How Mike Lawless Got Ahead

“I think many marketers and brands could learn an enormous amount from David Camerons use of media to generate votes/ sales.”

Name: Mike Lawless

Company: Costa Coffee

Job title: Head of UK Retail Marketing

What made you want to get into marketing?

Wanting to do something different every day.

How did you get into the industry (including relevant qualifications and professional training)?

I got a degree in retail marketing from Manchester – this has actually turned into my vocation.

What was good and bad about your first job?

My first job was working in a friend’s newsagent, so the bad thing was having to get up at 6am on Sunday morning to arrange the deliveries. The compensation was being able to weigh myself half a pound of all red sports mixture.

List your jobs to date:

A couple of insight roles with high street retailers before landing a non-food marketing role at Tesco where I stayed for 3 years. Prior to my arrival at Costa I was responsible for global tea innovation in the out of home sector for Tetley.

What were the best and worst, and why?

Unsurprisingly Costa is the best job I have had, as it’s a great brand with real heritage, in a growing sector employing really fantastic people. The worst would have been the vegetarian start up (I don’t eat meat myself) called Khero that was based in a Barnsley cooked meat factory (Oh and I also commuted from London).

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Sir Ian MacLaurin was the inspiration for me choosing my retail degree, and therefore my career, as he said every day was different. I had the pleasure of meeting him (at a Tesco management conference).

Who in the industry do you most admire?

I think many marketers and brands could learn an enormous amount from David Cameron’s use of media to generate votes/ sales

What is your biggest achievement to date?

So far (and it’s early days) it’s the launch of the Costa Electronic Payment Card which went from trial to national roll out in just 10 weeks, and is already changing people’s consumption patterns.

On what do you base your success so far?

Listening to (well OK, eavesdropping on) and watching customers at large in our stores. Trying things out. Following hunches.

What are your ambitions?

To make Costa the number one coffee shop retailer in the UK (it’s very nearly a reality), and to get ten toes over on my surfboard.

Change one thing about your job:

Moving our office from dreary Luton to the Costa Roastery in Lambeth – where our brand truly comes alive (plus it would save me 3 hours travel time a day).

Change one thing about your industry:

Simplification of the coffee supply chain, so more money went to growers instead of the 30 people in between.

Change one thing about the world:


What is your favourite brand?

Howies – a great brand that’s fanatically passionate about its customers and products – check it out at

What is the next big brand in your view?

Green Tomato Cabs –  at last you can have a guilt free expensed taxi ride around Central London (using Prius), and the drivers are great too.

List your ‘media diet’:

The Telegraph (we launched a media partnership with them in October),,, (too much coffee man),,, and a blog called eggsbaconchipsandbeans.

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