Meet the Masher: Mike

Whatta legend. What can we say, we like Mike. You can’t walk away from a chat with this Masher without:
1. Feeling generally great about life (such a nice bloke)
2. Feeling pretty empowered about digital potential and possibilities
This New Yorker has had over three decades in creative and digital C-Suite leadership positions within Omnicom, WPP and MWWPR, working on globally recognised brands including McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson and HP. Today he plays under remit of Integrated Digital Marketing strategy, working with brands around the world to reinvigorate and transform their organisations into digital-first brands and marketers. We had a chat about the digital landscape post-Pandemic and what motivates him as a free agent.

After close to three decades working in-house and on the agency side in the brand and digital marketing arena, you went out on your own in 2017. Was this something you’d been sitting on for a long time or did the decision (and action!) come about quickly?

I had actually dipped my toes into independent waters twice before; back in 2006, for three years, and again in 2014 for that year. It’s something that was always pulling at me, especially after being a part of several start-ups. Once I left the agency world and moved over to the brand side, it provided me with the opportunity to really see how I can lead strategy through execution and successfully contribute to the growth of a company. When I decided to leave this role in 2017, I debated for several months about which path to pursue. When I thought about how consulting provided me with both independence and limitless opportunities to leverage my passion for applying digital solutions to help brands evolve or pivot, there was no looking back.

You often work with multiple subcontractors. What have been some of your biggest learnings and advice around this for other independents needing assistance?

Great question. Many of the subcontractors I hire are people who I’ve known for several years, or who have been referred to me. My advice here is to always come at a project from a position of strength with people who are experts in a certain discipline, and, even more importantly, with people that you can trust. Don’t try to be something you’re not or that you do not completely understand. I feel that this can backfire on you in the worst possible way. As with any service business, credibility is key in fostering trust with a client. Several of the partners I’ll bring into a project are also client-facing and can easily speak to the client’s questions, which is specific to their skillset. There have been several times where this extra level of expertise has been invaluable in helping to drive incremental business growth.

You’ve worked on such a wide-ranging list of brands and sectors. Is there a part of a project process you find most enjoyable every time or does it depend on the scope?

The projects I enjoy the most are the ones where I’m able to solve the brand’s biggest challenge strategically and truly see results. Unlike several other areas of marketing, the digital space provides a level of real-time gratification—whether it’s a new e-commerce site that you completely rearchitected, and in the first several weeks, there were more sales than during the previous several months on the old site, or a digital media campaign that’s been months in the making and is demonstrating true measurements of success by jump-starting a brand that’s been dormant in the category. It’s these types of projects that allow me to connect the dots of the brand in order to enable it to address the client’s business goals that give me the most satisfaction.

Throughout the pandemic, we have already seen brands pivoting and embracing digital marketing in new ways. Do you foresee any further future effects?

I believe that the pandemic has exposed the digital Achilles heel for many brands, especially with mobile, i.e., where a mobile-first mindset has been overlooked. For many brands, its either a website experience that has been neglected, or a failure to innovate by not adopting digital solutions to remain relevant and top of mind with their consumers and/or customers. Not to mention the internal side, where many brands have quickly turned to Zoom and Slack to engage with their employees remotely. To this point, I feel that any digital initiative that can enhance the customer experience safely, via contactless or voice technologies, or by simply making an antiquated process smoother and more efficient for audiences, will be a top priority.  

You have worked with a lot of high-profile U.S. companies. Would you say the way you work with them is U.S.-centric or can the same principals be translated to other countries?

You bring up a really good point. I’ve found that there are a lot of similarities between U.S. companies due to geography and audience demographics, especially when it comes to the audiences and approach. Of course, there’s a difference between B2C and B2B, but otherwise there are many other similarities. With brands that have much more of global reach, you need to factor in the difference in audiences per market. What may work in Asia-Pacific, may not work in South America or Eastern Europe. So, there’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to global brands vs. those that are centralized here in the United States.

We all know running your own show isn’t always easy. What keeps you motivated as an independent?

Well, I think it comes down to that very word: independent. Once you get a taste of being independent and growing your own business, you can’t ever imagine going back to a prototypical full-time role. When I look at this pandemic and the impact it’s had on millions of people who’ve lost their jobs due to nothing more than a business decision, I have such empathy for them; I’ve been in their shoes, so I get it, which is also what motivates me as an independent. For the most part, I control my own destiny with what I choose to work on, how much I want to take on and how much I want my business to grow. Yes, you must always keep moving forward and hustling, and unlike any other job, you must keep proving yourself every day—the difference being that it’s for me and my family; not anyone else. Plus, it provides me with a schedule that accommodates CrossFit, Ice hockey, my passion for cooking and, of course, my family. So, there’s not much more motivation I need than that to remain independent.

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