Friday, September 12, 2008

Tom Fishburne draws his own success

In Marketer of the Week, we introduce you to a highly-successful marketer. Today, meet Tom Fishburne, a cartoonist and marketer who's shown imagination and guts.

photo of Tom Fishburne
You are a practising marketer and a published cartoonist. That's an unusual mix. What happened?

It's actually kind of symbiotic. Marketing gives me great cartooning fodder, and cartooning keeps me sane (sort of). Like Scott Adams starting Dilbert inside the belly of PacBell, I found plenty of cartoon material when I joined General Mills in 2002. I scribbled a few cartoons and emailed them to my co-workers with an automated sign-up. My weekly Brand Camp cartoon grew by word-of-mouth. It now reaches 10,000 marketers each week from businesses all over the world.

Do you think most marketers have a sense of humor?

Marketers have a wicked sense of humor, which is part of what attracted me to marketing in the first place. Of course, when I started drawing cartoons poking fun at senior management, all of my marketing friends thought I was committing career suicide. But then, I started seeing executives pop up on my distribution list too. And I largely got my current job at method because of my cartoons, not in spite of them.

What's been your biggest marketing success?

I love finding marketing tactics that are self-funding. A few years ago, while brand manager for Haagen-Dazs, we convinced the Food Network to create a 2-hour reality show where consumers came up with flavor ideas, we flew them to our ice cream labs to make them up, and then had contests to pick the winning flavor, which we then launched in market. The Food Network ran the 2-hour show eight times over the year and the winning flavor became our most popular flavor launch since Dulce de Leche. The show had more impact (Editor's note: Including this coverage in The New York Times) that our entire traditional advertising campaign, and it was free.

What's the one thing in your job that keeps you awake at night?

I'm now in a startup business, bringing an American brand called method to the UK. So, just about everything keeps me awake at night. We feel like our heads are on the chopping block every day. Fortunately, our momentum has been strong and we were just named "household launch of the year," but one decision by a retail buyer dramatically changes our prospects in a moment.

Please choose one of your cartoons and tell us what inspired it.

green marketing gone wild by Tom Fishburne

This cartoon idea sprang fully formed from a New York Times piece on the ridiculous lengths that some brands are going to be considered for the Home Depot Eco Options promotion (including, yes, a brand of electric chainsaw). It's a good example of some of the outlandish greenwashing we're all starting to see. And, how the issue is not as white and black as the old treehugger/lumberjack dynamic.

Which cartoon best sums up your marketing career so far?

evolution of marketing. Nature or nurture?

I love the quote from the founder of Geek Squad that "advertising is a tax for unremarkable thinking." In my marketing career, I've tried to place more emphasis on making products remarkable than big advertising spend on something mediocre. Remarkable products lead to passionate consumers who advocate on your behalf.

Your urls?

My blog and cartoons:
My brand:

Your title?

Chief Brand Busker

Posted by Internet Marketing Report Online editor Julie Power Friday September 12.


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