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As a marketer and entrepreneur, Seth Farbman has helped to shape and transform some of the most recognizable brands. Seth Farbman (LinkedIn | Twitter) was the former chief marketing officer for Spotify, the world’s largest music-streaming service. He had overall responsibility for the Spotify brand, the customer experience, and all marketing and external communications worldwide, across more than 50 countries and with a customer base of more than 75 million. 

Before Spotify, Seth was the CMO for Gap, driving a turnaround that increased the company’s share price almost threefold. He was also the co-founder and president of OgilvyEarth. Farbman was named one of Forbes’s 10 Most Influential CMOs in the World and one of the Top 50 Most Creative People by Ad Age.

On this episode, Seth shares some of the lessons he has learned during his career, including how to build a brand that connects emotionally and establishes trust with people, and how to lead a brand transformation.

Click here to listen to part 2 of our interview with Seth Farbman.

Key Quotes:
– “I do feel like the imposter, I do feel like I’m unqualified.  But that makes you try harder. It makes you focus more and learn faster.”

– “It’s about discovery. That’s the best service that you can give to people in a highly complicated world. There’s no shortage of information out there.”

– “I just didn’t understand why we insisted on calling our audience ‘users.’ It feels like you’re there to get value from them. So we just changed names to call them fans and suddenly you want to be closer to them. You understand them better. You want to feel their fandom.”

– “And people often ask, ‘well, where do you start? How do you look at the data?’ But sometimes it’s the simple things”

Bio:
Seth Farbman was the former chief marketing officer for Spotify, the world’s largest music-streaming service. He has overall responsibility for the Spotify brand, the customer experience, and all marketing and external communications worldwide, across more than 50 countries and with a customer base of more than 75 million.

Before Spotify, Seth was the CMO for Gap, driving a turnaround that increased the company’s share price almost threefold. He was also the co-founder and president of OgilvyEarth and led marketing teams at several US wireless carriers, now Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless.

Farbman was named one of Forbes’s 10 Most Influential CMOs in the World and one of the Top 50 Most Creative People by Advertising Age’s Creativity.

Notes & Quotes:
Seth’s Marketing Background – (1:30)

– After four years as CMO of Spotify, Seth decided to take a year off and explore what he was passionate about and spend time with people.

– Seth started his career as a journalist and was very passionate about making an impact on people’s lives. 

– To this day, Seth thinks of himself not as a marketer but as a writer. 

– He realized that after seven years as a journalist; the industry is tough because you have to be able to give up a lot, including family time and money. 

– After deciding to take a break from journalism, Seth had a conversation with a friend who told him, “you need to really think about what you’re good at and what your skills are, rather than what job description is.”

– ”I think that serendipity is your best friend when managing a career.” – Seth Farbman

– The marketing director at GTE asked Seth to give his thoughts on the brand, its product, and the way the company fit into the community. 

– After his experience with GTE he decided to take on a role as a marketing manager. 

– “It’s fascinating to me that every time I’ve taken on a larger role, a different role, or a role in a different industry, I do feel like the imposter. I do feel like I’m unqualified.” – Seth Farbman

Choosing The Best Roles- (18:00) 

– “I choose roles where it requires innovation and original thought rather than simply execution.” – Seth Farbman

– It’s important to pay attention to the skills that come naturally to you and that excite you. When finding a job, Seth looked for opportunities that not only met his interests but required a skill that he was good at. 

– “I’ve been in a bunch of different industries at different stages, but there was commonality there. The commonality was a need for transformation.” – Seth Farbman

– ”The ability to create a larger narrative, a narrative for the company that goes beyond the products and services itself and that inspires others within the company is so important. It helps customers feel like they’re part of something that’s growing and has momentum.” – Seth Farbman

Seth’s Work and Life Lessons at Gap Inc. – (35:30)
– When Seth was working as the CMO at Gap inc, he initially found the company wasn’t interested in other brands; they were only interested in what was happening within their company. 

– Growing up, Seth always admired Gap. Gap had always been a marketing-led company.

– “I learned how legacy systems really could slow innovation.” – Seth Farbman

– Seth hired a woman named Rachel Tipagrath, and together they developed a program called “Styled by” where individuals can style through their “aesthetic lens” and choose people to represent their audience. 

– Seth decided to switch gears from their core customers and put their focus into millennials because they knew their core customers wouldn’t leave. 

– “The next generation leaned into and understood that being truly yourself means that you wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear you.” – Seth Farbman

– “At its core, fashion is self-expression. It is identifying who you are and sending those signals to the world. We would all love to be the kind of person who is bold, brave, and does that with great confidence.” – Seth Farbman

-”You have to look at what are the consistencies in the way that we think, the way that our brains work, the way that we learn our fears, our hopes, the sort of, you know, and innate humanness, this just built into our DNA. So, then it gets a lot easier to figure out what to do and how to do it.”

Transitioning from Gap to Spotify – (41:00)

– When joining Spotify, Seth was able to apply his skills that he had been honing, and bring it to a company at the inflection point of growth. 

– Seth left Gap because he felt like he had done what he came to do and because Glen Murphy, the CEO of Gap, did not refer his contract as chairman.

– After leaving Gap, he took some time to explore what he wanted to do next, but eventually found himself coming back to Spotify because it was the most “opaque.”

– Seth always enjoyed the connection people can make through music and found people in the industry that he respected.

– Seth found that he had to make people understand why they should trust a company that they have barely heard of. With the new way we listen to music, Seth found the opportunity to create not a company or a company leader, but a category itself.

– “At the time, you had to educate people and make sure that you held their hand through yet another transformation caused by technology. However, at the same time, we deeply understand the relationship that people had with music.” – Seth Farbman

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