In this special interview, Carlota Pico speaks with Tina Morwani, senior marketing manager for the EMEA region at GitLab. Drawing on over seven years of experience in the industry, Tina offers invaluable advice for modern marketers. She discusses responses to the current crisis, the growing focus on diversity and inclusion, and the vital importance of empathy and honesty within marketing—plus how to implement real and lasting change at your organization.

Instead of our usual recap, today we’re publishing Tina’s advice in her own words. Trust us—you’re going to want to take notes!

Carlota Pico: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and why you’re passionate about marketing?

Tina Morwani: I have a sales and marketing technology background, and transitioned into marketing early on in my career for one primary reason: the need to create authentic brands that align with the values of today’s purpose-driven customers.

Today’s marketer understands that influence isn’t about building a personal reputation; it’s about connecting with customers around shared values. People no longer care about claims of how you are the “x” market leading company—they want to know about a brand’s perspective on social issues, culture, politics, sustainability and employee satisfaction.

Brands that can differentiate with emotional appeals versus the rational sale will stand the test of time, and I’m driven by that strategic and creative imperative. I genuinely believe that marketers can become the architects of a brand’s growth and the engine of improved return on investment, if they’re able to create brands that foster strong emotional connections.

Marketing, in essence, is keeping a finger on the pulse: what interests us, drives us and inspires us to engage with some brands versus others. It’s a craft that I take immense pride in.

Marketing means keeping a finger on the pulse of human nature: what interests us and inspires us to engage with some brands versus others.

CP: Given you’re currently working at an entirely remote organization, what advice would you give to teams to help them work effectively in a remote setting?

TM: What’s happening right now isn’t remote work, it’s crisis-driven working from home, and we’re seeing a lot of organizations looking into tools as their go-to. Although that’s definitely a part of it, the glue that holds a remote organization together is culture: the right mindset, values and processes. And that can be the hardest thing to wrap your head around, especially when you’re on high alert.

To get grounded on this “new normal,” my suggestions would be to:

  • Figure out who’s in charge of your remote transition: You need a dedicated taskforce to help you get it right.
  • Adopt a “handbook-first” approach for company communication: A single source of truth that everyone in the organization leans on. Think about it; if you have 1,000 employees, that’s 1,000 less shoulder taps daily on just basic questions. If you don’t have a handbook, hire dedicated scribes that sit on each team to help you document and contextualize everything in one centralized space. There are a ton of freelance writers with no job at the moment, who would be an amazing asset to your teams. 
  • Create a virtual water cooler: For example, by using Slack exclusively for informal communication, which is a big gap to fill when transitioning to remote work. Be intentional about building channels that facilitate social connection.
  • Make meetings optional: Require every meeting to have an agenda, take diligent notes and record meetings for those who can’t attend. This acts as a forcing function for holding meetings, because the burden of having one is very high and ultimately enables a bias toward asynchronous workflows.
  • Structure your company values to be supportive of a remote work environment: All the tools in the world are going to be meaningless if you don’t lead with a culture of trust, rather than one of micromanagement and fear. There’s plenty of that already in the world; we don’t need more of it.

All the tools in the world are going to be meaningless if you lead with a culture of fear, rather than a culture of trust.

CP: What are some key steps to combat burnout, isolation and anxiety in a remote environment?

TM: It starts with creating a non-judgmental culture in your company, one which doesn’t celebrate working long hours and takes mental health seriously, documents processes around it and takes action through sentiment tracking and feedback.

My advice to anyone struggling right now is to protect yourself and amuse yourself, in that order. Health, family and friends come first. Going remote during a pandemic is not a simple flip of a switch, so establish a routine—but don’t be afraid to iterate and experiment with it.

An office environment is not easily transported into a remote environment, and that really shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, take baby steps, over-communicate, seek advice, offer solutions and allow yourself the time and the patience to roll with the punches. Incremental changes will keep moving the needle.

CP: With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and your interest in diversity and inclusion, why do you think companies should continue to prioritize D&I now more than ever?

TM: We need to make a conscious effort to ensure the pandemic does not derail our diversity and inclusion efforts. Diversity in marketing is paramount—making space for equitable representation of gender, racial and sexual identities, at all levels. That applies to the executives at the very top, the people you feature in your ads, and the marketers and creators who work behind the scenes.

Only through diversity can we begin to remove bias and the barriers to equality and inclusion. From personal experience, I can say there’s a notable difference when you’re not the only female or person of color in a room. The same applies to an LGBTQIA+ or disabled person. I like to think that it starts with listening a little harder and taking steps to become a better ally and advocate. 

On a macro level, organizations need to look beyond the “diversity scorecard.” Diversity efforts fall short unless employees feel that they belong. Ingrain belonging in your values, lead by example and hold each other accountable.

If you see bias in yourself or in the actions of others, call that out. Reinforce a culture and hiring policy that values racial, gender, sexual, economic and academic diversity from the ground up. Most importantly, diversify your board, and tie the salary of every executive leader to the company’s progress on D&I goals. You’ll create collective ownership very quickly.

I wish this was a given. I wish justice was a given. A baseline. A universal truth. I wish it wasn’t available on a sliding scale dependent on race, class and proximity to affluence. But the burden to call for action and demand change should not fall solely on those subjected to discrimination and bias. Being heartbroken isn’t enough. I encourage everyone to make their stance clear and visible through action, compassion and respect. It will reverberate through the very fabric of our society. This concept, in which people try to put themselves over others, is a made-up social construct, and the onus is on its creators (us) to undo it.

See also: Kay Fabella: Diverse, inclusive and flexible workspaces are the future

CP: The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic are far-reaching, and advertising and marketing budgets have been hit hard. As a result, influencers are also facing huge losses across all platforms. What major lessons have you learned about marketing during this time?


  • Prepare to act confidently amidst uncertainty.
  • Adjust marketing scenario plans to build in existing economic and consumer behaviors. This includes best-case, worst-case and most likely case scenarios.
  • Identify and install your team of the future. Conduct an internal strengths and weaknesses analysis, digging into the capabilities across your marketing organization.
  • Double down on reskilling and resist the knee-jerk reaction toward layoffs—instead of letting go of talent you may need to rehire in a year, consider furloughs as a means to lower labor costs. 
  • Accelerate investments in growth (for example, by focusing on your existing customer base) and elevate innovation funding.
  • Equip your team with data, but focus on minimum viable data to make decisions. In other words, be iterative.
  • Cut lower-funnel marketing initiatives. Consumers are dealing with major disruptions at the moment. Review and adjust marketing messaging so you sound less opportunistic.
  • Invest in amplifying your brand instead of sales conversions. To keep a baseline message in the market, maintain your TV, digital, social and video advertising and divest in efforts meant to drive in-store traffic. Consider moving some promotional dollars into upper-funnel advertising initiatives to increase brand awareness and consideration, or to reassure customers that you value their business and that you’re here for them in these uncertain times.

My advice to anyone in the industry is to work in an agile manner. The only way to keep up is by having clear direction, collaborating in short iterations and eliminating blockers. It also means not being afraid to fail, and actually celebrating our failures—learning from them, dissecting them through the technology available today, and accelerating because of them. In other words, “fail forward.”

If you think change is hard, try irrelevance. That’s one of the dynamics that we have to face;  experimentation can be uncomfortable, but it’s a lot better than sitting on the sidelines and letting risk keep you from the opportunity to connect with people and build your brand.

If you think change is hard, try irrelevance.

CP: What do you think the future of marketing will look like?

TM: There is a very blinkered view of what marketing “should be,” based on a history of flashy budgets, large-scale media and the goal of winning industry awards. Marketers forget the simple things, like the fact that we’re all consumers, or that there is no such thing as an oversimplified message if it harnesses the power of cultural insight and a relevant hook. 

Moving forward, marketing organizations need to become more honest and real. Transparency is key, and that’s where we’re headed. If we look at transparency in accordance with technology, John Wanamaker put it best when he said that 50% of marketing works—we just don’t know which 50%. The percentage might have decreased, but there is truth to that theory even today.

We have to highlight the need for transparency around exactly what is working if we want to fundamentally change how we operate. Attribution modeling is still in its infancy, but as technology evolves, it will increase our ability to minimize wasted resources and budget, and to optimize campaigns in accordance with what consumers really want to see and care about.

CP: When it comes to content, Hubspot’s CEO said the following: “What separates good content from great content is a willingness to take risks and push the envelope.” Taking it to a marketing level, what do you think separates good marketing from great marketing? 

TM: Interestingly, the current climate has brought a lot of those answers to the forefront. The political leaders who have been praised for their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have a few crucial things in common: they have shown empathy, acted decisively and communicated consistently. The same principles apply to marketing. 

Empathy. That’s what it really comes down to: having the ability to see your audience in both collective and individual terms. As our insight capabilities continue to expand, it becomes even more crucial to not only understand the data, but to empathize with the people behind each data point.

As martech reaches a one-to-one level of personalization, a great marketer needs to see through the eyes of their customer by holistically taking their context, concerns and community into account. This goes beyond the traditional categorization of buyer and user personas, where groups of individuals are boxed together according to their job title or industry. 

We need to start viewing everyone as an individual deserving of respect and understanding, as opposed to appropriation and blind assumption. Our humanity is an attribute, not a liability to being effective. Illustrating empathy and emotional intelligence in your brand story is key.

CP: What brands do you think will disrupt the market, and what do they bring to the table that makes them stand out? 

TM: My bets would be on three right now:

  • AllVoices, an anonymous reporting tool that enables employees to safely report bias and harassment directly to their company’s leadership. It’s important to understand your workplace culture and offer employees a safe space to express concerns. 
  • Lyra Health helps companies offer mental health benefits to their employees. Definitely a brand to watch.
  • Rigetti Computing builds quantum computers, which in my opinion aren’t just the future of tech, but the future, period. 

CP: Who’s a marketing influencer that you follow and admire? Someone who inspires you?

TM: Antonio Lucio, the CMO of Facebook. He became the Chief Marketing Officer at Hewlett-Packard right around the end of my tenure there, and I’ve been following his career closely ever since.

He was spearheading the business imperative for diversity and inclusion back when it was not as popular of a concept, and has always been on the right side of history. His commitment to D&I and building brands that keep reinventing themselves makes him a timeless leader. 

CP: Is there a book or publication that you’re currently reading, that you think could provide value to our audience?

TM: I’m reading “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott at the moment. It provides actionable insights on how to build cohesive teams and achieve great results through a culture of feedback that’s kind, clear, specific and sincere. A must-read for anyone in a leadership position today.

CP: Can you recommend a valuable group, event or resource for marketers? 

TM: SiriusDecisions. They are a global B2B research and advisory firm and my go-to for B2B marketing best practices.

CP: Excellent. Thanks so much for joining us, Tina!

TM: Thank you for having me, it was a pleasure speaking with you.

Connect with Tina and Carlota on LinkedIn.

This post was edited by Melissa Haun, a freelance content creator based in Lisbon.

For more insights into diversity in marketing, check out:

Commitment without action means absolutely nothing – Luc Berlin, enterprise marketing expert

A diverse range of experiences is powerful – Sarah Evans, social marketing pro

Why your brand shouldn’t stay silent on social issues

Build a socially conscious brand – Yaron Hubin Plimmer, global social media manager at EF