positive editorial comments from the press, too.

I stayed at MOM until the Summer of 1988, when Hahn asked me to coordinate the grand opening of their soon-to-be East Coast flagship mall, Bridgewater Commons.

Just prior to my leaving, I teamed again with Dan Milner to develop a jingle as the base for a planned new marketing campaign, "Still The One". Dan approached the owner of the song, John Hall, who was the founder of the group Orleans and secured our rights to use it in the Memphis market. In talking with John, Dan discovered Orleans lead singer Larry Hoppen was doing "session work" (singing commercials, etc.) and lived in Los Angeles. Dan called Larry and hired him to sing the MOM version in Dan's San Diego studios. So, not only did MOM get an instantly recognizable "theme", we had the original lead singer doing it for us!

Yes, Mall of Memphis is one of those "stops" Mall Marketing Directors dream of. We had a strong customer base, a good mix of tenants and great location. But times changed. MOM is just one of many malls across the country that suffered from too many things changing, too many things going wrong. Unfortunately, at least in my viewpoint, it was a shame to see a mall such as MOM that had been so dominant in a market suffer what almost seems like an untimely, quick death.

I'm no longer involved in Mall Marketing. After Bridgewater, I stayed with Hahn for the renovation of Towson Town Centre in Towson (Baltimore), Maryland before joining The Debartolo Corporation as a Regional Marketing Director. I am now "semi" retired in Las Vegas working for a major resort outside the field of advertising and marketing.

I'm honored by Doug and this site to have been remembered after all these years. This site is a wonderful tribute to a grand old lady and one I'll visit from time to time as the cobwebs might clear and I recall things that happened during MOM's heydays.

Dennis Allen, CMD


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