In this episode…

Join David Hernandez, host of There’s Always a Lyric, and 30-year marketer turned Rutgers University professor, author, and keynote speaker, Mark Beal as they dive deep into Mark’s media junky past, current in-class Gen Z think tank’s, and of course the lyrics that speak to him the most.  

Episode Transcript

lotus823  (0:19)  

There’s Always A Lyric is sponsored by lotus823. At lotus823, your goals are our goals. We help consumer tech, home, and lifestyle brands gain visibility, drive relevant traffic, and increase sales through customized public relations and marketing strategies. Want to learn more? Head over to or get in touch at today. 


David Hernandez  (0:45)  

Welcome to another episode of There’s Always A Lyric. I’m your host David Hernandez. This is brought to you by lotus823 and in full disclosure, I’m a managing partner and co-founder at lotus823. Today we have not only a great executive, great colleague, great friend, but a really wonderful human being who I’m very proud to say I know and have been friends with almost the entire time the agency has been open, the last 14 years. And before we get started, I just want to give a little background on Mark Beal. He’s a 30-year marketer. Mark is a Rutgers University professor, author, and keynote speaker. He spent the first 30 years of his career creating integrated marketing campaigns for leading brands around high-profile sports and entertainment properties, including the Olympics, Super Bowl Halftime Show, and The Rolling Stones. Lots of “cool” factor there. Mark has authored eight books, including four books focused on Generation Z, which we will be talking about today. And Mark’s most recent book published earlier this year is titled Win The Job and Thrive in a Multigenerational Workplace. And there’s the book. Welcome, Mark Beal. 


Mark Beal  (2:00)  

Thank you. Thank you, David. Great to be on here. I see on LinkedIn every time you do interviews, I said, I’ve got to get on this show somehow! I love it. 


David Hernandez  (2:08)  

Thank you. And I mean, there’s a lot to cover here. So I want to just jump into where we are right now. Can you tell me a little bit about the present, which is very different from everything that led to the present? 


Mark Beal  (2:22)  

Absolutely. So my main focus and my primary focus now is to collaborate and connect with students at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Rutgers University, mostly junior or seniors, graduate students, and a few sophomores as well. I don’t teach entry-level courses. I teach 300/400 level, graduate courses, public relations, and integrated marketing. As part of that, I don’t just get to connect and collaborate with them in the classroom on what we’re discussing, but it’s really about their careers, and how to get to where they want to go. And so I spend an incredible amount of time, seven days a week, helping them with everything from resumes to connecting them with folks like you in the industry, to helping them prep for job interviews, helping them get job interviews, so that’s not part of my paid job. That’s kind of my purpose in life now. So I feel like this is my purpose, now, it’s helping the next generation with their career aspirations, and anything that is involved in that. And that’s something that happens every day of the week. I just finished a few minutes ago helping a student secure a fall internship with a major media company that she really wants. And so I’ve already reached out to the main decision maker there and hope that my call will at least help her get an interview. And who knows, maybe go further than that. So yeah, that’s the focus now, is those courses at Rutgers and I’m really helping the students get from college to career.


David Hernandez  (3:48)  

That’s interesting because there is a direct through line there, between that and your past. Right? Do you want to maybe, while we’re still in the present, one of the things that you’ve been hyper-focused on in your last few books, and I can say this with glee, as published, author Mark Beal is Generation Z. You really, you sort of dug a real deep trench in the understanding, impact etc, of Gen Z, not only currently, but what it’s going to look like, as Gen Z moves into the workforce moves, into positions of power. 


Mark Beal  (4:27)  

Yeah, so to your point, that is the bridge. For the first 30 years, as you mentioned in my career, I worked primarily at one agency, Taylor in New York, for those 30 years. For half of that time, I was one of the managing partners. As you know, very well 2005-2010-2015, most of those RFPs or the assignment briefs you received from clients were about millennials. How do we engage millennials? How do we create relationships with millennials? And in 2017, I was teaching a course. I was still just what they call an adjunct professor, teaching one course at Rutgers and I drove back to the office, a light bulb went off my head. I said, millennials are the focus even in 2017, but come 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027, Gen Z will become the focus for most companies. Most brands both on the marketing communication side, but also on the recruit and retain side on the employer side. And so I just started immersing myself in Gen Z, every morning, I kind of have the same routine, early 5 am, 5:30 am, I just gather the latest studies, the latest surveys, the latest articles. I have a massive file that you can’t see here to my side that I just gather all this and I file it away and use it for books, use it for articles. I use it for speeches I deliver. But then I’m a really lucky guy because I’m in a classroom a couple of days a week with Gen Zer’s. So I’m not just reading this, I’m then like testing it as I go into the classroom. Like, what do you think of this study? Or this latest report came out about what you’re doing on your phones, let’s go through it and let’s get your reactions. And if they are nodding their head and agreeing, I’m like, okay well this study or this survey or this article is right on target because these Gen Zer’s, who are my classroom ages 19, 20, 21, 22, they’re agreeing with that. So I have that real-time kind of Think Tank, I guess we could call it. I can walk into a classroom any day and just say, Hey, so what do you think about this campaign that XYZ brands launched this week? Or what about this initiative? They are eager to give me their insights, their feedback, and what they think is working and not working when it comes to engaging Gen Z. 


David Hernandez  (6:29)  

That’s so interesting because even though you’re in academia, you’re moving past the academic and having discussions that are essentially man-on-the-street discussions with the audience. To that point, I would love it if you could give us, at least in broad terms, how they view consumer marketing. What resonates with them as an audience, as potential customers or as prospects of these consumer brands? For the folks that are listening in, you know, we’ve got people on both sides of either agency life and also in the brands and manufacturers that listen to this. What do you see at least in in broad strokes? 


Mark Beal  (7:13)  

Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s kind of two parts to it. First, is the content and the channels, right? And I say this all the time, so I sound like a broken record. But this generation doesn’t know what the six o’clock news is. This generation doesn’t know what Good Morning American is. They don’t know what ABC, CBS, and NBC are. They don’t consume content through traditional channels like you and I did growing up. That’s just part of our behavior. Part of, you know, we tune into those things. They consume a lot of content, a lot of information, including branded content, but they’re doing it on their channels, what I call the big three. TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are the big three for them. And there are, of course, other channels as well. But the first thing is, as a marketer, you need to engage them where they’re at. And I know that’s easy to say and easy to understand, that makes sense, right? But they’re not consuming traditional channels. I’ll give you a couple of quick examples. You know, if I have 20 to 25 Gen Zer’s in a room and the first question I usually just ask is, hey, tell me a brand that’s effectively engaging you right now, is reaching you, is getting through to you. First one all the time, Duolingo. They make learning language fun on the channels that I consume. So they’re producing content that is fun. I’m also learning but I’m having fun learning, but they’re doing on those channels that I consume. They’re doing it across TikTok and other channels. And so that’s a brand I’ve done that with several times, or many times with Gen Zer’s. Duolingo, if it’s not the first brand, they say it’s the second brand or third. Usually, it’s the very first one, usually. And what I always say is we’ve had lots of learning language platforms and businesses out there for years. But this is one that’s actually resonating with this generation, for those reasons. They’re creating content that’s engaging, that’s fun, but it’s on the channels that they consume. And so that’s a big part of it. Channels and content, are a huge part of it, actually. And then I’d say the other piece of the puzzle is Gen Z will tell you, that we typically are engaged by brands that are genuine, that are authentic, that maybe have a purpose other than just simply selling me something. So that’s kind of another piece of it too, besides the content of the channels, but brands that seem to have a genuine interest in engaging with me and communicating with me and connecting with me and those kinds of things. And so there are some brands out there that are doing that through nationwide Gen Z incubators. Target was the first-ever brand, in 2018, and they continued it. They have a nationwide Gen Z incubator. Where every year they basically issue an invitation to Gen Zer’s and say, hey, we want to open up the boardroom to you. We want to connect and collaborate on your great ideas for the future. So it’s not an internship, it’s not a job. It’s truly a collaboration. They call it an incubator. Congress has the same. The NHL has the same. They’re going from traditional push marketing and promotions to engaging this generation and inviting them in and saying what can we do together. And so again, that’s just another piece of it. But there’s that nuance of traditional marketing, traditional promotion, traditional advertising, which is not going away, by the way, to how do we kind of engage this generation? How do we get them into the conversation? How do we connect with them and have maybe a shared purpose as opposed to just pushing messages and content out? Yeah, there’s a great headline, hard to believe it’s 2019 already since the article ran. But AdAge, had a great article, a great headline that I still use to this day, “Gen Z Doesn’t Want to Buy Your Brand, They Want to Join Your Brand”. Powerful, powerful headline, by the way. Not easy for any brand. Not easy, although Duolingo will probably tell you, it’s really easy. But the point is, they don’t want just a transactional relationship. They actually want a relationship, a collaboration, a connection. And so that was an article that I still use in all my keynote speeches, they don’t want to buy your brand, they want to actually join your brand. As a brand, not easy to do, by the way.  As a brand you think, okay, well, how do we even bring that to life? And so Rick Gomez, who was the Chief Marketing Officer of Target, he’s got a fancier title now, said we have to leverage the power of our brand Target, and connect in a meaningful and purposeful way with this new generation, and bring their great ideas for the future to life, something along those lines. That was how he and the team nearly created their incubator, which is now going on maybe year six or seven. It’s really led to a lot of insights around products, content, the user experience, community initiatives, and a whole bunch of things. And that’s been a great approach to engaging Gen Z.


David Hernandez  (11:30)  

Can you tell the audience a little bit about your origin story and how you got into PR, communications, and marketing, and eventually where you are now? 


Mark Beal  (11:40)  

Yeah, some guys who I went to college with way back when who are now anchors on national television. We called ourselves media junkies. We loved media. We actually loved reading newspapers when we were in high school. We’d love to listen to radio. We love watching TV. We just loved media. Now in those days, I don’t want to date myself. But the mid-80s, there was no TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube right? The channels you consume content were the traditional media channels. And I still remember sophomore year of high school, my mom said, hey, here’s an ad for a local weekly newspaper, they need a sports editor. Why don’t you go apply? And I was like, well, they’re not going to hire some sophomore in high school. Well, I guess I was the only one that applied because they hired me. And so I became the sports editor of a weekly newspaper out of Belmar, New Jersey. I wrote the articles, I edited the articles, I went in and did the layout every Friday, which I didn’t know anything about layout and design. That was great and so I did that. And by senior year, I was writing for the Asbury Park Press. Senior of high school, I was writing for the Asbury Park Press, just as a stringer. Hey, can you go to cover this event or cover this 5k run whatever it might be. So I was doing all those things. And as I went to college at Rutgers, I continued with the radio station, but I started dipping my toe into the PR communication side and went over to the athletic department and said, hey is there any opportunity for me to work in communications? They gave me a few teams where I became in essence, the PR person for men’s lacrosse and some other sports. And then, really, I always go back to this. The summer of 88′ was my summer. That was the summer that I lived at Rutgers, got on a train every morning at, seven o’clock, and I went into a PR agency every day. That was kind of a sports and entertainment PR agency. And after day one, I left them like, this is what I want to do. I don’t want to report the news. I want to create the news. I want to be involved in storytelling. And I did that every day. And then as soon as I got done around 530ish, every day as an intern, I raced, and sprinted to 30Rock, and I produced one of the first-ever major sports radio shows every night, from seven to midnight. I got done at 12:01, raced to Penn Station, caught 12:35 train back to New Brunswick, took a nap and did it again the next day. But it was that summer where I said I love media, I actually want to be on this side. And I want to get into this thing they call public relations. And so that was it. That was the key, was that internship summer of 88′. That flipped everything. And then I graduated from Rutgers. First job was at Fordham University in their athletic department of communication. And nine or ten months later, I was at an agency and I stayed there for 30 years. 


David Hernandez  (14:18)  

There had to have been moments where you faced some kind of failure. I think I ask this question all the time in the podcast. I think it’s an important question because I think it helps a lot of people understand that they’re not alone when they fail. And that actually that is part of the learning process. That’s where you do some of your best learning. Do you have something you can share with the audience? 


Mark Beal  (14:42)  

Oh, yeah! I’ve got one that I’ve been sharing a lot lately. And it’s just very relevant, meaningful, and even timely now. So as a very young executive in the early 90’s. By very young, I mean, I was like carrying bags for people. They said, hey, we want you to be part of our new business team and you know new business well. I want you to be part of our new business team and we’re gonna go fly to Florida we’re going to try to get them. I don’t want to get too much into the name, so I won’t say too much now. I mean, I’m a couple of years out of college, and I want to be part of the team. I’m gonna go with, at that time, the head of the agency and other leaders. And I didn’t know anything, right? What do I know? I’m just there, like I said, probably carrying your bags, and I guess I’m gonna say something, right? So I was too new or too young to really know any better. Well, we got down to Florida, and we walked in the room and the CEO of the company we’re presenting to and others were there. And he simply asked one question. Did you test drive my product, just to the group? No? He says you can leave now. We don’t need you to present. And that’s stuck with me forever. Eventually, I became the leader of the new business efforts at our agency, 8-10 years later, and I ended up leading that charge for 20 years. And that lesson of not preparing properly, not preparing the right way, not doing your research, not test driving. When I say test driving, you know, test driving could be going to a restaurant trying their food. It could be you drinking their drink. It could be driving a car, it could be anything. Test drive just means trying the product out. I learned that. When I really started leading the new business efforts in the early 2000s, we test-drove everything, and it led to winning everything. And so I will name some names here. But you know, when we presented for the Taco Bell business against a bunch of other agencies, for the two or three weeks, because as you know, we only have about two or three weeks, we spent as much time as you could, sitting in as many Taco Bells. Eating the food, talking to the front, talking to the staff at the counter, talking to the managers, picking up the lingo and lexicon, and weaving all that into the presentation. We went and presented saying, hey, we visited 40 of your locations over the past three weeks, and here’s what we learned. It just blew their mind out because, not that agencies don’t do that because I think some agencies do, but I think most probably don’t. And the insights you get from that you can’t buy. You can’t find it. You can’t google. These are things you’re picking up by just being there and being part of that. So whether it was doing at a Taco Bell, or when we went in to spend quality time at Mercedes Benz dealerships and literally test-drove vehicles and won their business, by the way. And then the great news is fast forward, almost, I don’t know let’s say 20 years later. It may not be but 20 years later, that company that so to speak kicked us out of the door back in the early 90’s,  well, they’d gone through new ownership and new management, all those things. And they came calling again. I guess they didn’t remember who we were back then. And I said we’re gonna win this thing. Sure enough, we won it but we made sure we test drove, we went into their dealerships, we went into their shops, we met with their consumers, we met with the fans. And that was a key lesson in business. You know better than anyone, that new business is such a critical part of, especially the agency world. I just presented my students last week, and I said, there are two key pieces to agency life. One is client services and serving your client at such a high level that the end of the day got to bring it back. And they’re bringing you back at even bigger role. And the other is proactively going out and securing new business. And then, of course, keeping that business. So that was a lesson learned like I said, when I was two, three years into my career, and then it paid off for 20 plus years, because the approach was let’s immerse ourselves in this brand, or this company. And try, not that you can, but try to understand it as well as the executives who actually work there. 24/7. It paid off, time after time again, because of that one incident back in the early 90s. When I look back, as you said, great things came from that lesson. Best lesson. For me, I was new. I was relatively young in my career. Maybe for others who had been in their career, it wasn’t as good. But for me, it was the best thing ever, because I never made that mistake twice. 


David Hernandez  (18:58)  

Right. It was like, right, do your do your homework. Do your homework, don’t go in cold. 


Mark Beal  (19:05)  

So even today as my students prepare for their job interviews as they graduate, I basically say the same thing. Immerse yourself in this company, this agency, this brand, whatever it is. Understand them, and learn them. Read every quarterly report you can find. So it’s the same approach and you know, attempting to win the job. 


David Hernandez  (19:23)  

And in talking about kind of getting back to the present, talking to your students and teaching. What that brings to your life, both professionally and personally. What do you find, I guess the question I want to ask is not so much what do you find, but how do you see Gen Z in total, different from previous generations? Even Millennials who are, you know, there’s a close barrier there between sort of the youngest part of the Millennial set and the oldest part of the Gen Z right? There’s always that little kind of difference


Mark Beal  (20:05)  

I call them Zellennials. Yes, Zellennials. They would be 28/29 year olds right now. The oldest Gen Zer’s are turning 27 this year. They’re no longer just in school anymore. I think a lot of people are shocked when they hear that. They’re now some of them are 2, 3, 4 years into their career. Quickly following up, we’re not going to go there today, but we will in about five years, is Gen Alpha. Gen Alpha right now is age zero to 11. Dove recently came out with a campaign all focused on Gen Alpha. All of a sudden, we’ve got major brands already starting to engage Gen Alpha or attempting to engage Gen Alpha. There are two things, I’ll just throw out a couple of them. And again, when I say this, I’m comparing them to myself. So when I say older generations, I’m pointing at myself. I’m not talking about anyone. But for Gen Z, or for my generation, and I think you’ll agree with this one, we live to work. Ee lived to go to work seven days a week. And that was like a sole focus, I can tell you that right now. I mean, I lived to work. Gen Z doesn’t live to work, they work to live. They work so that they can actually afford travel, adventure, and experiences. Work is not the epicenter of their life, life is the epicenter. So they’re not living to go to work every day, and basically put in 14, 15, 16, 17 hours a day. They are working, so they can actually go travel and experience life and see things like that. So it’s a slight nuance. But what I say all the time is, you know, pre-2020 when we used to go to an office. And I gotta be careful how I say this, but you know, sometimes you measure the value someone brought by how many hours they were in the office, not by what they did in the hours they were there. So if someone showed up at 8 am, and left at 8 pm, they got the gold star. Well, what did they do in the 12 hours? And so the flip on that is Gen Z works smarter, not harder. And I think generations like us, focused more on working harder, not smarter, per se. What I mean by that is Gen Z, with their ability to leverage and utilize technology and the latest platforms, they can figure out ways to kind of get to the finish line a little bit quicker on what’s something that maybe for me will take forever to figure out. And so the idea of working smarter, not harder. There’s a great quote from the former CMO of MTV, but I use it all the time and I always give her credit, but Gen Z is the first generation that learned to swipe before they wiped. They’ve had technology in their hands since ages one, two, and three. They embrace technology. You know this, but you know, like right now a lot of my Gen Zer’s will come back and they’ll guest lecture. They’ll say yeah, I’m using Slack more than ever now. Right? We’re not using email as much because Slack in a more timely matter, we can communicate. We can get to responses, we can get things done quicker. And so I mean, that’s a small example. But the point is like, email to them is like a dinosaur. Where Slack is like, I need an answer and I need it now, Client, what do you got? Great. Let’s keep going. And I think there’s that whole thing of again, smarter, not harder. 


David Hernandez  (23:10)  

What advice can you share? I mean, you’ve got lots of young professionals right in front of you, right? If you had like that one thing that you go, Look, you may not like the class, you may not like me, but I just want to share one thing with you that I think can make a difference. 


Mark Beal  (23:31)  

Well if I can only share one, I can tell you what the one is, but there’s actually more. On the first day of class and the last class, I share four bits of advice. And I just did it the other day because we finished. So the first is just; what do you love? Pursue your passion. Do you love music like you do? You love sports? You love beauty? You love fashion? Pursue a career in that area, because you’ll never feel like you worked a day in your life. Right? So what are your passions? We all love something right? Or maybe more than one thing, but we must all love something that we just have a passion about right? Travel, music, sports, entertainment, whatever it might be. So first is pursue your passions. Two, consistently be curious and ask questions. I bring in almost 60 guest lectures a semester, nearly 60. Just two days ago, I had an executive from Warner Brothers in my classroom who was a student of mine five, six years ago. If you get the chance to talk to someone from Warner Brothers I would be, after the class is done, I would try to see if he’d go grab a cup of coffee and sit down for an hour. I mean, how often we get that chance? So you know, be curious about how did he get to where he is? How did, you know, the same kind of questions you’re asking? The third thing is I just say dream big capital BIG. Don’t settle for, just don’t settle, right? Dream big and then I usually share a few examples of some of my former students who are now in big-time positions. And then the last is anything is possible. Anything is possible. You can really go out and achieve anything you want, you can have any position you want, you can launch your own company, whatever you want to do. And so on day one and the last day, those are the four bits of advice I give them all. And I’ll probably say the same thing tonight, when I go speak to a bunch of students. The other thing I’ll say tonight. Actually before I get into those, and I will deliver those four tonight, by the way, because I’m speaking to students who are being inducted into a national honor society at Rutgers. But before I say that, I will say it not once, but twice. I will say, if you can see them, you can be them. And I’ll repeat that. And what I mean is if you see someone who’s in a role that you want to be, there is nothing stopping you from having that same role, that same position. I’ll start with that and then I’ll go into these four pieces of advice. 


David Hernandez  (25:46)  

That’s wonderful! Those are keepers. All right, well, I have the summational question of the podcast, and you know what’s coming, so it’s going to tie in nicely to everything I just discussed. Mark Beale, if there’s one song, one song title, or lyric that captures you, or your view on life, your journey, what would it be? 


Mark Beal  (26:09)  

Well, I know you are, Mr. Music. But you know, most of my songwriting has been inspired by Workhorse. I grew up in the 70’s, so I love Tom Petty, and Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, and all those guys. But I’m not going to give you one of those. I listen a lot now, in fact, I just finished a long run. And I just listened to these guys the whole time I run. I listen to them all the time. Some people know them, some people don’t. But they’re really big in the country scene in Nashville right now. But they called Old Dominion. It’s basically for kind of guys who were songwriters who one day said, well why are we just writing the songs, let’s go perform them. I’ve seen them in concert many times and I really can’t get enough of their songwriting and their lyrics. So in one of their songs, the lyric is, “Chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money”. I just told my students, I used the same lyric in class the other night. I said, you will make more money than you could ever imagine. And I mean that. They will, they will make more money in their lifetime than they could ever imagine. But do it something, again, a passion, an area that you love, an interest, right? Instead of just well, this job’s gonna give me $5000 more when I graduate than this one, so I’m gonna take this job, right? Monday night, I said that, you chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money, because in chasing the dream or pursuing the dream, great things will result. I think the money will ultimately be there. But more importantly, you’ll be working in an area that you love, that you have a passion for. As we said earlier, it could be politics, it could be sports, it could be music, it could be entertainment, it could be anything. So I used that on, I think Monday night. I want to use it again today. 


David Hernandez  (27:47)  

That is a really great line and that was a surprise. What I love about this podcast, is I get great surprises from the folks that I get on here from my guests. That is really wonderful. And I hear what you’re saying, Mark. That is the key. It’s finding something that you truly care about that you have a passion for, like you said. 


Mark Beal  (28:13)  

Great things will result I promise! 


David Hernandez  (28:15)  

It will just come because you’re pouring yourself into it. 


Mark Beal  (28:18)  

Exactly. Because you love what you’re doing. 


David Hernandez  (28:20)  

Right. You love what you’re doing. And on that note, I want to say thank you for joining us today. This was a really important one for me. I really wanted to get you on here and I know how busy you are. So again, thanks for taking the time for us today. 


Mark Beal  (28:33)  

Thank you. I appreciate it. This was great. You’re a great interviewer. So thank you very much.


Keep in touch with Mark: 


Call Now Button