What I heard (and did not) from a successful marketer

Last night I attended an insightful chat between Gemma Greaves, Outgoing Chief Executive at The Marketing Society and the “most-loved CMO in advertising” Fernando Machado, as part of their Under The Spotlight series.

Fernando’s usual style is to bring his true self to any conversation, without scripts or PowerPoint decks. I have heard about it, but yesterday for the first time, I was able to witness his straight-forward approach, forward-looking thinking and above all, his passion. 

Yes, he spoke about the need for marketers to tune-in both our rational and emotional sides in order to tackle business challenges effectively. Yes, he urged us to continue to push our organizations until we become comfortable with being uncomfortable. And yes, he talked about identifying what we are truly good at in order to succeed – or as Fernando describes it, our “superpower”. All that is extremely valuable advice. But what I did not hear from him may be what resonated with me the most.

When asked about his exit from Unilever after a successful 18-year journey, he didn’t mention the lack of new potential roles for him. Instead, he cited his need to continue to evolve, feel challenged and do more.

When asked about his early career

at Burger King and competing against McDonald’s as the market leader, he didn’t complain about limited resources in the marketing function, but instead he talked about resilience and approaching the challenge by truly embracing their status as a challenger brand.

And when asked about their recent (and already famous) “moldy whopper” campaign, I did not hear him complain about how long it took Burger King to finally “clean” his food offering, but rather he focused his answer on the three year-long creative process aimed at getting the marketing idea ready for when the rest of the organization got there.

In summary

what stayed with me the most is what Fernando didn’t talk about, which often are those obstacles that we invest so much energy on, perhaps unnecessarily – leaving me with the feeling that there are no excuses for great marketing. Just passion, resilience and simply put, great work to be done.


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