Marketers who understand what makes us human won't go too far wrong

At the core of people are basic human drivers that have not really changed for a long time, says Tesco Bank's brand and marketing director.

Richard Larcombe: the brand and marketing director at Tesco Bank
Richard Larcombe: the brand and marketing director at Tesco Bank

Embrace the moment

There has never been a more exciting time to work in marketing – never have we had more ways to talk to, engage with and thrill customers. In the same moment, we have the ability to make iconic campaigns executed across 20 platforms while starting a tailored conversation that we know, with a high degree of certainty, will be relevant and helpful.

With this in our hands, we have an amazing opportunity to play a truly meaningful part in people’s lives. If we focus on the relationship and understand how our brands can play a clear and sustainable role, that will drive long-term shareholder value.

Break the model

We dedicate a disproportionate amount of time in pursuit of efficient spend. What sits at the heart of this is a slick operating model, which joins the dots between marketing effectiveness, strategy and delivery.

While this might seem like an unbelievably dry subject, getting this right is a beautiful thing and drives significant business benefits while making life a whole lot easier.

But, in getting this right, we’ve had to rip up traditional structures and existing ways of working, and start from a blank sheet of paper. It’s hugely liberating to create something bespoke, but it’s hard. It’s hard for the architect because they’re leading the business into new territory.

It’s hard for the team, who live through the uncertainty. And it’s hard for our partners, who have to adapt with us. But if we don’t, we’re only taking a fraction of the opportunity that sits in front of us. 


It’s the fastest way to learn – it really is. Move upwards, sideways and diagonally. Make that uncomfortable move from underneath the security blanket of marketing into product, digital, operations and commercial.

Move out into new businesses and sectors to experience different cultures and styles, and see at first hand how other brands engage with their customers.

We know diversity is important, but it is just as important to be a diverse individual as it is to have a diverse team. If 40% of your role doesn’t scare you, you’re probably not being pushed hard enough.

The dangers of an over-extended stay in a role can lead to comfort and familiarity, which can lead to lazy thinking. Adding more flavour to your CV will not only make you better at your job, it will make you much more attractive to your next employer. Question is: do you have the bottle to do it?

Everything and nothing changes

It’s easy to get lost in the complexity of big data, attribution and media mix modelling, distracted by the continued explosion and fragmentation of media, and confused by mass convergence.

But if you properly understand what it is that makes us human, you won’t go too far wrong. At the core of marketing is people and at the core of people are basic human drivers that have not really changed for a very, very long time.

Of course, the ways to connect and engage with people evolve every day, but focusing on first principles and answering the simple, basic questions should always remain the priority. The businesses that know this are ones that stand a better chance of long-term success.

They ruthlessly focus on "the point need", set out simple frameworks to address those needs and execute on them extraordinarily well. Having read a few of these back pages, this is the thread that binds all the marketers’ pieces together. Obsess about the customer – get to know them intimately and serve them well.

Backbone and self-belief

One of the great benefits of a career in marketing is its high-profile nature, but that can sometimes be our undoing if it is not well-managed. Attention follows investment. As such, marketers are not short of advice from all corners of the business that are often none too shy about offering critique and counsel on positioning, communications and the latest campaign.

The people I’ve most admired are those able to suck up these well-meaning comments but trust their instincts and back their approach, knowing they will be judged not on commentary through the process but on the outcomes.

Be brilliant

We often obsess about what we can’t do rather than what we can, which can sap confidence and be emotionally draining. Apple chief design officer Sir Jonathan Ive once said: "Just do one thing. And aim to become best in the world at it." So be bloody brilliant at what you’re great at and hire or buy where you’re not. 

Richard Larcombe is the brand and marketing director at Tesco Bank. He was previously head of
marketing at News UK and chief marketing officer at Virgin Media, and has also worked at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

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