What does your brand look like 10 years from now? Will you be in the same industry? The same markets? Who will your customer be?
The core of our brand is innovation, which is unlikely to change in 10 years. And our business—working with clients in every industry, in every country, every day to take on the big challenges and find the opportunities—is also unlikely to change, except the definition of our own industry, because the nature of challenges continues to evolve, jettisoning us into new spaces all the time. Recently, for example, CEOs began identifying cybersecurity as an urgent need. We responded quickly, delivering leading-edge solutions by building and scaling our own world-class security business, leveraging our existing ecosystem relationships, innovation DNA, and global reach. Our approach to finding and acting on opportunities has and will continue to shift, quite dramatically, with our ever-increasing use of AI and advanced analytics. It’s difficult to say what tools we’ll be using in 10 years, but it’s easy to say that human insights and human relationships—along with our brand—will endure as our drivers of success.
How do you define bravery in your organization? To what degree is creativity part of it?
I define bravery as non-conformity, inside and outside the organization. The ability to see opportunities—new segments, new means of reaching your targets, etc.—requires a break from convention. This is followed in short order by the ability to explain it well enough to align internal decisions, as well as with the stomach to take it all the way to market without a guaranteed result. Creativity is any form of unexpected connection—itself a version of non-conformity.
How are you evolving the marketing function/structure in your company to be more customer-centric?
For years, we were guilty of organizing the marketing and communications function to mirror the overall organization, which created excellent “service” within the various aspects of our business. However, our true value to clients is our ability to conquer complex challenges by bringing together all the elements of our business. We’re reorganizing in order to market our differentiated broad capabilities, which is how we actually deliver the highest value to our clients. We’ve also reengineered the marketing planning process in order to catch conflicting messages and plans that could be confusing to clients. By organization and by process, we’ve reversed our orientation to focus from the outside-in.
Brands are created by people, for people. How are you investing in culture and learning in your business? And how is this driving transformation?
One of our most significant projects this past year has been articulating our talent brand and its importance. Our people are quite literally our “product” and our greatest differentiator, but we were missing a step by not highlighting that thinking to our entire organization and to our current and prospective talent base. Our mission was to detect, but not invent, our talent brand—we already had a superb one, even if unstated—and then proclaim it so that the many teammates developing multiple programs for numerous touchpoints would all align. We co-created the articulation with our global talent team leadership, and the resulting framework brought significant energy and focus to our thousands of practitioners globally.
What’s your advice to someone starting out today—what skills should they nurture, how should they think about business, brands, and their own career paths?
I was helped by total strangers when I first broke into advertising, so I try to cosmically return the favor now by spending time talking to new graduates. My advice to people starting out today is that determining how to nurture their innate curiosity—and learning how to learn—will be their most valuable skills. The core driver of people who make marketing a multi-decade career is curiosity about human behavior. If you truly want to know what makes people pay attention and what affects decision-making, you will never be bored. And you’ll take the steps to understand marketing challenges, then equip yourself to solve them.