Endeavor’s recently appointed CMO, Bozoma Saint John was joined by Canadian YouTube personality, Lilly Singh and WWE’s chief brand officer, Stephanie McMahon, to discuss the importance of taking risks while building brands.
The trio began their discussion on day two of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity by talking about their unique social media handles.
“It’s self-explanatory. I never thought it was too bold. While I was at Uber, I was asked to re-consider it, but I don’t really subscribe to any rules. Address me as ‘Badass’,” said Saint John on her Twitter handle which is ‘badassboz’.
Singh’s YouTube channel is under the ID ‘IISuperwomanII’. On the ID, she said, “When I started off on YouTube eight years ago, I didn’t think it would turn into a business. It was just an empowering ID.”
Singh added, “Soon enough I learned storytelling and the importance of it. Stories are at the heart of everything.”
McMahon spoke about passion, and how one should be doing things only that they’re passionate about doing.
She then asked Saint John about her journey so far and how she landed up being CMO at Endeavor.
Saint John said, “My last four roles including the one at Endeavor have been roles that have been created for me. So, I really haven’t had a lot of role models to follow. I was on track to becoming a doctor when I decided to take a break and go to New York City. I got a temporary job which landed me at SpikeDDB.
“At the agency I was an assistant and then was passed on a script. I took a red pen and started fixing grammar among other things. It opened up a door for me and started by destiny in the advertising and marketing world.”
Gender bias and diversity
The next topic the trio spoke about was the hotly debated ‘gender bias’ and diversity.
Saint John’s solution for that was for women to make their offer, rather than wait for one. She explained, “We have to demand our worth. For Black women it (pay) was even worse. I researched pays for all positions I applied for and made that offer. And (luckily enough), I got that too.”
Singh believes the fact that she’s a women of colour has been both a pro and con for her.
“It helped me gain a lot of traction. But, then at the same time media outlets called me stuff like ‘The voice of India’ or ‘The Indian girl’. People wanted to characterise me. It took a little re-branding for me to get people aware that I’m Canadian. I’m born and brought up there. The digital space is a big space where there’s no gatekeeper for the upload button. The more traditional spaces have been difficult,” said Singh.
WWE’s McMahon brought out her own experience. “I was at a conference for sports leagues and I was the only lady in the room. I wasn’t given a seat on the main table. But, I felt it was important for me to get a seat at the table and also have a voice. It was about making a point. We are after all the number two brand on YouTube in terms of subscribers behind the Indian Bollywood brand T-Series. And trust me, after I made my voice heard at the conference, it was very well received.”
Saint John added, “If any company has lack of diversity or sexual violence prevalent. Instead of forcing it to shut down or whatever, we all should step in and take over it.”
The trio then spoke about learnings they’ve had over the course of their careers and how brands could learn from them.
Singh’s advice to brands was to be patient and ‘start saying no’. She said, “I got to ride the YouTube wave in the sense that I grew as the platform grew. Over that time, I learned that I had to wait to establish my brand and start saying no to things even though they may have been very attractive at the time. A big thing in brand building is being patient.”
WWE’s McMahon surmised by stating how she disappointed her father Vince McMahon, who also happened to be her boss at the organisation. “At one point I was micro-managing everything. And my father told me I wasn’t succeeding at it. I tried to do everything and that was hurting our business. So, it made sense to hire experts who are better than you at what they do, and allow them to make mistakes. They will learn from those mistakes.”