The politics of marketing in bigger business: Have you any tips on how to navigate the choppy waters of big business organisations, for example, where a considered marketing plan gets push back from the C-suite?

I think it is key to understand your business: the drivers for every business are unique. Understand the culture of your business, and understand how it operates. What is the C-suite actually looking for? What are the metrics? What are the things that keep them up at night? Sometimes marketers forget: we get sucked into our own worlds, and only have ‘marketing thoughts’.

For example, I learned when working at British Airways that at its heart it is an engineering-driven company. It likes its numbers. It does safety really well - it has to. Everything's thought out really carefully. And that's like a lot of company culture. A marketing plan, even the way you present to the C-Suite has to be numbers based evidence based and given meticulous consideration. 

How you might express the marketing plan at BA, would be very different, for example, versus a consumer packaged goods company like Unilever or a company like No.7 which is more about beauty. When presenting to the C-suite, know your audience: using your marketing skill set to market your marketing plan. 

I think marketers are often guilty of overcomplicating things - sharing our passion for technology and often going into far too much detail. We might create a thousand slides worth of marketing stuff - where one slide would probably do. We should keep it really simple: what's the job to be done? What are you trying to achieve? How are you going to do that? It's harder than it sounds really hard to do. Simplifying the complicated is really important. 

Finally I would add: be brave. Be brave with intelligence. People love to be excited - they want an audacious goal. At Unilever I was tasked with building ‘a billion relationships’ - I was given 12 months to do achieve that goal. They said: “We don’t know how - but just do it”. It was a great goal and it drove so much change. 

Read the full interview here where he also covers his marketing journey, how No.7 is skilfully positioned in the market as both affordable and premium, and his views on the use of AI in marketing.

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