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Our 1871 | Brian Walker of AE Marketing Group

Simple 1871 fact -- the people make the place. Today we chat with Brian Walker, Founder of AE Marketing Group, about his "Aha!" moment, creating a powerhouse community of C-suites, and how he deals with tough times.


That "Aha!" Moment

In early 2011, it was clear that speed, technology, and customer experience would fundamentally change brands and consumer behavior. Yet, too many agencies were slow to adapt and saw brand as an advertising function, not a business one.

I built AE Marketing Group to help C-level executives see their brand like enterprise software - transcending operations, product development, sales, marketing, employees, customer service, and more. 


I am a Goldman Sachs 10K alum and sit on the Forbes Agency Council, which are two areas to lean on for advice and shared experience. In 2016, I founded the Brand Lab Series™ which is a community of C-level executives and entrepreneurs from some of today’s leading brands, which has been a remarkable source of inspiration and insight. Where else can you talk to the CMO of Deloitte, Global Innovation Lead at Bosch, or the Founder/CEO of Simple Mills? 


[When the going gets tough], I focus on my personal and professional dashboards. Whether that is to step foot on every continent this decade, give 1% back to the local and global community, or a net income growth metric, those goals keep me on track.

I disconnect and reboot. This can be as extreme as a trip to Africa or as simple as a solo hike just outside the city. Stepping away reminds me that the world will survive without me and gives me the opportunity to think clearly.

On Diversity

Diversity in all forms fuels creativity and new ideas so it’s a critical component to success. Chicago, the marketing and startup industries have made gains to accelerate diversity amongst women - but what is far slower is the pace of diversity amongst communities of color. And it is a systematic problem that requires looking at how to solve long before someone is “in the job market.” I would also suggest age diversity is a growing problem that people don’t want to talk about and we need to.

Entrepreneurial Lessons

While the entrepreneur brain might be wired differently than others, it doesn’t make one better than others.

Anyone can start a business, but the trick is staying in business.

Who's Coming to Dinner?

[My dream dinner guests, alive or dead...]

  • Abraham Lincoln - The pressure he faced both personally and as president during the Civil War is unimaginable.
  • George Washington - Curious how the first president feels about the country 240 years later 
  • Winston Churchill - I’d like to talk about resilience and his ability to motivate the British people not to surrender in World War II.
  • Nelson Mandela - Having stood at his cell on Robben Island, I can’t think of another human being who spent a majority of his life in prison for political reasons only to rise to the highest political office in that same country. 
  • Katherine Johnson - A true pioneer in science, space, and race.
  • Chuck Schumacher - My high school guidance counselor who said he didn’t think I’d graduate, let alone be successful.
  • My grandparents - They are missed and trying to explain my job or emerging technology to them would be fun.

Follow AE Marketing on social media @AEMarketing on Facebook and Twitter

#Our1871 is a series of articles, photos, and videos introducing you to the amazing people who power our community. Check out our feature on Diana Lopez-Obaldo of 1871


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