CEO//CMO// Chief Collaboration Officer, //NSKT
Douglas Longenecker is the Founder of //NSKT – a growth acceleration firm. //NSKT partners with like-minded companies who understand they can no longer rely on safe ideas to spur innovation, pique consumer interest, and out-think the competition.
Before starting //NSKT, Doug’s career progression included executive leadership in global advertising agencies, brand strategist and associate creative director (copy) in strategic consultancies, and entrepreneur. As a cross-over marketing executive and critical-creative thinker, Doug believes in creating an atmosphere of wide-open possibilities that helps clients discover the new challenges to take on next.
Today, he leads teams and organizations through growing complexity, uncertainty, and change. Simply put, he helps businesses and brands know where to go next and how to make the necessary bold moves with confidence.
If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?
“I love this question. I needed a little bit of time to think about it, and don’t know what the exact story would be. It’s more of a theme, really. And for me, the best way to put it is about overcoming challenges. I relate to those sort of Cinderella stories or challenger stories where the protagonist unexpectedly rises above their initial understanding of themselves.
To me, that has always been a compelling narrative, not only in life but also professionally. That’s where my worlds collide – being able to see things through the lens of being an unsuspecting and unheralded challenger.
At the same time, I understand that we cannot get there by ourselves. For example, even with the original Cinderella story (the Disney version, at least), in that version, she befriended all the mice and the birds and other woodland creatures. And they helped her get through challenges and allowed her to have a natural, positive mindset. Likewise, she had the help of the fairy godmother, who gave her confidence to go to the ball. Without those external forces and connections of goodness, where would any of us be?
It is the same with my journey – both in personal and professional life. There have always been family, friends, educators, teachers, and coaches who helped me get where I am. There’s no way any of us could be where we are without having help.
Ultimately, it’s up to you as the individual. But the assistance from mentors and bosses can truly help. Or the mutual support from peers who you confide in and trust. Without the help from others, your career and life in general might be incredibly static. In thinking about that concept, it’s probably the closest notion to a title for a book about my life: You can’t get there by yourself.”
How about your professional life?
“I would say I started at the bottom rung of the advertising ladder or food chain. I started in a traffic department of a cable advertising company outside of Philadelphia. In that entry-level position, I was on a team of other data input operators – who made sure that the purchased TV commercials ran in the right markets at the right times or during the right shows. Shortly after that, I was able to trade that up to working at CBS in the same kind of role in traffic.
Eventually, I made it to an advertising agency in Philadelphia and then on to New York. It’s where I wanted to be all along. At one point, I thought I wanted to pivot to the client side and marketing. However, I never really found the right opportunity. And part of that is I had this memory of our Nissan/Infiniti client. He would come to the Chiat/Day and say, ‘This is my favorite day of the week when I get to come to the agency, just because it is just so different, so open.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Why would I ever want to go to that kind of environment where all you want to do is get out?’
Right or wrong, that sentiment stuck with me. And so maybe that’s why I never found the right opportunity. I don’t know. But I was able to pivot at some point to strategic marketing and brand consultancies. The wonderful thing about that was that it was totally unexpected, and it opened up whole new opportunities that I didn’t even know existed.
In the agency world, every solution is ultimately some type of creative unit or output – a website, an app, streaming video, or something. It is sort of like the old quote – if the only tool you have is a hammer, every solution is a nail or something to that effect. But in the consultancy world, I found myself working further upstream with senior executive-level leadership teams. Where there were all sorts of challenges that couldn’t possibly be solved with simply a new website or a TV spot or a new web design or app, so it was an eye-opening and enjoyable experience.
That was the long way to say, I see myself as a strategic and creative generalist, who is problem specific yet solutions agnostic.”
Why did you get involved with the AMA New Jersey chapter? Why is this organization important to you?
“I never really thought about the AMA from my earlier and probably longer part of my career on the agency side. I felt I didn’t belong to it just because of my background. But being on the consultancy side, I started to understand marketing a little bit better. And I wanted to be a part of the AMA group and meet people with similar professional interests. Not that marketing saves the world, but marketing can be done better.
As a lifelong student, I want to continue to learn and make sure my skill sets are sharp. Also, with all the changes and advances in technology and the implications and impact it has on marketing and advertising, it is critical to stay up to date. In addition to learning what’s new, I want to share some of my experiences along the way. That’s why I am more actively involved with the AMA NJ group.”
What is the best advice you would give to new professionals in your industry?
“I must admit this is actually one of the scariest questions you have. But let me take a shot at it. I lead a two-year startup company where we’ve had three separate internship programs. And the one consistent takeaway I have is that there is a sort of hesitancy amongst new professionals to pick a pathway. ‘This might not be exactly what I was looking for,’ or ‘It’s slightly different from where I anticipated going,’ or ‘We’ll never be able to get back there,’..and so on. And I guess my advice to people in that stage is if the opportunity is 80% of what you are looking for, and if it’s a good solid offer, take it.
At that stage of your career, it shouldn’t be a red flag to future employers if you pivot and go in a different direction. This is the time in your career to get different experiences. You should not be afraid of trying different things and moving on to other opportunities. Take in as many experiences as you can.
Be a sponge in those jobs and absorb as much learning as you can – even if you are in a crappy environment that you had not anticipated. There are positive lessons to be learned everywhere you go at every stage of your career. And do not be afraid of making mistakes. As long as you learn something from those mistakes and apply it moving forward, it is all good.”
If someone wants to connect with you, what is the best way to reach out to you on social media?
Professionally, in terms of social media, I practically live on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/douglaslongenecker/