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Q&A with Justin Kirby: global author, strategist and raconteur

Meet Justin, a globally renowned author and speaker. He’s one of the marketing sector’s deepest thinkers, a ripping raconteur and a typical Brit you’d love to have a beer with.

Justin Kirby is a marketer who’s done it all. He’s a globally renowned consultant, writer, speaker and educator. His 20+ year career includes; content marketing expert, digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur.

 

He has been writing about the impact of digital technologies on business and marketing since the early 90s. His books include Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution and – one of my personal favourites – The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing: Perspectives, Issues, Challenges and Solutions.

 

He also produced the Best of Branded Content Marketing series of publications and accompanying events which he conceived and curated from 2013-2017.

 

Despite being one of the sector’s deepest thinkers, he’s self-deprecating, a ripping raconteur, and a typical Brit you’d love to have a (hopefully cold) beer with.

Justin Kirby presenting on stage

What do you do?

Most recently, I’ve been helping Thomas Kolster launch the Goodvertising Network in order to help scale his mission: to make business put people and the planet first.

 

For the ten years prior, I was a strategist on longer-term projects where digital transformation, capability building and marketing meet.

The onward march of digital technology has transformed the media landscape and how we consume it. The upshot being the way brands take their products and services to market needs to evolve.

And that involves the blurring of lines between different disciplines and approaches that were previously more siloed, i.e. digital design and production, marketing, customer service, etc.

 

There isn’t, as yet, a grand unified theory (GUT) that combines traditional marketing with the more design-thinking based go-to-market strategy approach of the (lean) start-up space.

 

There is, however, decision science that supports the use of jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework of the late Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen, in a marketing communications context. And so, JTBD could be the glue that joins traditional marketing with the GTM approach of the start-up space.

Tell us about your book ‘The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing’

The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content
We set out to try and answer the question “WTF is content?” Everyone was talking about it, but no one was aligned or even talking about the same thing.

We decided content is better thought of as an ethos – to earn consumer attention. Not a discipline, solution or tactic that’s separate to other marketing efforts.

And just as importantly, we present a lens informed by the JTBD framework that helps brands and their partners tune what they deliver at important moments along their customer journeys.

And just as importantly, we present a lens informed by the JTBD framework that helps brands and their partners tune what they deliver at important moments along their customer journeys.

What mantra are you living by this year?

I don’t think I am alone in rethinking what it is important as a result of Coronavirus.

 

After three or so months in lockdown, including two weeks having to self-isolate, I’ve had plenty of time for reflection, as well as catching-up on box sets and long list of DIY chores, including some extreme gardening.

 

The lockdown experience encouraged me to volunteer for the UK’s leading charity for the elderly, to help made sure some of the most vulnerable in society didn’t fall through the cracks.

 

That’s just part of broader rethink about work/life balance and less stress. I’ve also been participating more in the community, beyond being just passive member of a neighborhood WhatsApp Group.

What’s the most important thing marketers can do to drive commercial outcomes?

The challenge is to actually engage with customers given there is so much competing for their attention.
So being there at important moments along their journeys and also being worth their time is key.
That requires more design-type thinking about how to go to market, so value is delivered rather than just described, i.e. like advertising.

What’s a cracking book you’d recommend or podcast you swear by?

I highly recommend Thomas Kolster’s new book The Hero Trap: How to Win in a Post-Purpose Market by Putting People in Charge.

 

In short, it challenges Sinek’s ‘start with why’ mantra and instead, encourages brands to reframe their mission around a consumer need.

 

I love Kolster’s quote: “Try to fly like a superman, and you will come down like a tin of soup.”

Who are your go-to thought leaders, and why?

Well, there’s you Matt of course. But also, the long list of others who contributed to The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing’ book including Thomas mentioned above but also Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore authors of multiple books including the Experience Economy and Authenticity: what consumers really want.

 

I am also a big fan of Christian Madsbjerg co-author of The Moment of Clarity Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems and author of Sensemaking What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm.

I tend to be drawn to those, like yourself, who challenge conventional wisdom based on General Patten’s maxim: ‘’If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

Our favourite qu: What’s your top beer or wine recommendation?

The grog shop round the corner sells take away draft beer from local breweries. So, I usually buy one of the pale ales they have on offer. Burning Sky’s Arise is a favourite.

 

Don’t drink much wine ‘nowadaze’ but am partial to a G&T and not particularly snobby about who makes the two essential parts, although it always seems better with ice and slice.

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