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On October 1st, 2019, AMA Toronto officially launched the 10th year of the Mentor Exchange, a unique program pairing 50 mid-career marketing and business executives together with 50 top industry marketing veterans. The event took place at LoyaltyOne’s head office on King Street.

On hand to support the opening of the program was Russ Klein, CEO of the American Marketing Association. A marketing legend, Klein has led campaigns for many of the world’s foremost brands. For his work with Burger King he recognized by ADWEEK as “The Advertiser of the Decade” for the 2000s, with ground-breaking campaigns such as Subservient Chicken – named the 6th greatest campaign of the 21st century by Ad Age – and the iconic Whopper Freakout, the highest recalled ad campaign ever measured.

Russ Klein was joined in conversation by AMA Toronto’s David Kincaid (Founder, President & CEO, LEVEL5 Strategy Group). They discussed recent shifts in the marketing industry and the role of mentorship in developing new leaders.

Trends & Challenges

Klein first gave an overview of what he sees are the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing marketers in North America today.

With the rise of IoT, AI, smart home, smart fleets, and smart cities, Klein feels we’re at an inflection point for not just society, but for marketing as a discipline. “‘Digital marketing’ as a term will go away soon,” Klein said. “It will just be ‘marketing’ again—digital is just how you do marketing now.”

With such changes in mind, Klein discussed how he had recast the famed 4 P’s of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion) to take into account digitization and the role of social media in marketing. He uses the acronym STOP. “As in ‘stop using the 4 P’s!’” Klein joked.

  • Stop talking products, start talking solutions: if you start thinking about solutions, the palette for innovation and exciting ideas becomes so much bigger and broader.
  • Price is now subordinate to time: the most successful disruptive business models of the last decade have been focused around time— saving time, getting back time, selling time—and time will figure more prominently in solutions developed for consumers and businesses.
  • All distribution is omnichannel now: especially in the B2B-access context.
  • Promotion is participation: social media has turned dialog into interactive dialog.

He also took issue with the overuse of ‘customer engagement’ which he calls a “suitcase word,” in that it is a word people fill with their own meanings, but without an agreed-upon definition.

Klein defines customer engagement as a direct transaction (get the consumer behaviour you’re seeking) combined with an indirect transaction (participation with brand, for example, through social media).

“If you have a direct transaction without an indirect transaction, it’s just revenue,” said Klein. “Conversely, if you have an indirect transaction—which so many people are enamoured with—but you don’t have a direct transaction, that’s just gossip.”
The New Frontier of Experience Design

Klein highlighted the rise of experience design as the next frontier for marketing. Marketers are addicted to storytelling, he noted, but you can’t solve every problem with a story.

“If you are not skilled in experience design, you should become skilled,” he urged. “It’s the most profitable way to build a brand.”

Experience design can be on a grand scale, but it can also be woven into the mundane. Something as simple and necessary as packaging can become part of the experience design. Klein highlighted as examples the sonic and tactile experience of unboxing a new laptop or changing the labelling to visually emphasize the ‘right way’ to pour ketchup out of its bottle.

Value of Mentorships

As discussion turned to the theme of the evening, Klein sang the praises of mentorships, noting that he’d benefitted from mentors in his career that set him on the path to success.

Klein pointed out that 7 in 10 Fortune 500 companies employ in-house mentorship programs, highlighting their perceived value. He cited several studies showing mentorship results in greater employee satisfaction, happiness, engagement, and promotability across the board.

However, Klein argued that cross-industry and cross-enterprise mentorships (such as those offered through the Toronto AMA mentorship program) are even more valuable. They expose both mentors and mentees to diverse points of view, and such cross-pollination takes the experience for both parties to a new level.

“The Toronto AMA chapter is a paragon of mentoring,” Klein said. “Ten years of commitment to mentor-mentee dynamics in a structured program—the results are self-evident.”

Klein highlighted the matching program that connects mentors and mentees, the regular cadence of meetings during the mentoring period, and the close experience level between mentor and mentee as powerful and replicable insights that other AMA chapters can adopt in modelling their own mentorship program on that of AMA Toronto.

Acknowledgement that the mentor-mentee relationship has a value by including a cost to entering the program demonstrates the seriousness and quality of the program and its outcomes, said Klein. “It commands respect because people understand it has real value.”

Klein noted that the AMA’s upcoming plans to help members identify and address competency deficits is one area where mentorships could play a significant role in advancing people’s skill-building, and where lessons from the AMA Toronto chapter’s mentorship experience could be exported elsewhere.

“Next to being in love, nothing is more powerful than feeling understood,” said Klein. “A great mentorship can do that.”

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This article was brought to you through the partnership between the AMA-Toronto and HeadStart Copywriting.

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