John heads up the marketing team for the international arm of Tough Mudder. Before that he worked as a consultant for brands such as Chivas, Absolut and Red Bull, with RSA Group marketing insurance and started out his working career with Accenture. …so, from IT projects, insurance, booze and energy drinks to mud and electric shocks
Where did you get your start as a young pup?
Well I grew up on farm so spent most of my youth doing manual labour, but my first real Marketing roles came at RSA Group, insurance that is (not the arts!).
Why did you choose this business?
I actually got my first real experience of Marketing by accident, I was a strategy analyst. But we went through some structural change at RSA and my new boss, Clare Salmon, gave me a chance to run a proposition development programme. I loved the mix of creativity and analytics that I could put into practice and never looked back, plus I had some great people to learn from in that team
If you weren’t working in marketing, what would you be doing?
I love food, so if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be cooking for a living. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I spend more time planning my next meal than doing pretty much anything else. I find the process incredibly relaxing and love seeing the instant results of my labours, although I’m sure if I had to try it professionally that would probably change!
What campaign do you think is the ultimate dog’s dinner?
I love great content and am a rugby fan, so actually the ‘try of the month’ campaign that the RFU are running in conjunction with Samsung is a favourite. It’s incredibly simple, engages with the grass roots of the game and I love to watch it. Plus there’s end benefit for those submitting content in some free technology for their clubhouses.
What campaign do you think belongs in the doghouse?
Anything from a price comparison site at the moment seems to annoy me, particularly those using meerkats/robots etc… I’m sure they’re effective as they stick in your head, but I find them repetitive and dull
If you could teach this old dog a new marketing trick, what would it be?
I’m not sure there’s any ‘new tricks’, just old ones, recycled! But the biggest thing I’ve learnt in the last couple of years working for Tough Mudder is make sure you work closely with your product team; if people have an amazing time experiencing your product, it makes your job much easier. And never miss a chance to talk to your customers, they’re the people who are the life blood of any organisation and actually having a conversation (not a focus group or a survey) will open your eyes every time. For me that involves getting muddy on site regularly, always the highlight of my year.
What app really gets your tail wagging?
I’ve become a pretty frequent user of the Airbnb app recently, using it for work and holidays. Great and simple little app and an awesome business model
Which social media network are you most likely to spend your time on?
I’d love to say I’m any different from the majority, but Facebook for me. I signed up in 2004 to share photos with friends and it’s still a great way to keep up with people who I don’t see enough of and also to link up with people when I’m travelling. I also need to learn to put down the phone and turn off the app sometimes. Addictive…
What campaign has left you with your tail between your legs, and what did you learn?
When working in Canada I spent 3 months working on a campaign focused on a particular segment of the small business community (Bakers to be precise). I spent a disproportionate number of hours fine tuning the marketing materials for our Insurance Brokers to use, only to find out that this was one of the smallest segments of our target market. Being good at any job requires you to prioritise as there will always be more to do than you can do get done in a normal day, but it’s a more difficult skill than it seems.
Which digital challenge keeps you up at night?
How to keep people engaged. We have such short attention spans as human beings and there is a huge amount of noise out there. How we come up with new and engaging content that can amuse, inspire and create a real community is something that will never stop being a top priority.
Where do you see digital going in the future?
The robots will eventually take over… You’ve seen Terminator
Who or what is top dog in digital right now?
This is a tough one, so many great people out there who do amazing work. I’ve become pretty addicted to Vice news in the last year or two. They have an authentic voice and tackle a variety of subject matters in a way that no one else does.