Tom Bowden: Why I wrote a book about shooting HiPPOs

Published on December 5, 2022 by Alex Eade

At first glance, the title of our book is divisive. In fact, if you don’t recoil at least slightly at the thought of harming majestic wildlife, then I’m not sure we can be friends! However, ‘Shoot the HiPPO: How to be a killer digital marketing manager’ is absolutely nothing about shooting real hippos, and EVERYTHING about metaphorically shooting down the opinions of the highest paid people in the room. The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. The HiPPO.

Education is Everything 

For me, education is everything. We don’t know exactly what the future holds for digital – what systems, platforms or apps will exist in five or ten years time, and digital is ever changing. Our industry is in constant flux so to work in it you’ve got to be ready for that. 

The only way to do that is to be open to learning every single day!  

I came from an English Literature background and when I very first entered the digital industry I didn’t know any of this stuff. I was curious, and throughout those years of learning the trade I picked up so much from people around me. I also learnt that whilst specialist knowledge is really important, it is not as powerful without the context of the whole – without the broader understanding.

I wanted to create a way for fast tracking those early years in the industry and learning all of the basics (and some of the more technical stuff) within digital marketing to help people make better decisions and feel more confident. There’s so much stuff you’re told you ought to know and knowing what’s worth your time learning is difficult. In the book we’ve tried to pick out the most important things for a Digital Marketing Manager to know.

Battling Groupthink 

The title of the book and one of the first chapters is the idea of ‘Shooting the HiPPO’ or highest paid person’s opinion. So often in business, the creative and original ideas of team members are stifled by the boss, and it leads to people being passive, second guessing themselves and groupthink. Shooting down that highest paid person’s opinion is sometimes necessary for the right actions to be taken, based on real data and facts, not gut feel. This book is about trying to help businesses make better decisions with data and have the freedom to do really cool work – not being stuck in the stagnant rut of doing things just because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done around here’.

Reading the book 

The other authors of the book (many of whom work or have worked at Footprint Digital) and I have done our best to keep each chapter as simple and jargon-free as possible. Each of the chapters start with a story that brings the broad concept of the chapter to life. The main part of the chapter is a theoretical lesson. The chapters also include a range of practical activities which we hope will help bring the lessons to life and make them more applicable to your business.

The book can be read in different ways. It is structured in a logical order and the stories included in each chapter make it readable from end to end. You can also use it to dip into topics that you are particularly interested in (digital sustainability, technical SEO, email marketing etc etc). 

We also hope that you will return to it as a point of reference to help structure your thoughts. The first few chapters outline the challenge faced by Digital Marketing Managers and some of the things that we believe are the foundation of success in the role. The latter chapters are more tactical and deliver detail on some of the core digital marketing channels. This book shares methods that we have found effective over the years. 

We invite you to feel emboldened and expand upon these foundations. There is no red tape to stop you improving the way the work is done. We hope that the book will become part of your day-to-day life, your ‘living book’ with page corners folded, notes scribbled throughout, and full of makeshift bookmarks. We hope you find it useful!


If you’d like to pick up your own copy today, you can find it here or head over to Footprint Digital’s Linkedin between 5-9th December 2022 to enter a competition to WIN a copy of Tom’s book, alongside 4 of our other favourite books.