With a career spanning Ireland, the UK, and the US, marketing expert Alyson Clarke seems to have an innate ability to bring original and forward-thinking marketing concepts to life, and she’s been doing exactly that for brands like Bulmers, Budweiser, and many others throughout the course of a uniquely impressive career.
She got her start working with major fashion brands and has since supported a large number of product launches and other campaigns through the use of innovative live events and digital marketing efforts.
Marketing has made major strides in recent years, and Clarke has been there for all of it, making her the perfect person to talk with about the ins and outs of modern marketing, so we did just that.
This interview charts Clarke’s journey to the forefront of marketing, and it also gives a look into how brands can get through to their customers, here in the digital age.
Thanks for talking with us. So when did your interest in marketing begin? What was the true start of your career?
Clarke: I must have been 10 or 11 and I was with some older cousins, listening to their conversations about their latest project and their most recent work trips. Every time I saw them, I would look forward to hearing the latest updates. I always thought the industry sounded like my dream, a creative world, full of sociable people and exciting brands.
I guess the true start of my career was when I secured an eight-month internship with AEFFE USA in 2013 in New York. It was always my dream to work in fashion. I came home from university in the UK and I was determined to secure a fashion internship in New York. I remember sitting at my desk, applying for every single internship that I could find online, paid or unpaid, I just wanted the opportunity. A number of companies got back to me, but I wanted to hold out for a company that was really well-known globally.
Finally, it was worth the wait when AEFFE got in touch. A couple of months later, I joined the team working with brands such as Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Fuzzi. The experience was incredible. On top of the experience, I learned that if you work hard enough and wait for the right opportunity, it will come along.
How much does your marketing work depend on an understanding of the customer?
Clarke: Understanding the customer is absolutely essential. What is the point of engaging with the customer if you don`t understand them properly? Any time that I work with a new brand, my priority is first to do a deep dive into the brand to fully understand the brand personality, objectives, etc.
The next priority is to understand the customer. What do they want? What are they looking for from the brand? What excites them? What makes them pick up one product over another? As well as holding focus groups, etc., there are so many great platforms online that allow brands to ask questions to consumers around the globe and hear what they have to say.
What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of digital marketing efforts?
Clarke: The effectiveness of digital marketing can’t be denied. It’s simply amazing. For me, the ability to reach anyone, anywhere is incredible. There are no geographical boundaries when it comes to digital marketing. On top of that, if the activity is targeted effectively, the cost to reach an audience can be much more cost-effective than traditional marketing methods.
Also, being able to access trackable, measurable results is a huge benefit to marketers. One digital campaign is always a lesson for the next campaign. Getting detailed information on how our consumers responded to our latest advertising campaign informs us how to play our next campaign. What resonated with our consumers, and what didn’t? If we didn’t have this information from digital marketing, it would be a lot trickier to nail the perfect campaign for our consumers.
Have any of your campaigns included in-person events? And if so, do these kinds of events present special challenges?
Clarke: Yes, there have been a number of in-person events over the years. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of our planned events were canceled, which was a real pity. I love planning events and it’s definitely a passion of mine. All events come with a fair share of challenges, but I’ve collated a number of tips that I always refer to.
Always prepare for the unexpected. No detail is too small. Keep calm, there’s a solution for (almost) everything. If you can`t keep calm, don`t show it! My pet peeve is being in a restaurant or at an event where the staff looks stressed. It’s never a good sign!
Are you a natural collaborator? Is collaboration key for marketing professionals?
Clarke: Yes, I would consider myself a natural collaborator. Even though I’m happy working on my own, I would definitely rather be part of a team. To me, there’s something amazing about being in a room with fellow marketers just putting all of our ideas on the table, no judgment, no hierarchy, just a group of engaged, creative, and passionate individuals.
I’m always willing to help others that need support, I never let job titles or personal objectives get in the way of collaborating with a team. Previous employers have always commended me on this. I will help out anyone, whether it was in my job spec or not. Collaboration is without a doubt key for marketing professionals, we can’t do it all on our own! We can inspire, motivate, and support each other, be it the biggest or the smallest task.
Forming strong relationships with my co-workers is always a priority for me. I continuously ensure that my fellow team members know how much I appreciate them and how willing I am to support them and vice versa.
You’ve clearly been very successful. What were some of the major stepping stones on the way to your current success?
Clarke: I’m so grateful for my career to date and I’m so excited for the future. As mentioned earlier, getting the opportunity to intern with AEFFE was the perfect start to my career. This role really stood out on my resume to future employers. I’m fortunate to have had an amazing manager at P&G who really believed in me and my ability. I definitely credit her for instilling so much belief in myself and for pushing me outside my comfort zone.
As a result of this, I believe the key to my success is knowing my worth. When searching for a job, I never accepted a role that I wasn’t excited about. I never settled for a role just to have a job. Being selective in who I work for over the years has enabled me to gain super strong experience in my field, work on incredible campaigns for global brands, and be recognized as one of the best in my industry.
If you were starting your career over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Clarke: Great question! I would definitely put myself out there more. I’m such an outgoing and sociable individual, but I feel like I hide too much in the background when it comes to my work. I’m so proud of my experience and the work that I’ve been involved in, but I definitely don’t take the praise that I deserve and would rather someone else on my team accept an award or get involved in a press call.
It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently and it’s something that I will change starting right now! It’s definitely a piece of advice that I would share with those just starting their careers or for those who, like me, would rather stay away from the limelight!