The Future of Work: New Rules for Modern Marketers

Posted By on September 16, 2015

Being an effective marketer in 2015 is not easy.

You need to balance new platforms, the changing structures of teams, and the inclusion of freelance creative resources now more than ever before, and consumers that demand more from your products and services. I

Earlier this year I interviewed 3 leaders in the product / marketing space to get a sense of what is important these days and to identify some modern rules of engagement. These are 3 of the top thinkers in North America:

  • Cindy Gallop, CEO IfWeRanTheWorld and
  • Susan O’Brien, VP Marketing at Canadian Tire
  • Ute Preusse, Founder, Strategy & Client Services at Will

Cindy Gallop is busy. That’s because she’s a seasoned entrepreneur, global traveler and in great demand for conferences and talks. She staunchly fights to #changetheratio of men to women in business and for #realworldsex to combat the affect of pornography on us all. She also believes each person has the ability to affect change in marketing and the world.

I managed to find an hour of Cindy’s time for a chat while she was attended TED in Vancouver, back in March. I started by asking what inspires her:

I get inspired everyday by great people that I meet.

It seemed like a side step (I was looking for the names of notable and well-known people) however, as we chatted, some themes soon came out of the discussion that were not related to inspirational people but to actions from the people involved in our lives.

She firmly believes that the future of creating great products, experience and engagement will rely on ‘co-action’. Everyone on all sides, including the customer, must act to make the difference.

As well as co-action, Cindy talked about empowering teams and to share in the profit from the work that is created together. At the core of this is allowing them to be brave and to share in the profit from the work you create together. She says that bravery starts at the bottom up with micro-actions from all levels creating change and that:

Bravery is being the most junior person in the room and saying what you think. Living by your principles and being content with losing out on money as a result because you know that doing that will make you more money in the long run. Bravery is trusting someone and everyone to do what you ask them to do. It is calling out environments that are all white male and asking to change that; asking your client to make sure they credit your agency by name whenever they show your work. Bravery is pointing out your own value and asking to be paid what you’re worth, and leaving when you’re not. Sharing ideas with people around you so everyone benefits and not just you.

Bravery can also be seen as steering a large retail brand with big and bold ideas. Susan O’Brien, is is responsible for the development and execution of marketing and branding strategies for Canadian Tire’s $7 billion Retail Division. When talking about what she has learnt along the way she says her biggest lesson to share is to be bold, make big bets.

I don’t even remember half of the small bets I’ve made. Repeatedly at Canadian Tire we’ve taken bigger bets.

One example she talks about is around sponsorship of the Canadian Olympic Committee and the ‘We all play for Canada.’ It veers on the altruistic and supportive vs. just trying to drive more business. Try and calculate the ROI in normal terms. It’s not only about the bottom line.

Another key point Susan says is to always be open to ideas from everyone – cool ideas can come from IT people, shop assistants and any staff member (or any customer). Canadian Tire values the fact that good ideas can come from anyone that has a killer insight. I did push on this saying that, “what if a non-AOR agency, or even a freelance creative, comes in with an idea worth exploring.” She asserted the loyalty that she gets from the agencies, partners and staff and that there is a ‘very little whitespace’ for other ideas to get through. I guess the AOR is not dead for the large clients. It almost sounds like a challenge to the rest of the industry as well to take on Canadian Tire’s AORs.

Personally, I think that this will loosen greatly over the next 2 to 3 years as smaller agencies spin out of larger ones and some of the best creatives want to work directly (and why not?).

Ute Preusse, and her partner (in business and life) Nick Richards, recently founded a new agency called Will that’s based on a “more effective path to creative results in today’s rapidly changing marketing landscape”. They’re starting with a culture based on passion, determination, commitment and approachability and are busy with their first batch of clients, such as Nature’s Path, the Vancouver Art Gallery, HootSuite and the Squamish Music Festival. Ute is resolute that a new approach is needed:

All BS, bravado and ego has no place with us. We are no longer in the 80s.

Straight up, honest and certainly rings true with me. I guess this is the elephant in the room. many agencies say that they move with the times but the industry is rife with bravado (not the same as bravery) and ego. It’s clearly time to change and smaller agencies are being created partly because of this.

They are also shrugging off the old model of Art Director and Copywriter creating the magic and have the Creative Director and Strategist lead the brief and the campaign development with equal weight. The new world!

I love this cartoon from the Marketoonist, Tom Fishburne, that summarizes some of the experiences that strategy folk, wanting to drive initiatives with data have with many creatives:


(Note: I’ve always been a great believer in the Creative Director-Strategist dynamic as a foundation and have seen some of the best work when they both steer campaigns from start to finish).

Cindy, Susan and Ute have strived to create new ways forward. They are all incredibly inspirational and demonstrate determination to deliver the best experiences and engagement with consumers. They are disruptors.

From these interviews and discussions, I have distilled their thinking into 5 rules for modern marketers:

  1. Identify and retain the best talent. These days any brand or agency needs to get the best people on the team. Sometimes they may even be freelancers and an equal commitment must be shown to them.
  2. Empower your team and the client, then ‘co-act’. Make success happen together. It takes hard work on all sides – client, agency, contractors, partners. Equal effort, and in the same direction, across all teams will deliver great results. Also, be bold and don’t be afraid to challenge conventions or back down when people are critical or dismissive.
  3. Be authentic. This is often said but really it’s about going beyond and being willing to be vulnerable and open to share stories that can inspire, make you laugh and sometime make you cry as well.
  4. Let the Creative Director and Strategist drive the project. Throwing a brief over the fence to an Art Director and Copywriter is now becoming less effective and there needs to be more strategic leadership that cares deeply about what the client and consumer wants. There is a part of this where ‘informed intuition’ comes into play. Gut feel plus insights from multiple sources.
  5. Create loyal partnerships not vendor relationships. Agencies, partners, freelancers, team members and vendors need to be welcomed into the family and nurtured vs. a traditional call-and-response model.

And, there is one more that is a perfect way to summarize this article. It’s important to keep humour and connection as a core drivers. Love what you do and laugh in every meeting (or it will have been a meeting wasted). And why not?


Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.

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