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Market Leader Interview – Sarah Warby, Marketing Director of Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited

Tom Holmes talks to Sarah Warby, Marketing Director of Sainsbury’s.

Sarah joined Sainsbury’s in 2012. As Marketing Director, she sits on the Sainsbury’s Operating Board and is responsible for setting the marketing agenda, developing brand strategy and overseeing all aspects of execution. Sarah also drives the development, management and marketing of Sainsbury’s own label portfolio, as well as commercial initiatives such as Brand Match and Nectar.

Sarah is a Mentor of the Marketing Academy and was recently voted ‘Marketing Leader of the Year 2013’ by the Marketing Society.

TH: As Marketing Director of Sainsbury’s what is your primary focus?

SW: Our customers, our brand, the team. Does that sound trite? I hope not, it’s absolutely true. Everything we do starts with what our customers want, whenever we find ourselves straying into our agenda rather than their agenda we pull ourselves up short.

In Marketing we have the privilege and the responsibility of looking after a remarkable brand. 144 years of dedication to quality and service with an innovative, progressive streak to be proud of. We owe it to John and Mary Ann Sainsbury to keep building on their legacy. When I spend time at our Archive (in the London Docklands Museum) I always come away inspired.

And lastly the team. Everything I say is just a bunch of words without them. A brilliant group who never cease to make me proud and open my mind. I was about to say that we’re a new-ish team, but maybe we’re not any more. Either way, it’s my job to invest in them as if it’s day one every day.

TH: Congratulations on being voted ‘Marketing Leader of the Year’ what makes you particularly proud and why?

SW: Thanks, I was delighted. I feel proud of the work we do when customers thank us for it. Take our January campaign “make your roast go further” – a simple idea to help customers have a lovely Sunday lunch and stretch the leftovers to make Monday and Tuesday night tea as well. All lined up with half price joints and veg. Remarkable commercial results which is customers voting with their wallets and the cherry on the top was the way customers phoned our Careline to say thanks. The other side of the pride coin is internal – nothing beats the feeling of watching someone in the team playing a blinder.

TH: Your career has spanned Sainsbury’s, Heineken UK, Scottish & Newcastle plc, Leo Burnett Sydney and Van den Bergh Foods (Unilever), what have been the high points?

SW: I’ve loved every role I’ve done. Working for Andy Duncan at Unilever taught me a lot about the intricacies of leadership, living in Sydney and understanding life in an advertising agency was fantastic and hopefully made me a better client. At S&N/Heineken, I got the chance to run a complicated portfolio which was immensely stimulating and I got my first shot at being on a Board. And now at Sainsbury’s, I get to look after an awesome brand, with more wonderful stories to tell than I know what to do with.

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