Cartoonist inspired by General Mills leader
Mark Addicks, who recently retired as chief marketing officer at General Mills, worked on hundreds of campaigns across dozens of brands during his quarter century with the company.
It’s difficult to quantify all of his contributions, even harder to measure all of the lives he impacted.
Tom Fishburne, the founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, is just one person whose career was greatly influenced by Mark. He says Mark taught him everything he needed to know about marketing and inspired him to start a marketing agency that specializes in communicating with cartoons.
He recently wrote about Mark on his blog and, of course, drew an appropriate cartoon for it.
Fishburne was a student at Harvard Business School when he heard Mark give a guest lecture, and until then, thought of marketing as a way of communicating features and benefits to an audience.
“Mark really talked about marketing as being something much, much deeper. You find out what your underlying promise is to your audience, and it’s about this deeper, underlying message,” he says.
Fishburne knew he wanted to work in marketing after hearing the lecture and later interviewed with Mark. He worked as an intern and associate marketing manager at General Mills from 2001-2004.
Fishburne had been doing cartoons about student life at Harvard for the school’s weekly paper and wanted to continue drawing while at General Mills.
“I thought, here’s another environment with a lot of inside jokes. Maybe I’ll start a cartoon about the world of marketing. Originally, I thought that it would really only be for my friends at General Mills. I didn’t think that it would ever spread any wider.”
He started a web page where people could sign up for weekly marketing cartoons. At first, just 35 colleagues received it. Within a few weeks, marketers from companies around the world were signing up. (His cartoons are now read by over 100,000 people a week).
The cartoons, which were set to be emailed during the business day, sometimes poked fun at General Mills and big corporate hierarchies.
“There’s this term in companies that have cubicles called ‘prairie-dogging’, where people’s heads pop above the cubicle. The cartoons would go out, and if they struck a little too close to home, you’d see people prairie-dogging over the cubicles. I sometimes wondered if I pushed it too far, but it was all in good spirit. I never had a poison pen. Every cartoon I did was from the position of getting people to think about things differently and hopefully laugh at ourselves,” he says.
Mark soon requested a meeting with Fishburne. The cartoonist thought he would be told to tone it down.
Instead, Mark encouraged Fishburne to keep taking risks.
“Not only was Mark encouraging of me following my own passions and interests, but he actually introduced me directly to a friend of his who was a cartoonist to get to know him and find out more about that path. I think that was representative behavior of Mark’s. He liked to find out what interested people in a deep and personal way, and he would do whatever he could to help their own interests.”
Fishburne says he also was inspired by Mark’s entrepreneurial spirit and ventures outside of General Mills.
“It was partly by seeing how successful Mark was at his other entrepreneurial efforts that ultimately led me to starting a business based on my cartoons.”
Marketoon Studios works with companies – Google and IBM are some of the biggies – to help them reach their audiences using the medium of cartoons.
Fishburne’s blog expands on the themes in his cartoons and helps him connect with other marketers.
“In much the same way that Mark inspired me to think about marketing differently, I try to think about how my cartoons can do the same thing for other marketers.”
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