Marketing Re-Imagined: Ashleigh Henry Of The Cheetah Company On How We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction
An Interview With Drew Gerber
Show versus tell. Marketing has fallen into the “telling” category and thinking back to grade school during “show and tell”, did you enjoy the telling as much as you did the showing? Craft imagery and visual distinctiveness by pushing the envelope and dropping your consumer into an emotion that they are so deeply connected to that it’s hard to look away. There are brands that do this incredibly well that we all know and love, but consider the journey of becoming and being that brand… do you show as often as you tell?
From an objective standpoint, we are living in an unprecedented era of abundance. Yet so many of us are feeling unsatisfied. Why are we seemingly so insatiable? Do you feel that marketing has led to people feeling unsatisfied and not having enough in life? If so, what actions can marketers take to create a world where people feel that they have enough, and they are enough? Can we re-imagine what marketing looks like and how it makes people feel? In this interview series, we are talking to experts in marketing and branding to discuss how we might re-imagine marketing to make it more authentic, sustainable, and promote more satisfaction. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ashleigh Henry.
Ashleigh Henry has been in marketing, sales, and leadership positions since she was handed her first paycheck at the young age of 15. It was exhilarating for Ashleigh to climb the retail, corporate, higher education, and start-up ladder holding positions such as Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, Social Media Strategist, Manager, Editor, Co-Editor…until it wasn’t. Ashleigh decided to bring all of her experience into the online business space, she founded The Cheetah Company to serve female entrepreneurs through their education, coaching, and consulting services and in doing so has helped over 100 female founders, nationally and globally, to shift the way they approach their marketing and sales structures, to be focused more on the traditional elements that have worked for centuries while conceptualizing trendsetting pieces into their strategies without fear.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I’ve been in marketing, sales, and leadership positions since I was handed my first paycheck at the young age of 15. It was exhilarating to climb the retail, corporate, higher education, and start-up ladder holding positions such as Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, Social Media Strategist, Manager, Editor, Co-Editor…until it wasn’t. I decided to bring all of my experience into the business space, founding The Cheetah Company to serve female entrepreneurs through education, coaching, and consulting services. In doing so we’ve helped over 100 female founders, nationally and globally, to shift the way they approach their marketing and sales structures, to be focused more on the traditional elements that have worked for centuries while conceptualizing trendsetting pieces into their strategies without fear. We’ve had the honor of working with female founders in the pre-revenue startup stage to the established stage and 7-figure mark.
Can you please tell us about your typical day? What day-to-day structures do you have in place for you to experience a fulfilled life?
At The Cheetah Company, we don’t believe in balance. The balance structure is usually what keeps most folks from living a fulfilled life because they’re striving for perfection within the “pie of life” — nourishment, spirituality, family, relationships, work, philanthropy, rest/play — instead of actively choosing a holistic and harmonious life. We have holistic harmony in our lives as a team. If I didn’t have holistic harmony in my own life as the founder, actively leading the way for the team, I think we’d have another marketing team in the world that’s stressed, constantly attached to our phones and laptops, and always plugged in.
Instead, we actively plan our lives and businesses around harmony, how we’d like to work, play, and rest based on the seasons all while serving our global clientele really well. Tactically this looks like, having a structure for our year through an annual plan, breaking our work down by quarter, month, and week to achieve our goals in life and business with harmony and a holistic view in sight. As most entrepreneurs would say, if it’s not on the calendar it ain’t happenin’. I focus on my personal goals, active self-care, and business goals with the same intention as we put into growing our brand and supporting our global clientele.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
If I had the opportunity to meet my younger self I’d hold her close and encourage her to lean into her explorative nature. She enjoyed experimenting, creating, crafting, and connecting with the world and all of its beautiful people even as a youth. She wondered if she’d ever be able to enjoy these activities daily and I crafted The Cheetah Company around those strong points of talent and interest as a nod to the infinite knowledge my younger self held.
When I was a little girl I dreamed about having friends all around the world, while writing daily, and drinking something out of a pretty coffee cup (even though I wasn’t yet into coffee!), while reading and storytelling to the world. When I shared this as my dream job in elementary school you can guess how it went — I was encouraged to be a teacher, to be a journalist, to focus on money first and dreaming second. Now, after a decade of experience in marketing, sales, and leadership starting at the young age of 15, I see that my exploration and experimentation with a variety of industries, job titles, and experiences were fueling my desire to do what that little girl once wanted to do.
And now I have the pleasure of winking at her to say “good job, you always knew what you wanted to do!” We have a global marketing and sales firm that coaches, consults, and educates modern businesswomen around the world to tell their stories through their multi-dimensional brands to create loyalty and connection as our clients enjoy exploring and experimenting in their industries, too.
Ok, thank you for sharing that. Now let’s discuss marketing. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority on marketing?
I utilize psychology, emotional intelligence, relationship building, and strategic methodologies to craft marketing that evokes and emotes alongside our clientele. With logistical, foundational business practices, and the rare capability to relate to humans on a more intimate and personal level, we’ve influenced our communities and our clientele’s communities to feel intimately known, seen, and connected to in a world that creates microwave relationships for fast cash. I learned much of what I know through my colorful background in corporate, higher education, startups, and retail while leveraging my journalism degree after running two award-winning publications in college. Turning all of that knowledge into our methodologies, we’ve had the honor of effectively educating female founders to leverage newfound skill sets to step into their own authority and own their marketing.
Throughout history, marketing has driven trade for humans. What role do you see that marketing has played in creating the human experience?
Harkening back to the days of true Mad Men, there was an air of “we know it all and we’re telling you so” that has now been married to the current marketing state of fear, pain, and perhaps unintentional manipulation. That was the trade-off for learning more about tools, services, products, and the like for consumers — a bit of an insult that they haven’t already purchased married with an urgent reminder to purchase immediately for immediate transformation. We, unfortunately, feel that it’s gotten a bit askew and has disempowered otherwise powerful and intelligent humans to feel that they’re behind the line if they’re not actively purchasing something to improve their lives immediately for a microwave hit of instant gratification.
We’re seeing the shifts in marketing now that are trickling to all areas of consumers — not just for those in the luxury category that are used to being sold the destination, the pleasure, and the peace that can be theirs through a purchase.
There’s a duality that’s been here for a very long time. In pre-literate societies, artisans would brand and stamp their purchasable goods with a recognizable design to differentiate themselves and harken to their brand’s quality from their competitors.
Humans have a volitional capability, but marketing creates a duality that teeters on the line of manipulation if we’re not careful and on the line of intoxicating pleasure that influences a similar effect, again if we’re not careful.
When you’re in the right arenas of marketing, evoked by the emotions a brand can craft to elicit an emotional response… you’re influenced in a positive way. If not, then you may feel a negative response. The duality of where messages can provide a positive or negative charge to a human is where the human experience has been most influenced by marketing.
Many 21st-century marketing professionals in a capitalistic society will discuss solving human “pain points” as a way to sell products, services, and other wares successfully. In your opinion or experience, has aggravating pain points led to more pain? Can you explain what you mean?
Pain point marketing has absolutely led to more pain than gain in the field. It’s an easy way to facilitate a conversion at times, but it’s cheap and a prepubescent way of persuasion.
Consider a human’s standard operating procedure of reviewing marketing — at home, on the go during the day, passing by pieces of marketing material on the street, and the myriad of ways that we are connected to persuasive suggestions allows for marketing professionals to consider the emotions that they’re influencing the humans to “drop into” so to speak.
Perhaps the human was having a lovely day, had their favorite vanilla oat milk latte at their favorite coffee shop, noticed the sun peeking through the clouds and the wagging of a dog’s tail on their way to work to then be bombarded with sponsored advertisements that suggest profusely that their life isn’t good enough already, that they’re not happy, that they have a deep need and a pain point to solve before they can rise to the place of peace, joy, and happiness.
Leaning on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a moment, it keeps folks away from the top tiers of the pyramid and continues to oppress consumers into a psychological conversion.
Marketers have one of the most important jobs on earth to ensure that we’re evolving instead of regressing. When marketing professionals consider their work as a sacred conversation with a human having a human experience we can then create pleasure-focused marketing messages. Persuading a human to feel worse while already having a standard-lean psychologically toward the negative is easy and meaningless work while empowering a human to consider how to make their life more pleasurable through a product, service, or offer is the worthy work of a marketing professional.
Different cultures view trade/marketing differently. While some may focus on “pain-points” others may focus on “purpose-points”. How do other cultures differ in how they approach marketing? Please give examples or studies you may know about.
Perhaps you can remember this Forbes article about The Attention War and what businesses were focused on to increase acquired leads. I stumbled upon this article in late 2022 while preparing our 2023 trend report to serve our global community and it feels like we’re back in this cycle again of considering which mediums generate qualified leads and quantifiable successes in the shortest amount of time. This article led me to consider if just a decade ago the biggest fear was social media fatigue then what would we call our current state of the attention war on social media? What’s the next step in that evolution and how will brands imprint in the hearts, minds, and budget ledgers of their ideal clientele?
Purpose. Values. A shared common ground that resonates with the current clientele and the generations to come.
In the age of Gen Z, we’re seeing quite a rise in dismissed brands from them because there’s such a large purpose gap. Gen Z is rising to obtain outstanding purchasing power and if they can’t understand the story and purpose behind the product, service, or offer they’ll most likely be moving on to a more “disruptive, innovative and consumer-centric brand and experience”, per this article on Forbes.
We’ve been leading our clientele to focus on consumer-centric branding, storytelling that creates a traffic push toward the purpose of the brand, and the conversion of the reader into the ecosystem of the brand and it’s been an excellent shift that has allowed for brand loyalty to rise with those that are loyal to brands all while welcoming in new customers and clients that are attracted to the brand’s story and purpose.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: It seems as if we have never stopped to question marketing. In your opinion, how can marketing professionals be more responsible for how their advertising shapes our human experience? Based on your experience and your area of expertise can you please share “Five Ways We Can Re-Imagine The Marketing Industry To Make It More Authentic, Sustainable, And Promote More Satisfaction”? Please share a story or an example for each if you can.
1 . Instead of talking down to consumers, talk up. To shift the marketing industry to make it more authentic, sustainable, and satisfying for the consumer to be influenced to purchase less from a place of distress and pain and instead from a place of peace and pleasure… we’ll have to get comfortable with “talking up” instead of talking down to consumers. We utilize this philosophy throughout our marketing structures within The Cheetah Company through our messaging and this has resulted in working with 6, multi-6, and 7-figure entrepreneurs coming through the door with an intention to grow pleasure, peace, and a holistic and harmonious lifestyle alongside their companies instead of folks that could come through the door expecting that it’s all business without the interweaving of business and life together.
2 . Focus on the destination and the journey. Preparing folks to consider that arrival at the destination is only as good as the first-class journey — similar to an airplane ride in economy or first-class. The Cheetah Company has been an active participant in this shift for the last three years and we’ve consulted and educated our global clientele base to do the same: envision pleasure for your clientele on their journey to the destination (the problem that’s being solved through the product, service, or offer) and provide them with an interesting shift into a vision cast for them instead of a net of pain cast over them. Pain points still have a place, but they’re now a semi-colon instead of a period inside of marketing campaigns.
3 . Consider the emotions you’re dropping the reader into. If you’re creating constant pain with every new touchpoint within the brand, you’ll consistently be flagged in the mind of the consumer with a negative connotation. Whereas if there are pin-pricks of pain, to remind the consumer that there may be something that could be stopping them from achieving a goal, experiencing a new way of living, etc. with a heavy spoonful of pleasure, peace, and potential, the consumer will remember the touchpoints of pleasure while recognizing the pin-prick of pain to motivate their urgency in receiving a solution. An example of this in the luxury interior design world is to consider brands that promote elevation, expansion of style, updating for the season, and a refinement of expression through the home versus an interior designer that drops the consumer into the emotions of “your house isn’t prepared for guests and you haven’t updated your kitchen since 1987.” There are very distinct differences between those messages and the emotional turmoil can be felt in the latter — would you be willing to work with an interior designer that semi insulted your current state of being?
4 . Purposeful brand stories that serve, tell, and sell. We’ve worked with 100+ global clients in the past few years and we always start with purposeful and powerful brand stories to bring those to light through messaging, positioning, and the defining of the overall brand. It’s easy to create cheap, viral content that promotes eyes to be on a brand, but to have an evocative and suspenseful story that psychologically calls the consumer into what feels like a campfire-style experience of stories being shared under the night sky… that’s the ethical, powerful, purposeful, and meaningful work that marketers have the opportunity to do in this age, even while leaning on the principles of early Mad Men for marketing standards that we should still utilize even in the modern day. Digging a bit deeper here, sales psychology notes that unity and rapport are everything for a simplified and connected conversion for a consumer; to leverage brand stories is to leverage simplified sales psychology in the modern age.
5 . Show versus tell. Marketing has fallen into the “telling” category and thinking back to grade school during “show and tell”, did you enjoy the telling as much as you did the showing? Craft imagery and visual distinctiveness by pushing the envelope and dropping your consumer into an emotion that they are so deeply connected to that it’s hard to look away. There are brands that do this incredibly well that we all know and love, but consider the journey of becoming and being that brand… do you show as often as you tell?
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you about marketing differently?
I regularly seek outside of my industry for inspiration, influence, and a different perspective, so I’ll note my love for local events in Asheville, North Carolina where artistry, precision, craftsmanship, and purpose for the craft are never forsaken for a sale. I regularly take myself on cinema dates and I’ve been obsessing over every new horror movie (alongside the classics) to catch a glimpse of when suspense is done well and when it turns into a gimmick approach for a quick jumpscare (very similar to what can happen with a great campaign or a failed campaign!) To support my eye for looking at things differently I am regularly in the throws of a history book or two, classic literature, and design shows like Dream Home Makeover and Unsellable Houses. In the business arena, I loved Danielle Laporte’s Fire Starter Sessions, Sophia Aqmoruse’s Nasty Galaxy, Hugh Kennedy and Mike O’Toole’s The Unconventionals, Better: The Brand Designer’s Podcast, and The Business Reboot Podcast.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement to reimagine marketing, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Marketing has been the active antagonist in folks’ lives for a very long time; creating dissatisfaction and fear is the easy way out, but The Cheetah Company has been interested in leading founders, that have to moonlight as marketers in the early years of business before handing over the standard operating procedures to a team, into a pathway of peace to influence consumers to choose the marketers’ brands from a place of enoughness. If I could trigger a movement it would be the peace, pleasure, and power movement to inform marketers how to craft marketing messages that still work to convert but limit the psychological manipulation that average and standard marketing plays into. There’s a whole playground of possibilities to encourage sovereign, powerful people to feel supported in their conversion to purchase from brands. We no longer have to manipulate low-level emotional responses from consumers to influence conversion. Our movement is to influence a positive shift in society that will leave an everlasting imprint in the marketing realm for pleasurable consumer experiences.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
We’d love to invite you to The Cheetah Café, our collaborative blog where you can sip & pore over articles ranging from culture to marketing to sales for the modern businesswoman. Find The Cheetah Company at www.thecheetahcompany.com or on all major platforms at @thecheetahcompany.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world.