“Positivity is about being willing to think epic.” – Russ Klein, CEO, American Marketing Association

Russ Klein interviewed by the Marketer in New York

Last week, I wrote about the opportunity I had to interview a true marketing innovator, Adam Sharp, Former Head of News, Government, and Elections at Twitter. 

This week, I got to interview Russ Klein, CEO, American Marketing Association – a true marketing legend who was once nicknamed the “flamethrower” by an industry publication. A world-renowned marketer, Russ has worked for many of the world’s foremost brand names, including Dr. Pepper/7UP Companies, 7-Eleven Corporation, Burger King Corporation, Church’s Chicken, and Arby’s Restaurant Group. Russ was also named to “top marketer” lists over three decades and was recognized by ADWEEK as “The Advertiser of the Decade” for the 2000’s. As CEO of the American Marketing Association, Russ is charged with the transformation of the AMA to become the definitive force in marketing best and next practices worldwide.

Here are the top takeaways from the interview, which you can read in its entirety here >

Marketing is dynamic in nature, and effective change management has always been a factor. The dynamic side of marketing is actually the reason why I fell in love with the industry. No two days are the same. You can experiment with a variety of channels and get instant results. Russ emphasized that change management is a key factor for marketing leaders in the digital world. To me, that requires a certain skill – Time Management. Being able to manage tasks, prioritize appropriately and adapt to situations is key to a successful marketing career these days, especially when trying to leverage so many digital tools and technology.

This conveniently brings me to the next key takeaway, remember to keep one eye on the customer at all times. It’s easy to get distracted by the “latest this” or the “world changing that”. Marketing by definition is customer focused. It’s vital that we remember to focus on communicating with the customer on platforms that suit them, in a way that they understand.

“The “dirt path” a customer is taking is very likely there because it’s now permanently etched into their habits. Stop trying to force them onto a sidewalk when they would prefer you plant flowers along their dirt path.”

With so many trends on the lookout, here’s what Russ is looking at blockchain technology. 

“The most valuable learning a CMO can gain is by acting…. learning by doing.”

The modern CMO faces many challenges in the digital world. The emergence of new technologies and trends have changed the day-to-day role of marketers all over the world. Russ talked about how CMOs and marketing leaders need to ask themselves these two questions.

  1. How do I recruit, train, and develop the right talent for now, but ensure they can acquire broader managerial and leadership skill sets that will eventually be required for their ascension in the organization?
  2. How do I maintain my influence on the branding and strategic issues of the business while also becoming a connector and integrator necessary to bring a systems-thinking approach to the business’s marketing activities and contextual understanding of the world around them?

The brand equation has changed. Brand = the story + experience. The trick is to understand that a brand’s story is no longer controlled solely by the marketer. It is a collection of touchpoints, of conversations. Let’s take a look at influencer marketing. Working with social influencers colors your story. Your brand is now associated with the brand of the influencer. They have, in part, taken some control of your story.

Zara, the clothing retailer had one of the most successful influencer campaigns which helped them increase profits from 2015 according to a Fortune report. They leveraged social media on a huge scale by working with top Instagrammers well-known for being fashion-focused. The goal was to highlight their latest products by showcasing them in a way that would appeal to their target audience.

Typically the company’s Instagram posts resembled photos from a fashion magazine. By working with influencers, they changed their story and were able to portray their products as being more accessible than high-fashion. The #iamdenim campaign, a collaborative design project where they worked with “real people” to produce clothing for “real people.” This video content featuring influencer Teesh Rosa managed to get more than 355,000 views.

“Positivity is about being willing to think epic.”

The final takeaway from Russ Klein was his look at positivity. To lead any major business change requires clear, strong leadership, but it also requires positivity. Paint a picture with your team of them kicking ass. That positive motivation will do more to inspire than anything else.

Positivity is one of the characteristics I think growth hackers have to have. That motivation to think outside the box, keep experimenting and doggedly pursue new ideas and growth is powered by positivity.

How do you work with event speakers to get interviews? 

Russ Klein interviews by the Marketer in New YorkFirstly, as a marketer across several events and often several industries, it is impossible to know all of you speakers and to work directly with them all. So sit down with your producer or speaker acquisition manager and ask them to help you reach out.

Next, make it easy for your speaker to answer the questions. Offer them the chance to do it in person, on the phone or even over email.

Make sure you give the speaker the opportunity to shout out about their company or even better, their presentation at your event. This will link the interview directly to your product in a way that is not too sales-y.

Lastly, repurpose the interview in multiple ways and share repeatedly online, tagging the interviewee. Again, making it easy for them to share. Use visuals too. Quotes are fantastic for images and get shared online a lot. It also means you can leverage more visual social media channels like Instagram.

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