Worked in: London, New York and Singapore
“When friends or strangers ask me what I do,” says Mark Bowling, “I tell them I solve problems in terms of business, marketing and communications. I bring people together to create the best ideas and roadmaps for achieving success, in a rewarding and stimulating working environment.
I'm a seasoned traveler, endlessly inquisitive, and constantly jetlagged.
I firmly believe social will fundamentally change the marketing and communications industry, and impact the agency landscape for decades to come. It's an exciting time to be involved in this dynamic industry.”
Mark Bowling’s job may best be described as a “global holistic communications planning expert,” while he works as an advocate of creating “best in class.”
Why do people see Mark Bowling as an innovator? With a natural sense of objectivity, Mark Bowling always prefers to see the bigger picture. His creative solutions only become successful when he blends a sense of pragmatism with a new idea, therefore ensuring they have more effective impact. Bowling’s role as the team’s resident expert that understands people (not “consumers”) requires him to constantly challenge the team’s approach to solutions. Therefore he is frequently, and visibly, introducing new initiatives around the network. Although the creation of bespoke internal staff and client talent development programs fulfills him most professionally, one of the most innovative business solutions that he created was a Budgeting Framework tool for creating zero-based budgeting solutions for global marketing and media spending. The budgeting tool has saved countless hours, improved client connectivity, ensured fiscal diligence and reduced stress levels of the team all over the world! It is now used in the 86 countries where Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) oversees the Samsung global business, and has become the gold standard for investment planning within SMG.
Dictionary definitions aside, how would you characterize innovation in the work you do? “Innovation works on two planes – evolutionary and revolutionary. Evolutionary innovation is a gradual adaptation of existing concepts that humans can accept without challenge. Revolutionary innovation presumes the concept to be so compelling that people are enraptured by its possibility and embrace it with relative ease. I call this combination ‘evo-revo-innovation,’ and try to apply throughout all of his work.”
Name an innovative idea or business solution for which you are most proud. This year Mark Bowling spearheaded the development and launch of a client and team portal that gathers together all of the relevant knowledge, assets and data that his clients and team needs into one flexible space. Built using “free” or minimal cost software – including Wordpress, Slideshare, Yammer, Google Insights and RSS to name a few, appended with SMG’s proprietary client data dashboard – this portal broke the mold of historical “intranets” and ensures that information, best practices, insights and data are at his team and clients’ fingertips in easy-to-digest, copy and re-apply formats that can be translated in seconds to the local market language. The ability to change the content and structure at anytime means the space will always be relevant and meet the changing needs of marketers and media experts into the future, at minimal cost for the maximum impact.
What role does innovation play in your marketing strategy today? “Innovation is about unifying ideas across local markets and staying ahead of the pace that Samsung launches products and the subsequent human behaviors that are created as a result of those new products hitting the market.” Working for the world’s largest consumer electronics company means constantly integrating innovation within the work – to both stay ahead of the competition and to match the innovation of the products themselves. Inspiring innovation for global product launches is invaluable, and getting the “trickle-down” effect of innovation from global to local is the true sign of success. A notable example was the launch of Samsung’s 3D TV, where the innovation in the global strategy was executed in slightly different, yet world-class ways around the world.
What is the biggest challenge you face in applying innovative thinking to international projects? Cultural relevance and communication clarity go hand-in-hand. So many fail to recognize the importance of this and thus struggle to apply real innovation around the world. One of my favorite mottos is: “Don’t presume everyone understands your context.” For example, only Americans understand what a “bracket” is and only Singaporeans know when something is “shiok.” Nurturing innovation and communicating that innovation to people is a major factor in taking new ideas and running with them.
Any other interesting aspects to your international background? Mark Bowling is currently in the midst of creating a global charitable trust to raise awareness of skin cancer among young people. As a recent survivor of melanoma himself, he knows all too well that skin protection and early detection is critical. In fact, the survival rate if not detected early can be less than 10%. The trust’s goal is to get corporate involvement from beach and surf-related brands as well as the big CPG manufacturers, and make self-checks and sun protection a conversation worth having.