University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Ep. 7 | Chief Marketing Officers Embracing Influence with Sherilyn Shackell

Sherilyn Shackell
February 15, 2021

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Why should a CMO embrace their influence, and how can they use it to make an impact? Is the demand for learning accelerating or is it static? In this episode of “It’s a Customer’s World,” host Andy Murray is joined by founder and CEO of The Marketing Academy, Sherilyn Shackell. The Marketing Academy is a non-profit organization supporting those in the field of marketing, media, and advertisement. Its purpose is to develop the talents of the next generation of CMOs and marketing leaders. In this episode, Andy and Sherilyn discuss her journey in founding The Marketing Academy, the importance of collaboration and boardroom language for CMOs, the learning model for The Marketing Academy, and more!

The conversation begins with Sherilyn sharing how her love for marketing and developing talent led to the creation of The Marketing Academy. Not only was her own passion a driving force behind The Marketing Academy, but many other companies and networks also supported her vision and helped sponsor her work. Her network had its own desire to invest in the future and make a difference. Sherilyn and Andy also take some time to share their thoughts on the importance of CMOs learning boardroom language and collaborating with other functions of the business. They explain how CMOs must embrace their influence and recognize their ability to impact the business culture. The conversation begins to move toward the learning model of The Marketing Academy, and Sherilyn points out how 2020 has brought many changes to the model. In connection with questions provided by Professor Molly Rapert, Sherilyn and Andy speak about balancing art and science in marketing, along with the importance of following important influencers, building connections with them, and gaining knowledge through experience. She concludes by sharing her hopes for the future generation of marketers in their ability to thrive and be creative.


Episode Transcript:

Andy: (00:05)

Hi, I'm Andy Murray. Welcome to It's A Customer's World podcast. Now more than ever, retailers and brands are accelerating their quest to be more customer-centric, but to be truly customer-centric, it requires both a shift in mindset and ways of working, not just in marketing but in all parts of the organization. In this podcast series I'll be talking with practitioners, thought leaders and scholars to hear their thoughts on what it takes to be a leader in today's customer-centric world. In this episode I have with me Sherilyn Shackell, Sherilyn is currently the founder and global CEO of The Marketing Academy. The Marketing Academy is an unique non-profit organization dedicated to the development of leadership talent in the world of marketing, media and advertising.

Andy: (00:56)

Sherilyn launched The Marketing Academy in the UK in 2010, Australia in 2014 and here in the US in 2018 with the purpose to bring together some of the world's best known and popular brands to provide world class learning for all levels of talent, from emerging leaders to CMOs. She believes that marketing at its best is the means to make a profound change in the world, influencing the way people think, the actions they take and the decisions they make. And through the whole Marketing Academy she's dedicated to delivering programs that will ensure just that, that the power of marketing, media and advertising is felt at the center of every boardroom.

Andy: (01:37)

During my talk with Sherilyn, we discuss the path that led Sherilyn to starting The Marketing Academy and how they launched the program, the way they achieve success in developing future marketing leaders. We also talk about how CMOs must learn the language of the board room to effect real marketing change within an organization. We finish our conversation with question from the Sam Walton College of Business marketing students.

Andy: (02:06)

Hi Sherilyn, thanks for joining me today.

Sherilyn: (02:08)

Thanks for having me Andy, really looking forward to talking with you.

Andy: (02:11)

Me too. Before we get into the world of marketing and customer experience or even The Marketing Academy, I'd like to ask you a personal question.

Sherilyn: (02:19)

Ask me anything.

Andy: (02:25)

Well I've met a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders in my life, but none have risen to the level of energy, joy and enthusiasm for what feels like perhaps life as much as you do and I know many others would agree with me, so where does that come from?

Sherilyn: (02:41)

I spent so long in my former career in a job that I was good at and was making money at but actually hated.

Andy: (02:52)

Oh wow.

Sherilyn: (02:52)

When I decided to make what was actually a complete change in my life, I was in my early 40s, I literally went through a period thinking there's got to be more to life than just doing a job you're good at, that you're making at and I knew that I needed to tap into the things that filled me with joy. And fortunately the job I do, and I thank God every day, the job I do fills me with joy every single day. I love everything about it, they say if you do what you love you never work a day in your life and it's felt like that for the last 10 years with The Academy. It's grown, it's a big job and lots and lots of moving parts but I'm on cloud nine all the time. So I guess when you're happy, you're happy in everything and that's how I feel in my life so that's where the energy comes from.

Andy: (03:42)

It makes it and one of the reasons I was so looking forward to today because you just... Everybody that interacts with you leaves feeling lifted up a bit in some ways, so just much appreciated. You built an amazing organization in The Marketing Academy that seems to expand in new countries every year or two, I can't keep up but take me to that moment when you knew this was something you wanted to do and you knew it was going to be a thing?

Sherilyn: (04:08)

So originally, the whole idea came out of an illness that I had when I was in my early 40s. So it was a real life thing that happened to me and I nearly died and could have died and didn't, and therefore recovered and it put me in the position of thinking, "Gosh, if I had died on that day, would that have been a really good day to die? Would I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in my life? Could I have made a difference, would I have left any kind of legacy, would I have made a positive impact on the world? Would I have been the best wife, the best mother?" All those things and the answer was no on any of those things. On all of those things, the answer would have been no. Had I made money, yes. Had I had a successful career? Yes. But did I love every single day, was I making a difference? Was I even making a dent? Then the answer was no.

Sherilyn: (05:01)

And so I went through a period of really thinking through what it was I wanted to do with my life, so there were two things that were going on for me at that time, so firstly I had been a headhunter for 20 odd years. I'd been dealing at board level for most of them. Most of my clients were CEOs and it had always driven me mad when the CEO would be complaining about the growth of their business or lack of, and I would discover quite early on that their CMO wasn't even in the boardroom. And so very often I would say to the CEOs, well if you feel like you've got an issue with growth, then you've got to be focusing on customer, and if you haven't got your CMO in the boardroom, how on earth are you focusing on customer?

Sherilyn: (05:50)

And it just used to drive me mad that they didn't do it. So I'm always quite passionate about the power, the potential power of marketing, media and advertising in the boardrooms as a real growth driver and couldn't really do much about it other than sharing my view. And then around about the same time I'd been on the board of a leadership development company as a non-exec and I'd been through their program and I'd been through their train the trainer program and it ignited, completely ignited in me this absolute passion for developing talent, which as a headhunter you don't get the option to do, you don't develop people. You might place them in a job-

Andy: (06:32)

You're either in or not, yeah.

Sherilyn: (06:33)

Yeah, the person might make a difference but even out of your control and you move onto something else. And so I figured around this time when I was really struggling with what I wanted to do, it was just that, the last recession, the big recession was looming. So it was late 2008, early 2009. So I knew we were going to be in for a real shit storm of recession and I knew therefore that companies were going to start to go through this massive challenge of how they're going to win through a recession and I've never let go of this belief that if you can put marketing in the center, it weren't going to make any differentiation on the level that you grow. So those things combined, my passion for developing talent, my passion for the fact that marketing, media and advertising can change the world, and the fact that we were going into a recession. And I was looking at this recession, facing it looming as a headhunter and just thinking, it's going to be years of dire nightmare, horrific stuff and I don't want to go through that again.

Sherilyn: (07:43)

I just don't want to live that life again, and so I decided to find something a bit different and the concept of The Academy came around that time. And then with the help of a lot of people, I may have been the official founder but the whole idea of what The Academy became was a collective conversations and collaborations with lots of really special people, most of whom are still involved now in a voluntary basis. And the idea formed of creating a learning organization at the heart of media, marketing, advertising that would develop really high potential talent so that our industry would have a leadership pipeline for the future going forward. We set out to develop the potential board leaders of the future with our scholarship program which was the first program we launched and we launched in 2010. So we launched it, took about a year to build and then we launched it in February 2010.

Sherilyn: (08:47)

And even then I didn't really know what it was or even what it was going to be because until we launched it, it had just been an idea that fortunately the whole industry in the UK, which is where we launched, just got behind it in an amazing way. All of the associations, industry bodies, institutes, all got behind us. All of the CEOs, CMOs in the industry all got behind us. All of the executive coaches got behind us and said, "We're into this, let's build this thing," but it was really only an idea. And we were about six months into year one, which I only ever thought would be a one year thing, it was going to be a passion project, it was going to be a one year-

Andy: (09:29)

And that was a non-profit, right? It's a non-profit.

Sherilyn: (09:32)

Oh and we launched it with no money at all. I funded it that first year because it was my passion thing, it was a side hustle, that's what it was, it was a side hustle that would fill me with joy and make an impact. And then we were about halfway into the year and then we were approached by some of the organizations that had been involved saying, "Can we sponsor this thing?" And I was thinking God yeah, I suppose we are, at some point we're going to need some money to bring staff in and run things and then we set it up properly as a not-for-profit, it's always been a not-for-profit. And it was about halfway through the first year, we were starting to get feedback from our then scholars and starting to see the impact of what we were doing that I thought, "I think this is really going to be a thing." And we realized then that we needed to continue to roll one every year.

Andy: (10:24)

Well, one of the things that stands out about that story and what you've done is the impressive coalition of great companies and partners that you were able to get onboard very quickly and I was just curious, what's the insight on how you were able to unlock that so well? And then also, a way to follow onto that is, you think about marketers as individuals needing to build networks of people to help you through life and through these jobs. I think that insight might even be applicable to individuals but it's just impressive on how quickly they were to say yes because these are big companies, these are not small companies. These are the biggest companies in the world that do branding and marketing.

Sherilyn: (11:04)

Yeah they are and they've all been amazing. And I guess that they were just energized with what they saw and our mission so there's really three areas, there's companies who are absolutely passionate about developing talent within marketing, media, advertising. So that's brands, that's agencies and platforms, media platforms. If they're passionate about developing real capability in their talent pool, then they're likely to be attracted to what The Academy does. The other big one is it's highly philanthropic, and I know that there's some of the platforms involved like Google and Facebook, I know that one of their biggest drivers is because they want to invest in the future of the industry. And that of course is what we're doing because without the talent you haven't got a future in the industry.

Sherilyn: (11:52)

So highly philanthropic, and then also there's the wanting to give back, which is I believe a very big attraction for all of our mentors and our coaches as well. So we've got 250 mentors around the world, they are either CEOs, CMOs or subject matter experts and they all gift their time and there's 125 speakers around the world that are part of our faculty who all gift their time, and there's 140 executive coaches around the world who all gift their time. And to a man or a woman, I would say that they're attracted to the fact that they are sending the element back down, they're going back down to lift up and enable the emerging talent to rise, and they're doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

Andy: (12:40)

That does give you hope of the human condition, doesn't it? That's wow.

Sherilyn: (12:48)

Oh it does, the whole of The Academy rolls on that generosity, all of it. So we've got 22 brand partnerships with 22 sponsors of all of our programs all around the world and then in total, including all of our alumni now it's about 1200 people that do something within The Academy, within a program somewhere around the world and they all gift their time, it's all voluntary.

Andy: (13:11)

That's great.

Sherilyn: (13:11)

We captured the imagination I think at a time when people knew, what it was is that everything was bleak because we had this big looming recession. And everybody needed a good news story I think, so everybody needed to do something that would just lift them a bit and everybody knew that they had to start investing in the industry in order for it to survive, look what happened? We're in that situation right now.

Andy: (13:37)

I was going to say, are we not in the same inflection point? It feels like déjà vu.

Sherilyn: (13:41)

Yeah, exactly the same and that's why we are going really strong and even though this year's been a very different year, it's actually been quite a positive year for The Academy and I'm really glad that we were able to run the programs during this year because for the cohorts this year, it's been even more special because they've been able to come in in a much bigger way and there's a connectivity between them and a shared experience between them that's profound. It's usually really good but this year particularly it's been profound. I've got a lot of hope for the industry going forward, I think it's an amazing industry, I love it.

Andy: (14:14)

Yeah, well I do too, I love it. And I guess one of the questions you are solving and is on my mind is when you talk about the c-suite and the problem there of marketing and how marketing sits at the table, how it presents itself at the table, a CMO or such, why do you think that that is a problem? Because if you came from operations or other disciplines, you don't seem to get that question around: do they belong at the table or not, and do they have the skills or not? Is there something about our discipline that makes it harder to naturally be prepared through the organic process of doing the roles that you're doing that makes you ready to go for the c-suite? You saw a need there that it had to more than just they're not at the table, it's when they are at the table, are they as effective as their peer group could be? So why do you think that gap is there?

Sherilyn: (15:10)

I believe the gap is getting less, I think it's changed over time. When we first set up The Academy and in fact when we first set up the fellowship program, so just for context we do two programs, we run two programs, the scholarship is for emerging leaders so between five and 15 years experience. Our fellowship program is exclusively for brand side CMOs and that program is exclusively designed to enable them to take bigger, broader, more impactful roles at board. And so that program we launched seven years ago in Europe and we just finished year one in the States, and the reason for that was to narrow this gap. So the observation that we had, and we work with people like McKenzie, partner us on this program, and the content is about board stewardship, it isn't about marketing. We're not interested in enabling them to become just better marketers. That's not the role of this program, the program is about board stewardship.

Sherilyn: (16:08)

There's a few things that have got in the way, as I said lessening now, reducing now but there's still a little bit leeway. So the first is the language that's spoken at the board, is not a natural lexicon for the CMOs especially if the CMO has a particular spike in brand and comms. So there's lots of different CMO roles out there, it's different in B2C, in B2B, it's broadly very different. But on the whole, the missing bit is the ability to fluently and articulately speak the same language as the rest of the board. And of course, if the CMO hasn't already been on a board in any context, then they've never really been exposed to added learning. It's learning Spanish and you've never been to Spain, it's odder. So that's sometimes that needs to be really understood and worked through and CMO have amazing language ability when it comes to our own vernacular.

Andy: (17:13)

Yeah, exactly.

Sherilyn: (17:18)

And you can see the CEOs eyes just glazing over when you start talking in the CMOs language.

Andy: (17:22)

No question.

Sherilyn: (17:28)

It's the ability to translate the successes within the marketing silo into how that affects the rest of the business. And arguably it affects everything in the rest of the business, so being able to understand that and create different dialog and narrative. To be able to partner more with the other functions around the business, so the collaboration between the CMO and the CFO, or the CMO and the chief operating officer, or the CMO and the customer services director because some companies do put customer service in their boardroom. And we see the role of the CMO begin to expand massively into that domain.

Sherilyn: (18:11)

So the ability to really develop those working relationships at a joined at the hip level, because they're thinking company, top down first is also really important. Those are the things, they're not given the exposure often to the board. You'll get more in the States, I think there's more respect for the function in the States.

Andy: (18:31)

I think at times there is, yeah 100%. I think what trips up a lot of, from my own personal experience, is that you've got this mission to protect the brand and lead the brand, and you see the customer experience demands changing and yet you really like to be effective. You can't get ahead of the culture, you can't drive your agenda so hard that it can't be harmonized with the operating side and the financial side. And so being able to harmonize that ambition to change with the realities so that the whole board's with you is one of those tricks of the trade I think that takes some experience to get there, or the kind of training you're providing.

Sherilyn: (19:09)

Yeah, and the other thing is the ability for the CMO to impact the culture, that's advanced. We've seen some real successes in businesses whereby they've actually given HR to the CMO, doesn't happen often. They have that at Virgin, in Virgin Media in the UK, they had that for a number of years with the CMO responsible for brand and people. And you see [inaudible 00:19:29] the CMOs in terms of their influence, if you've got 100,000 employees in your business and you think of them as if they were customers, imagine how much more engagement you would get if you treated your entire employee workforce as if they were the most precious customer you could ever have?

Sherilyn: (19:48)

Well it's a CMO who knows how to do that. It's the CMO who knows how to understand the insight, provide them with what they need, when they need it, the CMO knows that. The CMO as a potential culture change maker is an untapped potential superpower, in my view. I don't think we see it enough, but they live and breathe the brand and point that internally, how much even more powerful can it become?

Sherilyn: (20:19)

I think one of the things that holds the CMO back often, is their own narrative in their own heads, they hold themselves back. I've seen research out there that's given stats about how the CMO feels about his or her performance up against how everybody rates them, and usually it's the CMO that will come in under what the CEO and other board members actual perception of them is, and therefore they're not embracing this potential power of influence which they have, they're not embracing it enough and realizing how much they can bring to that board table, much more broadly than the success of the brand.

Andy: (21:01)

Yeah, one of the things I think in Europe, at least in the UK, was much further along that most of the US, and especially with retail is the chief customer officer, which is basically 80% CMO, but it thrusts you into a broader focus to care for the customer. And I think what's happened with the pandemic and the explosion of omnichannel and trying to have one customer brand experience. I'm seeing the customer experience initiatives that are showing up now as a board level objective to move the brand forward with the customer experience, that's really putting some... Thrusting the CMO into some spaces of leadership which I think is rightly theirs to take and lead on how do you look at the customer, more than just a marketing thing but a truly total customer experience.

Sherilyn: (21:48)

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's not just that customer experience, the remit and the impact of the remit, it's going into the CIO domain, right? Because of tech.

Andy: (22:00)

100%, because of tech.

Sherilyn: (22:03)

It's going into the finance domain because we now need to translate the data into what that means from a financial perspective. And then innovation, product design, product development, and therefore the operations behind that. It touches just everything.

Andy: (22:20)

It does.

Sherilyn: (22:21)

But the [inaudible 00:22:22] of the chief customer officer, I couldn't agree with you more. We've seen in Europe, I'm sure we'll start seeing it around the rest of the world but it is a challenge because the role is growing more quickly than our talent at that level can develop and therefore they're learning as they go. Which is fine actually, but the CEOs need to understand that and they need to-

Andy: (22:43)

And I think they're learning in areas they didn't grow up in so for example, when you start talking to customer experience in the CMO space, now you're talking about data lakes, customer data lakes, AI, how are you going to take that data and what's the data policy? Which you know from Europe GDPR puts a whole new agenda on the table for how are you going to treat customer data and make that still work and deal with all of the platforms and how they're looking at data, and so it's just a growing... And product management, some organizations are putting product management inside of the customer organization so that front-end experience of wherever that customer happens to shop, has a consistent look and feel to the brand and based on great design principles. But my opinion is most CMOs haven't grown up in agile, or that agile methodology that a lot of the people in product management typically grow up in if you're a dot-com or peer play. So they're dealing with these new terms of SCRUMs and tribes and stand-ups and retros that is really new for a lot of the CMOs.

Sherilyn: (23:46)

That is exactly right, but how exciting is that?

Andy: (23:51)

I agree, it's fun.

Sherilyn: (23:52)

And their ability to achieve in that, well actually it depends more on the softer skills they've got, they don't have to be experts in this stuff.

Andy: (23:59)

No you don't.

Sherilyn: (24:01)

They really don't, they're going to lead experts, they're going to lead these teams that know this stuff inside out. What they absolutely need to be, is the best a leader they can possibly be. And they do need to be really flexible, adaptable, no mindset. Not set in their own old ways of working, they've got to be embracing the future, they've got to be really curious, they've got to be completely ambidextrous, they've got to be able to turn their hands at those things. But to be quite honest, we find that those things exist in most CMOs, they've just not necessarily had to do it quite so much, but we're all learning how to be resilient at the moment, aren't we? And we're all learning that are roles that are constant... We're in the rapids all the time.

Andy: (24:48)

No question.

Sherilyn: (24:49)

Yeah and therefore we pivot quite quickly and I believe the CMOs have always been able to do that, because they've always been at the front-line, when something happens out in market and it's something that requires... That's where the crises happens, even in comms, where there's a real crisis that happens and you've got to respond to it and you've got to act immediately and the CMOs are practiced at that. All they've been doing is applying that in a wider, broader remit and leading in a much more powerful way means that they don't have to be experts at anything. Once you get in that role you and embrace it, you don't need to be an expert at anything ever again.

Andy: (25:28)

No you don't.

Sherilyn: (25:28)

You do have to be a very inspirational, powerful leader in order to lead the people within the organization, to empower them, inspire them, enable them to do the best work that they can possibly do. Bring them with you, put your arms around them when they need it, manage the crisis with them when they need you and then put your arms underneath them and rise them up and let them go. And that's leadership, that's not a marketing skill set.

Andy: (25:56)

You're right, I think if you look at methods and methodology to the job is one thing but it's really about the mindset and the ability to be a motivator across the influencing spectrums that that's where it really is a complete different change in mindset. One of the questions I had for you was around your learning model, because I've seen more in the learning space go to education, yep, check, but also experience and exposure and I like what you do around exposure because you bring a lot of outside people in, and then the experience and how people get experiences and such to grow and learn, but how is the learning model changing now that we're in lockdown? Or what do you see the learning model looking like as you get into 2021?

Sherilyn: (26:41)

Well we're obviously going to change everything next year.

Andy: (26:47)

No doubt.

Sherilyn: (26:47)

There's no exams, there online course, there's no training that's delivered in anything other that face-to-face experiences. Our whole thing was that we delivered all of our learning in a very intimate, exclusive and personal face-to-face way, so we had to change everything this year and the whole thing had to get virtual, and actually I was dying to admit it, I honestly thought that it was the most horrendous thing, there's even a tiny part of my brain going, "If you can't deliver this amazing in-person physical experience, should we really be doing it at all?" I literally thought if we can't deliver this thing in an amazingly powerful way, maybe we shouldn't.

Andy: (27:31)

So did you do that? Don't leave us hanging there, what did you do? What did you decide?

Sherilyn: (27:35)

We decided to go ahead anyway, we decided to do it all virtual. We just decided to do it in the best virtual way we could possibly, possibly imagine. We have tried to make all of the experiences really experiential not just flat, looking into a screen. But our programs, both the scholarship and the fellowship predicated on fairly small cohorts. So the scholarship is never more than a cohort of 30, so that's 30 per year, per country and they go through a nine month part-time experience together, it's about 15 days. Eight of those 15 days are supposed to be in-person with the group. And then in our fellowship, which is even smaller, so in the fellowship the cohorts are never more than 20 per region, per year, and again about 15 days and about seven of them are supposed to be in-person with the group together.

Sherilyn: (28:29)

We just this year had to make most of the experiences virtual, and it's a combination for us so we run master classes, lectures and inspirational talks. We get fantastic guests from all over the world and in all different walks of life is well to come and deliver the syllabus of learning. And then we also have mentoring which is supposed to be face-to-face in-person, one-to-one. That whole model switched virtual, we're getting just as powerful feedback this year as we've had before.

Sherilyn: (29:04)

And then executive coaching, so each of the cohorts get a match one-on-one with an executive coach and that's a single relationship that goes through the whole nine month period, and all of that's gone virtual. What has been a benefit of it, and it really has been a benefit is that we've got so many awesome people around the world, we've been able to change up who talks within a curriculum by country. So we've had some fantastic speakers from Australia who we've only ever invited to the Australian boot camps who we've been able to expose to our US scholars and our UK scholars.

Sherilyn: (29:43)

We've had mentors in the States mentoring some of the scholars in the UK, and that's been another level of richness that we could never do before because we couldn't afford to fly them all over the world, and that's been a really big, quite exciting thing for us to the extent that we're looking to develop a virtual campus syllabus that will supplement the scholarship and the fellowship programs, not instead of but will supplement the scholarship and the fellowship for next year. And all of our alumni, and we've run alumni programs for all of them, would all be part of the virtual campus. And all of our sponsors and partners will be able to put their employees on the virtual campus and our mentors will be able to put their teams on the virtual campus, and that gives us an opportunity we've never thought we'd have because our learning has always, for 10 years now across 18 scholarships, and nine fellowships, it's only exclusively being contained to the cohort that's been selected.

Sherilyn: (30:50)

And for the first time ever our learning will be much, much more widely available. It still won't be public, it will be for our community and the people around our community but the bottom line is if you're generous enough to give some time into The Academy, this is the way that your people will also benefit from it. And so we're hopeful that we'll see this huge ripple effect of that teaching much more broadly across the industry. And it was never part of the plan because we didn't think we'd ever be able to deliver it, we wouldn't have had the funds to be able to deliver a 2,000 people lecture because we wouldn't of even been able to pay for the physical space.

Andy: (31:31)

Well I'm curious, how much of this do you think is driven by the awesomeness of The Marketing Academy in a static category and you're just gaining share? Or do you think society-wise and business-wise there is a real desire to step on the gas for more learning in general? And you're obviously still gaining share in that space but I'm trying to get to where is the big picture from the appetite to really learn? I don't know if you're gaining share from just a much better offering or in general you're seeing companies ante up and saying, "You know what, this is strategically now important for us, like it was in 2008, 2009," it's coming to that moment. I talk to a lot of people and they seem to be so strapped in to Zoom 10 hours a day and I don't hear them talking about the training as in learning but on occasion I do and I'm just curious, if you were to sample it, is the demand for learning and growth accelerating and you see it continue to accelerate or are you just getting a better share of the pie that's about staying the same?

Sherilyn: (32:40)

I think it's growing. I think it's been steadily growing over time. It's essential and there's two schools of thought, isn't it? [inaudible 00:32:53] you either you're going to cut your L&D budget completely because it's unfortunately seen as the bottom rung of that discretionary spend. So you're either going to cut it completely and more visionary CEOs will do the complete opposite and they'll go, "If our people are the best of themselves they can possibly, possibly be then we'll win this." With no other spend at all they will win. I'm hopeful that that's the way that things are going. Our reputation has been growing exponentially over the last few years but we still maintained, there's actually very few people that can get on our programs. We believe that there's a great benefit from that, but it was never supposed... We're never going to be like a university where we can have thousands of students, we won't be doing that and there's not the space either.

Sherilyn: (33:47)

You don't ever, ever think of the scholarship to replace any of the more official learning ever, it's completely different from that, and so I do think our reputation's growing but I believe that the appetite out there is huge, it's vast. And actually the appetite for the way in which we do it is growing more because companies just don't have the infrastructure so much within their organizations. I think it's more the fact that we're really different, but our whole learning, all of our curriculums are based on the shared learning from outside of your industry.

Sherilyn: (34:27)

So even if you're an organization, say you're a consumer goods organization who have historically been brilliant at investing in their talent, from graduate trainees right up, and especially a branded, marketing led businesses, so they invest a lot in marketing development. If they're still not as open minded as we needed to be to bring in the skillset, the experience, the insight, the expertise from all of the other industries out there that they can learn from. So if you're in a FMCD company and you're on their internal training program, you're likely to be trained in their way, in their methodology. You're likely to see some amazing people within that organization, you're not necessarily going to learn what that startups are doing, what it takes to be entrepreneurial within your business, what that telco over there, the stuff that they're up to.

Sherilyn: (35:26)

And what we can offer is that real transfer of knowledge across the entire industry, and I'm not just talking about the marketing function across industries, I'm talking about the cross sector within our own industries, so creative agencies, media agencies, ad tech businesses, [inaudible 00:35:45] business, AI experts, professional services business, platforms, media owners, across the whole piece because of the way in which we've structured our programs, we can bring learning from that whole place. And of course ours is totally free, we're really fortunate that we inhabit a space nobody else is doing, which is we're not charging for anything.

Andy: (36:03)

Yeah it's very clever, it's a clever model not to be clever for clever's sake. But the fact that you're non-profit adds a lot of credentials to why you're doing this and I think that helps unlock a lot of doors in the fact you make it free. But it's just amazing and I participate in one of the cohort sessions in the UK and in the US, but to see an agency person or a media person perhaps and a client if you're a brand marketer, in the same room discussing things, that doesn't really happen that often. And I think once you see the whole ecosystem work, there's unlocks and epiphanies happening that you didn't understand, not just cross industry but even down the whole process of marketing and those people together is pretty cool.

Sherilyn: (36:54)

That is exactly right, do you know what, I'm going to be completely honest, that was never the intent. You will never see that written on any of the original strategy documents that how amazing it would be to look at how the relationships would develop between cohorts because we just didn't think about it. We were so busy thinking about what we were going to be able to give them from a learning experience perspective, we didn't think about what they were going to get from each other.

Andy: (37:11)

That's great.

Sherilyn: (37:14)

It's the most profound element, all the scholars groups are so close and they're friends for life. Our year one scholarship cohorts, 2010, they're still really close to us and some of them will be best friends. We've had two marriages, we've had a baby, so the depth and that sense of belonging that they get as a group, they know that they can ask each other anything, there's no judgment, it's egalitarian, there's no hierarchy, there's no egos, they strip back a bit, and we do do that as part of the construct within the programs to make sure that they're okay to reveal who they are, so they are just that little bit stripped back. But because of that, they develop connections and relationships for life, and how useful is that? Across our whole industry.

Sherilyn: (38:06)

So hopefully we're building a generation of leaders at a scholar level that will hit the market in probably about, maybe in another six, seven, eight years probably, build a generation that are going to be interacting with each other across those client supplier relationships in a totally different way that I feel the industry is going to benefit from massively.

Andy: (38:35)

That's great, it really is a people business, right? And the connections and all of that, to see that then hit the market six, seven years from now at the top, not that there weren't people before but it's a different type of leadership skill, it really is. Hey, one of the things that I get a privilege of doing is working with the Walton College of Business and the always proactive professor Molly Rapert in the marketing department, heard you and I were going to talk today, and so she gathered a couple of questions from a few students. Do you mind taking a few student questions for me?

Sherilyn: (39:03)

I'd love to.

Andy: (39:05)

Okay, well this first one is from Harrison Knox, he's a marketing major, minor in computer science and information systems.

Harrison: (39:14)

We live in a world that now relies so much on big data. How much of marketing now relies on data instead of creativity? And do you believe this reliance on big data has made marketing less creative? How do you think marketers can successfully combine the two to stand out from other competition?

Sherilyn: (39:34)

Cor, that's a tough question, Harrison. I hope you don't mind me call you Harry?

Andy: (39:40)

Very British.

Sherilyn: (39:44)

Very British, we've got a prince called that although I think he's with you now, I'm not quite sure. So I could talk about this question forever, the bottom line is the ones that will really crack this are the ones that are going to get the balance between the two. Where there's art and there's science and actually the balance of the two is what will be really successful, and you have to balance it. If you go all 100% data then you're never going to get any engagement because you just won't have anything to get out there. If you go 100% creative then you don't even know whether it's working or not, so what's the point of spending the money?

Sherilyn: (40:18)

Marketing is that real beautiful, gorgeous tipping point of when art meets science and by science read data at the moment, and the companies that will really thrive will get that balance right. And it's important for CMOs and marketers to really understand the power of both. My belief is the best CMOs really do understand how to navigate the two. It's a challenge because it even requires a different side of your brain, right? So you've got your left brain thinkers and your right brain thinkers and you've got art and you've got science, but there are people out there... And you can train your brain to enjoy both things, and there are people out there that have got a remarkable skill of doing the two really well and if anybody has it, it will be the people within marketing.

Sherilyn: (41:09)

You won't get somebody that's got that really logical numbers driven brain that's probably sitting in finance that's also an artist or a painter in their spare time. You would get far fewer of those, I believe that you get more people that can really straddle the two within marketing. So the key to the answer of the question is you have to have the balance of both and really understand the power of both. They are equally powerful separately, they are doubly powerful together.

Andy: (41:40)

Well said, that's a great answer. Couldn't agree more. I've got one more from Matt Barber, he's a management and marketing major.

Matt: (41:48)

Hey Sheril, I just listened to your Don't Stop Us Now Podcast that's featured on your LinkedIn profile and in the podcast you talk about how you started your first business, and also about the talent acquisition strategy that you have at The Marketing Academy, part of which is to observe other companies and leaders in the marketing industry. So I was wondering if you could name a few companies and/or c-suite level executives in the industry that provide a lot of wisdom and would be great examples for someone like myself who's gearing towards marketing work in their early career, but also has a long-term goal or starting their own business one day.

Sherilyn: (42:25)

Oh Matt, how exciting for you and so you should, so you should start thinking about what skills you're going to build right now to enable yourself to be an entrepreneur in the future. So make sure when you leave, you go to organizations that are fast, agile, start-uppy culture that will let you thrive. Okay, so you're basically saying, "Who are the people and companies out there that I really rate?" Oh my God.

Andy: (42:50)

You don't have to go there.

Sherilyn: (42:53)

Yeah, do I have to go there because I've got so many? In the marketing organization there are some people that you should be following, that's without a shadow of a doubt. So you need to follow Ritson, Mark Ritson, he's not as well-known in the States as he is in the rest of the world but he's fabulous, he's on our board so I'm a little bit biased. But Mark Ritson, there's very little that Mark Ritson talks about that doesn't make perfect sense, but he does cuss a lot so you just have to get used to that. You should follow Rory Sutherland, he's the chair in the UK for Ogilvy, behavioral economist and he's also all kinds of amazing. Scott Galloway in the US is somebody that I'd really rate. There are some CMOs out there that are doing really cool things, one of my fellows has just got a fab job at Peloton, Dara Treseder, and you should follow her because she's amazing.

Sherilyn: (43:46)

Boz Saint John, I don't know where she is now, I think it's Netflix now I'm not sure. She's been all over but Boz is also really amazing to follow. So you really do need to start following the industry influencers, movers and shakers and you need to start interacting with them, especially at your stage in your career Matt because the more you interact with these guys, the more you suck the knowledge from guys, the more you actually develop relationships by commenting on their stuff. Just means that you just might get engagement from people who could have an influence over your career, so there lots.

Sherilyn: (44:18)

50 Most Influential CMOs has just come out, they've got a number of our fellows on that list so you should follow everybody that's on that list because it means they really are making a difference out there. Jonathan Mildenhall is one of my favorites, I just adore him, former Coke and now 21st Century Brands. There are so many organizations out there doing good stuff but you don't need to target just the businesses that are known for doing good stuff in marketing. In fact, it may even be more exciting to target the organizations who aren't known for it but who need to. I can probably name more of them than the ones that are really good.

Sherilyn: (45:00)

And in terms of your future career, look at the organization by understanding their culture. That's the thing you should look at more than anything, more than anything. It doesn't matter if their brand isn't even in the top 20 brands, and you can go pull those lists from everywhere to see where the brands are. You don't need a company that's already got that kind of brand profile in order to thrive. What you do need to do is you need to understand the cultures of the businesses, you need to understand their value set, so what their values are.

Sherilyn: (45:28)

The behaviors, the way things are done within the organization, their cultural drivers are what's important to them and that's the lens through which you need to decide which organizations you're going to target. You can even, for this first step in your career, you don't even really need to think about the sector, is it going to be a sector that excites you? Well the role and the environment and the people you work with will provide the excitement.But if the culture and the values are wrong, it doesn't matter how exciting the industry or how exciting the brand.

Sherilyn: (45:59)

I could name some brands that are highly aspirational for grads to join and nine out of 10 grads would absolutely hate the culture, and these are successful, big global businesses where the culture's just misaligned to the things that people in their early, mid 20s are looking for. So don't get seduced by the size of the brands. Get seduced by the culture and the values and seek evidence that they actually operate in that way and are true to their values, and then so long as the job sounds interesting and you're going to get some growth, then what have you got to lose? And two or three year's experience is going to set you up for the next job, which is two or three years, and your next job two or three years so I would look at it through that lens.

Andy: (46:46)

Well that is advice I think all students graduating and coming up in May could use really, really well. One last question, I've kept you for a good amount of time and you've been very generous but I can't help it because you're so fun to talk to. But I do ask one question that I might share with the students. As you look out into the future 2021, maybe a little bit beyond, what gives you hope?

Sherilyn: (47:08)

Everything gives me hope actually, and in fact predominantly the way that the people of the world, the citizens of the world, have responded over the last seven months really does fill me with joy in most things. Now, I'm not saying that the leaders of our countries have done this particularly well, but certainly the citizens of the countries, mostly I get the sense that it's brought a gentleness and a more tolerant and more forgiving feel. That's not happening everywhere in the world obviously and it never will, but I honestly believe that that's changed over the last six or seven months. Everybody is desperate to get back together, everybody, and therefore once we can begin to come out of the little shells that we've had to hunker down in, then I believe that there's going to be some really good things happening.

Sherilyn: (48:03)

Another thing that gives me real hope is the agility that almost most of the organizations around the world have had to have shown, and the way in which they've thrived through it. But we've had some industries that have taken an absolutely battering, but I've been stunned actually that globally, how many of those organizations are still going. If you look at our airline industry you just would have thought that by now, by October, how are those airlines still-

Andy: (48:31)

Still doing it, yeah.

Sherilyn: (48:34)

And so if those industries keep going. I went down to Spain last week and I was driving along the front where all of the bars and restaurants are, they had all been closed for months and they're all opening again and you think, "Oh my gosh," these are mom-and-pop businesses that could have gone to the wall, and I do appreciate that many will have, but the ability of the human spirit to rise like the phoenix from the flames, I think is really quite profound, we're going to see a lot more of that. And people are feeling the value of connecting to other human beings, and we've taken that for granted for centuries. It's been centuries since we've been in this position and we've taken it for granted and I don't think any of us take it for granted anymore, so how can that not be good going forward?

Sherilyn: (49:29)

So if you're coming out, I guess you're graduating in spring of next year, don't panic, it's not as doom and gloom as it may feel. There are still going to be really sexy, great jobs out there, there's still going to be companies hiring. You may have to work a little bit harder to get there, you may have to go and do some side hustles to prove that you're still building skills and experience to get there, but you will get there and you are our future. Never forget that, and if companies can't look at you guys and truly believe that by bringing you into their business they are absolutely going to rock it, I would eat my hat.

Sherilyn: (50:07)

You are this world's future and they will be making space for you to bring you into their companies. So don't panic too much about what's happening out there, that's what I would say.

Andy: (50:19)

Brilliant, as you would say because that's how you look at life and I think it's a great way to look at life. I do think we're going to be coming into a golden age of creativity, I do think that lies in our future than grimness and so I'm with you on that, Sherilyn. Thank you so much for spending the time with me and with the students and the people listening, it's been a great adventure across a lot of different topics and congratulations on all the work you've done as an entrepreneur, as a business leader, as a person of influence. It is making a big difference to a lot of companies. I hope someday you'll see, five, 10 years from now the fruits of that labor across all of industry.

Sherilyn: (50:59)

So do I, somebody should do it. Every single function and industry deserves an academy like this. Somebody should just go and do it, it won't be me, I'm sticking in this industry. All right, thank you so much, thank you for having me, I've enjoyed every minute of it.

Andy: (51:17)

Thank you. What an inspiring conversation you just listened to with Sherilyn Shackell. Sherilyn is a world-renowned thought leader in the customer experience and marketing spaces. Her establishment of The Marketing Academy to train the next generation of CMOs and marketing leaders is truly remarkable. If you'd like to know more about The Marketing Academy please see the link in the show notes. Thank you.

Andy: (51:43)

That's it for this episode of It's A Customer's World. If you found this helpful and entertaining, I would be so grateful if you could share our show with your friends, and I'd be super happy if you subscribed so you can be updated as we publish new episodes. And if you really want to help, leave us a five star rating and a positive review on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen. It's A Customer's World podcast is a product of University of Arkansas, customer-centric leadership initiative and a Walton College original production.

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