'The best initiatives I've worked on have been inspired by others'

'The best initiatives I've worked on have been inspired by others'

Leadership comes from anyone with the power to influence.

Leadership is not about where you sit in the company. In a consumer-led business like ours, leadership doesn’t come from the people sitting in the boardroom or team leaders – it comes from anyone who has the power to influence.

This means, therefore, almost everyone! Internally, this ranges from our innovation team who are devising the next generation of games and our marketing managers who come up with engaging campaigns, to our community managers who talk to players on social media and our sales managers who work with our 47,000 retail partners. And, externally, and perhaps most importantly for us, we have our lucky winners and the thousands of people who receive lottery funding every year. They’re the people who can get across the life-changing impact of The National Lottery in a way we simply can’t. They’re the true leaders and it is our job to find the best way of empowering them.


Embrace change. Media fragmentation, changing consumer behaviour, advances in technology, constantly evolving creative formats, mountains of data – our world is increasingly complex. For me, that means there has never been a more interesting time to be a marketer. We no longer have the luxury of planning campaigns months in advance.

We have to be increasingly dynamic, responding in real time to public sentiment and insight. Data, in particular, provides us with an opportunity to tailor our customer communications and make them personalised and relevant. The main challenge is can creative formats keep pace with the changes in media enabled by this?

"Don’t underestimate the power of partnerships. Co-creation, collaboration, co-operation. Whatever you want to call it, it’s brilliant"

Let the outside in. When we’re drowning in emails and meetings, it’s so easy to focus all our energy internally. But some of the best initiatives I’ve worked on have been inspired by others. The idea for the launch campaign for O2 Gurus – online videos and in-store help with complex smart devices – came when I attended a breakfast briefing, where the marketing director of Waitrose was talking about the Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal campaign.

He explained, through demonstration, how this campaign changed customers’ behaviour. I thought that this could be the key to launching O2 Gurus – show the help rather than simply say: "We’re helpful!" Quite a few ideas for new National Lottery products have come from other lotteries around the world – and they get inspiration from us. Most of the best ideas are ones people have already had – with a twist that makes them special.

Be realistic 

Be realistic and self-aware. We all talk about putting the customer first, but what does this actually mean in practice? For me, it’s all about brand self-awareness – facing up to the fact that, while we all see our products as the centre of our universe, our customers don’t. So it’s about recognising what’s going on in their lives and then tailoring your products/communications accordingly.

At Camelot, we have a "customer closeness" programme where our senior leaders actually spend time in National Lottery players’ homes to better understand how our products can add value to what is going on in customers’ lives. When I launched Heathrow Express, we positioned the services as "Famous for 15 minutes" – because consistent speed was the key benefit for customers (and the Warhol-style creative differentiated this train from others).

O2’s Priority Moments was a direct response to the "voucher culture" and made it easy for O2 customers to take advantage of offers and experiences that were relevant, local and immediately redeemable. So, although it’s great that we’re passionate about our brands, it’s also important to be realistic about where we sit in customers’ lives and how we can best add value to them.

Don’t underestimate the power of partnerships. Co-creation, collaboration, co-operation. Whatever you want to call it, it’s brilliant. Case in point, we joined forces with ITV, the British Olympic Association, UK Sport and others to bring to life The National Lottery’s funding of our Olympians and stage the UK’s biggest-ever sports day – I Am Team GB – last week.

Team GB’s returning lottery-funded Olympic heroes visited local sports venues and clubs up and down the UK, and ITV switched off its stations for an hour to encourage people to get active. This is a terrific example of a wide-reaching campaign that no one party could have delivered on its own.

Sally Cowdry is consumer and retail director at Camelot, accountable for the commercial performance of The National Lottery. She began her career at Stena Line, launched Heathrow Express and later joined O2.

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