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Ep 78: The Power of Marketing & Inclusive Story Telling – A Conversation with Margaret Molloy

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Introduction:  Margaret Molloy is the Global Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Business Development for Siegel & Gale. Siegel and Gale is a brand, strategy, design and experience firm headquartered in NYC. Siegel and Gale believe in the power of simplicity and essentially believe Simple is Smart. 


Podcast Episode Summary

This episode explores the Power of Marketing and the Power of Inclusive Story telling for Organisations, Teams and Brands. Margaret eloquently shares her wisdom leading teams, building brands and the journey she has been on to break down and unlearn some of the myths & biases she may have unwittingly absorbed from her background and training. She also shares the values and experiences that have shaped her and have grounded her ability to be open, influential and inclusive. Her last story epitomises her work and her ability to navigate the tensions across two countries, two countries she loves and calls her home. 

Points made over the episode

  • Margaret grew up in County Offaly, Ireland on a diary farm. She was the eldest of six siblings. She enjoyed values of hard work, community, respect and dignity for others. She studied Business & Spanish in Coleraine in Northern Ireland and attributes that time as being formative, shaping her appreciation for cultural differences.  
  • Enterprise Ireland sent her to NYC for her first role with them and Margaret has never looked back. She loves the energy and chaos of NYC. Margaret lives in the Middle of Manhattan, NYC with her two teenage boys and her husband.
  • As a lover of two countries USA and Ireland, Margaret recognises that everyone has an identity and it can be multidimensional. Sometimes we are too quick to label people and put them in boxes. Margaret identifies equally as both American and Irish and she use the image of Janus, the God of all beginnings,  to explain her thinking. 
  • Inclusive Story Telling is best explained in a story. Margaret shares receiving feedback from a guest after a Panel Interview she held in Boston, an event she thought went well but to the writer failed to show case inclusivity.  Margaret’s focus had been on gender diversity but she learnt that she was exhibiting colour blindness. The feedback she received turned out to be Margaret’s inclusive awareness moment. 
  • Space for Reflection is an important consideration. Every strength for example has its shadow. Good to think about using time to reflect and to apply questions or frameworks to get at learning. Important too to remember to upgrade our mental models. Margaret has learnt from her own experiences to be colour brave as opposed to colour blind. 
  • Curiosity and Judgement are two phenomena that cannot co-exist. Margaret shares how she unlearnt the supposed criticism that to be nosey was wrong. For Margaret one of the greatest gift you can give someone is to ask a generous question
  • Simple is smart is a principle Siegel and Gale adopt. Being a simplifier pays. The worlds smartest brands understand the power of simplicity, whether that is through visuals, plain language or their promised experience. Research has shown that the customer will pay more for simplicity and will pay brands with loyalty. The Capital markets reward brand simplicity too. 
  • Simplicity is the intersection of Clarity and Surprise. Clarity in the use of plain language, easily understood messages, smart visuals and the surprise component is the antithesis of dull, that ahah moment when a customer appreciates “this is exactly how I would have wanted it”  
  • Siegel and Gale search for simplifiers. The beauty of simplifiers is that they know what to strip away and what to leave behind, such that a customer is clear on a brands intention and has a frictionless experience. 
  • Management is a privilege & a responsibility. Siegel and Gale are extremely thoughtful about the entire employee life cycle and how it carries through on its promises. Onboarding for example comes with robust mentoring. 
  • Psychological Safety is an important construct and Margaret pays attention to the culture she develops by encouraging people to speak in draft form, have constructive input and provide feedback. Margaret creates process, questions and frameworks to encourage psychological safety. 
  • We cannot confuse Psychological safety with group hugs. Group hugs are great and humane but Psychological safety is about business, inspiring people is a precursor to profitability.  
  • Getting at Psychological Safety is a journey. Many of us have been trained in ways that have encouraged command and control and hierarchical structures. We have been taught to value efficiency and much of the language used in corporate life is machine like. 
  • Homogenous teams are a recipe for blind spots, especially for marketeers trying to communicate with audiences that have not had the same experiences as us. Our mental models need to adjust. We need to think in terms of our impact as well as the outputs we are generating. 
  • Margaret shares how she cultivates Psychological Safety on her teams. After a project is completed she will ask what people liked and what they would wish for differently. This thinking framework evokes less defensiveness. She also uses affirmation with her team members-giving affirmation that is sincere, succinct and specific. As humans we are starved of affirmation.  
  • Criticism is an oft used tactic. Our propensity to offer criticism is grounded in our quest for efficiency. We want to fix things. The culprit is often time. We need to prioritise ruthlessly. 
  • In marketing things are changing so rapidly, there are so many new tools and processes for doing things. It is easy to get caught up in shiny new objects as opposed to being curious about what matters and impact. 
  • Simple rules for teams include; Preparing rigorously, contributing wholeheartedly and safeguarding your own trustworthiness. 
  • Important to mind your reputation and be curious to understand what people say about you when you are not in the room. 
  • Margaret shares a few more thoughts on Leadership & Teams- consider the old practice of apprenticeships. Margaret hires for attitude and builds for aptitude. 
  • Infuse Purpose, as leaders we can be quick to tell people how and what to do but sometimes we neglect the why for their work. 
  • The purpose for meetings is a topic that is often overlooked. Consider the meetings purpose, manage the context, type of meeting, how you dress the room and the theatre of meetings. Consider the roles people have in meetings such as facilitator, moderator, scribe, equal colleague etc…We should think about meets as strategic devices not as something you have to show up at. The Pre-read and Post-read should be considered as part of the meeting. 
  • In closing Margaret shares a story, a story that showcases the power of inclusive story telling. She shares how her passion for fashion and aesthetics and her love of her two countries served as an idea to create an event in 2019 to show case 10 Irish (unknown fashion designers) in NYC.  

Resources shared 

  • How CMOs Commit Podcast with Margaret Molloy-
  • Future of Branding CMO panel series 
  • Twitter: @margaretmolloy @siegelgale
  • Instagram: wearingirish Margaret Molloy

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