Leadership skills win the day

Entrepreneurial spirit is an inspirational attribute of the UK’s most influential marketers, according to a poll of Marketing Week’s readers, and wide-ranging debate among a panel of opinion-forming journalists and key industry figures.

The Marketing Week/The Search Works 100 Most Influential Marketers poll is dominated by ‘brand captains’ with entrepreneurial vision as well as marketing skills. But one star performer unquestionably impressed both MW’s readers and our panel of industry experts. By Ian McCawley

Entrepreneurial spirit is an inspirational attribute of the UK’s most influential marketers, according to a poll of Marketing Week’s readers, and wide-ranging debate among a panel of opinion-forming journalists and key industry figures.

King of the all-rounders Sir Richard Branson leads the pack, with contributors obviously feeling there is plenty of creative juice left in the tank. He continues to break down frontiers with his latest venture, Virgin Galactic, offering people the chance to take a space flight. Meanwhile, young gun Richard Reed, co-founder of “sustainable” smoothies company Innocent, was the runaway first choice in the readers-only poll.

The survey was conducted exclusively by research company Fusion, on behalf of Marketing Week, among more than 400 marketers. Leading industry figures came under the microscope, and were ranked according to their ability to demonstrate vision, innovation, control over the marketing function and knowledge of their specific market. Future potential was also a key factor in evaluating the top brass.

An overall theme of the top 100 is the strong performance of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial types. Branson is joined in the top ten by easyGroup founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, along with retail guru Philip Green, whose empire includes BHS and Arcadia Group. Green’s great rival Stuart Rose, chief executive of a rejuvenated Marks & Spencer, also broke into the top ranks at number eight.

The Search Works chief executive Nick Hynes says: “What characterises these marketers is the entrepreneurial spirit they have shown in fast-moving, vibrant markets. And – is it just my imagination? – they have, almost without exception, embraced the online channel.”

The appearance of so many company figureheads – Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone and media mogul Rupert Murdoch are also in the mix – reveals opinion-formers were swayed by the vision of “brand captains” at the helm, rather than pure marketing practitioners as such.

Indeed, the first appearance by an out-and-out marketer – in other words, someone who is not a founder, and has not reached the elevated position of chairman, chief executive or managing director – is Andrew Marsden, in 23rd spot. Tim Mason, ranked 12th while still in overall control of Tesco’s global marketing operations, has higher responsibilities as chief executive of the retailer’s recently launched US operations. Tellingly, Leahy finished above both, with most of the survey’s top picks being viewed as executives who are particularly “hands on” with the marketing function.

Media chiefs are well represented in the upper ranks. Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has pulled off quite a coup, not only finishing second behind Branson, but also eclipsing the influence of long-standing, high-profile performers such as Rupert Murdoch and Greg Dyke. Interestingly, The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger narrowly beat Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond, being seen as more influential in the publishing sector.

It must be said that there are crucial differences in the top 100 and the readers’ top 20. Only Richard Reed, tenth in the Top 100, and Simon Thompson, 15th, made it into the top 20 in both leagues. Meanwhile, Green & Black’s marketing director Mark Palmer was the only person to appear in the readers’ top 20, and not be placed in the top 100.

If there was a recurring theme in the reader research, it was that respondents did not necessarily know the top marketers in their sector, or consider them inspirational enough to include. Indeed, some 25% openly admitted they did not admire or respect any of the nominees. But most contributors thought vision was an important attribute for marketing leaders to possess.

To compile the top 100, a more extensive prompt list was provided to journalists and industry figures, featuring extra nominations, such as marketing services and advertising executives, alongside pure marketers. The league was based on a score awarded for the five characteristics listed above, and a low score in any of those categories could have dragged an individual’s overall score – and therefore rank – down.

Perhaps this was the reason why players with established reputations, such as HSBC global marketing chief Peter Stringham, appeared low down. Others on the prompt list, such as Chris Moore – now earning his crust as chief operating officer of Domino’s Pizza, where he was previously sales and marketing director – as well as BSkyB’s director of marketing Jon Florsheim and Shell’s veteran marketer Raoul Pinnell did not make the final cut.

Other surprises include the appearance of Tony Blair’s former communications chief Alastair Campbell, and the strong performances of outgoing Walkers boss Martin Glenn and former BBC supremo Greg Dyke, whose perceive influence outweighs the fact that neither have full-time roles, at least in the short term/ Dyke since his failed bid for ITV in the spring, and Glenn following the announcement of his departure from the top job at Walkers. Reputation, above current activity, seems key.

Meanwhile, Camelot chief executive Dianne Thompson just pipped Virgin Radio chief executive Fru Hazlitt to the prize of highest-ranked woman. And there are several rising stars already on the industry’s radar – the likes of Helen Buck, who has bolstered Sainsbury’s revival as marketing director, and Christian Cull, whose handle on Waitrose’s advertising has contributed to double-digit growth. If the survey were to be conducted again in a few years’ time, these young guns might already be replacing the “old hands” higher up.

1

Sir Richard Branson: Aged 55.

The Virgin Group founder entered the stratosphere in Marketing Week’s inaugural Top Employer Survey last year (MW
November 17, 2005) when he was ranked first, and is considered in this poll to be the UK’s most influential marketer. His most recent brand activity includes licensing the Virgin Mobile name to NTL for an annual fee worth 0.25% of the cable group’s revenues – &£9m this year alone. His Virgin Galactic venture is also offering space flights to members of the public

2

Andy Duncan: 43.

The Channel 4 chief executive’s stock is on the rise. A former Unilever foods marketer, he surprised everyone by being poached by the BBC to become its top marketer in 2001. He was nicknamed “The Implementer” in his time at the broadcaster, supervising the expansion of digital services and eventually chairing Freeview. At C4, he remains committed to digital and has presided over record financial results.

3

Sir Martin Sorrell: 61.

WPP’s group chief executive is still seen as the most powerful man in marketing services, refusing to cede that title to
Publicis rival Maurice Levy or Omnicom’s John Wren. His comments on the financial status of the advertising industry are the most keenly observed in the sector: witness the reprise ad nauseam of his “bath-shaped” advertising recession remark made in 2001.

4

Stelios Haji-Ioannou: 39.

Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur behind the easyGroup phenomenon began business life by founding shipping company Stelmar in 1992
with a loan from his father. Look at him now, Dad: budget airline easyJet, easyInternetcafe and easyMobile are just three of his launches under the famous umbrella. And beware copycats – the company’s website features a section dedicated to “brand thieves”.

5

Sir Terry Leahy: 50.

Top man at the UK’s top retailer. Leahy, who plied his trade as a marketer before rising to chief executive, is credited as the genius behind Tesco’s growth into a grocery behemoth. Facing flak from the Competition Commission’s investigation into supermarkets’ might, consumer group criticism and negative publicity in the “build ’em up, knock ’em down” UK press, Leahy’s latest drive is to revolutionise Tesco’s green credentials with a ten-point plan.

6

Philip Green: 54.

The billionaire retail guru behind BHS and Arcadia Group, he famously paid his wife a &£1.2bn dividend from the latter in 2005. Despite the much-publicised snub of his Marks & Spencer takeover bid, and flak from anti-sweatshop groups who have questioned his labour ethics, the flamboyant Green retains an undentable high-street fashion cachet. He is backing the launch of fashion jewellery accessory chain Muse, which will take on the likes of Monsoon Accessorize, and is also taking his TopShop brand overseas.

7

Rupert Murdoch: 75.

Still media’s most powerful player, and content to describe himself as a “billionaire tyrant” in an episode of The Simpsons
(the rights for which, of course, are owned by Murdoch’s Fox network). In the UK, his Sky TV network, entrusted to son James, is on target for its golden figure of 10 million subscribers. Tabloid newspaper The Sun’s political opinion is still widely perceived as kingmaker: would Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher before him, have clung on to power so long without Murdoch’s editorial backing?

8

Stuart Rose: 56.

In his two years as M&S chief executive, Rose has turned a flagging brand into a flagship retail name once more. Aided by
acclaimed advertising campaigns, overseen by marketing director and right-hand man Steven Sharp, Rose has changed the wilting image of the chain into a model clothing and food outlet. He also survived an a bruising takeover bid by Philip Green and a contract wrangle with Per Una guru George Davies. Next steps are store refits and an overdue revamp of the e-commerce function.

9

James Dyson: 59.

Who would have thought picking up dust would be worth so much money? The British inventor revolutionised the vacuum market with his “cyclonic separation” discovery in the 1970s, subsequently inventing the bag-free machine. He then successfully sued Hoover UK for patent infringement, accruing $5m (&£2.7m) in damages.

No.1 Readers’ choice

No.10 Overall

Richard Reed, co-founder and brand director of Innocent Drinks, leans back in his chair and giggles when told he has topped a Marketing Week readers poll to find the country’s best marketer, adding: “I’ve never come first at anything in my life.”

Reed’s schedule befits that of one of the country’s top young businessmen, so in order to get an interview I arrive unannounced at Innocent’s Shepherd’s Bush HQ to ambush him. His promise to journalists is that he will always answer his phone and make time to talk, but on this occasion I had not been able to reach him. Despite his caveat, on agreeing to be
interviewed and photographed, that he could only give “an absolute maximum of 20 minutes”, Reed was still joking with the photographer 45 minutes later, having given his time freely to answer questions.

The former DDB account man is as generous with his opinions on everything from smoothies to making the world a better place as he is with his time. Reed’s position as Marketing Week readers’ favourite marketer reflects more than just the cold reality of Innocent’s growth that has seen revenues jump more than 700% since 2003.

Those who have worked with Reed attest to his charm, intelligence and easy-going nature, but none of these attributes hide a steely drive and a wild streak of entrepreneurship.

Reed says: “We only recruit incredibly ambitious and talented business people. Some may think we spend every day at Innocent sitting on beanbags and hugging each other, but we’ve never shied away from the idea of us as a business and we’re always looking at further growth potential.” His company sells more than one million smoothies every week, and 2005’s turnover figure of £38m is expected to almost double this year, to £70m. His personality and the identity of his product are so intertwined that one wonders whether he is tirelessly spinning his listeners a marketing line.

Indeed, DDB London managing director Jorian Murray, who was business director on the Volkswagen account Reed once worked on, says he has heard some in the marketing industry saying they “don’t buy the Innocent bullshit”. However, he adds: “Richard is the real thing and doesn’t need to pretend to be something he isn’t, because he runs a very successful business with his two best mates from university. They would know straight away if he wasn’t being real.” Murray says that as a graduate trainee at DDB, Reed was intuitive and charming. He recalls Reed returning from a trip to the US having been so impressed by the juice bars over there that he asked Murray for seven weeks off to try to set up a business with two friends selling fruit smoothies. Murray says: “We thought ‘if he fails and comes back it will be the best business course he could ever undertake, and if he succeeds then good luck to him’.

The rest is history but it didn’t stop there. He then had the cheek to charm our finance director into giving him an office on DDB’s fifth floor from which to operate. He started Innocent by using our 500 staff as his test market.” Despite his success, Reed claims he still learns from everyone he meets. “When you work in advertising you tend to think that advertising is marketing. Then we set up Innocent and didn’t do any major advertising for six years. I don’t know or understand marketing. I just do what I think is right. The future of marketing is truth and reality, not image and perception. We never try to build a good image but instead a good reality.”

Ed Morris, executive creative director at Lowe, which won Innocent’s advertising account last year, says: “It would be easier to work with Innocent if Richard didn’t always know exactly what he wanted but you can’t fault him, he lives and breathes the company. He still tries to write advertising for Innocent and pitches his ideas to me. Some of them aren’t very good, to be honest, and I’m grateful that we have such an open relationship that I can veto his suggestions.”

Another source says Reed should “grow up and stop trying to do everything”. The source adds: “He has to let go a bit for that brand to grow further. He’s the owner and manager and needs to step back and retain an overview. To be so close to everything. and so hands-on, will mean the challenge Innocent faces in maturing will be made harder. He still writes ads, for God’s sake. Does he want to be a marketer or does he want to sit in a flat sticking funny labels on bottles?”

But Morris counters: “He’s not a bloody marketing director though, is he? He’s a bloke that had a great idea, an entrepreneur and a visionary. He didn’t spend three years at Unilever or five years at Coke, he’s not tainted by any of that. He’s learnt marketing publicly and from his mistakes.”

Mark Choueke

Methodology

Factiva’s exclusive study for Marketing Week tracked the number of times people in the readers’ top 20 were quoted in 600 UK media sources, between May 1, 2005, and April 30 this year. In each case, the person’s rank in the top 20 appears in brackets alongside their name. Using Factiva Insight, the counts in the chart represent the number of articles that included the individual’s name at least once, together with their company name. This seems to indicate the people nearer the top are more high profile in the business world – or possibly more outspoken.

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