1. What inspired you to pursue a career that embraces marketing?

Fundamentally, I find the power of creativity and storytelling really compelling. 

I studied economics, and was never fully enamoured with the modules that required weapons grade mathematics and statistics, but really enjoyed the required analysis and unpicking of the ‘why’ things happened the way they did; requiring holistic understanding of macro context; the political/social and cultural scenes they’re set in - right down to micro understanding; behavioural studies on why individuals behave irrationally, psychology, nudge factors and so on. All things that need consideration when playing in a marketing environment. 

Workwise, I had moved from working clearing glasses at events for a major brewer when I was 15 through to becoming a part of their marketing team in summers between university. So a marketing mindset had been baked into me from pretty early on in my working life. 

Then over a number of years in different marketing roles (a large percentage of which have been at Brompton) I became increasingly interested in the role of creative in positioning and maximising brand performance, eventually leading the building of the inhouse creative team (from scratch) over the last 5 years which has been really exciting and opened eyes to the increasing potential we have to go even further.  

2. What are the biggest challenges currently facing your marketing team?

Over the past decades Brompton have shifted from being an inward looking, manufacturing company, to(wards) a globally relevant lifestyle brand; this required a complete reworking of how the business operates, and getting far closer to the end consumer. We’ve seen phenomenal recent growth (sales of bikes more than doubled between 2019 and 2022) which has been amazing to experience, but we know brand awareness is significantly lower outside of the UK, and if we want to continue to grow at a fast rate, we need to address that. So accelerating awareness growth internationally is the biggest challenge, but we’re really enjoying getting our teeth into it and developing our insights and knowledge at a local level with our teams and partners on the ground. 

3. Science vs Art: With scientific data-driven marketing at one end of the spectrum and genius creative ideas at the other - which side do you lean towards?

Very few of us know who our favourite statisticians are. We’ve all got a favourite artist (visual, musical, storyteller) because we remember people who reach us on an emotional level. 

The best brands are those that use data led insights to inform a big idea that can reach their audience on an emotional level. 

A great brand won’t be built on a mediocre idea that is finessed and fussed over by data enthusiasts. 

4. In marketing, when is it ok to to rely on A.I. and when do you think you definitely ‘need a human’?

I think ‘all’ that AI does increase the resource you have available. For the foreseeable, it still requires a human make the decisions on the strategy, the tactics and how resource (human, financial and AI) is allocated. There isn’t a line that defines when it’s ok or not as it’s completely dependent on the context of who you are and what you’re trying to do. 

5. How is Brompton’s marketing 'Riding the Storm' of economic turbulence and increased cost of living?

In simplistic terms, very little; I’m still interested in developing creative and stories that resonate with the audience we’re targeting. What changes is the context, and that effects what resonates, and with who it’s relevant to. 

That said, we’re working at a global level (80% of our bikes are exported), and what we have had to get far more used to over the last three years is demand being far more fickle market by market, and having to be agile with plans as consumer confidence ebbs and flows with all the various macro-economic events the world has been experiencing.

6. How do you adapt a business and marketing strategy to embrace the latest trends and keep ahead of the competition?

If a business has a long term view (and Brompton does, in no small part owed to it being privately owned), then the business and marketing strategy is necessarily also long term in outlook. The latest trends then impact the tactics we’re deploying and the way they’re deployed, and less so the overall strategy. The greatest tool we have to stay ahead of competition is improving and innovating on our products and authentically telling our story in inventive and compelling ways – investing in these will pay off far more than chasing trends.

7. What role does your company’s purpose and environmental strategy play within your marketing strategy? 

Our purpose sits above the business strategy, and the marketing strategy ladders up to that. Integrated into the purpose, is sustainability. We’ve only really had dedicated focus on this for the last three years but as a vertically integrated brand who controls not just the design but also the manufacturing (all under one roof in West London), we have a super power that puts us at an advantage over others to have a greater impact on reducing our footprint. There’s plenty to do, but we’ll be sharing more of our plan later this year. I’m loath to say it's part of our marketing strategy, it’s us doing what we believe is right.

8. How important is storytelling when maximising your customers’ engagement with a campaign?

For a brand to grow, storytelling needs to transcend individual campaigns. John Long’s “how it started/how it’s going” threads on twitter late last year really distilled it. Although an individual campaign may not in itself tell a ‘story’ it still needs to sit as part of, and contribute to the overall story you’re trying to tell about your brand.  

9. Creative agencies rail against the time and resource spent working on pitches to win accounts: is there a realistic, fair alternative to the pitch process?

Too often brands waste time inviting agencies that aren’t suited to them to pitches, and agencies spend time on pitches for brands they’re not suited to. Ideally a relationship needs to be meaningful on both sides (amount spent, amount earned), with a clearly defined problem to solve, with a longer term view to how the partnership can develop. If that’s all clear, then in principle pitches processes could reduce in scope to closer to a chemistry session – more about people and the way they see the problem and its context, not ever expanding needs for bigger decks of deeply developed work. 

10. From a marketing perspective, what’s coming up for your brand or business in 2023?

We’ve started the year with a pretty special one. A collaboration with (ex pro cyclist) David Millar’s CHPT3 brand. We built the creative around a longer form film, set in New York at the apex of city riding, music and community which has landed really well with great coverage and various sales records being beaten. We’re following that up with our biggest brand focused campaign in spring as we push to lift brand awareness in our key markets. And then we’ve got our heads right under  the bonnet of our website as we re-platform and deploy globally, market by market across the year. This will give us the tools we need to really make our content sing and ecommerce sales super smooth. 

11. If there’s one thing you know about marketing it is…?

For great success, some luck is involved, but I agree with Andy Nairn – you can position yourself to be ‘luckier’ and often the hidden treasures are right under your nose. 

Little Grey Cells is Tim Healey’s weekly profile interview platform where leading marketers share their valuable insights and experience, presented by Worth Your While.

Outsourced Marketing Director and best-selling author Tim Healey collaborates with senior marketers to help them have more time, less stress and clearer marketing strategies through his consultancy Shoot 4 The Moon Ltd. Book your meeting.

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