Mark leads the experiential marketing strategy team for big brands like State Farm. We talk about the role of the strategist to influence creatives, the organization of the teams responsible for strategy and the anatomy of creative briefs.
“Great planners think what no one else has thought, about that which everybody sees." - Mark Macklin
VP of Strategy Mark Macklin comes to us from Portland Oregon and brings over 18 years of digital experience to his work at The Marketing Arm. Mark’s investigations and insights into consumerism, technology, and human behavior patterns have yielded tremendous efficiencies for a diverse range of companies including KFC, SONY, Audi, NASDAQ, Nike, adidas, USAA and Travelocity.
Prior to joining TMA, Mr. Macklin was a Strategy Director at MEplusYOU (formerly IMC2); and before that a VP of Digital Brand Planning at Fleishman Hillard. Playing a key role in large-scale interactive projects, he developed and orchestrated both traditional and digital strategies for AT&T, TD Bank and Haggar Clothing Co. Mark began his foray into digital as an analyst at Forrester Research.
Proven in traditional research methods and innovative metrics applications, Mark brings intense devotion, unwavering passion, and profitable insight to all brand and social initiatives at The Marketing Arm. He received his BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Max Traylor: Welcome to a, well, it will be an inebriated episode of Beers with Max. I'm drinking an Epiphany. A Maine IPA, I'm not sure if Epiphany is the name of the beer or the brewery, I should have figured that out. But, it's 8%, so, well, you know, we won't be sober by the end.
Max Traylor: Mark Macklin, ladies and gentlemen. Now, Mark, this is going to be more of a diverse episode, what are you drinking?
Mark Macklin: Today is, because it's mid-thirties and rainy and cold in Dallas, it's a Bailey's and coffee.
Max Traylor: Well I'm coming to you from Boston, so don't talk to me about rainy and cold. Bailey's and coffee, that sounds fun. Tell us what you do, professionally.
Mark Macklin: So I head up our strategy team for State Farm at a company called The Marketing Arm in Dallas, Texas, and we are an experiential marketing firm, so what that means is that, I mean, experiential is kind of this term that's being bandied around because that's how brands are making an impact these days I through experiences, one on one interactions, etc. But we do everything from trade shows, your typical, State Farm will show up at an auto show or a motorcycle show all the way to the installations that you'll see, we're planning for All Star in February, All Star weekend, NBA All Star in February where we're going to have all sorts of very very cool things that are going to be branded State Farm and part of the State Farm experience, especially because it's in Chicago this year, and State Farm's headquarters in Bloomington, it's sort of in their backyard.
Mark Macklin: So, my job as the leader of the strategy team is really to kind of inspire the creatives to come up with really cool brand experiences. Things for people to do, see, feel, touch, just experience whenever they're on site. And that on site, like I said, could be a motorcycle show, it could be Bonnaroo, it could be NBA All Star, it could be the World Series, everywhere. You know, State Farm's the huge sponsor of a lot of sports, especially a lot of professional sports, and college game day as well. So, there's lots of places for people to interact with the brand and my job is to kind of make sure those interactions are as cool as they possibly can be.
Max Traylor: So let's go operational for a second. You said you're the head of the strategy team, is that right? So what does the strategy team look like on a big account like this?
Mark Macklin: Yeah, so, that's a great question, Max, and it's changing. We're fortunate enough to take over the broadcast work as well. That just happened in January, or maybe even December. So that's evolving, so the way it looked last year was I had a team of three other individuals that I worked with, anywhere from junior to senior strategists and we were spread across the different programs that State Farm has, based on whatever product that they're offering. [inaudible] stuff is all about P&C, property and cash, so let's say your home, your auto, your boat, your motorcycle, then there's AFWB, which stands for Advancing Financial Well Being, and that's all about the financial products you might own. State Farm, most people don't know this, but they've actually got a banking component, so they can offer you pretty simple financial instruments, money market savings, vehicle loans, home loans, I think there's a credit card in there somewhere.
Mark Macklin: So then there's that and then we do some other programs that involve small business, but the broadcast work is the bigger, that's the big daddy. This is a company that spends close to a billion dollars a year in media. And while we work with a media company, they're called OMD, we're now the lead agency for their above the line and below the line creative, above the line meaning television and radio and print and below the line meaning digital and experiential, things like that.
Max Traylor: Got it.
Mark Macklin: The point, I guess, the short answer or the long answer to your very short question, just that it's evolving, what the team looks like now will be different in even two months.
Max Traylor: Yeah. Well I guess there's kind of two approaches that I see. One is that you're assigning strategists to different product lines, and they're in charge of different tactical areas, but it's all aligned with a single product. And then I also hear that people are organizing their strategy teams by tactical areas. So you have a media strategy specialist, other things, thank you 8% beer, but-
Mark Macklin: Yeah, no. That's exactly right, Max. That's kind of how, so my State Farm client jokes that she's got fifty people on the payroll that have the term "strategy" in their title. So everybody's a strategist these days, and there's a reason, because of all the different mediums and ways that you can interact with a brand, a brand can interact with you, and everything's got a strategy behind that, so as an experiential strategist's mind, as I said before, is all about the sort of on site, on premises thing, but OMB's got their own media strategy team, which figures out where the message should be heard. We try to figure out what the message should be, then OMB, the media company figures out where it should take place or what it should entail. But they have their own strategy team, we work with, there's so many agencies involved in the business that there's public relations, or our multicultural firms, and everybody's kind of got a strategy.
Mark Macklin: But yeah, you're right, I think it can be along product lines, it can be along verticals as far as, you know, your swim lane. Every swim lane has got a strategy department.
Max Traylor: Sure, sure. What, where do I go from here?
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Well, you have quite a background in strategy. I was reviewing your LinkedIn profile again and you've got eight roles back, it's all strategist, it's all planning.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Is there any trend to that? Were you born with a specific skill? Were you born with a planning title? How did you get into this?
Mark Macklin: Yeah, I will allude exactly to that. So I believe that great planners, and planning is sort of this nomenclature or vernacular that's used. It was brought over by a guy, account planning is the full term, it was brought over by a guy named John Steel, he was from England, he wrote the seminal book called Truth, Lies and Advertising, which every planner's read. Everyone's read that. Usually that's the litmus test if this is going to work for you, if the book speaks to you, you're kind of there. The tricky part about planning is that, my job is to be as simple as possible, to make very complex things very easy and simple to understand. And so to do that, I believe, I truly believe that great planners are born, they're not made.
Mark Macklin: So either you have this unnatural obsession with people, technology and brands and how those three interact, or you don't. And you can't teach it. I would do these, sometimes I'm sort of a guest lecturer at certain colleges or what have you, or career days they'll ask an advertising person, and my table, I've got this presentation, my table is always one of the most crowded ones because it looks so easy and it looks so cool but what they're not realizing is that while it's very cool, it's very, very difficult. I've got sort of these planning mantras that I'll use and one of them, probably the most popular that I've used is, "The task is not to see what no one else has seen, but to think what no one else has thought about that which everybody sees."
Mark Macklin: So, in order to do that, in order to think what no one else has thought about that which everybody sees, that's where the skills that you're born with come into play. And you have to have this, I say the two things you need in spades for this job are curiosity and empathy. You have to have an endless amount of curiosity for yourself, others and the world and how those three interrelate. And then you've got to have empathy. You've got to be able to step outside of your own shoes and into the hearts, minds and environments of a soccer mom, or a 50-some year old tech guy. I've got to understand how those people move through the world, what motivates them, where they are emotionally, sort of, headed, or where they've been. Because I'm trying to react to them on sort of an emotional level. And that's, I always say that my job is kind of half strength, half shrink, half MBA. I figure out how people move through the world and I report those findings to the brands who want to reach them.
Max Traylor: Yeah. You've been doing this for quite a... How long have you been doing this? Real short question.
Mark Macklin: I think, honestly, Max, I think 2005, I mean, I've been a planner all my life, actually, but getting paid to do it, the first job was actually at McKinney in Durham, North Carolina, and that was in 2005.
Max Traylor: All right. So, what's the biggest challenge? And I mean not practice area wise, not challenge that your clients are facing, but what's the biggest challenge for a strategist trying to communicate big, powerful ideas that no one else has thought of. I can't imagine that they're all received with welcome arms and that everybody goes, "Great, let's go ahead and do it." There's got to be some challenges for change management, there's got to be leadership challenges. What have you seen? What's the biggest roadblock to innovation and change in the organizations that you work with?
Mark Macklin: So, another great question. The trick is, gosh, I don't want to pin this all on-
Max Traylor: Not talking about your current client. That's why [crosstalk]
Mark Macklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's the unfortunate thing. Because it's not, listen, I think State Farm, as far as a company, they're as brave in some areas that they can be and they're a wonderful client to work with, I enjoy it every single day of my life. But, I think that when you see the great work out there, when you truly see magnificent work, it's because the strategist did a great job of inspiring an incredible idea, which the client loves and has the moxie, the balls or whatever to kind of bring into life. So one of those things might be, these are landmark examples, but the man your man could smell like, which was a piece of work that Wieden & Kennedy did, when I saw that, I could see the brief in my mind as soon I saw that work. It's not aimed at guys. It's not aimed at men. It's aimed at women because the insight is that women care more about the way their man smells than they do.
Mark Macklin: So, you might pick Speed Stick, whatever it is, and you come home and it's something different, your girlfriend is like, "Ew, what is that?" You don't care, it usually doesn't cross our mind. It's sort of whatever's eye level, you think a little bit about it, but I don't think much about switching. But it turns out that the partners of these men think a lot about that and so they have a lot of say in the type of deodorant that their partner wears. Whether they like it or they hate it. If she says she hates it, you're not A, wearing it again, and certainly not buying it again. So there's this great insight that the female cares more about, the woman cares more about how her man smells than she does. And that's why the man your man could smell like was genius. Absolutely brilliant.But that took, again, an insight. Simple human truth told beautifully. That's what an insight is in my opinion, a simple human truth told beautifully.Women care more about the way their men smell than they do is a simple human truth, and the telling beautifully part is what the man your man could smell like, that's making that insight into this really cool, compelling program.
Mark Macklin: Another one might be Snickers, you're not you when you're hungry. Everyone knows you're, listen, you act like an asshole when you're hungry, everyone does that. But they found this incredible way to bring that campaign to life. Betty White, Joe Pesci, what have you, but the simple human truth is you're not yourself when you're hungry. And, again, I could see the brief when I saw that ad, I could see the brief, I swear, and then the creators brought that thing to life.
Mark Macklin: So I think the challenge, really, is coming up with that insight, that simple human truth is very, very difficult to get to, because it's got to be easy. When I talk about insights, when I tell them to the creative teams and I share them with the clients, I want you nodding along. If I have to explain it, I've lost. Another planning motto, if you have to explain it, you've lost. Everyone should nod their head in agreement and almost to the fact they're like, "Well, yeah, no shit, I know that." But that took weeks and hours and days to get to, to get that one simple insight, the simple human truth. So I think that's one challenge, is finding the insight, the compelling insight that can spark a true creative idea.
Mark Macklin: I think another, and listen, this is, everyone's somewhat risk averse these days, and I think having clients that have the wherewithal to take on really big projects, I mean, I'm quite sure that when the Martin Agency went to Warren Buffett, at the time, who owned government employees insurance company, acronym for Geico, when they went to Buffett and said, "Listen, we're going to pitch cavemen to sell insurance." The Martin Agency, one of the most decorated agencies in the country, is going to pitch cavemen to a government employee insurance company, they were like, "Yeah, get the, no way." But, of course, as we know, it became this hugely successful piece of work and that took a lot of guts on the client's part to do that. So sometimes having them, helping them to see past that, to kind of take that chance and make that leap, that's another big challenge, is having clients that are willing to really think with you, to really grow, to build, to just create with you.
Mark Macklin: And that's, listen, there are going to be times when clients are extremely easy and kind of, and others that look, we got, I've got to reign this in a little bit. And so a lot of times what I'll do with that, with my creatives teams is they've come up, I'm like "You shoot for the fucking moon." And then as the terrible saying goes, even if you miss, you're still with the stars. But what I like to say is that, listen, we're going to have three versions of this idea. We're going to have a wedding cake version, we're going to have a birthday cake, and we're going to have a cupcake, right? Even if it's just a cupcake version, everybody fucking loves cupcakes. Cupcakes are great. It's still a wonderful thing to have. Now, if we can afford it, if you want to dream with me, I'll get you to a birthday cake or a wedding cake. But if you just want a cupcake, cool. It still maintains the simple, the idea remains gemane and true, we just have a sort of scaled down version of it.
Max Traylor: Yeah, Yeah. All right, I got two things I want to navigate with you here.
Mark Macklin: [inaudible]
Max Traylor: One, I want to understand the process of ideation. The process of strategic creation. What has to happen on the research side? What do you need to develop in order to intro a client with confidence and talk about these crazy ideas and then secondly, what is the deliverable? You talked about the brief, you can see it now, not everybody knows what that brief looks like. Not everybody knows what it actually takes to present an idea in a way that appears actionable because the last five years of interviewing strategists, the number one enemy to a strategist is the appearance that your idea is not actionable. Great idea but we can't, we don't have the right butts in the seats to get it done.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: So those are the things I want to navigate. I think I want to start with the process. Where does it start?
Mark Macklin: So, yeah, so there's a lot to that. So, IDEO, a famous design firm, has a, they call it DIG, which is just an acronym for Discover, Ideate, Go, so, and everybody's got their wheel of whatever, of how they get to this insight or this thing. And we've got our own wheel like everyone else does. But you've really got to just sit with mounds and mounds of information. Now the tricky thing is that, and again as I said empathy and curiosity are two things required for the job, when you're selling ideas, it has to be intuitive and empirical. So intuitive is sometimes with my hunch, I have an intuition that this is right, or that this is worth exploring, and then I want to back it up with data. Sometimes it's the opposite. Sometimes I see something in data that gives me a new hunch on things. But those two things have to be in place in order to truly sell that. I like to say that ideas inspire, data convinces. And so I try to use both those things in my presentations, both the intuition and the empirical.
Mark Macklin: Now the interesting thing about data, because this is this huge topic about how big data, thick data, smart data, whatever you want to call it. What's interesting about it is that back in the day, with what I did, it was sort of like building a clay pot on a wheel. So I'm spinning this thing wildly and if I want to make this pot, I've got to add more clay, or add more water and then I can slowly start to see, my thing starts to kind of take shape, but these days, it's not that. These days, because of the data that I have access to with some of these social listing tools, it honestly, Max, should be illegal. It's literally, I feel like the things that I can learn about people are just, it's almost disturbing the depths to which we can go. But what that does is that instead of having this wheel and clay that we have to add, it's more subtractive.
Mark Macklin: So now someone just delivers a big block of marble on my desk and I have to chisel away at it. I have to find the things that don't matter, that are superfluous, that are unintended or whatever and I have to chip away at that and then I'll see my data. My data is in there somewhere, I've got to find it. Whereas before, it was additive, now it's subtractive. I had to add more things, I had to go talk to more people, I had to read more stuff. Now it's like, okay, what do I not need, or do I want or need to pitch, what can I skim, etc. So the way that I have gone about that has changed over the years based pretty much on just the availability and the quality of the data that's available. Social has just absolutely, as a planner, I'll go on this shit sometimes just for fun. It's just amazing to look, you can get a glimpse, a true glimpse of who someone is, based on sort of a triangulation of social profiles. It's really, really, it's endlessly fascinating to me, although quite disturbing.
Max Traylor: Well you were talking earlier about what made a born strategist or a born planner, and you were talking about yourself and I can relate to it but it's being able to simplify the complex.
Mark Macklin: Sure.
Max Traylor: And that helps you communicate things, but being able to simplify the complex is a really good skill when there's an influx and a seemingly endless... See, this is the problem with 8% beers, I didn't know it was 8%. There's a lot of data, and we need to be simple. There you go.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. Yes. I mean, I say there is no clarity without brevity.
Max Traylor: Yeah.
Mark Macklin: So, again, these are planning mantras that I've used. I keep all these things in mind when I'm building presentations, when I'm communicating ideas, when I'm trying to inspire the creatives.
Max Traylor: You got anymore planning mantras? Maybe that's a good question.
Mark Macklin: I've got quite a few, actually.
Max Traylor: Because I'm running out of room on my notes here.
Mark Macklin: You keep talking-
Max Traylor: What's the timestamp for ideas inspire and data convinces? Who is this guy?
Mark Macklin: Yeah, who is this guy, right, right, right.
Mark Macklin: But that's, I mean, now especially, it used to not be this way. It used to be storytelling, and it's still very much about storytelling, but now you've got to have facts and figures in there. I've got to see a couple of charts and graphs in order to truly bring this point home. And again, it's a mixture, like I said, intuitive and empirical, it's always, no presentation [inaudible] just with charts and graphs, your eyes are going to roll in the back of your head, you're not going to hear what the Hell I said.
Max Traylor: Yeah, yeah. Data's not a competitive advantage anymore.
Mark Macklin: No, no, not at all.
Max Traylor: The ability to-
Mark Macklin: I can pay for it.
Max Traylor: Yeah. It's the artistry of chiseling away at the marble, going I know there's a David in there and I know what's bad marble and I know what's good marble, I know what I want. That is where price premiums exist. That is where brilliance lives.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. And that's born not made. That's being able to do that, that's, to my opinion, in my opinion, that is a skill that you're born with, not one that can be taught. And that's the goal of most planners, I think that's the goal of job satisfaction, to be able to use the skills that you were born with as opposed to skills that can be taught. Any, anyway.
Max Traylor: Here's my conspiracy theory, because I interview folks at large firms with strategy teams like yourself, and then there's the world of solopreneurs and they're doing their own thing, and they get trapped in this accidental agency world and maybe ten years ago there was this birth of the digital agency and full service that's just eating people alive. I think what's happening is you've got these born strategists, you've got these brilliant, experienced, creative people that have the greatest ideas, but they're getting trapped in this operational Hell hole of how do you push 10,000 buttons in a marketing automation software. Are you seeing any trends in the large agencies or in your clients in the demand for strategy versus specialized labor that can push buttons? I don't even know what I'm asking. I'm just kind of-
Mark Macklin: No that's and I kind of get where you're going with that, Max, and I think because-
Max Traylor: What's the market for ideas look like? That's kind of the question.
Mark Macklin: Yes, and it's got to be the greatest it's ever been because of those terrible cliches that we hear, the consumer's now in control and a million marketing measures are thrown at you a day and blah blah blah, this and that, and you have the ability, the barriers to switching are so low, etc, etc. But there's truth in all that. Because things are starting to, it's harder to separate brands these days. It's much more difficult. And one of the ways they're doing it, I think, it’s humanizing the brand. Burger King and Wendy's are doing a great job of humanizing a brand using a social platform. Just using literally clever dialog to make yourself stand out. But Hell, Wieden & Kennedy's done a fantastic job with Kentucky Fried Chicken, spending millions of dollars to, I think they're now number, I want to say number 4 or something, something ridiculous, they've grown with that whole campaign. But the point is, is that the need for strategy has never been more present because the lack of perceived differentiation of brands has never been stronger. Brands have never looked more the same.
Max Traylor: For those of you playing the podcast game, I'm making obscene queenly hand gestures. Yeah.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Shut up and say something, world. I'm ready to hear, I hear you barking. I hear you talking. Nothing different coming out. Everyone's got the same, anyway. You struck a chord.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Look, I interview a lot of people and rarely do I run out of room in our tiny little pre-call here, so I've got, there's a reason I've got these crazy stars near "cultural resonance."
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: And when you were talking, something did it, because I can see it in my handwriting here, I got excited at some point, is scarcity creates demand, face to face you got to sell it out, so I always ask people what is the, yes, every idea has to be brilliant and unique for the client, but there is always a formula. There is an underlying process, there's a creative method, that happens that is the reason people come back to you again and again and again. And so I probably asked you some kind of questions like what's the methodology you use or what have you found to be a proven process for creating value for your clients?
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Maybe the answer to that was cultural resonance-
Mark Macklin: Yeah, and that's right, I think, so there's two ways to answer that question. One is what you do as an employee and then what your agency does. Resonance, cultural resonance is what TNA is espousing, and it makes total sense, I'm 100% on board with this. The trick is, though, is that, listen, I don't think there's an agency in the country that would disagree with the need or the desire for cultural resonance. But it's basically meeting, the idea is to sort of meet people within culture, for brands to reside within culture, not to really be this interruption in your day, but part of your day or improving your day. Just being more culturally resonant.
Mark Macklin: I think that my process is still, it's pretty, I mentioned that IDEO method, discover, ideate, go, and the discovery phase is just so hugely important with what I do and it's just literally sitting down, my team of strategists all have sort of different specialties, they're good at different parts of the strategic game. So, again, I mentioned intuitive and empirical being the two skills or the two things that you need for presentations, so I have the team organize based on that. I'm the heavy I, I'm heavy intuitive, I'm an old school planner, and then I've got a heavy E guy, heavy empirical dude, who geeks out on charts and graphs. He names them, he's got different acronyms for them, he loves that shit. Can't tell a story to save his life, but man, he's amazing with data, whereas I'm not so good at really, I'm good at finding the information and data but I'm not good at creating it or making those charts. I have him. We're on the bookends, the I and the E, I'm the intuitive, he's the empirical. And then I've got other folks in the middle of those things.A woman who works for me, she mostly leans towards I, but can do some E, and then I got another guy who's mostly E but can do some I and then I got interns just in the middle, I'm trying to train to do both.
Mark Macklin: Now, the trick is that I think the E is becoming the way that planning, the way that strategy is being created now because, like I said before, the need to differentiate the sea of sameness. People are turning to data to prove that an idea might or might not work. So I think there's been an emphasis on the E recently, but, again, you still need both.
Max Traylor: For the 8%ers out there, the I and E defined again?
Mark Macklin: The I is intuitive and the E is empirical.
Max Traylor: Brilliant, got it.
Mark Macklin: And you need both. Intuitive is a hunch, empirical is the data that can support that hunch. Sometimes it's the other way around. But my process still involves both those things, so it's all kinds of primary, secondary research, we have access as most large agencies do to all sorts of consumer databases that can tell me household, everything from how often you flip your mattress to whatever it is. Literally the questions have become cooler and more obscure as the years have gone by. But, I can have access to all that stuff in addition to Dallas, Texas being kind of a hotbed for primary research, there's a ton of focus groups and things that we can do. IDIs which are individual interviews, ethnography, we're going to people's homes or we just kind of tag along for a day, all sorts of ways to understand who our customer is and what makes them tick.
Max Traylor: Got it. So once you've got all this insight, you package it up, what does it look like? You said earlier, you were talking about the three different versions of the idea, so that's kind of an element of the brief, but how do you know when you're prepared to go into a client with a bid? What do you have in your arms? What's the physical ship that you make?
Mark Macklin: For sure. So, the brief is great, it's a wonderful tool that when you read a very tight brief that hangs together very well, and has this single main idea that's carried through it throughout the whole thing, it literally makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it's so smart. I've been lucky enough to write a couple of those, but more often than not that's a hard target to get at, but that's the goal, is to always, again, write something that is so tight, that hangs together so nicely that's so smart that the hair on the back of your neck stands up. But the brief can only do so much, Max, because it's just a document. It's a written, I don't care how well I can tell the story, sometimes I need more than just words on a page. So I create what's called a BLOB, and my BLOB is an acronym, B-L-O-B, brief like object. So the brief like object, it's more of a presentation. It's more of an inspiration. And again, this isn't anything new, I'm sure other planners, other agencies have got what they would call a briefing document or what have you.
Mark Macklin: But I go in there with the brief, which is the leave behind, but really, when I'm briefing creatives, the BLOB is where I start. So I want to inspire you right off the bat, I want to get your attention with what we're trying, the problem we're trying to solve and the way we want to go about solving it. And there's only so much, again, that the written word, no matter how well, no matter how lengthy, or how great the prose is, there's only so much that the written word can do. Whereas with video, or pictures or even just slides or keynotes or what have you, can kind of help me do that better. So a lot of times, that's when, even when we're selling the ideas, we use sort of, it's not necessarily a BLOB, that can be the out front, but I'm trying to set the idea up for success as well, once we decide what we want to go with.
Max Traylor: And that's the brief.
Mark Macklin: Yeah, well, I'll use elements of the brief and the BLOB as I'm writing the upfront, which is the deck that we go into the client with.
Max Traylor: Got it. So you go in with a deck.
Mark Macklin: Yeah, usually, usually. I mean, I communicate in PowerPoint and Keynote.
Max Traylor: Yeah.
Mark Macklin: It's on[inaudible 00:30:17] all slides. And the brief is generally written in a word document.
Max Traylor: And then they say, "Yeah, great work." They give you a thumbs up, everybody claps, there's confetti and that's it? What happens?
Mark Macklin: That would be wonderful.
Max Traylor: We watch Mad Men, they're like, "Yeah, good job," or they're like-
Mark Macklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So one of the ways I can tell if we're on to something when we talk about the idea is when we go over the ideas and the pitch in the room is that if people start building out on their own. So, I have three things that I require out of people when I hire them, when I interview them to work at an agency. The first thing is that you have to have ideas. If you don't have ideas, then unfortunately, as much as you might want to be part of the advertising or marketing world, it's just not for you. You have to have ideas. The second thing, in addition to having them, you've got to be able to share them. So, if you've got ideas, but you don't say anything to anybody, then no one wins. The client doesn't win, I don't win, the agency, the brand, etc. So have ideas, share ideas, and then the final thing is you've got to be willing to let others make those ideas their own. You've got to be able to let go of some of the thinking that you had and let others create, build off that. That yes and, or that type of thinking.
Mark Macklin: And so, in the room, I can tell when we've got a good idea when people start-
Max Traylor: Is that some Second City stuff going on? Is that a yes and reference?
Mark Macklin: [inaudible]
Max Traylor: You guys have been doing some workshops in New York City?
Mark Macklin: Yeah, right, right, right.
Max Traylor: I'm sorry, I interrupted.
Mark Macklin: No, no, no, that's the case though, that's right. I mean it's all, yeah, it's, but that's one of the ways you can tell you have a great... Sometimes, yeah, it is kind of confetti, people sit there and there like, "That is so fucking cool, we're totally doing that." Other times, people will take the idea and run with it and that's when I know that we're on to something, if one of those two things happens. Mostly the idea of people running with it because they're inspired by it. That's really, I know that we're onto something when people in the room, everybody has got an add on to it.
Max Traylor: Yeah, you've created the spark and then-
Mark Macklin: Yeah, and they're just running with it.
Max Traylor: Right, they're bringing new logs in and they're dry, they're crackling. But yeah, you need ideas, you need to be able to share them, and you need to be okay or have the ability to make your ideas feel like they're someone else's idea. You have to let them take ownership of it.
Mark Macklin: Yeah, yeah.
Max Traylor: And is that a skill? You referenced the yes and, that's a Second City thing, I think that's where it came from.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: And it's, when you're communicating an idea, or somebody gives you an idea, you can either say, "No, because," or, "Yes, but," and "Yes, but," is essentially like, "You're an idiot," that's what you're saying. Or you can say, "Yes, and," which encourages the building on that idea. And if you can build a habit of whatever your client's saying and you just go, "Yes, and what about," it's just a mindset and it's an encouragement of bigger ideas.
Mark Macklin: Yeah, absolutely. There was a guy, my first agency, there was a guy that, this was at McKinney, that our CEO, Brad Brinegar brought in, and he was, I think Benjamin Zander was the name, you may know him, he was the conductor of the Boston Pops for a while, this kind of wild, crazy, silver haired guy, tons of energy, he wrote a book called The Art of Possibility, and it was one of the first business books that I was really exposed to, or at least one of the first ones that I read, but it talked about living in a world of possibilities. So, and we would use this, Brad brought this guy in to speak to the whole agency because he didn't want what Benjamin Zander would call the downward spiral to occur, which is when people are either "yes, but," or "no." It's like, "Oh, you're downward spiraling," and it would be like, "Live in a world of possibility." That was part of the vernacular at McKinney is to live in this world of possibility, to always speak in terms of, "Yes, and," and to not downward spiral.
Mark Macklin: So I think that that may be where I go, and I, unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Second City. But I think it's important, I think that that's what you want to do, that's the goal, is to have a lot of "yes, and" conversations.
Max Traylor: Got it. Well, you got a lot of, you're a machine of just stuff. You need ideas, you need to share them, you need to be okay with them being others' ideas.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Ideas inspire, data convinces, this stuff, you just spit it out. Now, are you telling me that the value of all these, because these are systems. These are processes and things that make people valuable. Is the organization doing anything to teach these principles to the next generation of entrepreneurs, to the next generation of marketers? Or are well all just going to have to come out of college and figure it out? Because they're not teaching this stuff. They don't teach it. I guess my question is, here's kind of what I usually ask is what are you excited for in the future? How do we make sure that more people get exposed to these principles, aside from clients paying you an arm and a leg to make it real for them?
Mark Macklin: Yeah. So, I think that the bigger or the better or the smarter agencies are attempting to do just that. Whether that's through programs like TMA's got, I forgot the name of it, but you can apply to go to multiple conferences during the year, or take a continuing education class. In fact, we will reward you, if after you've been here for five years, they give you $2500 and they're like, "Go somewhere for a week and then come back and talk about it."
Max Traylor: Right, so encouraging education.
Mark Macklin: Yeah, extended education, but I think that, what I try to tell my planners, again, another sort of Markism, as people have sort of started calling them, is to know something about everything and everything about something. So, know something about everything, I need to be able to be in any conversation and just have, be a productive member of that conversation, but at some point, the first one is knowing something about everything, but then know everything about something. And so that, for me, has changed, it changes probably, gosh, it changes probably three times a year, my something about everything, or my everything about something, I mean, changes. So the last one was, well two times before that it was yo-yos. I got strangely into yo-yos. And I'm talking about, I spent $1000 on yo-yos, I was talking to kids in Japan about yo-yos. I have this crazy collection of yo-yos. I have 30 yo-yos. I don't do any tricks, [inaudible] but it's somehow fascinating to me where this device, where this toy came from and how it actually was used as a hunting tool back in the day, if you can believe that. But I really got into yo-yos.
Mark Macklin: Now, that was, and then, just as quickly as my fascination waxed, it waned. I still have three yo-yos in my desk that occasionally I'll just use to kind of something to play with in your hands, but I'm not into that anymore. The most recent thing, well then after that, I really got into shoes. I got into sneakers, in this crazy way. Just understanding the subculture of sneakerheads. It's really fascinating and I thought what would happen is that either a dollar amount reached, that's spent on these shoes, or a number of pairs would somehow, I'd stop, I'd spent too much money or I have too many, but really I think what I was in to is the people in those two things. The hardcore, the die hard yo-yo people, the fanatics, are really kind of an interesting culture. The same way with sneaker heads. Sneakerheads are getting more and more popular, as far as, if you have 47 year old white dudes like me into it, you know it's kind of jumped the shark. But I got into it and now, thankfully, I don't give a shit about sneakers anymore, at all. I mean, whatever.
Mark Macklin: For a while, I knew everything about something. I read all the blogs, I went to the stores, I went to the, I got the wrist bands, I mean, I was in sneaker culture for a second. And that's what I think you as a planner, you as a strategist need to be able to, and not just be able to, but want to do it. This was not something, no one paid me to do any of this, it's just, I was so fascinated and moved I just wanted to learn as much as I can about these people. And that's part of what our job is, to understand how individuals and groups of people move through the world and react to the world and what they get out of the world, etc.
Max Traylor: Well I think it also gives you the awareness of how deep the rabbit hole can go.
Mark Macklin: Sure.
Max Traylor: People, the mistake is when you're horizontally aware and you think you're an expert at everything, when in reality if you were to actually talk with an expert in any of those tactical areas, they would just eat you for lunch. So you have to be aware that for some people it's an obsession. You can't talk about sneakers to a sneakers person. You just can't do it. But you can appreciate it.
Mark Macklin: Yes.
Max Traylor: Because you are a yo-yo person.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. Weirdly.
Max Traylor: I have the same thing with paintball. I'm a professional paintball player. Why would you ever do that? Don't ever do that, but I have an appreciation for what it takes to be the best in the world at something.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. Yeah. And that's fascinating. It's fascinating, whether that's the dedication, or the education, or just the time spent. THere's so much richness in understanding how those sub cultures operate-
Max Traylor: You think you know that consume insight? Well, you haven't spent 10,000 hours, you haven't gone to the conventions, you haven't done that, there's a lot more to that than we know.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. And just building that muscle, that ability to just go in and truly understand people, is something that any planner worth their salt, any strategist worth their salt would do that for days. I mean, some of the best talks I've ever been to, the south buys, it when it's a room full of planners. Man, we go for hours, kicked out of the room, the conversations spill into the hallways, it's just, it's amazing. So, I think your original question is the organization doing anything to promote this sort of, what I call a hungry mind, you have to have a hungry mind to do this [crosstalk]
Max Traylor: If that is your winning system. I'm always asking about what is the formula, what's the system? And I'm not talking about the operational wheel of plan, think-
Mark Macklin: Yeah, yeah.
Max Traylor: That's more of what do we do and when, I'm talking about what are the principles of thought that make you successful? And if it's one thing, it's one thing. And you said it and then I interrupted you. What was it? You just said it. Rewind.
Mark Macklin: Having a hungry mind?
Max Traylor: Yeah, right, that might be it.
Mark Macklin: It could be, but that's one of things, you have to, again, that's the curiosity and empathy. You have to be super curious about everything all the time. It doesn't go away. It's part of who you are. And that's where that comes in to play. There's just a, like I said, a desire and an almost an insatiable thirst to understand, basically.
Max Traylor: Yeah. Well, I tell you what, the audience can hear it, you're a brilliant guy, thank you so much for your time.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: But you just, it's coming out your pores, you reek of it. It's like, wow. Wow.
Mark Macklin: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Okay.
Mark Macklin: Born, not made.
Max Traylor: So here's a question. If you were to go back three years in time and Vulcan mind meld, and talk to yourself, what's the one piece of advice that you would have given to yourself three years ago?
Mark Macklin: Three years ago.
Max Traylor: Or five, or 10, make it your own.
Mark Macklin: I think, in all honesty, it would have been to not fear the sea change of data. To hug that monster. I think I feel like I kind of resisted it for a while because I was thinking that we're too emotional, we're too irrational in our decision making, that the inspiration, the ideas inspiring us, really, that's still where the art of this thing happens, and that the science of it is, while it's a component of it, it's not going to, I don't think it's really going to change or affect that much and I couldn't have been more wrong. And I think to really embrace the data. To any planner out there that's starting, you've really got to, or mid-career, you've really got to be able to talk to the analysts, understand their language, and work with those guys. Again, they don't do what we do, they're not the storytellers, you don't want them in the room, they're kind of geeky, but they're great at what they do and what they provide is going to become, is already valuable and is going to become invaluable to what we create.
Max Traylor: I could just see a data guy in the corner dressed in leather in a cage and you come out and you're just like, "Okay, you have 30 seconds, go," and then back in the corner.
Mark Macklin: Right, right, right. Where's the gimp? Gimp sleep.
Mark Macklin: They're not like that at all. It's just, you have people that can work a room and others that are less comfortable, they're more comfortable behind the scenes, and that's generally, I find most analysts are more comfortable behind the scenes. They can hold their own in a meeting, I don't have any problem with that at all, but I wouldn't rely on them to really bring their data to life in a very cool, compelling way. I mean, sometimes, I've worked with people that can do both, and they are true diamonds in the rough, and those people can write their own ticket right now. If you have I and E and are strong in it, you can do anything. I'm stronger in I, I'm getting to be strong in E.
Max Traylor: Well, hey, that's it. Thank you, tip your waitress, no more questions, your honor.
Mark Macklin: Great. Max, this was a real pleasure, I want to thank you for listening and-
Max Traylor: No, hey, let me know where to make out the check, I've had fun, I've been edumacated, now I've got to digest. Now I feel like I need to take a nap and think about what Mark has told me.
Mark Macklin: Yeah. Another 8%.
Max Traylor: Another, I don't know about that. I think I have a client call after this. Never do that. But, hey, you're the one that rescheduled, that's all that we got to do, we're out, thank you, Mark.
Mark Macklin: Thanks, guys.