business + marketing | August 16, 2011

Arlene Dickinson: To Be Persuasive, You Have to First Be Authentic

Yesterday, Arlene Dickinson, one of Canada’s most renowned marketers, and the only female judge on Dragons’ Den, stopped by Lavin’s Toronto office to talk about leadership, branding, and the constellation of new projects—including ventures into wine, chocolate, coffee, and perfume—she’s set to release. Dickinson was frank, off-handedly funny, and, down-to-earth—just like she is on television, and in her new book, Persuasion, on sale next month.

A key takeaway lesson Arlene imparted was that, in order to be truly persuasive, as a marketer and as a person, you need to be authentic and honest; that’s how to win people over to your side. In a mini-diatribe, she effectively wrestled the word “persuasion” away from the more disingenuous and sales-y connotations it has taken on, and she re-invested it with a new sense of purpose.

Drawing on a memorable trip to Afghanistan, to visit the troops, Dickinson then shared crucial leadership lessons she observed from Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, including how valuable people are to a mission. The ability to be a good leader, she reminds us, involves actually going into battle with your team—something that, if you look closely, good managers everywhere do.

Finally, going back to marketing—where she earned her reputation—Dickinson talked about the folly of pouring all of your marketing efforts into social media and treating it as an end-all-and-be-all. “Don't think of social media as a wild card solution to all of your marketing problems,” she said. “Do that and you'll neglect the brand, and the brand is what matters. At the end of the day, if you lose sight of that, you'll damage your company.”

In person, it was easy to see—to feel—Dickinson’s infectious belief in the entrepreneurial spirit. With her trademark warmth and her panoramic understanding of how the best businesses operate, she reminded us of the major contributions that Canadian business leaders have made at home, and in the arena of international business.

Read more about marketing speaker Arlene Dickinson

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