The marketing world is full of brand snobbery.

Big brands not looking beyond their peer group for best practice.

Smaller brands not believing that big brands have anything relevant to their world.

For larger brands, brand size often dictates the perception of expertise and success. However, beneath the surface of this gross oversimplification lies a wealth of knowledge and adaptability that can shared between big and small brands.

I’m in the process of publishing a series of interviews with marketers from both sides of the divide, and there several themes that are emerging:

1: The Power of Shared Knowledge:  Let’s embrace the differences and lean in - there’s much to be said for a collaborative approach.  For example, big brands can draw inspiration from the agility and innovation of their smaller counterparts, while smaller brands can learn from the process of larger companies, deploying just enough to make them efficient, but not so much that their enviable agility is compromised.

2: Agility, Agility, Agility. Not only in being fast to market with products and ideas, it’s also relevant to the marketers I’ve spoken with.  There’s a benefit to smaller brands of having the “blue chip” marketing training, but it needs to be combined with an adaptable and nimble mindset. For example when I chatted to Tom Barker (marketing director at, he highlighted the benefits of having worked with a diverse range of brands, both big and small, along his transition between agency and client-side roles.  We shouldn’t mistake agility for an excuse to have a lack of planning…

3: Risk-Taking.  Lucas Bergmans has made the move from brands like Heineken and Britvic to the rapidly scaling Cazoo as Group Marketing Director.  He told me about the importance of using your gut feel with comms….  Which is made infinitely easier if you’ve been well trained, (as we were at Heineken).  He also talked about taking risks with his media agency contract and paying them a monthly “planning fee” in return for the best (and transparent) media pricing.  That’s learning from big brand experience being applied to a scaling one.  Good training makes the risky feel, well, less risky.

4: Culture: James Kindred (founder of Big Drop Brewing) spoke about creating the right culture in a smaller business.  This starts with the first hire and gets increasingly difficult to maintain as your business grows.  It’s something we worked hard on when I was Head of Marketing at Weetabix.  We wanted to encourage bold thinking in a large organisation so adopted a “yes if…” approach (rather than a “no because” one).  It encouraged our team to bring ideas to us and find solutions when faced with barriers.

Conclusion: The exchange of knowledge and expertise between big and small brands improves all our marketing efforts. By embracing collaboration, agility, risk-taking, and a strong company culture, brands of all sizes can win.  So, how do we facilitate this…?  Watch this space at MAD//Fest 2024!

Gareth Turner is the founder of Big Black Door, a strategic marketing consultancy helping brands big and small to sort out their marketing.  He has over 23 years’ experience working within food and drink and has also had the pleasure of leading the marketing for household name brands like John Smith’s, Bulmers, Lurpak, and Arla in local and global roles.  His last job before setting up Big Black Door was the Head of Marketing for Weetabix, where he oversaw the long-term brand strategy for the nation’s favourite cereal. 

Gareth will be writing a column for the MAD//Fest Newsletter regularly throughout the year.