Demetri Hughes has stepped down as Australian Marketing Institute (AMI)Queensland State Chair to take on a challenge close to his heart – heading one of Australia’s first mentor programs for promising marketing university students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The leading branding expert and Managing Director of 1Up Communications will help vulnerable youth to identify their hidden potential through the new University of Queensland (UQ) initiative, the ‘Demetri Hughes Marketing Mentor Program’.
Marketing students with a disability, experiencing financial hardship or close to homelessness, who have lost relatives through death or who are ill, and Indigenous students will be among those to receive support from the program.
They’ll be mentored in areas including networking, leveraging opportunities from internships, preparing for job interviews, negotiating for success and developing their personal brands, as well as have opportunities to meet experienced marketing industry leaders.
From growing up in a struggling single-parent household, with his mum and brothers in Logan south of Brisbane, to becoming a marketing expert to business leaders across the country, Mr Hughes hopes to inspire students with his own success story.
“I came from a background where I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth; I had to study full time, work full time and I had family to take care of. I understand the pressures students can face and I empathise with them,” he said.
“The program is for high potential students who come from backgrounds where the odds are they’ll quit studying if they don’t have a strong support base. I want to teach students how to develop unwavering self-belief, and how to change their mindset from being overwhelmed about all the obstacles they might have to all the opportunities that can be found along the way.”
It’s something the 32-year-old mover and shaker knows a thing or two about.
Mr Hughes was just 12-years-old when he started learning from his father and other older mentors about the property and construction industry. It would be his first steps to pull his family, who had mostly business debt to their name, from financial hardship. By age 18, he took on a senior role managing a property development group. By 21, he grew the firm and its five subsidiaries to a combined property portfolio worth in excess of $15 million, all while finishing high school and studying a Bachelor of Business Management at UQ.
He and his father were able to pay off his family’s business debts, however the Global Financial Crisis struck and their success came crashing down. Undefeated, Mr Hughes fell back on his education and co-founded a law firm with one of Queensland’s top commercial litigation lawyers, while consulting in marketing to businesses across the state, before founding his own consultancy, 1Up Communications in 2016. The firm engages as a brand counsel to mid-tier and large organisations throughout Australia, advising CEOs and boards on creating, growing and protecting their brands.
A Certified Practising Marketer, Mr Hughes became the Queensland Chair of the AMI in 2015. A raft of accolades followed for his work in turning around the position of the AMI in Queensland, following a significant drop in membership after a national levy was placed on members. He scooped the AMI Certified Practising Marketer of the Year for Queensland in both 2016 and 2018, as well as a 2017 Lifetime Member award from the AMI National Board. With a dual Master of Business in Integrated Marketing Communications and Public Relations tucked under his belt, he’s also worked as a sessional academic lecturer at UQ since 2016.
“I’ve really loved the opportunity to give back to a profession that’s so dear to me,” Mr Hughes said. “And I’m incredibly excited to take this relationship I have with UQ already to the next level.”
The pro bono mentorship program will begin later this month. Queensland AMI Deputy Chair Keith Stanley will take over Mr Hughes’ AMI State Chair role.
Professor Sarah Kelly, Marketing Discipline Leader at UQ, said the program was a game-changing
initiative and unique in university marketing courses.
“We are so grateful that someone of Demetri’s calibre is leading the new program with such genuine concern and focus,” Professor Kelly said. “We hope that Demetri’s leadership of this program will lead to positive outcomes for these students and UQ, including degree completion, employability, networks and enhanced diversity and inclusion on campus.”
AMI National Chair Lynda Cavalera praised Mr Hughes for being a driving force in professionalising the marketing industry.
“Demetri has contributed significantly to the largest growth we have ever had in the number of Certified Practising Marketer practitioners applying and being admitted to Queensland,” she said.
“On a national level, he has worked tirelessly to professionalise the industry by AMI Accrediting 41 new marketing related programs from 18 tertiary institutions. His separate tenure as Deputy Chair of the Accreditation Board has resulted in workplace integrated learning and developing contemporary programs truly rising to the forefront of considerations when universities develop curriculum.”
“He is passionate about our profession and has played an active role in building and uniting the Queensland marketing community,” Ms Davidson said. “He has led the AMI’s Queensland efforts on quality tertiary education, upskilling of marketers and recognition of industry best practice. He has always gone above and beyond.”
There would be few practitioners in the industry who have been able to rise to the level of State President of the peak marketing body at Demetri’s relatively young age. And not only this, been capable of being elected to consecutive terms in this role, in response to his work energising the marketing community.
Demetri’s sheer capability to bring together such high-level senior CMOs to round-table functions, like the one I was privileged to keynote for, is testament to his drive in advancing industry best practice.
“The future here in Queensland for the marketing community is stronger because of Demetri’s dedicated contribution,” Ms Mesken said.