Magazine article Marketing

Marketing Mentors

Magazine article Marketing

Marketing Mentors

Article excerpt

From parents to pioneers, enterpreneurs to electric guitar players, inspiration can come from a rich variety of backgroups. Jane Bainbridge talks to a range of marketers about who their mentors have been and why

MENTOR: FRANK ZAPPA

Alan Welsman, director of marketing, Sony PlayStation

Frank Zappa may not be one of the most obvious choices in this rogues gallery of marketing mentors, but Alan Welsman is succinct in his reasoning.

"Frank Zappa was entrepreneurial political, pragmatic and media-savvy," he says. All these characteristics are ones that Welsman has aspired to in his job and sometimes echo the way in which Sony PlayStation has been marketed.

"He was entrepreneurial because he fought the record company system and setup his own label a longtime before punk came along. He had both the vision and the wherewithal. He was so left-field, but he went on to record 60 or 70 albums. He understood the politics of the day and analysed and wrote about them. He made sure he understood the political climate, just as we have to understand the climate we work under. It's very important for anyone in business to understand the political world. Zappa analysed it, but he could also ridicule it and saw through the hype -- he was very good at seeing things as they were."

Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of Zappa was his pragmatism. "He was pragmatic because he was a hard taskmaster. He put together teams of musicians and had rules, which had to be strictly adhered to by band members. He'd run them really hard, but he inspired loyalty. He fought for the underdog and was a civil rights campaigner in the US in the 60s.

Zappa was also very media-savvy -- he knew it and used it and was very close to lots of media people, although they saw him as an oddball. Mostly people saw him as being very good at what he did."

MENTORS: ROBIN WIGHT; DOUG HAMILTON; RICHARD BRANSON

Chris Moss, chief executive, nextweekend.com

Chris Moss' background as marketing director at Virgin Atlantic and Orange has led to his nominating some of the key industry figures he worked with during those periods as mentors. Both Robin Wight, chairman of ad agency WCRS, and Doug Hamilton, creative director of design agency Wolff Olins, worked with him on the launch campaign of Orange.

"Robin is one of the most passionate people I know. He taught me about standing out. If you're in a busy sector, then create a new category, which is what we did with Orange.

"Robin followed a different set of rules and gave me the courage to be very different. When I was at Microtel and we were launching Orange, some people in the company wanted to call it Super Rabbit, but none of us thought it was right. Robin taught me to do what he does best: bang the table, wear loud jackets and use your personality - that's what marketing is about.

"Doug Hamilton, on the other hand, has had the most influence on me in terms of creativity."

Moss also nominates Richard Branson, although it is not Branson's marketing skills, but his publicity skills, which impressed him. "Branson was never a marketer, because he doesn't understand marketing, but he does understand self-publicity and the need to be a conduit between different things," says Moss.

"The single thing I admire most in all three is their endless energy, passion and commitment. That's far more important than anything else. If you have those attributes, you can make things happen-the other stuff you can learn."

MENTORS: KHOWAI AND SUGHRAN AHMED

Ajaz Ahmed, co-founder, AKQA

Ajaz Ahmed is unequivocal in naming his parents as the greatest influence in his career. They came to England 30 years ago from Pakistan with only [pounds]5 between them. Having run their own business, they are now retired and live in Maidenhead. They have four children. However, Ahmed doesn't consider there to be a link between them starting from scratch in a new country with him setting up his own business. …

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