'Fail and have fun': Keith Weed offers advice to marketing's new blood

Unilever CMO Keith Weed (who is to depart in April) offers some advice to the next generation of marketing talent

Today’s marketers have some of the greatest opportunities, and challenges, the industry has seen. Working in real time, with first-party data, at scale allows us to generate insights, campaigns and reach we couldn’t have imagined 35 years ago. The landscape has changed more in the past five years than it did in the 30 before that.

The ability to keep changing and learning is one of the most exciting things about this industry, and the next generation of marketing leaders will be totally immersed in that culture. But not everything has changed. Whatever the channels, speed, location or team, certain fundamentals make great marketers, and great marketing leaders.

As The Drum launches its Future 50 list celebrating the industry's new blood, here's some of the advice I'd offer up to the next generation of marketers.

80% of success is showing up

Physically, intellectually, emotionally – you need to be in it. Really commit. Turn up to the event, say yes to the difficult project, be there for your colleagues and clients when they need help. Energy, engagement and strong delivery define marketers, and people, that other people want to work with.

If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough

Keeping up with the pace of change can feel overwhelming. Consumer demands, available data, tools and channels are growing and changing every day. Navigating this landscape requires open minds, new approaches and freedom to fail. Everyone, of whatever stage in their career, needs to be self-taught and keep learning every day. Staying in your comfort zone is not an option.

People’s point of view is often driven by their viewpoint

What many people believe is the truth is often just their opinion. That means that all accepted ideas and ways of doing things can be challenged, and barriers to creativity can be broken down with new ways of thinking.

Different experiences and diversity of opinion are crucial to developing creative solutions, both across teams and across individual careers. I was lucky enough that my career at Unilever took me to the US in the early 90s, which was then the best place on the planet to learn about marketing. It gave me, and I gave it, a totally different perspective. If I was in my 20s or 30s now, I’d be on the first plane to Shanghai to do the same.

Live your space

Marketers need to be curious. Curious about the world, and particularly curious about consumers and trends. To serve your consumers well, and better than your competition, you need to be closer to your consumers than anyone else. You need to do what they do, be where they are.

Time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn is great free insight and learning, whether it’s from people sharing their ideas and experiences or from time spent immersing yourself in the world of your consumers. Same for time spent at bars, sports games, shops, events – living your life and the life of your consumers is all great marketing training.

Have fun

Miserable people deliver miserable results. Great results come from people excited and upbeat about the fantastic industry we work in, who enjoy coming to work every day and who create a positive atmosphere to help themselves and others do their best work.

Marketers get to work with passionate artists, scientists and business leaders every day. We’re creating impactful, creative campaigns that can change feelings, perspectives and actions across the world.

An amazing new generation of marketing talent is going to change the industry again and again into something bigger, brighter and even better than it is now. This is something to be truly positive about.

Keith Weed is chief marketing officer at Unilever, he tweets @Keithweed

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