Why Fear Is Essential To Fernando Machado’s Creativity

He may have stopped counting his Cannes Lions awards when they hit 200, but despite being the poster boy for pushing creative boundaries, global marketer and advisor Fernando Machado is by no means fearless.

Lead image: Fernando Machado.

Having had the opportunity to lead major brands such as Dove, Burger King, Popeyes, and Activision Blizzard (responsible for the marketing initiatives for Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, among others), and unicorn startup NotCo, global CMO and marketing advisor Machado is also Operating Partner at a private equity group Garnett Station Partners which owns brands such as Pollo Tropical, Fat Tuesday and Woof Gang, among others.

“Those are very powerful regional brands in the US with revenue in the range of USD $100 to $400 million,” he said.

Speaking to Cannes in Cairns content director Pippa Chambers ahead of his global keynote on ‘The Temptations of the Modern Marketer’ at Cannes in Cairns Presented by Pinterest, Machado said in always trying to do things differently, that comes with good doses of uncertainty.

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“People see most of this work and think that we as brands are fearless, but in reality I am afraid every time. Being afraid is part of the process,” he said.

“While that is probably what keeps me awake at night as a marketer (but still not as much as my five kids and my soccer team back in Brazil), I am more afraid of doing plain vanilla, boring and generic work, than I am afraid of trying to do something new and stepping into the unknown as a consequence of that.”

Machado, who just this week was inducted into The American Marketing Association’s 2024 Marketing Hall of Fame, describes his approach as a marketer as very consistent across the work in that he always “leans heavily on creativity to unlock superior business results”.

“I am the type who believes that creativity can be a source of competitive advantage and that walks the talk when it comes to fighting for great creative,” he said.

Just some of the work he is proud of includes the Dove Real Beauty Sketches while at Unilever. The award-winning campaign which tackled issues on self-perception being far less positive than it should be, involved a series of videos in which women were asked to describe themselves to an artist, vs a second sketch based on how other people described them, with the latter being more flattering than the first.

While at Burger King, the US-based exec did an endless amount of work to be proud of around the McWhopper, Whopper Detour and Moldy Whopper, among many others.

“What always has me the most proud when it comes to Burger King are the business results we created and the creative culture we were able to build as a team,” he said.

While he admits he stopped counting Cannes Lions when they crossed 200, Machado said yes creative recognition is flattering, especially to agency partners, and he’s a firm believer that the more great work you do the more great work gets presented to you, but Lions were never the objective.

“I also believe that recognition helps with retention and attraction of great talent, however, my bonus was never paid in Lions. And I was always very mindful that great creative needs to drive results,” he said.

While the wins are plenty, the failures are too, with Machado describing them as simply part of the process, adding that If you don’t fail here and there it’s probably a sign that you are not pushing the envelope far enough.

From product innovation that stretched the brand too far to poor management of investment due to lack of boldness in terms of prioritising things, the marketer, who is speaking on Day 1 at Cannes in Cairns (Tuesday 4th June), said he has learned a lot from things he did in his career which didn’t result in the desired outcome.

“From campaigns that had good intent but ended up pissing off people as a result of the execution, investing behind things that didn’t get much traction and solely relying on process to make things work instead of investing to bring people along with you in the journey, to listening too much to others and diluting the uniqueness of an idea, I am not afraid of talking about mistakes and acknowledging them,” he explained.

“Fortunately, over time, if you work hard and learn from your mistakes you will end up getting it more right than wrong. And that’s what I try to do.”

Looking at the speaker slate for this year’s Cannes in Cairns, presented by Pinterest, Machado said he’s looking forward to the ‘OG Skincare Brand Pond’s Shares Routine for Heritage Success’ panel with David Dahan founder and managing director, WPP@Unilever (alongside Jopa Malantic global brand vice president, Pond’s and Rose Herceg president, WPP).

“David Dahan is a good friend and I am sure that it will be an awesome session showcasing how even heritage brands that play in somewhat traditional categories can do things that stand out,” Machado said.

“There are many other interesting sessions, especially the ones showcasing great examples of digital/ social marketing in the region – such as those led by TikTok and Pinterest.

“I also love all the sessions to do with entertainment in general, like the ones with athletes, and TV and film talent, among others, as those are always a great source of inspiration.”

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Machado’s Day 1 keynote will look at the constant and evolving factors pushing and shoving marketers in all sorts of directions which makes it harder to resist temptations, and how you juggle the lure of the new with the good old fundamentals.

While he’s nothing against being curious about new technologies and new trends, constantly being on to the next new thing he argues can be overwhelming.

“As marketers or creatives at large we do need to be curious about that, but one thing I’ve learned is that you can be even more effective if you obsess about the things that are probably not going to change instead of just searching for the holy grail or the new sexy things,” he said.

Originally Appeared Here

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer