Marketing was not my first career choice. I learned that it was the right fit from experience. As a college graduate, Finance was the most popular industry and where many of my friends and peers were going. I, too, secured a management training position in operations at a brokerage firm, and after a year, I learned it was not for me. Essentially, I was doing work that I was not too fond of that helped me figure out what would stimulate and excite me. “Calculatus Eliminates” for The Cat in The Hat fans. I discovered I wanted project-oriented work with a start and finish to see results, measure outcomes, and learn for the next project.
After questioning many of my friends about their jobs, I determined that I also wanted more creativity in the visual arts and wanted to work in a team setting. When a former classmate introduced me to an account executive in the entertainment division of the ad agency where he was working, I knew I found the right mix and balance of business and creativity that would challenge and satisfy my curiosity and interests. A few years later, I changed to the client-side of the business.
Trust would be the most daunting challenge for international coordination and leadership. As the newly hired American VP of Brand Marketing for an international B2B software start-up whose founders had deep roots in French education and linguistics, gaining the trust of the European development, sales, and marketing teams across five territories was elemental.
The “formula” for overcoming these obstacles was based on listening, inclusion, and empowerment. At the start, I went to Europe to present myself in person. I used my high school and French college studies to make polite introductions and small talk bits as an acknowledgment that I respected their culture. I held meetings with as many people as I could schedule and asked for their perspectives. When it came time to develop work (i.e., a new multilingual website), I sought recommendations from the European teams first for vendors. The international ad-hoc web team managed the agencies and reviewed all work-in-progress before I did to prepare their recommendations and operating plans.
A second challenge I encountered was negotiating media swaps on behalf of multiple regions while at Bloomberg Media. The EMEA and APAC regions valued trade with The Financial Times of London, but the US was less interested. The twist was that The FT was primarily interested in Bloomberg’s US inventory. In this case, it facilitated dialogue among regional sales leaders in vastly different time zones and re-contexting the situation as a “rising tide” opportunity to collaborate in making company goals. I also included some global inventory (it shows everywhere) to help fulfill the reach requirements and relieve the stress on local inventories. The final bottleneck was the administration of tax-related issues that arise from the swap for which I accepted the responsibility to work with Finance to fulfill.
A third challenge I faced was opening a new office in a new city in a foreign country. While leading marketing for pioneering social networking website, bolt.com, the company decided to expand operations into London. Following a search for the team to send to London, we still had the problems of setting up shop and announcing our arrival. After failing to locate potential partners, media outlets, agencies, and collaborators from the office in NY, the heads of Business Development and Editorial, and I determined that we needed to visit in person. Once in London, we were viewed as legitimate for having made the journey, we secured meetings and access to people and places previously uninterested. As a result, we established foundational relationships with marketing partners, made media connections, and visited recommendations for office locations.
After more than two decades in major media organizations like Viacom, NBCUniversal, and Bloomberg Media, mixed in with a few start-ups, I currently operate as a consultancy as the sole employee. I use what has become a familiar model to find the right skills for each project and hire people on a project basis. But that’s my model in any climate. I do have a few ideas about positioning yourself for the recovery:
Take a fresh review of your staff. You may be surprised by the untapped talents already in-house. Many people have hobbies or side projects as writers, musicians, designers, or editors. They know your industry, your customers, and your offerings. You might be sitting on a 6-month pipeline of great social media, email, and digital content ideas that you can tap for little to no cost.
Also, take another look at your partner and vendor contracts. It is typical for incentives and other support to be included or triggered by performance levels. Sometimes, you can gain access to co-op funds, distribution outlets, products, support services, art assets, or promotional channels.
The final note is to keep promoting – paid and otherwise. Maintain and grow awareness and reap the benefit when the market normalizes.
The virtual background on Zoom. I found an excellent conference room background photo that doesn’t pixelate if I move a little. It looks real and professional, so it minimizes distraction and visual noise, making it easier to look at me on the screen and pay attention to our discussion. We all want a better screen experience.
How to access it and use it for the majority of businesses? This is an exciting topic to me in that today it depends on the scale of business. Few companies can afford their own AI development and investment, despite its dominating the press. SMBs and bootstrapped start-ups can’t afford this at all. So the task then becomes how do the technology’s keepers productize it to make it accessible, affordable…and profitable. Google AdWords is one example where the tech is baked into a more extensive offering for which users pay to benefit from its capabilities. IBM’s Marketing Automation platform…Look for more clever “baked-in” uses for AI to help broaden its application and use. Down the road, writing computer code will be performed by computers. We direct what to write.
More comfortable to deploy and comprehend its applications and lower cost than VR, I look for wider adoption by more varied brands and social platforms over the few years. Luxury brands can benefit by creating new forms of high touch digital engagement that really showcase products, services, locations, and amenities. Medical and health applications could also become an interesting segment. Of course, distance learning could benefit from it now.
Over the next decade, technology will begin to automate itself such that writing code for applications will be the function of a computer, not a human. See AI above. We will tell the computer what functionality we want and the computer will write the application. Machines will always be faster at that type of productivity operation, so we should yield it to them. When that happens, the world will need ideas and creativity to reach the next level of innovation, problem-solving, and advancement. People will be one of the (re)emerging technologies of the future.
Don’t be an auteur. Speak the brand’s language, not yours. To articulate and activate a brand and convey its essence, you have to subordinate your own ego. The brand is the star, and every campaign should look and feel unique and authentic to its brand. I’m uncomfortable if I can tell which marketer directed a campaign – unless it’s their consistent genius at telling their brand’s story.