Marketing heroes

Thom Yorke, Radiohead
Thom Yorke, Radiohead

LONDON - Madonna and Napoleon are among the diverse names on a 'heroes' list drawn up by The Marketing Society - we look at who else might make the grade.

Defining what constitutes a marketing hero is hard enough, but choosing one is even more difficult. Nevertheless, this is part of what The Marketing Society is attempting to do as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations by commemo-rating the great marketing heroes of the past half-century.

The organisation has created a shortlist of heroes in five categories: the most brilliant brand builders, the mould breakers, the marketers that most changed our lives, the specialists and the most admired marketers. Members will then be invited to vote for a winner in each category.

In light of The Marketing Society's initiative, we asked seven key figures in the industry to choose their ultimate marketing hero.

Roisin Donnelly, Head of marketing, Procter & Gamble UK and Ireland

Hero AG Lafley chief executive, P&G

AG is an extraordinary marketer. He has spent his career successfully building brands and people.  He always puts the consumer at the heart of the business and has led the whole company to walk in the shoes of its con-sumers. P&G brands have been driven to record high results, thanks to product and marketing innovation focused on the consumer.

AG has been  behind the company's drive to improve the lives of the world's consu-mers, now and for genera-tions to come. This has been the inspiration behind great marketing initiatives such as Pampers' tie with UNICEF, which is now in its third year and has already contribu-ted 23m vaccines in the UK alone. Another example is the Ariel 'Turn to 30' initiative and the Ariel Excel Gel 'Cold is the new hot' campaign. It is an inspiring mission for every marketer to touch, and improves lives.

In addition, AG has strengthened the marketing culture at P&G. He is a passion-ate advocate of the work-life balance, encouraging every marketer to focus on managing their energy and being their best.

Hugh Burkitt, Chief executive, The Marketing Society

Hero Ken Webb former marketer, Birds Eye

Ken Webb, who offered me my first job in marketing, as a Unilever trainee in 1967, was in charge of marketing at Birds Eye during the era when the brand created the frozen-food market in the UK.

Under Ken's leadership, Birds Eye dominated the market, and the whole nation discovered the delights of fish fingers, beef burgers and frozen peas. Birds Eye's hold on the market was founded on three pillars: a vice-like grip on distribution, brilliant use of television, involving such memorable characters as Captain Birds Eye and the 'cannon ball pea', which was too big to get into the Birds Eye pack, and high-speed product innovation, which left competitors breathless.

Ken led a brilliant team, but the decision made in the 50s to stop supplying grocers whose deep freezers had closed tops, was down to him. It led to an increase in displ-ay freezers, and to higher sales, as the Birds Eye brand was prominently displayed.

Ken was promoted to chairman of Birds Eye in 1972 and after his retirement moved to the Eggs Authority. He was also chairman of The Marketing Society from 1981-1982.

Jill McDonald, Chief marketing officer, UK and Northern Europe, McDonald's

Hero Derek Dear former marketer, British Airways

I started working for Derek Dear in the early 90s, when he  was head of creative services at British Airways. He had a real passion for creativity and firmly believed in the link between truly outstanding creative work and the bottom line. A belief that has gone a little out of favour in recent times.

What makes him my hero is that he really stuck to his guns and got the very best out of his team and agency partners. He would challenge us to nurture creativity and not crush it at the first sign of a wobble. He would also push to make sure ideas had been explored to their full potential and that we hadn't just taken the easy or expedient route with them.

Some people may remember the 'Face' commercial that BA made in the late 80s.  It broke all airline advertising conventions - no shots of aircraft or smiling steward-esses pouring Champagne. Some of the more nervous asked for the storyboard to be researched, which it duly was - it bombed. But Derek stuck to his guns, the ad was made and turned out to be one of the most successful commercials BA has made.

Amanda McKenzie, group marketing director, Aviva

Hero Bill Gates founder, Microsoft

Bill Gates has had a profound effect on people's lives. The world's third-richest person, and the chair-man of Microsoft is also one of the best-known entrepre-neurs in the world, and a business icon.

As one of the chief architects of the PC revolution, he has been the brains behind one of the biggest com-puter brands in the world. The Harvard-educated businessman has an exceptionally gifted mind, with a reported IQ of 170 - a level that only one in a million can boast.

In his first five years at Microsoft, Gates personally reviewed every line of code in the software it developed, and often rewrote parts of it. He aggressively broadened the company's range of products and introduced the hugely profitable Windows brand.

He also has an impressive profile as a philanthropist, having donated a vast amount of money to charities and scientific research foundations.

Andrew Marsden, Marketing consultant

Hero Stelios Haji-Ioannou founder, easyJet

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the entrepreneur best known for setting up easyJet, has an innate ability to turn the existing market on its head. The model of making flights cheaper the earlier they are booked is extremely impressive.

While he has expanded the 'orange' brand into a variety of sectors, it has remai-ned exceptionally consis-tent. Through a marketing-led approach Stelios has made a huge mark on the business community.

As well as building up the easy brand, Stelios has also built a substantial personal profile.  He is truly the self-styled 'serial entrepreneur'.

Tess Alps, Chief executive, Thinkbox

Hero John Webster former creative director, BMP

My marketing hero died in 2006, and I never met him, but his achievements still play a major role in my thinking and work. I first heard of him in the 80s - as a young TV salesperson it wasn't a requirement to know the identities of creative directors. But then I saw a John Webster ad that made my spine tingle.

That ad ('Points of View' for The Guardian) still makes me shiver and it remains my favourite ad of all time.  I have never seen a better example of how a complicated proposition can be distilled and dramatised into 30 seconds of genius.

Nostalgia adds a distorting lustre to our memories, but John Webster's ads are as potent today as when they launched. Your favourite might be the Smash Martians, John Smith's 'Arkwright', or the early Lineker Walkers crisps ads - but you remember them all vividly, and some

of those brands are still living off the back of his creativity. How much brand value and profit has John Webster created over the years?

Recent academic research in psychology and neuroscience explains why his entertaining and engaging ads worked so well, but he broke the creative mould using just instinct, humility and humanity.

Marc Sands, Marketing director, Guardian News and Media,

Hero Thom Yorke frontman, Radiohead

I'm not sure that the words 'marketing hero' sit happily together. My hero would probably not respond too well to being dubbed a 'hero' of anything. He might also think that marketing is the work of the devil.

Thom Yorke is the one for me. He is a leader where others follow, and that is exactly where marketing needs to be in a modern-day organisation.

Yorke is a marketing hero not for his musical talents, but because of five key strategies that are core to everything he does. He 'gets' his audience and treats them like the community they are. He has a constant desire for genuine creativity and innovation - not to be confused with re-invention.

Yorke embraces all things digital, whether they be creative or commercial. He and the band have explored, overturned and led the evolution of the music industry, one which has traditionally been slow to respond to changing circumstances.

Finally, Yorke applies his 'brand' to issues that matter to him and he believes should matter to others. The main issue on which this has been evident is the environment.

A conventional marketing hero? Maybe not. But as an industry we sometimes need to look outside our comfort zone for inspiration and ideas.

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