Mr & Mrs Smith’s Julian Diment on why it’s a ‘golden age’ for customer-focused marketers

Story of my CV: From his rapid rise starting out at Saatchi & Saatchi to becoming chief growth officer at Mr & Mrs Smith, Julian Diment has maintained his hard-working ethic but also followed the three passions in his life: food, film and family.

Julian Diment

Julian Diment didn’t originally plan to be a marketer. He did a law degree and hoped to be a barrister, but three days into a two-week internship at a barrister’s chambers realised it wasn’t the job for him.

Diment admits there was no “serious moment of reflection” when he decided to go into advertising. He was working in a bar and got talking to some people who worked at Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP, the precursor to DDB London) and who invited him to do an internship at the agency. “It was the week before Christmas in an ad agency in the early 1990s so I thought, ‘this is the job for me’.”

He applied to a number of ad agencies while still at university and was offered a graduate trainee spot at Saatchi & Saatchi. He quickly rose through the ranks working on clients including Sony, Carlsberg and Anchor Foods and by 25 was on the company’s board.

Yet Diment has always been keen to follow his passions so he left Saatchi in 2002 to set up his own restaurant. He worked 18 hours a day for two years on Paell’Ya, which won awards for its concept and food but which he “couldn’t make work financially”. So he sold the concept to Radisson Hotels and took his first brand role at the Football Association as senior operations manager.

It’s genuinely a golden age for customer-focused marketers.

Diment’s career has been anything but linear. He has helped launch Orange Wednesdays, repositioned the luxury menswear brand Alfred Dunhill and worked through the merger of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse. Amid all of that, in 2009 he took 10 months out to produce a film called 4.3.2.1 with Kidulthood writer Noel Clarke.

“I have three passions in life: one is family, one is film and one is food. I’ve got four kids, set up a restaurant and had the chance to produce a film. I’m never going to get to the end of my career and think, ‘god I wish I’d set up a restaurant’ or ‘I wish I’d produced a film’. I’ve done both of them. I would never do either again but I loved every second of it.”

It is the eight years he spent at the various incarnations of Carphone Warehouse that have led him to his main learning: that customer experience is the most powerful marketing tool in business. He says, thanks to the customer data marketers now have, conversations with the CEO, CFO and board can be more forward-looking.

He concludes: “It’s genuinely a golden age for customer-focused marketers.”

Early success

Saatchi & Saatchi, various roles, 1993-2000

“I was lucky enough to get into Saatchi & Saatchi and can honestly say I loved every second. I was completely inspired by the people I was working with; my boss was a guy called Nick Hurrell. It was just very entrepreneurial, fast-paced. We were lucky in those days. In advertising, we were genuinely from a young age advising very senior clients on their whole business; it was much more of a consultancy.

“I learnt a lot very quickly, I had some big clients – Carlsberg, Sony. It was a baptism of fire and for whatever reason, probably because I enjoyed it and worked hard, I got promoted quite young and rose up through the ranks to board director.

“I left Saatchi’s to set up a restaurant. It was a difficult decision but it was the right time. I had learnt a lot but you get to a stage in advertising where you’ve handled every client issue you can and I’m always keen to grown and learn and push myself and I wanted to work for my own business.

“Having spent seven years in advertising telling clients what to do with their business, having to do it for yourself is a lot harder.”

Experiencing a new culture

The Football Association, senior operations manager, 2002-2004

England Football

“I was looking for something different. I didn’t want to go back into advertising, and I’d worked with Adam Crozier at Saatchi and he gave me the opportunity to go to the Football Association. He said he had a role that was a bit of a hybrid – running operations for the England team. It was part procurement, part commercial.

“It was an interesting role. I joined predominantly because of Adam and he left three months after. I stuck it out, made some changes, helped cut the cost base, did some interesting things for them. But it was an interesting culture and place to work.”

Seeing the power of an idea

Orange, head of entertainment and digital marketing, 2004-2006

“I worked for Orange in the early days of mobile internet. They were already pretty strong in film and music but were looking to get into sports and because of my connection with the FA I helped them negotiate content rights for Premiership Clubs.

“On the back of the success of that I inherited the film and music areas as well. Orange Wednesdays came out of that period, which was a phenomenal success and seemed such a simple idea but was actually relatively complex. There were 114 different partners from the film distributors, the exhibitors, people like BAFTA. That was another baptism of fire!

“They ran it for 10 years. We signed it initially as an acquisition tool but it worked very well to cut churn, particularly in a very fickle and difficult younger generations of customers. And it opened my eyes up to the power and simplicity of a good idea.

“I’ve been blessed with genuinely working with some great people, including Pippa Dunn at Orange. She was just a force of nature – brilliantly scarily bright but also very creative.”

The first global role

Alfred Dunhill, global marketing director, 2006-2009

Dunhill

“Dunhill was exciting because it was my first global role. The challenge with menswear and selling luxury goods to men is men hate shopping. We had to come up with an idea for how you entertain and engage men and get them into the stores in the first place.

“I created this concept of the ‘homes of Alfred Dunhill’. We created one of the early examples of using retail as theatre. In our Mayfair store we had a cigar room, a bar; we created a private members’ club, a spa, a barber.

“How do you get men into an environment where they feel safe and comfortable and spend a lot of money? Luxury brands are all about that balance of maintain the exclusivity of the name, brand and appeal while still commercially selling to as many people as possible.

“Again, a phenomenal CEO called Chris Colfer who was actually from a marketing background but was also a great financial brain and really ran with ideas and encouraged and nurtured you to think differently. He was very challenging with it but that strengthens you.”

Rewriting the customer experience

Carphone Warehouse, various roles, 2010-2016

Carphone Warehouse

“I wasn’t looking to go to high street or retail or mobile but I was so inspired by the leadership there – Charles Dunstone and Andrew Harrison.

“I lived through various incarnations because [Carphone Warehouse bought Best Buy out of their joint venture in Europe] then Carphone Warehouse merged with Dixons. [The merger] was a very interesting blend of cultures but they complemented each other. At the heart of it was a lot of very hard working and passionate people who believed in what they were doing. But there was an entrepreneurial/commercial-trader instinct in Carphone that probably quite rightly needed a bit more governance and process and structure that the Dixons guys brought to the party.

“The most exciting stage was identifying that we had lost touch with the customer; Charles had an instinct for what customers wanted but truth be told we had lost that customer integrity.

“Under the CEO Graham Stapleton, who was another force of nature to work with but a phenomenal mentor for me, we set about completely rewriting the customer experience, how we interact with customers. Out of that process came the concept of Pinpoint, which was a tablet-based sales tool and customer experience that allowed colleagues to stand side-by-side with the customer and work through a series of questions to identify the best tariff for that customer.

“It was about bringing the best of digital into the store. And it had a phenomenal impact on the business – boosted conversion rates by 30% and it transformed our net promoter score. It was a wonderful example of how you could use digital to enhance both the customer experience and the commercial return.”

A different kind of role

Honeybee, chief strategy and marketing officer, 2016-2017

“On the back of [the launch of Carphone Warehouse’s Pinpoint sales tool] we thought: ‘This is working well and a good idea, why isn’t anyone else doing it?’ So together with the chief technology officer we set up a new business – still owned by Dixons – called Honeybee, to take that format and sell it globally.

“That was completely different. I went from a CMO with a strong customer eye to a B2B role selling software. Again, a real challenge and experience for me to push myself, grow and learn. And we had some success with it.”

Seizing an entrepreneurial ambition

Mr & Mrs Smith, chief growth officer, 2018-present

Mr & Mrs Smith

“I wanted to get more involved in a smaller business, where I could take equity, help them grow and use some of my entrepreneurial zeal for growing businesses as well. Mr & Mrs Smith came up, I met with the owners and was really inspired by their passion, their belief in the business, the strength of the brand and the strength of the customer experience. But equally it has such potential and the owners wanted to bring external talent in to get to that next stage.

“I’ve been there nine months and it’s truly exciting. What I’ve tried to help them do is shake up the growth plan. The building blocks of a great business and brand with profitable growth are there but it’s accelerating that while maintaining the great customer experience as we move into new product lines, like experiences, and markets, like the US.

“We had some debate about the title but we decided on chief growth officer so it makes my appraisals very simple. Have I grown the business, yes or no? It’s a combination of sales, marketing and customer operations so I see the whole end-to-end customer journey, which gives me great power to manage all the levers of the business to help deliver growth.”

Julian Diment’s CV

Saatchi & Saatchi 
Various roles
1993-2000

Paell’Ya
Founder
2000-2002

The Football Association
Senior operations manager
2002-2004

Orange
Head of entertainment and digital marketing
2004-2006

Alfred Dunhill
Global marketing director
2006-2009

4.3.2.1.
Executive producer
2009-2010

Carphone Warehouse
Various roles
2010-2016

Honeybee
Chief strategy and marketing officer
2016-2017

Mr & Mrs Smith
Chief growth officer
2018-present

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