L'Oréal, Microsoft and TUI on balancing left-brain, right-brain and agility

Brands that are not able to stay on top of changes in society will die, L'Oréal's chief marketing officer, Hugh Pile, has warned.

L'Oréal's Hugh Pile: agility is vital quality for marketers
L'Oréal's Hugh Pile: agility is vital quality for marketers

"If we’re not constantly looking to evolve ourselves we’ll die like anyone else," said Pile, who spoke at a panel session at the ISBA Conference in London yesterday, alongside TUI’s marketing and customer experience director Jeremy Ellis and Microsoft’s consumer marketing director Paul Davies.

Davies added that to be in marketing was to be "always on catch up" with consumers who are "constantly shifting their shape". Ellis, meanwhile, said: "You have to keep evolving… if you sit on your laurels today you’re finished."

Pile said he was "riding on the crest of a very fortunate wave" when he started at L’Oréal in 2014 because the company was starting to transition from a traditional, product-led company to one with more of a media focus. The challenge for the business was adjusting to playing in new spaces, he said.

"Who would have thought that influencers – these people who were hiding from their parents, not doing their homework in the attic, would one day be creating multi-billion pound businesses?" said Pile.

"They are the rivals now – we do not have competition in the classic sense that we used to. Competition is coming from new areas."

He revealed that L’Oréal was experimenting with a new structure in a small number of teams "to experiment with what the modern marketeer now is – not necessarily a jack of all trades, but a specialist that rotates round. And I’d argue that the skill we look for in marketers is a kind of agility, an ability to be truly curious."

The capability challenge for marketers today, said Davies, was balancing "left-brain" and "right-brain" skills. He said: "There’s a lot of discussion of left-brain logical skills, about science and analytics, and we need that stuff because of the marketing technologies that are available to use in programmatic and analytics.

"But we need to counter that with right-brain skills: creativity and ideation. We consciously think about the balance between the two. If you just focus on the left-brain it’s a race to the bottom."

Pile later said: "It’s only creativity that will cut through the mass of noise and grey boredom."

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