The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing – Interview with Tom Fishburne


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marketoonist book

Today’s interview is with Tom Fishburne, the Founder & CEO of Marketoonist, a cartoon studio focused on content marketing. He’s also a very popular cartoon blogger and has just published a new book called: Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings. Tom joins me today to talk cartoons, marketing, his new book what’s changed and what hasn’t in the last 15 years in marketing.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Delivering a great customer experience is not really a technology challenge any more – Interview with Mark Smith – and is number 237 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Tom:

  • Tom has recently published a new book called: Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings.
  • Tom has been drawing a cartoon a week about marketing for the last 15 years.
  • The book is a compilation of Tom’s 200 favourite cartoons from the last 15 years. They are arranged in chronological order so you can see the development of his thinking, the fominant marketing themes of the time and how they have changed over time.
  • One of the big things that Tom has noticed is that there has been an incredible rush of new technology over the last few years but that marketers are often guilty of ’shiny, new object’ syndrome.
  • It’s not about doing digital marketing it’s about how to market effectively in a digital world.
  • Another big thing Tom has noticed over the years is that marketing is in danger of living in an ‘Ivory Tower’ where marketers become isolated from both their customers and the rest of their organisations.
  • Talking to customers is humbling and reminds you where you fit into the order of things.
  • We are now celebrating people that go out and talk to customers as if that is some sort of new and innovative practice.
  • Tom recounts a story of a time when he interviewed at Apple. He remembers the VP that he interviewed with who told him that he made time twice a month to go into an Apple store and work a shift.
  • It takes courage to strip away the ego to be able to do that, especially if you have attained a VP-type level or position. However, that Apple VP said that it transformed the way that he looked at his role and the rest of his life.
  • Tom highlights a couple of his favourite cartoons for you to think about (click on the images to go through to the original cartoon with accompanying commentary):
    • compromise with legal

    compromise with legal

    • making the leap

    making the leap

  • Here’s a couple of my favourites that focus on service, experience and engagement:
    • loyalty programs

    loyalty programs

    • marketing with virtual assistants

    marketing with virtual assistants

  • Tom would advise marketers to do two things:
    • 1. Remember that ’the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing’, and
    • 2. Get out of your offices and spend more time with your customers. You will learn so much about their reality and what matters to them (Tom mentioned the ‘inside the mind of the consumer’ cartoon that highlights the gap that can exist between what marketers and customers think).

inside the mind of the consumer

  • One final favourite from Tom: shiny object syndrome
  • shiny object syndrome
  • Wow service/experience for Tom involves combining elements such as high-touch and high scale with micro moments that matter (Google research found that people are more loyal to their needs in the moment than they are to any particular brand). This is typified by a recent experience he had when he went with his family to Union Bank so that his kids could open up their first bank accounts. The branch experience was great but a few days later Tom’s kids received a hand written card from the branch manager that was also signed by all of the branch employees thanking them from coming in and opening up an account with them.
  • Ironically, in the not too distant future human touch will become the new, killer app.
  • Do grab a copy of Tom’s new book: Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings and sign up fro his newsletter here.
  • About Tom (taken from his bio here)

    Tom FishburneMarketoonist is the thought bubble of Tom Fishburne, a veteran marketer and cartoonist.

    Tom started cartooning on the backs of business cases as a student at Harvard Business School. While in various marketing roles at General Mills, Nestle, Method and HotelTonight, Tom parodied the world of marketing in a weekly cartoon. From an email to 35 co-workers in 2002, his cartoons have grown by word of mouth to reach several hundred thousand readers each week and have been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and the New York Times.

    Tom soon realized that cartoons are a remarkable form of shareable media. In 2010, he launched Marketoonist to help large and small businesses such as Google, IBM, Kronos, and Unilever reach their audiences with cartoons.

    Tom is a frequent keynote speaker on innovation, marketing and creativity, using cartoons, case studies, and his marketing career to tell the story visually. The Huffington Post ranked his South-By-Southwest (SXSW) talk the third best of the conference out of 500.

    Tom gave a talk at the Do Lectures about pursuing a lifelong dream of becoming a cartoonist.

    Find out more at, grab a copy of Tom’s new book (Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business, and Doodling in Meetings), say Hi to Tom on Twitter @tomfishburne and feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn here.


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