The SMEX Phenomenon

What is it about social groups? What makes them so important? From the Texas Exes to Skull & Bones, the Bleacher Creatures to the Cheeseheads, and chess clubs to church clubs, social groups give us a sense of belonging. A support system. A connection made over shared experiences. Typically, these experiences are highly emotional moments that change our lives forever … such as replacing a toner cartridge or getting a cup of coffee.

Wait. What?

Enter, SMEX.

Known officially as “SicolaMartin Exes,” SMEX is an alumni group of anyone who ever worked at a precursor agency to Y&R Austin. How many agencies can that be? Well, in 1985, Sicola Martin Koons Frank opened its doors, with the employees quickly nicknaming themselves “Martians.” In the 33 years since, the agency evolved into SicolaMartin and then Y&R Austin, its modern-day namesake. You go through a lot of employees in 33 years. The SMEX Facebook group has over 300 members — and not all SMEXes are on Facebook.

With spring and fall happy hour gatherings, SMEX truly has taken on a life of its own that you rarely find with “professional” social groups. After the last gathering, the group shot posted on Facebook garnered such comments as, “WOW! Just WOW! So awesome to see all of you together!!”, “What a strange and wonderful psychic glue that keeps Martians in touch over so many years” and, “The greatest bunch of colleagues and friends ever! So great seeing everyone.”

How can your agency create a group like SMEX? It can’t. That’s up to the people who work(ed) there. But it does start with hiring great folks and building a great culture where people become more than co-workers — they become friends and almost family. They go to each others’ weddings. They throw baby showers. They attend funerals. They support each other through thick and thin. And when they no longer work together, not much changes. Because friendships don’t just happen from 9 to 5.


SMEX happy hour in June. Photo credit: Kevin “Boots” Cooksey

SMEX happy hour in June.
Photo credit: Kevin “Bootz” Cooksey