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“The Ground Is Always Shifting Beneath Your Feet”


In The Company of Huskies’ Martin McGuire on the secret to effective digital marketing, his enduring love of the great outdoors and the similarities between advertising and hairstyling…

“The Ground Is Always Shifting Beneath Your Feet”

You need to get up early to be ahead of Martin McGuire. You really do - Huskies’ search and performance media specialist is likely to be found climbing a mountain or enjoying a bracing sea swim at around the time most of us are thinking about brewing our first coffee.

That same adventuring spirit has underpinned much of Martin’s career to date. Having originally worked in various roles outside the industry, Martin put in the hours on a marketing BA in the evenings, and was eventually able to switch jobs and make a name for himself in the world of digital marketing. 

Here, LBB chats with Martin about his approach to his role, the work that makes him most proud, and the advice he would give to anyone looking to switch careers into advertising...

LBB> Hey, Martin! First things first, how did you first get into digital marketing? Was there a catalyst or inspiration you remember? 

Martin> Hello! Looking back now, I think what drove it was an intense desire to learn something new. I started studying digital marketing and kind of fell in love with it. I had a complete career change in order to do so. 

There are definitely brands that inspire me, and which I look up to in terms of their marketing. Patagonia, for example, is a huge one. I think what they do is so smart and unique. When you think of brands that market primarily through e-commerce, you tend to think of communications that are very sales-based. But you look at what they do, and they’re so adept at communicating their values and their mission. It’s a great case study in building a brand identity through digital campaigns.

LBB> And when it comes to that desire to try something new, do you think that is something of a prerequisite for success in this industry?

Martin> Yeah, absolutely I do. Simply because the ground is always shifting under your feet. There’s always new tech, a new platform, some kind of shiny new toy to play with. 

For example, TikTok is becoming a bigger player with regards to paid social advertising. It's proving to be a strong platform for brands across retail, fashion and tourism. They are also extending this strength into commerce. Late last year they announced a partnership with Shopify, and this year they announced plans to roll out new features such as allowing brands to showcase product catalogues and even livestream shopping.  

The digital landscape is constantly evolving and with that comes excitement and challenges. Google, for instance, has been putting a stronger emphasis on machine learning and automation within their ad platforms for a number of years now. This comes with its frustrations at times, as it takes some level of control away, but it does have its advantages for sure. You just need to adapt.

And of course, with the removal of third party cookies coming down the line, it means we will have to think differently about our digital strategies and the data that informs them. So from a personal perspective yeah, that does keep me excited about my day-to-day. 


LBB> And are there any campaigns you’ve worked on so far which have proven to be especially significant over the course of your career so far? 

Since joining Huskies, there’s definitely been a few campaigns that have stood out and were particularly rewarding to work on, such as the launch of Nissan’s new Juke last year. The other one is a campaign called “Remember the Rainbow”. This was a collaboration between In the Company of Huskies and the charity Belong To, which aimed to help young school children learn the colours of the rainbow while spreading a message of diversity and inclusion.

Above: 'Remember the Rainbow was a collaboration between In the Company of Huskies and Belong To 

We updated the old mnemonic  “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” to something more positive – “Respect Others You Grow By Including Variety”. There were some really great animated content and educational resources created, which were pushed out over social media and various channels. Considering schools were closed because of the pandemic, it received some really positive traction amongst politicians, educational groups and teachers’ unions.

LBB> A lot of chat in the industry at the moment is around efficiency and optimisation, set against a more ‘old-fashioned’ approach to brand building. What’s your position on that? Are they mutually exclusive, and what kind of brand building stuff are you up to? 

Martin> They’re definitely joined at the hip. It’s ever-more important that branding is a key focus when you’re communicating digitally. The cost of advertising online has gone up over the past few years, even more so with Covid, and every brand has been forced to move online as a result. 

So advertising costs are up, and when you’re competing in a saturated marketplace the thing which can really make you stand out is your brand. A reliance on your brand is probably becoming more important - if you have a stronger brand, you don’t have to compete in the weeds so much from a performance point of view.

LBB> To what extent would you say that, in 2021, your digital brand-building is made up of many ROI-focused campaigns coming together? 

Martin> Yeah, I’d say when performance marketing comes into play from a campaign level, you think of how each channel fits in and positions itself for the campaign. Branding is obviously all-important from an awareness point of view. But you can promote awareness and then have more granular and ROI-focused campaigns on top of that.

LBB> You’ve worked with tourism brands in the past. What do you think would make for a smart digital strategy for a tourism company right now?

Martin> Yeah, that’s a tough one. What you could be focusing on though, is communicating what makes you as a company unique. Pre-pandemic, the tourism industry was actually quite saturated and it’s easy to imagine everyone will be in a big rush to get away somewhere once restrictions have been lifted. So really for a tourism brand right now, I’d say defining your USP should be a priority.

On another note, though, I was talking with a friend of mine who lives in Spain recently. He told me that I wouldn’t believe the number of campervans which are suddenly parked all along every road! So, with that in mind, what we could do is really deep dive into consumer insights during this pandemic, and see what the trends are. Tourism brands will want to know how people have adapted, and map out an idea for what audience attitudes and expectations might be in the (I hope) near future, when this horrible pandemic is behind us. 

Broadly speaking, I think that people’s appreciation for the outdoors has increased. As a marketer, I expect that to be something that stays with us for a fair while into the future.

LBB> I understand you’re someone who is quite into the great outdoors yourself - you love mountain biking, and a bit of wild swimming. And yet in your professional life you’re living totally in the digital world! Do you find those two things kind of balance each other out? 

Martin> Haha, yeah I get what you mean. I definitely ‘feel’ it, if you want to put it like that, when I’m not getting out. So I suppose it is something of a release, yeah. That’s the pleasure of living near the Irish coast - I can always pop out for a dip! We could use a few more mountains, though, that’s for sure.

Above: Martin in the great outdoors. 

LBB> On the topic of career change, am I right in saying you used to be a hairstylist? Are there many comparisons to be made between that and digital marketing?! 

Martin> Ha! Ah, that puts me on the spot - I’m not sure if there are many comparisons. Having said that, developing an ability to talk to people is obviously a pretty essential skill for a marketer to have. The gift of the gab can go a fair way, so I guess that’s something of a transferable skill.

On a personal note, when you make a big career transition like that it is something that’s always at the back of your mind. But now, I’m much more comfortable with where I’ve come from and having that story leading up to where I am right now. Plus, pre-lockdown it was a nice trick to be able to pull out if any of my mates needed a haircut! 

LBB> Finally, there may be someone reading this piece who is thinking about making a bit of a career jump for themselves. Would you have any words of advice for them? 

Martin> Yeah, for sure. I think the main one is be prepared to work hard, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Also, I’d say make sure you’re reading a lot and watching whatever is helpful on YouTube in terms of tutorials, soaking up as much information as you can. So that way when it comes to getting that real-world experience, you’ll be able to pick things up and hit the ground running. 

On which note, I’d also suggest helping any of your mates with their online marketing if they need it. Just get as much experience as you can - reach out on LinkedIn, ask around and make a name for yourself. People will often surprise you with how great they are when you’re reaching out to them. 

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In The Company Of Huskies, Wed, 31 Mar 2021 14:07:00 GMT