Russell Baker has been appointed as Wingard’s next Chief Executive Officer and Brand Strategist, effective March 25, 2019. Christopher Ball, Wingard’s current CEO, will remain active in the agency as an advisor and equity partner while focusing on family businesses throughout the Southeast.

Baker brings more than 20 years of marketing strategy and business operations experience to the role. He joined Wingard in October 2016 and was promoted to Chief Strategy Officer in January 2018. Prior to joining Wingard, he held numerous executive leadership positions during a 12-year career with The Coca-Cola Company.

“We started planning this transition several years ago, when we brought Russell on board to lead our strategy efforts. He immediately clicked with our team and our clients,” said Ball. “I have every confidence that the business will thrive under his leadership, and we will continue to provide market-leading services to existing and new clients for many years to come.”

The transition aligns with a period of significant growth for Wingard. Since Ball’s appointment as CEO in 2010, the company expanded from four to 20 employees; added new services, including media buying, public relations and social media; and earned multiple awards for its business growth and workplace culture (Jacksonville Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Companies, Best Places to Work and Partners in Philanthropy; 904 Magazine’s Companies With Heart). Over that same time, he led the company to a 44 percent compound annual growth rate, or more than a twenty-fold growth of revenues.

“Christopher played a key role in helping us evolve from a small design studio to a full-service agency. I am grateful for his years of service, and wish him success in the next phase of his career,” said David Wingard, founder and Chief Creative Officer.

Baker graduated from The University of Georgia with a degree in accounting and started his career as an auditor with Deloitte in Atlanta. After several years in public accounting, he joined The Coca-Cola Company as an internal auditor — a role that allowed him to better understand how beloved consumer brands are built and ultimately led him to pursue a new career path in marketing.

After earning an MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Baker rejoined The Coca-Cola Company as an Associate Brand Manager working on the Diet Coke business. His responsibilities later shifted to Coca-Cola Zero, which under his leadership became a billion-dollar brand and a consumer favorite for millions of Americans.

The experiences Baker gained while working in The Coca-Cola Company’s Brand Marketing, Commercial Strategy, Shopper Marketing and Sales departments, coupled with his work on behalf of Wingard’s clients since 2016, have contributed to his end-to-end understanding of how to build strong consumer brands. He will continue to work directly with clients on their marketing and brand strategies, in addition to his responsibilities as CEO.

“Wingard’s vision of ‘realized potential’ extends to our partners, our people and our community. I am humbled to have the opportunity to fulfill that vision as CEO, and thank Christopher for his leadership and partnership,” said Baker. “This new responsibility represents the best of both worlds; I look forward to leading the business while partnering with our clients to deliver a fresh perspective on their marketing strategies.”