Martin “Marty” Marion is a direct response advertising expert and a former “Mad Men” marketer who famously represented several of the major Madison Avenue advertising agencies in New York as a senior executive, advising some of the biggest brands in the world. Early in his career, he had the opportunity to learn from advertising legends like David Ogilvy, Ted Bates, George Wiedemann and many other legends of marketing and advertising. He claims to have learned many of his marketing secrets from these masters. Since then, he has accumulated over 40 years of successful big agency and executive consulting expertise in strategic planning and business development for a wide range of major brands and agencies in a wide range of industries, focused primarily on consumer goods and healthcare.
Today, Marty is the CEO of MountainSmokes.com and its corporate parent, The Hempshire Group, Inc. (TSXV:HMPG). The company that has branded itself as the “smarter alternative to smoking” has already found significant new reach from Marty’s experience since he joined, with their non-tobacco and non-nicotine smokes being seen and recommended all over social media by the likes of influencers and celebrities, and adult consumers and tobacco cigarette smokers. The “smarter smokes” venture is right on brand with Marty, who lives to disrupt established markets. and rewrite the rules of established industries, something he’s done well throughout his entire career.
Marty also achieved notoriety as the creator of the eLearning course Master Positioning and as the author of The Positioning Matrix™, the world’s first mathematical model for creating disruptive brand strategies, which is frequently referenced by sales and marketing professionals.
In his latest role as CEO of the publicly-traded Hempshire Group (TSXV:HMPG), “Mad Man” Marty Marion continues to apply his knowledge, resources and network to disrupt and dismantle major industries in order to position his products into household names, in this instance his target is ‘Big Tobacco’ and the 35 million cigarette smokers in the U.S.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
The idea for my career came from the giant Madison Avenue ad agencies. The show Mad Men was based on one of the legendary agencies where I would become a senior executive. I’ve since become a recognized expert at branding, strategy, and positioning, and a frequent keynote speaker at major conferences in digital marketing and SEO.
MOUNTAIN® Smokes was not my idea; the company was founded several years ago, and the original formulations were created before I came on board, and my role now is to help guide the company’s success in bringing MOUNTAIN® Smokes to consumers and retailers around the world, as a smarter alternative to tobacco cigarettes and nicotine-based vapes.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up at 4am every day and get an hour workout in before a half-hour swim or spa. I’ll get home and have a healthy breakfast before starting work at 6:30 am – pretty much 6 days a week. I finish whenever I finish. How I make it productive is I prioritize my health and always carve out a little personal time each day. I also read a lot; it’s important to never stop learning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I break rules and follow some very simple formulas that have been proven over decades by the most successful consumer products and healthcare product marketers in the world. Once I understand the target market and their needs, I can put together a unique and talented team capable of marketing a product that fills those needs. Consumers only buy goods and services that solve problems or fulfill needs or desires. Once you understand the psychology of consumer decision-making, you can help almost any legitimate brand to achieve true competitive domination.
I think it’s always better to outsmart your competitors, and not have to out-spend them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More than 35 million people in the US smoke cigarettes every day. 1.8 billion people worldwide smoke cigarettes. They are fully aware that smoking causes respiratory, cardiac and other health problems, and that nicotine is addictive, but they do it anyways. There’s a reason for that. In fact, there are 36 reasons to be specific. I’m excited that I have the opportunity to lead a team of highly experienced professionals who have created an incredible alternative to tobacco cigarettes that fulfills the needs of those 1.8 billion people without the chemicals, dangers and risks caused by nicotine and tobacco. MOUNTAIN® Smokes is truly a one-of-a-kind product, and frankly, I’m excited to disrupt ‘Big Tobacco’.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being a good person who cares about others and is unafraid to break the rules to fulfill their needs. If you do everything by the book, you will never gain a true competitive edge. By creatively finding solutions to fulfill the needs of people, with legitimate products, you can reinvent the rules and reset the bar in almost any industry.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Read more and doubt more. People are quick to do things that make them feel connected, especially at times like the pandemic, but don’t believe everything you hear, read, or see without validating it for yourself. The combination of social media fueling divisive and often misleading information and a consumer society hungry for recognition opens the door to both intentional and unintentional spreading of dangerous and ill-informed information.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe in hiring people who are smarter than me. Leaders become leaders by making their own rules and setting the bar for everyone else to catch up to, so it’s best to have the brightest people on your team to help you do so. As a CEO my job is to empower my team to excel. I also believe strongly in engaging with best-in-class partners such as marketing and ad agencies who have demonstrated abilities to bring new products to market successfully. We’re lucky to have engaged one such partner in the marketing and creative agency WKND Digital, who is playing a major role in helping is set and execute a disruptive set of strategies and tactics to bring MOUNTAIN® Smokes to market.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Don’t always try to fit in. Question authority and have confidence in yourself and what you believe in. It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. What’s not OK is to not try, or to wait for that elusive state of ‘perfection’ before getting into the marketplace.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I can talk about how great my product is 24/7/365, but until you try it for yourself, you only have my word. We take away the risks and hurdles of trying our product for anyone interested by offering them a free pack. Giving away our product for free has significantly expanded our reach and has been publicly appreciated by thousands of consumers and even by celebrities.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I was once a consultant for the largest and best-known maker of aspirin products in the world, and they were preparing to execute the largest product launch in their history at that time. I knew the launch and brand strategy was a mistake and they weren’t ready, and so I voiced my opinion and got fired because of it. Some would call that a failure, but the company ended up losing every penny of that product launch and had to pull the product. I don’t regret a single thing and pride myself on always being honest and telling my clients the good, bad, and ugly. Truth matters, even more today than ever before, even if it’s ‘inconvenient’ to hear.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Stop thinking things through till death and take action. Perfection is mostly an illusion, especially in marketing. When you’ve done your due diligence and have intelligently researched your market, go for it. You’ll make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The book “The Chaos Machine”, by Max Fisher. It explains the psychology of social media and how the major social media platforms have intentionally created and spread chaos by intentionally provoking moral outrage in the pursuit of profit. It’s an example of the old maxim that power corrupts, and this books should be required reading for every marketer. It’s one of the most important – and frightening – books I’ve ever read.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I have multiple computers, phones, and tablets, but the one thing that I rely on the most and that makes me ten times more productive is a simple analog calendar. Without it, I’m not sure I’d get anything done. You have to pull your face away from the screen or it literally sucks you down one rabbit hole after another. I love how analog keeps me somewhat sane… I collect vinyl records and I don’t even own a CD player… I shoot photography on film, and yes, I use a good old fashioned calendar and planner.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
In addition to The Chaos Machine I mentioned earlier, I would also recommend that everybody read “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu because it makes you rethink how simple it is to become the #1 leader in the world if you just understand the basic principles of human psychology.
What is your favorite quote?
“He not busy being born is busy dying”. It’s a line from Bob Dylan’s song “It’s Alright, Ma”.
- Don’t be ashamed of the things you do and try to be humble. Try to figure out what needs your actions fulfill and how you can find a healthier alternative, if there is one. Happiness is directly related to health, and health derives from happiness. When you find happiness, relish it and experience it as often as you can.
- Celebrate every moment. Learn from everything and try to enhance your life in every way you can. Try to stay focused and avoid as many distractions as you can. And be trustworthy.
- Don’t be so serious. Take a break and stop to smell the flowers, laugh, focus, take a breath. Literally. Prioritize personal time, and don’t beat yourself up for doing so.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.