M a r k e t e r the seven plots all stories must follow

important technology. That’s certainly the view of Paul Petrone, Editor

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important technology. That’s certainly the view of Paul Petrone, Editor 

in Chief of the LinkedIn Learning blog. He explains how his particular 

approach to storytelling evolved, and why a world of data and fake news 

makes storytelling skills more important – not less.


P33 Dinner for 5_MC_FINAL.indd   33

17/08/2017   15:07


S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r       39


What’s your favorite use of storytelling in B2B campaigns?



There was one that LinkedIn Talent Solutions did on the importance of 

getting referrals when hiring. They had all this data on why referrals were 

great. However, rather than hit people with all that data, they told stories 

of eight companies that had strong referral programs and how that helped 

transform those companies. They interviewed recruiters, who spoke authen-

tically about how referrals not only make their lives easier, but also foster 

more of a community by turning all employees into quasi-recruiters.

To me, it was a great example of combining both data and storytelling to 

create brilliant marketing.


Are stories our most important technology?



Sometimes, people use tech simply because it’s really great. Google search, 

for example, beat out their many competitors in my opinion because it 

simply worked better than Yahoo! or the thousands of other search engines.

But, many times that simply isn’t the case. For example, Budweiser is 

probably not the best-tasting beer in America or even the cheapest beer in 

America, and yet it is the most popular. Why?

A big reason is the story their marketers tell through the brand. Budweiser 

represents rugged American individualism — the label reflects that, the 

commercials reflect that. And sales are strong because of it. 

Their advantage isn’t necessarily that they make better beer than Coors or 

Miller or the thousands of labels out there, but that they are better storytellers.

Discover Paul’s LinkedIn Learning 

recommendation for yourself. Search for  

courses from Jonah Berger and Elizabeth  

and Lisa Earle McLeod at lnkd.in/



How do you tell the LinkedIn Learning story  

through your own marketing?



LinkedIn Learning is all about combining data and 

world-class content to provide the world’s best learn-

ing experience. Our goal in marketing is to reflect that.

That means bringing our exclusive data and our 

world-class content together to form actionable 

insights for the average professional. For example, we 

recently did a campaign where we used LinkedIn data 

to find the most in-demand skills in the world right 

now and matched those skills with our courses. It was 

a huge success because it helped people do their job. 

It provided real value. That campaign could have a 

storytelling aspect as well. For example, how does it 

feel to learn a new skill, which helps you do your job 

better? What effect does that have on yourself, your 

company and your family? Has it made you feel more 

empowered, more confident? Those are the stories 

we are hungry to tell moving forward and they will 

help bring our marketing to the next level.


What was your favorite bedtime story growing up? 



My older brother John is the best storyteller I’ve ever 

been around. When I was young, I wasn’t allowed to 

watch the movie The Terminator because it was Rated 

R. I shared a room with my brother and, each night, 

he would tell me stories about The Terminator – most 

of which weren’t actually in the movie, he just made 

them up himself.

I loved it. To me, The Terminator was the coolest 

thing in the world, because of the stories my broth-

er told about it. All I wanted at that time was to get a 

Terminator action figure, so I could play with it and 

recreate my own stories. 

The takeaway? Invest in a great storyteller. My 

brother marketed The Terminator better to me than 

any piece of data ever could. Today, I still remember 

those stories – and The Terminator remains one of my 

favorite movies.


40      S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r

Ads.indd   15

17/05/2018   17:24


S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r       41

 How to set up

 a successful

 marketing team


Find how LinkedIn Marketing Solutions can help at 


isa Gilbert’s priority list will feel familiar to many marketers. We asked her  

about the principles that she believes marketing leaders need to apply, to set up 

their team for success:

How do you engage and motivate your team?

The world feels like a tough place right now, and it’s important to be keenly aware of the 

impact that this has on the people in your team. Employees need to be able to come to work 

as their whole self; to find the internal motivation that they need every morning; to engage 

with their colleagues and do great things. You can lean on your marketing team a lot. It’s 

something we actively encourage our business to do. However, you have to make sure that 

you’ve got skilled people who are fighting fit, in order to deal with that pressure.

At IBM, we have a big cultural play around being bold and 

brave. We have empowered our whole marketing and commu-

nications team in the UK and Ireland to explore new and inno-

vative ways of working. We want them to experiment with new 

tactics and skills while pushing themselves out of their comfort 

zone to build stand out campaigns. We believe that “growth and 

comfort don’t co-exist”, and so we’ve encouraged our 

sales teams to push us if they don’t feel we’re giving 

them the support and insights that they need. We’re 

now focusing on building resiliency into that cul-

ture. We want to make sure that we’re providing 

the right support to ensure that people don’t feel 

overwhelmed, creating safe spaces to chat, and 

building a culture that rests on looking out for 

one another and reaching out when we need to.

What’s the secret to 

building the right culture?

It’s very important to be proactive and put 

programs in place. My team and I have 

identified  four  elements  of  our  culture 

that will be particularly important: em-

powerment, empathy, a sense of being one 

team, and fun. From this starting point, we asked  

ourselves what an empowered team, for example, 

actually looks like: what language do you use? What 

rituals do you have? What barriers do you need to  

overcome? We’ve created a sort of cultural SWAT 

team known as the ‘Culture Club’ that’s working 

on  these  outputs  and  figuring  out  the 

touchpoints that can help to give us the 

culture we need.

How do you work with  

other departments?

I expect my team and myself to have a meaningful relationship 

with our sales organization, with customer service and with oth-

er areas of the business. If you want to be a genuine partner to 

these functions then you have to be relevant. You have to work 

on earning your seat at that table. At IBM, data is the currency 

with which we operate, and you have to have data to prove your 

point. You can’t just rely on vague metrics and conjecture.

That’s why I’m a fan of real targets that have obvious and 

immediate relevance to the bottom line. For example, we have 

a  significant  lead  generation  target  for  the  coming  year,  and 

we know that those leads have to turn into wins. We work with 

our sales teams and other partners to achieve this. It keeps you 

grounded as a marketing team and it ensures that you can get 

real when you sit down to talk with your sales partners.

How do you determine priorities?

We start with the business plan; sitting down with the CEO 

to look at where we want to take the business, including our 

value proposition and how it compares to our competitors. 

We’ll ask where we want to drive unique value into the mar-

ket: in AI, the cloud or cyber security, for example. We’ll then 

work with sales to determine what IBM needs to be famous 

for, in order to deliver that business plan, and we’ll pick rel-

evant metrics off the back of that. Finally we look at what our 

marketing team needs to be famous for, in order to demon-

strate that we’re driving incremental value to the business in 

line with our plan.

Does leading a marketing team for 

IBM give you a different relationship 

to marketing technology?

We’re a little more educated because of the AI and Blockchain 

solutions that we sell. However, we’ve had to go on funda-

mentally the same journey as any marketer would. Our APIs 

are open to everyone, but as with any innovation, you’ve got 

to want it bad. It’s really easy to settle for doing things the 

way they’ve always been done. Personally, I’ve been learning 

and trying to become an expert like everyone else, building 

my awareness of what we can do.

How do you balance new channels 

with tried and tested tactics?

We always have a mindset to try new things, but we have to bal-

ance that with brand safety and reputation management. We 

often take the approach of using a tried and tested tactic, but 

amplifying that tactic on a range of different channels. If we run 

an event, for example, we’ll try to develop interesting and inno-

vative social media activity before, during and after the event,  to 

increase the value that we get from it. That’s why we have a good 

relationship with platforms like LinkedIn. It’s because of the po-

tential it gives us to find new, targeted and innovative ways to 

reach an audience.

Ashraf Kamel asks IBM’s CMO for the UK and Ireland,  

Lisa Gilbert about how she aligns her team for success

T O O L   B O X


Though the term “content marketing” is a fairly recent inven-

tion, marketers have been using useful, informative content to 

drive brand loyalty for decades—even centuries. Few have done 

so with more impact and influence than a certain tire manufac-

turer that decided drivers could do with knowing where to eat:





 Tales of Content


Why is a tire company responsible for  

identifying the world’s best restaurants?  

Here’s a content marketing story worth telling...




In 1900, Michelin was known for its innovative work with 

replaceable bicycle tires. They were just starting to produce 

tires for automobiles, and needed a way to promote their 

brand and increase demand for their product.

There were only 3,000 cars in France when the first 

Michelin Guide was published. Michelin had a chance to 

shape car culture while it was in its infancy. The Michelin 

Guide’s purpose was to create demand for cars—and thus 

tires—by providing a useful resource for French car owners 

to use on their journeys.

Michelin printed 35,000 copies of the guide and gave 

them away for free. The first guide had listings 

for restaurants, maps, and advice for trip 

planning. Over the next two decades, 

Michelin gave away a new guide every 

year, only interrupting their publish-

ing efforts during World War I. 

They expanded their initial 

French offering, adding guides 

to Italy, Sweden, Northern 

Africa, and more.

T O O L   B O X


S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r       43


Be useful. Michelin’s guides quickly gained a reputation 

as indispensable travel companions, thanks to the quality and 

thoroughness of their work.


Evaluate and adjust. When Michelin saw their restaurant 

listings were the most popular part of the guide, they expanded 

and improved on them.


Inform, don’t promote. The value of the guide as a marketing 

tool only increased when Michelin took the advertisements out and 

made it into a consumer product.


Grow strategically. Rather than publishing shallower guides for 

more cities, Michelin expanded their coverage slowly, keeping the 

high standard of quality people expected from the guide. In fact, they 

didn’t publish an American guide until 2005’s guide to New York.





In 1920, Michelin made major changes in the guide that would 

make it a marketplace force to be reckoned with for decades to 

come. First, they eliminated advertisements within the guide 

and began charging for it, reasoning that “man only respects 

that which he pays for.” Then, they expanded their restau-

rant listings, which were the most popular part of the guide. 

Michelin employed a team of inspectors to dine incognito 

throughout France and rate their experience.

Michelin quickly established a reputation for reliable infor-

mation on restaurants, and the guide’s reviews were more 

detailed with each edition. In 1926 they introduced a single 

star next to restaurants who provided an exceptional experi-

ence. By 1936, they had expanded to a three-star system.

These star ratings, reviewed and revised with each yearly 

edition, became a sought-after status symbol for restaurants 

throughout France. To this day, a restaurant’s fortune can rise 

or fall depending on Michelin’s trusted recommendation.



Fast forward to today, and Michelin has capitalized on their 

sterling reputation by taking the guide online, adding hotel 

and travel booking functionality. But even in the age of Yelp 

and Hotels.com, the printed versions of the guide remain 

popular. Michelin publishes 14 guides each year, covering 23 

countries, and sells them in 90 countries.

So if you’ve ever wondered why the tire company with 

the inflatable mascot shares a name with a prestigious 

restaurant guide, now you know. Michelin’s strategy for 

selling more tires established the brand as a knowledge-

able advisor for travelers worldwide. That’s a truly aston-

ishing tale of content marketing.

You’ll find more inspiration like this in our Astonishing 

Tales of Content Marketing eBook: lnkd.in/astonishing


44      S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r





Could a more holistic approach 

accelerate change?

This wasn’t the first time diversity has featured on 

the agenda of an advertising and marketing event. 

However, as MediaCom’s Chief Transformation 

Officer, Sue Unerman pointed out during a pop-up 

studio recording of our Sophisticated Marketer’s 

Podcast, we’re still woefully off-pace when it 

comes to making it happen. There were grounds 

for optimism, though. Nina dos Santos of CNN led 

on diversity and its implications for commercial 

success in her high-profile session interviewing Sir 

Martin Sorrell. It showed how this issue increasing-

ly leads any business conversation. There’s a slowly 

growing intolerance of it being sidelined.

I also heard more speakers talking about the 

importance of building a genuine culture of 

inclusion rather than just hitting representation 

targets when it comes to recruitment. This was a 

key theme for June Sarpong’s conversation with 

Oath digital prophet Dave Shing, and also of a very 

well-attended session on Neurodiversity. June 

Sarpong talked about the need for a more holis-

tic approach, rooting out all forms of unconscious 

bias and aiming to make progress on all diversity 

issues simultaneously. Based on our experiences 

at LinkedIn, I believe she’s right.




It’s time to think properly  

about context

Reaching audiences online increasingly means 

reaching them on mobile. However, not all 

mobile environments are equal when it comes 

to how willing people are to engage with brands. 

In a discussion on brand context, Jon Wilkins 

of Karmarama referenced research that showed 

how ads that proved popular on TV, magazine 

pages or posters were viewed far less positively by 

audiences when they were mocked up to appear 

on their phones. Why? Because for many people, 

phones are an intimate environment where 

advertising immediately feels more intrusive.

As marketers, we have to respect the mobile 

environment, not just reach people in it because 

they happen to be there. That means ensuring 

content and advertising appears when and 

where it’s welcome, and paying close attention 

to the value exchange. The LinkedIn feed is one 

of those environments where people expect 

to encounter messages from brands, whether 

they’re engaging on a phone or on a desktop. 

But they also expect those messages to add 

genuine value.



Like any advertising or marketing festival, 

Advertising Week Europe, which took 

place in London in March, is a whirlwind 

of ideas. Many of those ideas are thrown 

around onstage, many others come out of 

intense discussions between sessions. A lot 

of them could be found bouncing around the 

LinkedIn Oasis that we set up at the festival. 

Who knew that free cocktails and ice cream 

would be so effective at drawing a crowd  

of marketing’s finest?

Here are the six ideas that stood out most 

for me from a week at the festival. They’re 

big. They’re important. And they each have 

significant implications for marketers over 

the rest of 2018 and beyond:







L O N G   F O R M


S o p h i s t i c a t e d   M a r k e t e r       45

breathtaking sequence of a moment or two, or 

an hour-long vlog. On our Beyond the Talking 

Head panel, Alex Cheeseman of Contented 

recommended that marketers sack any agency 

that dictates video content has to be a certain 

length to succeed. 

The fact that video supports so many different 

formats and creative approaches makes it arguably 

even more important to define your signature visual 

style. As the moving image becomes more fundamen-

tal to marketing, it makes sense to embrace your inner 

director, and differentiate not just what you film – but 

how you film it. Be original, and you’ll be rewarded 

with far greater recognition and awareness.





Why wait to start mapping out 

your brand dimensions?

There’s no need to restrict your branding to visual 

style, either. Alex Cheeseman planted a fascinating 

idea when he talked about how brands should 

start using video to associate recognizable audio 

identifiers with their brand – and prepare for a world 

of voice search. Brands such as Intel have done this 

superbly, but few others have followed their lead up 

to now. David Shing took this idea a step further and 

encouraged marketers to explore other dimensions 

of their brand as well: What’s it like to touch? Is there 

a distinct gesture associated with it? Planning for a 

screenless world doesn’t have to be science fiction; 

there are definite, practical actions that marketers 

could be taking today.




The proof that it matters

Sue Unerman admits that she hasn’t always 

believed in the commercial value of brand 

purpose. She’s not alone in that. Plenty of market-

ing pundits still question whether a sense of 

purpose can make a meaningful contribution to 

the bottom line. However, unlike some others, Sue 

is open to the evidence.

In her case, that involved signing off a research 

project for MediaCom to explore the true commer-

cial impact of purpose. The study found that one out 

of every three people has chosen to buy something 

because of what the company they are buying from 

does for the environment. Two out of three had 

chosen not to buy something because they disap-

proved of the way that a company acted. And Sue 

is adamant that this isn’t just an issue for consum-

ers. Professionals are increasingly passionate about 

working somewhere with meaning, and they tend 

to view business buying decisions through an 

equally purposeful lens. 

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