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Interview: Jake Johnson, Founder, Bristol52

By Alexandra Gold  //  Tue 25th February 2014

Jake Johnson, Founder, Bristol52 on his love of VW's campaigns, a big marketing lesson and his marketing hero Seth Godin.

What made you get into marketing?

I had always been interested in advertising, especially the way the messaging was so carefully crafted, from a young age. It seemed like such a fun and creative way to work. Marketing is all about the messaging, so it was a natural fit.  

Who is your marketing hero?
Seth Godin. He always boils things down so simply and makes it seem like common sense. He doesn't stand still with his ideas and thoughts either, he is constantly moving onto new topics and shaping the thinking of the marketing world.  

Best campaign/favourite brand?
I love the way that VW usually goes about things. They're simple and to the point. One of my favourite campaigns in recent years was where a little girl keeps making small mistakes and swears every time. You start to wonder why she has such an extreme vocabulary. The last shot shows her in a car, looking at her dad filling up at a petrol station, before he shouts the same swear word. The message was that their new diesel was so quiet you'd forget it was a diesel. It was humourous. It was clever. It worked.  

Best marketing resource?
'Jump Start Your Business Brain' by Doug Hall has really made its mark on me. There are a few pages I revisit again and again and that is about the key things to remember when tailoring marketing messages. What is the dramatic difference, overt benefit and reason to believe? If you can't tick off all three you need to go back to the drawing board! They provide real clarity that boosts the impact of your work.  

The future of marketing is…

Digital, but not 100%. I won't make any headlines with that claim, but I can only see marketing being more and more about the online space, but it will never be the only way. Traditional marketing, offline marketing, call it what you will, but it will always have a place, especially in the B2B markets and for high value products. Digital will dominate and push the boundaries of our discipline, but we will also still need the established techniques and methods that the old school has to offer.  

Biggest marketing lesson?
Stand against something if you think it is wrong. I was in a team that came up with a campaign strap-line that really didn't work. I knew it from the moment it was suggested but didn't fight against it loud enough. It was agreed and we moved ahead with it. As soon as it was public, we nearly got laughed out of town! It was quickly changed but I can still hear people giggling about it to this day...  

Favourite pub?
I don't have a favourite pub as such, but I like the places that are usually chosen for marketing/social media meet-ups around Bristol!  

Ideal holiday?
Holiday used to be sunning myself somewhere warm like Turkey or Mauritius, but since my daughter arrived it has changed to a caravan in France! A little different, but just as enjoyable. My ideal holiday used to be about adventure and having new experiences. Now they are all about doing things I've done before but with my daughter. Seeing the world through her eyes. It's like discovering the same places all over again.  

Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I started my marketing career after University - after getting a degree in film and drama. It was something I was interested in and I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do as a career. Perhaps it gave me the skills to confidently communicate with others and craft messaging, but stage and screen is certainly a fair distance from where I ended up!

Jake is a lover of all things Bristol, marketing and social media.

Starting off his career in SEM, Jake has added more strings to his bow to become a true all-rounder, with a particular passion for branding and comms. In his spare time Jake also manages to squeeze in running a social media project that helps promote the city he loves. The project, called Bristol52, sees a new Bristol personality take over the Twitter account every week, giving a different view of the city every week. The project has nearly 3,000 followers and managed to raise nearly £1,200 for a local charity in 2013. Jake also manages to find time to write freelance copy, review things for his blog and be a dad. Away from the internet, he has a keen interest in fitness, having recently completed the challenging Tough Mudder course.




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