Kevin Farr is a Consultant at CNTRD. He is also currently pursuing his Executive MBA at Washington University’s Olin Business School.
Throughout his career, Kevin has worked with such companies as Apple (Beats by Dre), Microsoft, Logitech, FDA, American Red Cross, ChildFund International, FOX Networks, HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Cox Communications, Abbott Nutrition, Schreiber Foods, Procter & Gamble, Workday, as well as several small and midsize start-ups.
Kevin has held leadership roles in flat, matrix, hierarchal and performance-based systems, and has managed programs and teams across vastly different organizations and cultures. His academic background includes art, human behavior, social sciences, and organizational behavior. All these helped Kevin develop an art-form for building business systems that shift culture and impact profitability.
At MDMC18 Kevin is going to be part of “Building A Digital Dream Team” Panel, together with Steve Bauer, Kate Garofalini, and Jeremy Nulik. In his other session called “Avoiding The Trappings That Lead Digital Teams Toward Failure Or Mediocrity”, Kevin will share how leaders can cut through the noise and build teams that effectively navigate an ever-changing business landscape.
Here are Kevin’s answers from the pre-conference Q&A session.
Q.1. What are some big mistakes a business could make when it comes to digital marketing?
K.F.: Generally speaking, probably awareness; or lack thereof. Awareness helps us imagine solutions to macro and micro problems. It also helps us understand constraints. Knowing these things helps us manage uncertainty and steer digital activities toward desirable outcomes, which helps us operate digital marketing in support of our broader business objectives.
Business is fast-paced. Combine that with hefty workloads and changing demands, and you have a recipe for reacting off ill-informed conclusions. In many instances, a company will start doing things or continue to perform specific activities without clearly defining what they’re doing, why they are doing and if it makes sense. That’s why we see so much noise in the market. People are busy doing “stuff” versus really pausing to think through the problem they are trying to solve using digital marketing. There’s a difference between “doing things right” and “doing the right things.”
Digital marketing is a tool. If we fail to operate it effectively, we limit possible solutions, options, and outcomes. It starts to constrain the creative/critical thinking process, the very process that helps teams succeed by creating actual value. It also tends to lead teams toward really mediocre work which eats company resources and drains culture.
Q.2. What do you think is the next game changer in digital marketing, such as a new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing? How will it evolve in the coming years?
K.F.: Effective problem solving for sure. It seems like a “duh” thing, but it’s scary and pretty rare. Companies seek it out; they try to retain it; while the best cultivate it. Consider how more and more leaders are integrating Design Thinking, UCD, HCD, and other creative and critical thinking processes and teams. It’s a signal about their needs. Many mature organizations are stuck; they can’t grow as much. Conversely, young firms chase growth through disruption and scale. Yet, both need thinkers and doers that can combine quantitative with qualitative. Art and analysis. Business with creativity. That’s how innovation and change happen. That’s how sustainable solutions are designed.
Q.3. What is your favorite marketing book you have read lately? Or, what are a few of your favorite marketing blogs?
The Goal (The Theory of Constraints)
The Lean Anthology
…I’m exploring how integrated supply chain management can be used to improve digital marketing operations.
Q.4. According to you, what are the top three mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging digital marketing?
- They haven’t defined the problem they’re solving by leveraging digital or the value they create through its activities.
- They start forming digital teams, changing teams and doing stuff without really understanding how to align resources, team structure, infrastructure, measurement, and strategy to help them create and capture value.
- They fail to see how their assumptions about digital marketing practices, shape team behavior, performance, and outcomes. Start unpacking those assumptions and you’ll see how mistakes are made and where to improve.
Q.5. If you were looking to hire a digital marketer, what are the top 3-5 skills you would be looking for in a candidate?
- Open and curious mind
- Ability to work with ill-structured, ambiguous problems
- Passion for something in life
- A sense of life balance
Q.6. What’s the industry buzzword that annoys you the most these days and why?
K.F.: I tend to focus on how we apply buzzwords and their impact on marketing activities. Like innovation, transformation, and change. These are great ideas. They can change an organization aligned to live out what those words mean. But when a system is not set up for that… it doesn’t do much to force those words in. It merely stirs the pot without cooking a dish.
In many instances, people and organizations latch on to a concept without fully understanding it, which creates a lot of dysfunction and waste. People need a process and support to implement those concepts as activities.
Take innovation. Innovation is a way of being. You don’t just turn an organization into that. It takes time. Change is natural and healthy for organizations, but the growth process has to be nurtured and tailored. If your culture has been trained to be conservative, to think similarly, then it can’t change just because some new buzzwords have made their way into the system.