Building trust and taking chances: a global lens on brave marketing

More than 70 marketers came together on September 4th for an Under the Spotlight gathering. High spirits and, well, lots of spirits were evident as people chatted at Diageo’s elegant in-house bar on 5th Avenue.

Adriana Rizzo, Vice President for Marketing at Discovery and Vice Chair of the Marketing Society New York welcomed the crowd. Margaret Molloy, Global CMO Siegel + Gale and New York Board Chair kicked off the panel discussion with Ed Pilkington, CMO for the Americas and Head of Innovation at Diageo and Diego Sacristan, Chief Commercial Officer, Emerging Market at Pfizer.

Margaret started by asking about the role of bravery in each of their careers as global marketers with many international posts under their belts. Diego reflected that in his roles as an entrepreneur, as a consultant with PwC, and in business at Pfizer, bravery and risk taking had been a valuable asset. He also noted that sometimes “Bravery can be defined as ignorance. When you know too much, you run the risk of overthinking!” Ed concurred, and shared that working in emerging markets with more volatile conditions taught him that being proactive is an important brave attribute. “Bravery can mean action. You have to act, or things will happen to you -- rather than you making things happen for the business.”

When asked about whether bravery was an inherent personality trait or could be cultivated, the panelists agreed that brave behaviors could be developed. To set the stage for brave behavior, organizations need to build an atmosphere of trust. Developing relationships is a critical piece of the puzzle. When you have strong, networked relationships throughout an organization, it’s easier to socialize ideas early to foster brave decision making. “You don’t need a big moment, “ Ed pointed out. “Put your thinking out there and don’t wait for the opportunity to present a sixty-page PowerPoint deck.” Diego added that marketers can build their bravery muscle by taking incremental actions just outside their comfort zone rather than dramatic, bold moves.

When should brands be brave, asked Margaret, and take stands on broader political and social issues? According to Diego, the right moment is when the stance is closely related to the brand’s purpose, not on tangential issues. Ed emphasized organizational stances on diversity and inclusion and board parity as important priorities -- as well as being good for the bottom line.

When asked for advice to close the session, Diego emphasized finding unique opportunities and leveraging them. His career included nine international moves and two mentors, senior women who have provided him with different perspectives, and career opportunities to pursue. Ed, through his twenty years at Diageo, has taken every chance to make things happen: developing exciting new product categories and making hard decisions about lesser-performing brands. His counsel to all the brave marketers out there, “Do stuff -- take a chance and make it happen.”

Thanks to our Diageo for hosting a great convening Under the Spotlight. We look forward to seeing many of the brave marketers who participated again at our upcoming Bravest conference on October 10th at Hudson Yards.

By Perry Hewitt, Marketing Society Board Member