All posts by Marianne Bunton

How’s my writing?

It’s appropriate that my first post in 2 years is inspired by a professional writing course led by Jeanmarie Alessi.  Writing is a discipline you need to work at constantly.  As Jeanmarie says, “It’s just like going to the gym: It’s not always easy to get started, but it sure feels great when you’re done”.

Good writing also requires a good process.  Our marketing team have been focusing a lot on value propositions and messaging maps over the past few months – I can’t even start writing without these tools now.  But it’s still daunting to stare at that blank page and know that a deadline is looming to ‘get something out’.  And more daunting still, you only have a few fleeting seconds of your customers attention to get your message across.  For that reason alone, clarity is key!

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.  Mark Twain

I’m glad to know we’re not alone in our writing challenges, and relieved to have a clear framework for editing.

I’m also inspired to start blogging again as I head back to the classroom at General Assembly.  2018 will be a year of continued learning, and I look forward to writing more about my journey here.


A Few Personal Updates

How quickly things change.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was the new kid on the grad school block, struggling to navigate my way around the New York subway system.  But here I am two years later, one masters degree wiser, with a green card in hand and a world of opportunity at my feet.

Diet Coke NY Subway Campaign 2013

What else has changed?  Quite a bit I realise now that I’m updating all the necessary social profiles.

  •  Grad Student → Graduate in Marketing AnalyticsStatistics was definitely a challenge, but when those numbers provide insights into consumer behavior, they suddenly become illuminating.
  • High-Functioning Introvert → Super-Aware Extrovert.  I always knew I was on the cusp of the spectrum and but my Myers-Briggs test recently confirmed a nagging suspicion that I am actually an extrovert.  While I definitely like to take my time to read people and situations, I also thrive on the energy created when engaging with others.  I’ve been working as part of several client teams recently and it has reminded me how rewarding it is to build long-term relationships, to be surrounded by talent,  and to help each other achieve higher goals.

What hasn’t changed?

  • I’m all about people.  As a marketeer, customers rule.  As a third culture kid and global consultant,  cultural differences are fascinating.  As a digital junkie, it’s human needs that drive innovation.
(My talented friend Nick Tay made me an honorary Asian overachiever)
  • I’m still learning, infectiously curious, and always looking for new projects to challenge myself.
  • I’m a Citibiker. I’ve been an advocate and a card carrying member for two years now.
  • I’m still a list-maker.  Obviously.

The Perks of Being A Generalist

At times during my masters degree I felt pressured to find my specialization within marketing.  As friends branded themselves experts in SEO, social media or data analysis, I just couldn’t bring myself to pick a favorite.

I reassured myself that I was too curious to stay in a silo, and that was a good thing.  I loved immersing myself in different topics, but I was most satisfied when I figured out how each piece fit within the bigger picture.

Just as much as I needed nurture every aspect of my own business, I wanted to know what made my clients and their industries tick.  Only when I connected the dots could I understand the larger goals of any project and deliver meaningful results.

So I was thrilled to read General Assembly’s recent paper on the rise of hybrid roles requiring business, marketing and technical skills.

When I worked with DECODED to bring ‘digital enlightenment’ to Asia, I was alarmed how many CMOs and agency CEOs claimed they had no need to know code – they outsourced programmers to build their websites. Gladly this age of ignorance has now passed and today’s senior managers appreciate they need a respectful understanding of the digital products their businesses rely on.

Innovation and growth requires working cross-functionally: with a range of different people, diverse skill sets and, most likely, competing objectives. And it’s about time we recognized the generalists who have the talents to harness these differences and drive businesses forward for the greater good.

Back in Business!

Exactly one year ago I left Hong Kong, and with it, my consultancy which I had started 3 years prior.  I learnt so much as a small business owner: establishing and building  client relationships, collaborating with vendors and partners, owning my own IT and marketing, and finding time for accounting, legal and tax compliance.  And I loved it!

But I reached a point when I realised that I would need to scale-up to avoid my own burn-out.  And to be honest, I was looking for a different kind of challenge.

I was becoming increasingly passionate about the world of digital marketing and the analytical tools now available to us all.  I was producing events about digital excellence but I saw a huge gap between companies who were walking the walk.  I also knew that the U.S. was at the centre of innovation, and that my favourite clients – who treated me as an advisor rather than simply a service provider – were also overseas.  I wanted to see for myself what it was like on the other side of the pond.

So I jumped at the opportunity to do a Masters in Integrated Marketing at NYU.  And although I am one of the older students on my course,  my millennial classmates from around the world have taught me so much about working in autonomous teams, consensus building and Snapchat!

I have gained more than I could have hoped for through my degree, and appreciate the value of education far more having 10 years of work behind me.  That said, as an undergraduate I worked 2 waitressing jobs to support myself, and I couldn’t get enough of the independence, interaction and satisfaction that a hard days work gave me.  Yes, I was hooked on working from an early age!

So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised about the gap in my life that a career-break would leave.   And it wasn’t as much my bank account that missed the work, it was my mojo.  The daily fulfilment and self-identity that a job gives you is unbelievable, and I found that this was incredibly hard to replace.  Study was certainly challenging and inspiring, but I missed the pace of the workplace, the industry partnerships, the risk of failure, the collaborative wins and the culture you are part of in an organisation.

As an event manager driven by targets, deadlines and real-time problem solving, patience was not something that came naturally to me.  I’m still not convinced that it’s something that can be learnt.  But it’s certainly something that you can manage.   Arianna Huffington‘s book, Thrive, reinforced how special this work sabbatical has been for me and I hope that these lessons stay with me a lifetime.

During my first winter break I had the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Guatemala, with an incredible group of people from around the U.S..  The conditions in rural Guatemala were eye-opening and the warmth of the local families humbled us.  Our team leader reminded us regularly that flexibility was essential to adapting to our surroundings and any challenges that came up.  And we took this attitude on with abundance.

Practicing Flexibility in Guatemala

I may now be grad-school poor, but really I am so much richer for all these lessons.  And now my patience, flexibility and dedication has been rewarded too, and I’m delighted to say that I’m back in business!