Mikayla Hopkins, Customer and Marketing Lead at Tracksuit

A childhood love for the magic of making people think or feel something through words and pictures has naturally led Mikayla Hopkins, Customer and Marketing Lead at Tracksuit, to be passionate about coming to work each day.

We caught up wtih Mikayla to learn more about her career jounrey in marketing and how that path led her to working for an exciting high-growth tech company.

Mikayla had some really interesting thoughts on how businesses are losing sight of the value of brand marketing as the world chases short-term conversions.

Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what you do for work?

Ha! Just the other day, I had an 80-year-old relative ask me what I did for work.

It’s easy to throw the explanation into the “too hard basket”, but that’s not fair and not how I’d like to be treated at 5 or 85, so I’ve actually been practising this!

I replied, “I help marketers build brands that people love and use beautiful technology to help them measure and manage this”. If it were a 5-year-old, I’d ask “what’s your favourite toy and why?”, then I’d explain, “my job is to help others find those answers and make more favourite toys”.

"My earliest memory of the marketing and advertising world was during my first job at 13 years old, delivering advertising pamphlets and the Property Press."

And for the adults, what does a typical day-in-the-life look like?

I help marketers build better brands. At Tracksuit, we’re super passionate about building a world where beautiful, imaginative and meaningful brand marketing is more commonplace than intrusive and irritating promotion.

And we have the technology to help brands and marketers do this. I spread my day across the Customer and Marketing functions. There’s natural confluence across both, but my day-to-day involves:

  • Working alongside awesome, kind and smart humans in the marketing and customer team (actually, the entire Tracksuit team!) to build a business, brand and product that marketers can’t live without!
  • Acting as the customer's voice with our product team
  • Exploring patterns in behaviour to build the ultimate customer experience/journey
  • Coaching marketers on how to use brand tracking for success
  • Championing the people behind the brand with a focus on building the #1 community for brand marketers
  • Building the Tracksuit brand and positioning it for global growth

"I resonated with the magic of being able to make people think or feel something."

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

Not necessarily tech, but always marketing/brand/comms. My earliest memory of the marketing and advertising world was during my first job at 13 years old, delivering advertising pamphlets and the Property Press.

I couldn’t care less about property, but I loved sitting down on a Friday night, cross-legged on my living room floor, flipping from pamphlet to pamphlet. I loved the colours, the language, the stories and headlines that made me linger. I’d get so lost in the pages because it felt like a two way communication.

I resonated with the magic of being able to make people think or feel something. And that’s what a good brand can do. Tech lets you do that at scale (and in the most creative, smart and wonderful way).

Now, I can’t ever imagine not being in tech.

" of the biggest challenges marketers face is this desperate shift to harvest limited demand with short-term sales activity."

What are some of the most interesting challenges that you face in your role currently?

The business world has a low understanding of, confidence in and commitment to brand marketing. And so one of my biggest challenges is influencing behavioural change around this.

At Tracksuit, we’re passionate about creating a world where the business community values brand marketing as a core driver of long-term commercial success. The proof is in the data. Companies with strong brands outperform those without, and yet, there’s this prevalent pushback of brand hesitancy!

I spoke about this recently at a Marketing Association event… one of the biggest challenges marketers face is this desperate shift to harvest limited demand with short-term sales activity, i.e. people are pulling everything from the brand and throwing everything into performance marketing.

This "convert at all costs" mentality is skewing us too far into short-termism, devaluing our brands and creating major issues for long-term, sustainable growth.

And I get it. There are undeniable, irresistible pressures pulling marketers towards this short-term activity.

We’ve had the luxury of it all being measurable with the likes of tools such as Google Analytics, it’s all immediate and acts as the backbone of communication to the higher-ups (who are often fueled by quarterly performance pressures), and these channels, such as Google/Facebook have given us access to a giant direct response advertising ecosystem.

I’m not saying there’s no place for short term-marketing activation. It shouldn’t be a binary belief system of a this or that. I’m saying, just as Tom Roach shared in his now-famous 2020 Essay, The Wrong and Short of it, this Long versus Short is a false dichotomy.

The truth is that marketers have two jobs: to harvest the demand in the market in the short term with conversion activity. And to build future demand for the brand among people who aren’t ready to buy just yet, but who will enter the market later.

We need to understand that both of these jobs are equally important for sustainable growth - this is the behaviour change needed.

When we have CMO’s and Brand Managers who leave their roles after 2 - 3 years (and top-down pressure to show immediate results), the appeal to drive commitment to long-term brand building isn’t where it needs to be. This is one of my greatest challenges, but one I’m super excited by!

Tell us a little bit more about your career pathway and, ultimately, how you got into your current role Tracksuit?

Growing up, I enjoyed Business and English (language, communications, creativity etc), moving on to complete a BCom degree. Simultaneously, I worked for Heineken and saw first-hand how their brand was so much more than that little green bottle.

It was a well-oiled marketing machine that made that green bottle the world’s most valuable international beer brand and a symbol of success right across the world.

I loved my time there, but I wanted to take that next step in my career with a growing brand over which I could have greater autonomy.

I’m a big believer that the best marketing happens when the marketer is also a consumer. University had finished, and drinking and beer had become less of a priority - Heineken’s generous staff credits (beer) started to stack up!

So, from beer to beauty, I took a step into a growing category; luxury cosmedicine and skin care at NZ’s premium centre for innovation and excellence, The Face Place. Our CEO Dr Catherine Stone, was a global pioneer in the industry and taught me a lot.

Over 6 years I worked my way into the CMO role and was able to work with an incredible marketing team to build a world-class brand.

I then dipped my toe in the startup world, building my business, Her Career. This was a digital platform for women to grow their career, money and network across APAC.

We (Rosey Marie Nathan, my business partner, mentor and hero) did this through 1:1 mentorship where we paired the best senior leaders with aspiring intrapreneurs (people wanting to work their way up within an organisation), a thriving online community, digital events, content and experiences.

Brand was fundamental to the success of each of these companies. And yet, like many marketers, I still relied on gut-feel and outdated data points to understand the impact of brand building.

Until one day, in June last year I was demoed Tracksuit. It was beautiful, always on and affordable brand tracking - it was unlike anything I had ever seen.

I joined as their Marketing and Customer Lead and get to work with the best marketers and the best brands across the world (and incredible leaders within the Tracksuit team + wider network).

"It’s also particularly exciting marketing a product that I use, believe in and know will shape the global language for brand health."

What do you love about your role and why should others consider the career path?

One of my favourite things about working at a startup is about getting to work in high-impact roles so close to the end customer. The other, is the nature of working with every function without silos - on any given day, I’m likely to problem solve with product, sales, customer success, ops etc.

I’ve worked in companies where tech was a supporting function, often 3rd party solutions that caused more friction than benefit. A bit like fitting a round peg into a square hole.

Now, as one part of the Customer’s voice, I’m able to work directly with an incredible Product and Tech team to bring their ideas to life. It’s pretty special watching the entire process from start to finish.

It’s also particularly exciting marketing a product that I use, believe in and know will shape the global language for brand health. Just like every marketer uses Google Analytics for performance marketing, every marketer will use Tracksuit for long-term brand building.

Lastly, are there any key traits or characteristics of people that do well in the Tracksuit environment?

People who:

  • Are curious, ask lots of questions and continuously seek to learn more
  • Are passionate about powering the confidence in and commitment to brand marketing and marketers
  • Want to be the best at what they do and value working with an engaged, kind, genuine and ambitious team

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