Tom Fishburne





Tom Fishburne will speak on using innovation to be a pet food “David” within a Goliath on Thursday, September 23, at the 8:00-8:50 a.m. during the opening keynote session. Register here to hear Fishburne and 30+ other speakers.

How can smaller pet food manufacturers stay competitive?

As an alum of the Method brand (an upstart household cleaning brand), I’m a big believer in the power of challenger brands to punch harder than their weight.  Smaller pet food manufacturers can’t rely on the same scale, resources, and budgets as larger brands, so by necessity, they have to find ways to change the playing field. You can’t out-Purina Purina. You have to find a different reason for being. I think that starts with asking the following question — what makes your brand “meaningfully unique?” And from there, use the natural advantages of smaller organizations — speed, flexibility, ingenuity — to run circles around Goliath.

What is a culture of creativity?

The founder of Geek Squad once said, “Advertising is a tax you pay for unremarkable thinking.” This reflects the sea of sameness in many product categories — average products that rely on advertising alone to drive sales. I take this quote as inspiration to create as remarkable a brand experience as possible. That takes holistic support from the whole organization, far beyond the remit of the marketing department. In many organizations, the culture is centered on risk mitigation, where the path of least resistance is to make ideas safer, which can water down remarkable thinking. A culture of creativity is the opposite.

What is the #1 roadblock to innovation within companies?

Silo thinking. Innovation takes the whole organization, collectively improving innovation to make ideas stronger. Silo thinking can lead to a death of 1,000 cuts, which is the quickest route to unremarkable innovation.

What pets rule the Fishburne household?

Strudel definitely rules the roost at our house. He’s a rescue poodle mix we adopted 8 years ago.  I asked for just one condition when we brought Strudel home — that he stay off the furniture. Judging by how quickly Strudel took over our couches and beds, I know exactly where we each fall in the family pecking order — and he’s the boss.

Presentation Description:

Keynote: Using innovation to be a pet food “David” within a “Goliath” — Tom Fishburne, a consumer goods marketing expert who creates cartoons under the name Marketoonist, will explain how pet food “Davids” can compete against “Goliaths” using innovation — or to remain innovative Davids even within a larger, Goliath-like pet food company. He will share tips for transforming ideas into new products and ways to build a culture that champions creativity. These elements are particularly important in a highly competitive market like pet food. In the presentation, Fishburne will also use his cartoons to illustrate important concepts for innovation.


Fishburne is the founder of Marketoonist, a marketing agency focused on the medium of cartoons. He started drawing cartoons on the backs of business cases as a Harvard Business School student. His Marketoonist series began with an emailed cartoon to coworkers in 2002, growing by word of mouth to reach a few hundred thousand marketers every week. His cartoons have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and The New York Times, and have twice appeared on billboard ads in Times Square and helped win a Guinness World Record. Fishburne draws (literally and figuratively) from 20 years in the marketing trenches in the U.S. and Europe, as interim chief marketing officer at HotelTonight, marketing vice president at Method Products and brand management professional for Nestle and General Mills. He is the author of “Your Ad Ignored Here: Cartoons from 15 Years of Marketing, Business and Doodling in Meetings.” Cartoonist-in-residence and guest lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he also delivered a TED talk on “The Power of Laughing at Ourselves.”