Throughout history, sports branding and marketing has been dominated by a particular demographic, but it’s only in the last couple of decades that we’re seeing more and more diverse representation come to the forefront. Your brand is determined by your experiences, stories, and values, so it’s absolutely vital that you reach out to those who share them. Not only that, but the brands you collaborate with will only go well if you choose others with those shared values; there needs to be some philosophical alignment for it to work.

In this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, Paul is joined by Massimo Alpian, Director of Global Brand Communications at Tracksmith: an independent running brand built on a deep love of the sport, crafting products and sharing stories and moments that enrich the running experience. He is also an Advisory Board Member for Protect Our Winters, and was previously the Global Brand Director for Cannondale.

If you’re interested in how brand collaboration works and the importance of diversity within your branding, tune in to this episode of Building Brand Advocacy.

Building Brand Advocacy 024: Massimo Alpian, Director of Global Brand Communications at Tracksmith

Paul: Welcome back to the Building Brand Advocacy Podcast. My name is Paul Archer. I am your host. And today I am super excited to be joined by Massimo Alpian. Massimo, I've been so pumped about this. We caught up last week, had a little chat about this. This is this is going to be a lot of fun. Welcome.

Massimo: Thank you. Yes, I'm I'm really excited to be here with you, Paul. I'm glad we could work it out after rescheduling from a few winter colds and flus that have come up. But yeah, we're here and we're doing it. So, yes, really excited to be here with you today.

Paul: Let's just kick straight into the action. You're a real guru when it comes to building brands through the power of athletes. Let's start there. Tell me, first of all, what is Sports Marketing and Athlete Marketing? And tell me a little bit about your background as to how you came to be working in this space.

Massimo: Yeah, for sure. I think I'll answer your question first and then dive into a bit of my background. Sports mac marketing is ultimately a way to build a brand and a way to create third party validation for your product. But I think in the end, it also helps build a connection in a community. And the way I've always seen sports marketing is those athletes are performance-driven. They're also ambassadors that share values in the mission of the brand and ultimately you validate the product to your following. So I think it's a way that is in many ways to give a human face to your brand and to your product in a way to connect with a wider community. Because a product is just a piece of material at the end of the day, but when there's a human attached to it, it really creates an emotional connection that sometimes you can't place a dollar value on.

Paul: That's amazing. And so do you think that it matters who that person is? And how does a brand go about building a strategy that is focused on humans as opposed to it's easy to think about a product you build, but then when you have to tie in the human element, how do brands go about doing that?

Massimo: Yeah, I think it starts from taking a few steps back of understanding what your brand is and what it stands for, especially if it's a mission-driven brand, which most brands are in. That term is used pretty loosely and widely these days. But I do believe in a mission-driven and purpose-driven brand where you understand what you're doing, who you're speaking to, and what need you're trying to fulfill for the community you're seeking to reach. And then once you have those pieces of the puzzle and understand what your identity is very much like how we approach ourselves as individuals, right. Understanding who you are and what you stand for. It's very much like how we approach friendships when I understand who I am and what my belief system revolves around. I usually choose friends or partner based on that. And I believe brands can approach that in the same way that is very humanistic. And then from there you can attach yourself or invite individuals to be a part of that community and that purpose and that mission and understand what you're trying to achieve. And I think that goes back to another part of your question of looking at the brands that I've had the privilege to work with and for. I've always and the team I've been able to work around has always approached it from that. Does this individual, for example, the brand is a sustainability-driven brand and that is a key message. You're going to look for athletes and ambassadors that also amplify that mission, that have a passion for that mission and stand for something. So I think those go hand in hand, and I can answer that latter part. I've had really the true privilege of working in many different spaces and industries. I started my career in international nonprofit, which then translated into a marketing career in the outdoor industry. And within that, into these Micro spaces within the outdoor industry, particularly the snow and ski industry, cycling, running and active lifestyle. Whether it's been brands like Fjallraven, Cannondale, HOKA, CamelBak, Dynafit, it spans a really wide reach of brands. But it's been really interesting seeing and approaching what I just spoke of in a sports marketing viewpoint at each brand in a different space.

Paul: So most people won't necessarily be familiar with the outdoor space. And it's something I always find fascinating because it's like where my passion lies. And I'd rather be doing all of those sports and with all of those brands you mentioned there than a lot of things, I think outdoor it's almost like the OG influencers, like outdoor brands were doing. They were working with ambassadors and athletes long before anyone uttered that term influencer, which is really kind of the way the fashion industry and the makeup industry have taken this and really pushed it towards social media. Do you think that the approach is exactly the same? So if you're Cannondale trying to sell bikes, would you be the same as trying to find influences to sell makeup, for example? Or do you think that kind of that deep roots that the outdoor brands have had, having done this for multiple decades until this point, long before the Internet and certainly long before social came about? Do you think that they're different or actually the principles are the same?

Massimo: I think I approach the principles as the same when I worked on these projects or these initiatives at the brands I've worked at. But what I've come to see is that the space has changed greatly and that's because the media landscape has changed greatly due to social media. So it's quite interesting thinking 20 years ago, a mountaineering brand or ski brand, or a running brand for that matter, was quite intentional in how they approached sports marketing or the OG ambassadors or influencers, as you say. Because I think there is more intention around this being a true match. And I think the social media landscape, which is a whole other discussion of the pros and cons of that. But if I was to say in this discussion the cons of that, I've seen that that idea of approaching things from a human nascent viewpoint has become quite transactional. It's about the number of followers an individual has and the reach. But often what I'm seeing now is that brands are not looking at whether this individual might be on-brand for them. And when I say on-brand, I mean, like I mentioned earlier, does this individual match their purpose, their mission, and actually creates a human connection to the community they're trying to reach or maybe have not reached before? So it's been unfortunate because I think right now we're in maybe this moment that might be an inflection point or a moment of reckoning where consumers have gotten quite savvy or community or fans of brands have gotten quite savvy and sink through the bullshit of a paid influencer just pushing products in an inauthentic way that at the end of the day really isn't going to help drive sales or a human connection to the brand. And I think brands are realizing that it's not about the actual approach to sports marketing, but actually who they're approaching or in their ambassador approach. And it's been interesting because particularly in this space in the past, it was always using words like Athletes, and then it has become Ambassadors and then it's become Influencers. And now the lines are quite blurred as to who is what, if that makes sense.

Paul: It does. Do you think it matters? It's kind of evolved in the way that pre social media. If an athlete won a race on a bike, it basically showed that that bike was good enough for that athlete to win, so therefore you could be good enough on that bike. But actually, when you're looking at promoting something beyond just the winning now, it's kind of looking at the ideals, you're looking at perfect. It's not quite as. It may become less aspirational in some ways? 

Massimo: I think in some ways, yes, in some ways no. Which is a very neutral response to your question. But I'll explain. I think in the past, sports marketing was approached from a very performance-driven standpoint of being, particularly in cycling and running an active lifestyle, but being the fastest of being a certain body ideal that might not be achievable because that person is a professional athlete that trains for hours a day, and that was and still can be aspirational, but it's not achievable for the everyday person. And I think a positive has been that brands have realized, hey, maybe we need to rebrand this approach to ambassadors and influencers who are more like everyday individuals that people can relate to, which I don't disagree with and something that I've implemented myself. But I still see those individuals, for example, in the running space. You know, instead of constantly going after a 215 marathoner, someone who can run a marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes, it's going to individuals that have an experience and a performance that is more relatable. To me, that individual is still an athlete. They might not be in relative terms the fastest athlete in the world, but that is someone that resonates with a wide community of people. And then back to my earlier point, that is a positive. But where I've seen also that goes into the space where these ambassadors and influences that are also becoming part of the brand structure are not relatable, are not on-brands and do not share mission and values. Yet they just have perhaps a large following and create a statistical and numerical figure on who they can reach based on that. And like I mentioned earlier, I don't think that actually converts to a community for the brand or creates a return on investment at all.

Paul: So how does the brand make sure that they find people who are aligned to their values?

Massimo: I think again, it goes back to understanding who you are and what you stand for and then finding those athletes, those ambassadors that also can resonate with that mission and values. And ultimately, to me, it's always wondering who you're not speaking to in that space. Right? For example, in the core running space, which has been quite homogeneous for many years and brands were historically only speaking to one demographic, you know, now I think to myself, you know, who is an ambassador, an athlete that can reach that demographic, that who we haven't spoken to before, who's also a runner, who's also a cyclist that is interested in our brand but maybe has felt like we've alienated them or have not included them? So I think the answer is twofold there, looking inwards but also outwards looking.

Paul: At that, looking at trying to tap into diversity. Are you looking at your customer base here? Almost exclusively in terms of finding who are those customers who love our brand and they're passionate about our brand, which clearly means that they share our ideals, our values, and then actually activating someone who doesn't look like the same as every other one of your ambassadors. And just looking at finding someone who's different? 

Massimo: Right. I think I'll go back to what I usually say in these spaces. You know, it's runners. You know, cycling tends to be circling more homogeneous, but it is diverse. You know, there are individuals who ride bikes and run and hike and participate in all these activities from all different backgrounds, branch just haven't really seen them or care to look. And I think that's a result of leadership and marketing teams, product teams, or most of the team at these brands being quite homogeneous for many years. And when I say homogeneous, I'll just be frank. I think for many years these many brands were led and this is no secret, I'm sure there'll be someone that disagrees with me and I've gotten feedback that people disagree with me. But I do believe it's just statistical and historical fact, particularly here in America, corporate America and brands were in this space and out of the space have been historically led by white men. And I think naturally, you want to speak to your own community, but when there's more diverse voices at the table, that person will come in and say, hey, actually, someone in my community also rides bikes. There are a lot of people who ride bikes in my community. There are a lot of people in my community who run. I just think you've never interacted with them before. Care to look, I do think to answer your question, it's representation allows for that conversation to happen in a boardroom.

Paul: And so you you've often been that diverse voice at the boardroom table. Like, first of all, how have you managed to sort of push yourself into that position and actually change people's perspectives? And then the second part of the question is, how can companies, brands, organizations who actually don't have diverse voices or they're certainly not listening to them or seeing them at the boardroom management, wherever it may be, actually kind of step up and improve on that?

Massimo: Yeah, it's a great question Paul, and for all intents and purposes, so all the listeners here know I am a gay men of color, of first generation, child of immigrants here in America. And it's been interesting because the first part to answer your question is for many years I didn't approach it. I actually thought I had to be something else when I walked into those rooms and had to morph myself into something everyone in that room wanted to see, rather than being my authentic self. And it's taken time and self-reflection in order for myself to walk in authentically and share a life experience, a viewpoint and an opinion that might have never been heard before. And often it's met with resistance. And it's actually quite interesting how much resistance is met when you're showing up as your authentic self in those spaces. And I think I approach a lot of these conversations from also this idea of which I know you and I have talked about, of conscious capitalism. And we could have a whole other discussion of the ethics of capitalism and some are pro or con. But whether you like capitalism or not, we do live in a capitalistic society where most everything is made for profit by design. And I work for for profit brands after I left the nonprofit industry, of course. Ultimately, brands are here to especially if they're mission-driven brands. You know, there's a part that's doing good for the community. But there's a part that's also about making money, but is there a way that you can do good and make that also good for business? And I think there is. I don't think it'll ever be perfect, but I think there's a way to do that. And I think that a part of that is ultimately having individuals that have never been in those rooms before, be in those leadership roles, have voices, share those experiences and viewpoints that ultimately allow to reach demographics of individuals that have never been spoken to before. And if those individuals feel like they're part of something and feel emotionally connected to your product, then you're doing something pretty good.

Paul: And so to kind of play that back, like is potentially the case that you've got. A number of many brands will be looking at their customer base and they'll say, oh, it's only white blokes. We sell bikes to white blokes if you're many brands or whoever would look like. But actually, it's not actually a demographic question. It's a question of who actually likes to ride bikes, who likes the energy, who shares those values of getting up and training and the passion that they get from it. And that's actually not about the person and what they look like cup skin. Or what's about actually the passion for the bikes, the passion for what they're interested in and actually making sure that you can be as open-minded as you can be and open to every single type of person who shares that similar passion.

Massimo: Absolutely. And for example, I go back to something I often speak of is marketing is about telling stories. That's what I literally get paid to do is to tell a story around a product and a brand. And a lot of those stories traditionally in the past, were stories that revolved around a certain demographic that only affected the individuals who were designing the product, marketing the product, and leading the brand. And I think I walk into those rooms and say, we can still storytell to that community because they've always been spoken to. But we also need to storytell around experiences around this product, to new communities and new demographics, particularly historically excluded groups that weren't being spoken to. And those are the moments not only for myself, but also other marketers I see in the room that are women or people of color, are from the queer community that historically haven't been in. These spaces are really fucking good at their jobs because they not only know how to speak to their own community and storytelling, but also storytell to that demographic that they've never been a part of or felt excluded from. And it's very rare that I see the opposite of that. Does that make sense?

Paul: Yeah, it does. And you've been very successful at bringing in diverse voices with brands. And so if you look at your work at Cannondale, you did collabs with Stella McCartney, Palace, Raffler I mean, Rafa makes a bit more sense, but I mean, tell me a bit about these must be tapping into really different mindsets, different people and kind of bringing people together around that single passion point.

Massimo: Yeah, for sure. And I think Canada did that extremely well. And like I said, I'm quite grateful to have been there with an amazing creative team and a marketing team where we sat together and really ideated what these collabs mean and what they look like. And for example, whether it was Palace or Stella McCartney or even at other brands where I worked at when I was at Fjallraven, we did a collaboration with Acne Studios, which is a high fashion brand. And I think collabs are quite interesting because they allow you, I mean, at the end of the day, they are a marketing initiative, so they're meant to take up a lot of space and create buzz. They're meant to be polarizing. Ultimately, particularly at very core active lifestyle brands, you'll see a very core demographic feel maybe threatened by them that they need to gatekeep. So, you know, for example, you'll see a lot of core cyclists that were unhappy with the fashion collaborations at a bike brand. Same thing in the core running space. And then you'll see a certain demographic that's intrigued by them and thinks they're cool. Ultimately, I think collaborations are a way to reach a new demographic, but they have to make sense. We're in this space where at this time, where we see so many collaborations, so many on a daily basis, almost to exhaustion, where we maybe become a bit numb to them. And I think it goes back to the first thing I said in this conversation was brands need to look at their own identity, their own values and understand who they are before going to another brand for collaboration. Because a lot of these collaborations don't make sense, a lot continue to fail while a lot of others continue to succeed. Yet the ones that succeed make sense through a shared vision, a shared story, a shared value system, and then understanding that they're both rubbing each other's back so they both can reach a new community they've never reached before. 

Paul: And so just talk through an example of that, how that actually worked, because I don't know the values of my head off my head of Cannondale and Stella McCartney, for example, but how were they aligned in that situation or were they not? And that's what made it interesting. I'd love to dig into that a little bit, if that's okay.

Massimo: Yeah, of course. I think foundationally, of course, two different brands. One is a very core running brand, cycling brand rather, and then the other is a very core high fashion brand. Right? One brand is UK based, one is based in the United States. So there's this shared cultural heritage, maybe a little bit through the shared history of language and Anglo culture. But I think what did make sense is Canada historically has been a disruptive brand, a creative brand that's done things in a way that has been quite different in the bike industry when it's come to design engineering. Yeah, left-handed forks, and we're one of the first brands to really take up space in the 90s through mountain bike suspension and really be pioneers in this way, that has been polarizing. Even when you look at the palace collaboration, I still think it's one of the fucking coolest things. But there's a lot of people it was polarizing because a lot of people see it and they're like, whoa, there are ducks on this bike, which is part of Palace's logo structure. But what was a shared approach to design is that Disruptiveness Costello ideally approaches design in that way. That is, Disruptive sets a new tone in a groundbreaking way, particularly when it comes around sustainability and also takes up space in a way we haven't seen from a brand before. And I think also, Stella's brand is a women's brand. It's a brand focused on women's design made for women. And I think that kind of goes back to that question of, hey, this is a demographic that a brand would like to reach, in this case, women. And there's a shared value system of Disruptive design, the approach to fashion, and it made sense in that way. And I think that's traditionally, what I've seen in collaborations that work is understanding this shared story and then also, what demographic are you trying to reach? So it was surprising for a lot of people, but at the end of the day, that collaboration made a lot of sense.

Paul: Do you think that only works for brands that are kind of at the top of their game? So the brand penetration of a brand like Cannondale, anyone who rides bikes will probably be able to recall that name if they're slightly interested in it. So they are absolutely saturated, looking for different ways of moving into different markets. In that sense, is that the case or does it work for anyone? I mean, Tracksmith, they're in a different stage where you're at right now, like, that's a different stage business that's not Nike or someone like that. They're up on the up and grow very quickly. But does it work in the same way or actually, is it most effective when you're looking to really diversify when you've reached the peak?

Massimo: No, I think it can work at any point for a brand, whether it's a smaller brand looking to grill a middle sized brand that's reaching an inflation point, or a large global brand that's been around for 50 years. You know, for example, last year in the fall, Tracksmith had a collaboration with J.Crew, which was successful. It took up a lot of editorial space, but it made sense. This approach to Americana design, both very New England and aesthetic there was a shared history with Brendon Bebenzien, who is now the head of J Crew, but he was at NOAH, which is another fashion brand for quite some time and founded that brand. He was also at Supreme. So we had a collaboration with NOAH several years ago. So there was a shared history there and relationship that we had with Brendon, but also taking that to the next step up, just simply Tracksmith and J Crew share an aesthetic and approach to design that is really unique but makes sense. And then I think for both of us, it also made sense of J. Crews has had a really interesting moment in their business for the past ten years, where it reached this amazing height, you know, in the early 2010s, which is no secret due to the business climate and changes. They were almost on the verge of not being in a really good place. And now they've been flourishing again. And I think with that flourishing, they were looking at with the demographic that we could reach. And I think for them it was the active lifestyle, the style-driven runner, someone who values being fitness and being outside, but also appreciates, like I said, style. And then on the opposite end, for us, it's basically a style-driven runner who's very much into fashion, but maybe has never heard of Tracksmith yet. So in a way, again, it goes back to that idea of is there a shared mission and aesthetic value system and will this ultimately help us reach someone who we feel like we haven't been able to reach before?

Paul: So it sounds like there's a real trade-off when these that really work. You've got a giant brand that has massive awareness and then a small up and coming cool brand. And the brand that has massive awareness will trade their awareness for the reflected cool of the Cool Brand. The Cool Brand will trade their cool for the awareness and so it's actually a perfect collaboration.

Massimo: Yeah, I agree with you. And we've seen that before, where you've seen these large heritage brands that create design or product that is maybe expected and it maybe is disruptive for them to go out and collaborate with a smaller medium sized brand that is independent, that does things differently and creates a bit of surprise and vice versa for us as well.

Paul: Love that. Throughout your career, it's always been about fans, right? And a few times I've read this kind of about you and various things. It's about building fans and getting those passionate fans to be driving things forward. We talked about ambassadors and athletes. What is the difference between a customer and a fan? Is there a difference? And actually, how can a brand know the difference between those two and actually make decisions or do things about it?

Massimo: Yes, it's a really good question. So in my mind, I've always approached customers or fans, which I'll put fans and community into the same kind of idea. To me, I actually hate using the word customer. It drives me nuts because it's so transactional and that's exactly what it is. To answer your question. It's a very transactional way, a very nonhumanistic way of describing someone who comes to buy your product. It's not an emotional connection, it's not a psychological connection. It's almost an approach by using that word where you can buy that person's maybe moment to come and buy something for your brand that probably is short-term and not long-term. So I always see that the word customer or consumer is something that can be bought, whereas audience, or rather not audience, but community and fan is something that's earned. I forgot who it was from, so forgive me, but I heard this analogy a really long time ago, and it said that the difference between a consumer or customer versus a fan or community is the way the chairs are situated in a room. So when you have a bunch of customers or consumers, the chairs are literally facing the stage like an audience and the communication is one way. But when you're looking for a fan or a community, the chairs are all in a circle and they're all facing each other and the communication is two way and ultimately you can pay your way with big marketing spending dollars to a consumer, but a community you can't. And that's something that is multipronged in approach. It's something that takes time. It's something that buying a billboard can't achieve. And it is something that requires to what I believe, a lot of representation and diverse voices in that boardroom at the end of the day. Because ultimately that will lead to a humanistic approach that builds that emotional and psychological connection that can be long term.

Paul: I love that. And it's clearly kind of taken root as well. And you can do that. First generation of direct consumer brands that were built on large amounts of venture capital money and really good customer acquisition through ads. Whether you're selling mattresses or one off products like that, they had a customer acquisition cost and a product that had a margin that was good enough for it. And then suddenly when it costs more to acquire these customers, all of these options are going out of business. And the ones that actually survived and thrived through that, particularly when COVID then forced everyone to turn off their ad budgets and for a period of time, the ones that had a community were the ones that then continued to then become rocket ships. And obviously, you look at your gym, Sharks of the World, but we work with a load of other brands and the ones that had really built relationships with people they cared about their well being, particularly. When Lockdown happened, it was a shock to everyone. And instead of, like, suddenly discounting and pushing a sales, they got down on our numbers. They said how. Can we be helpful? Let's put on some content because you guys are bored at home. Let's do something fun and funny. And don't worry about buying because you know what? You've got other things to worry about. We don't know what's going on in the world right now, and that trade-off they earn there is still paying dividends three years after that happens. And so I can't kind of agree with you more about the power of this. And one of the problems that I was trying to get my head around is now going into a recession, is that there was a bit of goodwill that carried for a while there since COVID and community rules. Now we're going to recession. The FD has been given a big knife and they're coming in, and CFO, FD, whatever, they're coming in and they're cutting budgets left, right and center. Anything which doesn't have a demonstrable return instantly is getting cut. My fear is, and in fact, I've seen it enough times to think that it's happening, is that community is the thing that's going to suffer. So if you were talking to a brand or a CMO that is arguing day in, day out on the boardroom table with the CFO, is trying to cut all their brand and their community put pieces, how would you arm them better to win that argument?

Massimo: Yeah, that's a really interesting question, especially as you said, we're heading into maybe this odd this odd time again.

Paul: Maybe not a recession, but wallets are a bit tighter.

Massimo: Yeah, 100%. And I think ultimately my argument is we've moved into this time where I think consumers use that word again, but individuals are fans of the brand, not only care about what you're selling, but they also care about what you're doing. And trust me, I worked in marketing, so I worked in a number of vans where we're literally the first line item that gets focused on or experiences budget cuts. And ultimately, I think I always meet that argument with it's not about how we're spending our money and what we are spending our money on. And the long-term ROI to me, is more important than the short-term ROI of really quick marketing spends that might be cheaper in nature, because those ultimately don't build an emotional connection, don't build community. And the reason why you see brands that have survived recessions, that have survived economic downturns, is because they have invested in community in different ways. Now, community means a different thing for each brand. For attractsa, for example, we use the word community because we are a community-driven brand. A lot of our the work we do on the ground is grassroots, is focused on human interaction. And ultimately, which I vehemently believe and defend is Tracksmith is one of the brands that is doing something for the culture of running. And you do see other brands out there in and out of the active lifestyle space that invests in community. And I think investment in community even goes beyond these grassroots activations. It's investing in your own internal team because your own internal team is part of that community. So, again, what you'll see in a lot of these situations is internal initiatives being cut. They might be professional development initiatives, they might be DI initiatives. And ultimately, those are an investment in your own team, which is part of that community, too. If your own team can't buy into your brand and doesn't feel like they're being spoken to you, how do you expect them to go out to the public and convince others that they're being spoken to by that brand? At the end of the day. 

Paul: I love that. And I might mention it previously on the podcast. We did some work with British brand called Topshop. We sat down very suite people to ask them what's going on, and we asked them how many of them were wearing Topshop and none of them were wearing Topshop and then how much they own. None of them owned it. And then we asked how much the discount was for their employees. It was like 25%. And I think NHS or something you could discount it was so miserable. It was abundantly clear that no one in the organization just cared was cared for as well, for the product. And three weeks later, they went bankrupt. So it kind of like the writing was on the wall that this idea of it starts from within. And I do believe that those brands that you have that remarkable experience with, when you go and you engage with store associates or whoever it may be, who's the employees, then they build advocates in you and then you have the experience you had. But it's got to start. It's going to start. I massively agree.

Massimo: Yeah.

Paul: Right, well, I don't want to take too much more of your time, but I've got three more questions for you. Quick five questions, if you're okay with that.

Massimo: Yeah, let's shoot ‘em up. Shoot ‘em up. I'm ready for it.

Paul: All right. Okay. So what marketing related advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

Massimo: I said this before as maybe contrived it sounds to a lot of the listeners. I ultimately believe it is showing up as your authentic self. As soon as I it was a light switch that went off for me many years ago in these rooms where it's more of a zero fucks. But professional approach to zeroflux, but in the sense of if I show up as my authentic self if I stop questioning myself and my values, or if I need to morph into someone else. When I stop doing that is when I started to really make change at the brands I work for, but also saw great success in my own career.

Paul: That's an amazing piece of insight there. And I suspect it probably kind of rocks over, because the next question I was going to ask is, what counterintuitives have you learned along the way?

Massimo: That's a really interesting one, and for a lot of marketers, something that many will say they disagree with, but I ultimately believe that, which answers probably your next question. There's a mentor of mine who's an amazing marketer who is Bozeman St. John, and she often speaks about how it is counterintuitive for a lot of us in these spaces to approach things from almost an anti numerical perspective. We're so focused on numbers and statistics and what's the demographic that we'll reach, and I need a number on that. I'm doing this marketing campaign, and I need to look at a historical perspective of similar marketing campaigns that gave an ROI. And sometimes it just feels right, and you have to trust your gut, and that's something you can't put a dollar value on. You can't look in a spreadsheet for and compare 20 years of marketing data. It's something that I've learned to hone in on and tap into in those moments where I'm being questioned in a room for an idea I have and individuals are using data to prove my point wrong. But I know that this feels right and it's something we need to do. And I'd say 99% of the time it's worked out and it's been counterintuitive to what we've always been told.

Paul: I love that. Well, your gut is really all of the data points of an entire lifetime thrown together, and then it's very hard for our brain to process it by our gut. Very. In fact, I can't remember a time when my gut was ever wrong if it felt very strong about it. I remember many times going against my gut and being wrong. That's amazing. And you've actually answered my final one with, who are you going to bring to if you could bring anyone in marketing to lunch, who's it going to be?

Massimo: Yes, it would be amazing. Bozoma  John. If anyone has not heard of her, listened to. She actually just published an amazing memoir that I've read, and she's one of, in my opinion, one of the most talented marketers ever and really approaches things from a really unique and interesting perspective, as well as her life experience as a black woman in corporate America.

Paul: Postma is amazing. And if she's listening, we'd love to have you on Masimo. This has been absolutely fantastic. I was so psyched to have you on this and get to jam favorite topics in the world we could have gone on. We didn't even really touch on the conscious capitalism piece, but, you know, maybe.

Massimo: That's part two.

Paul: Part two. There we are. Got it. Agreed to just be marvelous and asimo. Have a wonderful day. Thank you so much for making the time.

Massimo: Thank you, Paul. Thanks so much for having me.

We can't wait to meet you.