Startup Marketing Secrets: 5 Hard-Won Lessons from Bokksu's CMO, Louis Monoyudis

May 29, 2024

I recently had the chance to chat with Louis Monoyudis, CMO at Bokksu, a company that's basically a penpal who sends you Japanese snacks instead of letters. Louis has been around the block - Harvard folklore degree, fashion stints at Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and more startups than you can count.

During our chat, Louis shared a whole lot. From how his unorthodox background in folklore and mythology actually laid the foundation for his marketing prowess to the challenges of being a CMO in the startup world and why building a diverse and inclusive team is crucial for success.

Louis' insights are a crash course in out-of-the-box thinking and nurturing a culture where everyone can thrive.

You’ll want to catch the full episode here:

But if don’t have time for all that, here are 5 takeaways for you:

1. Studying random s**t like folklore can actually make you better at marketing.

You might think that a degree in folklore and mythology would be as useful as a screen door on a submarine, but it turns out it's actually great training for marketing. Louis breaks it down:

"Studying folklore and mythology formed the basis of understanding culture through storytelling. And what is brand building, if not storytelling?"

Basically, by learning about how stories have shaped people's beliefs and passions throughout history, Louis figured out how to create brand narratives that don't suck. So next time your parents give you s*** about your liberal arts degree, just tell them you're becoming a master storyteller.

2. Being a CMO means sometimes having to be the bearer of bad news.

When you're the head of marketing at a startup, part of your job is to be the voice of reason when everyone else is high on their own supply. Louis puts it bluntly:

"One of the reasons you bring in a CMO is you want someone who has the experience to break the hard news. Startups often have lofty ambitions that are communicated outwardly. It's my role to make sure we're in alignment on what's actually possible."

In other words, when the founder is out there promising the moon and the stars, Louis is the one who has to bring things back down to Earth. It's not always a fun gig, but somebody's gotta do it.

3. In the startup world, you gotta be ready to pivot on a dime.

When you're working at a startup like Bokksu, agility is the name of the game. Louis emphasizes the importance of being able to adapt and make decisions quickly:

"We are making decisions to launch a sale with like 12 hours notice sometimes...You have to be agile."

Louis notes that this pace can be challenging for folks coming from more established companies who are used to having long-term plans and plenty of resources. But in the scrappy startup environment, you gotta be ready to switch gears at a moment's notice and do a lot with a little.

4. Newsflash: All marketing is performance marketing now.

Back in the day, marketing was divided into two camps: the artsy-fartsy "brand" people and the numbers-obsessed "performance" people. But Louis says that’s outdated:

"There's an unfair divide between brand and performance. Everything you're doing builds towards people wanting to be part of the tribe around your product and brand. We have to do both at the same time."

Basically, everything you do in marketing should be driven towards the same goal - getting people to give a damn about your brand. So don't get caught up in the labels, just focus on executing.

5. Want a kick-ass team culture? Hire a bunch of people who aren't like you.

One of the things that got Louis fired up about Bokksu was how diverse the company is:

"About 75% of Bokksu employees identify as a person of color or queer. Three of the four of us in the C-suite are queer. Being in this diverse environment where people feel comfortable personally allows them to feel comfortable professionally."

When you have a workplace where everyone isn't cut from the same cloth, magic happens. People feel like they can be themselves, share their perspectives, and take risks without fear of being judged or ostracized. In other words, diversity isn't just a feel-good HR metric - it's a strategic advantage.

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