chief marketer: Be flexible and stay customer-focused chief marketer: Be flexible and stay customer-focused

Paul Troy shares some of his experiences in marketing at brands including, Cadbury and O2.

Flexibility is key to survival

Reinvention like Madonna or Lady Gaga will be key to your success in an ever-changing world.

When I was EMEA brand director at Cadbury, I didn’t realise then that it was only my first incarnation as a marketer.

My first reinvention was as a service-brands marketer, as I transferred my marketing skills into financial brands such as Barclays.

Many marketers lose their bearings in these huge P&Ls. My constant was the customer. We had a phrase in O2 to encapsulate this: "Let the outside in."

My latest reinvention is as a digital marketer, working with intangible brands such as and now

Online players have created more direct and dynamic relationships with customers. In the US, Amazon is growing exponentially while established retailers are going backwards.

What I learned from all this is to be flexible and stay customer-focused as change accelerates. 

Inspiration is powerful

It’s inspiration that works the magic and lifts everyone to deliver big. I wish I had learned this earlier.

I know a chief executive of a US confectionery business who said: "When I have a bad day, the whole company has a bad day." I initially saw this as American hype; however, I now see its true wisdom. If you as a leader are not inspiring people to deliver big, then your company loses every day.

Let me share some of my own experiences. At Barclaycard, I looked to step up our game and set new benchmarks for advertising. I used Sony "Balls" and Cadbury "Gorilla" as examples, and this inspired Bartle Bogle Hegarty to produce the famous "Waterslide" campaign.

Its fame drove business metrics and won an IPA Effectiveness Award. At, I set out to make the marketing team more successful, so I outlined how you can win in the category. I gave the team the belief that they could win.

This inspired them to up their game so much that we gained share even before we launched the new campaign. That’s why inspiration is powerful. 

Strategy first

I’ve met many marketers in my career who look to execute "bigger and better". I believe that you need to get the direction clear first and then execute it brilliantly. I’ve proven this twice in the price comparison sector – one of the UK’s most competitive markets.

At, I focused on how saving money can feel epic and created the "You’re so Moneysupermarket" campaign with Mother. It has delivered huge business growth.

At, I set out a driver-centric strategy and then aligned the business to deliver it. The "Driver wins" campaign with James Corden is executed across every customer touchpoint. We’re winning with drivers and have delivered the highest growth in motor-related products. 

Supremacy of brand

BBH has a mantra about the supremacy of the creative idea. It’s partly right; however, I would refine it to the supremacy of the brand idea. The big idea for your brand should inform everything you do.

Let’s take "Driver wins": it’s a big brand idea and not just for communications. We need to better understand drivers and create wins for them. This has led to creating a whole new product set that goes beyond car insurance, with car finance and savings tools. 

Digital is less effective (than you think)

The big debate in recent months around measurement and effectiveness of digital is timely. Many digital stars grew exponentially online with great pay-per-click, display SEO and email campaigns. However, this market has matured – PPC is more expensive as more brands enter auctions where the only real winner is Google.

SEO’s importance is diminishing and this "free" medium is being hoovered up by paid search – Google wins again. And that’s before I even mention measurement. My own experience is that it works, but not as well as I first thought.

Let me explain: I’ve seen months where PPC, display and email are off the chart; however, only a fraction translates into real sales. You need to balance marketing investment between brand and performance, like managing the short term versus the long term.

Paul Troy is chief marketing officer at, joining the price-comparison website in 2015. He has previously worked at brands including O2, Barclaycard and 

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