Aimee McKinney, Chief Marketing Officer at Dunlap Bennet & Ludwig, talks to The Ortus Club’s Lorna Davidson about her role as the messenger between the business and consumers, giving importance to transparency and authenticity in branding.
To watch Aimee’s Interview, you can subscribe to our Ortus Chats interview series on Youtube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify, or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below.
Can you give us a one-sentence description of your company?
Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig is a global business law firm. Our mission is to serve our people and the businesses they have built through trusted advice and fearless advocacy.
Can you describe the role of a CMO in one word. Why?
Messaging. Words matter, and how we convey our message matters. We need to create honest and transparent messaging. As a CMO, this allows us to connect with our clients better and in turn, our profits will follow. Once we get our message right, our transparency and authenticity will be seen by our clients and customers, and everything falls into place.
What current challenges are CMOs facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
One of the current challenges that CMOs face is connecting with clients. I have two young adult daughters who are inundated with social media. Most of the messages that they receive or see on their feed pose a question: Are the information they’re receiving correct? I have daily conversations with my daughters, and I always tell them never to get news sources from Tiktok alone.
It’s important to connect with real messaging. Gone are the days of being braggadocious with your clients. They want to know who you truly are, and they would understand if you make a mistake. Honesty comes a long way for both parties.
There is a quote that I liked by George Merck. ‘We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.’
I’ve carried this quote with me throughout my career. It’s applicable in every vertical. If more companies followed that, then understanding what your mission is and focusing more on the people will help bring in the profit. But if you reverse that, then that’s a recipe for disaster.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
I would say it’s two things: hard work and values. I grew up as a daughter of Italian immigrants, who never graduated from high school. This is their success story in America, where they didn’t speak English and were blue-collar workers. We were also taught to stay true to who we are and continue to lift other people up in our community. Their lessons resonated with me, and I truly believe that’s why I have been very successful.
“Remember to lift your people up because they are much more willing to support an organisation and a person that believes in them and empowers them.”
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
One of the major risks that I took was deciding to step out of my career and take time off to raise my two children. There are lots of working moms who struggle with what to do in their life, but it’s important to remember that your life has seasons. Taking on that risk was scary. Everyone asked why I would step away at the height of my career, when everything was going so well.
For my family, it wasn’t the right move for me to stay where I was. I stopped for a good number of years. I learned a lot of things and regained my focus. I wasn’t just taking care of my children, but I was also continuing learning. When I was re-energised and ready, I continued where I left off. I encourage all people, men and women, to take a step back and realise that your life is long, and there are many seasons to come.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
I see my role being an increased level of business development, engaging with the partners as they’re bringing on lateral firms or going out to clients. My unique background of having multiple verticals that I’ve worked in over the years allows me to be able to interact with potential clients.
What marketing/business trends are you taking advantage of right now?
One is value-driven content. I can’t emphasise that enough. A lot of firms are catching on to what content consumers and clients appeal to the most. For the past few years, people had to get their messaging right. The second is podcasting. People, for better or worse, get their information in small nuggets. We’ve had a podcast for about two and a half, almost three years now. It’s called the Black Letter podcast. We bring information to business owners and corporate counsels about real-life business situations, so that they can listen to other professionals and understand how the law and business intersect. The third is video marketing. Videos help get the message across better than a paragraph of text. It’s definitely a great medium to showcase company culture and the benefits of working with a company.
What career advice would you like to share with CMOs?
It all goes back to the idea of value-based servant leadership. A lot of times, people think servant leadership is letting people walk all over you. I truly believe that if you look at the large companies that employ servant leadership, it is about empowering your people to rise up and help them be the best that they can be. You help develop your people, so that they can then take on larger roles and understand where they’re coming from. Remember to lift your people up because they are much more willing to support an organisation and a person that believes in them and empowers them.