When you’ve been in business for a number of years, boredom or complacency can set in. Not for Jameel Spencer. After working with so many popular brands and A-list celebrities, Spencer still not only comes up with winning ideas but is still driven to see them through to completion. Recently named chief marketing officer of Sequential and working with the likes of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, he has no other choice but to elevate his game.
Spencer took time to discuss with BlackEnterprise.com what gets him up in the morning, how he got into marketing, and what he hopes to be doing in 20 years.
BlackEnterprise.com: You started in sales. What led you on your path to marketing?
Jameel Spencer: I have always been a marketer for as long as I can remember. Even back in college as the president of my fraternity, I would come up with all the concepts for our shows and events. I never considered myself a salesman until I looked up the Webster’s definition which states that sales is the transfer of enthusiasm. That showed me that I could only sell something in which I truly believed.
The transition to marketing was a seamless one. I found myself selling media and then assisting in the promotion of that media in a 360-degree way in the form of marketing. The first real intersection of those two disciplines came to life in my tenure at Vibe Magazine. At Vibe I sold music and entertainment advertising, but I spent the majority of my time partnering with the labels and the studios using the Vibe trademark and consumer base to assist in the promotion of the artists or films we advertised. I think it was my ability to be an integral part of the overall storytelling of the artists, films, and brands I was selling that was and continues to be instrumental in my evolution and success as an executive.
Based on your experience and success in this field, what attributes would you say are most important to be successful in this game?
I think marketing all comes down to execution. Everybody has ideas, but not as many people have the skill set, relationships, and resourcefulness to execute. I also think your ability to execute becomes significantly easier if you have a track record for getting things done. Track record gives you the experience to understand the necessary pitfalls, the temperament to remain undaunted when things don’t go as planned (as they typically do not), and the necessary access to problem solve in the process.
You’ve worked with some popular brands and figures such as Shaquille O’Neal, VIBE, Sean Combs, Roc-A-Fella, Ecko, and Jay-Z to name a few. How do you handle the day-to-day dealings with people who are at the top of their field and brands that are household names? Is there an added pressure?
I don’t consider there to be any pressure working with celebrities. Working with celebrities is only difficult if you look at them as anything more than brands trying to maximize their value proposition. One of my biggest assets as a marketer of celebrities is that I do not allow myself to become so enamored with them that I cannot be honest enough to do my job. If you can’t tell someone that what they want to do is a bad idea, then you are not going to last. Honesty and truth are the major pillars of how I have worked with these people over the years. They tend to have enough people who will tell them what they want to hear. The most important thing is to clearly understand who that person or brand is, and be relentless in staying true to their DNA. Even when evolving or repositioning [a brand], it must be done in a way that is believable. Once consumers start questioning a person or brand’s truth, it’s the beginning of the end, and that’s consistent no matter how many points you’ve scored or how many records you’ve sold.
How has the hip-hop culture been able to help you, as a fan of hip-hop, in your line of work, based on the brands you help market?