Atom Bank's CMO: It's good for marketers to be single-minded

Atom Bank's CMO: It's good for marketers to be single-minded

Lisa Wood, chief marketing officer at Atom Bank and one of Campaign's Power 100, on the potential of AI, how to connect with your audience, and why it's good to be single-minded.

What keeps me up at night? To be honest, not a lot. I’m rather fond of my sleep and usually very ready for it by the time I get around to going to bed. But there are a number of thoughts that spin around in my head time and time again. So here are five of those things that I keep pondering, along with some of my thoughts about how to respond.

Grabbing the spotlight. Building a new brand, in an industry where people don’t care about banking and certainly don’t give a damn about banks, is not the easiest of jobs. We’re living in a word where it’s so difficult to get people’s attention, many ads are simply seen as wallpaper, with ad blockers on the rise (in my view an issue of our own making, because of uninspiring and invasive marketing). I’m constantly throwing around the question of how to cut through and get people to take action, with no big marketing bucks to throw at the problem. Rule number one: be relevant and have a clear benefit. The best way I’ve found to grab attention is going against the crowd – find a way of being unexpected and get people talking about it. I’m a big believer that earned media is more powerful than paid.

The future’s bright, the future’s AI. If only I had a crystal ball and could see into the future. I don’t pretend to deeply understand AI but I know enough to understand it’s here, it’s developing quickly and it’s going to change our world. The first smartphones infiltrated our lives 20 years ago and now we can’t bear to be apart from them. AI is the new smartphone. It’s going to radically change people’s interactions, bringing into question the role a brand plays in decision-making. My response – embrace it, understand it and start to build the capabilities now to be part of it.

Engage, don’t sell. Inform, don’t tell. Marketing is no longer about selling stuff. It’s about connecting with your audience, building mutual respect and giving people what they need to make informed decisions. A much tougher job with audiences who are well informed and unafraid to be vocal about what they think. The phrase "modern marketing" keeps coming back to me – I hate it because the phrase feels outdated, but it sticks in my mind. How to be a truly modern marketer? Think beyond sales metrics and be part of the purchase journey. Put yourself in the shoes of customers and give them what they need, every step of the journey. People believe people, not brands with a vested interest, particularly when that brand is a big corporate machine. Embrace the ecosystem of social proof and just be honest.

Focus, focus, focus. The options we have to "market" our customers are vast, so how do you pick the most effective ways to get your brand heard? The tendency with bigger budgets is to be in all the expected places, encouraged by agencies and the results of backwards-looking econometric studies, to keep investing in channels you can see working, adding "new" variants to the mix. I keep asking myself, are you spending money wisely? Doing fewer things with focus and discipline can get great results. Don’t be afraid of being single-minded, understand where your audience engagement packs a bigger punch relative to cost and go all in. Where’s your audience spending its time? Be there and be agile – try, learn and move on.

Work-life balance? I’ve never been a fan of this phrase. In fact, I think it’s dying a death. Not because work’s taking over, but because we’re intertwining the two, recognising that each benefits the other. I work away from home during the week and often worry I’m not spending enough time with my family, thinking about the impact that’s having, particularly on my children. I love what I do and believe I bring a better perspective on life back home with me because of my work. Working for a business that is open to flexible working helps considerably. The workplace is changing. Think about work as a thing that you do, not a place where you go, and find an organisation that embeds this into its culture. Understand the value work brings to your own personal development and how that has a positive impact on all the people around you.

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