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Marketing without marketing is the best

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Mr Tim Leberecht.
Mr Tim Leberecht.

Tim Leberecht believes in the power of storytelling, especially when the data boggles.

A prolific blogger and writer, Aricent Group's chief marketing officer Tim Leberecht is a sought-after speaker at conferences worldwide. The German born and bred Leberecht, who makes a persuasive case for unmarketing in the age of conversations, has had varied experience, including stints with digital marketing agencies. Among other assignments, he has been the press chief for the first-ever global Olympic Torch Relay leading up to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Director of Corporate Communications at Mindjet Corporation, and worked in marketing communications for Deutsche Telekom's corporate venture capital arm T-Venture. Leberecht has been selected as a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Values and Decision-Making, and serves on the advisory board of Design Ignites Change.

My most memorable marketing initiative

The launch of the Aricent Group brand last year. We honoured the Aricent brand's legacy — which goes all the way back to Hughes Software Systems — and yet managed to reinvent and elevate it with new values and a fresh identity. It was a challenging initiative with many stakeholders and a short amount of time. I will always remember the passion of everyone involved, and the enthusiastic response from our employees when it launched. There's nothing more powerful than an aspirational brand story to shape a company culture of inspiration and excellence.

My most exciting digital marketing project

My most exciting digital marketing initiative has been the award-winning design mind platform I helped create for the design and innovation firm frog — an online portal featuring articles, blogs, and videos at the intersection of business, technology, and design.

Augmented through social media distribution, it became a popular and very effective vehicle to softly market our thought leadership without hard-selling our services.

We indeed live in the age of conversations, and only if you have something meaningful to say, will you have dialogue with your constituents. Marketing without marketing is the best marketing.

My first product launch

My first product launch was a 3D visualisation for Deutsche Bank I worked on during my time as concept developer for an Internet agency in Berlin (during the heyday of dotcoms). Everything interactive was ‘hot' back then — and now it's taken for granted.

What has changed, though, is the importance of storytelling. The more data you deal with, the stronger the need for storytellers who make sense of it all. Perhaps, that's the biggest value marketers can bring to the table.

A great idea that never took off

A few years ago, inspired by Twitter, I came up with the idea of launching a service that would ask users: “What are you going to do?” Basically, a micro-blogging tool that predicts the future by aggregating user's intentions.

I lacked the time and focus to develop it, and just last week at the SXSW conference in the US, I saw the app Forecast, which does exactly what I had envisioned. I guess the key lesson from this is: Just do it! Don't overthink your ideas, don't get hung up on too much diligence, move fast, experiment, prototype, and see if your idea sticks.

A setback I have learnt from

I haven't had a major setback (except maybe for a failed music career when I was young) — knock on wood — but there are minor setbacks every day. They keep you humble … and motivated.

My marketing idol

In theory: Peter Drucker, the brilliant management thinker. In practice: Beth Comstock, the CMO of GE, who has proven that marketing can be an innovation force in large organisations; and on stage: the band Radiohead, because it's constantly exploring new marketing formats for music and keeps re-inventing itself.

Where I get my insights from

Travel to new places, serendipitous encounters at conferences, books, movies, and moments of quietness. I also find blogging very inspirational. Only by writing something down one really starts to think.

How much has B-school helped me in my career?

Well, I never went to business school, and my biggest takeaway is that I still don't know if I should have gone ...

How will a marketer have to prepare for 2020?

Marketers will need to be fully immersed in the latest technology. Ideally, they will be software developers with a passion for driving behaviour change.

At the same time, technology and big data will be useless if they are not made sense of by a creative, imaginative mind that can synthesise, empathise, and galvanise.

The marketer of 2020 will be a Chief Meaning Officer — someone who can inspire employees and customers alike by charging marketing with purpose.

(This article was published on March 21, 2012)
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