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"There's no Apple here, there's no big company, but we think we can build one" – Former Topshop CMO Justin Cooke's vision as he launches new agency Innovate7


By Stephen Lepitak | -

September 13, 2013 | 6 min read

Surprising customers is one of the main aims of Topshop's former chief marketing officer Justin Cooke, who has left to start up his own agency, Innovate7.

Cooke, widely revered for a highly successful 18 months at the high street retail chain, not to mention his six years at Burberry, has been contacted by marketing chiefs of many of the world's biggest brands, including Nike, to share his insights and secrets. Such opportunities are what led to the beginning of his own creative business.

Maintaining brand relevance however, is the absolute key for any business success, he tells The Drum during the lunch break at this year's Adtech conference when asked for his one piece of advice for fellow marketers.

"You can focus on a million different things like data or content, but if any of those things aren't contributing to your constant relevance, you're wasting your time."

He continues: "You can measure whatever you want with all the tools, but the reality is that you have to do the thing that makes a difference and cuts you through and that's going to be great experiences and emotional ones. I believe in making emotional connections with people. That is when you win because you cut everything else out of the space, because then you are in people's hearts and in their minds."

Cooke is clearly energised by his new challenge, speaking at a fast pace but with such a passion and belief that it is clear he is driven by a vision – although he refuses to be drawn on what can be fully expected from his company.

"I want to keep serving up customers things that they know are right, then I want to surprise them," is his explanation of how he plans to continue what he has begun while client-side.

"We want to build a company which no one has seen before. It’s not really an agency, it's a hybrid of everything. So on the one hand we make and develop the technology but we can also do ads," he explains, probably simplifying the business offering somewhat. "It's something I've been passionate about for a while."

In offering an example of how he sees technology and data altering the customer experience, and fundamentally companies overall, Cooke boldly claims his company will be able to take the third biggest brand in any sector and push them to become the industry leader.

"When I'm driving my BMW, a message pops up to remind me that it needs a service or I need gas after so many miles. Everything is recorded now. That digital data exists. So what if you had an app or a piece of technology which could mine all of the car data? A company could take its customer service through the roof. A company could call a car's owners and tell them the car is ready for a service, have the replacement car ready... you could take everything away from the consumer. That would blow all the other 'me too' cars out the water. That's the kind of thing we can do."

Cooke reveals that he doesn't consider what the competition is doing while planning his strategies, believing that it is more important to focus on the company's own intentions and ideas. He shares advice he has given to the Natural History Museum, for which he sits on the Digital Advisory Committee to target an expected influx of tourists from the Far East.

"They were talking about the V&A and other museums. I told them that I didn't care about those museums. I want it to be one of the greatest places in London to come and visit. To me, it looked like their language translation on their website was only in English, but 100 million guys are going to come from China this year. I want to advertise to them in Shanghai, I want a billboard in the airport, I want to sell them their ticket to the Natural History Museum when they buy their ticket from Air China."

This leads to Cooke's assertion that Innovate7 can get a client "ahead of the journey" across each of their touch points. "We can disrupt so many industries," he claims, before revealing that he has a meeting scheduled with a Premier League Football Club which wants to hear how he can do just that.

Innovate7 will aim to have "a very loose structure", which Cooke compares to "a lab mentality" – with the ambition of becoming a company that the best graduates aspire to work within.

"There's no Apple here, there's no big company, but we think we can build one. We think we can create a new breed of company where people say 'wow, this is an icon'. We are lucky that Joanna Shields, Tech City CEO has come out and said she thinks we are going to change the landscape – and we think we will. Sometimes you have to believe that.

“Sometimes people think I'm either crazy or arrogant, but actually some of the best companies in the world have that. It's an indomitable spirit where you keep going. We know what we have and we know what we're doing and we just want to show the world," he adds.

This is only the start for Innovate7, and should Cooke's ambition be matched, and he disrupts the industry as he believes he will, a truly special agency has been born to a highly competitive marketplace.

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