At Marketing Trends, we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. With more than 18 years experience in the industry, Alex Wain-Mackay shares with us his thoughts on rising trends, why Social is a minefield, and the biggest challenge to make it in a world where people have unlimited information. Read his interview here!
Career & professional background
Alex, how did you start working in marketing?
I got my first big break way back in 2003 at Universal Music Australia as the International Label Marketing Coordinator. I actually started there as the mail guy - going around with a token orange trolley and delivering all the packages.
It was actually a great role, because everyone morning and afternoon you'd meet literally everyone in the company and have a conversation. Everyone loves getting a parcel - so straight away people are happy to see you.
I'd always come around with stacks of vinyl, blocks of CDs, signed merchandise for giveaways, and cool promo stuff that they'd ordered from overseas or produced locally. So it was a lot of fun watching everyone open up these packages. Over time, you build up a rapport with people, and you get to understand the different characters behind each desk.
When an internal role came up, I applied, and although I didn't have a marketing background - I think because I'd built those relationships and showed that I was a hard worker - they took a chance on me. From there, I never really looked back. But whilst other people were at Uni, I was there literally grafting from the ground up, getting experience on the floor.
If you weren’t working in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?
That's a great question. Well, my grandfather was a jeweller, and my father followed in his footsteps too, and expanded the business even further - so I think I would have continued on the family tradition. Technically, it's another form of marketing though!
Marketing & Industry Trends
What role does marketing play at Arli Health?
It's a key role in any startup business. It's the first touch point, the first impression people have of your product, service or brand. When you are trying to build an audience, generate trust, credibility and showcase your point of difference - it's impossible to achieve any of those aims without a clear and concise marketing strategy.
At Arli Health, we're incredibly collaborative, we're constantly making sure the product and marketing are in sync. The narrative that you see across our marketing channels is reflected in the app. Likewise, the experience you have using Arli, lives up to the expectations we set prior to you on-boarding.
It can be very disappointing when you experience a disconnect between what a brand says it does and what it actually delivers. We've all been lured in by those mouth-watering photos you see in fast food restaurants - but when it arrives it looks like your burger has lost the will to live. You feel you've been lied to or at the very least misled - which isn't a good experience at all.
Likewise, if you have a great offering, but your branding feels haphazard or cheap - nobody will invest their time in it. You might have the best dish in town, but if it's presented on a tired laminated menu stuck to a board out the front - you're going to have fewer people eating there.
So we're really mindful of both of those factors as a team. Marketing is half of the customer experience, whilst the rest is down to the product / service itself.
What type of impact has COVID- 19 had on your industry?
I think it's certainly had some significant impacts. A lot of my friends who work in marketing positions in agencies are really suffering. They've had their hours cut or their pay reduced simply because the campaigns dried up overnight.
But when it comes to digital marketing - you're insulated somewhat because you don't need to rely on outdoor advertising, big activations, travel partnerships or pop-up events.
For me, as someone who is purely digital marketing, COVID-19 hasn't really impacted the work I do. There's just more eyeballs online than ever before. At Arli we're a remote team, so as long as there's Wifi - the office can be anywhere.
But I do miss the buzz of an office times. There's something to be said about those chats over coffee and being physically in a room with someone discussing ideas.
What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of marketing?
The rapid adoption and rise of all these different platforms and services is really redefining the role of the marketer now.
People expect your brand to be contactable by WhatsApp - so what's your strategy around customer service? People want to tag you on Instagram - what creative are you going to share? People want to watch you on TikTok - what clips are you going to create? People are going to leave you a review on Google, how are you going to turn that into social proof?
But there's also the question of which platform is right for your brand and your audience? Do you need a podcast because the CEO says so? So it's a pretty exciting time to be in marketing, despite it being so fragmented. There are lots of opportunities to reach new audiences and customers like never before- 24/7.
Long ago, marketers either went with their gut feel or ran a few token focus groups. You'd pick a band for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and hoped it sold well on the newsstand.
Now it's all about real-time data.
“Of these 4 movie trailers we've released, which has the highest retention rate?, Let's focus on pushing that. Which of these landing pages is converting the highest?, The one with the blue button or the green button? Which of these email subject lines had the highest open rate? What was the best time to send it? What type of content are people reading the most online? What is resonating with them? What topics are they actively searching that we can provide them with?”
There's a lot of experimentation right now in marketing, just in terms of reworking and revising your offering until it provides the most impact and highest value to the largest number of people.
That's before I've mentioned Social, which is a minefield for brands these days. Read the room, nail your content, and win the conversation, or make a misstep, and cause your brand irreparable damage.
As a marketer, what do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?
You mean apart from rising ad costs, changing algorithms, lower attention spans, uptake of ad blockers, email filtering, consumer confidence, and having to build a new audience on a new platform each week?
I'm joking. Somewhat. But I'm sure a lot of people in marketing can relate to a few of those.
I think authenticity is a huge challenge.
One thing I cannot stand is those emails you receive from brands that say "We value your feedback. We'd love to hear from you. We are you. You are us."
They create this faux narrative that you're an integral part of their world. Yet they send this automated email from a donotreply email address. That's really disingenuous.
People can access anything they want about your brand in seconds.
They can see how ethical your supply chain is, what your business practices are like, how inclusive your internal culture is, how you interact with complaints online, how you interact with the competition - everything is transparent.
If you fake it, you won't make it - not anymore. Likewise, if you're exploitative or if you shortchange people - they will abandon you in droves no matter how much you spin it.
Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your week?
I won't go into the finite details, but I think having structure is key.
I break up my day into different sprints, and when I do, my focus is 100% on that task. It just makes things a lot less overwhelming and a lot more manageable.
I allocate X amount of time for a task, and then move onto the next in sequence - rather than bouncing between them.
It's also really important to control your notification settings, because your brain can get pulled in all sorts of different directions otherwise.
Also, at the end of each day write down everything you have to do the following day - just a bullet list. It saves you so much time the following morning. Rather than thinking "Right, where was I with that task?" - you know which to attack first.
What brands do you take inspiration from?
I think GeedUp, which is a local street wear brand here in Sydney, does an incredible job with their engagement on Instagram. The owner is always front and centre, answering questions, taking you behind the scenes, getting feedback, showing you what it's like to run the business.
And because of that authenticity and accessibility - you feel like your part of the journey with them. Even if you don't like the clothes or the designs, it's worth following them to see just how well they engage with their community.
Visually, I really enjoy the aesthetic that MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and Dark Mofo (their winter festival) are able to create. Not only is it consistent, it has a clear and defined mood / tone to it - regardless of the content. It's slightly anti-establishment and offbeat, which really appeals to me.
They're a great case study in how to create a narrative that lingers long after you've interacted with them online.
Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?
I think it's critical that every online marketer is across producthunt.com - you can unearth some real gems there that will add an incredible amount of value to your business.
What are three resources you would recommend for anyone working in your field?
If you can, get your boss to pay for LinkedIn Learning - I found so many of the courses on there really insightful. It doesn't even have to be in your field of expertise, having an awareness of how to shoot video or how to record a podcast, for example, is worth knowing. Sure you could trawl YouTube but it can be hit-and-miss. With LinkedIn Learning - the videos and courses are created by genuine experts in their field.
Be active on and use Twitter. It's the best way to stay on top of the news cycle - which could be really timely or relevant for your brand. Even just spying on the competition! Trends, topics, memes, commentary - it's all there.
And last: read Growth Marketing, by Julian Shapiro.