Below is the speech AMA CEO Russ Klein delivered at the Aug. 11th “Marketing is Magic” event at 84.51.

Estimated read time: 10 minutes.


Today I plan to speak about magic, dreams, love, and positivity. A brief commercial for the AMA: We are for the marketer. Much like Nike is for the athlete. We’re here to affirm not just the power of marketing…but the power of the individual marketer. We call it the AMA Community Advantage. It has five points:

  1. We revere the marketer
  2. We know the marketer
  3. We are stronger together than when apart
  4. We think ahead for the marketer
  5. And finally, we are bound together by a set of common values

Never underestimate your power as marketers to spur economic growth and prosperity and improve quality of life for people around the world and in your local community. There have certainly been plenty of marketers out there who’ve earned marketing’s bad name in the mind of many. You aren’t responsible for them, but you are responsible for what comes next.

Many younger marketers here will be entrusted to define what marketing is and what marketing does for this world. And your positive intentions, powerful as they may be … My advice to you is that your world can only become what you behave it to be. No I didn’t misspeak. Your world can only become what you behave it to be. Because while a brand will always be the sum total of the promise plus the experience, the world has had about enough of the promise-makers; and they are demanding that the experience comes true. I’m not sure how many more fine-print disclaimers that read: “Results Not Typical” the world will accept. It’s why everyone trusts perfect strangers with a Twitter account for referrals over the perfect strangers who produce advertising. I think it has something to do with Jack Nicholson’s assertion–and I wish I could do an imitation, so imagine him saying–“Lots of people like to give advice, I tend to listen when the person isn’t the advice-giving type…”

But I’ll get back to my main message. My message of magic.

You know, succeeding in business has long been viewed as a competitive numbers-driven game that relies on hard facts, financial analysis and exploitation of markets. The irrefutable mathematical regression to the mean from all our optimization and quantification catches up with every enterprise. While the millionaire next door can save their way to prosperity, enterprises cannot. After the consolidations, mergers & acquisitions, Lean Six Sigma efficiencies, and economies of scale have been realized … then what? This is not a case against running a modern enterprise on an efficient and low-cost basis. It’s simply to say that profitable organic growth is the only way everybody wins.

Even in that old school context there have been professionals–often marketers, and usually leaders–who knew there was more to advancing an enterprise than elemental classification and categorization, deductive analysis, linear thinking, technology and physical systems. Such leaders could be described as corporate mystics who embraced spirituality (not of the religious kind) but the critical equivalents of the oxygen we breathe: meaning, connectedness, and a transcendent will with effects that seem almost magical. I love discovering so-called coincidences, because invariably they also represent a nexus for insight.

It’s why one of the AMA’s most treasured values is curiosity, the greatest gateway competency for any organization seeking innovation, growth, and maximum performance. At the AMA, we say, “Fight to remain curious.” Because when you are at least curious you’re in the neighborhood of understanding, appreciation, optimism, creativity, wisdom, and gratefulness. Gratefulness is the ultimate value at the AMA, because I defy anyone to be both grateful and unhappy at the same time!

Once we began working with the single archetype that best describes the unique DNA of the marketer, The Magician, I’ve never stopped trying to unpack the imagery used to describe the magician and how it really applies to marketers ever since.

The magician is known to be dynamic, influential, charismatic, and clever. Able to look at the world through different lenses and driven to understand the fundamental laws of the universe in order to make dreams into reality. The ability to connect to experiences of synchronicity, flow, and oneness, with a curiosity about the hidden workings of the universe…this certainly constitutes magical thinking.

I do believe in magic, if you must know. And I believe “magic” is simply another term for positivity. You could say this is just another gathering of marketers. But I see this as another milestone in our collective journey … a summit, a pinnacle, a vantage point for discriminating, discerning, curious marketers decided it was worth your time to pause … to look back, look around, and look ahead … and from these heights your command of the glance will determine your next move. Your most valuable asset, I believe, is your magical thinking. Most say you have to see to believe. I’ve known more than one or two marketers who might beg to differ … asserting that sometimes you have to believe to see.

Those of you who have known me for a long time may know that I have been closing my correspondence with the phrase, “positively”, for a long time. Yes, since before e-mail. Mainly because I believe in performative language. That is, that language is a predictor of outcomes. A prologue for results. Language is the seed of our thoughts and dreams.

When we talk about the magician’s ability to turn dreams into reality it’s with the knowledge that dreams are predictive too, and countless verified case studies with reputable physicists, aerospace engineers and elite government funded think tanks who have studied the phenomena over three decades confirm that fact.

Jane Barrash, Executive Director of the Continuum Center in Minneapolis became a pen pal of mine shortly after joining the AMA and has authored papers Enlightened Engagement: Employee Development in the Age of Relationships and Quantum Leadership in an Evolutionary New Paradigm. I’ve shared with many colleagues and some of you because she so insightfully not only sees into this world of magical thinking, she studies it in the context of employment practices, employment principles; and what I often describe as organizational fitness.

We all know Leadership is about relationships. Perhaps what might surprise you most is that there is an overwhelming relationship between leadership and the capacity to love. Love is what differentiates leadership from management. Management, of course, is about control. Leadership, conversely, is about self-development and self-examination. It’s what I hope to be spurring among you right now.

People know … they can sense it in an instant, whether a leader is working true. I have no doubt that each of you enjoy your own community of followers predicated on a genuine love of your visions and abilities to inspire marketers in Cincinnati and however far beyond your realm of influence extends. Every dynamic marketer builds their own world of interconnectedness and if you are among the AMA Cincinnati chapter leadership you’ve created a hard-working love of marketing in your communities; developing people’s fullest capacities to create something wonderful together, out of thin air. Magic.

As marketers, we all hope to build careers seeing what others don’t; and when we get it right, we notice coincidences that don’t just result in balance; we find harmony among chaos.

I think leadership today is about bringing back that sort of alchemy, bringing back the hidden dimensions of our human activities and interactions that cellular interactions can’t explain or duplicate. Employees and volunteers alike hunger for that kind of leadership. There is no experiment that can mix or muster the chemicals to duplicate the chemistry of falling in love, or of a band that makes Grammy winning music, or of an idea or slogan that captivates hearts and minds and changes an industry…or explain why scores of individuals in an AMA chapter would so tirelessly volunteer their own personal time away from friends, work, and family to advance the craft of marketing in Cincinnati.

I feel very privileged to be the leader of the foremost knowledge-based enterprise devoted to marketing, I think it is the highest calling of knowledge to enable everyone to access their full human capacities … and I am convinced these capacities are harnessed by our emotions and our outlook, and fueled to greatness by our positivity and optimism.

Magical thinking should never be confused with wishful thinking. Nor does it belong only to children. Although any parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, has witnessed the wonder and magical thinking of a child. Ursula Le Guin asserted that, the creative adult is the child who has survived. We were all in such a hurry to grow up until we did. Then with the wisdom of experience we reset our targets and hope and pray we can spend the rest of our lives maturing back into childhood.

Positivity unlocks more possibilities. Scientists at Brandeis University learned they could broaden the very scope of people’s attention simply by making them feel good. Positivity and optimism is the stuff of magic. It is the magician’s elixir, an opening to possibility thinking, which is the stuff of transformational creativity.

Bill Gates has said that fanaticism is underrated…and that it was Steve Jobs force of positivity that made the difference in pulling together the user experience and design for Apple.

Magic is pulling things out of thin air, manifesting miracles against the odds, against the Gods, hitting home runs with a hockey stick growth and putting the right elements together the right way to create something iconic.

Norman Lear, creator of All in the Family, said, “Creativity is the ability to see the connection between things.”

Magic is a door. A gateway to see that there are transcendent principles active in the world…but we need leaders and heroes to step through the door to champion those principles. Step in. Or step out if you disagree, but don’t stand in the doorway because there is no magic there. You have others waiting behind you, willing to believe, willing to follow you in.

When you can transcend the physical limitations of the proverbial three-dimensional box and conditioned ruts of thinking, to see and feel new connections and new possibilities, you are the magic. Magic is, of course, a noun; and it is something marketers make. But as marketers, you transform magic into a verb… a way of being. Some have placed magical thinking on a spectrum with schizophrenics on one end and hopeless skeptics on the other. The implication being there may be a slippery slope for those who believe in magical ideation as being more prone to emotional problems. But who wants to be at the other end of the spectrum? “To be totally un-magical is very unhealthy,” and there is strong data that shows those unable to embrace any form of magical thinking to be equally unable to experience pleasure of any kind.

Another prominent researcher, Arthur C. Clarke asserts, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Further, he adds, “Magical thinking may help us pluck the fruits of digital technology.” In other words, magic could be just another form of hacking!

Who here can say they’ve never treated the physical world of inanimate objects as if it has mental properties? Who among us hasn’t used body English to remotely guide a bowling ball headed for the gutter back to the middle; or willed our alma mater’s kick back inside the uprights to win the day? In the military, it’s called the will of the commander, for which men and women have died. Who here, without pretense, has adopted their cat or dog as a family member, confidant, and conversation partner; certain they understand us like no one else? I have a few friends who are of course skeptical about this possibility; but I’ve seen my dogs, firsthand, around these non-believers and I can attest there’s nothing more embarrassing to someone than to have earned the disfavor of a perceptive animal. Yes, Nacho the Wonder Dog and I share in magical thinking.

Who are we, as marketers, to say dreamers are wrong, anyway? Think about phenomena once mocked as magical beliefs that can now find safe footing on some element of scientific validity.

People once scoffed at the idea of action at a distance: But we all know gravitational pull works at a distance … and so do remote controls through electromagnetic radiation!

Many thought the notion of an invisible contagion was black magic, but Germ Theory now shows that we do have reason to fear that something invisible and negative can be transmitted by contact. So yes, bacteria are modern versions of old school curses! Do you still doubt mind over matter? The placebo effect is well documented in medical journals.

In closing, thank you for your luminosity that lights up tomorrow’s possibilities with dreams, love, positivity, and yes, magic. The “Great One”, entertainer Jackie Gleason might have been talking about magic when he so confidently asserted:

If you have it and you know you have it, then you have it.
If you have it and don’t know you have it, you don’t have it.
If you don’t have it but you think you have it, then you have it.

I think … you have it! Thank you.