'Always say 'yes' then figure it out later', says O2's Clare Coughlan #NxtGen

Marketing reveals its list of 10 Nxt Gen marketers. Here, O2's Clare Coughlan and her mentor discuss how her sunny disposition has set her apart as a future marketing leader.

Coughlan (left): Chirpy, novel, restless
Coughlan (left): Chirpy, novel, restless
I always say "yes", then figure out how I’ll do it after.

Clare Coughlan, 29, O2

Head of brand guardianship

Describe yourself in three words.

Chirpy, novel, restless.

What attracted you to marketing?

Design. I started out studying graphic design but figured if I were to make a career out of it, I’d need to be commercial too. So I did a degree in marketing.

What are your biggest marketing challenges?

Our business moves quickly – really quickly. My biggest challenge is to keep ahead of new teams that are creating digital and agile products at a rate of knots – making sure that even our beta launches are true O2 experiences and worthy of our customers.

What skills do you think are most important for getting ahead in marketing today?

Creativity. But also being able to articulate a creative view. "I don’t like it" doesn’t help anyone and will only leave you going round in circles.

Are there any trends or media platforms you believe are overrated?

Loads, but I don’t think it’s the platforms that are the problem – it’s how brands are using them. A lot of the time it feels like a tick-box exercise to use the latest digital platform as part of your media plan, but there’s no insight there or creative vision. Taking part doesn’t count. It has to add real, engaged, value.

What are the biggest trends affecting your business?

Over-the-top players have really forced us to shift the way we think of our business. The digital services we offer our customers are more important to our future than minutes and texts.

What are the traits that make your boss Katrina Ward-Smith such an inspiration?

Kat’s really passionate about the brand and what we do. It’s infectious. She’s always given me a lot of trusted autonomy, but makes the time to be there if I need to call on a second brain or a louder voice.

How has she most helped you in relation to your job?

Mostly by reinforcing the idea that there are no rules and that we shouldn’t compromise, even when time’s tight.

Any other secret to your success?

I always say "yes", then figure out how I’ll do it after.

Katrina Ward-Smith, mentor

Head of campaigns and brand experience, O2

What was the first thing you noticed about Clare?

That she was unflappable. Clare’s hiring manager asked me to attend her second interview. I threw her some really tough questions and she handled them brilliantly.

What made her stand out among the young marketers you work with?

Maturity beyond her years.

What attributes does Clare have that mean she deserves her place in the Power 100 Next Generation?

Integrity, intellect, passion and a sunny disposition.

What specific marketing skills has she brought to the company?

Detail matters, and Clare has woven our brand through every nook and cranny in the business. And she makes great ideas happen. Did I mention a sharp creative eye?

What has been your major piece of advice to her?

Something I learned from my boss – to ask yourself: "What would you do if you weren’t afraid?"

What training do you think is most important for young marketers today?

Nothing beats hands-on experience. Jump in with both feet and, with the right support, you’ll never sink.

What are the secrets to getting the best out of staff?

Trust their ideas, encourage them to make them better, then ask for more. A belly laugh is a beautiful thing, especially on tough days.