Twenty-eight scholars, 80 mentors, 12 months, three boot camps and one graduation day. These are the ingredients that have been carefully selected to create the inaugural Marketing Academy. A programme designed to nurture the best young marketers and find the industry leaders of the future.
In its first year, Marketing Hall of Legends UK, which is behind the academy, has been sponsored by Cadbury, O2, Google and Marketing Week.
The 28 scholars have earned their place through an X-Factor-style selection process. From 225 nominations, 75 were called for telephone interviews; 55 of those were selected for psychometric testing. A further ten candidates were then discarded, leaving just 45 hopefuls to face the final judging panel.
Academy founder Sherilyn Shackell, whose role in the academy can be likened to that of a headmistress crossed with a motivational speaker with a bit of “visionary activist” thrown in, believes that this year’s recruits are already displaying the potential to be the business leaders of tomorrow.
Shackell, who also works as a headhunter, says companies are not doing enough to cultivate future leaders from within their ranks, preferring instead to poach talent from elsewhere – a short-sighted policy that Shackell claims is both a waste of resources and cash.
“I will often be briefed by chief marketing officers or chief executives for a role they want to fill and the lament about upcoming talent is always similar,” she explains. The main complaints being that young marketers are lacking in leadership capability and experience. According to Shackell, if a senior role needs filling the company will often look to fill it externally because, “there is a perception that internal candidates just don’t have broad enough knowledge”.
Scholar Georgina Cooper (see spotlight on scholars, below), sales and marketing manager for the RAC, agrees: “More companies should be running programmes like this themselves. A lot of people think they have to leave their companies to progress in their careers. Good succession planning is not always high on the agenda.”
Fellow scholar Rahul Patel, brand manager for BA-owned customer loyalty firm The Mileage Company, says studying the art of marketing is vital and that owing to the standard of coaching, this scheme should make the students, “stronger, better leaders much sooner”.
And there is no shortage of expertise on offer. Senior marketers from the likes of HSBC and Aviva have pledged their time to equip the chosen 28 with the skills needed to put them on the right track. As well as individual mentoring sessions there are “lunch and learn” sessions, boot camps with intensive seminars led by speakers from a range of sectors.
The mentors strongly believe that taking time out to guide the talent of tomorrow will help reinforce the importance of marketing to any business.
“We have attracted people who think exceptional marketing is going to be at the forefront of business success,” says Shackell. “They are passionate about developing talent, and have reached a stage in their lives where they want to give something back.”
The world of marketing and business has certainly changed from the days when the academy’s mentors were carving out their careers in the Nineties, observes Comic Relief marketing director Michele Settle. “I was lucky that when I came out of university, jobs were plentiful. It’s incredibly different now for people starting out in marketing – it’s a tougher environment and the media landscape is completely different,” she says.
William Hill marketing director Kristof Fahy, claims that the process of creating and distributing brands and products is an area which has changed significantly. Facilitating brands successfully in this digital age will be one of the scholars’ big challenges, he says, adding that the recruits are somewhat fortunate to have been “born” into it.
Marketing is a more “daunting” discipline to work in today compared to when he was starting out in the Nineties, claims HSBC UK head of marketing Philip Mehl: “Business was slower then and there were a lot more formal training programmes.”
Mehl notes, though, that many things, including the core principles of marketing, remain the same. “There is still a role for formal training – the discipline of breaking down a problem, understanding a customer, the insight, the proposition, developing execution – that discipline will never change,” he says. “And I don’t see many younger marketers having been taught that discipline.”
Settle agrees, adding that the scholars need more than marketing skills to help them climb the ladder. “Personal characteristics like drive and ambition will always apply.”
But while BBC Worldwide director of global brand and marketing Helen Kellie agrees that “classic marketing skills are the backbone for all of us,” the application of those skills is constantly changing, and today’s marketers must be more “fleet of foot” than ever. “Making sure we have a healthy next generation of marketers nipping at our heels is good for all of us,” she says.
So what’s in it for the mentors? According to Mehl, the role contributes to the “never ending challenge” of being a business leader. For him, the motivation comes from wanting to make sure “marketers have a bigger impact on the commercial world”.
And that’s not all. The mentors have taken away some valuable personal lessons from the experience. “This has brought home the importance of getting the right people in your team and investing in their growth,” says Mehl.
For Kellie, the candidates’ optimism has sparked some nostalgic feelings: “It’s reminded me of that unbridled enthusiasm of believing the world is your oyster – it takes you back.”
While “graduation day” in May 2011 will mark the end of the scholars’ journey at The Marketing Academy, it will only be the start of the initiative’s real impact in the world of business.
Spotlight on the scholars – the marketing leaders of the future
Marketing Week: Why did you apply for a place in the Marketing Academy?
Director of global brand and marketing, BBC Worldwide
Top tips: There are lots of different marketing careers – there isn’t one that’s right or wrong. Being happy to move across industries is a healthy thing for marketing. I left the UK for a role in the States that I didn’t know much about but that really paid off. Trusting your gut instinct is important – it has been pivotal to shaping my career. If you can’t take risks when you’re young, you never will.
Mentor memories: During my time at Reckitt Benckiser, the then global category director, John Honey, was a passionate marketer and he taught me important lessons. Later I worked with Andy Duncan, who was the first proper marketing director at the BBC, and he was all about focus – pick three things to focus on and follow them ruthlessly.
Marketing director, William Hill
Top tips: You often know what it is you want to do but it often takes talking to a neutral person to bring it out. And enjoy your work. There’s only so much you can pretend if you are working on a brand or product you don’t agree with.
Mentor memories: I was lucky enough to work for Alex Batchelor at Orange. He is one of the brightest marketers ever and we still talk now.
When I was at Yahoo! it had a mentoring programme and I worked with Stewart Newstead. I met him every few months and he gave me advice and used stories from his past to provide a new perspective. I have also worked with enough people in my time to show me how I don’t want to be.
Marketing director, Comic Relief
Top tips: Be passionate about what you do; be enthusiastic and have energy for your job and products. A glass-halffull mentality is important. And if you don’t have the creativity to deliver great ideas, you will never maximise the potential of what you are trying to market.
Mentor memories: I’ve never worked for anybody I didn’t learn anything from or enjoy working for – if there is no enjoyment, you shouldn’t be in that job. The chief executive of Comic Relief, Kevin Cahill, is a creative visionary. It totally energises me to work with someone who looks at the world how he does and has achieved what he has.
UK head of marketing, HSBC
Top tips: Be clear on the legacy you want to leave and why you want to be a marketer. Many marketers are good at managing brands but haven’tthought about their own brand. If people have a deeper understanding about their strengths and weaknesses they can develop
their careers better as they won’t pretend to be something they are not. Don’t feel the need to be an all-rounder because brands shouldn’t be all-rounders.
Mentor memories: When I was KFC head of marketing, the UK managing director was Graham Allan – an amazing leader and now global head of Yum. He was warm, easy going and during breaks in big meetings he would thank me for the preparation I had done. That simple appreciation has stayed with me.