Drone taxis, uber pitches and birth rates
Our mission, at The Marketing Society, is to become the leading global network for senior marketers, with an aim to have a hub in 10 major cities by 2020. And since returning from sabbatical in mid-April, my role has been solely focused on driving the growth of our five hubs: Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, New York and New Delhi.
Also, since coming back to work, I've found that one of the benefits of being an international business, is that I get to travel to culturally diverse regions around the world and experience new and exciting business environments. It's also worth noting that the Society’s hubs are in vibrant marketing communities, where we can share best practice from across the world… and they’re located in some pretty cool places too, which is always a bonus.
So, over this past month I've been visiting our four Asia hubs where I have attended events, discussed inspirational opportunities with our regional boards and met with our Founding Members.
It's been a whirlwind.
Here are some of my key learnings, anecdotes and quite interesting facts I learnt along the way.
May 2017 marked the first anniversary of The Marketing Society Middle East and I joined our Chair Asad Rehman, Director of Media, Unilever MENA and fellow board members for our Collide event in partnership with Siegel+Gale, as we discussed ‘where should brands focus?’.
Dubai is an incredible city, where there is really no limit to what can be achieved. The famous Mohammed Ali quote – ‘Impossible is nothing’ springs to mind. People there are always excited by what’s next, what’s to come and how can it benefit their brand. They see new mar-tech as an exciting opportunity, rather someone else trying to ‘sell them something’. The vision and dedication of the ruling family of the UAE means they’re always well ahead of the curve.
Favourite story I heard
Flying drone taxis to launch this year.
The key challenge I heard from our members
1) Measurement 2) Measurement 3) Measurement.
India was my next trip. As The Marketing Society hosted two events in quick succession in New Delhi with leadership expert Thomas Barta; who has recently co-written a book titled ‘The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader’. Thomas set the scene at our Provocative Dinner - in partnership with Gain Theory - where we asked attendees to discuss the challenges that CMOs face in the region.
I was told by our Chair, Virginia Sharma, Director Marketing Solutions, Linkedin, that our members in India loved debating and having a ‘provocative’ discussion and she wasn’t wrong. Two hours of discussion and still going strong... we even had colleagues arguing across the table – we loved it – our job was done.
The following day we hosted a half-day workshop where Thomas revealed more about the traits marketing leaders need to have to be at their best.
Favourite story I heard
India is (and is continuing to be) a hotbed for entrepreneurship – the tech scene in Gurgaon and Bangalore is buzzing with excitement and opportunity. My favourite story was the founder of a start-up who, in his spare time, would drive an Uber and wait outside the offices of the Capital Investment firms in Gurgaon and pick up investors, usually to go to the airport; which would give him 20 minutes to pitch his business. I’m sure this happens all over the world, especially in Sillicon Valley, but this almost sounded like the norm of people so dedicated to succeed.
My most interesting moment
When my Uber pulled up with a huge crack down one side of the windscreen and no seatbelts in the back. Followed by the driver saying – “don’t worry, you don’t need seatbelts in the back - you’re safe”. Not sure it quite works like that…
I have to say arriving in Singapore after leaving the chaos and hustle and bustle was a relief. From wheels down on the plane, through immigration, picking up my bags and in the taxi, all within 20 minutes - it was a dream compared to New Delhi. For those who have been to Singapore you’ll know I was awaited by a ‘toy-town’. A country where there is not a leaf out of place, quiet, no traffic, (no cows!), luscious greenery and incredible architecture.
The opportunity to meet a number of our members and hear about the marketing industry in Singapore, was followed by a great meeting with our Chair Erica Kerner, VP Marketing, Tiffany & Co, and one of our Vice-Chairs, Andrew Au, MD, Imagination SEA, to chat about exciting plans for the remainder of the year. Discussing unique event ideas with top marketing leaders is one of the most motivating parts of my role.
The next morning, we hosted an Uncomfortable Breakfast with our partners Avado, discussing Talent and Culture – a hot topic for the region. A Chatham House style event, members and guests around the table were able to share their key challenges in a safe environment. You can see pictures on our Facebook page.
I'll also mention that one of our regional board members Wayne Arnold, Global CEO, MullenLowe Profero, has recently written an interesting article about why he thinks all Global CEOs and ECDs should be based in Asia and not the west, due to the unrivalled growth opportunities.
My favourite story
A few years ago the Singaporean government had a problem. The birth rate was one of the lowest in the world and they wanted to grow the population of native Singaporeans. What did they do? Turned the national day into a baby-making day. And even provided benefits such as tax breaks for families with children, government paid maternity leave, and government subsidized singles' events, like speed dating and dancing lessons.
The final leg of my trip was Hong Kong – where we launched our first global hub, all the way back in 2014. The agenda for our Uncomfortable Breakfast was discussing Smart Cities. An esteemed group of panellists from automotive marketing leaders, to architects, highlighted that Hong Kong was dropping down the rankings of the world’s ‘smartest cities’. You can watch a quick highlights and interview video in our Cinema.
A final meeting with our Hong Kong, Chair, Guy Parsonage, Partner at PwC, to catch up on what we have planned for the rest of the year and then it was time to head back to Blighty. A brilliant trip meeting our global members and realising that collaborating and using the power of our networks we can do brilliant things.
A final word
We look forward to sharing more information about our global expansion later this year, when we officially launch our New York and New Delhi hubs in the Autumn. For now, it’s heads down this summer working on new ideas and opportunities and a Brave Conference this November, when we'll host seven events in six countries on one day.
It just remains for me to say, this trip has definitely inspired me to be a bolder marketing leader. And the future of the Society round the world is an exciting one indeed.