Marketing Rebellion – Author Interview

Heidi Cohen Interviews Mark Schaefer

Marketing Rebellion


Heidi Cohen: I read that your wife came up with the idea for the title, Marketing Rebellion.

I agree with you that marketing as we practice it today is at a pivotal point. Marketers face critical questions that call into question why and how we do business.

This requires business leaders, marketing agencies (including advertising, PR and other specialties) and related technology companies to rethink their business models.

So why not call your book, Marketing Revolution since you discuss change and dislocation on a level with the Industrial Revolution?

Mark Schaefer: Marketing Revolution was certainly on the table as a title but when I ran it by my friends they uniformly hated it!

The two main reasons were:

  • They thought too many books already use “revolution” in the title.
  • They thought “revolution” was a negative and violent word and was off-brand for me (I’m a nice guy!)

So my wife and I were brainstorming in the kitchen and we came up with “rebellion” as an alternative. It is still a somewhat violent word that elicits visions of fire and sacrifice, but I tempered this with the book’s image – a sign of peace – and the sub-title of “The Most Human Company Wins” which signifies hope.

It took me a LONG time to settle on the final title and imagery. More than a year in the making!Marketing Rebellion - Mark Schaefer book


Heidi: You distinguish 3 “marketing rebellions”:

  • Consumers demand trustworthy products including knowing the ingredients and what they can and cannot do.
  • Consumers avoid or skip television advertising.
  • Consumers respond to brands and companies using social media where other consumers pay attention.

I agree with your perspective on the evolution of business and marketing in response to these based on consumer needs and behaviors.

I’m reminded of David Ogilvy’s quote:
“The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife!”

Since these businesses and their marketing departments are being reactive,  why don’t you call these events a consumer or customer rebellion or revolution? 

Mark: If you read the first chapter – which articulates the consumer rebellion against lies, secrets and control, you would rightly assume that I did not name the book very well!

Indeed, there is a continuing consumer rebellion.

However, there also has to be a response and that has to come from us, the marketers. It will take nothing short of a rebellion for us to overturn current practices that are abusing and annoying consumers.

To many, these are labeled “best practices” and ingrained in our systems and company cultures. But it’s time to wake up and see that the consumers have moved on and these practices simply do not work.

There must be a rebellion in the way we do marketing because we really have no choice.


Heidi: I love that you added another “P” for Purpose to the original 4 Ps of marketing (Product, Place, Price and Promotion). In light of research on millennial and GenZ values, this focus is critical for business success.

Since Marketing Rebellion is rich with examples of how consumers display their affinity for brands, Why not add another P for people?

Further you distinguish between employee support of a company and brand versus employee advocacy programs. Why wouldn’t the marketing P for people extend to a firm’s employees, end-users (in addition to buyers), suppliers, distributors and local residents?

In fact, the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that people trust their employers more than governments to protect them.

People trust their employers more than business in general, governments and media

Mark: I agree with you. people certainly could have a place as another “P!”

The overarching theme of the book is that companies must be more human to survive and thrive in this rebellion. I reflect that marketing is supposed to be “all things human,” but it is clearly not. I contend that the personal brand is the new corporate brand and that advertising impressions are being replaced by human impressions.

So yes, people are everything I suppose.


Heidi: Since marketers need to persuade customers to purchase at least a second time to build the Loyalty Loop, I understand the importance of customer retention. Further I believe that many marketers and their organizations neglect to treat these buyers differently.


But I was surprised:


In your opinion how should businesses keep their current customers and should this be handled by marketing or another department?

Mark: The research suggests that we need to spend a lot more time on awareness and the consideration phase than on loyalty. I know that just does not seem to make sense but the studies are conclusive on this –

“Loyalty is in decline. We are in a shop-around culture.” – Mark W. SchaeferClick To Tweet


As a result: Focus on being in the top consideration set when your customers are shopping around.

I don’t think loyalty is dead. Instead, we need to go about it in a different way.

The McKinsey report contains a clue:
Loyalty is in decline because emotion is missing from the brand.

My book has lots of ideas to re-capture this emotion, but the three big ones are:

  • Your customer is your marketer and your most powerful advocates are the 13% who remain loyal to you. Are you taking extraordinary care of them? Are you giving them the tools to spread your story?
  • Bring people together. Live events builds emotion and cements bonds.
  • Consider taking a social stand aligned with your customers’ values. Research show this is about the only option we have left to build true loyalty.



Heidi: Your discuss the current rise of DTC (direct-to-consumer) businesses.

In light of Content Shock, how do new businesses and entrepreneurs break through to attract attention?


Mark: This is a HUGE question, maybe THE question for most brands. Although I hint at some answers in Marketing Rebellion, it is the primary topic of my book The Content Code.  

Standing out requires a new approach to content and social media.

“Too much emphasis has been placed on producing content for the sake of producing content. We produce it perhaps because we’re afraid not to.” – Mark W. SchaeferClick To Tweet


The new content marketing focus must be on content ignition. The economic value of content that is not seen and shared is zero. We need to build a competence in doing THAT!

Heidi: While DTC businesses save money because they don’t have retail outlets, they do incur other expenses. As a knitter, I appreciate the Slow Fashion and other movements for ethically sourced and produced goods.

From a purpose-driven perspective how do these businesses explain that they create other forms of employee dislocation and environmental harm?

For example, in New York City, there are piles of discarded delivery boxes, food containers on garbage collection days. Additionally data shows that “last mile delivery” has increased emissions levels. Further, empty storefronts remain where local merchants had done business for years but can’t compete now with the big box stores.

Mark: Although these businesses certainly have a profound impact on marketing strategy and consumer behavior, I honestly did not study or consider the environmental impact.

There is definitely a move towards local/artisanal as well as a huge backlash against packaging and plastic – this may be the most important trend of 2019. I think these two things go together. The small companies will be able to solve the problem better than the big companies with miles of production lines and complex distribution systems.

Will concern for the environment actually propel small business?
I think that could happen.


Heidi: I loved your reference to Leonardo da Vinci and the need to have a community to improve one’s work based on your conversation with biographer Walter Isaacson.

I agree that this can be extremely helpful for professionals who are the only one in their company doing a specific type of marketing or work. Also it holds true for solopreneurs.

While you were able to reach out to your extensive network to write Marketing Rebellion, how do you recommend readers accomplish this in their jobs and personal lives? Further, how do they get buy-in from their management to accomplish this?

Mark: Leonardo da Vinci was arguably the world’s most creative person. And yet much of his best work started out as other people’s ideas. He was a master networker and collaborator.

Since I spend so much time alone in the writing process, this insight had a profound impact on me. How much better would this book be if I reached out to trusted experts for their ideas and input?

I think Marketing Rebellion is my best professional work, and this is due to my collaborative process.

“That is the true value of diversity, the best business case for diversity—a mixing of minds!” – Mark W. SchaeferClick To Tweet


I don’t see how any compassionate and enlightened leader would be against improving creativity through collaboration. It doesn’t have to be as crazy as what I did—meeting people all over the world. It can be as simple as asking for and discussion ideas with people from different parts of the company.

Collaborating isn’t hard. It just takes a mindfulness and discipline.


Heidi: What other words of wisdom do you have for our readers based on your work writing Marketing Rebellion? Are there any questions that readers often ask about?

Mark: I think what has surprised me the most is the immediate impact this book is having. People are literally changing their businesses based on the ideas in the book and more than few people have told me I saved their businesses!

My hope is that people will take this seriously:

“We need to move toward a human-centered marketing approach and stop doing stuff that people hate.” – Mark W. SchaeferClick To Tweet

I want to open people’s eyes to the true realities of the consumer world so we can adjust and adapt.

We don’t have a choice. The most human company will win.


Mark W. SchaeferContact information


Wow Mark– thank you for sharing your time and your smarts!

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
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Photo Credit: Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci – Wikipedia
Photo of Heidi Cohen and Mark Schaefer ©2018, Heidi Cohen – All rights reserved.