NatWest CMO Margaret Jobling: ‘Consistency is underrated’

Speaking at Marketing Week’s Leadership Summit, Natwest’s CMO details how she overhauled NatWest’s marketing function and her personal growth lessons.

It’s almost three years since Margaret Jobling took hold of the reins at NatWest as the banking group’s CMO. In this time, she has completely overhauled how the business goes about its marketing, heralding in a new era for the company and making some big decisions along the way.

To reignite the NatWest brand, Jobling brought purpose to the business with the introduction of its long-term brand platform, ‘Tomorrow Begins Today’ which has so far proven successful, having boosted consideration and driven strong financial results.

It’s a platform that she has built to last for the foreseeable future as she believes “consistency is underrated”. So much so she told her boss that “if for any reason I leave or fall under a bus, don’t change the advertising campaign, for God’s sake”.

She added: “Nobody killed the Andrex puppy after six months.”

Being too forward thinking is perhaps a fatal trait for marketers, who spend far more time up close and personal with their advertising and communications than a target customer ever will. “As marketers, we get bored,” she said, speaking at Marketing Week’s Leadership Summit last week. “We don’t do consistency.”

Getting the C-suite on board with longer-term brand building and getting sign off for investment can be a challenge, so she advised marketers not to “show up talking about brand and brand metrics [as] you might as well be talking a different language”. Instead, Jobling believes marketers need to “get close to” business partners. As NatWest’s CMO, she quickly forged relationships with other teams.

“First, I would say, find a finance friend who can literally walk you through the P&L,” she told the assembled marketers. “You need to be able to understand it.”

NatWest’s Margaret Jobling on her success balancing purpose and profitNatWest’s business is split into three divisions, with each having its own CEO. “You basically need to man-to-man mark the CEOs and really get close to their priorities,” she said, emphasising just how crucial it is to both get them on side and show how marketing is driving business outcomes.

“They don’t know what marketing does really,” she added, encouraging marketers to show CEOs how it works and where the money being spent in one area shows up elsewhere in the results.

Jobling, Marketing Week’s 2022 Marketer of the Year, said it helped that two of the three CEOs at NatWest were also new to the business when she joined, and so had an outside perspective that can be invaluable when analysing a brand.

Marketing is not an island

Jobling has also worked to bring more alignment to the marketing team and help it better integrate with the rest of the business since she joined.

In her early meetings with the group’s CEOs, they told her “marketing was an island” – it felt separated from the business. Not only that, but within the function, she discovered divides within the team.

“My department was fighting each other, brand didn’t speak to performance, performance didn’t speak to brand,” she said. Jobling considered this to be “bonkers”.

“I did a total reset,” she added. And it worked. The top dogs at NatWest were open to it and “suddenly it felt like they [the rest of the business] had somebody at the table listening to them”.

If people like you, they’re much more likely to pick the phone up, and forgive you when you mess up.

Margaret Jobling, NatWest

Jobling also rationalised the number of partnerships and sponsorships the brand had, stating: “There’s a massive misconception in business to do 50 things and get 50 results, but one fat bullet is better than 30 little ones.”

In the process of resetting NatWest’s marketing function, around 15% of the team departed. When it came to gaining support for the changes being implemented, Jobling reflected that around 15% were “totally up for it”, 15% weren’t, with a more agnostic group in the middle.

Jobling advises marketers looking to make changes to focus on getting those who are on-side from the get-go to be cheerleaders. “Get your coalition,” she said, as the positive people will be able to bring along those who are in the middle. At the time, one of NatWest’s leaders told Jobling she felt she’d been “chucked in the washing machine,” however, that person is now one of the “biggest advocates” for how NatWest gets things done.

Career lessons

When asked about managing key agency relationships, Jobling said “if you treat them like a supplier, you’ll get a supplier relationship”. However, if marketers treat their agencies as partners, they’ll get a partnership.

When working together with agencies, Jobling focuses on figuring how the two sides can solve issues “together”. Also key, she added, is to make sure agencies aren’t “fearful of being ousted” at any point.

NatWest’s Margaret Jobling crowned Marketer of the YearJobling also reflected on her career to date and the lessons she’s learnt. “I definitely think it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “I was in a hurry,” she added, noting how she’s actually “more relaxed” now.

The skills marketers need today can be a contentious issue. But for Jobling, it’s skills that “get you to the table,” whereas it’s a marketer’s “EQ and ability to build relationships [that] drives outcome,” adding that marketers need to put value on both.

“If people like you, they’re much more likely to pick the phone up, and forgive you when you mess up,” she concluded.