John Durham is an industry…well legend.
John and I exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.
He is a professor of Marketing at University of San Francisco
He is the CEO and Managing director at Catalyst SF
Marc Goldberg : John, or shall I say, Professor. How long have you been in marketing and then digital?
John Durham: Been in marketing all of my career after school – brand, media and agency. All sides. Been in digital since 1996. Teaching has been instrumental in my professional career. USF just told me that over my 25 years of teaching I have had over 7,000 marketing undergrads/masters marketing/marketing strategies/advertising strategy students. I have over 1,800, that I know of, in the marketing business in all areas all over the world. I have personally hired some 225 and damn, they are some top notch people!
A teacher doesn’t really teach. He/she helps ignite your mind, we enjoy the journey and that has been most rewarding.
Also it keeps me on all academic research and great academic friends and discounts (LOL) All of it, well, It keeps me sane!
MG: I remember when I was a marketing student and we learned about some of the mediums then tactics and strategies for each medium. Digital has mediums within mediums. Where do you start?
JD: Today, digital is so easy to teach, it changes frequently but the access makes it easy to initiate the conversation and explain the strategy and tactics to use. A lot of the marketing principles still apply.
MG: Do you see a lot of your classwork in the “real world”?
JD: Yea, big time. We can test ideas, reactions, and philosophy for our clients. I do not believe in case studies, so we offer clients groups to help with a real problem/opportunity. So many students can help bring more thinking and options. For Catalyst, selfishly, I get to see great thinking, presenting and writing from USF and apply to Catalyst situations and vice versa.
MG: Our industry has a lack of Trust and Transparency. How do you communicate that to students without discouraging them that they have chosen the wrong path.
JD: It is hard. These students are already more informed with access to so much information.
They see that Advertising is “ The art of the persuasion” and persuasion is almost considered “lying”.
Advertising is selling and telling about the benefits. Once that product is in someone’s hand you used to think your role was done as a marketer. The continuous loop and ongoing relationship with a customer (Comments/Reviews) ensures that you manage expectations. That is usually the hurdle you have to overcome with the student is that persuasion is not lying. The trust and transparency as it pertains to opaqueness of pricing and relationships. That dynamic will change as the newer generations will enter the workforce. They expect it.
Durhamism #2645: Science has proven that a simple hug is one of the most convenient and inexpensive therapies available. Yet we remain touch starved. Sometimes a silent hug is the only thing to say. Hugs grease the wheels of the world.
MG : First, I love your Durhamisms and readers you need to Follow John on Twitter (@thedurham) and also linkedin. This Durhamism ( 2645) I struggled with. Due to Covid, I CAN’T HUG ANYONE or Shake hands or a high five. What started the Durhamism?
JD: In Capetown at the World Cup I shared some insights and my football friends named them and it started from there. Every Monday through Friday rarely weekends what’s on my mind. Things I have saved up reflected, observed.
MG: Back to hugging, How has Covid impacted you and how has it impacted your advice to your clients?
JD: As most, office interaction is close to zero. It has made our team way more collaborative with all of the product tools available. If this is the new normal, this can work and work well.
We always strive to work hard and over deliver and the team has truly stepped up as expectations have not gone down. Clients are as demanding as they always have been and quite frankly, should be.
MG: Are you optimistic for 2021 and budgets returning?
JD: We are very busy and lots of activity budgets staying same with growth 2nd half of the year . Q1 will be maintenance.
MG Give us a Durhamism for 2021.
JD Durhamism #2660: When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.
MG If all things return to normal, where are you going first and why?
JD: London and Paris, my two favorite cities in the world–energy, activity history people, culture and always perspectives on being American in a foreign land
MG: You are a big win connoisseur and sell your own wine. Did you see an increase of consumption last year?
JD: Been collecting for many years, have way too many bottles. So, curating 3 different price point cases. After getting an idea of your tastes, then ship to you and then when you receive, I go through a brief history of each bottle, suggesting foods, drinkability and timing
(Note if you are interested in learning more about John and his wine, reach out to him on Twitter.)
MG: As a wine aficionado, You are a Georgia native and a fan of Ossoff and Warnock. What bottle did you open when they won?
JD: Dry January but in February, put a split of KRUG ROSE..its the best juice in the world, gets you great, good and challenging… I am a champagne geek!
MG: As Arsenal fan, If they were to win the Premier league what bottle would you open?
JD: KRUG ROSE..a magnum..there is nothing finer than a magnum of Rose with Fritos and Popeyes Fried Chicken..
MG: MMMMM Popeyes. John you are the best. Thanks for chatting.