Sir John Hegarty: ‘Brands today are populated by many people who don’t understand the basics of marketing’

Ahead of the Creative Business Symposium at SohoCreate, which is being held in partnership with Marketing Week sister title Creative Review, Sir John Hegarty shares his views on the role creativity should play in driving business growth and what it takes to be a modern marketer.


What role should creativity play in driving business growth?

Creativity is fundamental to business growth. People forget that a new business idea is more often a creative act. Maintaining that idea and driving its success requires creativity to be at the heart of the business. Think what Apple would have been have like without the driving force of the late Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive? Just don’t be afraid of creativity. It’s an ally.

Are creative and marketing industries at risk of losing out to tech companies and digital media giants? How should the industry address the potential talent gap?

Brands today are populated by many marketing people who don’t understand the basics of marketing. They are in thrall to technology not ideas. Technology enables opportunity; creativity creates value.

This has got to be the best time ever to be in marketing yet we’re seeing very little that captures the consumer’s imagination. Big brand-driving ideas are few and far between. Constant change seems to be the dominating force, yet value is created by consistency and a desire to refresh that consistency, making it constantly relevant.

Mark Ritson recently wrote that marketers are increasingly focusing on tactics rather than strategy – do you think there is too much work being created without the growth agenda in mind?

A great client is one who sets out a clear strategy, adheres to that and encourages all the teams that work on that brand to produce the best they can, making sure that all ideas clearly articulate the brand idea, building success. I think Mark Ritson is absolutely right.

We write a lot about ‘the modern marketer’ and the role that data plays, how have marketers changed over your time in the industry?

Data has always been important to a marketer. However the belief that data solely drives your business decisions is dangerous. We call this ‘wind tunnel’ marketing. Why? Everyone will have access to the same data [leading to] the same conclusions, meaning brands will look the same. The purpose of a brand is to offer difference. Without that there’s no competition. That’s fairly fundamental.

Sir John Hegarty is speaking at the Creative Business Symposium at SohoCreate in partnership with Creative Review, which takes place on 8 June. Click here for more information.



There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Andy K 28 Nov 2016

    My favourite John Hegarty mumbling was that “no company every made money out of data’ despite having Google as a client. Urber has just revealed itself as a data company. I suppose you have to hang onto the remnants of the ‘big idea’ if you make all your money out of TV advertising and press.

  2. NeoMatrix 28 Nov 2016

    “Everyone will have access to the same data [leading to] the same conclusions, meaning brands will look the same. ” – Is this guy even for real. That is like saying if you give the same cycle to every cyclist, then all of them will win gold all the time.

    If this guy had even an iota of business sense, he would have known that even if same data ‘might’ lead to same conclusion, same conclusion does not lead to same execution. It is advertising execs such as him who pretend to be marketers and end up giving real marketers (who are essentially business execs) a bad name.

  3. CASPER GORNIOK 30 Nov 2016

    Guys, you seem to forget that what Sir John Hegarty is really saying is that Marketing should be an “all-inclusive” discipline. Customers are all ages/lifestages and it is illogical to have Marketing Millennial-led. For starters, this age group doesn’t have the highest disposable incomes. Like so many things in life, a “balanced” approach is what is needed. And yes, I am completing my Google Digital Marketing Course right now. You also need to look at the bigger picture that actually it is about Sales & Marketing working together as one entity to develop the optimum commercial plan for short, medium and long-term KPI’s to be achieved. Oh, and having the SAME KPI’s too.

  4. claus holm 30 Nov 2016

    Marketing is about data and insights. Rarely companies are capable of mirroring their data to the general public to create the necessary insights in their target groups. Without that knowledge they are fencing in the dark unable to make sound choices on marketing channels and how to execute on them. Big media companies are today more about designing execution plans and schemes from insights and not about media buying. The creatives involved is just a vessel – channel is the highway. Both have their different specialists and it will remain so. Advertising agencies are not very good in executing media strategies, media agencies are not very great at thinking creative concepts. However, media agencies have to think creatively in how to execute and optimize campaigns effectively.

Leave a comment