Before becoming Chief Growth Officer of the AI-fueled short form video social app Triller, Bonin Bough led growth for some of the world’s most beloved brands such as Oreo, Sour Patch Kids, Pepsi, Gatorade, and SheaMoisture. The secret to driving growth at any brand, Bough has learned over his career, is culture.
“One of the most underutilized assets with organizations is culture,” Bough said during a keynote at the 2021 Future of Marketing Leadership Conference, a conference for students and executives presented by the Center on Global Brand Leadership and the ANA Educational Foundation in partnership with the Marketing Association of Columbia. Whether you are an executive trying to retain and develop talent within your organization or a brand manager trying to expand your brand into untapped markets, Bough believes the answer always goes back to culture.
Regarding developing talent, Bough said, “The companies that truly win are the companies that have a culture of reminding everyone that they’re a change agent—Google, Facebook […] creating that kind of culture is the most important.” And if your aim is to grow your brand, Bough gave an example from the recent documentary Dream Team: Birth of the Modern Athlete, a feature about the 1992 US men’s Olympic basketball team.
“You had this music genre called hip-hop, which was growing, and you had this failing sport [organization] called the NBA, which associated themselves with a cultural phenomenon that then went to the Dream Team and really caught on to what became a cultural phenomenon. [Try] to find those cultural elements.” Bough described using this strategy when he led growth at Oreo—for example, in one highly successful campaign, the brand launched a viral, 100-day ad campaign for Oreo’s 100th birthday that wittily drew from historical events, popular culture, and current trends.
In fact, one of the top mistakes that Bough sees executives make is not having a finger on the pulse of culture. Of executives, Bough said, “There’s an old adage that says if you’re not within these four walls, you’re not working. But the reality is, if you’re in those four walls, you’re not working. […] Many of them don’t actually spend time and put in the work to actually be a part of culture and understand what’s shifting and what’s changing.”
Bough is decidedly not one of those executives. At Triller, Bough’s focus on culture is evident, even down to the way he describes what the company does: “We’re not a short form video creation platform, we’re a cultural asset in the world.”
For more of Bough’s thoughts on brand growth and leadership—including topics such as diversity and inclusion, his top advice for future marketing executives, and the time he was almost an early promoter of Cardi B—check out the video of his talk at the 2021 Future of Marketing Leadership Conference.