Confidence and collaboration – the perfect combination to thrive post-lockdown

Key takeaways from September's IRL Oystercatchers Club

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Those with long memories may recall a Colgate ad with the “Ring of Confidence” strapline. Something we’d all like to see more of in these zig zag times.

Confidence has always been a defining characteristic in our industry for marketing and agency leaders alike. With the world opening by degrees after a series of lockdowns, it’s cheering to see confidence in a positive future returning – so naturally this was a bang on topic for our first live Oystercatchers Club of the year – held in our spiritual home, The Ham Yard Hotel.

With bags of fizz, energy and even, joy tangibly bubbling after such a long hiatus, we were thrilled to welcome a hundred senior marketing and creative leaders.

The evening was the perfect opportunity to introduce our new managing partner Gill Huber, a live debut, who introduced the panel and the topic du jour ‘The Confidence Mindset – marketing’s secret sauce for 2022.’

Joining our chair, Suki Thompson, on stage for conversation was a line-up of highly experienced leadership, with a great track record, truly influencing their boardrooms, and a wonderful zest for marketing. This included: Zaid Al-Qassab, CMO of Channel 4; Sharry Cramond, Marketing Director of M&S Food; Mark Evans, Managing Director, Marketing & Digital for Direct Line Group; and Vicki Maguire, Chief Creative Officer for Havas London.

Zaid promptly pinned down the definition of confidence: “Confidence is not arrogance. It’s not swagger. In marketing terms - it’s about complete certainty of who you are and why you’re here.” Much nodding of approval from the audience.

Guiding stars

But where does this strength of belief and character come from? The remit and responsibilities of Channel 4 as a public service broadcaster gives Zaid and his team their touchstone and “a certainty about what we are here to do” – for instance the focused comms around and coverage of the Paralympic Games.

Mark added that the turbulent time we’ve all been through led to “an epiphany about our role in the world” and led DLG to focus on the personal, inclusive and being a force for good.

Interestingly, not every brand has such a clear-cut mission nor needs one. Vicki acknowledged this but did stress: “(While) not every brand needs a purpose, every brand should know the role they play in their consumer’s life.”

There were great examples of how confidence has encouraged marketing teams and agencies to take creative risks. Such boldness, the panellists agreed, is needed to make sure brands stay relevant and valuable in the eyes of consumers who have gone through a period of dramatic change– the panel warned against being on the wrong side of “indispensable.”

Sharry observed that the pandemic had changed the Saturday shopping habit and stressed: “Everyone is looking to develop new habits. What do we do with our brand to make sure we get a share of these new habits?”

M&S Food benefited from new consumer behaviours and needed to keep front of mind as lockdown ended, so the team took a new, big decision to create a new cooking show in collaboration with ITV – Cooking With The Stars. All highly nerve-wracking, Sharry explained, especially as the team now must scrutinise viewing figures alongside sales figures!  She continued: “[this was] a gamble that could only be taken with some inner certainty it was the right thing to do.”

The future agency-client relationship

The panel agreed that there have been positive shifts in how agencies, and brands will work in the future, for as Mark pointed out: " The magic comes from the agency. You feel the hairs standing up on the back of your neck".

Vicki was certain that Covid has broken down barriers and said: “We’re all in this together - clients and agencies. We've come too far to step back".

Though many brands now have in-house creative teams, including Channel 4 and M&S Food, they will still look to collaborate for big ideas and to find fresh inspiration. Sharry emphasised: “We're working with different agencies for different objectives. We're not looking to sit internally and cover up with all the ideas.”

Looking to the future

Certainty has been in short supply recently, but each panellist marketer had confidence in something specific they were sure would develop or materialise in coming months. Zaid believed that teams would be able to recapture “some of the things we lost when we de-focused on teamwork and focused on survival – businesses challenges are best solved by being together.”

Mark is sure there’s a lot to learn over the coming year as his team ride over the “undulations” ahead, while Vicki added that she will be working her very hardest to inspire her creative department to thrive.

Suki concluded, “One thing I’ve noticed during the extraordinary times of Covid, is that the confidence of all of us as leaders has made all the difference to our customers, our teams and our industry. It doesn’t mean that we always know the answer, but the very best of us have been open to discussion, debate and challenge. Our Oystercatchers Club conversation has proved that beyond measure.”

A huge thank you to our wonderful panellists and guests for making our first IRL Club evening a success.

If you are a senior brand-side marketer or interested in joining our Oystercatchers Club events, or an agency that would like to become part of the Oystercatchers Club, please get in touch here.

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