Microsoft has a tough brief. The brand comes from a utilitarian IT background and lacks the charis-matic cool exuded by some rivals – particularly Apple. It needs marketers who challenge the status quo, are ambitious, dynamic and tenacious, and understand how the customer feels. All of which apply to Smylie.
Affectionately referred to as "Smiley" by colleagues, he is known as a "positive agitator of change" within Microsoft. He’s the millennial who has no qualms about disagreeing with senior management in meetings, or putting forward ideas that others might think too wacky.
"That doesn’t intimidate me," he says. "I know what I’m doing. As arrogant as that sounds, I believe it. I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I challenged. Unless you push for something different, you’ll always get the same."
Coupled with this creative streak is an acute under-standing of how to talk to different types of people effectively. In his job, it’s essential to get buy-in, not just from colleagues, but from external stakeholders, too.
"In a world where an idea can be completely barmy, you may not get everyone to sign it off immedi-ately, so getting others to come on a journey with you is import-ant," says Smylie. "I like to take risks and be bold, and I know not every idea will get through – but some will."
This attitude has paid off in spades. Last year he created and led the ‘Renegade professionals’ campaign for Microsoft’s Surface.
I know what I’m doing. As arrogant as that sounds, I believe it. I wouldn’t be doing my job unless I challenged. Unless you push for something different, you’ll always get the same
A local, integrated, multimillion-pound storytelling push, it garnered the kind of results never before seen in the UK subsidiary: a rise of 53% in favourability, 173% in recommendation and 88% in purchase intent, as well as an uplift in retail sales.
The campaign is now viewed internally as a shining example of best practice, with multiple markets worldwide adopting the approach and strategy.
Smylie defies the stereotype of men being the less emotionally intelligent sex.
He sees his sensitivity and openness as major competitive advantages and represents a new breed of marketing pioneers who don’t consider showing emotion as weak.
"I’m the same person outside work as in. I’m very socially active and my boss has full view of my Twitter and Instagram accounts.
It’s not an issue. I have nothing to hide. I wear my heart on my sleeve. We need to be more emotionally engaged with our audience and it’s starting to happen."
"I was working with Andrew last year on Surface. That was a tough job. I was the category lead, so I had to hit
a certain number of sales. He was a godsend. Rather than just do his ‘bit’, he worked hard to understand what I, and the rest of the team, needed to succeed. And his excitement is contagious.
He represents a newer style of marketing: although he does the formulaic [data-driven] stuff, he works by feeling. He’s mature for his age, but also has a childlike curiosity.
He’s exactly the type of marketer Microsoft needs to overcome the perceptions about the brand not being cool."