How top marketers view failure

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer, Unilever:

“As [Mark] Zuckerberg says: ‘fail fast’. The only sin in failure is if you don’t learn from it. They say you always learn more from your failures than your successes.

“If you think about marketing as a heat seeking missile, for the whole of a heat seeking missile’s life it is off target. It’s adjusting until it hits the target and then it explodes. I think that’s how you have to steward brands in this fast moving world; you continually have to course correct.”

Justin Cooke, chief marketing officer, Topshop:

“Marketing is an industry that needs disrupting. People get formulaic. How do you stay aware of what you’re doing? Keep evaluating, but you’ve got to have someone looking round the corner for you because before you know it, all those people who wanted to be innovative are stuck in the system and then you’ve lost your edge.”

Astro Teller, captain of moonshots, Google X (Google’s innovation lab):

“We need the freedom to kill the ideas. You have to share [them] with the world [but] we have to strike a balance [not to share them too early]. The founders are very supportive of Google X. When we have locked on to something that is going to make the world a radically better place they say ‘OK’. But lots of things turn out just to not be good moonshots
[or ideas].”

Syl Saller, chief marketing officer, Diageo:

“We have weekly meetings on our Explorers range for [whisky] Johnnie Walker, for example. We are monitoring it and asking ‘do our consumers understand the reason why we’re doing something?’. [Then we consider] what we now need to do about that product line that will be simpler for people to get. So always adjusting is the big theme really.”


Branwell Johnson

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Payday loans have been making news headlines of late and the Competition Commission is now investigating the market on a number of points to prevent “irresponsible lending” to the vulnerable and the poor. As the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says, some of the business models “appear predicated on making loans which are unaffordable”.

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Corporate rebrands are no longer seen as merely a reprint of the office stationery because they can positively affect perception of companies and their bottom line, but marketers should be wary of “change for change’s sake” in the eyes of the cynical consumer.


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