Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.
A graduate of COMAD in 1995, I am the Culture & Strategy Director at MCCP. We are an independent strategy agency providing a range of proprietary strategy services including: brand and communications strategy, primary research and analysis, trend watching, innovation programme development (front-end & idea generation) and purpose driven culture transformation.
In my role as Culture Director, we partner organisations who want to create a unified purpose and aligned mission for everyone, which enables sustainable growth. Over the past decade organisations have placed a big emphasis on driving operational effectiveness. People and culture are central to this process.
Culture goes much deeper than performance however, it is the oil in the strategy engine. Culture or ‘the way we do things around here’ can help to either deliver or inhibit strategy.
Today, culture has become a modern-day business imperative that leads to a 20-30% differential in performance, according to the HBR. Based on world class research from Harvard and IESE school of business, and with international partners, we have a powerful set of tools and culture change methodologies called Management by Missions, with shared mission at the centre.
In my civilian life, I am married to Nuala, with three wonderful children who teach me something new every day.
Why did you choose a career in marketing?
Like most students doing the Leaving Cert, I’m not sure I had a clear picture of what a career in marketing could look like. But I did have an interest in communications and a curiosity about how people made decisions. Marketing also offered me a wide diversity of roles. Looking back, I have spent almost all of my career on the agency side which has meant a huge variety of projects, clients, challenges and successes, and I’m grateful for all of this.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge marketers are facing today? How would you tackle it?
Almost all organisations and businesses have a service component to their offer. While the brand and marketing communications set expectations, there is often a ‘say-do’ gap at the point of service delivery. Frontline staff are either unaware of or unengaged with the brand promise being made. Brand owners spend time and care crafting the right message, without acculturating the brand into front line staff behaviours. We have found that from the shop floor up, staff needed to “buy into” the brand purpose to align their day-to-day actions with what is being promised to customers.
Make no mistake, embedding the brand into the culture of your organisation is not a simple, easy fix. It requires time and commitment from everyone in the organisation, from the CEO down. From working with a wide range of clients, some key points we have learned include
- Build the brand from the inside out. From proposition development to communications launch and roll out, staff who will deliver the brand experience should have a role in co-creating the brand. If staff cannot support the promise being made in communications, the brand is destined to failure
- In addition to a sense of brand ownership, staff need to be able to link on-brand attitudes with rewards and recognition, it’s not just “what you do”, but “how you do it” that counts
- Staff need clear, consistent and regular communication about what is expected of them and their role in delivering a branded experience for customers
- Leadership in the organisation need to “walk the talk” and role model actions and behaviours. If leadership can’t do this, why should we expect modestly paid front-line staff to follow?
What advice would you give to someone starting a career in marketing?
Get experience in a variety of fields; sales, communications, PR, digital, research, strategy and so on. Learn the fundamental and practical principles of each, they will stand to you later.
Find a mentor outside your employer who will help develop your thinking and read widely. Find a sponsor inside your employer, it isn’t always your line manager, and heed their advice and guidance.
What makes a great marketer?
The focus to cut through the noise of data and identify the insight that is actionable. The intelligence to make the business case internally and get the whole organisation on side. The self-awareness to understand that you need a great team of colleagues and support agencies around you and finally the courage to act on that initial, focused insight.
What is your favourite marketing campaign of all time? Why?
Not very original, I know, but Guinness Swimmer from the early 2000’s has always stuck with me.
It would have been a hard act to follow the perennial best ad of all time, ‘Surfer’, however this build on the core idea of ‘Good Things Come to Those Who Wait’, has a wry, human, sense of humour and personality.
Where do you look for professional inspiration?
I read as widely as time will allow; fiction, biography, politics and business all have something we can learn from, even if it is how not to do things!
My colleagues all come to MCCP with different skills, standpoints and mindsets. We work in a very collaborative manner and I am always pleasantly surprised by what diversity of perspective, carefully curated and rigorously interrogated, can produce.