Richard Fouts, Head of Thought Leadership, Razorfish, a full service digital marketing agency.
Favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is researching and writing storylines. As my company’s chief thought leader, I explore a variety of marketing trends and technologies that are impacting the way we manage marketing’s four Ps in an economy that is becoming increasingly connected. First we made things (the industrial era) then we made things work more reliably (the quality movement); now we make things that work with other things (connectivity). What a great era we’ve entered.
This latest chapter of digital ubiquity doesn’t just impact marketing; it impacts the entire global economy. Composing storylines about how companies in all sectors are finding new sources of value in a connected economy is my priority each day.
In my off hours, I’m also a playwright. My latest play focuses on the Vietnam draft, and how a government lottery (to determine the order young men were inducted to war) caught America by complete surprise. The play I’m working on now focuses on the arguments that led to FDR’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans. I’m also taking a break from drama to write a comedy about Leonard Bernstein. I suppose you could say I like to tell stories from Americana.
Your marketing philosophy?
Marketing is a strategic, not a tactical, function. Marketing executives should guide the firm’s offering and help decide what it does; what it doesn’t. Marketing also guides how the firm competes and how it uses strategic alliances to round out its competitive offering. Too many CMOs take products to market that are thrown over the wall. If you aren’t guiding product development you’re reduced to a glorified marcom executive. That type of role won’t get you a seat at the table.
What company are you watching these days? What do you admire about their marketing?
The company I love to follow is Tesla, because it has been so successful at taking share from the luxury auto players (particularly Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lexus) yet it spends far less on marketing (as a percentage of revenue) than its competitors. Tesla is the gold standard for letting its brand advocates promote the firm, which requires a lot of confidence and courage because you have to let go. But, satisfied, loyal customers are your best salespeople, something Tesla proves every day. Just go on YouTube and you’ll see scores of customer evangelist videos raving about the company and its products. Tesla has built a brand, not just a car, it’s a social, economic, global movement about the future of auto transportation; people don’t just buy a Tesla, they buy into an idea. It’s fantastic.
Why SF AMA?
Ah, great question. We marketers love to network and we love to hear the stories of our peers. Meeting AMA members and hearing their stories of how they got into marketing is so much fun. I love it because these conversations naturally veer into other interests.
What fad do you wish would come back? Which do you feel should stay gone forever?
Come back: The art of letter writing. My plays are informed by letters between friends, spouses and relatives articulating unfiltered truths about feelings, attitudes, highs and lows. It’s the best tool a playwright can have. Writing a letter by hand takes longer, people think through their feelings in more depth than an email .. at least that’s my conclusion.
Gone forever: Reply All.
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future? Why?
As much as I would love to travel to the future to see how it all turns out, I would go back to the summer of 1776 in Philadelphia when a handful of disruptors, aka the US founding fathers, decided to break from England. The stakes of that outcome were so high; listening to those men passionately debate such a decision would be stunning.
If you could live in a book, TV show or movie, what would it be?
LinkedIn: Richard Fouts https://www.linkedin.com/in/richfouts