top of page
Culture Innovation Behaviour

Creating a Culture for Innovation and Marketing Transformation

The show is all about Creating the Culture for Innovation & Transformation. How Culture change is one of the most difficult things to accomplish at a company. So we’ll talk about building the culture,  and why the right mindsets only work if you know how to unlock the behaviors that make them happen.


Episode 002 TOPICS:


  • Creating a culture for innovation and transformation

  • A powerful marketing culture 

  • What is a growth mindset and how to embed it.

  • Being brave and watching success follow

  • Lessons from The Guardian

What Transformation Culture Looks Like

Across the Pond – Marketing Transformed​

2. Creating a Culture for Innovation and Marketing Transformation

What Transformation Culture Looks Like

On this week's show we are going to talk about creating a culture for innovation and transformation. We will give you our take on what we mean by Marketing Culture and what a Growth Mindset actually is- how to get one and why it's not just a fad. 

Chris, I think I'm going to throw this one over to you. Transformation is a huge topic but I'm really interested in marketing’s role within it so what does an effective Marketing Culture look like for Transformation?  
That is a big question, Sam.

First, we need to define the role of marketing. That can vary from company to company but at its heart it's about ensuring you've got a clear vision that reflects our customers' needs and wants, we use that to develop or modify products and services that are desired and used and then we need to be able to communicate that effectively. Marketing is there to drive that change and the culture needs to reflect that. 

The challenge, though, for a lot of marketing teams is that no sooner than they set themselves up to drive that change in one direction, you then need to steer the ship into another course either because sales aren't what you want or it’s a new product launch or there's a change in market conditions and that's why I think that the strong Marketing Culture for transformation has to be about the ability to look into the horizon. Never sit back and relax, focus on the customers current but, also importantly, future needs as well, think creatively but pragmatically, communicate simply and stick to jobs in hand whilst mapping the future at the same time. 

So, not an easy brief to be honest and I think you need to look for those qualities in the culture, in the people you're employing within your team and I think that is what I look to install into the Marketing Culture.  
Yeah it does absolutely make sense, you hit a few themes there in terms of looking at the next horizon, not sitting back and the aspect of course correction. 

For me, culture really is important, and it matters a lot. This topic takes me to a scene in a film, Collateral Beauty with Will Smith- you may have heard of him, he speaks to a room full of creatives and he asks: Why are we here? Why did you get out of bed? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you come here? And he says life is about people and we’re here to connect and so creating this culture of connections where you can share ideas and experience and a culture of innovation is I think truly truly powerful. 

So, that's why culture matters so much and actually there is research from  Gartner, they do a lot of Marketing Work, Business Research and Thought Leadership. As I think about the words culture and talent it shows up more and more in the driving of business results so it’s definitely becoming a thing from senior leadership is critical to driving business performance and if we want to define culture, if I want to get a bit boring and academic, it's a set of behavioural norms and unwritten rules that shape the organisation and environment and how we as individuals interact and get that work done in that environment, but if we simplify it into practical terms culture is the tools and terminology ways of working, so essentially the knowledge, the mindset and the behaviours within an organisation. So think of it as knowledge, mindset, behaviours that is essentially how you operate and how culture shows up in the world of work from a lot of the thought leadership and what I have been seeing through my experiences. 
Great cultures are innovation focused and invested in creating something better and we see that as marketers the whole time; that challenge to keep pace or ahead of that change either with the company we work within or also within what our consumers are doing as well, so it's about ensuring we get the right leadership to do that. A company that I've spent a lot of time working with, a company called Freeformers, which as a start-up done well in the UK and something that sums that up for me is their philosophy to develop the mindset skills and behaviours to be ready for the future of work, so absolutely spot on with that. I think one on their own isn't good enough you need to be looking at mindset, skills and the behaviours that you need to demonstrate. 
Yeah and I love that ready for future work aspect and anticipating what's next, it's not resting on where you are today so that's a good description or a mission statement there.  
Yeah and culture change is one of the most difficult things to accomplish at a company which is why we chose this as a subject for our second podcast. For me, it does start with that mindset, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you can create consistency which is about behaviour. If I see a résumé that is 70 percent of what I need but the mindset is 100 percent, I will hire that person every time.


The Transformation Mindset in Action


A good example of that is Virgin Wines. A great example of living the culture, that the strap line was used throughout the whole of my time was 'Life is too short for boring wine', an excellent strap line; captures a wealth of emotions and most people nod in appreciation when you say that, but the whole culture was built around that. The CEO led from the front, a guy called Jay Wright and the whole company was built around the fact that life is too short for boring wine and that one hundred percent satisfaction guarantee is required for all of those products and everyone focused on that, they focused on enjoying the wine, having a great time, ensuring the customers had a great time but one hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed and it started and ended with that CEO living and breathing that philosophy. So, it's an interesting point, in terms of where culture comes from and I think it can come from the CEO but you need to make sure it's installed in the overall work force as well.  
Yeah I fully agree with that, it's important because as marketers were being asked to work and think differently and Marketing Culture is fundamental to bringing the business mission to life, like you just described, life is too short for boring wine and making the business a success. 

A great culture environment I have been in and that have had that, who were really receptive to challenging the current ways of working and rewarded behaviours that actually drove change and growth. I remember a few years ago I walked into a business and inherited a large declining business with no investment and limited innovation- kind of sounds familiar probably to a lot of folk listening to this. The outcome of the work I did was to reposition the portfolio and the president signing off the first advertising in ten years, in a category we were supposed to be ignoring and milking and my revolutionary action was to actually open the monthly Market Share Data and poke around and I was looking at this data in a category you’re not supposed to work on, we were just collecting data and storing it and contrary to what I'd been told, there were markets where the category was actually growing.

The act of being unbiased and looking at what was actually happening and not what was perceived to be happening was all it took to show there was an opportunity there. In a lot of cultures what I just described is heresy and entrepreneurial and growth culture champions you know changing course when new information comes in. 


  • step one was to turn data point into an insight and a darn good one that would win with consumers, shoppers and customers, repositioning the brand and position.  

  • Step two is to mobilise the people, to fight, persuade, provoke and to get into the innovation  pipeline so push this idea and initiative and sell on the fact it was a Commercial Innovation i.e. We didn’t need a change of product, we just needed to change the packaging and how you communicated it. 

  • And step three was to architect a process to make it repeatable. It didn’t exist before so I had to create and role model how you could put this into action and within three or four months of launch we moved from number four in the market to number two approaching number one, all through this work which started off just looking through the data and seeing actually the reality that it was growing, the category was growing vs what we'd been told or thought for the last three to four years.



That is a quick turn around and I think that an interesting point of the turnaround, the necessary requirement is that the company is set up for growth and one of the buzz words flying around a lot at the moment is around a growth mindset and I think it's really worth calling this stuff out to see whether it's real or not. 

“What is a growth mindset, how do I get one and how do I stop it from just becoming a fad? “

In a Growth Mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be improved through dedication and hard work and so brains and talent are just where you start. Here’s a tip: I hate the word talent, kill the word talent; it implies that you either have it or you haven’t whereas a Growth Mindset creates a love of learning, resilience that is essential to really accomplish things. So, if there are obstacles, it means I try harder. Criticism means I take on the useful negative feedback, other people’s success isn’t threatening, I’m not threatened by that or you know your success or someone else’s success doesn’t make me look bad- that’s not how I see it and all of those mindsets are what marketers need now more than ever.

 So, three or more ideal marketing mindsets are trust your gut and go with that, yes there’s data but go with your intuition and back that. Be brave, don’t be afraid to fail at something or be wrong or not know that’s perfectly human, if you don’t know that’s when you take the opportunity to go and fix that and learn, And here’s one I see a lot, it means that legal doesn’t always have the last word, as marketers we’ve got to challenge the status quo and when we get told no and it can’t be done that way, we’ve got to fight through and push through. So those are three of the mindsets that I see as fundamental to making the growth mindset really actionable and practical in marketing world.



Yeah I like that one about legal doesn’t have the last word, or more to the point it tends to be CFOs don’t necessarily have to have the last word in the experience that I’ve had. I like to think that I have a growth mindset but its nice to know that you don’t have to purchase it from Amazon and it’s something you can actually develop yourself, but I do think it’s important, I do agree with a lot you said there but I think it’s important to understand that most teams are full up of introverts and extroverts, pessimists and optimists, analytics or creatives and our job is to find the right mix of ingredients and it’s not just about marketing, that’s about drawing that out in cross function teams as well. 

Marketing should be the catalyst in more ways than one and, to build that culture, what you certainly don’t want is ten blue sky thinkers in your team and no practical doers, and it’s an important point that we’re almost like the conductor of the orchestra  trying to draw out the voices and make sure that it sounds good together. 



Yeah I agree with what you just said there. Mindset really means you have to translate that mindset into a bunch of behaviours and mindset. It sounds a bit theoretical and passive so here are three sets of behaviours that really back that mindset.

  1. Being flexible, specifically for a marketer evolve the brief more often move quickly then scale out, don’t be afraid to turn off what isn’t working so being flexible means that if this isn’t working, data’s showing that you’re not hitting your performance targets or goals then pivot, flex have a plan B. 

  2. Keep ten percent of your budget for test and learn activities and especially know when budgets are getting tighter and there’s more scrutiny or maybe the CFOs said no you’ve got to have ten percent of your budget that your committing to test and learn and what that means is I’m going to spend this money and it might not work. The cultures that support that, the behaviours and mindsets that allow that to happen will strive and will drive growth.

  3. And the third one is to celebrate and inspire both successes and failures. You’ve got to know your failures, you’ve got to know what didn’t work out and you have to tell the whole world, I’ve been in scenarios where we’ve had global meetings and everyone gets together and you’ve been presenting and you realise three different parts of the company in three different parts of the world make exactly the same mistakes. Like, why do we do the same thing wrong three times? how about one person does it wrong and tells everyone about it and saves us time and money. So, the flexibility, the ten percent test and learn and celebrating and communicating successes and failures is critical.

Be Brave Marketers!



Yeah good, and the one that rings really true to me is being brave as well and making sure there’s bravery and courage built into your culture. And it’s interesting because that’s the quickest way to become the hero or be fired and we must change that mentality. If I think about some of the bravest decisions that I have made in this business, I’d say that three of them at least were when my back was against the wall. Either a sudden turn in the business leading  to a decrease in marketing budget, meaning a revolutionary strategy is  required and that’s when I do the most creative part of my job in a way, its satisfying and inspiring to think right I’ve only got one avenue here I’m going to have to leap and it might not have felt like that at the time, but looking back. A good example of that is probably The Guardian, The Guardian was going through massive change when I was there as marketing and sales directors.



Chris, that’s a newspaper right? 



It certainly is and it’s got a base in the US as well so if you don’t know it please go and check it out. And as the whole of the media industry was suffering, sales for newspapers were declining about eight percent year by year and The Guardian was actually in debt of around sixty – seventy million pounds and I was responsible for the eighty million pound revenue stream but at that point you’re looking at it and your only seeing one way that this will go and that’s downwards, but through massive transformation we were able to reverse that trend and its fantastic to see that the guardian is now breaking even with even more transformation over the years since I was there, and the team have done a great job. At the time we took the decision to put the price of the paper up for the first time in years, reduce the number of pages in the paper and dramatically shift the focus to subscriptions and digital. I came off tv advertising, focused on putting amazing journalism at the heart of the activity and put all the efforts into digital marketing, which was very different to how every other newspaper was approaching their marketing activity. We built subscriptions, we built events, we built a  membership business a  forerunner of what you see today, now a lot of those decisions weren’t popular with the customers let alone the actual senior management that were there or the staff. 

Sometimes it’s only afterwards you can see the impact that you can have and you also have to look at it as it's not possible to do alone, there was a brilliant team in place, there was Alan Rusbridger who was the editor at the time, he over saw all the phone hacking, wiki leaks, expose. Kath Viner was the editor or lead in marketing, she is now the editor in chief, a guy called Richard Furness who headed up the marketing and is now publisher there, and actually Adam Freeman who went on to run Freeformers, and I look back and you are only as strong as the team you are part of, and that is about creating a strong culture that can work through those challenges together, it’s very very difficult to do on your own. 



Yeah and when you’re talking there it just comes back again to the mindset when the change is happening, do you shirk it. do you shy away, do you resist or do  you embrace it challenge it, lean into it and use it as an opportunity to thrive, to pivot, to learn and change direction.  To actually see the opportunity and be part of that and I can imagine it was tough for the organisation to change but as you say you see it was clearly the right decision.



Yeah exactly and I think when you’re on that course and you’re looking at it and you have to remain motivated and focused but you also have to stay absolutely committed to your views, however, there is one caveat  there which is at all times we have to remember some of those skills we come back to,  these skills of marketers and constantly taking the temperature of the market place, constantly using evidence to try and reinforce and challenge our decisions and ensuring we’ve got a plan B at all times. So you know what I’m not talking about is going Gung-ho down the path and saying right well do or die,  it has to be one way, we need to balance it with being brave, being courageous, following our convictions but at all times being able to check what we're doing. 


Yeah I was about to say, there’s the test and learn absolutely in there and having the openness to change direction and like you say not going Gung-ho down the path and locked into the its one way or the high way sort of approach so I like that, that philosophy.



Yeah and I was just going to check that rang true with you so that is good. 


Three key Takeouts and Reflections



Yeah I would say from todays episode number

  1. Be brave in terms of how you think and do things and who you're hanging with and the solutions you put forward, and from what we’ve shared today from both of us and the inspirations that inspire us we have been brave and actually taken a stance and used our voice and taken action and been provocative. 

  2. Is take culture as a serious matter. It's not just a HR thing and don’t be superficial and make it about talent we talked about the growth mindset and if you don’t take anything else away from the growth mindset, kill the word talent and really lean into that.

  3. It is behaviours that make it happen and is why you need the right mindset. So the growth mindset is really a bunch of behaviours i.e. the actions that push you forward it's not a cerebral exercise but it’s about doing and making a change and having impact so being brave, taking culture seriously and behaviours that drive the growth mindset.

bottom of page