I was delighted to be selected as one of Marketing Week’s Vision 100: the ‘brightest, best, most visionary UK Marketers’ as chosen by the magazine last May. To be selected from such a wealth of talent, and included alongside luminaries from Unilever, Burberry, Guardian, Adidas, HSBC, Manchester United, Tesco, Samsung, Diageo, Virgin, Heineken, Marks and Spencer, Channel 4, Pernod Ricard, as well as fellow airline folks in British Airways, EasyJet was amazing. And not forgetting the Director, Royal Communications from the Royal Household! Great company to be in!
I was even more delighted to meet the some of these great marketers in person recently. When Marketing Week magazine brought many of the Vision 100 together in London a few weeks ago, the opportunity talk directly to the individuals was both eye-opening – and affirming.
The first thing that struck me was the sheer variety of Top 100 Marketers. There was not just one job – many people had the word ‘marketing’ in their titles but there were also CEOs, heads of brand and digital gurus on the list. A couple of themes really shone through as I chatted directly to the likes of Jonathan Rigby, Head of Marketing at Manchester United, Robert Bridge, VP, Head of International Marketing at Yahoo and Hilary Cross Director of Marketing at McMillan Cancer Support.
Here is what I gleaned from chatting with some of these marketers:
1. Regardless of being some of the world’s biggest brands, the daily challenges are similar across companies – and directly applicable to more humdrum brands. They face the same issues that we all face: budgets, buy-in, deadlines, motivating teams and staying ahead of the bewildering technology changes. The discussions were not about a social media strategy, innovation or mobile – or whatever our ‘mot-du-jour’ that we think we should know more and do more. My key takeaway was that these top marketing folks cut through to what really counts by staying true to their brands and not grabbing the latest shiny new thing day-to-day and week-to-week.
2. We know that consumers are becoming more demanding: these marketers felt that their use of mobile devices means that they are often ahead of their brands, and what the companies behind these brands can deliver. For example, one of the brands was well aware of the big e-commerce opportunity their brand had internationally, but its suppliers even its own leadership acknowledged that they were too locked into current systems, processes and structures to execute against this fast growing market.
3. The claim of having digital at the heart of an organisation was recognised as just that – a claim. Everybody appeared to recognise that they had a long way to go. But which way? Ashley Friedlein, Chief Executive of eConsultancy was adamant that the idea of having a Chief Digital Officer was a dead-end, as it broke out digital and risked creating turf wars and more silos. Indeed, Ashley’s opinion is that we may have a Chief Customer Officer who is on the board, and that new structures would be created with nothing specifically ‘digital’ or indeed, titled ‘digital’ – as digital would be embedded as part of everything. I particularly like the view of Russell Davies, director of strategy at the UK Government Digital Service:‘digital’ is not about marketing but about redesigning the whole organisation around the user.
Finally, there is the question of advice and insight that can help influence all our careers. There are some great quotes about the challenges faced by these UK marketers in the original interviews carried out by Marketing Week with the Vision 100, so I picked out some that worked for me – I hope you find they work for you:
- April Adams-Redmond, Chief Marketing Officer at Kerry Foods: ‘The biggest challenge is continuously filtering out an endless barrage of mindless static and noise. Be able to identify the rare one or two things that will really make the difference’.
- Patrizia Leighton, Head of Marketing, HMV: “Anything is possible, just maybe not as you first expected. Believe in yourself and never give up.”
- Margaret Jobling, Head of brand and marketing, British Gas: ‘Staying really close and in touch with what’s going on in the real consumer world and not believing that living in London is it’.
- Julia Porter, Director of Consumer Revenues, Guardian News & Media: ‘Never assume anything and don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions.’
- Robert Bridge, Vice-president, Yahoo and Head of International Marketing: ‘Empathy is a great skill to have as a manager and a marketer. You have to really understand your team and your customers and put yourself in their shoes.’
- Syl Saller, Chief Marketing Officer, Diageo: ‘Trust that it will all work out, and if it doesn’t, you’ll find another way’.
What did I suggest? Here it is (although it’s not exactly that short and pithy!):
“The best type of advice is not about your current company or your skill base, it is about how to improve your thinking and insight, and gain the best value from your experiences. The best encapsulation of that is the statement ‘always make your future bigger than your past’. This shift of thinking pushes you to learn and grow, rather than slip into complacency or believe that you know it all”.