By Pamela Muldoon published March 12, 2015

How Doug Kessler Went From Limos to Crap to Content Marketing Success

Doug-Kessler-velocity-partners-coverFor those who weren’t familiar with Doug Kessler, his SlideShare presentation, Crap: The Content Marketing Deluge, put him on the map. It tapped into a concern of many content marketers and helped make Doug one of the top names in the business. But even before the slide show made its mark, he was the co-founder and Creative Director at Velocity Partners, a successful B2B-focused marketing agency in the United Kingdom.

In this episode of The Pivot, host Todd Wheatland talks to Doug about his journey from the extravagant days of advertising in New York City in the ’80s to running a content-focused B2B marketing agency in Greater London today.

Listen to Todd’s full interview with Doug Kessler here:

Download this week’s The Pivot episode.

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What may surprise you

  • Doug grew up in Connecticut and New York. He moved to Britain 24 years ago.
  • After college graduation in the late ’80s, he took a position in account management at Ogilvy on Madison Avenue.
  • An amateur banjo musician, Doug received a banjo kit as a wedding gift.
  • Velocity Partners’ office is in the Poppy Factory, a 1930s factory where the Royal British Legion makes its poppies for Remembrance Day.
  • Doug’s kids make fun of his American accent.

Doug’s pivot

When working his first post-college job at Ogilvy, Doug encountered a B2C campaign that equated being a good mother with buying a specific brand of fabric softener. He realized that the kind of emotional manipulation that often seemed to come with B2C selling just wasn’t for him and started shifting his focus to B2B. The more he worked in the B2B space, the more he felt he found a fit – he liked the challenge of making a clear case for buying something that wasn’t all about appealing to emotion.

The decision to create Velocity Partners was launched over beers with his partner Stan Woods. They searched for clients by going to venture capitalists who immediately recognized how much their investment start-ups needed marketing assistance. The rest is history.

A reminder of marketing ethics

From his earliest days in advertising, Doug has been concerned about ethics. That’s what inspired his preference for B2B and it’s what makes him a vocal proponent of taking a careful approach to native advertising today. While he believes there will always be some sleazy marketers, the rest of us can (and should continue to) stay on the right side of balancing client responsibilities and consumer trust.

He concedes that toeing that ethical line isn’t always easy in content marketing:

Are we not dressing up marketing in non-marketing clothes to trick our prospect into our funnel kind of thing? I think you can be accused of that. I think there is a degree of a hidden agenda going on in content marketing. I guess what we evangelize and try to tell our clients is not to hide the agenda. Just get it out there. This is marketing … We really are here to sell something at the end of the day. Actually, our prospects don’t begrudge us that, but they will if we hide it.

For a full list of The Pivot archives, go to the main The Pivot: Marketing Backstories page.

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Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Pamela Muldoon

Pamela Muldoon is the Podcast Network Director for the CMI Podcast Network. In her role with CMI, she assists the podcast hosts with the development, production, distribution and promotion of their shows. Pamela is a veteran podcaster who can be heard on the CMI Podcast Network with her latest show "Content Marketing NEXT". To date, she has interviewed over 200 business and marketing professionals as part of her podcast formats. She is also a professional VoiceOver talent specializing in commercial, narration, eLearning, and promo projects. Learn more at or Follow her on Twitter @pamelamuldoon.

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  • Barry Feldman

    A man very much worth listening to. Doug’s not just a content marketing sage, he’s one of web’s best scribes because his work’s always fun to read.

  • LoveYourNiche

    Enjoyed this, ESPECIALLY the discussion of ethics in marketing, and being up front about sales.

  • Doug Kessler

    Now THAT was a fun interview. Todd has a way of making you admit to things you shouldn’t (The marijuana bit. The ladies underway…). But what a fun conversation. Thanks Todd.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Doug…I’m totally stealing the “ripples” part for my next book. Just thought I’d let you know. Love it!

      • Doug Kessler

        When Joe Pulizzi steals from you… that’s a ripple.

  • rogercparker

    Another “worth listening to again” episode; energetic, but thoughtful ideas at the core.

    I’m fascinated by the way that perfectly-stated key ideas, like Doug’s concept of the “ripple effect of great content” and “When you get on [your market’s] radar, great things can happen,” just come out in conversation.

    I wish it was possible to underline when listening to audio!

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