Under the Spotlight: how being brave can help marketers be ‘normal in their not-normalness’

Mark Evans and Hannah Pain

Bravery is a theme that resonates with Direct Line’s Mark Evans. Not only is marketing today “having a more strategic role in organisations", but it is increasingly setting the context for those organisations, enriching the corporate mojo and leading to more conversations around issues such as mental health and wellbeing.

Evans was addressing an audience at a no-holds-barred "Under the Spotlight" panel session that marked The Marketing Society’s first event of 2019.

In front of a packed-out audience at London’s Bloomsbury House on 29 January, Marketing Society chief executive Gemma Greaves chatted to Direct Line marketing director and Marketing Leader of the Year Evans, and McDonald's senior brand manager and Young Marketing Leader of the Year Hannah Pain.

The session featured a candid, in-depth, insightful and emotionally honest discussion around how marketing leaders of today (and tomorrow) are putting bravery at the heart of not just their own departments but company-wide.

While the event was held under the Chatham House Rule (not "Rules", as it is often mistakenly referred to — thanks Gemma for setting the record straight), we can reference some of the less sensitive nuggets the panellists shared. Admitting that "it's not always easy to ensure your voice is heard”, Pain stressed the importance of “putting yourself forward in a vulnerable position”. Facing the possibility of not winning can be "pretty tough at times", she said. “[But] on a professional level it’s opened up all sorts or experiences and conversations that I've not had before, experiences you can gain from.”

Regret nothing

Evans, Pain and Greaves talked about regrets, but agreed that many failures that they might have ostensibly regretted have since become a springboard for future success. Evans neatly encapsulated this in a quotation (attributed to various people): "It's better to regret something you've done rather than something you haven't.

Being vulnerable is OK

One of the reasons that marketing is such an increasingly open discipline is that it's not as obstinate as other professions, according to the panel. "It's one of the reasons I love working in marketing," Evans said. “It's not a particularly arrogant profession. It's quite an easy industry to fess up and demonstrate you're not perfect, and show your humility.”

Peer support

Meanwhile, McDonald's Pain offered some advice to young marketers. "Support each other,” she said. “There's not enough emphasis on on bringing others with you and lifting people up." Meanwhile, the topic of imposter syndrome was raised, with Evans announcing his love for the expression "everyone has imposter syndrome apart from narcissists and sociopaths". "The interesting thing about imposter syndrome is that often people worry about perfectionism because they're very good at something," he said. Evans wrapped up the session, before questions opened to the audience, with a reflection on Greaves' and the Society's bravery agenda.

"On your watch, The Marketing Society is talking about these taboos and normalising [the conversation]," he said. "I don't think it's happening in many professions. I think it's important that these conversations are being had so that people can be normal in their not-normalness."