The Secret to Becoming a Sparkly Marketing Unicorn

Recently, DemandLab was great enough to send me to a conference with our content strategist (the fantastically talented Hayden Jackson). Conex, hosted by Uberflip, was really the first content marketing conference I’ve ever been to (having been on the data, analytics and tech side for most of my career).

Frankly, it was brilliant. The speakers were really top-notch. And best of all, it made me rethink how I market as a whole. (I had a serious ‘what am I even doing?’ moment.)

In this post, I’m going to talk about one example, one crazy realization that seems so obvious from the other side.

From Rainbow poop to sparkly unicorn

Early in the conference, the remarkable April Dunford, CEO of Ambient Strategy, brought up a slide during her presentation with a unicorn rainbow poop emoji on it. She was making the point that as marketers, we are expected to turn poop into unicorns. We’re supposed to make magic. But more often than not, what we end up with is still poop—just prettier poop.

I’m not sure that one emoji has ever resonated so deeply with a group of marketers. (It got the biggest laugh of the conference by a long shot.) So all day, I wondered, why? Why does every marketer seem to instinctively understand and identify with the idea of polishing the poop until it glitters? We’re optimistic people, we believe in what we do, we’re 100 percent bought in—so what’s happening?

Well one day later (in the same morning keynote slot), the answer came to me. Not in the form of an epiphany, but in the form of Mathew (with one “t”) Sweezey. He was presenting about the 5 traits of high performing marketing organizations. And there it was, #1 on the list—executive buy-in.

Three little words. One pivotal slide. The thing that makes the difference between unicorns and rainbow poop. (Ok, so he did have four other points but let’s face it, no one is getting bigger budgets (#2), or better technology (#3) without executive buy-in.) It’s when marketing can get decision-makers to buy into the idea of customer-centric experiences that allows these principles to then permeate the rest of the organization and create a consistent, whole-journey experience.

Without that buy-in, marketing can only go so far. We can only do so much. And we end up taking what already exists and making it prettier rather than rethinking everything from the ground up.

Down the rabbit hole

Great, so now what? How do we go from poop painter to unicorn maker?

Start small.

Good, trusting relationships have never been built on big-budget requests right off the bat. Start with small proof-of-concept projects, and use the results to gain incremental buy-in. A number of speakers talked about making marketing more agile so that we can fail (and learn) faster. Starting with a proof of concept enables you to go back to the leadership armed with real-world results rather than “cool ideas.”

Build momentum.

Every marketer needs Big Hairy Audacious Goals to inspire them, but it’s equally important to deliver quick wins and proofs of concept along the way. Those early results and learnings are critical to keeping you and your team motivated as well as building buy-in from the whole organization.


In marketing, we know it takes more than one touch for messaging to stick, but when it comes to internal advocacy, we don’t always apply the same principles. If you need buy-in for improved customer experience, understand that you’ll need to advocate for it again and again.

Get help.

Here at DemandLab, we want to help you get done what needs to be done today and strategize and plan what needs to be done this year. But most of all, we work with clients to advocate and evangelize within their organizations, so they get the executive buy-in they need to become the marketers who actually get to create unicorns.

If you’re in need of some additional reinforcement to help with getting executive buy-in, check out our latest eBook: Make the Case for Content Marketing. This resource will equip you with the tools you need to get the buy-in from your decision-makers.


About the Author

Chen Bian

Chen is a MCE with a Bachelor's in International Business and a Master's Degree in International Affairs. She has spent nine years in marketing with four focused on digital marketing and analytics, and two in marketing automation. Chen's work and education has taken her from Canada to China, Singapore, and Australia, before landing at DemandLab, where she works with clients from the advocacy and strategy stages all the way through to training and implementation.

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