"Don’t ask for help if you aren’t ready to propose your own (potentially bad) solution."
This week, Steve Wimmer, Senior Marketing Manager at Gold Eagle Company, shares some of his well-earned marketing advice with his fellow Future CMOs - and gives us the download on how he stays sharp in an ever-changing marketplace.
The first paycheck I earned came from spending my time cleaning video games and refunding lost tokens at Chuck E. Cheese. It was a phenomenal job for a 15-year-old: free pizza, free arcade games, free time to goof off with other angsty teenagers doing the same work - and all in exchange for actual US currency, to boot.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my graduate work in Philosophy has probably done more to give me a foundation in modern marketing than anything else. A lot of my focus was on worldview development – essentially how and why people acquire their most deeply held beliefs. An underlying universal truth I learned is that a worldview (no matter what it may be) needs to be thorough and coherent in order to help us make sense of life’s big questions.
In the same way, a company or brand needs to have a reason for existing that is compelling and actually makes sense to its team, customers and the general public. With that purpose solidly in place, a marketer can work to tell the story in captivating ways. If it's not in place when you get there, make that your first task.
Otherwise, the alternative is constantly trying to invent a reason consumers should care or employ desperate grabs for attention - two tactics that won't ever work in the long run.
I think the changes in marketing as a discipline have been driven mostly by necessity due to rapid and substantial growth in consumer sophistication. As people grow more wary of corporate messaging and more alert to the tactics being used to get their attention, marketers have been forced to get better. I think this is a GOOD thing.
For some ‘better’ means ‘sneakier,’ but the big shift and the thing that excites me most is that we’re realizing as a community that the best way forward is to be excellent. Tell great stories. Produce content so outstanding that it demands attention. Treat people as human beings rather than digital targets and consumer avatars. These things will make the internet (and world at large) less annoying and more beneficial to everyone.
Remember that people really don’t mind watching a 2-minute branded video if it’s well-made and relevant to their interests. Also remember that we now have the tools and resources to make sure that’s exactly what we’re showing them.
Don’t ask for help if you aren’t ready to propose your own (potentially bad) solution.
My former CEO would not enter into a discussion about strategy, tactics, direction or anything else related to the business unless I came with a recommendation first. This was never made explicit, but I learned after a few stumbling conversations that I would need to think of a potential solution before even having a conversation. Although sometimes this was annoying when I really just wanted to spitball, it had the effect of forcing me to think like an owner - which is imperative if you’re in a smaller organization and you want to get the most out of your employees.
I’ve never been a 5-year-plan type of guy, so it’s difficult for me to answer this with any integrity. Without stabbing at unknown specifics, it’s my ambition to be in a position where I can impact the overall development and trajectory of a company or major brand; dreaming about possibilities and empowering a talented team to turn them into realities.
It would be especially appealing if this meant launching from scratch or taking on a turnaround project.
I’ve written briefly about the need for courage in a marketer, and I think that matters, but it might be putting the cart before the horse. Courage is required to try new things, but we don’t get novel ideas without creativity first.
In an environment of saturation, it takes something fresh to truly move the needle. This doesn’t mean being weird for the sake of being weird, but understanding your values and the culture at large well enough to envision something different and bring it to life. The CMOs who rise and flourish in this context of endless content will be the ones who can cut through the noise by standing out in a way that is authentic to their own ideal.
I generally think of marketing as getting customers to know, like, and trust us. Using that definition I think CMO could easily be the Chief Friendmaking Officer, although that acronym is already taken.
Can I just turn this into a weekly links compendium?
Reading about marketing can become an echo chamber, so I let Hubspot and my own network do most of the curating. I love fashion, so Valet reminds me what’s going on in that world. And 538 mines relevant and surprising numbers which link out to stories and can often be good infographic fodder.
These are both short and have at least 1 gold nugget per episode.
Brands: I’m a Tesla fanboy so I’m typically up to date on anything they’re doing. I also like to stay on top of whatever Amazon and Waymo are up to.
Burrito or burger: Burrito!
Central Park or Golden Gate Park: Millennium Park. The coasts aren’t the only show in town!
Beach or mountains: Beach
Podcast or Newspaper: Podcast
Snapchat or Instagram: Instagram - I'll admit, Snapchat still confuses me.
Virtual reality or real reality: For cliff-diving, virtual – all other activities: real.
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"Like velociraptors testing the fence, they [marketers] are undoubtedly making progress."
"I’ve had many good managers that have guided me - that shared experience from a past position not only makes them great friends, but amazing mentors."