One CMO on why his background in sales was an ‘amazing foundation’

Story of my CV: Despite being pigeonholed as a salesman early on in his career, Intuit QuickBooks CMO Guy Longworth was determined to make the transition into marketing and has since been responsible for launching PlayStation 4 and bringing back the Coco Pops brand.

Like many people in their final year at university, Guy Longworth didn’t know what he wanted to do when he graduated. On the advice of his father, he applied to a number of big companies that offer training programmes, and says he was “very fortunate” to land a role at Procter & Gamble in the sales department.

He describes his four years at P&G as an “amazing foundation” and despite spending all his time on the sales side, it was during his time at the FMCG giant that he decided marketing was his true calling.

“It became clear to me that as a marketer you have the opportunity to understand customers’ needs, to help influence the product road map, to develop communications strategies and to be more of a general manager of a brand, and it really appealed to me,” he says.

So, after taking a year out to go travelling, Longworth returned to the UK ready to start the next stage of his career in marketing. It was a transition he found much harder than expected, though, as employers immediately pigeonholed him as a salesman.

Longworth ended up taking a couple of steps down the career ladder in order to pursue his new-found career path. But it was a sacrifice worth making, he says, and he believes his experience in sales has been a big help as it has given him commercial understanding and insight into how sales teams operate.

“I understood the potential issues, I understood pricing and margins, promotional strategies and merchandising – a bunch of things I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to offer value in if I hadn’t have done the job myself. It gave me credibility,” he says.

After a number of years at Kraft Foods, Longworth moved to Kellogg’s in order to take on “a much bigger and more significant portfolio of products” including kids’ cereal brands such as Coco Pops and Rice Krispies. It was while at Kellogg’s that Longworth took on his first chief marketing job, which he believes was “pretty unusual” considering he’d only been in marketing for five years at that stage.

I had my bonus reduced, my salary red-ringed and my pension arrangement changed, but I didn’t care because I knew long term I wanted to be in marketing.

Guy Longworth, Intuit QuickBooks

“A few things had worked out well for myself and the team. There was then a change in leadership, which I think presents opportunities. You’ve got to be prepared to knock on the door and ask for things when that happens, which is what I did,” he says.

“I spent the next three years really growing into that role [as marketing chief]. It was a very significant leadership role for a billion-pound business spending £200m in marketing and advertising.”

In 2006, after a three-year stint at vegetarian food business Quorn, Longworth moved to California. After initially commuting to Leeds from his new home while at hair styling brand GHD, he settled into a more local role, albeit one with a global remit, at Sony PlayStation.

Now at Intuit, the company behind brands like QuickBooks, which help small businesses and the self-employed keep on top of their finances, he says the importance of working culture is something that has changed drastically throughout his career.

“When I started work in the 80s it was the ‘loadsa money’ era but if I talk to the early career people in my team now, they are looking for purpose. They are looking for a reason why they should work for us versus someone else. That is a very significant shift compared to when I grew up.

“For companies to be successful and attract talent at a time when talent is at a huge premium, they need to have a very clear purpose, which is different from when I started out many moons ago.”

READ MORE: HSBC – Young marketers job-hop more and don’t necessarily aim to be CMOs

An extraordinary foundation

Procter & Gamble, national account manager/area sales manager/national account executive (1988-1992)

p&g

“The thing that really attracted me to P&G was the way they evaluate you – half of it is on your business results but the other half is on your leadership and management skills. That really appealed to me, because it recognises that to be successful in life it’s not just about the craft, it’s about being able to engage and mobilise teams.

“I started as a salesman in Sheffield in the health and beauty care division. After a year I got promoted to head office and worked on regional accounts and a year after that I became an area sales manager and had a team of eight working for me. I was 24-years-old and I had people in their 30s, 40s and 50s working for me. It was a really interesting challenge.

“A year after that I was given the opportunity to manage the haircare business with Boots, which was our biggest customer. I became the national account manager for Boots for a year and that really helped me understand the relationships between suppliers and retailers. Those four years were a really extraordinary foundation for my career.”

The first taste of marketing

Kraft Foods, senior brand manager/senior national account manager/customer marketing manager (1993-1997)

“I joined Kraft in a trade marketing role, which was the link between sales and marketing, with a view to try and get into brand management. It was going really well and after a year they promoted me back into sales, and I was like no, no, no, this isn’t what I want to do.

“I kept banging on doors and six months later they finally moved me into brand management. I actually moved two steps down the corporate ladder to do it. I had my bonus reduced, my salary red-ringed and my pension arrangement changed, but I didn’t care because I knew long term I wanted to be in marketing.

“I did two and a half years there in marketing, it’s where I really learnt the first elements of the marketing craft. It was funny, after three months I thought I knew everything about marketing and then after a year I realised I knew nothing.”

Reversing the damage

Kellogg’s, marketing director (CMO) UK & Ireland (1997-2002)

“When I joined Kellogg’s it had just changed the name of Coco Pops to Choco Krispies as part of a European harmonisation project. I said, you guys are crazy, why would you change the name of a beloved, iconic brand?

“When the new management came in they asked me what my opinion was and I said the first thing we need to do is change the name back. And they said, well how are you going to do that? It’s going to make us look like we don’t know what we’re doing here.

“We worked with Leo Burnett who came up with the idea of letting the nation vote. There were no votes in those days. Mobile phones and the internet were only just coming in so we ran a TV campaign.

“We expected to get around 50,000 votes but we ended up getting over a million – we got 950,000 phone votes and 50,000 votes on the website driving more traffic than we’d ever seen in those days.

“As a result we changed the name back to Coco Pops and the brand, which had declined for the past couple of years since being called Choco Krispies, grew 20% over the next three years. I feel proud to have been part of the team and brought Coco Pops back to the nation.”

READ MORE: Kellogg’s ecommerce director on why his role soon won’t be needed

An entrepreneurial opportunity

Quorn Foods, CMO (2003-2006)

“Quorn was a very different business from where I had worked previously. It was a European business with a small US presence, and it was a much smaller scale. I saw it as a more entrepreneurial opportunity. The management team had been backed by a private equity firm and I was able to go in as CMO and help write a strategy for the business as growth had stalled.

“We were responsible for returning the business to growth through a lot of product innovation and some really engaging communications. A business that had been flat grew 15% year on year. A couple of years later Premier Foods came along out of the blue and offered to buy the business [which it later sold] and I helped them out with the transition period for about nine months.”

READ MORE: How ‘niche’ lifestyle brands are increasing their mass market appeal

The longest commute

GHD, CMO (2009-2010)

GHD

“I was living in California but commuting to Leeds. I did it for a year, I was helping out the team at a time when there had been a change in leadership and they needed an interim leader while they were going through a period of change. It was certainly a long commute but it was a really interesting experience.

“GHD had already become an iconic brand. It taught me a lot about mining insights and really understanding why this brand had become so successful. To 80% of women their hair is incredibly important in terms of how they feel every day, not just how they look. The insight that they either have a good hair day or bad hair day wasn’t one I appreciated at the time. It was a really interesting brand, a great business and an interesting role.”

Introducing a challenger mindset

Sony PlayStation, senior vice-president, PlayStation marketing (2011-2015)

playstation

“I got the opportunity to go and run marketing for PlayStation. It’s a huge iconic brand, but actually the company had fallen on somewhat tough times. PS1 and PS2 had been hugely successful – the most successful consoles in history – but the PS3 was falling behind the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox so the opportunity was to go in and launch PS4, and reposition the brand in customers’ minds.

“We developed a challenger brand strategy. Working with the leadership team, we developed a clear mission and vision, which we then shared with the organisation. We wanted to be the most desired and advocated gaming brand and we were able to deliver against that vision by really understanding the customer better than our competitors.”

Culture is key

Intuit QuickBooks, SVP and global chief marketing officer (2017-present)

“As a team last year we defined our business as the champion of those who dare to dream. We want to tip the odds in the favour of people who work for themselves, for small businesses and the self-employed. Anyone who works for themselves knows it can be rewarding and liberating but it can also be challenging and very lonely at times.

“It’s serving a hugely important purpose in the world and we’re growing incredibly fast but the best thing for me is the culture of Intuit is extraordinary. Lots of companies have values that they tell you about when you join and they stick them on the wall, but often when you compare the company’s actual values to the ones on the wall, there’s no connection.

“We live our values. It’s a very humble culture led by very smart people that I learn from every day. I’ve learnt as much about leadership in the past year as I have in the past 10 years.”

Guy Longworth’s CV

Procter & Gamble
National account manager, area sales manager, national account executive
1988-1992

Kraft Foods
Senior brand manager/senior national account manager/customer marketing manager
1993-1997

Kellogg’s
Marketing director (CMO) UK & Ireland
1997-2002

Quorn Foods
CMO
2003-2006

Goldmail
CEO
2006-2008

GHD
CMO
2009-2010

Sony PlayStation
Senior vice-president, PlayStation marketing
2011-2015

Intuit QuickBooks
SVP and global chief marketing officer
2017-present

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Comments
  • Daleep Chhabria 3 May 2018 at 10:31 pm

    Great that you had the clarity and courage to change course. What a great decision!

    I’ve always been in marketing. Fifteen years into my career, which was also 4 years in at my last big corporate, an opportunity arose to start a sales team on (on secondment).

    We later hired sales veterens to take over from me. But, I stayed with them for a full year.

    This turned out to be the BEST learning experience during my marketing career. Because it helped me join so many dots between marketing and sales, which is so broken in most organisations.

  • Lewis Pullen 6 May 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Starting in sales is a great start in marketing as you get so close to the customer. Closer than the marketing department!

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