The young talent: Carrie Osman
A day in the life
Carrie Osman is dog portfolio manager at Mars Petcare and an alumnus of the Marketing Academy.
My morning begins on the 6.30am train from Nottingham to London with a slew of meetings ahead of me. I use the two-hour journey to catch up on emails and draft end-of-year reviews for my team.
Today is an agency day but normally I am flitting between looking at different aspects of the portfolio including profitability, innovation and day-to-day business with our sales colleagues. I begin my day in London with coffee and a meeting with Marketing Week at Charlotte Street Hotel.
This is followed by a visit to Hypernaked’s offices in Farringdon to carry out a full annual review of the work it has been doing for Mars on the social and digital side. I then have a one-to-one with a member of my team at Mars Petcare, who is in London with me for the meetings. We review her week and I offer the opportunity for feedback and discussion.
A quick lunch and then next stop is a meeting with AMV BBDO, our advertising agency. It’s a rigorous meeting to review the 2013 plan for the Pedigree and Cesar brands. I finish the day having dinner with a friend and fellow marketer who is senior brand manager on Galaxy. I am really obsessive about my email and at 9pm, I am heading back to Nottingham on the train clearing emails as I go.
My approach to marketing
“We always joke in the office about what dog people and cat people are like and I am definitely a dog person,” laughs Carrie Osman, dog portfolio manager at Mars Petcare. “I’ve got a little Pom and people think he is a handbag dog and I am trying to be Paris Hilton but actually, I live in an apartment and having a golden retriever would be unrealistic.”
Pragmatism and loving pets are two core characteristics of this 29-year-old marketer on a fast track at Mars Petcare, which have helped her achieve accolades such as growing Pedigree can sales to £80 million, its highest ever position.
Accustomed to spending her days in corporate headquarters in the middle of fields, just outside Melton Mowbray, Osman joined Mars in 2006 and went straight into the marketing side of the business as junior brand manager of dog food marque Cesar. “I remember my marketing director at the time giving us a presentation stating that ‘we are here to make relationships’ and it’s incredible to think I work on a product where someone genuinely cares that much that it makes my hairs stand on end,” she enthuses. “If you work in an area that you are passionate about, it doesn’t really feel like work.”
As many gurus of the discipline advocate, good marketing is a balance between rigour and flair, and if you are indifferent about the brand you can get all of the rigour but none of the flair. Feeding into that tenet, Mars Petcare’s stated mission is to ‘make the world a better place for pets’ and aims to stay true to it by being genuinely interested in them.
Under Osman’s watch, some of this interest is directly translated to consumers through the brand’s social media campaigns including live question and answer sessions with animal experts, such as canine trainer Ali Taylor; a dedicated microsite for Pedigree’s Wet Nose Week awareness on pet nutrition and YouTube videos with a similarly witty yet educational bent.
In charge of several dog food brands including Pedigree and Cesar, Osman’s role is fundamentally concerned with managing people, working to inspire, support and motivate staff. She has two senior brand managers, a vet nurse, a breeder and a management trainee reporting to her.
“I have come to realise that it is not all about me – it’s about engaging my team and us pulling together to achieve great results,” she says. “It is crucial to always be positive but still challenging to understand the other person a bit more.”
Osman craves the chance to make a difference at Mars. “I work in an environment where your passion can engage the business around change and there is freedom to work towards a brighter future,” she says. “Talent engagement is part of that and I’m really passionate about developing great people both functionally and for personal development.”
Picking up inspiration from the business and marketing world around her, Osman cites Howard Schultz and how he has made Starbucks represent so much more than a cup of coffee as one of her inspirations. Networking is the lifeblood of any successful business person and opportunities to meet with leaders have come through her time as a Marketing Academy scholar. These have included Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King; Syl Saller, the global innovation director of Diageo; and Sue Farr, a director at Chime Communications, who have all been very inspirational.
Osman has honed an approach that focuses on developing and then staying true to a powerful idea, valuing that concept above and beyond anything else. “The idea is the father of all great work,” she says. “From the central idea comes interesting and inspiring executions.” At Mars, this strategy is exemplified in the way that the brand champions dogs and tries to challenge itself on what it should do for them.
Examples of the execution of that overarching idea include the work it does funding rehoming centres with grants galvanized by Pedigree campaigns; the We’re for Dogs Facebook community; and, within the Mars workplace, giving ‘pet-ernity’ leave.
Being open to ideas, then, is essential to fulfilling targets in everything from memorable campaigns to sales success. Tricks Osman uses to keep her creative juices flowing include taking a notebook everywhere she goes and giving herself space to think rather than falling into the trap of opening a laptop and being swallowed by an internet void. “Ticking things off is a buzz but actually the big questions are the ones that we need to challenge: trying to get the reflection time is what’s crucial.”
With this understood, email is one of Osman’s pet hates. “It is crazy how much time can be spent on the small things and I try to have check-ins with our agencies on the phone or face-to-face to avoid this,” she says.
Problems don’t wait and being flexible is important in this sort of job, as is the need to strike a careful balance between the day-to-day grind and developing game-changing ideas, she adds.
The answer? Osman says she endeavours to hone her job down to three really big areas, and then spend less time on the things that need doing but are not so important. “For me, on those smaller things success is working smart and making sure they are done ‘well enough’,” she explains. “If I spend hours on one of those areas, I ask myself why because ultimately I’m wasting mine and my team’s time to fulfil a greater goal of ‘perfectionism’.”
The market leader: Sally Cowdry
A day in the life
Sally Cowdry is O2’s departing marketing and consumer director and a mentor at the Marketing Academy
My day started at 8am with a conference call with board colleagues on some people plans that we have for 2013. This is followed by a board meeting on operational matters discussing core things and making sure we understand their significance from a trading and commercial point of view. I then explain the outcomes to my direct reports before having an hour and a half at noon with a leadership specialist talking about some development opportunities.
I meet with advertising agency VCCP on some performance reviews, before hosting the Priority Moments steering group meeting. I also have a few one-to-one meetings and confidential stuff I have to clear up until the end of the day.
Generally, between meetings at lunchtimes and in the evenings is when I do the all-important sitting back and reflecting. All the best ideas come when I am in the shower. I try not to do meetings before 9am and I try to finish them by 5pm so that I have an hour or so to sweep things up and download.
My approach to marketing
“Marketers need to be externally facing, learning like sponges from every industry and every other marketer that they meet,” argues Sally Cowdry, the marketing and consumer director of O2 who is due to move to a senior marketing role at Camelot. “I meet people every day – junior, senior, our company, different companies – I have special admiration for people who can tell a story, something that is really powerful in a business context.”
Being open to ideas has carried Cowdry through a 13-year career at O2. She has grown her skillset and enlarged her professional scope in tandem with an industry that has morphed from telecom into a digital player and is championing an identity of being ‘essential to life’.
The 45-year old marketer has been part of O2’s marketing picture since it became the first service provider to put bundles on to pre-pay and the first to offer SIM-only tariffs on post pay. Cowdry has driven through a strategy of focusing on innovation around what resonates with customers and has grown the consumer segment of the business to contribute £2 billion of trading profit from a revenue of almost £5bn.
“I have always loved what I do. I think that is really important because you will have a much better chance of being good at it,” says Cowdry.
Her 19 million customers benefit from her vision of priority services. These include priority for ticketing at music, sports and other events and exclusive retail offers available through a Priority Moments app. She leads a team of 300 and has a marketing budget of £100 million.
“The purpose of everything that we do in the consumer and marketing teams is how we develop a deeper relationship with our customers,” explains Cowdry. “How can we really understand what they do to turn them not just into advocates of our brand, but actually fans of our brands?”
Her aim over the next few years is to get to grips with what customers want and deliver that within the challenges of a digital era.
The emergence of smartphones, the convergence of the traditional telecommunications sector and the prominence of digital presents new excitement and challenges to the senior marketer. Every year there is a major innovation that provides new technology and along with it new obstacles around how to communicate that change.
Operating in a highly competitive market, Cowdry is sanguine about the competition but ambitious for the future. Since taking on the role of marketing and consumer director at the start of 2011, she has increased the contract customer base by 45 per cent and revenue by 30 per cent.
Her guiding principles are to never lose sight of customer insights but to package them in a way that is digestible for customers rather than just keep throwing product, service and proposition at them. “It is really easy in our world to do lots of disparate products and services and just hope that some of them sell,” she explains. “Because we are all about end-to-end services, we want to tie all of those together and be the best deliverer of digital services.”
Day-to-day, Cowdry’s job is split into two areas: first, to be responsible for consumer profit and loss, and second to take a strategy that supports all segments to market. This includes advertising sponsorship, the devices the brand sells, business intelligence, insight and research as well as analytics and marketing strategy. In tangible terms, it means she can go from a budget meeting to a creative review to a ‘deep dive’ on analytics in the space of a few hours.
Cowdry’s efficient working style is governed in part by her desire for a work-life balance. “People will notice 120 per cent but not 200 per cent. It is actually better to have that time back and spend it having a bit of ‘me time’,” she explains. “The best ideas pop into your head when you are not trying for them.”
Your weaknesses are always your strengths exaggerated believes Cowdry and for her role, the challenge is to continue to keep seeing the bigger picture. It is crucial to make sure that the sum of the parts is adding up to the strategic vision and that the team stays focused on the customer, the market and the vision.
Cowdry says her life now is different from the ‘creating and doing’ that was central at the start of her marketing career. Her energy and achievements were recognised early on as she was promoted to the board in 2006 while on maternity leave with her first child.
“When you progress from doing a role to leading a team, people really start to observe what you say, how you say it and the body language involved in that,” comments Cowdry. “What you do in terms of collaboration, inspiration, being able to tell a story and painting a picture is really important.”
She now spends her days reviewing and coaching and externally as a Marketing Academy mentor as well as communicating strategy within the businesses. Working in an organisation that is very supportive for development is crucial, says Cowdry. “You always have someone that you look up to and learn from whether they know that or not.”