We already know our community is filled with talented and motivated individuals, and after sitting down with Kendra we were convinced that she’s a real change maker in the field of marketing. As someone who appreciates the storytelling behind advertising campaigns and advocates for an empathetic approach to a digitally mediated industry, it’s hardly surprising we wanted a chance to sit down with her and chat.
Kendra Ross is the Marketing Director at Oak & Rumble Media Inc, a video marketing studio based in Kitchener, Ontario. As a long-standing member of the FoundersBeta community, Kendra has contributed an endless amount of support and knowledge.
Here we go!
What inspired you to pursue marketing?
So it turns out that upon graduating, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went to Mount Allison University which is a great school because it allowed a tonne of flexibility to build a degree and explore interests as opposed to one specific subject or industry. What I always found incredibly fascinating were questions surrounding how people communicate, why we make the decisions that we do and how we impact the world around us. I got to explore this by taking courses in political science, commerce, modern religion; not just marketing. I’ll admit, I count myself lucky to have found a role in marketing after graduation.
What would you say every marketer should have in his or her toolkit? What kind of skills and competencies does every aspiring marketer need?
I think the ability to analyze a problem and communicate effectively is so important – with that said, the ability and desire to learn and experiment really outstrips everything else; everything follows that. I think tech has changed marketing a lot (like it has every industry), and as marketers, we need to take initiative in making sure we keep learning and keep up with the latest innovations. If I had gone to school and learned specifically about the channels that were relevant during my time in university, I would have learned about MSN and Myspace, which don’t seem as relevant now. And it’s not just the channels that aren’t relevant, it’s the way we engage with technology and with our communities that’s changed. So if you want to be successful in this field, you really need to want to keep growing and learning.
What are the top 5 traits a marketer should have?
– Ability & desire to understand what motivates people
– Determination (it’s easy to get sidetracked so motivating yourself is key!)
With the growth of IoT, we’ve seen that digital marketing has become a very popular role for many companies to hire for. Are there many differences between when you started your career in marketing versus now?
In terms of digital competencies, I think you’re seeing an increased need for that across the board in every profession. Marketing is really interesting because at its core, it’s about understanding the best audience/target market and finding ways to compel action. So that means communicating in the right way, and responding to the challenges and needs of others. Tech has changed marketing channels, but the need to communicate in a really authentic way has actually really only grown with that. So I’d argue our soft skills become even more important as marketers!
A marketer in my network recently wrote a really interesting piece on how AI is even now starting to write compelling content (that makes sense). I know of at least one company here in KW that’s working on semantic technology like this. Here’s Helen’s summary, and her thoughts on how creatives can establish their niche in an increasingly AI driven workplace.
What is the easiest and most difficult part of being in marketing?
Motivation has been the easiest, I’ve never been bored in my career; there’s always been something new to learn! With that said, you need to actively push your own boundaries because there’s always something new to learn. Like I’ve already mentioned, the landscape for careers like this is always changing and we have to acquire the skills to change with it.
As an organization dedicated to helping startups and businesses, what tips do you have for marketing products? Are there any big mistakes you see cropping up when companies market products?
Put your customer first! Truly understand the people you’re selling to. What motivates them, what are their goals and challenges? I always like to give my target audience names: So asking myself ‘Would Sarah care about this?’. Start to speak in a way that connects with your target audience, that way you’ll tell stories where they can picture themselves as the hero, and you’ll communicate on the channels they already spend their time on. There’s a joke that marketers exist to sell you things you don’t need. But the best companies and products exist to solve problems. You’ve created a business to add value to people’s lives. Ultimately, no one really cares about your business’ technology; they care about how your technology or product makes their lives better. When you understand your market and put their needs before your ego and your technology, you start to make better decisions with them in mind.
What would you say you utilize most of your time for as a marketer? Is it helping build a product, or advertising for it?
So for me specifically, one of the things I really love about Oak & Rumble is how we work with brands at all stages of their campaign development. So when we’re working with top funnel materials like commercials, you learn a lot about what catches a market’s attention, since the goal is to capture that broad interest. At the same time, when we’re building lower funnel content like sales materials and product demos, you start to learn about what’s actually important and resonating with an audience. So asking questions like “What are specific triggers and ways that a product is adding value?”. Sometimes clients end up engaging with products in ways which we didn’t foresee and that also contributes to our overall understanding of how product development could change. So while we spend most of our time marketing and advertising for brands, we can also take that data and participate in long term development, and participate in strategic discussions for brand building and product development.
What’s something you enjoy outside of work that you feel contributes towards how successful you are at your work?
Well it seems rather ironic considering I work in video marketing, but I love reading! In fact, if you walk into my office, you’ll find a stack of books in the corner or on my desk. Ultimately, it draws back to my love for an emotionally compelling story, which is what we see in marketing too. But yes! I’d recommend a good book!
Awesome! Do you have any recommendations for our blog readers?
Ooh there’s actually a couple! I’ll give you my top three at the moment.
– The Power of Why by Amanda Lang
– To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy
– Like a Virgin by Richard Branson (this one is a longstanding favourite!)
How much of your work involves collaboration? From any of the collaborative work that you have done, how do you deal with conflict amongst stakeholders/team members?
All of my work is collaborative! I’m lucky to have a great group of team members. Teamwork often requires everyone simultaneously working towards the same goal, and recognising what their strengths and weaknesses are. When people ‘know what they don’t know’, we’re able to trust the expertise and commitment of other team members in the room. Since we’re all working towards the same goals, whether you’re marketers, video producers, or creative directors, a project will be executed really well if we trust and respect each other. When we work together not only can we ensure the overall video is executed well, but we also meet business goals. In all honesty, if your team remembers this then any sort of conflict works itself out pretty quickly.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone in your industry, what would it be?
Take the initiative to learn. Marketing is such a challenge, and no one is going to hold your hand as you navigate through the process of growing in your career. So if you see an opportunity, take it! Don’t be afraid to learn something new and create those opportunities for yourself if you’re able to.
Do you have any inspirational figures you follow online or a mentor that’s helped you along the way? What advice did they give you?
Sun Life was one of my first opportunities straight out of university and it was both amazing and overwhelming at the same time. One of the best pieces of advice I got while at Sun Life was “people want to help you, but everyone’s busy. You can’t expect anyone to hold your hand” and I really took that to heart. People in our community, especially the tech community are incredibly generous with their time, their advice and helping you connect with others. But since everyone is so busy with their own careers and projects, you are the only one who can take ownership of yours. So basically I found myself very early on in my career going on coffee dates with anyone who was willing to speak to me. I’d ask tonnes of questions and sometimes it would lead to a peer mentorship or a reference to meet with someone else. Taking the time to ask for those coffee meets or that advice is ultimately on you, but it may lead to something wonderful, so definitely do it.
For any students reading this, what types of courses/area of study do you think they should focus on to get a better feel for the industry?
The root of marketing is definitely human relationships and understanding, so I really believe that learning how to analyze and solve problems and how to communicate effectively is far more important that focusing on a specific channel or tactic. Some of my favourite classes at Mount Allison weren’t directly related to marketing, but indirectly taught me a lot of valuable skills for that field. I took an International Politics seminar that required me to present an entire three hour class on my own. I had to become comfortable leading a discussion on a topic I was not an expert in, and although I was terrified, I will forever be grateful because now I never have a problem leading a meeting! So those kinds of skills aren’t something you get from a textbook but that’s exactly what you need to become comfortable with when you approach your career.
While that’s all we had time to interview for, if you’d like to learn more about Kendra or Oak & Rumble, take a quick look over their social platforms (you won’t be disappointed!):