Canada's Marketing Hall of Legends: How diversity drives the decision making process





Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends has always been a beacon of aspiration for the industry. Among the many reasons is that it has always championed the value in diversity of thought. This was one element of appeal for me when asked to become a co-VP of the brand. That appreciation came with the recognition that — for the distinction the induction provides to continue and remain relevant —there needed to be an evolution from the diversity of thought to the diversity of representation. It was a challenge not tackled lightly and the notion became a pillar of the process and program as a whole. For a national legacy award, diversity takes many different forms from geography (Canada is a vast area of regional diversity), to gender and of course ethnicity. Not to mention that marketing covers a broad scope of disciplines and elements within its industry. I recently discussed the generational diversity challenge and reflected on the jury day selection committee with the chair of the committee, David Kincaid, who is an inducted legend in his own right.



To understand how diversity helps drive our selection method, one needs to understand the benefits of having diversity in the decision-making process. The primary benefit of working towards more diversity is that having a truly unique perspective leads to the most robust discussion. As David puts it, there is a logical progression that must be believed to be true for diversity to matter and it goes as follows,” Diversity breeds perspective. Perspective leads to understanding. And understanding is what drives change.” For us to change and enhance the discussion in the jury room, a keen focus must be paid to the recruitment of the selection committee. 



This emphasis on diversity of representation provides both an intrinsic and perceived increase in credibility on the final selection decision. Furthermore, the variety of voices in the room makes it so that the need for presumptions about how certain individuals and/or the impact and effectiveness of their life’s work becomes less conditional. With the right mix of people, the conversation actually gets elevated and challenging assumptions become a normal course of the dialogue. Having the jury selection committee more accurately reflect the Canadian general population ensures that no potential points of view go unheard or unrepresented. Having high confidence in a decision-making process is the ancillary effect of having diversity drive the selection proceedings.  The committee that selected this year’s inductees checks off a lot of boxes in bringing a cross-section of viewpoints to the table, from regional, to gender and ethnicity.



The need to have confidence in the inductees selected becomes more imperative when considering the practical limitations of a lifetime achievement award. This year, the criteria for Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends was simple and expansive yet with definitive conditions. The requirements were as follows:


  • More than 25 years in the industry
  • Marketing executives or business leaders who lead with a strong emphasis on marketing
  • Contribution to the community or industry

The first criteria always proves to be the most challenging when it comes to having diversity reflected in the final selection. With the selection being peer based, even establishing a jury of contemporaries proves to be a struggle to meet a certain level of diversity. Often the collision of when a merit-based decision process meets a time frame prior to the current era leads to skewed results.  In this case the selection and recognition of extraordinary individuals in an industry and era of limited/low diversity. 



As David highlights, “If you look at the industry 25 to 30 years ago, it is nowhere near as diverse as it is today,” and with the current Canadian demographic breakdown being 86 per cent European/White for example, which is lower than previous decades, that is saying a lot. Ultimately from the nominations received to the judging committee and eventual inductees selected, it will be from a pool that reflects the diversity of that generation. And as the Canadian population diversifies and that diversity starts to permeate into the marketing community, we will continue to see a natural shift of the results. To be clear, this should in no way take anything away from the tremendous accomplishments and deservedness of the final choices. This year’s selected inductees represent an ilk of impeccable achievements. The most important axiom for all who are involved in the management, execution and oversight of the selection is that the process must be a fact-based merit system. Therefore, with the distinction being a reflection and spotlighting of the past, it becomes precarious to assume there is an adequate approach that can be applied to correct for historical biases.



So the question becomes what can be done and how have the building blocks of change been laid to form a foundation that can ensure for this year and going forward there is a methodology that results in a high-confidence selection. A confidence built on the pillar of understanding that having a diverse judging panel makes for a more credible induction class. It starts with a mode of operation that works harder to uncover past accomplishments and puts them into the correct context and perspective. The challenge lays at the feet of everyone in the marketing and business community to engage and nominate a diverse group. It takes a community to recognize and celebrate the best in class of their own. As David correctly states, “It behooves us as a collective to actively promote the diversity both in the nomination and the process of these types of awards.” We can collectively leverage the platform that Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends represents to drive forward the change we seek by ensuring the process and methodologies are sound and thus the integrity is unimpeachable. And finally, as David puts it, “We have to learn how to talk through our ears,” meaning while there will always be fierce debate about who is selected and who has yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Legends, the first step in getting that decision right is to listen to as many unique perspectives as possible. Because it is in that diversified conversation that truly great moments, accomplishments and individuals can surface and be certified.



Having been in the room this year facilitating, it was an honour and privilege to collaborate with such a strong group of elite and influential Canadian marketers representing both the diversity and a cross section of the country. The selection committee this year was an extremely distinguished and diverse group of experts that represent an array of disciplines and expertise in the marketing industry. Their broad career experience and invaluable insights provided a strong platform for a comprehensive discussion and credible decision-making process. It was a spirited and productive discussion that set the stage for an important and impressive final decision for the next inductees into Canada's Marketing Hall of Legends. 


Thank you to all who participated in making this year’s journey a successful one, while setting the stage for the five illustrious Canadians being honoured and laying the foundation for the future evolution of Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends.


For more information about Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends, click here


Photo above: L-R

Andrew Black, Xzavier Ramphal, David Kincaid, Ken Wong, Mike Nethercott, Steve Wallace, Jenifer Martin, Jack Bensimon, Judy Davey, Ian Gordon, Tony Chapman, Jacob Kessler, David Brown, Andrea Southcott, Brittany James, Noel O'dea


About the Authors:  

Xzavier Ramphal is a co-VP of Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends the principal business advisor at agent x solutions. Through the approach of "Driving Results by Challenging Assumptions" he transforms brands and businesses by providing them with the tools to become leaders of their industry.

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