Mark Mullen would argue some of his best ideas come to him after spending an afternoon in the skies, spinning his open cockpit plane all around and upside down. “It requires a lot of concentration and clarity, so it helps make sure that you’re not thinking about work anymore and [instead] clearing your head to allow new opportunities and ideas to come in,” said Mullen, who is vp of strategy at George P. Johnson Experience Marketing.
Clearing headspace for new ideas is crucial for Mullen’s role, which revolves around helping Silicon Valley-type tech brands—including Salesforce and Google, as well as the likes of Acura, Pepsi and Under Armour—create thoughtful experiences to connect with consumers. One of the agency’s biggest projects includes working with Salesforce on its annual Dreamforce conference and brand experience in San Francisco. The firm lends expertise ranging from strategy, creative services, live production, event services, sponsorship sales, partner marketing, content, technology and more to bring the entire event to life.
“My job is to define a criteria for the brand experience so that we can create alignment across the experience with the business objectives that allows us to come up with a ton of great ideas and really understand which ones are aligned with where the business needs to go,” Mullen explained.
Before joining GPJ, Mullen had relatively no experiential marketing experience to speak of. He was contacted about the job (and his previous gig) through a LinkedIn connection. After finding out more about the role and the world of experiential marketing, Mullen decided it would be a good fit based on his previous marketing background.
Following a five-year stint as the official photographer for Saturday Night Live, Mullen got his start on the agency side as a senior producer at McCann Erickson. He eventually switched gears to join Nike as the brand’s senior director of global media before moving to Microsoft as senior director of marketing and product management.
“I have both creative genes and technical genes,” he said. “I’ve continued to seek out places that I could straddle both sides of those, and that’s a common thread that runs through a lot of the various places I’ve ended up.”
Vp, strategy, George P. Johnson Experience Marketing
Strategy lead, product management, Infosys
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Senior director, marketing, product management, Microsoft
Senior director, global media, Nike
As a vp of strategy, Mullen spends a lot of time with clients to determine their goals before the creative team starts a project. Dreaming up fitting experiential marketing plans for brands is a big part of the gig. “Brand experiences are the places where people really connect and make their real purchase evaluations around whether they share the same values as a brand,” Mullen said.
For those working in experiential marketing or just looking to build their next successful campaign, Mullen has a simple piece of advice: “It’s not brain surgery and we have to sometimes take things a little less seriously. These are important business decisions and ways of contributing to create business value, but we need to keep those things in perspective as we think about how we are creating value and creating brand experiences.”