9 Lessons Leo Burnett Taught Us About Building a Marketing Team

by Management Published on: 22 August 2019 Last Updated on: 23 August 2019

Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett was a pioneer in advertising and many of his ideas shaped how we advertise today. While some of his ideas influenced advertisements, many ideas impacted the people behind the ads. Here are a few lessons we can take from Mr. Burnett about recruiting talented marketers to our team.

9 Lessons Leo Burnett Taught Us About Building a Marketing Team:

1. Creativity:


Leo Burnett proposed that advertising stemmed from the deep internal need to craft the messages of humanity. Advertisers, therefore, need to have a deep love for creating.

So what does being creative even mean in a creative field? It means seen inspiration, relationships, potential where other people don’t. It means crafting newness and possibility out of stale concepts and forgotten ideas. Seek out marketers who are passionate about the creative process rather than those who see it only as a means to an end.

2. Curiosity:

Burnett said that the creative people were those always questioning the world. He said, “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” The inquiry is essential to marketing. To always be wondering about humans and how they tick -that’s the secret sauce.

Marketing is always in flux, so build a team of marketers who are genuinely fascinated about how the world is constantly changing. They should always be researching, discovering, wondering about human nature.

3. Grit:

Leo Burnett also recognized that creating quality ads is no simple task. It requires perseverance and painstaking attention to detail. He said, “Rarely have I seen any really great advertising created without a certain amount of confusion, throwaways, bent noses, irritation, and downright cursedness.” Burnett was no stranger to the frustration inherent in the creative process. Nonetheless, he demanded perseverance from his company members. He was known for never being satisfied, for sending every idea back to the drawing board.

But perseverance is how the Tony the Tigers and the Jolly Green Giants of the advertising world are made. Strive to recruit a marketing team who don’t sacrifice the quality of their work or drag their feet when they have to do a fourth or fifth revision.

4. Humanity:


Mr. Burnett was adamant that great campaigns couldn’t be built on research, data, and marketing theory alone. Marketing at its core deals with humans, so it’s critical to have team members who don’t reduce ad making to a formula. In modern-day marketing, it’s a difficult task. With endless tools and databases, it’s tempting to let the numbers do the work for us. It might even be an acceptable practice, were it not for the fact that consumers are human.

Yes, data is valuable to make informed decisions. However, to make ads that appeal to humans, you need humans. If computers could make great advertisements, top advertising firms would have shut down a decade ago. But computers can’t make ads as people can. So instead you need a team that puts the creative process first and number crunching second, a team of people who are driven firstmost by human tendencies and emotions. A team is as insightful as this won’t get distracted by heaps of statistics. They’ll be able to climb above them to see what’s actually important: the human consumer.

5. Integrity:

Leo Burnett did not believe in being dishonest in advertising. Not only was it morally wrong, but it was also ineffective. People have never liked being deceived, especially by big corporations. That’s why, from its humble beginnings to the present day, Burnett’s company has advocated for more altruistic advertising that employs creativity for the common good.

Marketing is tasked with handling human emotion and behavior, so it’s critical that it takes an ethical approach to do so. A truly remarkable marketing professional channels creativity to promote human good, always being wary of the larger implications of an ad.

6. Visual Eloquence:

Burnett flipped the advertising world upside down when he proposed more imagery and fewer words in the advertisement. Before he came along, ads were long statements that attempted to persuade consumers about the merits of a product. When Burnett entered the scene, he replaced words with convincing images and symbols. Not only was it extraordinarily successful, but the technique has also been used for more than half a century.

Burnett argued that an image leaves an imprint on a consumer’s mind and appeals to their basic human nature. Fifty years later, consumers are still heavily influenced by visual cues. That doesn’t mean that everyone on a stellar marketing team needs to be a designer. But they should be able to channel their research, their ideas, and their planning towards a larger vision. They should be able to see, literally, the bigger picture of what they are creating.

7. Perfectionism:

In his final credo to the company, Burnett warned his team not to “lose that restless feeling that nothing you do is ever quite good enough” and to uphold their “passion for thoroughness” and “hatred of loose ends.” Perfectionism is a driving force for creatives. Burnett recognized this and proposed that we let it fuel our marketing endeavors.

It’s this attention to detail that you should seek among your team. A team that is satisfied with the bare minimum will produce undistinguished work whereas a team that believes that “good enough” is never good enough will go the extra mile.

8. Motive:

Mr. Burnett made it clear that advertisers shouldn’t be motivated by money or reputation, but rather, by creating quality work. He warned his company members not to “lose your itch to do the job well for its own sake – regardless of the client, or money, or the effort it takes.”

Be unwavering in your need for passionate marketers. They are the ones who entered the field to discover and to create, not just because it was preferable to a career in finance. A job well done is the highest payment an advertiser can receive.

9. Method:

Burnett held ideation in high regard. To him, one of the most dangerous things a marketer could do was to give formulas and efficiency more weight that inspiration and good ideas.

Regardless of how marketing education has developed since Burnett’s time, the theory is still no match truly inventive ideas. When building a marketing team, look for people who understand when it’s time to ditch the marketing textbook and go with their gut.

Finding the Leo Burnetts of the World:

Sorting out truly remarkable creatives takes more than a glance at a resume. It requires sitting down with top applicants and discovering what really drives them. Locating these top candidates is sometimes the most difficult part of building your team. If building a top-notch team is a priority, then it’s worth it to seek help from a marketing recruiter. Communicate to them the importance of creativity and integrity in your team members so that they can pull driven professionals from their talent pool. With the help of a recruiting firm, you can assemble a team that can handle the tall order that Mr. Burnett set for marketing years ago.

Building a marketing team is nearly as intricate as building an effective campaign. Yet it’s the humans behind the ads that make advertising impactful. It’s the creatives and the perfectionists who propel marketing forward.

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Mashum Mollah is a digital marketing analyst, SEO consultant and enthusiastic internet marketing blogger. He is very much passionate about social media and he is the founder Social Media Magazine.

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