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Welcome to MII Learning Insights. Here we will share course reviews and trainer interviews. Would you like to share a piece of content relating to learning and development? Contact training@mii.ie

 

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Meet the Trainer....Brian Sparks, Managing Partner at Agency Assessments Ireland

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Monday 19 August 2019
Updated: Monday 19 August 2019

  

 

What does Brian Sparks do?

Consultant, Trainer and Lecturer at Agency Assessments Ireland – the leading consultancy in Ireland for agency reviews (pitches) and advice on getting the best out of your agency partners, roster management and payment by performance reviews. 

 

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

I have a classic business education with a B.Comm from UCD  and an MBA from the Smurfit Business School. Along the way I have had many years’ client experience at the coal face of marketing for Irish Distillers in Dublin and Guinness in Ireland , Malaysia and Africa.  Along the way I also worked on the agency side for Irish International (BBDO) and as Managing Director for McCann Erickson in its Dublin office. Plus guest lecturing at the Irish Marketing Institute, Irish Management institute and Smurfit Business School. Since joining Agency Assessments I have managed a multitude of pitches and client/agency relationship projects in Ireland, UK , Europe and the US.  

 

How important do you think continued up-skilling and continuous professional development is to marketing?

The pace of change in marketing and the channels of communications is rapid. Only the consumer is keeping pace with these developments. Unless we as marketers stay on top of the learning curve we run the real risk of being left behind. It is no longer tolerable to just be aware of developments. Continuous professional development demands an insightful understanding of their implications for us as practitioners and for the changing role of marketing and communications in the wider societal context.  

 

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

A practical guide to best practice briefing underpinned by practical ‘best practice’ examples from leading companies and brands.

 

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

Loads of real life examples and case studies. Loads of questions.  Loads of participation and dialogue from participants. 

 

What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?

Everyone talks about the pace of change and the challenges of the technical revolution. They are of course right. These are major challenges.  But the real progress can only be made if we fully understand how people and communities face up to and adapt to these changes. In the past companies and brands grew by talking AT CONSUMERS. Now the balance has shifted so that CONSUMERS hold the balance of power.  Companies and their brands need to play a much more responsible and socially conscious role in the markets that they participate in and in the communities that they sell their brands. Underestimate the power of the consumer at your peril. 

 

What trends are shaping marketing briefs in 2019?

There is an increasing recognition that briefs now need to be centered around developing communications for a much broader range of channels. It used to be just ‘off line’ and then over recent years it then included ‘online’. But now briefs need to take in many other channels and influences including PR, Events, Sponsorships, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, Business to Consumer , Business to Business, Touch Points, Paths to Purchase, Acquisition, Retention and the diversity  and segmentation of  audiences that will be targeted.

Finally marketeers need be conscious of the wider context in which the resultant communication will be viewed. The Media are an ever waiting critic when brands  over step the mark. 

 

What are the current challenges that marketers face around crafting an effective agency brief?

All of the above !

 

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

It is great that marketing has become much more accountable and measurable and that knowledge is spread so widely and so freely. I take my inspiration from Effectiveness case studies and there are many to choose from here in Ireland (AFFX) and abroad (EFFIES). And Creative awards (Cannes in particular and ICAD/Shark locally ) provide an enormous gallery of great creative work to review and take inspiration from.  And hats off to the Irish agencies that won this year in Cannes. They call it punching above our weight

 

Brian Sparks is the trainer of the Marketing Institute’s How to write a Creative Brief  taking place on 9th October 2019. More details on https://mii.ie/event/creative-brief 

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Meet the Trainer... Paul Smith, Author, Speaker & Advisor

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Monday 5 August 2019
Updated: Wednesday 24 July 2019

  

 

What does PR Smith, or Paul Smith do?

 

Author, Speaker/Trainer & Advisor www.PRSmith.org + founder of SOSTAC® planning framework. Also founded the NFP Great Sportsmanship Programme to inspire youths through short stories about sportsmanship.

 

 

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

 

B.Sc. (mngt) DIT, then I got my MII Graduateship studying at night (I had started working with a Belgian Multinational in Dublin). After two years, I was offered a position in our new London office, so I moved and watched a lot of live music almost every night! To avoid becoming an alcoholic, I signed up for evening classes: PG Dip Finance in Southbank Poly (now Uni). After that I wanted to do an MBA part-time but my multinational wouldn’t give me the half day off, so I resigned, started the MBA  & simultaneously started marketing Christmas Crackers in the USA. This paid for my MBA and gave me confidence to market innovations (there were no crackers in the USA at the time!). I also started teaching accounting and marketing in five different locations in London – buzzing around on my Yamaha 125. I fell off three times in one day (I had never before, or after, fallen off a motorbike) – I learned that things happen in threes and got the final interview (re crackers) after sitting, sore and bruised in the rain in a puddle in a car park in Heathrow 30 minutes earlier [sounds like Monty Python ‘So you were lucky to be born in a cardboard box on a motorway’…!). Since then, I developed the SOSTAC® Planning framework and worked around the world in mostly innovative businesses. 

 

 

How important do you think continued up-skilling and continuous professional development is to marketing?

 

Now, more than ever before, it is critical as (a) tech change is almost exponential  (b) there is also a fundamental need for marketing orientated thinking and (c) refresh events/courses, like a book, if you get one great idea you win. If you get several – you are sucking the proverbial.   Today, I am learning more about marketing than ever before – almost all free and online – continuously, everyday – trying to set aside time.

 

 

What benefits can attendees hope to obtain from attending your training course?

 

A solid crystal-clear logical structure for making plans and decisions amidst a chaotic fast-changing digital world. So, tools and techniques for digital marketing. Plus, the more general skills: how to write the perfect plan; how to make great decisions; how to reduce risk; how to create strategies; how to avoid classic errors.     

 

 

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

Enjoyable interaction and engagement with delegates. Carefully structured content.Memorable & actionable instruction (& content). Break everything down into actionable steps. Have reference material to look back on later when you need it. Measure where you are now (e.g. with your campaign results) then compare this to the results in the weeks, months, quarters and years to come. Also, an inquisitive mind requires confidence, so to gain confidence in what you are doing and be interested (and confident enough) to ask great questions to continually improve. 

 

What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?

We create our own barriers by not talking turkey with the board and financial directors in particular. With digital, everything is much easier to measure e.g. ROI of a website, an app, AI bots, a campaign. Boards get this. We can now also quantify the value of our funnel – the financial value of a visitor, a prospect, a hot prospect, a customer and a lifetime customer. Also Sentiment Analysis and NPS, although criticised by some, but, they are numbers and boards like numbers.  We have a screaming opportunity to break down this barrier and enter the boardroom. BTW don’t embarrass your FD in public but do ask: if he/she agrees that data is your greatest asset? When they say ‘yes’ ask them why isn’t in on the balance sheet then (in a friendly way).   We are not the ‘colouring department’! We are the custodians of two of your three greatest assets: the brand and data. Help them understand this. One other challenge is of course keeping up with digital transformation, particularly, AI, and customer mind states (shortened attention spans, time poor, convenience driven and information fatigued customers).

What trends are shaping marketing strategies in 2019?

Integration of AI into marketing at all levels; Marketing Automation integrating with CRM; Developing constant beta culture (which may well be replaced by immediate AI predicting best campaigns, words, pictures, pitches – already happening).  GDPR, of course, is good for marketing as it ensures we build and protect one of our greatest assets.  Lifetime CX, Personalisation, Contact Strategies, ‘Always On’ campaigns, Audio search. 

 

 

What are the current challenges and opportunities that marketers face around building long-term sustainable competitive advantage in 2019?   

Harnessing AI (& bots), Data, IoT, AR/VR (& other new sensory experiences) & MA  to add continuously add personalised value to the CX - also See Q6 & 7. Hyper competition is just warming up and the big data platforms are accelerating it. Beware of the Dark Web (see how it helped BREXIT & Trump www.PRSmith.org/blog ) & beware of rampant, unregulated use of  AI & Data. Finally, purpose and human-centred marketing may determine the quality of employees you recruit.

  

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

My co-author & founder of Smart Insights, Dave Chaffey;  Ireland’s own Gerry McGovern; my client and friend, Dr. Eddie O’Conner and his latest outrageously innovative project www.SuperNode.Energy; Robert Pirsig (author Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), interviewing the late Professors Ted Levitt and Peter Doyle  as part of the world’s first marketing training programme delivered on CDs (remember those?) and the late great Chris Berry with whom I had the privilege of sharing an office for 20 years and who still inspires me today. 

 

Paul Smith is the lead on one of the Marketing Institute’s Marketing Strategy and Tactics course, taking place on 26th September 2019.

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Meet the Trainer... Denise Doyle, Managing Director at Retail Republic

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Monday 10 June 2019
Updated: Friday 7 June 2019

  

 

What does a Managing Director of a Creative Consultancy do?

 

Typically my clients have smaller marketing teams and value an external marketer opinion.  Most of my day is spent writing marketing plans, moderating brand workshops or trafficking jobs through the studio ensuring all creative makes it through on-brief.  I usually wait until after close of business to do Managing Director duties like paying the bills and turning the lights off!  I have early starts and you can find me networking before breakfast at events that I am usually speaking at!

 

 

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

 

My primary degree is in marketing but my first job was in advertising way back in 1996.  It was a great time to enter adland, back when TV campaigns were a weekly occurrence and every agency was a stone’s throw from the next with premises dotted around Fitzwilliam Square – the original ‘creative quarter’! My days were happily spent as an Account Manager going between recording studio and post production houses with client meetings in between.  I then took a ‘travel the world sabbatical’ and returned to take up a role on client side in Unilever, Citywest. From there I navigated my now marketing career through Nestle, C&C, Meteor, Eir working on a portfolio of iconic Irish brands (Lyons Tea, Ballygowan, Club Orange, Meteor Mobile, Eir) across product and services marketing from research to NPD through to communications.   It turns out I love marketing as much as I love communications so I opened an agency that supplies both!

 

 

How important do you think continued up-skilling and continuous professional development is to marketing?

 

The constant flow of new digital platforms, digital tech and the pace of digital advertising demands up-skilling to keep ahead of trends happening faster than this industry is used to.  But it is not just digital advances that demand we up-skill it is also the pace of ‘emerging generations’ with their individual needs and requirements.  Marketers need to work on up-skilling to keep ahead of this massive shift in the marketing discipline.  The branding course which I lead for The Marketing Institute is designed to give marketers a fundamental understanding of brand and the branding processes to keep their communications relevant to whatever target audience challenges we face in the future.  

 

 

What benefits can attendees hope to obtain from attending a branding course?

 

In professional learning scenarios we sometimes feel we should know the material before we get there.   Branding has terms, processes and points of view that are complex and confusing.  My course is a blend of text book, current thinking and case study learning.  I bring in practical examples of scenarios I learned from during my time working on iconic Irish brands like Lyons Tea, Ballygowan and Meteor.  Participants will leave with clarity on branding terminology and brand processes as well as current brand thinking.    

 

 

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

Hands down effective training comes from a trainer who has industry experience.  Academic approaches are necessary for fundamental learning but professional training is where we learn to apply the theory to the everyday.  Sharing industry experiences is also the place where we learn perspective and this course is an ideal peer learning opportunity. 

 

What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?

 Data, demonstrating ROI, keeping up to date with digital plus the long term impact of short term digital tactics, are the challenges faced by every marketer. Something else however is piquing my interest – multiple generations taking part in a single society.  Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen z (iGen) all earning and having active roles in society is an exciting concept for today’s marketers. 

 

What trends are shaping marketer’s brand strategies in 2019?

1) Resurgence of branding
2) Customer experience (CX) for life-long customer relationships 
3) Gen Z – today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s young adults

 

 

What are the current challenges and opportunities that marketers face around brand development in 2019. 

The effect of ‘short-termism’ is being played out today in brands over reliance on short term promotions aimed at driving immediate sales peaks.  Brands need to remove the reliance on promotional tactics, weather a possible short term dip in sales and have confidence long term brand communications (which according to the excellent work of Field and Binet is circa 6 months).   Price promotions have become the heroin of today’s marketers, we need to detox.  

  

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

Fiona Curtain in Pernod Ricard (Dublin) and Mark Ritson Adjunct Marketing Professor (Melbourne) are two marketers whose opinions have always impressed me.  However, Lucinda Ardern is my absolute inspiration.  She is a born marketer.  She understands her audience needs, she designs her service around their requirements and delivers a service with absolute integrity, genuineness and empathy.  Her authentic customer first approach will impress and transcend multi generations which is of utmost importance to her role as custodian of Brand New Zealand. 

 

Denise Doyle is the lead on one of the Marketing Institute’s marketing fundamentals series,  Aligning Brand and Commercial Goals, taking place on 18th June 2019. More details on mii.ie/event/brand-workshop

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Meet the Trainer... Les Binet, Head of Effectiveness at adam&eveDDB

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Monday 27 May 2019
Updated: Monday 27 May 2019

Les-Binet

 

 

What does the Head of Effectiveness at adam&eveDBB do?

I measure the effectiveness of our clients’ marketing, help them to understand what works and what doesn’t, and help them to make it work better. It’s all about making better work, selling more stuff, and helping businesses make more money.



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

I’m a scientist and mathematician by training. I read Physics at University, and had my heart set on an academic career. But when I started doing academic research, I found it disappointingly narrow. I also realised that I was more interested in people than crystal structures! So I moved into Artificial Intelligence, where I was modelling the way people process language. But again, I found the academic life a bit stifling. And then, quite by chance, I fell into advertising. And I realised that one could study people in a business setting – and get paid for it!



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

We all need to keep learning and growing, no matter how senior we are. A lot of that happens on the job, of course, but there’s a lot to be said for taking time out of the office, stepping back, and looking at the fundamentals. Especially in marketing, where so many of the common assumptions about what we do are just plain wrong.



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

Well the obvious aim is to make you better at your job. But at their best, great training courses can change your whole life. I know that sounds like a tremendous exaggeration, but it’s true. I can immediately think of a couple courses that have helped me reshape my life, both in work and outside. 



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

Oh that’s hard. The material needs to be good, and relevant, of course. But the most important thing is the teacher. Teaching is a great art. It’s very hard to say where the magic lies, but you recognise it when you see it.



What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?  

There are lots of challenges. They have so many tools at their disposal, many of which are new and unproven, and it can be hard to understand which ones work best and how to deploy them well. And they are under relentless pressure to deliver results.



What are the current challenges and opportunities that marketers face in terms of marketing effectiveness?

We’ve never had better tools at our disposal for selling stuff, so this should be a golden age of marketing. But the numbers suggest that effectiveness is actually in decline, so something is clearly going wrong. I would argue that we are being held back by some fundamental misperceptions about how marketing works, and that this is leading to ineffective strategies. That’s what my course is about – that and how to solve the problem.



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

Great thinkers, like Byron Sharp, and great practitioners, like the founders of adam&eve.


Les Binet is the lead on the Marketing Institute’s CMO masterclass, Marketing Effectiveness, taking place on 13th June 2019. More details on mii.ie/event/Marketing-Effectiveness

 

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Meet the Trainer... Aileen O'Toole, Chartered Director & Digital Strategist

Posted By Learning & Development Team, Monday 29 April 2019
Updated: Thursday 25 April 2019

What do you do as a Digital Strategist and a Chartered Director? 

I’ve a portfolio career with three elements – digital strategy assignments, non-executive board roles and pro-bono commitments.  My digital work focuses on supporting leadership teams to plan, deliver and troubleshoot ambitious digital projects that support their business strategies.  My board roles involve helping to formulate strategies and having oversight of their implementation by executive teams while my pro bono roles are about causes that light my fire.

 

What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

I am a former business journalist and Editor. I took an entrepreneurial leap in 1989 when I co-founded The Sunday Business Post where I combined my part owner/Executive Director/Company Secretary role with editorial management, and an involvement in the marketing strategy that ultimately created a strong media brand. 

Three years after the newspaper was sold, I wanted a fresh challenge outside of the media sector and established Ireland’s first digital strategy business in 2001. That has been like three separate start-ups in one, as I’ve had to pivot the business to respond to digital changes, client requirements and where I can add the most value.  I’ve combined this with non-executive board roles and in 2016 I qualified as a Chartered Director.

 

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Staying up to date, relevant and strategic.  Given the fast pace of change in digital technologies, I’ve to constantly upskill and stay on top of trends.  I see my role as enabling my clients to be both future-focused and make strategic decisions. Right now, for example, clients need to be considering how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain will impact on their sectors and their businesses.  They also need to avoid the many temptations to invest in “shiny new digital things” that may not deliver any long-term business value.  Instead, they should have a clear vision of how digital can deliver on their business strategies and then be able make informed investment and people decisions.

 

What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Firstly, it’s necessary for me to be strategic and concentrate more on what is of most importance to the long-term success of the business, instead of being buried in the entrails of a digital project.  Communications skills are vital.  For many senior leaders, techno babble is a turn off so I need to translate the jargon into business speak and make it all relevant and accessible to everyone. 

Digital projects are really change management projects and taking a customer perspective helps to get an understanding and buy in to change.  Similar strategic, communications, technical and other skills are also relevant to board roles.  Given my portfolio life, I have to be highly organised in how I manage multiple complex projects and other commitments concurrently. 

 

Describe a typical working day.

It very much depends on the mix of client commitments, board and pro-bono activities I have on a given day.  I might be facilitating a digital strategy workshop, commissioning or analysing research or managing a vendor selection process.  If I’ve an upcoming board meeting or board committee meeting, I’d have to spend a lot of time reading and annotating the board pack.  As a non-accountant, I can’t simply skip over the sometimes voluminous financial data as board members without accounting qualifications are as equally responsible for the oversight of the financial performance as those with such qualifications. 

I’ll also have to make time for pro-bono commitments, which at the moment involves a female leadership initiative I co-founded and mentoring some young professionals. There isn’t a day goes by without me consuming a lot of media – traditional and digital – and sharing content on my social media accounts.

 

What do you love most about your role?  

Variety.  The mix of what I do is ever-changing between different sectors, businesses, teams and suppliers. Because I’ve worked across all sectors, and am completely independent, I can often make a breakthrough by applying an approach that works in one sector to another one.  I also love achieving a tangible result arising from my work or my input into something.  That result may be hugely significant to a business, like the successful entry into a new market, or to an individual, like mentoring them to successfully transition to a new career.

 

Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

I’m about to embark on a process to help me to answer that very question. Every few years, I take a step back and with professional help try to envision what I might do next.   In the past, this has helped me make some big career decisions, like leaving The Sunday Business Post and taking time out to pursue a corporate governance qualification. It’s also helped me shed some of the work I no longer find challenging and identify new potential areas of opportunity. At this stage, the changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

  

Aileen O’Toole is facilitating the Marketing Institute's CMO masterclass, Increasing Marketing's Influence in the Boardroom on 28th May. More details on mii.ie/event/boardroom

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Meet the Trainer... Richard O’Donnell, Associate Director Strategy & Innovation at MCCP

Posted By Learning & Development Team, Monday 15 April 2019
Updated: Tuesday 9 April 2019

 

What does the Associate Director of Strategy & Innovation do at MCCP?

Within MCCP, our expertise spans Research, Strategy, Culture & Innovation and I work across each of these pillars as we believe business transformation requires each of these to be working together effectively. Within innovation, I lead projects across financial services, technology, retail, and transport. This involves working across several areas from customer ethnography, design sprint facilitation, to concept development and strategy implementation. My role is quite varied, so you need to enjoy thinking creatively, dealing with lots of ambiguity and digging deep into problems to like it.



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

I completed a MSc in International Business in UCD Smurfit Business School and started my career working in venture capital investing which gave me a great start in business strategy development and assessing market opportunities. Following this, I moved into management consulting and then into digital strategy development. Prior to joining MCCP, I worked in Accenture’s Digital Innovation Hub, where I led design thinking and digital innovation projects for large global clients in the retail and healthcare space.



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

When I started my career, I worked for some very successful entrepreneurs and something I noticed is that they were always reading, learning and developing themselves. Sometimes progress can seem slow but over the years it all adds up and, in my view, continuous learning and development is what really sets people apart in their career.  Especially with innovation being such an emergent field, I feel it is critical to constantly keep up to date with the most effective methods and approaches, so I can keep providing greater value to my clients. 



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

 Participants should be leaving training programmes with confidence that they can apply what they have learned within their own roles. Sometimes attending training can seem like a lot of effort but when you learn something that helps you solve a problem or provides you with a unique perspective, these are the nuggets that make good training really worth it and an invaluable ingredient to becoming more effective in your role.



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

Trainers should be as practical as possible and ensure participants are working on challenges relevant to their roles. Effective training should be immersive where participants are solving problems for themselves and collaborating with their peers instead of being lectured to. Finally, trainers need to establish their credibility and ensure participants feel confident as they work through the session, so they have the confidence to apply what they have learned within their own roles and teams.  



What do you believe are the challenges facing marketers today?  

Marketing is an industry that faced significant disruption and in many ways lost itself trying to adapt to this change. Marketers need to be more cautious about the next big trend or piece of technology and become the customer champion within their organisations. They should do everything they can to get to know their customer’s needs, understand their pain points and uncover which of these needs are being underserved. They should then do everything they can to improve the customer experience and satisfy these underserved needs. If this means moving beyond the traditionally defined role of marketing they need to start doing this. A marketer’s role today should probably be less about communications and much more about satisfying customer needs.



What are the current challenges and opportunities that you believe businesses face around being agile today?

 As an industry we are getting much better at understanding customer needs, defining opportunities for innovation and coming up with good ideas. Where we have a lot of work to do is in bringing these good ideas to life and bridging the execution gap. Large companies are set up to reduce risk and create certainty in decision making, however innovation involves a huge amount of ambiguity and this can be a real challenge for larger organisations to leap into the unknown which is so necessary in innovation. Agile approaches such as design thinking, lean methodologies and sprints are a great way to get decision makers into a room, set constraints and quickly get alignment and commitment to overcome this barrier. However, this approach can work brilliantly in companies that are less bureaucratic but within slower companies this can be a radical way of working and can be too much of a shock to the system so more patience and time is required.  As with all innovation work, there is no cookie cutter approach as every organisation is different, so you always need to approach innovation strategically rather than believing process A or process B will be the answer to all your problems.  



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

Innovation is still a relatively new field and new approaches are emerging all the time to overcome some of the big challenges faced by organisations trying to innovate. The Stanford D School has done great work in popularising human centred design and in making design thinking more accessible. Clayton Christiansen & Tony Ulwick’s work around Jobs To Be Done really put the focus on customers unmet needs over chasing trends and shiny new toys. Steve Blank & Eric Ries have challenged some of the optimism around ethnography and brainstorming and made a strong case for the importance of getting out and testing ideas early to really know if they have potential or not. Within innovation I feel these are the people who have really brought unique perspectives and proven themselves within the industry. 


Richard O'Donnell is the trainer on the Marketing Institute’s Innovating with Agility course, taking place on May 8th 2019. More details on mii.ie/event/Innovating-with-Agility

 

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Meet the Trainer…. Colin Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer at OpenJaw Technologies

Posted By Learning & Development Team, Monday 1 April 2019

Colin Lewis

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


 

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