RBS CMO: We can do better than just 'coping' with change
A view from David Wheldon

RBS CMO: We can do better than just 'coping' with change

Things are changing for the industry, but understanding your brand remains key to being an effective marketer, writes Royal Bank of Scotland's chief marketing officer

Brand is everything

Whether you’re a chief marketing officer, client director or marketing manager, remember that brand is everything. Don’t waste time by drawing a distinction between marketing and brand management.

Your propositions, your local marketing, your customer comms, your advertising – it’s all your brand.

But even more importantly than that, how you behave, how you treat your customers, the thought and care you put into your work, that’s all your brand too.

Brand obsessed is customer obsessed. With that mantra at the heart of your business, agency or team, you’ll find it difficult to go wrong.

Build a community

My team will be bored of hearing me say that "marketing is a we thing not a me thing". It is easy to forget that a campaign will be worked on by hundreds of people.

So don’t think of "we" as just meaning the team you work in. It’s all your agencies, your stakeholders, and your supporters. Get them all together and moving in the same direction and you’ll make real progress. Challenge them and collaborate with them at the same time. Get people to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If it works, it doesn’t matter who gets the credit for it. You will surely benefit in the long term.

Clarity and simplicity

My favourite Steve Jobs quotation is "it is complex keeping things simple". It is very easy to over complicate a problem, a message or a strategy.

"Simple" doesn’t mean slap-dash or ill-thought-out work. Quite the opposite. It means focus and precision.

This is particularly important when it comes to brief writing. Start out by getting clarity on what you want to achieve. Invest time in understanding your customers and your business. Write a brief that is succinct, direct and clear, and then don’t forget your clarity of thought half way through the campaign process.

And remember to keep briefs brief. Clarity is not often found at the end of a hundred-slide powerpoint presentation.

Change doesn’t have to be threatening

I hear many people say that our industry may be changing more quickly than it was before. I don’t think that is true.

For those with my colour hair, the advent of "online" is probably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in our careers. It made our roles broader, required new knowledge and skills, but the fundamentals remained the same.

Most importantly, it gave new energy, life and opportunity to our industry and forced it to work with more pace. Those are all good things.  

So let’s try to do better than just "coping" with change. No doubt it’ll be tough, but let’s be excited and motivated by it too.

A ‘high tech, high touch’ future

My good friend, Jim Carroll (the ex-UK chairman of Bartle Bogle Hegarty) came out with this phrase in a team event that I had recently.

For those of us working in financial services, these are prescient words on the eve of "Open Banking" legislation and GDPR coming into effect next year.

Data is revolutionising the way we can speak to our customers, but we have to remember whose data it is. As consumers, "my data belongs to me" is a mantra well worth remembering. As marketers, we are in a world where using data properly is no longer optional.

We must though have the uncomfortable conversations necessary to make sure we’re behaving appropriately, managing our brands for the long term, and challenging what we’re being told.  

But it’s not just data. We are at the beginning of the next chapter for our industry. We need to embrace anything that allows us to serve our customers better and be excited by it.

So make sure you grab innovation with both hands, understand it and ask who it will benefit. If the answer isn’t "the customer" then move onto the next thing right away. New doesn’t always mean better.

And in all this, remember that marketing will always be an art as well as a science. The marketers of the future will need to be true all-rounders.

Be paranoid, be passionate, be personal

Our line of work can be tough. You must worry a little too much about the quality of your work, be driven and focused and adoring for your brand, but above all – you must remember to be human too.

You won’t find out how to be a marketing whizz in a seminar, on an online course, or in a Campaign column.

In a world where expectation and experience are constantly changing, the unpredictability of humankind will still be a constant.

Never stop talking to your community or your customers. That’s how you’ll learn. Marketing is a personal thing, don’t forget it.

David Wheldon is chief marketing officer at RBS and a member of Campaign’s Power 100

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