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Marketing Matters… with Una FitzGibbon, Director of Marketing and Communications, Bord Bia

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 5 June 2019

Una Fitzgibbon

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.

Una FitzGibbon: Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board’s job is to promote the Food, Drink and Horticulture industry, bringing Ireland’s outstanding produce to the world, thus enabling the growth and sustainability of our producers. As a force for insight, reputation building and fostering an entrepreneurial and skills culture in the industry, we contribute to its sustainable growth at home and abroad.

Headquartered in Dublin, Bord Bia has a network of overseas offices in EMEA, Asia and US territories.

I look after the marketing teams based in Dublin and together our job is to build reputation for growth - creating relevance, differentiation and preference through effective marketing at home and abroad enabling producers and the industry to thrive and grow, whilst building the corporate value for Bord Bia in doing so.

This involves insight led strategic planning, brand management, content and advertising creation, digital marketing, customer and consumer activation and experience marketing and ongoing measurement and evaluation - working across the food chain with clients and customers as key stakeholders to bring our brands to life.

I’m married to John, a mother of two boys and my interests include music, the visual arts, historical architecture, cooking and gardening.


Why did you choose a career in marketing?

I was motivated by the long term value of marketing and the fact that it’s a very creative profession where I would be active in solving complex tasks. I was also attracted to the idea of connecting with and influencing a lot of people - predicting customer behaviours and creating and executing work to resonate with people for impact. I was also highly attracted to marketing as a profession that is wide open to innovation. Marketing helps us to think outside the box and to create new approaches for solving different problems. This is something which makes a real difference in the business world. The possibility of adapting and performing with innovation to bring positivity to people’s lives is a continued motivator for me. To be part of changing things for the better.


In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge marketers are facing today? How would you tackle it?

The biggest challenge Marketers are facing is their discipline being silo-ed in organisations and not understood and valued as an integral part of the business to drive its success.

The strategic importance of branding lies not only in effective positioning in the national and international marketplace, but in informing internal arrangements, for example culture, values, behaviours and product and service development to deliver the truth of the brand. Branding is most useful as a point of connection for all stakeholders to drive business forwards.

Whilst branding is commonplace as a tool used by marketers to sell to consumers, it is also a discipline that should be deployed by leaders to aid communication and guide multiple stakeholder impressions and actions. The brand can express vision, purpose and values in addition to communicating differentiation, relevance and value. By doing so, the brand extends its relevance beyond the world of marketing and takes its rightful place as an asset of the CEO and leadership team.

Marketing represents the voice of the customer and marketers know how to influence that customer for business growth. In an age of transparency, brands need to deliver on their reality and business can’t expect marketing to operate in an old mind-set vacuum of surface messaging without aligned business behaviours in an enterprise wide sense.

This can be tackled by marketers’ deeply understanding business, collaborating and working cross functionally with ease and through plain and common language, and always seeking answers to the purpose of their work from the business for alignment by asking why.


What advice would you give to someone starting a career in marketing?

Align yourself from the beginning with great marketing thinkers and business people who value marketing. The liberation of mind and the adoption of creative innovation has helped me in my career. From the early days mentors like Tony Meenaghan (my Marketing lecturer in UCD) and Tim Ambler (Managing Director in Diageo and now fellow of the London Business School) were very important for me in that way.

Be open to converting your academic understanding of marketing through simplified process to deliver great marketing. The practical application of marketing process is what matters in the real marketing world.

I have over the last 2 years with my team built a best practice Marketing Way for more simplified, fast and consistent marketing communications management and we continue to roll it out underpinned by new and effective approaches to digital marketing that is driving our marketing effectiveness higher and closer to business growth.

Being insight led in your strategic planning together with an ability to simplify marketing process for organisation wide and stakeholder wide alignment will drive your marketing to the heights it deserves to occupy.

For me, that has resulted in our marketing communications being agile and fast whilst accurately building on the perceptual strengths of Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture distinguished from our competition in our prospect’s mind.


What makes a great marketer?

Great marketers need to have an understanding of human behaviour and an intuitive sense of how, when and where to speak to different audiences and form deep emotional connections with them through crafted narrative.

In today’s digital realm marketers need to be avid learners with first rate knowledge of the tools and technology needed for digital optimisation and automation solutions that can assist the marketing effort.

Great marketers have a creative mind with the ability to generate new, actionable, and relevant ideas on how to drive growth for business.

The ability to interpret data, unlock insight and use it to inform marketing work is fundamental to great marketing as is a strategic approach.

Great marketers also have a results orientation to satisfy their growth mind-set. They are relentlessly focused on getting better, building on success, with a test and fail and move on after learning agility through their work.

What sets great marketers apart though is their ability to connect the dots - bringing information from different channels, platforms and parts of the business together into a holistic picture and drawing meaning from it for decision making. They are systemic in their thinking and their approach and highly collaborative bringing the voice and value of the customer to bear on the business for business benefit.


What is your favourite marketing campaign of all time? Why?

This is such a tough one because I’m an admirer of so many great campaigns and over many years. My most recent high level admiration though must go to Under Armour for its Rule Yourself - I Will campaign and its award winning advertising featuring Michael Phelps in 2016. I love the campaign for the sheer brilliance of its redefinition of what matters in athleticism - that an athlete’s greatness is fuelled not by their wins but by their sacrifices. The campaign line of “it’s what you do in the dark that puts you into the light” captures the true meaning of greatness and turns on its head the very reason to engage with a sports brand. I love it also for the true human story that was Michael Phelps at that phase in his life working to regenerate himself to Olympian standard. It gave the innovator and disruptor Under Armour brand a genuineness that the larger Nike and Adidas in all their maturity as brands just missed. For me the insight, tone and feeling the campaign engenders through its biographical, filmic and documentary style is the kind that advertisers will need to engender more, as responsible communicators, in the context of consumers’ lives now and in the future. Tones of inner strength, personal resilience, capacity to regenerate…against all odds. I say this of course in the context of the great challenges of our time since 2008 – the banking collapse, impending global trade wars, socio political division, climate change and the global need for sustainability for individuals, communities and the planet. Brands that provide genuine, real product and service benefits that assist consumers in rising to these challenges can only connect and lock people to those brands while the superficial brands of no substance or irrelevance simply fade away or are wiped out by the anger they ensue in promising below or above their station. There’s much to learn from the Under Armours of this world.


Where do you look for professional inspiration?

My greatest inspiration is my own team – a highly dedicated group of 20 talented professionals who enjoy their work, are insight led, continuous learners and who live the values of Bord Bia every day.

I’m also inspired by great thinkers – like Ries & Trout the original proponents of the concept of positioning, Kotler the great father of modern marketing, John Fanning a huge figure in creative advertising, Seth Godin for breakthrough marketing understanding and Les Binet for reminding us what marketing is ultimately for. I’m currently enjoying Friction by Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg which argues that brands don't simply need clever surface messages or new, shiny technologies. They need a fundamental change in strategy, and vitally systems for embracing transparency, engaging audiences, creating evangelists, and unleashing unprecedented growth.

I’m particularly inspired by brand influence in the sphere of brand purpose meeting the global challenge of sustainability including but not limited to the poignant words and speeches of David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Michael D. Higgins.

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