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Driving Growth: Q&A with Brand Learning co-founders Andy Bird and Mhairi McEwan

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By The Drum Team, Editorial

February 10, 2012 | 4 min read

Co-founders of Brand Learning, Andy Bird and Mhairi McEwan discuss their new book, The Growth Drivers, which has recently been published by Wiley. The two global experts in transforming marketing capabilities discuss what insight they gleamed while writing the book and what how marketers are reacting in the current economic climate.

While compiling the book, what recurring trends did you find?

The world is changing at an astounding pace, with technological advances, growth in ‘people power’, sustainability and the shift in economic power to emerging markets.Organisations everywhere have realised that costs can only be cut so far. Sooner or later they have to create shareholder value by creating better value for customers and stimulating demand-led growth. There are also a number of signficant challenges for marketers around economic and operational pressures, globalisation, sustainability and digital.

Are marketers and the role of marketing being truly valued within most businesses?

Marketing is widely misunderstood within businesses today. People make perjorative references to ‘the colouring-in department’ and it’s seen simply as a source of advertising and promotion. Whilst this is an important role of marketing , there is more to it than that at a strategic level. This more fundamental role is to create better value for customers by building salient brands and innovative propositions that people find relevant, appealing and distinctive. Businesses who recognise this true value of marketing are able to leverage it as a growth driver.

Marketers are being seen to be quite risk averse at the present, is this something you have found?

Our experience has been that customer-led organisations are continuing to look at ways to generate demand-led growth and are putting resources against innovation and brand-building. This investment extends to their people. Through building marketing capabilities, they are ensuring their teams are equipped with the skills they need to deliver key marketing activities.

Why is this and is this the correct strategy for them to take?

The organisations that win will be those that stick closest to their customers. A risk-averse organisation is unlikely to identify new sources of growth and faces a real danger of business stagnation. In order to create better customer value, marketers need to take an innovative and bold approach to creating value for customers. That requires skill development.

Marketers are always looking at the ROI ultimately from any campaign – what advice will the book offer them?

Measurement is critical and there are two key priorities to bear in mind. First, the metrics should focus on the areas that are most important in driving the growth of the specific brand, business unit or organisation. Second, the most important customer objectives have to be built into a balanced scorecard of metrics at the overall organisational level.

Our book, The Growth Drivers also looks at how to measure the impact of investing in the team’s and the organisation’s marketing capabilities. The Brand Learning Wheel is a useful framework for capability-specific metrics and Brand Learning Radar provides a great online quantitative tool to assess, track and benchmark marketing capabilities.

Driving growth is never an easy thing – what is the one piece advice that you would offer a marketer looking to achieve this?

Marketers need to embrace their role as growth drivers within a business. They need to establish and sustain a compelling customer-focused vision for their organisations and inspire and engage people both inside and outside to deliver that value. Marketing leaders need to be “Five Star”: they must have a bold and inspiring vision, restless customer obsession, attention to detail, humility and honesty.

Which brands do you see as doing good work in this field at present?

The Growth Drivers shares the practical experiences of senior business and marketing leaders from over 40 multinational companies, including Unilever, PepsiCo, Shell, AstraZeneca and Diageo. What they all share is a commitment to marketing capability development as an engine to drive growth.

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