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Marketing role models

Role Models, Heroes And Icons Who We Admire In Marketing

Who we admire in the space and what we can learn from them so that the audience can bring them into their own marketing mix.


Episode 004 TOPICS:


  • Thought leaders and Modern marketers .

  • Role of Diversity in growth and Marketing

  • Challenging beliefs and ideals, pioneers and innovators 

  • BAME 2020 and promoting diversity

Across the Pond Marketing Transformed.

4. Role Models, Heroes and Icons Who We Admire in Marketing



This week will talk about who we admire and what we have learned from them in the marketing transformation space, we will take examples from them in terms of how they helped challenge beliefs and ideals, as pioneers and innovators and we’ll also talk about the importance of diversity in growth and in succeeding in marketing. 

The illiterate of the twenty first century are not those who cannot read or write, but the ones that are not able to learn, unlearn and relearn- that’s a quote by Alvin Toffler, a futurist who wrote Future Shock, I love that quote because marketing transformation is powered by the three key actions that he calls out. 

Learn. There are ideas, approaches, techniques that continue to be true today and can help you win and succeed and work in today's world continually immerse, be open and master the craft. 

Unlearn. Those are the ideas, approaches, biases and principles that you have to let go of. In advertising we need to unlearn the fixed top down funnel of awareness, interest, desire, action - that’s not fit for purpose today, or the marketing planning approach of setting it up and forgetting about it, because the digital world we are in and where humans are responding to day to day interactions, minute interactions, constant stimuli, we don’t operate in that linear way. 

Relearn. That’s where we should invest most of our time, where we need to remix and revisit for what makes sense today. That means recognising that word of mouth is also the same as word of Tweet, so you better get why social is relevant to you and your brand and you better be responsive and you better be present. What I called an advertorial earlier in my career has now become known as a native ad. It’s exactly the same thing just in a different platform and context, it means I have to change my language and opinion about how I used to think things were and make sure they are relevant for today. I say this a lot because marketers and CMO’s often sneer about social, they claim it doesn’t drive growth or business performance.



Very profound Sam, I like that. I think what’s really interesting to me is that actually we constantly have to learn and then relearn, reset where we are and work out where we take ourselves forward and that’s part of that transformation journey wherever you are in your career or wherever the organisation is on that lifecycle as well. 

Just taking a step back for those new listeners that have joined us, Sam and I used to work together back in the early nineties and that was at a grocery retailer called Safeway, we worked in very different departments and we became friends. We talked a lot about football, beer and marketing. We had quite diverse views on many subjects but quite a lot of common ground as well, one subject we never agreed on was football, Sam never quite grasped my love for my football team, but putting that aside many years later it actually turned out that my Dad lived in the same town as Sam - Luton. My step sister went to school with Sam and I think it was in the same class wasn’t it? 


Yep that’s right, sunny Luton about thirty miles north of London for those of you looking for it on the map right now and it was a great experience growing up there and now I’m living over in the US in Philly and have a completely different perspective on the world and things that got me here. We can talk about that as we go through more episodes.


Yeah and what a small world it is indeed and you know different backgrounds but common grounds as well. It’s understanding and finding the differences in views and viewpoints, and bringing that to light as well as also then working out where the common ground is. It is also one of the things I’ve really appreciated with Sam is that both of us have had to learn and then relearn what we’re doing. It’s certainly something that I think that I appreciate in him is his challenging nature and his knowledge and the fact that he actually wants to keep on learning.


Thanks for all the plaudits here and this love fest but let’s stop patting each other on the back and get on with it. So, Chris, based on the premises on this show, who stands out to you as a thought leader/role model that we should emulate?

Provoking Thought Leaders


Well, I read a lot but not necessarily business books but there are two that I refer to over and over again. First one’s Seth Godin and that’s Permission Marketing, and the second one is by Jim Collins which is Good to Great

The first one, I really understood the context as  to what marketing really is, or at least should be I mean I don’t know when it was actually written, the late nineties I can imagine but what struck me was it was all about creating a two way conversation. That was the premise of it you know you are there to create a dialogue you are there to take on feedback and this was way before technology enabled that to make life easy for us all and nineteen books later, insight every day, straight to a community of fans I think that it’s still stands that passage of time that book.


Thanks for bringing Seth Godin to mind because it reminds me of an example and stories he would tell and I’ve seen him perform a couple of times. One of the best examples that he does is you’ve got an audience of a few hundred people and he’s talking about being successful in making progress. He says to everyone “put your hands up, and a bit higher, now put it up as high as you can and you know everyone’s got their hands up as high as they can, and he says go even higher and everyone inches up another two inches” and you think what the hell is going on I told you to give me everything you have and then give me more and you do, you can stretch a bit higher and we all start looking and laughing because we’re programmed to hold back. 

We’re always fearful that there’s going to be more demand for us or that somethings going to happen so we never given one hundred percent commitment, we’re never fully in and that example of translating the idea of thought from theory into practice and feeling, we could all know what it felt like. So, what I love about Seth is he translates ideas into action and things that are really practical and appicable and he provokes you into action. 


That neatly ties into the next one which is from Good to Great, that idea that what we should be striving for and really also providing the definition for what we should be striving for and I simply believe that book has no equal. I think it’s fantastically written. Although it focuses a lot on business strategy as a marketing professional I think we can learn a lot about it because its embedded in our philosophy as well it's about understanding your customers, about creating a clear simple value proposition and its striving for excellence and not just accepting good which is something that I think we should all do. 


I co-sign that one. As you're talking there I found in my experience that a lot of CEO’s if you walk into their offices or connect with them they have a lot of books on their shelves but they actually haven’t read them. 

A little tip for folks in the room is if you walk into an office and you see a book behind a CMO if you’ve read it definitely do this, and if you haven’t just ask a question about it or make a suggestion and then grab the book, read it and come back and use that as your excuse to start to build a relationship and share what you’ve learned. Use that as you’re in because now you're connecting and from most of my experience most of them don’t have the time to actually read them books so if you’re publishers, and I always find it funny that they target CEO’s and send them books but nine times out of ten they aren’t reading those books.

I’d add to another one with a guy called Warren Berger. What I love about his work is he’s written a book called A More Beautiful Question and it allows you to probe into the power of asking compelling  questions and how they unlock opportunities and helps you reframe how you think about things. Instead of saying how are you, how you doing, you’d ask someone what are you most excited about right now versus asking them how do you do because if you ask someone what they’re most excited about that opens up a lot of possibilities, allows them to talk about more than just their job title and it also helps connect with people and you’re going to end up creating conversation just by asking a great powerful question versus going through the mundane status quos. So, the power of asking questions. Warren Berger does some great work out there that I would definitely advocate.


Yeah I am not familiar with that one so I’ll definitely go and check that one out, but to be honest there is so much advice out there which we're adding to but I think the most important point is take what you can and form your own opinion and you own direction. It’s better to be decisive than to be stuck, something that I’ve tried to live by and I think also when there is so much information out there it’s great to just sift through and see what applies to you and be your own curator. Role models don’t have to be about books though.


Taylor Swift vs. Beyoncé

You know, the greatest marketer over the last decade, do you know who I think that is? Taylor Swift I reckon. I mean, look I’m an indie-kid at heart, I’m an alternative rock fan but if you think about it she’s had about at least five different reinventions and established a huge community and within that VIP network of super fans she constantly is pushing the boundaries of peer to peer testing, sort of dropping tunes or albums to small groups, inviting a VIP group around to her house pretty much once a year, constantly changing and you look at it and you think a lot of those principles are the ones that we are striving for so I think she’s done an incredible job really.



I can see that and I think she’s definitely someone that has rubbed the industry up the wrong way because she’s taken control of her music, her persona, her art from a very young age and really gone into the business side as much as the creative side. People haven’t liked that because she’s young, she's powerful and she’s using that to design her future in a way that is role modelling for everyone.

I will take your Taylor Swift and counter it with Beyoncé and I’ll take us back a couple of years to the Superbowl in 2016 and that Superbowl halftime show was all about Coldplay allegedly and Beyoncé stole the show with a remarkable display of marketing savvy. 

On the eve of the Superbowl, she dropped a surprise single called Formation and a music video that became viral and that went huge on Saturday. Then immediately she did a co-performance with Coldplay and then she stole the show with her halftime show. She was wearing this outfit and bought the whole crew with her and I think she did a great job at mastering the consumer journey. From the pre-launch she captivated the key lovers of her and her music and at the end of that performance she dropped the ad for a traditional thirty second tv ad for a new Formation world tour.

Lets get to the results: one hundred and sixteen million people watch the halftime show and twelve million actually watching the game itself, over one hundred and fifty thousand tweets per minute she generated, a million tickets sold in the first day of sales, one hundred million dollars and growing that was the power of pulling people through a consumer journey and I said I’m not a fan of that framework but the ability to get you to know it, need it and share it was huge. So, yes musicians are some of the best marketers in the world and I think female musicians are doing a great job right now, so I think Beyoncé accompanies your Taylor Swift.


Yeah do you know what, I don’t think I’ve got a comeback to that one I mean that is staggering isn’t it, you look at that a million tickets sold on the first day that’s absolutely huge, and clearly a very well-orchestrated campaign with a clear call to action at the end of it as well, so yeah you win this time.



Everyone’s a winner but that’s the thing, the call to action. This was a really strong plan that led to a call of action and within thirty-six hours you could really see the results and measure them in millions of dollars. As marketers, we’ve got to look at the people who are best at it and not necessarily stick with the traditional and that’s why I look for diverse views and see that as a way of building into our thinking. 

It could be someone standing right in front of you. Diversity, as we think about it more broadly, it does power better marketing. I’m a black guy from the UK and I’m now based in the US. I’ve lived in Germany and Switzerland, so my experiences have taken me in different fields and I should mention now that my heritage is from Ghana so I speak some languages from there and all that is what I bring to the table. Traditional views on diversity and inclusion focuses on it being the right thing to do or what companies must do to meet client regulations. 

While both of those are true, there’s just so much documented impact on business results and value, including a diversity of members which operate an inclusive and trusting environment and that’s what this is all about doing it well and the data says twelve percent more discretionary effort, twenty percent greater intent to stay at the organisation, sixty percent more collaborations amongst teams, forty percent greater commitment. There is some corporate executive board data and there’s hundreds and hundreds of reports McKinsey and various other people that have put it out there so I like to think of it in different ways, diversity of view, points, people, opinions, income you know age, all of those things, culture, if you bring those things together and you really harness that it definitely allows you to succeed. 

‘Where on Earth Did You Get That From?'


You can just apply some of this in a very personal simple way. Something we all do, we all use the internet, and we all tend to go to Google and we search. If you’re based in the US why don’t you go beyond you can go to, ‘.au’ for Australia or ‘.nz’ for New Zealand, and you will find completely different results for the same brand. 

If you search Starbucks in different Google host countries, versions they’ll show up in different positions, you’ll have different stories. I think in France they’ve banned Starbucks again from a certain area and in Italy they’ve just said we don’t want a Starbucks opening there and those stories won’t show up in the US version but they’ll certainly show up in the international versions of the homesites, so think about that when you’re searching. 

Think about where you get your news from. If we want to stay up to date with current affairs, and what’s latest and greatest in our marketing world let’s look at beyond the usual media channels, again in the US you can look at France 24 or Deutsche Welle for in Germany, ‘Riu Uno’ which is Italian or even the BBC. Just get your news from those different platforms and that just brings  diverse inputs and thoughts into ideas, and you can just see different perspectives on the same thinking from around the world.


Yeah that’s good. That stereotypical thought which can just become normal in a way, you can get so into your routines and that biased opinion and view point. I remember back in the day we would be looking to Google to say well let’s be searching via Google versus Yahoo to give us some different viewpoints, and before you know it you find yourself dealing with your favourites and you become as institutionalised as everyone else.


So, Chris, can you talk a little about what efforts you’ve worked on to increase diversity? 


Increasing Diversity


Yeah so for me something I’ve kept passionate about and something I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on is working out how we bring diverse voices into our industry and what that looks like. I’m working with an organisation called BAME2020 at the moment. BAME for our US listeners is a term we use over in the UK to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people. The challenge that we have is recruiting in marketing is  just starting to get institutionalised, where we recuit more and more from the same backgrounds and the same places that we would aim to recruit from. BAME2020  is all about trying to bring twenty percent of the people coming into the marketing communications industry from a BAME background so it is a fantastic initiative. 

It’s headed up by a lady called Amanda Fone who runs F1 recruitment and a great guy called Adrian Walcott who’s a founder of Brands With Values and they spend a lot of their time dedicated to this  and there’s a number of advisors and ambassadors who show the way and many events around London, but it’s a really important initiative and I think one of the things we’re struck with is around that recruitment place process and how much of that becomes almost self-fulfilling, whether you’re looking for certain types of qualifications or skillsets and it's about making sure we give a voice and opportunity to those that don’t have a certain qualification or background, it's about what you can add, it’s the value you can achieve. 

When I joined The Guardian I was very proud joining there as a CMO but I was asked a question by a journalist, who will remain nameless, whether I went to Oxford or Cambridge University. The answer was actually Anglia Ruskin; a university in Chelmsford but I thought there’s an assumption there that role we’re performing, that you come from a certain background. I’m really proud of my roots and what I’ve achieved and I believe everyone should be judged on their merits and the potential they can show. 


I was just going to say there, when we think about the idea of diversity,  the fact that you had to come from two of the options, Cambridge and Oxford.  That they were the only choices anywhere when there’s over 100 or more different colleges and universities out there. That just sets the tone in certain professions so we have to really check-up  and assess.  But that’s great experience that you’ve come across in your career.


I think that as a Modern Marketer when we have the opportunity, taking briefs or taking jobs that allows us to do that, another organisation that I’m working with is a charity called ‘Teach First’ which is all about putting teachers, top quality teachers in disadvantaged schools. It’s a matching programme, which is all about recruiting teacher graduates and putting them in the right schools. Incredible values, great purpose -but like everything else, they need a strong marketing plan to help them deliver on that, so I’ve been helping them focus on their acquisition programme and driving that through, but that diversity is important, what about you Sam?  


So, I think I can add to the power of it, just from being who I am, doing the role I am doing as a role as a marketing director. A few years ago I was working on a campaign with an agency to relaunch a line of products and got a wonderful storyboard out there and the story was set in real people’s homes- it was really relatable and reverent. 

There were different characters in the categories to do with appliances, refrigerators and so essentially there were personas, you’d have someone that would open the fridge and gaze and leave it open and let the cold air out, and there was someone who would pick all of the pieces off of the top pizza and there was someone who was dropping things and spilling things, so all of the things that are just normally happening in everyday life. 

One of the characters was a thief and he was stealing all of the toppings off of the things when they weren’t supposed to, or taking something from part of the fridge that didn’t belong to them and when they cast it and I saw it, the thief was played by the black guy and I just saw the storyboard and I just thought ‘oh no you’re just reinforcing a negative stereotype’ and I took a breath, processed it, went to the agency, pointed it out and they were very apologetic and said how they didn’t mean it like that and it shouldn’t be seen that way. I was like ok, let’s be aware, be aware of the stereotype and fix it, so we did. 

We changed it and ultimately I had the decision making authority to fix it, and that was the critical part of the story here: if you don’t have the people who are different, have different perspectives and different ethnicities, genders and world views you’re going to have blind spots that you won’t mitigate and you won’t be able to address. 

So, me being able to speak up and say no to a story board or yes to a storyboard was ultimately the decision making role that I had to influence and make sure this went the right way. The outcome was, the final creative performed above norms and took us above board and took us from mediocre in the category to top of the category in terms of stand out, recall and persuasion, so that’s a personal story of why it matters and how you can lead through outstanding work, but you’ve got to have the decision makers in position to actually have an impact. 


I think we forget the human aspect of our jobs sometimes as well. It’s important that we find that and making sure that we create empathy with our surroundings or our colleagues because ultimately to actually understand where were going with our products and services and marketing and how were sort of going to transform the organisation, you’ve got to create the diverse viewpoint which brings us back around nicely to it. 


Things we can do as marketers to have that empathy, see things from different perspectives and mitigate the bias, as marketeers are expected to be leaders and effectively steer the work. Whether it’s the channels and the content and the material matters and they need to provide good inspiring feedback. One of the things you can do is when you’re doing market research is ask: are you really going to show up to all the houses that show up in your volume data? 

You know, have you just walked into the homes that look and feel like yours or have you walked into the homes that feel completely different that represent the other thirty, forty or fifty percent of the market place. Can you really see how other people live and can relate to them, where they live, what they eat and how they do that and have that real personal touch so I think that’s one thing that marketers can do. I think another key learning is have a diverse set of colleagues on the client's side but also the agencies side who’s working on account, what voice do they have, how do you help them bring their voice to the table and that is something that marketers can go and do immediately to be better in this space. 


There’s a great quote that I really like it's along the lines of ‘don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’, and I think that really sums us up. Where it should be about that empathy and puting yourself in the perspective of the customers and bringing it right back around to the topic of today really. When we look at who we admire and where we can learn and how we bring that into the marketing mix, so much of that is about bringing diversity viewpoints and being open to new ideas. So, Sam, quite a long session today but I still think very valuable so without any further ado why don’t you wrap it up for us and tell us the three things we should take out of it.


Today’s Three Takeaway’s


Three key things from today’s show for me:

  1. I think the starting point is anyone can be a role model, so I think we've spoke about ours earlier. I think we spoke about a couple of white guys and authors but then we turned to other folks and sort of saw the outside of the traditional industry.

    • You can find the role models out there that are doing a great job-certainly from a modern marketing perspective and we kind of picked up with Taylor Swift and Beyoncé  is perhaps doing it bigger and better than anyone out there. Anyone can be a role model and let’s make sure they’re part of world view when we’re thinking about that. 

  2. Diversity still needs to be encouraged. We’ve spoke about some of the ways to mitigate, some of the pitfalls of not having it or not doing it well but also some of the benefits there of doing it and I told  my personal story about being in a role where I can actually influence a decision that lead to greater outcomes in the work that we did.

  3. Constantly striving. It’s about being dissatisfied with the status quo and you know pushing to set a new standard and challenging from where we are, anyone can be a role model diversity still needs to be encouraged and constantly striving and being dissatisfied with the status quo or the three things I would say are the core things.


I think the one that certainly stands out there is that diversity still needs to be encouraged; it's something that we just have to keep pushing. In terms of what’s coming out of the next episode is what’s your marketing superpower, looking at personal examples of how our marketing superpowers have helped us navigate our careers. There will be a few tips in there to identify yours and truly realise the importance of aptitude combined with skills.

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