Andrew MacKinnon‘s early business experience was selling coupons on the streets of London. It wasn’t the ultimate dream, but it was a place to get started. Ultimately, he was determined to provide something different to the marketplace by encouraging brands to show their audience what they do. This is a different approach than simply telling them! Recognizing the need for this type of marketing service, Andrew set about developing non-traditional tactics to create participation between brands and their audiences.
Now 18 years on, Andrew and a carefully curated creative team have spurred Taboo to evolve into a full scale creative agency. As such, they deliver campaigns for the country’s biggest brands: Telstra, TAC, Nike, NAB, General Mills, Mecca, Myer and CUB.
Andrew continues to have an insatiable appetite for creating. This appetite has helped him create a non-traditional career spanning marketing, hospitality, real estate and (just about) everything in between.
Using Guerrilla Marketing for Non-Traditional Deals
At the age of 20, Andrew created Taboo. Although he felt he had no idea what he was doing, he took the plunge and signed paperwork on a space. Shortly after, the agency became known for their street marketing.
This was pre-internet, and most small businesses were relying solely on word of mouth. Andrew’s approach was based on getting people IN to a business to experience a product or service. The businesses were confident that if they had that chance to interact, they could get the customer to return. At the time, this non-traditional approach provided a wide open space for growth.
Taboo continued to evolve, and was soon labeled one of Australia’s first guerrilla marketing agencies. They were approached by record labels, movie houses, and companies launching new products. Taboo was making deals with DVD sales, MP3 sales, credit card companies, and more. Their non-traditional approach relied on getting people to experience something or talk about something, and it worked!
A Variety of Deals
Andrew’s brother James was working at a large agency that had a top-down approach. They recognized that they had an opposite approach to marketing, and decided to join forces and combine the best of both worlds. They called it the “East-meets-West-philosophy”, and started hiring the best possible people from the top agencies.
Their core beliefs are:
- What a brand does is more important than what a brand says.
- People are a brand’s most powerful medium.
The most important thing a brand can do is to get people to love, adopt, and share. That is more important than any advertising campaign or marketing spiel, and enabled the brothers to grow Taboo to where it is today. Andrew has also expanded in other ways.
In 2011, he engaged in a few real estate deals in order to open the iconic Ponyfish Island, situated in Melbourne’s Yarra River. He did this deal with his partners, Grant Smillie and Jerome Borazio.
On the other end of the spectrum, Andrew’s latest venture is called Skymorials. This is a technology start-up targeted at the digital generation interested in commemorating loved ones via an online memorial platform. The site is now the fastest growing online memorial site in the world.
Andrew’s desire to build non-traditional creative projects continue to re-emerge. He’s now branching into property development through the establishment of Assembly House, a 1200m workspace in Cremorne. The building will be home to several of Melbournes leading agencies.
Bringing in Business Partners
Andrew’s partnership with his brother and another associate had its challenges. Taboo was already four years in the making when the brothers decided to merge together. Andrew didn’t want to just give away 25%, even to family or close friends. He also wanted to be sensitive about over-pricing it, however.
They engaged an independent 3rd party that they all respected. This party enabled them to put a fair evaluation on the business. Andrew also encouraged them to seek another independent evaluation, which they did.
In addition, Andrew negotiated a deal with James that enabled him to pay for his shares of Taboo using future profits, rather than an up-front cash payment. He shares that salaries, bonuses, and other incentives were also something that had to be carefully assessed. This whole negotiation took place over three years, during which time James came onboard and was already working in the business.
However, by the time their third member was ready to sign paperwork, Taboo had begun to lose some of its profitability. The evaluation didn’t seem as strong, and ultimately, that party accepted another position with a different marketing agency on the day he was supposed to sign on with Taboo. 3 years of work blew up in their faces. At that point, Andrew and James recut their own deal. Andrew goes into those details (and Taboo’s renewed success) on the show!
Trial & Error
Andrew shares that failure is a huge part of how Taboo has grown over the years. He has found that his own ability to detach from being “right” makes it easier for him to allow other decision makers in. From his brother and partner, to Taboo employees, he is open to other perspectives and ways of thinking.
This comes down to trusting others, and being willing to learn from what doesn’t work.
Rather than expecting perfection, he encourages that Taboo members learn from failure. This enables them to try new things and think in creative ways. This trademark open-mindedness, as well as the willingness to always learn, has paid off beyond the agency and its work.
Mackinnon was honored with the role of President of the Entrepreneurs Organisation Australia Victorian Chapter in 2017, after having served on the board for four years. In addition, Mackinnons engaging vivacity has made him a compelling asset both inside and outside the boardroom, with The Financial Review Magazine listing him as a must-have on any events Guest wish-list.
His genuine interest in others has led to both leadership opportunities and better deal-making skills. Listen in to the full interview today!
Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 30 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.
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