I had a far-reaching conversation with Michael covering everything from in-housing to marketing transformation and professional development. Here are my highlights:

1. Don’t take failure too seriously 

Michael and I kicked off our conversation by talking about what he’s reading at the moment. While he’s not an avid fan of textbooks, he does enjoy broader reads about the business and tech space. On his bookshelf right now is Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, which contains some good data and stories in relation to how companies should learn from mistakes.

From this, Michael says his key takeaway has been to learn to admit errors without blaming people. He believes that injecting some lightheartedness into failure can help people learn from them – but how you do this is very culture specific, so it’s important to find the right fit for your organisation.

2. In-house can be more agile 

Michael’s Shiny New Object, or part of it at least, is the role of the in-house agency. A subject that has been hugely discussed and debated over the last few years in marketing, he very much sits on the ‘pro’ side of the fence.

One of the great advantages of your agency team being in-house, he says, is that it can react with greater speed, allowing brands to be more agile and quicker to market with campaigns. It also allows those working there to get to know both the brand(s) and the consumer base inside out – so it helps if you’re passionate about the sector. 

3. Create a bridge between product and content 

One of the brands Michael admires most is Red Bull; instead of focusing its content marketing on major sports or expensive platforms, it looked to the extreme sports and adventure areas and now really owns that space with great content that people genuinely want to watch.

It’s impressive exposure for a brand that’s not one of the world’s biggest. I challenged Michael on this – what does Red Bull really have in common with extreme sports?

Michael pointed out that there’s a good thread from its tagline, of giving you wings, and the nature of the sports it’s supporting. It’s successfully built a content marketing bridge between a product which on the face of it, may not have been the ideal fit.

4. Understand the roles of different touchpoints

One of Michael’s areas of focus at AB InBev is marketing transformation, working with a team of developers to deliver great tech solutions.

I asked him what the role of the website is going forward; he explained there’s often internal debate around this, and in particular with how you balance social media with your own site.

Each has advantages and disadvantages; websites offer more control but less reach, vice versa with social. Michael doesn’t feel as though websites have had their day in the social world though, they are still an important touch point for consumers. It’s about using all the tools available for each of their strengths. 

5. Get some external perspective 

Michael believes it’s good to get feedback. He looks for this in a few different ways – one is that he has paid for a career coach a few times – someone who can objectively identify what might be holding you back, and help you rectify it.

Another method of gaining feedback that Michael uses is monthly one to ones, where he sits down with a colleague for a debrief on a recent project or campaign. This is a useful process for finding out how his colleagues believe things could have been done differently and helps him adjust the way he works.  

Tom Ollerton is Founder of Automated Creative.