Q> Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many things in life, it was mostly by chance that I came to this specific career path. At the age of 13, I started an early career at a stock broking firm. However, by the time I was 19, I quit because it was upsetting to see money flying around that didn’t create any value for society. I then took a job at a housing complex for disabled people and worked for a few years until a friend called me and asked for help on MTV’s show Real World. Working on that show, I met some incredible creative minds who managed the post-production. A year or two later, they joined me when I founded Chimney in 1996.

In the ‘90’s, post-production was a much more hands-on and time-consuming task than today. A 3D render could take up to 5 days, and if you screwed something up, you missed the air time. Moving files from one computer to another could take 8 hours. I started programming at the age of 8, so my familiarity with technology and my creative passion was a perfect mix in those days.


Q> Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t have many funny stories to share since we don’t specialize in marketing our own company. We help some of the biggest brands in the world but never do anything for ourselves. We strive to deliver fantastic work to our clients, so they come back to buy more and tell all their friends about us.


Q> What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Being a privately owned company makes us very agile, and we constantly drive innovation in services and offerings. We opened up the first two offices abroad in 1998 and have continually opened more since then with 14 offices in 9 countries currently. I read a report from IBM 10 years ago that analyzed 1500 companies that outperformed the competition over 2–3 recessions, and they had something in common with our company. They all expected that 50% of their revenues in 5 years would come from products and services they don’t offer today. And if you still take care of existing clients, you will add this on top of what you already have. We have a robust culture here, with many employees having worked for us since our inception, but something we could improve on is recognition. Since we never pause and praise amazing work, we always feel that we could be 10% better. Clients usually rate us at ten, but we rate ourselves at seven. Maybe part of the reason clients love working with us is because we have higher expectations than they do.


Q> Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly busy working on great shows for Netflix, which help to inspire creative minds everywhere. As an international company with one global P&L, we also share work between offices daily, which helps to stay connected and nurture talent. Many of our partners are creatively minded and have a voice when it comes to the company strategy. There needs to be a balance, but we do many things out of passion and not just business logic.


Q> In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

We were taught in University that the perfect mix between brand marketing and product marketing is 60% and 40%, respectively. One needs to invest in the brand to get the consumers to know you exist, learn who you are, and build brand preference. This marketing will help you get better margins on your sales and lower sales and acquisition costs. Yet, this tactic seems to be something everybody has forgotten. I hear brands complaining about consumers being disloyal, but is that surprising when brands have spent 90% of their budget on re-targeting display ads? They have harassed the consumer online and screamed SALE in their face for +10 years, so I am not surprised their brand equity is diminishing. Many companies had good conversion at the beginning since they had built that equity for 30 years. However, now they pay using that equity, and if they don’t invest in restoring it, they will see the competition from challenging brands start to impose as well as a considerable part of their margins going into digital marketing to generate sales and revenues. It is a race to the bottom.


Q> Why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

You can have the perfect products, best advertising campaigns, and the catchiest slogan, but if each of these aspects doesn’t directly align with your brand’s vision, you are doing yourself a disservice. Once you start to build up brand recognition, consumers will have expectations about your services and offerings. They come to anticipate a certain level of quality and expertise that your company delivers each time. This is how you build, strengthen, and maintain customer relations. Your brand is your calling card, or what you are immediately recognized for, so make sure it reflects your mission and overall vision.


Q> Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Take bigger creative risks. Allow your company to acquire different marketing assets so you can keep variety and don’t have to bet it all on one.


Q> In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One brand that specifically impresses me with its mission and brand marketing is Telsa. Between their vehicles’ state-of-the-art safety features and zero emissions, saving the environment has never looked so cool. They also offer other clean energy solutions, and their brand is unified in the point that they are trying to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The takeaway point here is that Tesla identified a need, in this case utilizing more sustainable sources of energy, and delivered it in new and unexpected ways, such as their Tesla Model 3.


Q> In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Everybody says that a marketing campaign needs to focus on both brand building and sales. That can be true but to the same marketing assets or the same channel. What if your marketing plan is fantastic, but the products or price suck, what will data tell you then? For decades we have measured branding performance using Net Promoter Score, which I think still works. Maybe I am too traditional, but marketing is about connecting with humans and triggering emotions, and our DNA hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, ha ha!


Q> What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Consumers use social media to interact, connect, network, and discuss, so it is easy for brands to become just another interruption. Social media is probably THE most important channel in anybody’s communication strategy today, but not enough brands use it properly to focus on creating a two-way dialogue. It is getting worse every day due to cancel culture, to the point that it can scare brands from taking a stand or having a voice if it is not just white-washed opinions.

I think social media is powerful if one can accept that NOT being loved by some is just as powerful as being loved by others.


Q> What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I sometimes feel sorry for my brand’s marketing teams. They get to manage more and more every day but don’t get to increase headcounts. Since sales have moved into digital channels, they are not just responsible for marketing but also sales, product, and service innovation. The owners need to understand that the increased budget cannot just go into external media buying. That being said, most clients work the same way as they did 20 years ago; they just do more things. There are huge opportunities to work smarter, not harder, and use technology to automate many of these tasks. Brands should have their own ecosystem in which their partners work. A campaign right now involves ten different agencies, and the marketer is left to work in the agency’s infrastructure, and they all have different ways of working. With one, they use Trello and a Google Calendar, with another Slack and Dropbox etc. This is why sometimes up to 50% of their time is spent just on updating all partners on what is happening between them. Create your own ecosystem, get everybody to work as YOU want them to, and get all agencies around the same table for the first time.

 

Q> You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to focus more on role models for certain groups in our society, both locally and globally. The role models in some areas are the local drug dealers since many don’t see any other path. Conversely, we should not just showcase the founders of huge startups since that is too hard to reach for some people to relate to as well. It is the local heroes starting a small coffee shop, the small-town social workers, and the volunteer firefighters, to name a few, that we should be highlighting. With our footprint in the entertainment sector, we can produce amazing content and achieve global distribution to tell the stories needed to make a difference.

 

Q> Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maybe not my favorite life lesson, but when the IT crash happened in 2000, Sweden got hit very hard, and our revenues when down by 80% in one week. Being young and inexperienced, navigating through such turbulent times was tough, but I learned that worrying about what will happen tomorrow is not helpful. One can only work hard and do the best one can and then see what the future holds. We came through even stronger on the other side, and it also helped me learn to separate work from my personal life, even if it was going through a crisis. So, when the 2008 recession hit, or COVID in 2020, we were able to keep the team spirit positive and pushed through so that ultimately none of my coworkers were personally affected.

 

Q> We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with?

My wife! I work too much and don’t spend enough time with the love of my life. We have been a couple for 32 years now, and CVG would not exist without her love and support. Between working full time, raising three kids, and taking care of everything at home, she has allowed me to continue doing what I love and travel the world.