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What Mom and Dad taught me about marketing

A few personal lessons applied to marketing.

I was not formally trained in marketing. I was a political science major and initially studied Plato and Brzezinski, not Hopkins and Ogilvy. After my tenure as a political consultant, I pivoted to marketing-communications and went back and studied the classics. While nothing compares to being in the trenches for over 25-years, the closest lessons come from Mom and Dad.

So what did my family teach me about marketing?

Perseverance

My father was a US Marine. He also was asked to leave Brown University, but after receiving letters from Paris Island, Brown took him back and he graduated from the Ivy League. My mother graduated top of her class at Rhode Island College. She left teaching for my brother and struggled to get back into the system. I can remember her tirelessly persisting to get her teaching job, and after numerous long term substitute positions she made it back. She taught for over 40 years. 

As my father taught me, “Never give in.” This is a lesson in marketing, and in life. In terms of marketing, you have to stick with it. Advertising works, but you can’t give in too quickly. Carry on, my friends.

Honor

God, Country, Corps: this was drilled into my dad as a Marine. When I think back to my political science days and Shakespeare’s Political Wisdom, I remember the glorious Prince Hal and his pursuit for honor. My father had wanted me to attend a Jesuit school – in fact he called them the Marines of the Catholic Church – so I owe him for my liberal arts education. My mother taught me the study habits that continue to this day, rising before sunrise to take on the day. I guess her reading me The Early Bird Catches the Worm really resonated with me.

Ogilvy would tell his young copywriters to write ads like they’re for their mothers or spouse. There is honor in advertising, if we act like real people and show our neighbors and friends how certain products and services can actually improve their lives.

Family

Special recognition needs to go to Uncle Joe and my brother, Paul. Uncle Joe is our rockstar. He was a doctor, and my brother and I always looked up to him. Both of us wanted to be like Uncle Joe. Who wouldn’t? He had a cool Jaguar, condos in the mountains and a house for his mom and dad. I believe he’s the reason my brother became a neurosurgeon and my inspiration for going out on my own (he had the first rheumatoid arthritis practice in Rhode Island). And no one I know worked harder to achieve their dreams than my brother, Paul. He is truly an inspiration for anyone who is determined to fulfill their lifelong goal.

In terms of marketing, today’s family has changed, and marketers have to reflect the family of today. Our challenge as marketers is that stock photography and video have not caught up. It’s hard to find multicultural and diverse family images for our advertising, but we’re getting better. I have to personally thank my client, Brown Physicians, for their commitment to diversity and inclusion and for teaching me a few new things.

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