How to Put Marketing at the Centre of Business Transformation

Last week, we were delighted to host our inaugural Ten Talks event at Soho House on Dean Street – a fascinating discussion about marketing’s role at the centre of business transformation.

The idea for the event was born from discussions that we have been having with our clients about how the role of marketing is changing in the face of a host of new challenges and opportunities. We wanted to bring everyone together to share insights that will help us navigate this new landscape.

We were joined by a panel of industry experts – including our very own Elaine Stern, CEO of The 10 Group, Sophie Neary, Group Director UK&I at Meta, Elliot Moss, Partner and Chief Brand Officer at Mishcon de Reya, and Tom Adams, Experience Consulting Leader at PwC UK.

Here are the five top pieces of advice that emerged from our session.


1. Put creativity and storytelling at the heart of your strategy 

When I first started working with brands, they focused mainly on reaching customers through paid media and advertising. Today, it’s not just the channels and tactics that have changed – successful leaders have adopted an entirely new mindset.

This new mindset, according to Elliott, is rooted in creativity and storytelling. When a brilliant idea is married with the intelligent use of technology, it can help brands break conventions and cut through the noise. On the other hand, if marketing leaders don’t use data insights to back up their creative idea, they risk being left behind.

Tom believes that the oversteer that we have seen towards data and automation is leading to many brands forgetting to tell the story. When marketing leaders get them right in balance, they deliver performance in sales, awareness and profitability – but many leaders are too focused on the numbers and not always aware of importance of integrating insights into marketing strategies over time.


2. Balance short term gains with long-term growth 

According to PwC’s CMO Study, 65% of CMOs see marketing as a cost centre – but there remains an expectation that marketing should be a growth function. This paradox, Tom reminded us, lies at the heart of CMOs’ jobs, and it means that the eyes of the C-Suite are fixed on marketing like never before. Data insights are easily accessible by senior stakeholders, giving them constant visibility into whether their marketing approach is working in parallel with their organisation’s strategic goals.

In response, Sophie advised CMOs to spend time convincing senior stakeholders to think about the future, rather than regularly harvesting existing results. “The analogy I always use is the apple tree,” she said. “Once you’ve plucked all the apples from the tree, if you’re not fertilising it, and if you’re not watering the roots, at some point you’re going to run out of apples.”

The flip side of this is that the value of marketing is being recognised at board level like never before. This is something we’ve experienced many times through our work launching corporate venture partnerships for clients including Vodafone and BT. This is a tricky area because, by its very nature, it disrupts organisations’ existing business models – and we’ve found that getting the story right is an essential part of achieving senior level buy-in.


3. AI can’t replace human ingenuity – yet  

AI will fundamentally change every industry. It’s not just a new shiny thing for marketing to show the board. The value it brings – including its potential to drive efficiency – is clear. But the big question that marketing leaders have been asking is: how will it interact with human creativity?

Elliott believes the two can work in harmony. While AI will transform the roles that exist in marketing, it can’t currently replace the original creative loops that human make – because it repeats patterns that already exist. By 2030, law firms won’t exist in the same form that they do today – but this is exciting, not scary. The idea, the creative and the story will still set successful brands apart from the rest.


4. Go for attitude over ability in the battle for top talent 

When asked how they are prepared to win the battle for top talent, our panellists agreed that attitude is just as important as ability. For Sophie, the focus on academic achievement is outdated – instead, it’s time to focus on candidates’ soft skills and readiness to learn. Elliott, meanwhile, says he likes to see new hires as a blank piece of paper: they don’t have to be from the same industry as you, but they must have a spark that you can nurture. This learning mindset resonated with Tom, who shared his maxim for professional success: “be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all.”

Our panel shared fascinating views on how brands should market to, recruit and retain Gen Z. For Sophie, they are a fundamentally different generation – and brands should take note of how they view themselves and present themselves to the world. Marketing leaders should be worried if they haven’t got Gen Z front of mind when building their marketing and talent acquisition strategies, she warned.

For Elliott, Gen Z’s focus on purpose is not new; they reflect generations of young people before them. And it’s no surprise that, growing up on a burning planet, they are driven to make a change. In his view, engaging with them as customers and employees is about looking for the truths in your business, and telling them in original, inspiring and authentic ways.


5. ESG is everything 

ESG has been a focus for brands for decades – but the term is relatively new, and Elaine pointed out that it may be unhelpful. She argued that environmental, social and governance are three entirely distinct areas of business and weaving them together through the same story is very difficult. As a result, many brands have ended up saying the same thing – leading to a growing sense of “ESG fatigue” among consumers and employees.

ESG is not just about doing the right thing – purpose-driven leadership is profitable. Tom pointed out that because our understanding of the customer has improved immeasurably, we can foster responsible growth to address commercial objectives and identify our ESG objectives in relation to the things our customers really care about.

For Elliott, getting ESG right involves what he calls taking a “world first, business second and brand third” approach to marketing. This means taking time to understand what’s happening in the world and translating major developments into insights to shape the direction of growth for the business – and only then implementing changes to your brand strategy.


Towards a more creative and intelligent future for marketing 

I left our session feeling energised, inspired and equipped with the knowledge I need to help our clients to navigate the new marketing landscape – and it’s been fantastic to hear that many of our attendees felt the same.

The only way to approach an uncertain future is through the intelligent use of technology, a strong focus on inclusion, and above all, the use of creative storytelling to inspire and engage audiences while driving long-term growth. We look forward to working with our clients to help them create campaigns that cut through – even in the noisiest markets.

You can watch the full panel discussion here.