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Marketing Matters... with Martina McDonnell, Marketing Director, Small Business Group EMEA at Facebook

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 14 August 2019
Updated: Tuesday 13 August 2019

Martina mcDonnell Facebook

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.

My role at Facebook is to promote the use of digital tools and Facebook’s family of apps and services to small and medium businesses throughout the EMEA region.  

We know that SMEs are the backbone to economies throughout the region and we also know that digital skills are, and will continue to be, essential to support their business growth.

We run a program called Boost with Facebook to educate and inspire businesses to make the most of the opportunities offered by the digital economy through tools, programmes and events.   This comes to life through campaigns, in-person events and online trainings to help businesses find new customers and grow at home or abroad.  One of our most recent Irish campaigns, ‘Made by Ireland Loved by the World’ showcased some examples of great Irish brands who are using Facebook and Instagram to grow their businesses overseas.

We have a small but mighty team of brilliant marketers based at our EMEA HQ here at Grand Canal Square.  Through insights led planning and research, content and campaign creation, digital and events marketing we engage the businesses, throughout the region, to avail of the programmes.  I feel very privileged to be able to do this working in the city I grew up in.  

I’m married to Brendan and I’m mum to an eight-year-old girl.  Outside of work I juggle to get the right balance of family and ‘me’ time and love it most when we get to spend time together on holiday somewhere relaxing and hot!



Why did you choose a career in marketing?


I feel like my career in market chose me if I’m honest.   I wasn’t at all academic so didn’t immediately feel like continuing my studies after my Leaving Cert.  I went to work in branch banking with AIB and I absolutely loved it. It was genuinely the best place to learn all about consumer behavior and the importance of putting the customer at the heart of your business.  Four brilliant years at Enable Ireland in Sandymount followed, where I learnt all about fundraising and marketing and it was then I decided to go back and study by night.  I initially undertook a Diploma in PR with the Public Relations Institute and then studied with the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the Irish Management Institute.  With both practical experience and the academic know-how my career in marketing grew with a really interesting role in Forfas, where I ran the first government funded science and technology awareness programme which gave birth to Science Week Ireland (www.scienceweek.ie) before I returned to financial services spending long stints in more senior roles with both Aviva and HSBC.  

I love the creativity and business acumen that marketing demands.  Marketing is a key enabler of business strategy and connects people with the brands and services they need and love.  It is a powerful asset for businesses everywhere, at every stage of development and I’m grateful that I get to do what I love and through my work at Facebook share the benefits of marketing with businesses everywhere.


In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge marketers are facing today? How would you tackle it?

The biggest challenge is for marketers to gain a place at the leadership table and not operate in a vacuum.  Too often marketers need to prove out the value of their function and role which takes valuable time away from helping the business drive real business results.  This can be tackled by marketers committing to having a deep understanding of the business environment, collaborating and working cross functionally in the business and becoming more comfortable using data and insights to articulate strategies that deliver results.  Also, when we think about how AI, AR and other technologies will change the face of business, I don’t think there is any other profession better placed to lead how businesses can adopt these technologies – we are innovative and creative thinkers and doers.   As an industry, we need to think broader than we’ve ever thought before and I’ve been so encouraged by the work the MII are doing on skills and competencies to support this evolution.


What advice would you give to someone starting a career in marketing?

 My path hasn’t been the most conventional however, my career path really crystalised when I could bring together both the theory and practical experience.  The academic knowledge is important, but it is equally important to understand how to practically apply that knowledge – that is what really matters in the everyday and will ensure that you have the ability to flex with the needs of the business.  Take every opportunity that is offered to you to build your knowledge, your network and your career especially when it takes you outside your comfort zone.  I have always had formal and informal mentors, most often those who are not marketers, to help build my business acumen.  I read a lot, listen to podcasts, keep up with trends, look at what competitors and others are doing and love to talk to people inside and outside of marketing.  In short, never stop learning.  



What makes a great marketer?


As I said above ‘never stop learning’ as I truly believe this is the secret to your success and continued growth as a marketer and a business leader.  In addition, being results orientated, understanding the inner workings of your business so that you can use data to mine the right insights and being unafraid to fail and to share the learnings are just some of the traits that make a great marketer.   I also firmly believe that CMOs can also strive to be CEOs – they are by nature innovative thinkers and have managed the top line as well as thinking about how to grow the bottom line.  I would love to see more CMOs taking CEO roles in the future.



What is your favourite marketing campaign of all time? Why?

 I love Nike, Just do it!  I am about as far from an athlete as you can imagine but I think the beauty lies in that it speaks to everyone – regardless of ability.  More than a slogan, Nike’s philosophy has lasted three decades in part because of this universality.  It can be applied to occasional joggers and elite athletes alike.   I also love how Nike has evolved over the years to focus on equality and most recently, activism.

Closer to home, I hugely admire the work that AIB did to regain trust through ‘Backing Brave’.  This for me is a brilliant example of a truly integrated brand idea to not only return the bank to profitability but to save the brand from extinction.  It was more than a brand campaign it was lived by everyone working in the bank demonstrated through how they did business and how its customers experienced it.  It’s a remarkable story of a brand turnaround.


Where do you look for professional inspiration?


I work with a really talented team of marketers in Facebook, so inspiration is around me every day!   I also feel very lucky to work at a business with hugely inspirational leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.  My admiration of them both was a huge motivator to join Facebook almost 5 years ago and continues to this day.  I’m also inspired by some of the best names in marketing throughout the ages from Michael Porter and Philip Kotler to Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk.  And I’m hugely inspired by individuals who have clarity of purpose and a clear view on how they can use that to effect change, people like Bill Clinton who saw how he could influence the situation in Northern Ireland over 20 years ago, David Attenborough and his continued push for a more sustainable world and Malala Yousafzai for never giving up on what she believed, advocating for education of women and children.

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