An Interview with Dave Knox
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard from Dave Knox, but a lot of things have changed since we last did. He’s written a book, and gone out on his own. We caught up with him to hear his perspective on Super Bowl ads, go-to Cincinnati coffee shops, and how marketers can lead the charge in this world of turbulent change.
You’ve spoken to AMA Cincinnati before. What’s changed since your last time speaking to us – both in your career and in the industry at large?
When I first spoke at AMA it was shortly after I switched over to be the CMO of Rockfish and digital marketing was at the forefront. Brands were just embracing Facebook. Google was talking a big budget. It was a marketing playground.
Fast forward to today. All of us who were working for the brand world were focused on digital marketing. There were these challenger brands, barbarians at the gate, digital-as-a-business model, and marketing just one thing in the tool kit. This elevated the role of the marketer because we’re the ones with the most experience with digital.
You published your book last year. Congrats! What have you learned through the book writing and publishing process?
Writing this book was a goal that started in the early 2000s. In 2006 when I was still at P&G I started blogging and kept that going. I was blogging about things I was seeing that were unique about the industry.
When I sat down to write my book, I wanted to write about the modern CMO and how marketing has changed. But I wasn’t writing from a position of my own personal equity. When I started writing about the intersection of business and startups, the words just flew onto the page. It was an interesting insight, and advice that I now give to others: Learn to be confident in what you know to write yourself, instead of what other people know.
And in the world of talking to these big publishers, they want big generic business books. But that is why a lot of business books sit on the bedside tables with only a few pages being read. I wanted to write something that a marketer could read on a plane and gain insights from.
What is the biggest takeaway marketers should gain from reading Predicting the Turn?
A few things. One, marketers historically have always had a bulls-eye on one or two competitors. Marketing has been a battle of giants in a lot of places, and we’ve primed ourselves for a known enemy. But the enemies and competitors of tomorrow aren’t the ones you know historically or even the ones you know today.
The second thing is understanding that there are second orders of consequences that you need to know about that have ramifications for your business.
For example, when Coke’s volume went down, it correlated with the decline of the American mall. The shutting down of those malls was hurting their business.
Marketers need to be thinking about that. The value it isn’t just about advertising, it is about consumer insights and understanding a landscape. We can help businesses understand these trends that go into and have drastic impacts on our core business.
For businesses, startups historically are shiny objects or ways to test and learn. They can be a market laboratory for you. It can show a path forward for business that we can figure out how to embrace change.
AMA Cincinnati is focusing on the Gig / Freelance economy for our April Signature Speaker Series. Reflecting on your first few months after moving on from Rockfish and being out on your own, do you have any recommendations? Tell us about your experience thus far.
I’m a big believer that the future of work will be this free agent nation, driven by a lot of different factors that make it compelling for people.
Most businesses need people who bring different skillsets and different industry connections. A free agent nation creates opportunities for people who spent time working with multiple industries, bringing those experiences to work in favor for a lot of people, not just one company.
People are more and more wanting that flexibility, the ability to help out a non profit but also help out a big business, and being a free agent allows you to do this. It is a very different mindset, and you have to be comfortable not knowing where the next few months of income will come from.
Anybody who wants to go into this path needs to have a clear understanding of what makes them different from everybody else. Being a good designer or marketer; what is that unique thing you can bring to a company or business that provides that short term help that can accelerate them? The change today is that as a free agent, you need to make an immediate impact, not an impact over one one or two or three years.
What are your go-to Cincinnati coffee shops?
I wrote a blog post a while back on why I start every day in a coffee shop. I’d gained the insight from a book, Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business. And was most inspired by the concept of planned serendipity and motion. If you think about your day in business and marketing, every day your routine is similar and you’re only exposed to same people and same opportunities. So it is important to put yourself in new places and things that creates interesting opportunities. I rotate every morning, planning 8 a.m.- and 9 a.m.-meetings, but I will take them place in different places—Carabello, 1215, Hotel Covington, Braxton, etc. Putting yourself in those different places will get you exposed to different companies and people and industry. If you go to Coffee Emporium, politicians; 1215, more of the startup scene.
What is something people probably don’t know about you?
The thing that people are surprised by is that I am the classic definition of an introvert. When I need to recharge my batteries, that is quiet time at home with my 5-year-old twins and being a homebody. A lot of people don’t expect that since my house is in OTR, but we’re actually building a house in the countryside.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a lot of science fiction right now, after to getting a recommendation from a VC I trust. He said that the best way to see the future is to read the crazy thoughts of where the world might go. So I’m going through a blur of those, reading everything from the popular ones all to some that are pretty off-the-cuff.