Profiles in Marketing Innovation

PIMI #1: Mike Mawby

Welcome to Profiles in Marketing Innovation (PIMI). This new segment is dedicated to featuring marketing leaders who think a little differently, come from a unique perspective, and operate in their space in ways that make us go “Hmm.”

Our inaugural edition features Mike Mawby, most recently the Director of Marketing at MYCO Mechanical. In addition to straddling both B2B and B2C initiatives, Mike is an MBA-level leader who started his career as a designer … and whose visual approach, and design thinking, give him an uncommon take on the analytical sides of marketing strategy.

We spoke to Mike several times in March and April, and are happy to share what came out of it.

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Tell us a little about yourself, elevator-pitch style. 

MIKE: I began my career in graphic design, immersing myself in the tactical aspects of visual communication. Recognizing the pivotal role aesthetics play in effective marketing, I transitioned towards strategic marketing endeavors. This journey led me to pursue an MBA in Marketing, solidifying my commitment to blending creativity with business acumen. Today, I see myself as a creative leader, equipped with both design expertise and strategic thinking to drive impactful marketing initiatives.

Very cool. You don’t see a lot of marketing leaders come from the design side. Do you feel like your background has given you a unique perspective on what is, in a lot of ways, a very analytical role?

MIKE: Definitely. It’s somewhat of a superpower of mine. Design is where I find my joy. But, I also have a strong appreciation for spreadsheets, mathematics and analytics. The significance of analytics cannot be overstated when striving to make informed business choices rooted in logic rather than mere intuition. Nevertheless, there’s nothing quite like delivering the perfect message in a visually appealing manner.

You wrote an interesting LinkedIn Pulse piece on branding, in which you said: “Shaping a company’s perception goes beyond a mere logo redesign or a catchy tagline.” Unpack this a bit for us. Why is brand more complex than just brand ID?

MIKE: Brand identity, often synonymous with a company’s logo, is undoubtedly the initial visual cue that springs to mind when recalling a business. However, it merely scratches the surface. The essence of a brand encompasses far more — it’s the heartbeat of the organization. It embodies not just what a company does, but how; and, perhaps most crucially, why it does what it does. A brand is a reflection of its actions, defining its personality and character. It’s like the adage “you are what you do,” where a company’s actions speak volumes about its identity.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the important relationship between brand and culture. As David Salyers, Marketing VP at Chick-fil-A, succinctly put it: “They are two sides to the same coin. The brand is the portal through which a customer views the story, and the culture is the portal through which the employee views the story.”

How does one attend to both sides of that coin? Let’s take Nike, as a well-known example. Their brand promise is “Empowerment through sports.” We’ve all seen the many ways that’s communicated via their advertising, sponsorships, etc. But how does such a brand extend to the company’s culture?

MIKE: This is indeed a great question, highlighting the vital importance of authentic alignment between a company’s culture and its brand image. It’s all about being what you say you are. To begin, clarity is key — clearly defining how you want your brand to be perceived sets the stage. Following this, it’s essential to take a close look internally, auditing the organization to understand how employees perceive the company’s culture and values. The question here is: Does this perception align with our intended brand identity?

Usually, there are small adjustments that can be made to foster alignment. While company culture can be nudged in certain directions through policies or resource allocation, it largely grows organically. Attempting to radically change it often faces resistance. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that the desired perception is both realistic and attainable, laying the foundation for genuine alignment.

Moving forward, every opportunity should be seized to reinforce and enable the desired brand vision. Take the brand you mentioned, Nike, for instance. They embody their brand message by actively supporting employees in sports and fitness pursuits. This might involve providing regular fitness credits, sponsoring fitness challenges, offering flexibility for coaching kids’ teams, or providing free or discounted athletic gear. It’s all about “walking the walk” and ensuring that the company’s culture authentically reflects its brand identity.

How deep should the roots of a company’s brand go?

MIKE: A company’s brand roots should ideally extend as deeply as possible, but it’s crucial to maintain a balance and avoid excessive resource allocation, be it human or financial. Sustainability is key, and investments should make sound business sense. Cultivating a workplace culture where employees naturally embody the company’s values is pivotal. When brand and culture align seamlessly, the positive impact becomes palpable, driving organic growth and fostering a thriving environment.

It’s important to recognize that company culture isn’t confined solely to internal operations. A truly successful brand extends its culture beyond its organizational boundaries and into the wider community. When the brand message is authentic, anyone who associates themselves with it becomes part of that culture. Take Nike, for example; loyal customers are just as integral, if not more so, to the brand’s culture as its employees. This expansive view of company culture not only enriches the brand’s identity but also fosters deeper connections with its audience, creating a sense of belonging that goes beyond mere transactions.

Do you think we’re getting to a point where brand is becoming less important to the C-suite? Is the function of marketing becoming more about supporting and driving sales, and less about shepherding key audiences across the full customer journey?

MIKE: Is brand becoming less important to the C-suite? No, though there may be some who hold that perspective, neglecting your brand is akin to disregarding your competitive edge and what distinguishes you. It’s about understanding why a client or customer chooses you over your competitors. Unless you’re seeking to commoditize your entire operation, ignoring your brand would be shortsighted.

While it’s not directly the C-suite’s role to foster company culture, it is their responsibility to establish the framework for its growth and prosperity. Shaping the brand, which serves as the lens through which the company is perceived, falls squarely within the purview of the C-suite, particularly the Chief Marketing Officer or Director of Marketing, and their team.

Regarding the function of marketing, both sales support and guiding audiences across the customer journey are essential. Direct sales support, accomplished through the production of on-brand collateral, communications, and presentations, is crucial. However, sales represent just one phase of the customer journey. While it significantly impacts the bottom line, effective marketing ensures a continual flow of prospects across all stages of the journey.

I find particular excitement in companies embracing inbound marketing. Inbound marketing revolves around creating valuable content to draw customers in, fostering a relationship built on delivering value to the customer first. Platforms like HubSpot are pioneers in this realm, emphasizing the power and effectiveness of inbound marketing strategies.

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