How does a new marketing agency find leverage within a global pandemic?

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

Rueben Campbell a.k.a Australian/Jamaican Hip Hop legend MC RuCL, goes deep with MDK owner/marketer, Ben Petterson about the challenges, inspirations, advise, insights, experience and why starting a digital/social media agency is such a positive thing to come out of Melbourne's pandemic lockdowns.

When did you decide marketing was the direction you wanted to take on as a career?

I'd been working in sales, account management and retail management most of my daytime career all the while making and performing music with Bodyjar and DJ Ben Stacey / Florian Nites the past 25+ years. After running my own retail boutique, Murdok and providing the marketing and branding for that, I soon realised that I was just scratching the surface as I was not formerly educated in business and marketing at that stage. After this venture of 4 years, decided to pursue a business bachelor’s degree majoring in marketing at Torrens University in Sydney which I am super grateful for.

Left: Murdok Store - Sydney circa 2013. Right: Shannon Crees art show at Murdok circa 2016

What inspired you to start up your own marketing firm?

Having run my own business, it just felt natural to embark on a new solo enterprise with my newfound skillsets. I've been known myself throw in the deep end particularly in the music industry, and learnt how to swim however, in this case, learnt how to market.

On completion of my degree, I up-skilled where I had skill shortfalls thanks to Covid, Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning and utilised a selection of mentors on YouTube, Scribed and through various authors, namely Seth Godin and Scott Bedbury.

Did you have any doubts, struggles or challenges finding opportunities related to your degree after your studies?

In marketing you soon realise that half of the job is either troubleshooting and problem solving whilst constantly up-skilling. For someone that thrives on learning, marketing is the ideal job for me as its ever evolving, particularly within my niche within the digital and social media space. Among many things, my degree provided me with a new outlook and new ways of viewing and analysing information. Through analysis, focus and grit, you find you can overcome most problems you run into on the job.

My main frustration was not knowing many key design and digital skills to be confident with my initial clients. Once I'd completed advanced courses surrounding these shortfalls, namely Photoshop, Illustrator and AdWords, I put them into practice regularly and could then successfully move forward.

Steve Gioia - Smith Grind - Photoshop motion edit by Ben Petterson

What advice would you give to a marketing graduate looking for work or wanting to start their own freelance business?

Be prepared to work really hard! Particularly if you're starting your own practice as you need to earn yourself a good reputation and with this comes a stream of work.

Find your niche. You find your niche by understanding your strengths and what you're passionate about. Knowing what you're good at makes your job way more enjoyable, knowing that you can perform tasks and outperform. Being culturally aligned with a field that you are passionate about will shine within your output.

I've worked within many facets of the fashion industry from Streetwear, Skate, Footwear, semi high-end fashion with Jac+Jack, Bassike and Murdok to even luxury working in the modern room at Harrolds! At the time, I would often wonder what I was even doing, but in hindsight, these experiences provided me with a depth of understanding of “Brand” especially after studying Brand and Ethics & Sustainability within my degree.

How did you go about gaining industry experience in marketing?

I suppose I always knew I would land in Digital and Social Media Marketing as I naturally gravitated to it. Even whilst I was studying, I would contribute original work and professional posts with a handle called 'Love Manly' in Sydney with Hardline Media. It's a tourism site but it provided me with getting to grips with the inner workings of professional posts, social listening, dealing with metrics and working with a team.

Original content produced for Love Manly. 2017. Taken on Google Pixel 3 smart phone. Photoshop edit.

I've since obtained most of my marketing experience on the job, working with my own clients at MDK Marketing within the music and entertainment sectors mainly. It's cool, I work mainly with new bands, performers and even movie campaigns!

MDK website design for Cult Girls horror movie. 2020.

What is the difference between marketing a general brand compared to marketing an artist in the music industry?

I've worked within many facets of the fashion industry from Streetwear, Skate, Footwear, semi high-end fashion with Jac+Jack and Bassike and even luxury working in the modern room at Harrold’s. At the time, I would often wonder what I was even doing, but in hindsight, these experiences provided me with a depth of understanding of “Brand” especially after studying Brand within my degree.

The difference mainly between the two is with a recording artist, the voice of brand is more personalised. In order for your audience to not only get onboard, they need to be provided with good sense of who you are and what makes you tick to gain a sense of trust to come along for the ride and eventually become a fan. With a brand it's generally more of a team effort with more working components behind the scenes and inventory deal with.

What would you say are important considerations when it comes to marketing an artist?

Research. Obtaining a good understanding of the artist and their musical niche is key. As you are representing the artist and responsible for broadcasting them to an audience, knowing the voice of the artist is really important as your client needs to feel at ease with your messaging.

Understanding your audience and creating several proto personas is also really important as this procedure can mean the make or break of your entire campaign. If you're marketing to the wrong audience, you're simply throwing money at a wall leaving you with little chance of obtaining a loyal, long term fanbase.

How have you managed to reach your customers?

Up until now I've predominantly relied on earned traffic through a mix of social media posts, blogging and worth of mouth. I add value to a small but loyal group of followers on the MDK Marketing social handles by posting about current and proven marketing techniques and insights. That said, I've learnt loads about Google and Facebook Ads the past year so if things get a little light on, I'd be likely to apply these skills to increase the frequency so to speak.

MDK Sydney Office Feb 2019

How do you go about achieving customer satisfaction in your industry?

By going over and above for each client. I consider myself a creative and a work horse, so I have an added advantage over most as I work super hard and have a good eye for detail, especially in a creative and design sense. I also provide complete transparency with clients and go as far as allowing them access to my project management system, so they know exactly what's going on at any given time.

I have noticed the coverage of MDK social media pages included on your website. A) How do you think social media has helped MDK? B) What particular social media site (s) have been effective? How have they been helpful?

The social platforms that have been most effective for MDK are Instagram and Facebook mainly. My demographic is a little older so there's no need for Snapchat or Tok-Tok which I personally have not much interest in at this stage. LinkedIn has also been helpful, particularly with obtaining leads and increasing the brands profile within the market place.

Logo design and branding created in-house. 2019

Are there any tools in particular you have found effective for your business?

I’m a bit of a tech nerd when it comes to marketing software. I have to know the functionality of every bit of kit out there. I work with everything I can get my mitts on so that I can then decipher which tools are best for the way I work. My key ‘go to’ tools are: Adwords, Ad Manager, Photoshop, Illustrator, Monday, Chartmetric, Planoly and Trello. I have lots of little hidden goodies but these are my standard go to’s that I set and run most campaigns with.

Do you have any future aspirations for MDK?

I think once Covid moves on I’d like to work in a team environment, so weather that be MDK joining forces with another agency or I go and join an agency for a while would be cool. Working solo through Covid has made me miss working with people.

I think it’s a really idea to have a fall back plan in the marketing game as most professional jobs generally last between 2 – 3 years max, so to have your own agency to fall back on is a good idea I feel.

Long term, I’d like to grow MDK into a comfortable agency of no more than 6 or so, taking care of cool, niche underground markets within the arts and entertainment industry. I feel at home working on projects that are close to home within my own interests and align with me culturally.

For more information or you would a free consultation, get in touch with MDK today!

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