The Marketing Institute of Ireland sat down recently with Tony Franco & Richard Oldham for our Meet the Trainer Series before their new 8 week Insightful Thinking Programme starting on October 8th. To learn more about the course, join our webinar on 3rd September.


MII: Hi Tony & Richard? Thanks for taking the time out to answer some of questions and to introduce you both to our members. To start, what does your roles involve?

Tony : I’m a facilitator, trainer and coach. I help individuals and teams perform at their best and achieve their goals. I run my own business, Franco London, but often collaborate with other people, such as Richard Oldham, who I’m partnering with in developing the Insightful Thinking Programme.

Richard : The hats I wear include Brand / Innovation Consultant, Strategic Planner, Consumer Insight specialist and Marketing Capabilities trainer, but at the heart of these interwoven roles is a passion and an aptitude for helping the people who drive ambitious businesses to move further, faster … through the skillsets of strategic and consumer-inspired marketing, branding and innovation

What route did you take to this role, i.e. what did you study in college, experience on the way?

Tony : I’ve always been a marketing professional. My work has taken me all over the world and I’ve worked across many different categories. I started off in the client side of the business, working as brand manager for Nestlé. I then moved to the agency side of the business, working for Added Value, which became Kantar Consulting. My projects focused on innovation and brand strategy, with consumer insight at the heart of everything.  For the past 15 years I decided to start my own business, continuing to focus on marketing related projects. In recent years I’ve become more interested in the people who run businesses, so have focused more and more on capability building and coaching.

Richard : I’ve always loved taking things to bits to see how they work, then trying to make them work better. I got my first break in marketing in a small TTL agency in the account management team, but as soon as I could I jumped into strategic account planning at Ogilvy&Mather in London to work on the Unilever and Guinness advertising accounts. A few years on I moved into brand consultancy to focus on strategic brand development and innovation at The Value Engineers. After 15 years there I set sail under my own steam, to spend more time working directly with clients rather than in management meetings. I now work with both multinational and start up clients, across multiple categories

How important do you think continued upskilling and continuous professional development is to marketing?

Tony : It’s the secret to success. We should never stop learning. The world is moving rapidly and becoming more competitive. Continuing to learn new skills, both from formal and informal sources will ensure we stay relevant and raise our levels of performance. Skill development comes from everywhere. We can learn from our peers, line managers as well as thought leaders. We learn in lots of different ways. Through reading, listening to podcasts, experimenting ‘on the job’ as well as attending classes.

Richard : Marketing is one of the most inherently dynamic work environments imaginable. Like the shifting sands of the Sahara, the landscape is constantly changing and evolving. While the basic principles may remain more or less stable, the need to keep abreast of fresh perspectives, best practice and new models of thinking is continuous. Great marketers are like sponges, constantly absorbing and processing new stimuli to find new angles and give their brands the edge they need in a highly competitive marketplace

What benefits can attendees hope to obtain from attending training programmes?

Richard : The Chinese say that chaos creates opportunity, and with the tempestuous context we’re living through at the moment there’s never been a greater need for professionals to keep abreast of the latest thinking and case studies. This is important for steering the brands, businesses and people they work with, as well for developing their personal brand. Inspiration can strike anywhere and it’s vital to keep sharpening your core skills as well as stepping out of your comfort zone to gather new ones too.

Tony : Attending formal programmes gives you time to think and to really focus. Trying to fit in professional development in between your daily work challenges is not easy. A training programme gives you the opportunity to reflect, explore and discover. You can ask the difficult questions and really push yourself, away from the stresses of the day job.

What do you consider as the key criteria for training to be effective?

Tony : Effective training has to be useful and applicable to your job role. If you can’t see how it could help you solve the problems your face, then it’s not a good use of your time. It should provide useful tools, models and frameworks. It also needs to be illuminating, offering a sense of inspiration and discovery. Great training should also be enjoyable. Time should fly by and you should feel you’ve challenged and stretched yourself.

Richard : Training shouldn’t be one way – the best training is a dialogue between trainer and participant and in the best training situations both sides leave feeling they’ve got something out of the experience. We ask participants to bring an open mind and in return we will challenge you, stretch you, work with you and learn together

What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?

Richard : The single biggest challenge facing marketers today is resisting the temptation to leap to assumptions about the way the near future is going to unfold and how consumers will behave. Businesses that are guided by robust data and insight with clear strategic thinking will emerge stronger than those who jump first and ask questions later.

Tony : I think they’re the same as they’ve ever been. We continue to ask the same questions. How can we grow? How can we stay relevant? How can we create true differentiation? We’re always trying to manage the short and the long term. Delivering short term results to keep the business happy whilst building long term brand assets that will secure our future.

What trends are shaping marketing briefs in 2020 post Covid-19?

Tony : Firstly, it’s about adaptability. How can we use our assets to adapt to the new consumer realities? Secondly it’s about doing more with less. Seeing the constraints we’re operating under as opportunities for innovation and re-invention.

Richard : The big issues from before Covid are now being thrown into sharper focus: building brands with purpose; putting sustainability at the heart of commercial reality; riding the tsunami of the West to East power shift; and maximising the potential of digital, especially for non-tech brands

And finally to whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

Tony : I’m always reading. I’ve always got at least one marketing or business book on the go. At the moment it’s Richard Shotton’s ‘The Choice Factory’. I’m always looking for book recommendations. I also go back to the ‘classic’ writers and thinkers on a regular basis when researching material for training programmes. Hans Rosling, Tom Peters, Seth Godin. I follow people on Linkedin, such as Mark Ritson, who always has a provocative point of latest development and read reports from respected research bodies, to ensure I stay up to date. And of course, I always learn from clients. My work gives me fresh understanding of current business challenges across different markets. It’s a real privilege.

Richard : It’s bit old school, but I’m a non-fiction junkie and can often be found with my nose in a good book … either directly business-related or something tangential which might through up some useful insights into the way we think, learn, behave and shop. On my desk at the moment are The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) and Nudge (Thaler & Sunstein). I’m lucky to work with some super-inspiring colleagues – Tony Franco, who I run the Insightful Thinking course with, is always a trove of ideas and perspectives


For more information on Tony’s & Richard’s new 8 week programme Insightful Thinking starting on October 8, please follow this link.