Startups are the new brands on the block (Or: Why I left my convenient advertising career for working with young companies (that will one day rule the world)

This is what happened to me a few years ago: I am an ad man, working with the most desirable brands like Microsoft, P&G, VW, Intel, Hyundai and many others. I’m the king of digital, social, TV, print and every marketing channel out there. I have the biggest budgets, the highest salary, and my professional future is smiling at me. But I’m bored and unhappy… something is missing, and I don’t know what it is.

The phone rings. It’s a man, his name is Phil, and he just founded a new shoe company. He asks me to meet him and discuss his new company’s marketing strategy. This was his story:

“I was traveling all over the world after my graduation, and when I got to Japan, I discovered a super cool company that sells running shoes — high quality and low price. I bought the rights for distributing those shoes in the US, and I want to make it an amazing global consumer brand company that will encourage people to do more physical exercises and connect it to practical and emotional reasons. Currently, the company’s name is Nike. A friend suggested it, and I’m not sure I love it.”

“I’ll be happy to meet you,” I answered immediately.

Phil Knight. Before we met and made him change his haircut.

Phil Knight. Before we met and made him change his haircut.

So, yeah.. it didn’t really happened, but imagine you could do this kind of conversations with the CEOs of young companies that are crazy enough to try and reshape the world. There is nothing better, as a marketer, to have the opportunity to join their journey, help them find their voice and place in the world while building global and disruptive brands.

So I started to work with startups as a marketing strategy advisor, as a co-founder, and as a seed investor.

After almost 5 years of working with startups, I finally understood why this connection between startups and marketers is so native and strong. Not like the big established brands, startups are brands in their baby steps, even if they raised their shiny 10 million dollars, the road is still very long, and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to build a brand from scratch. You can (and should) break some marketing rules and find new models, and startups’ founders are the perfect partner for it — most of them are super smart people who understand the psychological aspects of the marketing, they are super innovative in their thinking, and they expect you to think differently like them. It’s a win-win situation: Founders most of the times have a great vision — and you, the marketer, want to turn big vision into a greater story

Every one of those startups might be the next global brand in e-commerce, payment, insurance, finance infrastructure, financial services, consumer brand, marketplace, cyber security, VR, AR and any more domains. Every one of those founders could be the next big CEO, and you might build the next big global brand her / him.

Well, this is something any marketer would love to do, at least I would.