Atom's chief marketer: Don't just flog stuff

Lisa Wood: chief marketing officer at Atom
Lisa Wood: chief marketing officer at Atom

The chief marketing officer at UK's first digital-only bank shares her career advice.

For better or for worse?

Having been around the marketing world for many years, I’ve seen constant evolution as technology has made our industry more sophisticated.

We’ve moved from classic creative and media to powering marketing through real-time digital media – using geo-location to tailor content and programmatic to deliver a message to target audiences across touchpoints. Not to mention using algorithms and data to segment activity.

We can now track and optimise to within an inch of our lives. The biggest question I ask myself is, have we made the brand experience better for our customers? Do customers engage with brands more or less now because of our highly sophisticated ways of getting to our audience? Or, in our quest to be highly efficient and effective, have we turned customers off?

If we want customers to embrace our brands and create a bond, we have to recognise that increased sophistication can actually turn customers off and, in some cases, make our brands look foolish.

How many times have I looked online for a product, bought what I’m looking for and then been followed around the web for the next couple of months by ads looking to sell me the same product? These brands make themselves look silly, leaving me with the perception that money is being wasted on their ads.

Keep it simple

From time to time, I get to see some of the best marketing the industry has to offer by judging on awards panels. It’s a good chance to reflect on what we do day in, day out and to think about what makes great marketing.

Some of the best ideas are the simplest ones, cleverly executed and timed to perfection. Timing matters.

Given the multichannel world we now live in, a campaign needs to be well thought out with a joined-up ecosystem that allows customers to get involved and help you amplify your message. Don’t be afraid of using tech to help you get your message heard, but don’t try to be clever for the sake of it. Make sure the tech has a clever purpose to play. And, if all else fails, be funny.

Big isn’t necessarily better

Having moved from a large organisation with healthy marketing budgets to a start-up where spend is scrutinised, I’ve learned that you don’t need big bucks to get your message across. Be brave, be different and don’t be afraid to stand firm for something you believe in.

Look from the outside in

Understand the outside world and how it’s changing. Not just in the sense of your marketing skillset but in terms of cultural trends and external influences on people’s lives. You need to be an interpreter – what does all this mean for the role our brands play and how do we need to adapt to remain relevant and serve a clear purpose?

Take time to listen

The best marketing understands cultural change and marries that with the impact it’s having on the way people consume. You cannot be blind to what customers think and feel.

In today’s world, the customer conversation has changed – the power is in their hands, with social media being ever present and creating a real impact on people’s views and actions. Customers are holding brands to account and marketing has become a two-way dialogue.

Your customers are your best advocates, so the best advice I can give is listen, respect their views and respond.

Respect boundaries

While we think consumers make rational decisions, they don’t. People want to buy from brands that appeal to their beliefs and values. Being able to connect with your customers is a critical skill. Being able to use sophisticated tools to do your job is important, but do it in a meaningful way that reflects how your customers want to interact with your brand.

Be clever, but understand boundaries. Customers are increasingly viewing marketing as obtrusive and hard-sell, particularly in the digital space, so play your part in delivering great marketing that adds value – don’t just flog stuff.

The best advice I’ve been given

Two little gems spring to mind. First, don’t try to be an expert on everything, you’ll set yourself up to fail. Be knowledgeable enough to understand and interpret how things impact your brand and use the talent around you to get to the right game plan.

Second, you’ll only thrive when you’re doing what you love. If you don’t enjoy what you do, go find a different job.

Lisa Wood is chief marketing officer at Atom, the UK's first digital-only bank. She has previously worked in a range of marketing roles at HSBC and First Direct. 

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