To me, effective marketing strikes a balance between creativity and data, and the two should go hand-in-hand. I think you’re in danger if you rely too much on one over the other.Robyn Hobson
Robyn is Mobile Guardian’s Head of Sales and Marketing. While most companies continue to suffer immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Robyn talks about how her organisation was able to weather the storm and continue to do so. Let’s dive into this segment of Women In Marketing
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Cape Town and soon moved to Plettenberg Bay. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up in what was then a small, sleepy, seaside town. I spent a lot of time outdoors with my family, building sandcastles and memories at the beach and it was a very happy childhood.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
After two years, and a lot of flops, I’m now a pretty decent baker and love baking cakes.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Someone once told me that the, “spend a third, save a third and donate a third,” rule is a good one to live by. Once COVID-19 has passed, I would spend it on a huge family and friends reunion where we could celebrate anything and everything with our loved ones. I would donate to small businesses to help them get through this challenging time.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
Please don’t come near this plate of macaroni and cheese.
YOU OBTAINED A BACHELORS IN BUSINESS SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
There are so many online options available to young women today and some, like CodeAcademy, are freely available. Explore your dream career and learn everything you can about what success looks like. Talk to people who are in your dream role and discover how others succeeded on the path you want to walk.
Research the courses that will help you on your way and sign yourself up. The world is entering a tough economic climate and hard work, initiative and resilience will be key to your success. Whilst you’re upskilling, build up a network, attend online events and try to find an internship opportunity through your network or a company like the Knowledge Trust. Looking back, a paid internship at an advertising agency taught me more than my undergraduate degree ever did.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
If I think back, I was sitting in a lecture about digital marketing, which was then called e-marketing. Up until that time, Marketing had been pitched as a cost exercise and one that most firms seemed to resent.
It seemed to me that there was a channel that could be tracked and analysed and where ROI could be quantified. It was also dynamic. It wasn’t just a billboard on the side of a highway, hoping for the best. Marketing seemed like a good balance of creativity and strategy and that really appealed to me.
YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS NATIVE VML, MOTRIBE AS WELL AS WOOLWORTHS. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES AND HOW DO YOU APPLY YOUR EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT Mobile Guardian?
Looking back, I’m grateful to have experience within 3 very different environments – an advertising agency, a mobile start-up and a large retailer.
Each offered up experiences and learnings which I’ll probably use for the rest of my career. Advertising taught me how to juggle multiple projects, and that developers, designers, copywriters and strategists all have a unique rhythm of working. The best teams were adaptable and worked with people, not projects. Motribe taught me to step up and offered a lot of valuable insight into the startup culture, VCs and raising funds.
Woolworths taught me that strong teams are built on regular communication, that crisis communications is indeed an art form and that an unhappy customer is a golden opportunity to put things right.
SHERYL SANDBERG MADE AN INTERESTING REMARK IN HER KICK-ASS BIOGRAPHY ‘LEAN IN: WOMEN, WORK, AND THE WILL TO LEAD’ THAT “SEARCHING FOR A MENTOR HAS BECOME THE PROFESSIONAL EQUIVALENT OF WAITING FOR PRINCE CHARMING”. SHE IS ILLUSTRATING THE NOTION OF WOMEN HAVING TO SEEK APPROVAL OR VALIDATION ESPECIALLY FROM MEN WHO ARE AT MOST TIMES THE MENTORS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON MENTORSHIP?
I have a lot of thoughts about mentorship.
At both Native and Woolworths, I reported to strong women in leadership roles and they probably don’t know it, but their words have rung in my ears for years. Mentorship is important; it’s important for young women to see other women charting successful paths. I felt very alone and on the ledge running a marketing consultancy, as there were almost no female entrepreneurs to turn to for advice. At every event, it was male speakers, male entrepreneurs and majority male attendees.
Entrepreneurship is fraught with imposter syndrome, and it would have made a real difference to have a female mentor. If we think about it, it’s a terrible idea to have young, impressionable women who are starting out in their careers having to seek validation from men. If you’re a young woman and you need a mentor in marketing, please reach out to other women.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY OF WORK LOOK LIKE? ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
It’s usually checking emails and slack channels first thing in the morning, followed by reviewing the marketing metrics. A daily check-in with my team and then tackling big projects that we’re working on. You have to be adaptable and no day is the same. One day might see me writing a press release, the next training a new team member, pitching to potential investors or creating a report on commercial activity for the quarter.
I am team “2 coffees before 9:30 am otherwise bad things will happen to good people.”
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
With boundaries, which admittedly has been hard during the lockdown, because the lounge is my office and the office is my lounge. As a society, we seem to have fallen into an always-on work culture and I’ve found taking a 20-minute walk every day without my phone really helpful.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
Leadership is so many things but ultimately it’s inspiring and steering people to deliver on a crystal-clear mission.
It’s about creating an environment that is better than when you found it. It’s about understanding people, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and keeping your ego in check. The best leaders I have ever had, have rolled up their sleeves and got into the trenches with us and led from the front. That’s the style I hope I emulate.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
It can offer a lot of insight into different organisations and how they operate. Don’t be silly about it and hop somewhere every 6 months because I’m not sure you learn anything truly meaningful in such a short time. But, should an opportunity presents itself to you and can offer you something, take it with both hands.
FORBES HAS AN ANNUAL ‘THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL CMOS’ REPORT. FOR THE YEAR 2019, ONE OF THE KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT WAS THAT 31 OF THE 50 CMOS WERE WOMEN WHILST THERE WERE 19 MEN. IN YOUR OPINION, IS THIS A POSITIVE REPRESENTATION OF GENDER EQUALITY?
Is it a positive representation? Well, yes. However, it does feel a bit like a participation medal, as based on my experience, the marketing department traditionally tends to be the women’s arena. If you look at most management teams, female faces are usually next to HR and Marketing. It would be great to see a more evenly- balanced representation of women across the rest of the c-suite.
COVID19 HAS BROUGHT WITH IT AN UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION TO THE WORLD. SEVERAL COMPANIES ARE NEARING BANKRUPTCY WHILST OTHERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO EITHER CLOSE-DOWN OR LAY OFF THEIR STAFF. WHAT SHOULD THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION BE ESPECIALLY IN THE MARKETING CONTEXT AS WE ADAPT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT? HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR DEPARTMENT COUNTERED THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC?
We’re fortunate to be a bit of an outlier on this one. Mobile Guardian enables remote learning on mobile devices and globally, there’s been a significant lift in demand for these kinds of solutions.
We leapt into action, repositioned our campaigns, deployed new channels like our webinar series and set about generating as much earned media as we could. An incredible benefit of a small team is that we’re very agile and there’s no red tape. In an event such as this, there is a brief, golden window to create an impact before other brands get the chance. Those that are agile and responsive win customer mindshare in these scenarios.
No matter where you are if you’re a marketer, the context has changed for all your consumers and you need to re-think your approach for your campaigns to remain relevant.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE TO MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO THE INFOGRAPHIC CREATED BY VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. WITH THAT BEING SAID, WORKING FROM HOME/REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK? FURTHERMORE, HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION STRUCTURED YOUR WORK SINCE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC? ANY KEY LESSONS?
A lot of companies were unprepared and an enforced digital transformation in such a short space of time and under such unprecedented circumstances can only be challenging. For many, this is a new way of working that they have been resistant to and have now been forced to adopt.
As a technology company with a global presence, Mobile Guardian already had many of the tools and habits in place to work remotely. Some good advice, organise regular catch-ups and schedule recurring Google Meets in the calendar. Find ways to foster a sense of camaraderie despite the distance, as well as a way to still have those water-cooler conversations.
MARKETING OBJECTIVES WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW HAS YOUR ORGANISATION PIVOTED WHERE MARKETING IS CONCERNED AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY AMID THE PANDEMIC?
Again, we were really lucky in this regard. We had deployed a very digitally-centric, marketing strategy prior to COVID-19 due to my digital-first approach. We have ramped up efforts in certain areas but had a strong foundation in place to build from. In the midst of a pandemic, a well-thought-out and considered digital marketing strategy is essential.
I would caution brands not to rush in for the sake of rushing in. E-commerce may sound easy but there are a lot of building blocks that need to be considered when establishing this channel.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF Mobile Guardian BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN MARKETING OVER THE PAST 12 TO 18 MONTHS?
Honestly, we started with such limited marketing capabilities in 2018 (i.e. me), and I tend to celebrate every single win, no matter how small. That can be a website rebrand, a record month of inbound enquiries, or even a new Twitter follower. This team punches well above its weight in all aspects and I’m really proud that Mobile Guardian is growing market share in all our territories.
Highlights would be launching our Chromebook solution earlier this year, which has gained incredible traction in the market, as well as being named a finalist in the largest EdTech awards in the United Kingdom.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT Mobile Guardian?
If you’re a technology company like Mobile Guardian then innovation needs to be woven into the lifeblood of your organisation in order to succeed. You need to create value for both consumers as well as the organisation, and an innovative solution is that sweet spot. To me, innovation is constantly solving challenges for your customers before they even realise they have them.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR OWN SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
Gosh, I could talk about influencer marketing for days and it was the subject of my dissertation.
In my mind, this channel isn’t going anywhere soon, however, the shifted landscape means that influencers will need to work harder to demonstrate value and marketers need to refine their approach. The pandemic has forced a lot of marketers to pull spend and reconsider how they use their existing channels.
I hope that we’ll see a shift towards more meaningful success metrics and more considered campaigns. It should no longer be about how many followers an influencer has, but rather how many beeps they have created at the till point. Marketers also have to sit down and do some homework and not simply continue to work with the largest voices in the room. Personally, I believe there is greater trust and more meaningful buying influence in smaller networks and the recently-defined “ nano-influencer” is where brands are going to find success.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN’T YOU LIVE WITHOUT?
I would be very lost without Slack, Whatsapp, Netflix and Itunes.
HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE DATA TO INFORM YOUR DECISION-MAKING?
To me, effective marketing strikes a balance between creativity and data, and the two should go hand-in-hand. I think you’re in danger if you rely too much on one over the other.
I use data to underpin all marketing decisions. Whether it’s reviewing past campaigns, or experimenting with new approaches to take, the answers are all there in the data. I cannot stress this enough; data should be a cornerstone of any marketing strategy. Without it, you are operating on a wing and a prayer and you don’t know if your brand is going forwards, or backwards, or even sideways.
Frankly, I am annoyed by marketers who don’t use data in their decision-making. Please stop it, you’re making the rest of us look bad.
WHAT’S YOUR SMARTEST WORK-RELATED SHORTCUT OR PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
One of the best pieces of advice is to keep your emails 5 sentences or less where appropriate. Yes, sometimes this feels impossible but it forces you to really consider the content of your email and helps you communicate in a valuable and effective way. Long, drawn-out emails are time-consuming and hard to sift through and I used to be very guilty of writing them.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
I’ve just finished ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and have recommended it to every woman I know. I read a lot of South African and global non-fiction and am genuinely excited that the Daily Maverick is launching a weekly newspaper. E-reader for books.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Definitely Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU REPLACE IT WITH?
I like this elbow pop we’ve got going on. But a toe tap and a “one-two cha cha cha” would be a great addition.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
One of the positives of 2020 has been that Facetime, Whatsapp calls and Google Meet-ups are the new norms. I’ve managed to keep in touch with all my family and friends, and even celebrate a few virtual birthdays across the globe. That said, this is a tough time and I hope everyone is doing okay.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
The beginning of your career is incredibly important. Use it to build momentum and start building up a network. Create value wherever you go and show up with a great attitude. Read the news, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, keep on top of trends and don’t become complacent.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Wear sunblock and buy up some bitcoin.
WHAT HAVEN’T YOU SOLVED? WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE?
How to switch my brain off. I tend to care deeply about the work I do and can find it hard to switch off.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
Professionally, I would like to become a CMO and personally, a long-held dream is to one day dive with whale sharks, responsibly of course.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
My female heroes are real women, living grounded, everyday lives. They are family, friends and colleagues who motivate, inspire and support. They are tackling the many challenges that women face in their homes, in their workplaces and in society. Honestly, everyday women are the real heroes.