What an extraordinary day it was.
Each and every speaker inspired us with their BRAVE stories of extreme commitment, jeopardy, and perseverance in their journey to success. Now it may only be me but I also thought I detected noticeable signs of insanity – in a good way, if that makes any sense. In most contexts, it’s something we fear but when it comes to making a difference, perhaps insanity and bravery are essential, inseparable impulses that emerge when we act from a deep sense of conviction? It certainly seemed to be the case with our speakers.
Raha Moharrak, defied her Saudi Arabian origins, culture and conventions, as well as her father’s resistance, to become the first Arab woman to climb Mount Everest. She worried her achievement was just a massive self-indulgence, until a young Saudi girl thanked her for inspiring her into believing she could do anything she wanted.
With immense warmth, wit and humanity, Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo, encouraged us to say “yes” to a career-cocktail of two parts bravery and a dash of insanity and embrace “the jobs we think we can’t do, because they’re the ones we learn most from”.
Syrian refugee, Hassan Akkad, presented his remarkable, BAFTA winning, ‘Exodus’ journey as a tale of enforced bravery. The challenges that followed were epically insane by anyone’s standards; their boat sank in the Aegean and they swam seven hours to the coast of Greece, before walking for weeks across Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, to reach the inhospitable ‘welcome’ of the Calais Jungle.
Andrew Clarke, CMO of Mars, shared the company’s brave decision during the collapse of the Russian economy, to allow retailers to pay them only after they’d sold their products. While the industry saw insanity, Mars managed to more than double their market share in Russia.
CEO of Babylon, Dr Ali Parsa, could have sat back and enjoyed the well-earned fruits of previous start up successes but instead risked it all insanely?], to create an AI diagnostician to potentially bring fast, low-cost healthcare to many millions of patients who currently go without.
Mark Thompson, The New York Times CEO, shared the bravery amid the insanity of the US President accusing the paper of peddling ‘false news’. Their brilliant ‘The truth is hard’ campaign and their boldness to back it with $10m ad spend, created a beacon of independent journalism and resulted in a massive increase in readership.
Our gratitude must go to Gemma and The Marketing Society for their delightful mix of bravery and insanity, in picking a conference theme that encouraged emotional talks that help make bravery contagious.
This piece was written by John Kearon. Follow him @chiefjuicer.