I believe rules are made to be broken, whilst ideas are feed to growth.
With experience spanning 30 years, 40 countries, and 50 brands, Alexei Orlov has made life his business and business his life as a seasoned leader in Global Marketing. A proven specialist in global brand strategy, marketing deployment, and operational change management, Alexei’s passionate and dynamic leadership has been a driving force throughout his career.
Alexei Orlov is Founder and Global CEO of mtm choice worldwide, a boutique network of skilled practitioners specialising in high-precision brand activation and media optimisation. Bolstered by market-enabling technologies, mtm agencies seek to help brands excel at the “moments that matter” for their customers and consumers. The company, which initially raised $30 million, has completed two acquisitions and will be closing a third in July 2018. mtm is currently in negotiations to complete a further $50 million of funding to support additional top-tier acquisitions in 2018.
Prior to mtm, Alexei Orlov served as Senior Advisor to the CEO & Chairman of DAS, an international division of Omnicom Group. Prior to DAS, he served as Global CEO of RAPP where he oversaw a dramatic turnaround, attracting new business and leadership talent through a successful rebranding initiative.
As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Volkswagen Group China, Alexei Orlov was responsible for the overall marketing and brand positioning for the Volkswagen Brands portfolio across Greater China and ASEAN. Alexei was jointly responsible for the commercial excellence of the company’s significant regional business as a core member of Volkswagen’s executive team.
Alexei served the digital specialist agency Wunderman for eight years as President (Europe), then as Global COO and finally as Executive Vice-Chairman (Worldwide). He also served as the Global Strategic Lead for WPP’s automotive business, where he co-led agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, Wunderman, Mindshare, Y&R and JWT on their work for Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, and Volvo.
Prior, Alexei was Global Brand Communications Director for Volvo Cars and Marketing Director of Volvo UK, at the time the second-largest national sales company for the Volvo Corporation. Alexei was the youngest executive to be appointed to a director position at Avon, where he served as Marketing Director of Avon Cosmetics Retail (Europe). At the beginning of his career he was a founding member of the highly-successful Paperchase Retail Group, igniting in him a passion for brand stewardship that carries on to this day.
Alexei Orlov has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honors. In 2012 and 2013, Alexei was awarded CMO of the Year / ASEAN by the World Brand Congress. In 2013, Alexei and his team at Proximity received a Cannes Gold Lion Award for their work creating the People’s Car Project, the largest automotive social media platform with 28 million users and 108 million YouKu followers. Alexei was also invited to be one of the top keynote speakers at the highly-acclaimed Global Brand Forum in 2013.
Where did the idea for mtm choice come from?
To be honest, I have been talking about the “moments that matter” for about five years now. In fact, I always say to clients who listen: “If it does not matter to those who matter for your business, then it will not matter, and nor will your business.” Choice is the reward, and people like us will talk about us and recommend us. The certain and defining proof is whether they choose your business above and beyond others. And so mtm choice became our name to remind us that everything we do must have profound relevance for a changing world and marketplace.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Since my teens, I have only ever needed about four to five hours of sleep. I have a lot of time, therefore, to pause and think. That being said, I like to leave room to be spontaneous — but to do that I always mark the one absolute priority of the day and pursue it. I also believe in creating a list based on what’s most needed and working my way down. I often don’t finish it, but it carries over. They key is to share the list and allow others to take possession and responsibility. There is great value in letting go. Letting others know you trust them breeds togetherness and momentum.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Trying to get something absolutely perfect from the outset in business is an ‘obsession over reality and pace.’ I believe very much in having a clear purpose that others can align to and get going on once we feel we have enough homework done. It is important to course correct as we move towards a goal. No one can predict every aspect and every eventuality. The trick is to know when to slow down to gather pace, and to be honest and clear at every step. It is also important to forgive others as much as you do yourself; then you will see how quickly ideas become objective realities.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The move towards digital and social AUTHENTICITY. For instance, it is not good enough to speak of data protection. It is also important to ensure that what people are involved with has its roots in an authentic product. My view is that we have allowed ourselves to think that anything at any time, by anyone, is just fine. It has made paupers of too many people with low sensibility and no sense of responsibility. The rules and regulations driven by GDPR (General Data Protections Regulation) must move into more clearly defined permissions not just to withstand data breaches, but to show authentic substance too.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always question the parameters thrown at me. I believe rules are made to be broken, whilst ideas are feed to growth. I therefore believe in live conversations and real-time interaction. People sitting right next to one another and emailing each other is an example of digital madness and protectionism gone mad.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Live for yourself first. Then you can be a better person for others. This is not about being selfish, but rather knowing your true self and being happy within. Only then can you truly listen to others and shine a better light yourself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Religion and marriage are simply not the life-long and loving bonding agents we made them up to be. We created them to manage and control our societies. It’s time to rethink and interrogate these age-old institutions.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Don’t gather people who are as good as you, find people who are better and nourish them. And never make assumptions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Not just identifying a market opportunity, but seeing how we could be a great practitioner within it to make a difference. I know what I want to achieve, but I leave room to pivot. From directions in strategy, to financing the operations, to building my exceptional team, I have allowed myself to step up, step down, sprint, walk and sometimes stop to make fundamental turns that whilst very difficult at times were absolutely required. That means accepting that I don’t always get it right, but also not allowing myself to be whimsical. There are lives and reputations at stake in every business. In the absence of a plan that makes you feel resolved, pause just a while longer.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I was born impatient, and I have suffered consequently. I finally realised I will always be impatient. But, I have somewhat mastered now the art of waiting, albeit, waiting impatiently. Patience is the ultimate form of power; an energy that can afford to wait until it unleashes.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think someone should create an insurance company product where you only pay for the time that you are physically using your car. It would cut the cost of insurance dramatically and, perversely, could actually increase the levels of insurance paid. Market penetration might increase, as it would become far more cost accessible to so many who can’t now afford to pay and take the risk.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was not $100, but $80. I was working from the house and four gardeners worked and worked through a hot afternoon. I noticed that their bottles of water were empty, so I came out and gave them each a cold bottle and $20 a piece and thanked them. Their English was not great, my Spanish was miserable, but we understood one another as they stood there and shyly smiled. They knew that at this house they were seen and they mattered. It made me feel happy. Really happy.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
The BBC News app. I just don’t think world affairs coverage is very good in the USA. Sorry, but the world is not the USA. It’s the tribes of all people across the globe. To be in the business I am in and not know what really is happening in real time across all spectrums of life and business is a problem. CNN, take note!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Applied Empathy” by Michael Ventura. It is a simple and honest book to read that reminds us about the obvious that we all too often forget about. To say you are a citizen of humankind you have to be both human…and kind… by having sensibility and understanding of others.
What is your favorite quote?
“Wisdom only comes when we throw our knowledge away.”
Alexei Orlov on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexeiorlov/