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2021: The Year of Careers and Callings

2021: The Year of Careers and Callings

Russ Klein

illustration of man waving to colleagues on video conference call

Russ Klein, CEO of the American Marketing Association, on the inversion of the marketplace during COVID-19, and the subsequent shift of bringing work life home

It fascinates me that as marketers, we love to ascribe identities or labels to our customers. We care about how they feel. We have consumer confidence surveys. We use archetypes and sticky nicknames to conjure imagery associated with a customer prototype or segment as shorthand inspiration for our storytelling.

Marketers are trained to worship at the altar of the consumer, but they rarely self-identify in the way marketers label them. This insight isn’t to suggest that marketers have it all wrong. Conversely, we often let our jobs and the companies for whom we perform them define us. Each of us is a worker, in some form or fashion, and each of us is a consumer.

I contend that modern leaders should be advised that their employees may warrant more special handling than even the consumer. Perhaps sentiments toward a brand among its employees, as opposed to those held by its customers, are the ones leaders should watch.


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Russ Klein is a five-time award-winning CMO who has quarterbacked teams for many of the world’s foremost brand names, serving as president of Burger King from 2003-2010 and holding top marketing and advertising posts at Dr. Pepper/7UP Companies, Gatorade, 7-Eleven Corporation and Arby’s Restaurant Group. He is also the former CEO of the American Marketing Association.