Zoe Harris was originally in charge of all things insight and communications-related as group marketing director at Trinity Mirror. In February, she also had a short stint as publishing director of the doomed New Day newspaper, with the female-targeted publication folding after 10 weeks.
However, since the beginning of August she has been put in charge of an extra division – the ‘invention’ team, which essentially looks “to bring creative solutions to sales”.
This role was traditionally held by Mark Field for two years, who held a sales background. But rather than replace Field like-for-like, Trinity Mirror instead opted to put a marketer at the heart of its creative ad solutions team. The business also decided to merge its marketing and insight team with its ‘invention’ division, placing consumer marketing and creative solutions in one bigger team.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Harris explains why the publisher is putting faith in her marketing expertise, how the business will benefit from a renewed ‘invention’ division and what learnings the company has taken from its failed New Day launch.
What does your new role entail?
In my old role, I headed up marketing, insight and communications across our regional and national titles. In the new role, I’m looking to add more marketing rigour to the creative solutions that we develop for our advertiser brands. For me, it’s really about understanding and putting our audiences who are massively engaged with our titles at the heart of our strategic thinking.
What skills could a marketer bring to this role that a sales person might not?
Marketers have a much greater understanding around brands’ strategic and creative needs. When it comes to the development of ideas, it’s insight-led. There is a shared understanding of the challenges that marketing directors face on the client-side, whether it’s digital, social or programmatic. We’re in the same boat. Marketers bring a deeper understanding of the challenges brands are facing to the table.
Why did the business believe it needed a head of invention?
The business wanted to bring together the creative part of the business as part of a bigger [consumer marketing] team to break down some of the siloes that exist. The insight we collect will be second to none, because there will be a much bigger team at the heart of the creative solution development. You pick things up organically when you’re sat next to someone who spends their whole life analysing readers and looking at what’s important to them. So we are putting insight at the heart of the creative solutions department.
I’m also really passionate about understanding populist and mass-market Britain, and to make sure that we don’t fall into a Soho or Shoreditch bubble and that we only have London at the heart of everything we do. Through our regional titles, we’re able to have a finger on the pulse of the mood of the nation and what’s important to our readers. When you look at Brexit, we were less surprised by the UK’s decision to leave the EU than other media owners.
We want genuine reactivity, a real-time sense of what’s happening and fast-paced insights, so we can really add value for brands. We are also looking to editorialise brands more. We want to take learnings of social media and help brands put that across more of their communications. Social media isn’t just what you do on Facebook and Twitter, it’s about understanding that people like to see the personalities and individuals behind the brand. They like a more informal type of communication and to be replied to. But often [editorial and marketing] still sits in siloes for brands.
You were previously publishing director for New Day, which folded quickly after its launch. What did you take away from this?
There are various learnings that still resonate with us now. Some of the New Day learnings are being integrated in other editorial projects. There’s this sense that British people are actually feeling pretty cheerful about life at the moment [which is what New Day put at the heart of its proposition by taking a cheerful disposition]. We are now looking at understanding that mood and how we can put that across all our products, as well as any new initiatives, whether it’s a new section, app or a series on Facebook. There are lots of different iterations we can create using insights from that project and use it to our commercial advantage.
Print figures are falling and publishers are facing a challenging time. How is the business ensuring it remains innovative?
When you look at the roots of our portfolio cross-platform, we have never reached as many readers as we do now. Of course the challenge is to make successful business models off the back of that. I think there’s a huge amount of potential for us to take what we do brilliantly, which is understanding Britain, and then moving at a faster pace to deliver content in new formats and through platforms that will appeal.
Zoe Harris will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which is running on the 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.