Meet The Drum's Future 50, part 5 – the marketing leaders of tomorrow

The Drum's Future 50 recognises the world's best new marketing talent

Welcome to the final instalment of The Drum’s Future 50, which shines a spotlight on the world’s best new brand marketers.

To mark our year-long focus on the Marketer of the Future, in January we asked our readers to nominate the emerging stars of our industry. Hundreds of testimonials poured in.

And having carefully considered the merits of each nominee, The Drum's editorial team have now curated our inaugural Future 50 list which we have been revealing each day this week.

Our final group of inductees include top talents from Sydney to Scotland, representing companies as diverse as Diageo to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. All are either under 30 or have been working in marketing for less than 18 months, making their achievements already all the more impressive.

You can catch up on part one, part two, part three and part four by clicking on these links. Now let's meet the final inductees into our 2019 Future 50...

Zeenah Vilcassim, brand director, Dewar’s Whisky

After previously working in agencies and as a management consultant, Zeenah Vilcassim has, since 2017, been the global brand director for Bacardi-owned Dewar's Whisky. Responsibilities include shaping the brand's global marketing strategy and working with local market teams to translate and deliver activity in a culturally relevant way.

How did you first become aware of marketing as a career?

After training as an economist, I moved into financial consulting with the idea that financial services was where I belonged. After a few years, I knew I wanted more exposure to the creative world professionally. This was the time when the world of marketing was evolving. You were starting to see more advanced integration between science (data) and creativity. It seemed the perfect industry to connect my background and skill set with my personal passion and drive and I haven’t looked back since.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

Embodying a founder’s and fearless mentality and never letting it waiver, no matter how big or complex your organisation gets. Growth creates complexity and yet complexity destroys growth. It’s an interesting paradox, so I believe you need to possess the right combination of owner’s mind-set, good instincts, solid understanding of the bottom line and a slightly rebellious nature.

Mark Pearson, integrated marketing specialist, IAG

Mark Pearson's marketing career started at insurer QBE, where he managed its largest sponsorship property – a partnership with Australian rules football club Sydney Swans. Now with Australia's largest general insurer, IAG, he has launched national campaigns and led brand projects. He is currently on a three-month secondment with its creative agency, "a personal challenge" he counts as his proudest achievement.

What is your social network of choice and why?

Facebook has now been taken over by my parents, well all parents. They share every single story on their feed, which leads to a relentless pinging of my phone, and follow-up text messages, emails and one time a phone call. So that's dead to me. Snapchat, simply put, I don't trust myself to have that platform – read into that what you will. Finally, my one true love, Instagram. Why you so fine?! It gives me everything I need from self-indulgence to self-love. What a spectrum all in one platform. Plus, how great are doggos doing things?

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

Wrigley's Chewing Gum. It was created back in the 1890s by American innovator William Wrigley Jr, who had a soap-turned-baking soda-turned-chewing-gum company go gangbusters. His advertising motto was 'tell 'em quick and tell 'em often' so you could say he was basically the great grandfather of effective marketing. It would have been incredible working for a brand using fundamental marketing and advertising principals before they were even documented.

How do you want to change the marketing industry?

I want to bring back gut. I think we've become too reliant on data to tell us how to feel and that in itself feels very Skynet, right? I don't contest it does have a place in the world, but it should act as a platform for deeper exploration into more human truths. There is something quite scary about a brutal human truth, data never scared me in that way. I hope in the future, I'll be able to lead people to be more honest with their creative truths, which might lead to some creatively dangerous ideas. How wonderfully terrifying.

Savena Surana, branding strategist , Bright Little Labs

Before becoming a brand strategist, Savena Surana was an English undergraduate, bakery assistant and a yellow-scooter courier (for a day). Now, she works for Bright Little Labs, a startup which makes interactive stories to promote critical thinking, computer science and equality for all kids aged 5+. She has also started her own creative art project called Identity 2.0 – which explores digital identities.

What is your social network of choice and why?

Twitter is my first choice because of how immediate it is. It's instant, conversational and has the memes. I love the different communities it has built, from K-Pop fandoms to independent museums (shout out to The Museum of English Rural Life). It's a powerful tool when used correctly. Of course I am aware of the pitfalls; echo chambers, public victimisation and a boatload of spoilers. But as marketers, we have to judge the difference between user engagement and unhealthy obsessions and make sure we fall on the right side of it.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

Patagonia and its revolutionary approach to the workplace is something I truly admire, and would love to have been a part of during the 1980s. It was one of the first workplaces to introduce a creche and devote resources to having an ethical supply chain. This didn't compromise its innovation and instead propelled it forward. The brand truly embodied its values internally and externally, and it is more successful for it.

How do you want to change the marketing industry?

Everyone's talking about how important diversity is, but they're acting as if it's a problem to solve or a box to tick. Instead, we should treat it as a source of inspiration. Marketers should champion diversity beyond the superficial, and prove that it does lead to success. We need to make sure that the values brands are showcasing externally, are reflected internally too. This can lead to real change in the industry, and I want to be at the forefront of making this happen.

Ben Thomson, head of UK marketing, Seedlip Drinks

Ben Thomson has helped to take non-alcoholic spirits brand Seedlip from an unknown startup to a globally recognised SME. Spurred on by an attitude of "not being afraid to fail", his achievements for the brand so far have included two gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and securing a global partnership with Mercedes-AMG F1 Petronas Motorsport.

What is your social network of choice and why?

It has to be Instagram. There is now a huge emphasis to create quality content and I feel Instagram has played a large part in this. It has forced brands to think more about the content they are creating. It allows for consumers, brands and influencers to share content and build relationships between them. Seedlip is an incredibly visual brand and Instagram has allowed us to communicate its message and identity.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

I would have to say Nike in the 80s. Having recently read Shoe Dog it reminded me a lot about working at Seedlip. A fast paced startup with a strong vision and mission to change the status quo and impact an industry for the better. The coaching culture Phil Knight believed in again resonated with me: "Don't tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results."

Andrew Pel, associate manager of communications, The Thomson Reuters Foundation

Andrew Pel joined the Thomson Reuters Foundation after working in adtech and media consulting. Last October the foundation launched Openly, a global digital platform delivering fair, accurate and balanced LGBT+ news. Pel has been focused on growing the brand and it has become Reuters' fastest-growing Facebook page. Its films have had millions of views and sparked important conversations about LGBT+ rights in Cameroon, India, Zimbabwe and Malaysia.

How did you first become aware of marketing as a career?

During my master's degree I took a course on online video taught by Sarah Wood, an enthusiast of Internet culture and an incredible tech entrepreneur. We surveyed everything from Marshall McLuhan to meme wars, and I became fascinated with social video marketing, particularly how traditional ad formats and narratives were changing for online audiences. For my term paper, I wrote about viral videos that used parody to express the identity of a brand (remember the Old Spice Guy?). Sarah encouraged to me to apply for a role at her adtech startup, Unruly, and I started the following year.

What is your social network of choice and why?

I'm a fan of Reddit. It's a fantastic way to discover the content and issues that people are currently interested in and enjoy a robust discussion. Last year the foundation ran a campaign to raise awareness of how modern slavery enters the supply chains of consumer goods. We sent products to professional unboxers, with facts about slavery hidden in shoes, headphones and makeup, which they opened in front of their fans. It was fantastic to see Reddit's communities of sneaker collectors and makeup artists discuss the videos, share product recommendations and encourage their members to buy ethical products.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

Empathy. Working with data, crafting narratives and employing the latest technologies are essential skills for any marketer, but a great campaign starts with understanding your audience and being sensitive to their frames of reference. It's much easier to tell a story if you know why they'll listen in the first place.

Danika Norman, marketing manager, Bale Breaker Brewing Company

After graduating from college with a history degree and "no idea what to do for a career", Danika Norman landed a position in customer service at an e-commerce startup. The environment afforded her the opportunity to try out many different positions within the company and she gravitated towards graphic design and building in house brands. She then moved agency side as an art director and now plies her skills at the Bale Breaker Brewing Company.

How did you first become aware of marketing as a career?

When I was first designing, I had no idea it was a career option. I bluffed my way into the job opening of graphic design assistant at the startup, then eventually became full-blown graphic designer with the help of my creative director mentor. Being a marketing manager was never on my radar, because I recognised my ability to build brands and the visionary nature of my creativity. Being an art director agency side was fun, but I truly get to be the visionary I dreamed of as a marketing manager in my current role, while still practising some design.

What is your social network of choice and why?

Instagram far and away. The inspiration is endless, there is far less clutter, and I get to actually engage with my friends and connections in a way that feels much more direct. Plus, I find out about so many new brands and cool companies through the platform and connect with them on a level that is important to me. It's simple software but so effective.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

I would have loved to work with Apple in the dot com era, most specifically on the branding/design/marketing side. Knowing the company's complete perfection when it comes to branding and positioning for the future, I think it would be highly valuable to have that information in my memory bank. Plus, I'm a tech nerd.

Periklies Antoniou, senior trade innovation manager, Diageo

Periklies Antoniou's experience is diverse – ranging from working as a coach and analyst for national football associations to becoming founder of an extreme watersports startup and now working in marketing and innovation for a multinational. His proudest achievements include launching Diageo Europe's first voice experience ('The Bar'), the launch and ongoing growth of the Guinness Greenwood Series, Diageo's first exploration into live interactive content, and the Gordon's #Yaydelay campaign which rewarded weary commuters with a free G&T.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

Specialists, not brand managers, are the future of marketing (stolen from our North America chief marketing officer, Ed Pilkington). Marketers will either need to possess or have the ability to tap into, in-house expertise within areas such as media, data and technology. Ed refers to the future brand marketer as a conductor/quarterback who sets the vision and dictates the play. Being in a specialist role, I find myself taking the business on a journey to learn about the new solutions available to us therefore giving the quarterback more ammunition for the arsenal.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

Nike's 'Joga Bonito' ('Play Beautiful') campaign would be my choice. Deployed around the 2006 Germany World Cup, this was a campaign that displayed how social communities and digital media could be a cost-effective tool for marcomms. Nike developed and deployed a series of short-form videos starring footballing legends (Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Henry etc) accompanied by a voiceover narrative by Eric Cantona.

Catherine Willis, senior digital marketing manager, Dennis

Catherine Willis started working at a digital agency and after a few years chose to move brand-side so that she could be "really invested in whole brands, not just the digital parts of them". At publisher Dennis, she gets to work across 20 standout brands which have all established "brilliant digital audiences that allow us to continually innovate and optimise". Over the last two years at the company, Willis and the team's work has been nominated for nine different awards.

What is your social network of choice and why?

In my personal life, I prefer Instagram as it feels more personal and a lot more like a true reflection of myself. When it comes to a social network to drive engagement or acquisitions for a brand, it would have to be Facebook. The reach and targeting options are excellent and it's a great way to build out your audience as well as understand your audience profile more.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

Agility is a skill and mentality that every marketer should be adopting. Everything is changing at such a fast speed that if you try to stick to a plan too closely, there's a good chance that your marketing efforts will be out of date by the time you get to them.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

De Beers in the 1940s on its 'A Diamond is Forever' campaign. The concept has become a global phenomenon that became 'viral' without the global reach tools that are available today like social media. It's the perfect mix of being creative, inspirational and aspirational that has helped it stand the test of time.

Rosie Street, marketing manager, Glasgow Science Centre

From agencies to client-side marketing manager, Rosie Street has worked in two of Scotland's largest ad agencies and is now proud to be helping people see the value of science and technology in their lives across Scotland. Her proudest achievements include rebranding the exterior of Celtic Park and sending a teacake called Terry to space and seeing the world watch his journey.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

Creativity. Having ideas and thinking differently about problems is only going to be more important as everything gets more technical. Brands who have authenticity and aren't afraid to celebrate their differences are the ones that flourish, and I believe that behind those brands will be a brave, creative marketing team and agencies who aren't afraid to push them. Experience is huge, being human and transparent is huge – not being afraid to make mistakes, test and move on is key and creative thinking is paramount to success in my opinion.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

While I feel it's a tad cliched, I would've loved to have worked with Guinness on 'Surfer'. It's the first ad that I really remember and Phat Planet is a favourite song of mine. Guinness has always been bold, and lately, the 'Made of More' campaign was perfect as a partner to the rugby and 'Compton Cowboys' is just one of those campaigns that's found a story so interesting, you'll want to go and find out more. Guinness explores culture and leads the way, who wouldn't want to work on that?

How do you want to change the marketing industry?

I want people to be brave. I want people to realise that what we do isn't life or death. We can test, we can change and we can improve – so don't be so afraid to give something a go. I think there are a lot of really interesting brands who aren't prepared to embrace change like they need to move forward, and also lots who are afraid to show personality, which is often the thing that sets them apart. I want us all to have more fun and certainly on the brand-side, go for it.

Alice Humphrey, senior brand manager Europe, Smirnoff

Alice Humphrey was selected onto the AB-Inbev global management programme from from over 100,000 applicants. There, she led Stella Artois' £3.2m campaign in partnership with US based charity water.org, developed the lager brand's European strategy across 47 markets and introduced the Bud Light 'Dilly Dilly' campaign in the UK. Humphrey has since been head-hunted by Diageo but before taking up her new role completed an internship at W+K London.

What do you believe is the main quality the marketer of the future will need to possess?

I whole-heartedly agree with Claire Cronin, chief marketing officer at Virgin Atlantic, who once said a successful marketer needs three distinct but equal traits – to be a 'brand magician', a 'commercialisation wizard' and a 'customer obsessive'. This for me leads to a well-rounded marketer who is able to converse with stakeholders across multiple different functions to mobilise and lead the business. Aside from this, the main trait for me would be curiosity. The world is always changing and it is important to remain curious while keeping perspective and following the 70:20:10 rule to grow the brand(s) under your stewardship.

If you could have worked with any brand at any point in history, what brand, when, and why?

The recent 2018 campaign by Hermes Pardini Labs and Ogilvy. The Cannes Lion-winning work battled one of the world's most powerful forces: children's fear of taking vaccine shots. In a nutshell, they created an immersive fantasy world in which the child become a hero, and the vaccine shot a shield helping them defend the realm against an enemy invasion. This work took a valuable insight – children's fear of needles – and built a creative execution that solved the tension in an innovative way, delivering on its objective to reduce the trauma associated with having a vaccination.

How do you want to change the marketing industry?

I love our industry but to see it continue to thrive we need to retain top talent: young workers are increasingly changing careers. To understand why, we need to look at what is important to the younger generation. I believe it all starts at the grassroots and we must create an industry culture that nurtures those in the early stages of their marketing career who have a desire to continue learning and growing. If an industry can get this right then it is onto a winning formula – as we know, people are our biggest competitive advantage.

If you have missed any of the Future 50 this week, catch up on the full list here.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.