Mars CMO Andrew Clarke: 'Challenge orthodoxy, do the reverse'

Mars CMO Andrew Clarke says marketers and brands need to fight back against orthodoxy, avoid being over-controlling, and empower staff and agencies.

Mars CMO Andrew Clarke on stage at the Marketing Society Brave Conference

Speaking at Wednesday's Marketing Society Brave Conference, Clarke outlined his marketing philosophy and how it resonated with the notion of being brave, and how sometimes doing the opposite of received wisdom is the wiser move.

"It's less about control and more about liberation," he told the audience at London's Science Museum. "When times get tough, when you're trying to navigate a course, it's very tempting to over-control. I suggest we should do the opposite and empower our teams."

He cited Michele Oliver, U.K. VP of Mars Chocolate, who oversaw the multi-award-winning Maltesers "light side of disability" campaign.

"Secondly, trust your agencies." He referenced the adage that a new chief executive starts by firing his or her CMO, applying it to a new chief marketing officer firing his or her agency.

"I did the opposite," he said. "I doubled down with the agency and pushed them to be as creative as they could."

Thirdly, marketers should trust data, Clarke said.

"It's very easy to make bad decisions in today's world. It's much easier to make brave decisions if you have the right information. But it's very stupid to make brave decisions without data," he explained.

Clarke also suggested that marketers and brands spend less time retreating and more time exploring, that there should be "less self-interest and more sharing, adding that "when times are tough, it's very easy to entrench."

"I think being a chief marketing offier is brave," he quipped, citing research that found that while 80% of chief executives are unimpressed by their chief marketing officer, while only 10% are unimpressed by their chief financial officers.

"We're the ones trying to take the future forward and that future is tricky," he said. "The world is getting much more difficult for brands and easier for consumers to forget us, with disruption in digital, the fragmentation of media, it's much more difficult for consumers to say what their favourite brands are."

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