Ashley Johnston: 2015 Marketing Hall of Femme Honoree

Ashley Johnston’s answer of “everything” to our question about what trends she’s watching may seem like a cop-out, but in actuality it’s the product of personal experience. The mom of Luke (a.k.a. Lucky), 8, and Ava, 5, has a front-row seat to the marketplace of the future.

“Ava loves to bake and is already learning how to use YouTube to find recipes. When you watch young children, you can see that technology is just like breathing,” Johnston says. “I heard someone recently saying that children today won’t be able to think on their own. I couldn’t disagree more. I see my children finding their own ways through these connected devices.”

Johnston approaches such all-encompassing issues with aplomb, firm in her conviction that every day is another day to prove one’s self. In one year she wove a single brand story around five legacy brands at Experian Marketing Services and told it in 33 countries. The “Intelligent Interactions” campaign installed a new identity at the data-driven marketing powerhouse, and won Johnson and her team the coveted internal Masters in Marketing Award.

The two words that sum up Johnston’s recipe for success: Be fearless. “When I was in college and trying to decide which area of marketing to go into, someone told me to do what scares me the most,” she says. “That was technology.” Upon graduation, she took a job at Racer Computer, a supplier of white box computers to CompUSA. She learned how computers work, and now instructs marketers the world over in the best ways to use them.

Marketing strategy: Tell your story. Storytelling is not just a buzzword, it’s your ability to make an emotional connection.

Winning ways: In 2014 we launched the Experian Marketing Suite. We took disparate products and combined them to deliver on what we believed clients will be looking for tomorrow. We put clients at the center of our portfolio so they could put the customer at the center of their businesses.

Defining moment:  I arrived at Experian through a startup called CheetahMail. The passion that ran through our small office was palpable and made going to work exciting and challenging. The owners cultivated a culture of empowerment and innovation that inspired us to take risks.

Trend watching: Everything! You have to. The generational gaps are larger and more significant, and that puts more pressure on brands to evolve and adapt their story.

Words to live by: Deliver value every day. I believe opportunities are earned through how much I contribute. The fact is, nobody is irreplaceable, you just need to make yourself harder to replace.

Good read: I’m fascinated by the concept of “grit” and the research Angela Duckworth is working on. It explores how some people achieve more success than others who have intellectual or athletic advantages.  

Good advice: All marketers should seek out mentors who they admire personally and professionally. For my fellow Marketing Femmes, don’t be afraid to embrace your femininity, but also don’t be afraid to defend and advocate your ideas.

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