What does a Chief Marketing Officer at OpenJaw Technologies do?
Creating, communicating and delivering the marketing propositions globally for one of Ireland’s biggest travel tech brands. We have blue-chip customers all over the world such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Hainan Airlines, Four Seasons and Avis. Fun fact: I get to organise a conference in a big Chinese city every year for 40+ Chinese airlines - in Chinese!
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
Half my career has been working in major airline brands such as Thomas Cook, bmi-British Midland and Stobart Air. The other half has been working in tech companies such as IONA Technologies and a few eCommerce startups. The combination of expertise in tech, digital, eCommerce and travel is pretty unique. Of course, spending time out on a Smurfit MBA, and living internationally for years has been part of it.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Dealing with international customers, offices and partners. OpenJaw has full time employees in China, Spain, Poland, and, of course, Ireland. We have eight Chinese airline clients and lots of Chinese colleagues, so it’s a been an amazing lesson in cultural differences – and similarities.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
The normal skills that marketers need in 2019: strategy expertise, a deep understanding of tactics, people management skills, an open approach to experimentation and failure, deep knowledge of digital tools and technologies and their capabilities, excellent communication skills – and, most important of all, an ability to recognise your own biases. All marketers should be experts in their own biases and recognise when your opinion is overriding the data.
Describe a typical working day.
The answer is - it depends on the time of year! August to November days are tied up in making the major events that OpenJaw run in Europe and China the best in the industry…..getting speakers, lining up customers and so on. Much of our work at the moment is in setup mode – we are about to announce some major new customers, so there is a lot of communications to deliver. OpenJaw have also launched a number of brand new products and platforms, including a Big Data platform and an AI Powered Conversational Interface. This has meant that I have had to develop a deep level of expertise in understanding Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.
One of the big changes in the working day I have introduced in 2019 is the implementation of Agile Marketing programmes. We have had some success – it's been a real eye-opener. However, we have a long way to go!
What do you love most about your role?
I have always loved travel - have visited around 70 countries at the last count – so getting to deal with people from all over the globe is the best bit. Spending lots of time in China, understanding the cities, people and culture has been a real highlight. You have not lived until you have had the mouth burnt off you eating a Sichuan Hotpot in Chengdu in western China.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Who knows? I have lots to get done in OpenJaw, and outside of my day job, I am a columnist for Marketing Week magazine, I programme DMX Dublin and teach marketing and digital marketing in the UK and Ireland – up to 100 hours a year. More teaching, lecturing and writing sounds like a good plan!
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
I am a big book reader: I often say the best thing about me doing the MBA was that I realised I loved reading. As a result, most of the professional inspiration comes from authors who I use to inspire me in my job and in my writing.
I particularly like writers who undermine any previously held view that I had. Former DMX headliner, Ryan Holiday is somebody I really admire. Michael Lewis writing about almost anything. Marketing writers – Al Ries, Robert Cialdini, and, of course, fellow Marketing Week columnist, Mark Ritson.
Colin Lewis is lecturing on the Marketing Institute’s Executive Diploma in Strategic Digital Marketing, starting on 8th April. More details on mii.ie/execdiploma