Marketers would benefit from more risk-taking and attitude, says Morrisons' Hoban
A view from Mike Hoban

Marketers would benefit from more risk-taking and attitude, says Morrisons' Hoban

Morrisons marketing communications director picks his top tips for career success.

Be a leader – really

There are a million books and more that give advice on leadership. A number of them are worth reading with an equal measure of openmindedness and scepticism together.

I’d recommend Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders by Phil Dourado and Phil Blackburn and The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins.

My own experience has taught me that people look for four key traits in those who lead them. First, the ability to set the strategic direction. People will follow only if you know where you are going and are clear about it.

Second, give your team the air cover to do their job. Popular to contrary belief, not everyone has the skills and the flair to be a great marketer and sometimes your team need protecting from those who think they do.

Third, think laterally and share your experience – it really is true that teams are stronger together and the best teams eagerly draw on their collective experience to build a bigger and better whole.

Fourth, create the circumstances for things to happen. Be open to opportunity. Stuff happens because stuff happens. An impossible number of things had to happen to put you in the room you are now in with the people you are now with discussing the subjects you now face.

You never know who you might meet, what you might see, what might happen today that will be the catalyst of something in the future. So have a good memory and keep an address book.

Bring an attitude and take a risk

I was once described as a peripatetic marketer – not as a compliment – because I’ve worked in a number of industries.

I’ve seen too many marketers who are tiptoeing through life hoping to make it safely to death. Such people might not let you down but they won’t let you up. Today’s corporate marketers would certainly benefit from a bit more risk-taking and attitude.

You can tell the brands that are managed by marketers with an attitude because you can see it in the work and feel it in the experience. And it delivers better results.

Dare to be authentic

Authenticity is paramount. Brands make a promise, marketing communications tell people what that promise is, but it is the customer’s experience that determines whether that promise is met.

In today’s world, where everyone can be a broadcaster through the power of social media, authenticity is tested in our brands, in our organisations and in our leaders.

The best marketers will see this as an opportunity to extend their remit and influence beyond the rather limited borders of colours, fonts, logos and copy to organisational culture and operating models.

Authentic leadership builds. Fakery destroys. Today’s world seems more uncertain and unpredictable than at any time I can remember. At times of great uncertainty, people turn to brands they know and trust. If we respond well, people will reward us with their custom, loyalty and even affection.

To fulfil their purpose, brands must have absolute clarity about their role and their purpose. In a world where consumers believe that they can be anyone and everyone they want to be, it is even more imperative that brands have definition and hold this definition with confidence. And with authenticity. 

Simplify the complex

Today’s marketers have the greatest access to data, technology and channels. This complexity provides a breeding ground for charlatans.

There are too many people operating in the world of data and digital technology who are making it up as they go along – reminiscent of the practitioners of medieval medicine who promise to cure your ailments if you bury a knife under a tree dancing naked on Midsummer’s Eve.

The need to simplify the complex is on the agenda daily. Everyone is asking: "Who do I trust?" The new marketing is breeding plenty of poachers but, it seems, fewer gamekeepers.

Marketers need to remember that most of their advisors are trying to sell them something, presupposing that their offer is the best solution. So, the ability to bring clarity, make choices and hold to account with authenticity, attitude and a positive approach to risk becomes ever-more important. It may not be safe but it will be much more interesting. 

Mike Hoban is marketing communications director at Morrisons. He previously worked for brands including Thomas Cook, and Scottish Widows.