Archive for Life Philosophy Category

Seven Lessons Happened on the Way to the Hall of Fame

I was so thrilled to be inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame on May 11 alongside my colleagues and friends Jon Iwata of IBM,  Gary Briggs of Facebook, and Professor Jerry Wynd from The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania.

Each of us gave a short TED-style talk on what we had learned in our career,  and how we see the future of marketing evolving.


I shared seven lessons that I happened to learn on my way to the Hall of Fame.


1. Spend your life with a person/people you love and trust.  I met Warren Buffet a few years ago,  and he said the most important decision in your life is who you spend it with.  Nothing is even close.  I could not agree more.

2. Run your life and business with purpose. I believe in this so much I wrote a book on it.  I have found it is the best way to grow a lasting business and organization.  I have also learned it is very helpful to develop a behavioral framework with your team on what it means to lead with purpose;  that makes it sustainable.

3. Get out more. I wish I had done this even more in my career.  Leaders need to be focusing more on the future,  what is around the corner.  One of the best things I did at P&G was to get out and visit Google when they were a startup—it resulted in an employee exchange that the Wall Street Journal found so significant they put it on their front page.

4. Move fast, be decisive.  Have you ever said that you made a decision too quickly?  Or too slowly?  I bet more the latter.  I have just completed a 2.5 year project researching how startups can help legacy companies renew themselves—making faster decisions is at the top of the list.

5. Live with health, joy and resilience.  These three things are the key to a happy life.  And they are all in our control.  One thing I like to do is yoga on the beach—what is your favorite healthy,  joyful activity?

6. Have great bosses. I have been fortunate to have many.  One of my best was Herbert Schmitz at P&G.  He gave me big goals and then encouraged me to move fast and not be afraid to fail.

7. Be a great boss. This is also within our control,  and there is nothing higher leverage than this.

My favorite memento from my long career at P&G was a book my team made for me when I was Global Marketing Officer.  They did it for my 50th birthday,  and it was a collection of meaningful—and humorous—memories, pictures,  and principles.  If your team made you a book,  what would be in it?  What would you like in it?

Thank you to the AMA New York for this incredible honor. Congratulations to Jon, Gary, and Jerry.

A special thank you to my P&G colleagues who surprised me at the event. And thank you to Tim Armstrong and Aol for sponsoring the dinner and being there to support me.


Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events, Uncategorized

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Deloitte Next Generation CMO Academy

It has been an inspiring few days at the Deloitte Next Generation CMO Academy. The CMO Academy was hosted on the beautiful campus of Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas.

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It was a perfect setting for learning (check out the picture of the campus) with an incredible agenda. The academy was quite an experience – designed to help these bright next generation CMOs become better leaders. The Deloitte team is filled with smart, fun people who are very generous with their time and expertise. But, I must say, the 5:30 a.m. kick-boxing class was a bit challenging!

The title of my talk was Got Courage?  The Essential Ingredient for an Evolved CMO.  I spoke to the CMOs about why courage is so important now, and had them take a leadership self-assessment. Here are three elements we focused on during the session:

  • Do you actively learn from outside influencers, other companies, startups to challenge your culture, how you work?
  • Do you recruit leaders who challenge convention, have a track record of courageous behavior?
  • Are you genuinely interested/passionate about the end user/consumer?  Do you think of her when you make decisions?

At the end of the session, six teams had to summarize their learning in a song – with help from a professional musician. I was asked to help judge – it was great and hilarious! We picked the “Grey is the new Black” as the winners – they did a hip-hop song about how we live in a world of ambiguity and we need courage!

I also had the opportunity to sit in on a few sessions. I loved the thought leadership session on How Brands Can Catalyze Movements.

Thank you Deloitte for another wonderful experience!

Check out some tweets from the event below:







Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events, Uncategorized

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Running a Business on Purpose

We teamed up with Epipheo, a fellow Cincinnati company, to explain in a creative way the often perplexing relationship between business and purpose and how it affects companies experiencing remarkable growth.

Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events

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Simon Business School University of Rochester

I sat down with Simon Business School Dean Andrew Ainslie to talk about my career choices, leading the transformed marketing strategy for Pampers, and other key brand insights.

Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events

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Our Favorite Brands During The Holiday Season

Although it’s been unseasonably warm at the Jim Stengel Co. headquarters this December, we can still feel that the holidays are right around the corner. That’s because our holiday experiences are shaped by the brands in our lives – for good or for bad.  Great brands elicit positive emotions from people. And the best brands bring out the fondest memories, the warmest feelings, and the happiest moments – particularly during the holidays. It’s these brands that make the holiday season special for my team and me. We each listed the brands that bring us joy during the holidays. Here is what we came up with:


AMAZON: I love Amazon’s wonderful cart system so I can store all of my possible gift ideas before I make my final choice.

AMAZON PRIME: The free, two day delivery has saved Christmas many a time – when I realize the toy needs batteries or the camera needs a memory card.

APPLE: I love to download movies, podcasts, and books so I can entertain myself during Christmas travel.

BUTTERBALL: No explanation needed here.

FITBIT: I love my Fitbit to keep track of my exercise in between eating all of those wonderful treats.

GOOGLE: I search for everything that I need to make the holidays complete: gifts, travel, recipes, and more.

HERSHEY’S: The red and green kisses are always in my candy dish and the happy holidays commercial will never get old.

HONEYBAKED HAM:  I don’t know what would happen in my house if a Honeybaked Ham was not among the menu items at Christmas.

NESTLÉ: I use Nestlé Toll House Morsels for my holiday baking.  They bring joy to my kitchen and delicious treats to my friends and family. They are great for chocolate dipped strawberries and chocolate dipped dried apricots.

PANDORA: I listen to the Classical Christmas Channel to relax and wrap presents… and to listen to as I write speeches because business is not slowing down!

STARBUCKS: I do not need words on the red cups to tell me it’s Christmas — the holiday tunes, the gingerbread scent, and seasonal décor let me know it’s the most wonderful time of year.

WSJ: The best-kept secret for wrapping presents when you’re finished reading.

ZAPPOS: The quick free shipping and free returns enables me to have a stress-free holiday season.



Categories: Business, Life Philosophy, Marketing

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3 Things a Founder Should Prioritize When Founding A Startup


Earlier this week, I spent an evening with about 20 young entrepreneurs who are aspiring to build great companies.  They are members of the current class of The Brandery, a top 15 ranked tech accelerator in Cincinnati. The Brandery is located in the heart of Over-the-Rhine, an urban community going through a major rejuvenation. If that isn’t inspiring enough, the class can step outside and see the tall office buildings that are the result of great entrepreneurs of yesteryear: William Procter and James Gamble, Barney Kroger, and Rowland Hussey Macy.

After a 25-year career building the great brands of Procter & Gamble. I left the coveted position of P&G’s Global Marketing Officer to found my own startup. I learned a lot as a founder, and learned even more over the last seven years working with startups.  Many of those challenges and learnings came up in our discussion at The Brandery. Here are the three most important lessons I’ve learned and that I shared with the group:

  1. Startups tend to think about marketing later than they should. Founders spend so much time fine-tuning business plans for investors and often forget about the fundamentals of a brand – What is your purpose? What is your promise to consumers? What are your key points of difference? What is your communication strategy? What is your visual identity?  Every brand — b-to-b and b-to-c — should aspire to elicit an emotion from its customers.  Emotion motivates purchase. That is well documented in multiple research studies.  Think about… the warm feeling you have when you see a Starbucks cup filled with pumpkin spice, the energy and drive you experience when you put on a new pair of Nike shoes, the delight you feel when sending a witty snap on Snapchat.  Those are all feelings that drive affinity and sales.  Key lesson:  Your brand is as important as your product. Take the time to build a brand with a fabulous customer experience.
  2. Culture is your ultimate competitive advantage.   Your job as a founder is to create —and act upon— the North Star of your company. You do that through the team you build and the culture you create. A single employee can make or break you. Spend time on recruiting, take part in interviews, do your due diligence as you scale and build your teams. A bad hire is like a cancer. You should have no tolerance for employees who aren’t fully on board with your values.  As Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway says, “culture is the greatest legacy a founder can leave.” Ask yourself: What kind of legacy do I want to leave?
  3. Have a relentless focus on your product or service. Never be complacent; always be pushing for a better product. Until we sold the company to Verizon, I was on the Board of Directors of Aol with Rick Dalzell, the former CIO of Amazon. Rick had the highest of standards for the company’s products and services.  His version of success was traffic and experimentation —  he was always concerned about the number of hits to the website and the quality of the engineers building the products. Bottom line: Every situation is an opportunity to improve your product or service.

As you put together your to-do list each day, think about how those tasks fit into the big picture. Are you spending time on the fundamentals of building a great brand? Are you creating a vision and culture that will guide your company in years to come? Do you have a relentless focus on your product or service?

Categories: Business, CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Marketing, Speaking Events

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DTA — Thriving in the New Normal

I am in Indian Wells for the Dental Trade Alliance’s Annual Meeting this week. The conference this year is focused on how to keep your business “Thriving in the New Normal.”

Last night started off with a bucket list item for myself: having dinner with the warm, humble, funny, amazing David McCullough. David is also a speaker at the DTA conference.


It’s always an opportune time to take a selfie when the audience takes a break! Here I am getting ready before I go on stage to speak to around 400 DTA Conference attendees.



During my talk, I shared leadership lessons I have learned throughout my career. The objectives of my talk was to inspire the audience to think about their leadership standards and activities, to provoke new ideas, and to stimulate their thinking on purpose. Following the talk, the audience broke into pairs to discuss what they learned and implications for them.

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Categories: Business, Life Philosophy, Speaking Events, Uncategorized

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The Sun Came Back to Cannes

Ideals. We kicked off the morning with an introduction to the ideal tree with the Young Marketers this morning. James Hurman followed up with a presentation on originality in creativity. James pointed out, “we’re much more likely to persuade people with an original argument than an old argument.”

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Lions Daily. There was an article about the Young Marketers Academy in Lions Daily today.

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Agile Consumers. Samsung had a phenomenal presentation about the agile consumer. Today’s agile consumer is always connected, in-tune with technology, youthful, and defined by a majority world. These consumers are grounded by meaningful ideas, which makes brand purpose so important. This is a generation of mobile first, with 5 times as many smartphones in the world compared to computers. Yet only 43% of marketers have mobile in their communication plans. Do your plans include mobile? Samsung’s does. And their success comes from studying their consumers, allowing them to shape the brand story.

Grab a Heineken. After a rainy few days, the sun came back to Cannes today, which makes the Cannes Connect bar that much better. If you haven’t made it over to grab a Heineken and meet new people, you should. Take advantage of the incredible networking opportunity.

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Golden Lions. The first of several awards ceremonies was tonight. Here are a few of my favorite winners: Speaking ExchangeSocial Swipe, and Trojan Mailing — don’t worry UCLA Bruins, that last one has nothing to do with your rivals.

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Friends. Kathleen and I spent the evening catching up with good friends over dinner and finished off the evening with a USA victory over Ghana in the World Cup!







Categories: CMO Habits, Life Philosophy, Speaking Events, Uncategorized

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Five lessons from five years

Five years ago I left Procter & Gamble after a career of 25 years to start my own enterprise. It seems like yesterday.

It was both a personal and a professional leap. I was leaving P&G with a freshmen and a junior at college, and setting up a business with my wife as CFO and chief counselor.

Continue reading “Five lessons from five years” »

Categories: Business, Life Philosophy

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A Lesson on the Life-Changing Impact of Inspirational Training

What follows is a powerful statement of the impact we can all have through inspiring and training young leaders.  One of the young leaders participating in the recent Cannes Creative Academy for Young Marketers was Aaron Hoffman, an Associate Marketing Analyst at Visa.  Aaron was asked by a Brazilian journalist at the Festival to write about his experience at the Academy, and I wanted to share his submission.  Here it is — enjoy!

Smile More:  How My Week Spent at The Cannes Academy For Young Marketers Changed My Life

Last night I made one last walk down to Le Palais, the convention center which hosted the 58th Annual International Festival for Creativity in Cannes, France. I had spent a week making the 20 minute walk to and from my hotel to Le Palais, and tonight I was doing it one last time. I still hadn’t figured out how to avoid sweating through my dress shirt.

I greeted my fellow colleagues from the Academy of Young Marketers, 29 other brand, account, and project managers from around the world from companies such as Kraft, P&G, Unilever, and SAB Miller. We had been invited to participate in the first of its kind program, participating in specialized speaker sessions, discussions, and debates in an intensive program throughout the week. At this point, we felt like family, and after chatting briefly we filed into the VIP entrance elevator to the auditorium to take our seats in the balcony for the final and most prestigious awards ceremony of the week. I took my seat next to Susan, a Brand Director for Unilever from China and greeted her with a smile. Susan had struck me as an interesting and insightful person during our week spent together, and I thought to myself that I wished I would have had the time to have gotten to know her a little better. Susan smiled back at me and asked,

“Can I ask you a question?”

A little caught off guard I shrugged smiling and said, “Sure, shoot.”

From my experience when someone starts a conversation like that something serious is coming so I didn’t quite know what to expect.

“Were you born smiling?” Susan asked. I gave her a confused eyebrow raise and an “I have no idea what you’re talking about” smile back to her. She quickly elaborated.

“Every time I have seen you this week you have always been smiling. When you are walking down the Croisette, talking to people, or even just listening to speakers you are always smiling. Have you been conditioned to do this professionally or are you always just happy?”

I suddenly became conscious that a feigned smile of disbelief had been plastered across my face as she explained this to me. I shrugged again, and explained that no, I had never read a book called “Smile Your Way to Success,” and that I was generally just a happy person who had a habit of wearing my emotions on my sleeve. Susan continued to explain that she tended to be more serious, and we both talked about how we had known these things about ourselves based on comments from friends and even feedback evaluations from managers at work. We agreed that one demeanor wasn’t necessarily superior to the other, and proceeded to enjoy the ceremony and award winning ads from brands such as Google, Puma, Old Spice, and my personal favorite, Nike for ‘Write the Future.’

That was last night. Right now I’m a few hours, and more than a few coffees into my flight back to San Francisco, and I’ve got my laptop open. I’m not letting myself watch the new Vince Vaughan movie or even start sorting through my pile of work e-mail because I want to write. I want to reflect and really try to understand what last week meant to me. I’m exhausted. The lady next to me is snoring. I’m not smiling.

During the seven days that I was a part of the Academy for Young Marketers in Cannes, I gathered more life-changing experiences more rapidly than I have during any other time in my life. My first Monday morning ‘commute’ consisted of a stroll along the French Riviera, and a French girl in a bikini even smiled at me as she walked up from the beach. A small victory, but a victory none-the-less.

That same day, within a span of less than ten hours, I was able to ask Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, his views on the future of how consumers will consume and engage with content online, and shared a drink and a chat on a rooftop pool deck overlooking the Mediterranean with Digital thought leader John Battelle. Monday was the first time I had ever even seen the Mediterranean Ocean.

The next day I spent nearly two hours learning about “best in class briefing,” from Laurie Coots, CMO of TBWA. Without elaborating any further this would be an impressive opportunity any young marketer would like to have. But I happen to work with TBWA every day developing consumer marketing campaigns for Visa’s sponsorship of the National Football League. Not only was I getting access to world class thought leaders, beach parties, and young creative minds, I was getting down and dirty actionable advice that I will now take back to help me do my job better. Did I mention I also had time to view the best advertising from around the world? TV ads, digital integrations, print, OOH, radio, the list goes on and on. Fair warning to our agency creative teams; bring your ‘A’ game. I’ve seen the best.

By the middle of the week, I found myself digging my feet into the sand at the Google Beach Lounge, discussing everything from the creative process and working in advertising in Europe, to the evolution of the human eye and the benefits of mixing caffeine and alcohol with a 27 year old creative from Y&R London. The later parts of the conversation were fueled by mixing caffeine and alcohol.

As a part of the Academy, I was given access to and a dialogue with dozens of thought leaders, creative visionaries, and marketing professionals from around the globe. Light bulbs, ideas, and inspirations exploded for me, and I spent the week scribbling as many of them as I could into my pocket size notebook.

Page 4 from Malcom Gladwell reads:Jobs and Zuckerberg are not inventors. They’re tweakers who leveraged the benefits of hindsight to make something better.”

Page 7 from Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL: “I always tell my teams to start by thinking mobile first, web second. The limitations force you to be simple and elegant, focusing on what is core to what the consumer wants.” Also, on page 4, as an underlined note to self, “ look into investing in AOL stock.”

Page 8 from Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G and Academy Leader: “In order to be truly successful and achieve viable longevity, a brand must stand for a higher order ideal. It is not enough to be the best performing or highest earning. This is a business model, it’s not about the customer, and the only way to create viable business models over the long term is when a business and its customers have a shared agenda.”

Page 11 from Rob Malcolm, former CMO of Diageo: “If you ask for safe, ass-covering work that’s what you’ll get. Take calculated risks and demand great work from your agencies.” On this page I had bolded an action plan for myself: Be brave, advocate this.

Page 16 from Sir Ken Robinson: “Life is energy. If you are doing something you love you get energy from it. Do what makes you feel authentic by living as close as possible to the stream at which your life flows.” No wonder he was knighted.

To put it simply, Cannes changed me. It changed me as a marketer, as a thinker, as a professional, and ultimately it changed me as a human being. As I realize this, my conversation with Susan at last night’s ceremony starts to take on a slightly deeper meaning. Of course I was smiling, laughing, and sometimes maybe even grinning stupidly over the course of last week (with French DJs spinning while you watch fireworks explode over the beach it’s kind of hard not to). I even remember having a smile on my face on a few of the nights as I fell asleep at night in my hotel. How could I not smile? Cannes changed me, and it changed me for the better.

Aaron Hoffman, Associate Marketing Analyst at Visa Inc.

Categories: Business, Life Philosophy, Marketing

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