Lindsay Firth-McGuckin * Marketing Director * Henderson Administration
Is marketing suffering from a crisis of sexual identity? Is marketing in
fact a woman dressed up as a man? All bluster and aggression, its
outward forms are undeniably masculine - going on macho.
But as Lindsay Firth-McGuckin points out, ‘Marketing is about listening
to people and finding what turns them on,’ and these are traditionally
feminine attributes. An hour in her company convinces you that the best
metaphor for marketing is not military - ‘campaigns, strategies and
offensives,’ - but maternal - ‘creation, emotion, empowerment and
Not that she says so outright. As befits her non-confrontational style,
these are inferences not statements. But there are few better qualified
in the UK today to raise such an argument.
One of the very few marketers to successfully straddle the worlds of
academic and real-life marketing, Firth-McGuckin is best known for her
award-winning, text-book transformation of the male-dominated Liverpool
Victoria Friendly Society from a fading proletarian savings giant into a
bouncing healthy modern financial brand.
Sales increased by 70%, prompted brand awareness rose from 6% to 48% and
the marketing department shot up from zero to 23 staff during the two
years of her stewardship. ‘It was the realisation and fulfillment of
everything I have done to date,’ enthuses Firth-McGuckin.
Those who have worked with her are unreserved in their praise. ‘She was
a model client, clear, fair, a great team builder and sensitive, in
stark contrast to many of the chest-beating men in marketing,’ says
Mickey Finn, chief executive of Liverpool Victoria’s ad agency Duckworth
Finn Grubb Waters.
Firth-McGuckin started off in sales at Royal Insurance, where she learnt
that success means ‘you have to be a chameleon, the person your prospect
wants you to be’. Nine years later, she discovered marketing (corporate
chameleonship) in an MBA at Bradford University. ‘It was like someone
turning the light on, I had been doing it and no one had told me what it
was,’ she laughs.
A spell working in a direct-marketing agency convinced her that she
‘didn’t like clients very much’, so she moved on to become a marketing
manager at Bradford and Bingley building society.
That was followed by five years lecturing in marketing at Kingston
University, setting up a post-graduate course and acting as a consultant
for Abbey National, Coopers and Lybrand, Preferred Assurance and
Alliance and Leicester.
And now she is at it again, creating a new brand from absolutely
nothing. Last week, she initiated a far-reaching review of male-
dominated fund management group Henderson Administration, to transform
it from an irrelevant aristocratic investment giant into a modern retail
Henderson has pounds 13bn under management for pension funds,
institutions and high net worth individuals. She says the fact that it
is operating at the other end of the social spectrum form the Liverpool
Victoria is irrelevant. ‘Whatever the product or country, marketing is
the same discipline.’
It is a discipline that has been lacking in the financial services
sector to date, she argues, which is why there are so few strong
financial brands. ‘They tend to be weak because they don’t follow the
elementary academic steps. The important thing is to ask the basic
questions like, who do you want to talk to, who is your competition and
so on,’ she says.
Many financial marketers are not marketers at all but financiers, argues
Firth-McGuckin. ‘Many don’t even understand the basic rule of branding -
that everything you do must match the brand.’
She’s vehement that everybody in marketing should have a qualification.
‘Marketers should know academic marketing backwards. It would turn
marketing into a profession. How else can we compete with accountants
and lawyers on the board,’ she says.
While she has no clear idea of the nature of the Henderson brand yet,
she feels it is more likely to be about emotional rather than rational
benefits. ‘After all, I’m not interested in looking at the motor when I
buy a new car or a washing machine,’ she reasons. Just like a woman.
1985-86 Full-time MBA Bradford University
1986-87 Senior account director JDA Group
1987-1988 Marketing manager Bradford & Bingley
1988-1993 Lecturer, Kingston University
1993-Sept 95 Head of marketing, Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society
From Sept 95 Marketing director, Henderson
This article was first published on Marketing