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In this bonus AfterCast™ episode Samuel Monnie and Chris Lawson recap, reflect and remix topics from the Episode 58 interview with Yin Rani. We discuss how diverse is your network? How diverse is your Linked In network? How Planning and Luck has played a role in our lives and careers. Tips, techniques and resources to address fears and biases and three key takeaways.

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Episode 59
Yin Rani AfterCast™ Bonus Episode. A lifetime student of Marketing

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  • Designing for Diversity, Inclusion and Representation and building it into Marketing competencies 

    Clients get the creative they deserve and the integration that they demand

  • Curiosity is a skill that you can build to help raise the bar and deliver business impact

  • People FIRST, P&L second ! Having a human approach

  • Improving Communication through Storytelling training - shout out to CiSquared 

  • The P&G Widen The Screen Campaign - to raise awareness of bias

  • The power of saying “yes” and the abundance mindset in decision making

Transcripts:

SAM:

Welcome to 'Across the Pond - Marketing Transformed'. I'm Samuel Monnie and I'm joined by my inimitable host, Chris Lawson

 

CHRIS:

Nice word, Samuel. Thanks very much. How are you? 

 

SAM:

I'm good. I had to practice saying that.

 

An Introduction to Yin Rani

SAM:

This week we have another fabulous episode, building on a great show that we did last week, where we interviewed Yin Rani. She's the chief executive officer of MilkPEP, thriving bold strategy and breakthrough consumer communication to encourage milk consumption across the $25 billion industry on behalf of America's milk companies. She's a wonderful leader with nearly 25 years of integrated marketing experience across CPG companies and marketing agencies, including universal McCann.

 

And what made that episode so special for me, is that Yin is a great leader. I had the privilege and pleasure to work for her when I was at Campbell's, where she was the chief customer experience officer for Campbell Soup. Something I love is her LinkedIn bio. If you  go and  check her out, Yin Rani, her bio says CEOs, CMO, change, collaboration, ideas, people, data. I just love that.  Those are linkages  throughout her career and experiences, and I think as we talk to her and spoke more with her, the power and importance of diversity runs throughout. 

 

When we got into the show, she's just sort of talking about how her aim was to design diversity from an assistance perspective.  I know I've worked on a couple of projects to help shape that within the marketing communications processes, to be built with inputs and representation from diverse voices right throughout, from the beginning and not as a sort of disaster check at the end, just before the agency got briefed and distributed the content. It was a challenge to do, but progress was made and actually, it also reminds me of some work I did  when I was at Campbell as a global chair and business advisor to the affinity networks, and it was a role that was created by the head of DE&I there at the time. Wonderful, wonderful woman called Elizabeth Morrison. She's now chief diversity officer at Levi's and did a lot of great work through her and that, and Yin was a huge advocate for the affinity networks and inclusion and representation and diversity in the marketing and communications and throughout the organization.  One of the things she referenced was the fact that when she looks now at her LinkedIn network, she's got a huge number, I can't remember, but something like 30 or 40 or more chief diversity officers that she's connected to on the first level through LinkedIn.  So that made me think, it's a great test for all of us on actually how truly diverse are our networks? A way to, just to kind of measure and check and actually be constantly working on it.

 

CHRIS:

I was definitely struck by her curiosity. It was a real curious mind  of going through a career and exploring  different elements of it and a very, very human approach as well.  Those were the things that really stood out to me, you know, very, very personable and this curiosity.


 

Curiosity is a skill

SAM:

As you talk about that actually, it reminds me of something we did cover in episode five - 'what's your marketing superpower?', and how curiosity is a skill. There's a power in inquisitiveness, the power of asking questions. There's also the role of creativity, to build that curiosity skill, which is about novel solutions and the courage to challenge the status quo. The other one is getting uncomfortable and that kind of means immersing in new environments. What I love alongside curiosity is -  ‘mysterious’, things we describe as mysterious, are perfect opportunities to get uncomfortable, or they're likely to be complex. Something that forces us to  get uncomfortable with maybe the food, the people, the environment, or even what we read and what we watch. Then the fourth one for building that curiosity muscle is openness and being open to people's ideas that are new or different and immersing in variety. So those are ways actually to bring it to life.

 

CHRIS:

It's amazing, isn't it? In terms of how many people talk about openness, but it's actually very difficult to do. It can feel uncomfortable, can't it?

 

SAM:

Yeah. I remember when I was in the new role when I was on the Kenmore brand at Sears and I'd been in the US just nine months. I started a new role and I was responsible for leading a portfolio of different appliances.  We created this new logo and this new packaging and artwork, and everything's rolling and printed  all ready to be packaged up.  I just thought something's off. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  I picked up the new packaging and logo and everything compared it to the prior version. Then I realized they actually removed Spanish from the packaging and the side, I was the new guy coming in, asking questions. There wasn't a really good answer other than, "we thought it'd be cleaner and crisper". But as I started doing research, it turned out a quarter of our audience had Spanish heritage or had a predisposition for using that language. They essentially felt that we were taking something away and there was a risk that no one had really thought about. I'd been in the job for a few weeks and I raised it with the general manager and ultimately put the business case together and said that she said, "actually, you know what, you saved us here Sam. What you're saying makes sense." So we had to scrap the packaging that had been produced, make the changes and reintroduce Spanish to the labels. I wasn't necessarily the flavor of the month at the time, but looking back clearly it was the right decision and that's how you can manifest it; bringing it to life and turning that into something that actually helps make us better and raise the bar.

 

CHRIS:

Yeah, bravery there too, Sam. Another characteristic we talked about a lot. 

 

SAM:

Yeah, absolutely. The other thing that was clearly coming through and shining through Yin and the way she leads and the way she manages and the way she constructs teams was being people first, it was inevitable that we would get along awesomely. I loved working for her. My mantra is ‘People first, P&L second, and yes, you'll find that in my headline in my LinkedIn profile. Yin had this great, great quote -  "when in doubt, I always come back to the people. I really do believe people are the ultimate differentiator there, the ultimate competitive advantage." She said,  if you're involved in turnarounds, like I have, referring to herself, nothing has changed except within the people and I believe that the key successes I've had in my career are through the people.  

 

We talk a bit more about people first, actually  in episode 52, how to role modern leadership. So it's about how you show up and listen, and the mindsets that you adopt and turning compassion into action.  There's a big part about, and it still is present today, in terms of resetting and redefining what we mean by success and performance and how we even review and evaluate people with compassion, especially as we're recording this and we're still recovering and pivoting in the world of  COVID that we're in. Ultimately role modeling the right behavior. I do a lot of training capability building work and without fail all the training I do, the success comes from the senior leaders who roll up their sleeves, participate, and are present. They don't just send those people off to be trained and wait to come back. They're actually there supporting role modeling, championing and being part of it. And those are aspects that clearly shine through when you're adopting a people first approach. 

 

CHRIS:

Why I like this concept of people first is that it doesn't distinguish between internal and external customers. That can be so often a challenge where what you do is that you're either too internally focused or too externally focused, then you forget to bring the rest of the company forward. Effectively, it's a very human centric approach. Interestingly, I'm seeing this more and more, I do a lot of work with startups and scale-ups that are funded by private equity. Even in those hard nose commercial environments, there's an increasing acceptance that if you're not customer focused, then you are behind. Actually more and more people orientated measures are coming into the KPI mix that is being looked at. We have to be careful though, that the customer doesn't become a shorthand where everyone forgets what is beneath it - that is people. So very often it's easy to talk about, "oh yeah, we're customer first, we're customer focused" and it just becomes a bland label that doesn't actually mean anything. It's got to get down to the actual people. It's got to be about that sort of human approach and really understanding almost on a one-to-one level, what the difference is between the people that you're trying to serve.



 

SAM:

Yeah. You talked about the external side  and what Yin really articulated so well was her ability to do that. Right? So the work that she did externally facing was powered by the great relationships and the great efforts that  she built and developed throughout her career and throughout the organization. One of the things that continues to stay with me is she's one of the few leaders, if not the only leader where I have multiple, I can count on two hands, the number of people who came up to me and said, " how can I get to work in Yin's team? How can I work for her?" And that was just fascinating to have a leader where people, didn't matter if they were supply chain or production or packaging or any other functions wanting to work for her, even though she was customer experience or a marketing communications lead role, but they just knew she was such an awesome person and they wanted to be a part of her organization on the internal side. Then how that translates to the external, the marketplace and the, the work and the outcomes of the marketing plans and efforts was. It was very powerful and some of great creative that came out of it.

 

The other point about being a role model is that she was definitely one of those who would roll up her sleeves and be part of any training, any development and coaching and be quite open about how she's applying it to herself as much as how her team need to follow it.  Some examples of that for me, of great impact that this can have, is some work I've been doing recently with a nonprofit training in the communication framework that I use through the work at CI squared, it's called storytelling plus. One of the folks in the training, James, he was really experienced. He knew the customer well and knew the brand well.  Day two of the storytelling training, which was delivered virtually, there's a huge focus on listening and on empathy and he allowed himself to apply the tools that we have and the storytelling framework and I was somewhat not sure if it's going to work, I've been doing this for 10 years, but let me just put it to use. And we had a client meeting and it went so well, so much so that both the CEO and the head of sales came out of the meeting and said, "hang on a minute, there's something different here, what are you guys up to? How come the customer didn't throw us out and give us hell?" They were really receptive, halfway through, they committed to the next meeting and they landed the client. 

 

It was that realization that, 'wow, I've been doing this for so long, but the same person was able to reflect and realize that while they were resistant early on in the training, they were able to have impact on their customers and so much so that senior leaders noticed that this wasn't just training'. This was actually shaping the behavior and impacting business results. That's the power that being people first can have.








 

CHRIS:

I thinks the other thing that's interesting is when you look at being people first, this is how it starts to effect many different disciplines. Interestingly, I was reading a stat the other day that there's been a decline in marketing courses take up versus product management courses and actually  the successful marketeers are the ones that have made a career out of learning. They are now learning product management and product marketing skills, as well as the traditional  brand skills, which I thought was really interesting.  For those that haven't heard it, it is interesting thinking about Yin's journey because there's this meandering in our own words, a sort of route through where actually some of it was just by serendipity, where she would end up, but there's a bit in her interview where she says that marketers have a bit of knowledge about a lot of things.  That seems to be a good subject to double down on today - knowledge and being a lifelong student of marketing. Another interesting thing is that the most important parts about marketing is that you must understand all those interlocking paths, and Yin talked about the fact that she found it quite humbling that actually when you get yourself into an organization, you understand the difference between marketing and marketing communications - that is such a big part of the day-to-day operations. For example, if you take something like a manufacturing environment like CPG, when you're an agency person, even a senior one, you sort of have this illusion that CMOs are going to be masters of the universe - as she put it - and that you just wanted to do things that they could and all you needs is the budget and the courage so you're there and you're going "ah if only I was in there, I could do X and Y". Yet if you're internally in there, you think, 'wow, this is hard', you know? 'Oh, so we have to get physical objects coming out of a factory and oh, actually, it doesn't do anything unless we have the stock in place in the first place'. She talked about a running joke: every spring was that you could run out of peppers and actually that was all of your marketing over and done with. I think that's a really fascinating point there, that sometimes we get caught up in the mystique of marketing and you forget the nuts and bolts that actually need to sort of make things work underneath it. And I think that might be to do with why we're seeing a bit more of some move towards product management there.


 

Is execution, strategy? Or is strategy, execution?

SAM:

As we're thinking about the idea of learning, one of the things that sparks my thoughts about that interview was the fact that Yin said  "I always describe my personal brand as strategy and action. So I've always tried to straddle that, but  no one sees the powerpoint, no one sees the brief, all these meetings, all they see is execution by the product or the app or the ad or the TikTok thing".  So there's this constant debate is execution strategy or is strategy execution and it's constantly being tested. That's a really great way of  framing how she operates and  balancing or interacting between strategy and execution.

 

As I think about what else I'm learning, I've talked about training in the communication framework and behavior change, and I'm focused a lot about the idea of the customer journey and the lifestyle and how that shifting during COVID and the impact it's having on people, on life, on work and people and purpose. 

So that's an area that definitely I'm studying, and I think everyone else should be. Another area that I'm really researching again and reflecting on is behavioral economics. There's a book which is well known, 'Thinking Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman. It's a great book to go back to there's a lot of thought leadership on behavioral science and in summary, thinking fast is this idea that we often make snap judgements and jump to conclusions and make bad decisions based on the biases of the brain and how it takes a shortcut and being aware of the downside of how the brain works. 

 

If you go and search, you'll see some great creative from Procter and Gamble, it's called widen the screen. It's got scenes in creating  life really that plays out from a perspective of seeing a scenario, some young black kids in the store and what happens next and then guy driving his car and what happens next.  A pregnant woman by herself, again, another black woman and she's carrying the groceries and you may perceive, oh, they're about to rob the store or, oh, he's about to do something nasty and then it plays out, that actually her husband's just picking her up, or the kids in the store are just waiting for their friend who works there. So how do we just slow down and allow ourselves not to go to the default setting in our mind, which may be subject to biases or misplaced feelings or incorrect perceptions.  So check our default settings, learn and lean into our ability to empathize and be open to really think about what's happening in a different way. So for me, a lot of opportunities to learn and apply  neuroscience and behavioral science into the work I do on a regular basis.

 

CHRIS:

That's a key aspect for me as well I think Sam, it's working out that cultural shift of not just your company, but your society as well. And how you fuse that with new marketing technology and where do you go with it? Actually, as we've talked about, you get a lot of smart entrepreneurs who know how to manipulate technology but also care at the same time. Something else I think was a key theme coming out, which we wanted to reflect on, was about planning versus luck - the positive way that Yin embraced her career, Sam, as it took its twists and turns made me think 'how much of a successful career is down to careful planning or good luck'. 

 

Fascinating. I was thinking around this: when I was at absolute radio, when it launched  as the global economy exploded back in 2007/2008, would I have wasted more of a marketing budget, which I ended up not having, on TV and less money experimenting with YouTube and social media, which ended up working incredibly well for us and almost starts to shape a brand. So given plentiful resources, would I've taken the easy option and not created as strong a brand?  I think the answer is that, that would have been the case, that it would have weakened the overall result. Same thing when I joined Inspired, which ended up rising up and finally launching at the NASDAQ, if I hadn't had coffee with an old boss from seven years ago, would that have ever happened? Those moments in time where you push yourself, or you force yourself to do the unconventional, even if it is a case of meeting someone that you wouldn't have necessarily thought to meet. And  trying to expand your horizons, I think is incredibly important, but reinvention does take careful consideration and planning. It also takes reflection. 

You have to create that space to think, and it's important to try and get 360 degree feedback as well, make sure that you're trying to get that external perspective and don't be shy in coming forward about that as well. It's a good thing to get an external perspective on your career. 

 

I remember when I finished Virgin wines that took a bit of time out to think 'What next?'  I saw that wave of move to outsource resources and I also struggled with paying for agencies and offices, when naturally you just actually tap into specific resources at specific times. I reflected . The bit that I did best, which was moving companies on with our transformation. And the bit I enjoyed most was where like Absolute radio, you didn't have necessarily plentiful resources, but you made the best of what you had, which is why I focused on taking what I had established as my career and turning it into the fact that  actually I was going to offer the virtual  CMO service for startups and scale-ups. I don't think I would have done that if I hadn't had the experiences that predefined me to follow a different path and then taken a bit of time to reflect and go, do I still want to do that? 


 

“Never say no, unless there’s a really good reason”

SAM:

The journey is not linear and it's different, and it's: do you take time to reflect or to receive what's going on? Really, I think I have some courage and  have some perspective to move in a different path. I'm going to go back to the perspective of luck and how I ended up overseas. My journey overseas was absolutely a blend of mindset and luck. I had this philosophy, a number of years ago now, to say yes, unless I had a good reason to say no. Which often is this bias, I think that we are predisposed to  when we get uncomfortable, see something different, we are likely to reject it. I remember being in the office, I was a marketing manager in the UK and my boss tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, are you mobile?" and he said tell me about tomorrow and the end of the day, I got back to him and said  "yeah, I'm mobile." I didn't think much of it. 

 

Then the next day he came back and said "okay, so there's a role in Switzerland." And I said, "whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I said, I'm mobile and I'm living in London, I didn't say I wanted to go to a different country where they speak a different language and drive on the other side of the road." 

 

Then I though 'oh I've got this stupid philosophy.' And I was trying to think what is a good reason to say no and I couldn't come up with a reason to say no. So I was like ah no, I'm going to have to say yes, aren't I? If I fast forward now, 15/17 or so years later, how long has it's been an amazing experience? I went from the UK to Switzerland, then after two years to Germany for three years, I spent in Frankfurt, Germany. Now the last 10/11 years I've been in the U S. 

 

Only later did I start to learn about the abundance mindset and how I've been able to weave that into my way of operating, but now more actively studying and learning and understanding how the brain works or doesn't work and how we do or don't make decisions on how story plays  a key role. So it's about embracing challenges and learning from failures and effort as a path to mastery versus having that innate ability or innate perspective. 

 

So there's a lot there, which is relating to  some of the things we've talked about throughout our shows is the growth mindset. So a couple of ways I can take this and think about maybe there's some other things going on is not allowing fear or bias to limit your journey, but being aware of where your biases are.  Also something linked to earlier in the show - who's asking? Who's it you're going to work for? Those for me are some of the criteria that help me think ahead and how to make a choice. There's a lot of research out there on the growth mindset and  these types of approaches. Carol Dweck continues to be a great thought leader in this space, you'll continue to find articles and resources by her. I just read one in the Harvard business review article, on five ways a crisis  can help you cultivate a growth mindset. It talks about being patient with yourself and others teaching it to others. Here we go, a shameless plug check out episode 48 of Across the Pond - how to cultivate a growth mindset. We talked a lot about it. So those are ways that I see that luck and planning kind of do work together. 

 

CHRIS:

I really enjoyed that story about your roots and traveling  and taking a bold leap abroad. I think that's a powerful one. bringing it back to Yin I felt one of the things that she said and we talked about this up front, was talking about being a lifelong student of marketing and understanding that. Where that journey goes, you're learning all the time and you're not quite sure where it's going to be because it's a lifelong journey.  That for me was one of the most powerful things I took out of it. That actually you should be a little bit more relaxed about what's coming next and where that path is going to lead you.  You've just got to embrace it and just see that your job is just to carry on learning. 


 

Three Key Takeaways

CHRIS:

Powerful stuff there, I thought it was a really good session. Why don't you just bring us home? Give us three key takeouts and reflections. 

 

SAM:

 

This week's three things, I'd say are, 

 

  1. firstly, the test of truly being people first is actually about the impact it has on real people and not just in your own mind or in your own head and just what you say. It's actually how people respond and react.

 

  1. Secondly, don't be so certain that you're planning everything and it's down to you, realize that also an often a driver of what's going on around you and receive that and be open to that.

 

  1. Thirdly, something that's true to us, continual learning, continuous learning leads to continuous improvement and making sure that you remain relevant throughout your career.

 

CHRIS:

Being just slightly more relaxed where that's going to take you. I don't think  either of us would have anticipated where we'd ended up but I think we're in a good place. 

 

Next episode, Sam, we're talking to Nick Bradley. Nick is definitely a successful entrepreneur who has burned the boat in inverted commas, who reflected on his career path, some personal events in his life, which he goes into. He wanted freedom and he took a  very different direction. 

 

SAM:

That sounds like an awesome episode. I'm really excited and energized to be part of that. As we usually sign off, Chris, have a great week across the pond.