News and Insights

Person of Interest: Alan Isacson

October 5, 2020

What is your favorite app, and your favorite electronic gadget?

Instagram wins as my favorite app. My hobby is nature photography and I enjoy viewing Instagram’s fascinating array of photos and videos taken by professionals and amateurs. I’ve always been fascinated by animals and have been to Africa, India, and many places in the Americas to see and snap photos of birds, reptiles and mammals. With that said, my favorite electronic gadget is my digital camera. It’s always by my side, when I’m outdoors.

What was the most recent book you enjoyed?

Blue Moon by Lee Child. It’s the latest in the Jack Reacher adventure series. I’ve read all 24 of them. Similar, to Ian Fleming, Lee Child provides a great escape. And the good guy always wins.  

Which news sites/outlets do you check regularly?

The Wall Street JournalCNN, and BBC. And of course, The Comedy Channel. 

What would be your splurge meal, and at what restaurant?

Splurge time arrives every Spring with Greek Easter and Passover. My wife, Kathleen, is of Greek heritage, so we celebrate Greek Easter with incredible homemade dishes. She makes the world’s best spanakopita and baklava. What’s incredible, is that a few days before, we would have celebrated Passover, with an Eastern European influence: favorites are brisket and noodle pudding. So home, without hesitation, is my favorite restaurant. With that said, I love Asian cuisine: in New York, my favorite Chinese is Shun Lee Dynasty West near Lincoln Center, Sali Thai in Düsseldorf is amazing, and now you know why I travel to Shanghai and Singapore.

What song gets you pumped?

The theme from Rocky. And more recently, Waiting for My Moment from Stallone’s Creed.

What is the one professional development tip that has been invaluable to you?

When I was in my early 20s, I had the opportunity during a luncheon, to sit next to a top executive from Ogilvy & Mather. I mentioned that I had just read, David Ogilvy’s book, The Confessions of an Advertising Man and that I found David’s rules of creativity very helpful – such as “never use reverse type since people read black letters on white backgrounds”. The distinguished executive, then leaned over and whispered, “the secret to successful advertising, is knowing when to break one of David’s rules.” I’ve also learned, that successful marketing is not about promoting the product, it’s about promoting the distinctive value that the product delivers to customers. The adage “don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle” says it best.

What three things would you want most if stranded on a desert island?

My wife, a romantic moonlit dinner, and a boat.

Who in history would you like to have dinner with (you can name up to four people)?

Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Zheng He, and Leonardo di Vinci

What is your greatest professional achievement?

Starting ABI, in 1980, with a focus on B2B marketing, and growing the business internationally, with offices in New York, London, Frankfurt, Singapore and Shanghai. In November 2017, ABI was acquired by FINN Partners, and became the global Manufacturing and Trade Sector. It’s been thrilling to work and collaborate with FINN professionals across geographies and disciplines.

What is the one principle that has guided your life and career?

Actually, I have two. The first is “it never hurts to ask”. Asking questions is the best way to learn. It’s the best way to understand situations. Yet people are often shy about asking for the order or next steps. What’s the worst that can happen? The answer is “no”? Isn’t it much better to learn where you stand?

The second is “what customers really want are ideas”. It’s not about content, creative, digital marketing or social media. They really want to hear “I have an idea that may help you.” It’s all about listening and then sharing ideas.