Generally speaking, someone with a title like Chief Marketing Officer has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in all aspects of marketing. Because of this, a CMO or similar title is the perfect person to know what is more and less likely to work. So what are the top 5 tried and true marketing strategies that executives recommend to other business leaders? As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Atkinson.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The honest answer would be that I fell into this career path. I studied law, economics and resource management at Cambridge University and graduated without a clear sense of where that degree might take me. A post university backpacking trip exploring the world (including Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and South America), brought me no closer to having any firmer idea.
A sense of combining something commercially orientated with a level of creativity ultimately led to applications for management trainee schemes at a number of high profile global consumer brand organisations. The first to offer me a role was L’Oréal, and that started my marketing career.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a person who you're grateful for who helped you get to where you are?
From a personal perspective, I am who I am today as a result of the influence of my parents. They set a great example from a work ethic perspective and instilled an understanding that achievement comes from hard work, focus and determination. They pushed me out of my comfort zone, but provided a constant background of support.
From a professional perspective, I had a boss in my early career who taught me a lot about what I would describe as professional dignity in the work environment and set a fine example of a calm, measured, but firm approach towards results. He showcased that you don’t have to take an aggressive or overly-confident approach to stand out. The example that is set in certain environments and young trainees subsequently believe they have to follow.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I co-founded Oltomo over a year ago, a golf publishing company. What makes Oltomo stand out is that it bucks the current trend in terms of the product that it produces. Oltomo produces comprehensive guides to all of a country’s golf courses. Whilst most of these guides have moved online over the last few years, Oltomo has reverted back to a traditional comprehensive printed golf guide, a beautiful reference book.
The first book release, available in the USA and the UK, ‘Golfland Scotland’, is supported by stunning imagery from David Cannon, one of the world’s most renowned golf photographers. Delivering the guide with this classic approach is at the heart of the appeal of the books and the company.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
I’m currently working with a contemporary Scottish craft gin and premium single malt whisky company which is building a distillery in the world-renowned St Andrews, Scotland, called Eden Mill. With the distillery set to become a major new landmark in Scotland, working on the design of that distillery and the development of its future luxury single malt, is an exciting project to be on right now. The distillery will create new employment in the area and will source from local suppliers, supporting the wider community.
With so many different types and channels for marketing, has any one area had a bigger impact on business for you over the rest?
Successful marketing will always tend to involve execution of a campaign idea across a mix of marketing and communication channels, as opposed to a singular reliance on one channel for execution. However, to answer the question in a different way, I have always been a strong advocate of the value of sponsorships, partnerships and collaborations for brands, which can be powerful tools for long term brand equity development.
The most obvious change over time in terms of marketing and communication channels is the development of digital marketing. In my early career, the brands I worked on at L’Oréal were heavily focused on traditional TV and print media advertising, obviously now the execution of a campaign involves a wider channel set, integrating digital and social as an example.
How often do you try a new marketing strategy, and which ‘boxes’ does it need to tick before you’re willing to implement it?
When you're developing marketing strategies, you first need to be clear on the objectives you are trying to achieve. Then, you need to have a degree of confidence that the marketing strategy, if implemented, will deliver against those objectives. That for me is always the box to tick. Do you believe the strategy will help you achieve your objectives? That’s the critical question.
You also need to be flexible. If you are trying a new marketing strategy and you discover that it isn’t working, then you need to take swift action to course correct. Don’t fear failure, however. Not everything works all the time, and that’s fine, as long as you react accordingly.
In your opinion, is it better to try out new marketing tactics or to stick with what you know works? How do you decide where to allocate your budget and resources?
The best marketing strategy will always combine different elements. There is normally always a decision to be made on balancing short term and long term brand equity building initiatives. Budgeting and resource allocation once again comes down to your objectives and your priorities. If success for your business or brand has a clear ‘must win’ area, then that should be your priority focus and consequentially, the likely focus of your budget and resources.
What are your top five most successful marketing strategies? What kind of results did you see?
1 . Having a clear brand position is vital for success. When I am supporting businesses that our consumer brand investment fund has taken a stake in, my first focus is on ensuring there is a clear brand position. Once you are clear on your brand positioning, it becomes a filter for everything that you do in the business across all functions. It influences everything from your commercial strategy in terms of distribution, to new product development to the partnerships that you create.
2 . Brand partnerships and collaborations can achieve great results. When I looked after Glenmorangie single malt whisky at Moet Hennessy, we created a brand collaboration with Finlay & Co, a contemporary luxury eyewear company. We partnered to produce luxury, limited-edition sunglasses with handmade wooden frames crafted from the casks in which Glenmorangie had previously been aged. With Glenmorangie, a traditional single malt whisky brand, our objective was to reach a new, younger, lifestyle audience. The collaboration allowed us to do this in an authentic, credible way. As a young brand with limited awareness at the time, it created an association with a globally known luxury brand, increasing the profile of Finlay & Co through the association.
3 . Don’t make the mistake that digital & social media are the only channels to execute marketing campaigns. So often I hear marketers speaking only of digital and social media. Print media, out of home, radio and television all remain powerful tools.
4 . Sponsorships can drive significant positive momentum for a brand. As an example, with Montezuma’s, a premium British chocolate brand with international distribution, we sponsored for a number of years, the prestigious ‘Christmas at Kew’, an annual Christmas event at the famous Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The sponsorship put Montezuma’s top of mind for everyone visiting the event at a key gifting time for premium chocolate.
5 . Put product quality front and center. Whatever your brand and business is—whether a physical product, a service or an experience—the quality of that ‘product’ is vital to success. Never let the quality drop. There is no point executing strong marketing campaigns that drive great reach and engagement if you will disappoint your target consumer through poor product quality.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
When Oltomo, the golf publishing company of which I am a co-founder, launched ‘Golfland Scotland’ (the first comprehensive guide to all of Scotland’s golf courses to be published in over two decades) in the USA and UK, we believed the right thing to do was run a major PR push.
To gain coverage, we decided to integrate a golf news story relating to the increase in participation in golf as a result of covid as a PR ‘hook’, given the launch of the book wasn’t necessarily newsworthy in itself.
We generated significant PR coverage in terms of number of titles, but the news story dominated the coverage, meaning the details and promotion of the book itself got lost in the coverage, or in some circumstances, wasn’t even referenced and we therefore gained little from the coverage in terms of book sales. Our marketing has been more targeted in our approach since then, with good success.
What expert tips can you share with those who just starting to build out their marketing strategy?
Understand your brand positioning. Be clear on the role your brand plays in its category. Then understand your target audience. Understand where that target audience engages and interacts with brands. Understand how they consume media and information. Collating this information will help you to execute stronger marketing campaigns that deliver the right results.
Lastly, you're a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I certainly wouldn’t claim to be an individual of great influence, there are far more impressive people out there. However, if I was to inspire a movement it would be about ensuring all young people, all kids, have the chance to be introduced to sport. A movement which enables youngsters to experience the power of playing sport.
Sport can have a lasting impact on life—it provides physical health benefits, mental health benefits, it plays an emotional role, helping the formation of friendships, understanding teamwork, dealing with pressure, how to react to both winning and losing. It teaches determination, focus, ambition.
By playing sport as youngsters, the benefit will be seen throughout life both professionally and personally. Engendering a love of sport and active participation in sport in children, will lead to healthier adults and
that benefits society as a whole.
How can our readers further follow your work online?