Prized mar­ket­ing lead­ers

With the awards sea­son upon us, what qual­i­ties do the peo­ple be­hind the win­ning brands share?

Campaign UK - - PROMOTION -

We’re mid­way through the in­dus­try awards cy­cle. The Mar­ket­ing So­ci­ety Ex­cel­lence Awards and the Cannes Lions have come and gone, but it won’t be long after the sum­mer break be­fore we get our frocks and bow ties out again for the Mar­ket­ing New Think­ing Awards and the APG Cre­ative Strat­egy Awards.

Be­hind the in­di­vid­ual win­ners – even those who step up from the agency side – will be teams of mar­keters who have played some part in the suc­cess: dig­ging into data, trawl­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, scrab­bling around for bud­get – or sac­ri­fic­ing theirs for the greater good. And be­hind each of them will be a mar­ket­ing leader who has set out a vi­sion and shaped the team to bring it to fruition.

Some­times these lead­ers will be di­rectly fêted them­selves – as with The Mar­ket­ing So­ci­ety’s Mar­ket­ing Leader of the Year award, won this year by Barn­aby Dawe of Just Eat (pic­tured) – but, more of­ten, they’ll be there as a quiet, de­ter­mined force in the back­ground.

What makes a great one? What are the qual­i­ties that you’d most want from the per­son car­ry­ing the ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for mar­ket­ing in the cut and thrust of the mod­ern cor­po­ra­tion? Here are the as­sets it would take to get on to my short­list.

1 Cau­tious courage It isn’t an oxy­moron. A stunt artist em­bark­ing on a rou­tine no­body has done be­fore is un­doubt­edly brave but not stupid: he or she will take ev­ery pre­cau­tion, look at ev­ery an­gle, as­sess ev­ery ran­dom fac­tor be­fore pass­ing the point of no re­turn. In mar­ket­ing, there is no great­ness with­out bold­ness, but the as­tute leader will pos­sess both the nu­mer­acy and the rigour to make the cal­cu­la­tions that ac­com­pany that too-of­ten loosely bandied term “cal­cu­lated risk”.

2 Dirty hands Easy­jet chief ex­ec­u­tive Dame Carolyn Mc­call sets the ex­am­ple: she goes up and down the cabin with the bin bag ev­ery time she takes one of her air­line’s f lights. It’s a dirty job and there’s noone bet­ter to do it – to keep tabs on what cus­tomers are say­ing, to get a feel for what em­ploy­ees do and for the sheer sym­bol­ism of it.

Great mar­ket­ing lead­ers need to have that knack of both rais­ing sights – see­ing things from above – but also get­ting hands-on when it mat­ters. Few pull it off.

3 Busi­ness black-belt It goes with­out say­ing that a mar­ket­ing leader ought to be a mas­ter in mar­ket­ing. But the greats know their way around fi­nance, op­er­a­tions, sales and hu­man re­sources – and know how to see busi­ness from those points of view. That means some­times rein­ing back on cher­ished plans for the cor­po­rate good. Nev­er­the­less, the mar­tial arts al­lu­sion is de­lib­er­ate: some­times mar­ket­ing will need to fight its corner and those fights can be bru­tal. You need some­one who knows the ad­ver­sary’s strengths – and how to deftly turn them to ad­van­tage.

4 Un­fash­ion sense There will al­ways be the lat­est thing – and there will al­ways be ur­gent calls from the team to steer re­sources to­wards it. Lead­ers have to be pre­pared to re­sist the trend – not to au­to­mat­i­cally say “no” but to ask “why?” and to stick to less fash­ion­able meth­ods if the an­swers aren’t forth­com­ing. An ex­ten­sion to this one is hav­ing the guts to ad­mit when you jumped on to a trend and got it wrong – as Proc­ter & Gam­ble’s Marc Pritchard re­cently did when con­fess­ing that the ad­ver­tiser’s “pre­ci­sion” dig­i­tal ap­proach had “cost it cus­tomers”.

5 Be­lief, be­lief A great mar­ket­ing leader – a great leader full stop – will be­lieve in some­thing up­lift­ing, be­yond the trans­ac­tional, and will not be afraid to re­peat it.

I could also make a plea for gen­eros­ity of spirit – to say thank you, to re­mem­ber that peo­ple have per­sonal lives, to tol­er­ate off beat ways of work­ing.

Let’s wel­come the fi­nan­cial gen­eros­ity to en­ter those awards shows too.

Not be­cause they are an end in them­selves – you don’t have to be a leader to see the folly in that – but be­cause they’re a bit of fun and re­ward in the mar­keter’s rou­tine slog. And, win or lose, they’re a mo­ti­va­tor – be­cause even when you come away emp­ty­handed, there’s that burn­ing sense of “next year I’ll show them: it’ll be me up there”.


The PPA busi­ness colum­nist of the year has a PHD in mar­ket­ing, an MBA from Lon­don Busi­ness School and is a part­ner at Pas­sion­brand @he­lenedw

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