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I can feel it in the air tonight….

One of my latest mentor sessions took place with a gentleman who worked on possibly the most famous “primate” advertising campaign in history. His wealth of experience also included “reassuringly expensive” brands and a “not so quiet” social media campaign a much loved chocolate bar.

We spent much of the session talking about some of the campaigns he has worked on and ways in which he had sold these back into the business. You may be surprised to find that one famous, award winning, globally recognised campaign, took 5 months to plan and a further 7 months of negotiating with the boss, the bosses boss, and the bosses bosses boss before getting agreement to go live!

My mentor explained the ways in which he had sold the concept in to the business by showing the business benefit first and reporting on the ROI to really demonstrate why the campaign was such a positive “risk” to take. He believed that he was bought into the organisation to do something different and make a change and that “the biggest risk is to take no risk”. So he was convinced this campaign could really work and made sure he “talked to them in their language” concentrating on their business objectives (for example, eventual revenue and/or profit increase) over the more creative aspects of the campaign.

Whilst the senior stakeholders weren’t initially keen on taking a risk with the advert, he asked them to take it home to their families, watch it with them and let him know what the feedback was. Without exception, they all reported back that the ad made them smile and they really got what it was trying to say about the brand – exactly what the organisation had been trying to achieve. The only thing that he believed matters was what the consumer “sees”. He believed that the reason the eventual campaign worked so well is because the team were thinking in the consumers’ language – the consumers got it more quickly than the marketers did.

Despite initially being told “you are never showing that advert!” the resulting campaign generated a huge increase in sales in a very mature market, a record profit growth, huge brand recognition and the previously underperforming division becoming the best performing division in the entire Group…

This led us onto talking about brands and how you have to “earn the audience’s attention”- a brand doesn’t have the entitlement to that attention. What was interesting was the way he also felt about brands he had managed himself. He mentioned how the brand is on loan to you and your overall aim should be to ensure that you leave the brand in a better shape than when you started in the role.

We then looked at management and leadership and how he works with his teams to get the best results. Leadership is more about the team than yourself as a leader – no-one has a divine right to lead, your role as a leader is to be behind people, not in front, to build the capabilities of the team. In times of uncertainty within the team (like redundancy) over communicate and over listen to your team. Tell them what you do know and be honest about what you don’t yet know – be open with people and tell them any updates as soon as you can.

The conversation was so interesting that I asked him to come to Microsoft to share his thoughts around being entrepreneurial in a large organisation to our entire Business Marketing Organisation. Not only was the feedback overwhelmingly positive from all of the people in the room, but subsequent speakers referenced his recommendations for our own marketing efforts in the future.

If I had to pick one statement from this session I would pull out that “the biggest risk is to take no risk”. I think that this is going to be very pertinent in my current organisation over the coming 12 months and is something I intend to constantly keep in mind for all my campaigns moving forward.

Another really interesting session with another fantastic mentor.


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