I was attracted to the depth and breadth of opportunities available. It is useful to get advice from people who have made their way to the top of marketing.
Georgina Cooper: The premise of the academy spoke to me personally; turning the marketing talent of today into the leaders of tomorrow. I was at the point in my career where I was starting to think about how I should move towards my ambitions and the academy has really helped with that.
Rahul Patel: When I saw Google and O2 were involved I was very interested because they are brands I admire, as they have made a strong connection with consumers. It was too good an opportunity to not put my name in the hat.
Michelle Keaney: The most exciting thing is being involved in the first year of the academy and being able to shape it. The people who talk to us in the boot camps and in the mentoring sessions are so impressive, you would have been a fool not to apply.
MW: What have you learned so far?
AK: I’ve learned not to be so closed-minded about what brands I would work on. (Aviva CMO) Amanda MacKenzie spoke about her industry with real passion at one of the boot camp sessions, and showed me those industries that seem less sexy actually require greater creativity. I have had preconceived ideas about industries I don’t know much about, so I am definitely going to be more open minded in the future.
GC: I have learned about the kind of leader I would like to be and I am already putting that into practice. I have also learned a huge amount from the other scholars. Everyone has such different backgrounds and has something different to offer.
MK: There is so much value in people sharing their experiences and best practice. We also learned that the kind of leader you are is then reflected in how many leaders you then go on to develop.
MW: What have you learned from your individual mentoring sessions?
AK: John Petter (BT managing director for consumer) is from a totally different industry and has very different passions to me, so he challenged me on some of the things I said, but in a good way. He gave me good tips, such as lining up objectives with your boss. I also met Teresa Octavio (former global platform marketing director at Diageo). We talked about how if you get good insights you can develop good innovations.
GC: John Petter was amazing – his is the kind of job I would love. We really focused on how to get the most out of other people, which is really relevant to me personally.
Also the talk on leadership Major General Arthur Denaro gave at boot camp was inspiring. He said, “recruiting the enemy is more effective than killing the enemy”. If you take that as a metaphor for day-to-day things, it’s much better to get people on your side than go up against them.
RP: The one thing I took from my conversation with Philip Mehl (HSBC UK head of marketing) was to imagine where you want to be in ten years’ time then work out what you need to be doing to move towards that vision in five, two-year goals. But you should stay open minded because there might be several different paths.
MK: My mentoring session with Paul Berney from the Mobile Marketing Association blew me away. He was exceptionally honest, sharing personal things he didn’t have to share. And he said that a career isn’t rocket science, and advised me to find out what I’m good at, enjoy and just stick to it. I’ve also learned a lot about the work-life balance, which is something (former Cadbury marketing director) Phil Rumbol spoke about at boot camp – being successful but not at the expense of your family. I am pregnant so this is really relevant to me.
MW: How do you think your career journey will differ from that of the mentors?
AK: Consumers are a lot more savvy nowadays, and they want to engage with brands so it’s about much more than a press ad in isolation – is there a call to action? A link to Facebook? And then what will happen when they join the Facebook page? Consumers have so much power now to go online and trash you if they feel you haven’t responded to their complaints properly. We have to be on top of all that.
GC: I loved what Phil Rumbol said about a career journey not looking so much like a straight train line but more like the tube map. Looking at his CV he almost has had the perfect journey – getting into a graduate placement scheme, then progressing through brand management and becoming a marketing director. I have fallen into marketing via sales so in some ways I am jealous of people who have come through the FMCG route because of the grounding they get.
RP: A lot of the core disciplines of marketing are still very much the same. But there are new challenges because of new trends, whether it’s around the environment or health, or taking advantage of digital. Also, the places where the mentors earned their stripes might not be the same as where we are doing it. In the Eighties you had FMCG as the place to be, in the Nineties it was telecoms and now it’s digital businesses.
MK: Marketing was really simple for that generation – there were once just three TV channels and two big newspapers. Now you have to be fantastic at traditional and all the emerging disciplines. We don’t even know what the next one is going to be. And today more than ever, companies don’t set what brands are, customers do. Your brand value is almost wholly driven by the consumer, which is a bit scary and yet amazing.
MW: What would be your dream marketing job?
AK: I would like to end up on a smaller brand. I feel I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I’d like that to be utilised in the future.
GC: Something that reflects my interest in travel or fashion. But I don’t want to be in a role that only focuses on delivering advertising campaigns. When I met John Petter at BT, his role touches on all areas of BT’s customer interaction, so one day he might look at a TV campaign, and another day he might look at the customer billing process. That kind of role really appeals to me.
RP: Nike, Apple and Google would be great brands to work on. Something inside me wants to be part of the next big marketing case study that everyone refers back to.
MK: I would really love to be a marketing director of an FMCG company. I wanted to have achieved that by 30, but given that I am about to have a baby I may have to rethink the timing. But it’s absolutely where I’m going.
MW: Who would be your dream mentor?
AK: Simon Cowell is a born marketer. And Jamie Oliver always manages to keep his brand fresh – people see him as being genuine.
GC: Madonna is a great role model in terms of how she has orchestrated her career. If I had to choose somebody from the business world it would be Peter Jones.
RP: Terry Leahy. I spent a year working in the Tesco offices; I never met him but you always felt his presence and his leadership in the business. I would love to hear from him how he created such a successful business. MK: James Dyson – he comes from Norfolk, and so do I. But for me he typifies tenacity. Nobody took his first idea seriously but I think he is now worth something like £1.1bn. That resilience is what any marketer has to have.
MW: What do you think are the biggest challenges in getting ahead in marketing?
AK: Being female is still a challenge because of balancing life priorities. That’s why it was so motivational to meet someone like Amanda MacKenzie because she has an amazing career and a family.
GC: I think companies can be closed off from hiring people from other backgrounds, but when you look at all the scholars it shows there is a huge amount of talent out there with lots of transferable skills and experience.
RP: Marketing has become a much more mature discipline. People have got more experience, so in a sense there are less opportunities because there is more competition. In a lot of ways, though, the only challenge is you. You have to be able to put yourself in the position to make things happen.
MK: Future proofing is going to be a big challenge. Being a marketing leader is about having a package of marketing and behavioural skills.
MW: What are your views on the marketing profession and how it impacts business?
AK: My views have been shaped by Green & Black’s and reinforced by my experience in the academy. Marketing-led organisations create things that consumers want and brands that people desire. Our marketing director says that as a marketer, you aren’t just that; you’re a general manager and co-ordinator of every aspect of a project.
GC: It’s about how a company integrates marketing into their organisation. My department is sales and marketing so we are hugely responsible for revenue generation and strategy. There are still some companies where the perception of marketing is that it’s the “colouring-in department”. But if it is consumer centric it has to constantly adapt in line with changes in technology, consumer behaviour and society. And while you respond to changes, you get to shape them too.
RP: Having a strong brand goes hand in hand with delivering profits. The stronger your brand, the less you have to rely on discounting because consumers are willing to pay a premium. The reputation of marketing is growing but I don’t think we are where we should be in terms of gaining respect from other parts of a business. The true value of marketing will be seen when a business doesn’t cut its marketing budget in a recession.
MK: The whole social agenda has shown that businesses have to be marketing led. Marketers are becoming hugely more accountable in terms of tracking how much has been spent on a campaign and what opportunities it has delivered. This has made marketing a credible business function.
MW: Do you think your mentor has learned anything from you?
AK: To sit with someone who is managing director of a global organisation and talk about your challenges is pretty amazing, so I hope they appreciated that feeling from us.
GC: What I hope they have learned is that they have the power to shape the future and pave the way for rising talent. Hopefully we have reassured them there is talent out there.
RP: Mentoring us gives them the chance to understand the challenges we are facing and get a better read of the generation of marketers coming through.
MK: I think we have reignited their passion for marketing and its challenges. I think it has also given them a benchmark for what kind of talent is out there – a genuine look at people who could be the future of business.