Avoid hiring talented jerks, says Monster marketing chief
A view from Andrew Warner

Avoid hiring talented jerks - they'll destroy morale, says Monster marketing chief

Andrew Warner, the vice-president of marketing at Monster, explains why great teams build great brands.

Employees first, then customers

I often get invited as the token "digital guy" to marketing industry debates. The normal shtick at these events is that none of these nasty, arriviste technologies have changed the fact that it is still "all about the customer".

I disagree: it’s still about employees first, then the customer. Get the right mix of people on your team. A diversity of personalities is good – it generates constructive conflict and challenges to orthodox thinking.

Avoid hiring talented jerks – they’re smart but they’ll destroy morale. Then instil pride, confidence and purpose in your team. Create the conditions for great people to do amazing work and you will generate energy that permeates the whole organisation. People with a belief in the purpose will run through brick walls to achieve it. Customers are always the beneficiaries.

Great brands are built from the inside out and always have been.

I can’t believe it’s not butter

There is a view held by some that only people who have sold yellow fats and shampoo can be "proper" marketers. It has never appealed to me as a career. The thing I’ve always loved about working with technology is that you can create things people want rather than trying to make people want things.

You have the opportunity to improve people’s lives. You can reduce friction in the customer experience and match the right person to the right purchase. You can apply strategic rigour, commercial discipline and creativity to innovation, which makes people’s lives better. All while growing your employer’s bottom line. What’s not to like?

Just do it

I’ve always found it surprising how many marketers pay lots of money to hire the best brains, then allow people in a research group, who are there for the £50, to decide if their work is any good.

Informed decisions are good decisions and it is important to understand both customers and potential customers. But if some of the focus groups and ad tests I’ve listened to over the years were right, smartphones would never have caught on, the internet would only be used in universities and some of the worst ads I’ve worked on would have cleaned up at Cannes.

Choose your insight methodologies with care. If what you are planning hasn’t been done before, you are more likely to learn through doing it for real. Scale things up as you learn more. But don’t be afraid of trying new things and ignore those who believe you can only be successful through doing what worked in the 1980s. Kajagoogoo isn’t topping the charts any more.

Move on

More data is not an objective. "Big data" is one of the silliest pieces of hyperbole the industry has generated. Well-analysed data is good – it can help you test new hypotheses, detect customer-service issues and better target your spend. But more data can also lead to setting objectives around what is measurable rather than what is important.

Big banks have lots of data, but it didn’t stop some of them taking decisions that led to catastrophic consequences. We should not forget that the important spaces to occupy are our audiences’ heads and hearts, not intrusive ads in places people don’t want to see them.

Our jobs are to profitably generate goodwill from potential customers. Use data to inform progress towards your objectives but set good objectives first around the things that matter most. Data is a means, not an end.

Go big or go home

A phrase that gets my hackles up is "hard-working advertising". At the heart of this seems to be an assumption that creativity and commercial effectiveness are mutually exclusive. Yet I’ve rarely seen a case where a brand that is not already the market leader has succeeded by simply throwing 15 rational proof points at their audience.

The ad that works least well is the one that hardly anyone notices. Keep boiling your proposition down to something simple, relevant and memorable. Find creative partners who get it and can turn it into a big, emotionally engaging idea.

If you’re only interested in making inoffensive ads that everyone in your company likes, that aren’t too controversial, that won’t make anyone uncomfortable – fair enough. Just don’t be surprised when your budget gets reduced because your ads didn’t work.

Oh, and don’t apply for a job on my team when you lose yours.

Andrew Warner is the vice-president of marketing at Monster. Previously senior European marketing director at Expedia, he oversaw the site's expansion in new markets and overhauled its brand positioning. He has also held senior positions at the BBC, Microsoft and Sony Ericsson.