'No amount of digital marketing can make up for a lack of creativity'
A view from Darren Bentley

'No amount of digital marketing can make up for a lack of creativity'

Moneysupermarket.com's marketing director shares the career lessons he's learned along the way.

It’s easy to inspire your team when your organisational purpose goes beyond the bottom line.

Moneysupermarket.com only makes money if our customers save money. Last year, we helped seven million families save £1.8bn on their household bills – I feel fortunate to work in a business that does well by doing good. My team is evangelical about working with our 700 partners to find new ways to help customers switch quickly and easily to a better deal on their energy, insurance and banking. 

Purpose is important, but so is perspective

Every day at Moneysupermarket, I’m making decisions that will enable more people to save more money in more ways. That gives me a real sense of pride and purpose, but it’s also important to keep perspective. I try to lead in a way that will make a meaningful difference to our customers and our organisation, and try to keep perspective around the risk of getting it wrong. I would rather try to make a difference and fail than be just a safe pair of hands.

You could say my marketing education has been back to front – I learned the most important lesson last.

I often hear how the digital revolution has changed the way marketers approach their jobs, but my career started in digital marketing, so I’ve never known anything different. As I’ve grown into broader leadership roles, I’ve had to learn about more traditional marketing. I still believe digital is key to targeted and efficient direct response activity, but no amount of digital or performance marketing capability can make up for a lack of creativity or poor storytelling. Profitable business growth is only sustainable when it’s built on a foundation of brilliant brand activity and, of course, digital channels have a role to play there alongside TV and other mass media.

Data is our greatest asset and sometimes our greatest liability.

We’re surrounded by so much data, and technology and media companies espousing the benefits of big data, that we run the risk of losing focus on customers, developing exceptional experiences and telling compelling stories. I also think the real-time nature of business insight now lends itself to short-term decision-making and an impatience for results. I was recently asked about the performance of a campaign because of quieter trading over the Easter holiday, when that campaign had been live for less than a week. That’s what happens when you have real-time access to data but forget the human insight behind it. 

I admire brands that walk the talk.

John Lewis was founded as a business powered by its people and its principles – and it’s still upholding that vision. I like the fact that an organisation that is older than 100 is held up as a leading example of effective marketing and the power of engaging advertising. Barclays is another example. It realised that the digital revolution risked making life more difficult for both the young and the old, so it created its Digital Eagles programme. Not many brands can claim to be as successful in bridging the gap between rhetoric and reality.

Leadership is about having a long-term view and getting out of the way of your team.

Delivering results earns you the right to lead others, but leadership doesn’t come naturally to most. I’ve had to work hard to get my head out of the detail and give my team space to grow and perform. I try to only focus on two things. How do we help more customers save more money in a way that also enables our business to grow? And how do I help the people around me fulfil their potential and, in so doing, make a significant contribution to our business and our customers?

I’m surrounded by a talented team who are busy delivering value for the business every day. My role is to make sure they can see the wood for the trees by providing a longer-term perspective of the opportunities and challenges faced by our customers, our business and our marketing function – in that order of priority.

Darren Bentley is marketing director at Moneysupermarket.com - a role he took on in February 2016. He previously held the same position at sister company TravelSupermarket.