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The Whole Marketer Podcast – Episode 20 - Labyrinth Marketing
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The Whole Marketer Podcast – Episode 20

CMO: with guest Pete Markey

Pete Markey TSB CMO

Episode #20. In this Episode, the role of the CMO is explored with guest Pete Markey, Chief Marketing Officer of TSB. Pete has enjoyed huge success with companies such as British Gas, the Post Office and More Th˃n insurance (which led to him winning the Marketing Society’s Marketer of the Year award). He talks to Abby about his career highs and lows, why CMOs need to become an artist, scientist and politician, and what makes a great CMO in today’s climate. Plus hear about Pete’s “goldfish moment” (it’ll make sense when you listen!) and why you need one.





Resources/brands mentioned in this podcast:

Marketing Academy



Sponsored by Labyrinth Marketing


FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)


00:00:00:06 – 00:00:06:22

This podcast is brought to you by Labyrinth Marketing. Hello and welcome to the Whole Marketer podcast.


00:00:13:07 – 00:00:43:29

I’m Abby Dixon, your host, and today’s podcast focuses on the role of the CMO, shortly I’ll introduce Pete Markey, CMO at TSB. But before I do, let me just tell you why I think this is so important. The role of CMO is the pinnacle that most marketers are striving to achieve. And who better to tell us about what that takes than Pete Markey? His current role as chief marketing officer for TSB, where he is responsible for brand marketing, customer comms and digital sales, Pete has held senior leadership roles.


00:00:44:01 – 00:01:16:00

Aviva, the Post Office, RSA and more than in his early career One Tel, the AA and British Gas, as well as running marketing Pete is also, the executive sponsor for the TSB LGBT Plus Network. Pete has been awarded for four prestigious marketing of the Year Awards and is fellow of the Marketing Society and Chartered Institute of Marketing. He was awarded the Diversity Ally Award at the European Diversity Awards. Pete is also mentoring for the Marketing Academy outstanding Solent University. Welcome to the Whole Marketer podcast.


00:01:16:07 – 00:01:23:06

It’s great to be with you. Thank you. So we start with a big, juicy question up front. In your words, what is the role of a CMO?


00:01:23:15 – 00:01:46:22

It’s a great question and it’s one I’m asked more and more actually these days. And I think for me, the role is three-fold. Its part artist to bring out the creativity? It’s part scientist because all the data you need to understand and work with as a marketer now and part politician or statesman, someone that needs to represent marketing to the business. And that can be summed up in the modern CMO.


00:01:46:25 – 00:01:56:09

I like the word modern CMO as well with that modern CMO mind. Tell me more about what the role of artist is and how you would recommend marketers can develop that skill.


00:01:56:29 – 00:02:28:03

I think it’s all about spotting great creative, but it’s also about being creative yourself and how you think and how you operate within a business. I’m struck by the first time I worked in insurance I was going to a board to present and I found myself morphing into presenting the way other people presented to the board in the same style and same approach. And I made the decision to break the mould, take the board off site and work with them in an open space using creative boards. And this was all some brand purpose work.


00:02:28:15 – 00:02:49:14

And it went so well and I think it went so well because we brought creativity not just into the content, but into the approach of the presentation and delivery. So for me, the artist created part is about being able to bring the creativity and the strength of creative work, but also bringing fresh, different solutions, new creative ways to do things as a business leader.


00:02:49:23 – 00:02:56:19

Yeah, so Problem-Solving and ideas and solution. I’ve got to ask, how did you manage to get the board outside?


00:02:57:16 – 00:03:25:29

It took a lot of planning. What was helpful is once I sold it into a couple of stakeholders as a way to do things, then the rest followed. Once you had a couple on board, then there was sort of like the downburst. Now everyone was coming with us. But yeah, it took a lot of preparation and we had to get a venue close enough to the office that people could easily get back to. But you had different enough that created the right environment to have a different sort of conversation on brand purpose and probably a clear line in the sand moment that things are changing as well.


00:03:26:01 – 00:03:26:26

Get them off sight.


00:03:27:09 – 00:03:45:26

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it’s amazing, isn’t it, how the just the environment, the rooms we’re in, whether we’re sitting, whether we’re standing the environment, what’s on the walls, what’s around you, particularly when you’re talking about something very strategic? I think it is very thoughtful about the environment you create to share that.


00:03:46:05 – 00:04:10:02

Yeah, definitely. So the second thing you said, the artist scientist, I mean, marketing is indeed a science. And we have all of that data and analytics and insight around us to help us make fact-based decisions and better understand our consumers. What are the skills or actions do marketers need to develop to allow us to leverage that benefit of all of that data and insight?


00:04:10:22 – 00:04:43:22

I think the role of data is just grown and grown in the role of the CMO. I mean, I remember in my early career at British Gas when I’d look up to the marketing director at the time, you know, and a lot of that role was very heavily dominated by the brand and the need to be on top of the brand, the brand creative and the direction the brand was going in and the brand strategy. And that remains important now. But the role was a lot less about understanding how data was being used or customer data was being used in the organisation. And if I look at the modern CMO role today, I think you’ve got to be all over.


00:04:44:02 – 00:05:19:24

First of all, the measurement of the activity you’re doing, particularly in an environment where marketers, I think, are more accountable for what they do and how they do it, where money is being spent and the return on investment. But also, just I think with marketing, in my view, being the champion of the customer in the organisation, the ability to better use data to build and deepen customer relationships is a really important part of the marketers role. So in a former role when I was working in Aviva running marketing in the digital part of the business we invested in, the Adobe marketing cloud, and there are a range of products, Salesforce and underhead and others are doing a similar thing.


00:05:19:26 – 00:05:50:03

But actually the person who’s invested Mar-tech to use technology to connect your data, your digital, your experience together and understanding how that works, how to use data with that technology, I think is such a key part of the marketers role today. And it’s part of how you earn respect in a role, if you’re on top of your numbers, driving the right kind of deepening relationships, work with your data. And also, in the artist world, you know, keep an eye on the brand, the brand strategy and holistically where your creative is going too. And definitely chasing the number.


00:05:50:05 – 00:06:19:14

I couldn’t agree more. You know, what is that commercial goal that we are trying to chase, as well as understanding the consumer and customer better than anyone else in the organisation? What skills do you look for in the marketer? You know, that market that is able to have that clarity with a commercial objective, the numbers that they’re chasing, able to understand and mine insights and also translate that into workable strategies. What are you looking for as far as skills for someone that is able to do those things?


00:06:19:21 – 00:06:28:29

Well, obviously, that is the technical side of knowing that they’ve done a role previously that has covered those things as a degree of experience, which I think is obviously always helpful.


00:06:29:11 – 00:06:47:23

I think that is there’s an attitude to a marketer that really gets a handle on those aspects you just described. And if someone with a huge deep curiosity for the business they’re in, how the business works, what makes it tick, how the business makes money and the role marketing plays in helping the success of that organisation.


00:06:48:11 – 00:07:21:19

So you know what I’m on the lookout for are people that are very curious, keen to keep learning, keen to really roll up their sleeves, get within the organisation, work with finance, work with the relevant strategy, and sales teams just get their arms around what makes a business successful and the role those marketeers can play, not just in how things operate today, but how things could operate in a better, even more improved, enhanced environment moving forward. So that comes with a bit of tenacity and a bit of drive. And I took quite a lot to market is now about working outside the parameters of your job description.


00:07:21:21 – 00:07:57:10

And I think the job description is it’s useful because it tells you on paper what you should be doing day in, day out. But I think it shouldn’t be a document that you religiously, you know, draw a boundary around and say, that’s all I do. For me again, the best marketeers are those that actually go right. I get that that’s my job. But where can I have the greatest value in the organisation as a marketeer to not just fulfil the obligations of the roles description, but actually be a fantastic leader, a fantastic marketer, and make the best impact of difference and create the greatest legacy I can from my role and what I’m looking to do.


00:07:57:15 – 00:08:33:08

That’s a really great bit of advice because I often talk about the importance of being curious. You know curious about your consumers and people watching and getting out there and you know what people are doing but why they’re doing it. And I loved how you actually took that curiosity and suggested, you know, thinking about internally how the organisation is working in the ways in which he can improve as a great piece of advice. And fundamentally, you know, what are the ways in which not only to get things to market, you’ve got to understand how you navigate your way through the business, which I suppose leads on nicely to the third point that you made a beginning of the podcast around having to be a politician.


00:08:34:01 – 00:08:35:21

Tell me more about that.


00:08:35:23 – 00:09:32:04

Now I think it is really key isn’t it. I often I see marketing tends to fall down a little bit and forgetting that to do the marketing of marketing in the business. And I’m not advocating here some kind of slick, glossy sort of rah rah. It’s actually about the grounding of having a narrative behind what marketing are doing as a discipline, as a function and the value you’re adding to the business and the direction the team is going. And so if I look at the CMO roles that I’ve done, what’s been a really important thread in each has been a very clear story behind the team so far, that story is about what you’re the team’s achieving in terms of results and performance, both also, where’s the team going? You know what’s the strategy that’s driving that team? Has the team organized to deliver that strategy? And what are the risks, what are the issues, what the opportunities for that team? Who are the agency partners you’re working with? How are you driving cost efficiencies and improvements? How are you looking to make things better for your customers? All those things are part of that narrative.


00:09:32:06 – 00:10:02:23

And I think if I look at the presentations I’m involved with today currently and the ones I’ve done in the senior roles, they’re not just about, I guess, updating on the work you’re doing. It’s about updating on the narrative of the team, a key theme. So if I look at a presentation I gave in a strategy forum today, the first slide was a reminder of marketing’s core strategy and focus areas for the year. And this presentation was an update on those two areas. But I, I use it to frame together. Here’s a broad narrative. Here’s the top six to eight things that we’re focusing on as a team.


00:10:03:02 – 00:10:28:14

The core narrative of what we’re doing, that includes where the team’s going directionally, where the brand’s going, what we’re doing with data. But then today I just focus on two. Areas, but for me, it’s really important to put it all into context of a broader narrative and also to keep repeating and reminding people of that narrative, and I remember this was in a previous role being on a call with the CEO. And I remember that they said to me, they said, oh, we came to talk about one area, they said oh don’t worry.


00:10:28:16 – 00:10:49:05

You don’t need to cover that because I’m well aware of what you’re doing. That’s well trailed. I thought actually, you we’re doing our job here that aren’t we, that if you know about that or if we’re talking about that already, the already clear on the narrative. So when I come back and share on certain topics, you can fit it back into the narrative that we kept using and are aware of. So I think it’s really important. It’s a really important part of being a CMO today.


00:10:49:13 – 00:11:17:25

So linking back to the narrative or that trail, I really like that terminology is a key part of being a CMO and ensuring that not only the wider organisation is the of the strategy where you’re taking the business, but also how that impacts the team and the projects you’re working on and as you say, creating that infrastructure. One of the reasons I asked you on that day is because you’ve held so many CMO roles, which, you know, is the pinnacle for many marketers, for those that are listening to this. What advice would you give those aspiring to do the same?


00:11:18:00 – 00:11:33:29

I would be always hungry to keep learning and learn more. And don’t ever feel you’ve reached the end of any learning journey. So keep wanting to know more about marketing as a discipline. And also, by the way, you can add value in a business. And I think the other brands say pick the roles you’re going into and the role you’re in wisely.


00:11:34:11 – 00:12:14:25

Look for the path of where a role will take you. So I’ve been lucky enough before I took on my first even head of marketing alone marketing director, then CMO role. You know, I was lucky enough to move between work and analytics, brand, data, digital. And then when I came to pick on pick up the marketing director and CMO role, I had enough experience in those areas. Don’t feel afraid to step into areas, even if you’ve not got experience just to pick up the different bits of experience you get along the way. But look at each role on what will it give you to further complete your rounds? You off as a marketer and I worry with some roles now that the people won’t get stuck in a role or become such a deep expert in a role that they sort of stay there forever.


00:12:14:27 – 00:12:33:12

You know, you know, people just do content, maybe just stuck. And you can make a great career in content. But be clear that if you don’t want to get stuck in content, don’t get stuck in content. You know look for maybe the two years or a year or two is in content. Then look at the kind of stuff that’s coming next that really matters. Look for that a longer-term path. Pick those roles well.


00:12:33:14 – 00:13:04:16

That’s really interesting. So I think so many of us are given roles as we work an organisation of this roles come up with what needs to go there. And I think it’s very easy, isn’t it, to kind of go with the role it’s been suggested as opposed to the role that’s necessarily right for you to board in your technical skills, you know, your understanding of the organisation that’s broader, as you say, understanding new skills, but not allowing necessarily to, I guess, be pigeonholed by the latest shiniest thing, because I think so many digital marketers, they are good at digital.


00:13:04:22 – 00:13:15:05

But what I often find is they lack the initial context and strategy before the implementation. And that’s a vital skill as part of any market is development.


00:13:15:10 – 00:13:43:18

Now, I think you’re right, digital marketing is a vital part of marketing, but it’s still marketing and knowing the core discipline of what makes great marketing work is, I think, really key as well. But the other bit of advice I just round off with is I think grab opportunities with both hands when you get given them. I’m going to share a slightly bonkers example, but I’ve used it a couple of times before when my early career at British Gas, I just got into the head office and I was working as a as an analyst and I wasn’t that well known in the office, nor did I really have ambitions to be well known.


00:13:43:21 – 00:13:51:16

But I was busy working on all the analytics behind British Gas’ marketing campaign performance at the time, like British Gas was running a senior leaders conference.


00:13:51:18 – 00:13:59:20

And I got asked to dress up as a goldfish and I had to wear orange tights and a life-sized goldfish costume because British Gas was launching a goldfish credit card.


00:13:59:22 – 00:14:05:06

So I got to run through a senior leaders event, handing out leaflets, waddling along a goldfish with bright orange shoes.


00:14:05:09 – 00:14:31:18

At the end, people were asking who was a goldfish and when all is said you know it was Pete Markey, and so the number of really senior people from and others down who then got to know me as the bloke that was made up dressed as a goldfish. And I use that as a small example. But it actually did not help in being known in the business of being known for someone that actually was prepared to stick his neck out and do some stuff at a point the business needed that done. And I sadly, I’ve no photo evidence left of it that did take a Polaroid of the time that I never got a copy of.


00:14:32:07 – 00:15:01:24

But now I think it’s a slightly crazy example. But I think in each of our careers, there is a goldfish moment when someone will give you a chance to do something and again. But someone said a moment ago, even if you’ve got no I had no experience of dressing as a goldfish, sadly. But but if you’ve got you’ve got no experience. I mean, I my first job in Brand, I had no experience of brand before that first job and data driven, no experience, but actually throwing yourself in, learning on the job, learning and surrounding yourself with great people, getting out there, making a difference, make an impact. You can do all that.


00:15:02:01 – 00:15:21:27

And I think those are the things that will stretch you and also stretch your confidence and stretch your ability to learn. But the business, I think, is looking for people that are prepared to have that goldfish moment and show that they’re prepared to step up, be counted, make a difference, do things and sort of kind of not fade into the background in any role in any business you can happen. So, yeah, look for your goldfish moment.


00:15:22:06 – 00:15:33:06

I love that. Of all the things I was expecting you to say, that wasn’t one of them. Those times that you can put your hand up to help that are going to allow you to be seen and grab any opportunity.


00:15:33:17 – 00:15:40:06

So I suppose you always have that. That is a point of reference afterwards, or people said, oh, I’ve not met you before. You said yes. Yes, you have. I was the goldfish.


00:15:40:10 – 00:15:43:20

I’d say I was a goldfish. I just wish I could have kept the costume. It was it was wonderful.


00:15:43:27 – 00:15:53:15

Well, yeah Halloween’s made for the rest of your life. So talking about, you know, your career across all the different businesses you’ve worked in. And after that goldfish moment, what would you say your highs and lows are?


00:15:53:21 – 00:16:20:14

If I start with the low first, because I look back on the low points as probably the greatest learning points. I had a job early on in my career when I worked for the AA. Bizarrely, I didn’t work on anything to do with the core business or breakdown cover. The AA was trying to get into golf. It’s on my CV. It’s on my LinkedIn. You can see it. I spent a year at the AA and I just talk about it in general terms. But I actually spent a year working on a project called Golf England, where the AA were trying to sell membership services to golfers and golf clubs.


00:16:21:00 – 00:16:56:06

And the short version of a very long story was it was sort of doomed from day one. It wasn’t well thought through. The strategy was poor. It was poorly funded. I did my best on the job, but actually after a year they started to wind this thing up. And I’d gone from being someone who was on a bit of a trajectory of British Gas going into the AA at the time, part of the same organisation. Centrica, if I want to go in a role that kind of crashed and burned. And I think my learning in that was it was really hard, kind of gone from riding high to hit rock bottom. And particularly within the businessmen within the AA, the project was seen as a failure.


00:16:56:09 – 00:17:20:06

You know, you didn’t stand much chance of getting another job in the AA on the back of it. One of my old bosses called me and I went for an interview with the telecoms part of British Gas, which was operations at the time and got a role there. And that was a bit of a lifeline because I’d worked for this guy before and he’d seen the work I’d done and wanted me to come back to somewhere over there. But I learnt a lot from that that sort of set back around the fact that it was my role that was being made redundant, not me.


00:17:20:08 – 00:17:27:28

You know, the role was going the business had not worked. And whilst I was part of that, couldn’t handle that and fixed all that.


00:17:28:00 – 00:17:33:03

But the biggest learnings I took from it is I look back and I was probably what was I late 20s at the time.


00:17:33:05 – 00:18:06:10

And I should have asked more questions about the business model and what was going on the business. And I should have pushed harder on the movement and why things weren’t moving fast enough on some of the projects and change work that needed to happen. So I think all I could say is I’ve kind of taken that one on the chin. I was given a lifeline into another part of the business to move forward, but I never made the same kind of mistakes again, because you sort of you learn a lot from from when you hit rock bottom. So that was hard. That was a difficult moment. So that’s probably a real low point. But I look at it now as a some really great a bit of learning. And oddly, if I hadn’t gone into that job, it wouldn’t have led to the next one.


00:18:06:12 – 00:18:20:23

And that job led to the next one and the next one. So I look at it as a low point and go, but if I hadn’t gone through that, the next three or four jobs wouldn’t have happened. So it’s been quite interesting, you know, rationalizing it as probably an experience maybe I needed to go through and learn from listening to you tell that story.


00:18:20:25 – 00:18:27:11

What was quite clear is that you didn’t necessarily resonate with the projects in the first instance and you still try to make it happen anyways.


00:18:27:18 – 00:18:50:06

Yeah, I mean, I had belief in the people that were running it, but I think that it’s interesting, isn’t it, the difference between when you have an interview for a role and then you’re in the role. Yeah. And the reality of that hitting you. And again, that would be my other learning is, you know, an interview is a two-way process, isn’t it? So you’re being interviewed, but you’re ultimately checking yourself, the company and the role you’re going into. So, yeah, I learnt a lot about asking different questions and interviews after that as well.


00:18:50:12 – 00:19:20:13

I think a lot of people don’t do that. I think they see the opportunity, you know, that’s been presented in from the recruiter for the head-hunter and they go along with even just in a job that they’ve found themselves and they’re always trying to prove that they’re the right person for that role. But actually, it’s also your opportunity to check, is this right for me? Is what’s been said on paper the people that I’m seeing and now listening to and questioning and talking with other reflective of the values that I want to work with in an organisation that are important to me as well, as you say, it’s a two way process.


00:19:20:15 – 00:19:40:14

Yeah, absolutely. And I think something reflect on a moment ago. I do think, you know, your CV, anyone’s CV needs to tell a bit of a story. So, again, thinking through that interview around where will this role take me, which direction will it take me? And is it the right direction? Well, it will expand my skill base in terms of what I need to do next yeah. and then think about career highs?


00:19:40:20 – 00:20:11:06

Probably a couple of I was lucky enough about ten years ago to when the Marketer of the Year award with the Marketing Society when I was at my insurance company called more than more than was an amazing experience for me in terms is a great challenger insurance brand. As a team, we were able to do some brilliant work. There was a signature campaign. We did that where we used to a sound like the actor Morgan Freeman, and we did a campaign with a character called More than Freeman. And actually, that was a really successful campaign. I know it’s a slight pun play on words, but VCCP were the agency did a great job on it.


00:20:11:20 – 00:20:50:22

It was just great creative and the business really grew through that period and hence some of the award recognition that the not just the award that was given to me by the team collectively won awards. And it was a really great time for that business. The second example I give it is that is the time I spent running marketing at the post office at the post office is an interesting brand because it’s sort of a loved brand from yesteryear, but one that actually has huge resonance. And my job was to really try and modernize that in the period I was there and accredit again at a really great team is that, you know, we did the first ever Christmas campaign the business had done for five years, which was really successful, and that led us to launch a new financial services brand Post Office Money.


00:20:51:05 – 00:21:21:28

We did another Christmas campaign with a series of other campaigns working with Moland at the time. And actually I was just really proud of the work and proud of the team because we were able to really clearly show the link between marketing that was working and the performance of the business and also to demonstrate some of the modernity that was coming across that we then saw in our brand scores. And what really help there is actually run the customer experience team there as well. So I was able to not only just shape where the brand was going to shape the future of what some of the branch network was going to look like as well.


00:21:22:00 – 00:21:38:09

So it’s a really exciting world. I look on as a high because it was just a great bunch of people to work with and also together I mean, I was there for a couple of years and actually that’s sort of the fruits of our labour, the things we saw achieved in that. We got a lot done in a couple of years. And it was a great team, a great bunch of people to work with.


00:21:38:25 – 00:21:41:09

And I guess some of those people are probably still friends for life.


00:21:41:18 – 00:22:08:01

Yeah, they are genuinely just brilliant people. And part of the thing always for me as a leader is I want the people that work for me to succeed and do well. And actually, it’s lovely following the thread of all the people, particularly my core leadership team, and seeing them all land in really great jobs in terms of what they’re doing in the brands that working with now, you know, and in fact, one of that team is now actually joined my team at TSB and he’s doing a great job again for a great, great, great people.


00:22:08:06 – 00:22:21:16

Yeah, this is something I relate with in my career as well. You know, some of these people that you’ve worked with in those really either intense projects or successful projects, they’re people that you remain friends with for life. You know, that’s one of the things I love most about the profession.


00:22:21:18 – 00:22:49:26

I agree. I think is because you go through so much together, I think particularly those businesses that are in a real kind of growth curve. And there’s a sense of urgency behind them, I think. Sometimes the tougher moment for the ones you remember the most, because the rewards the other side, when you see the breakthrough and you get the learning are so much more powerful because they’re hard for you fought for them. You’ve worked with them all together. So therefore, the rewards are so much sweeter because, you know, you worked together and you’ve seen the success. So I agree with you. Those things forge you for life. Genuinely, I do.


00:22:49:29 – 00:23:09:23

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I’m thinking of  someone in particular who might tag into the social post on that one. So you’ve got your career highs and lows, highs being working as a team, lows being assigned to a project or an area that didn’t deliver the success that you had traditionally thought it was going to. What would one piece of advice would you give for marketers of today?


00:23:09:26 – 00:23:39:00

I think we touched on a little bit about this earlier on, but I think it’s about that curiosity being driven to be curious within a business to always look to deliver more and more in terms of what you can do to help that organisation out, the marketing team succeed and understand where they think it’s about being purposeful as well. So in your career, being thoughtful around the roles you take, why you’ve taken them, the value that will give both to yourself and to the organisation by the role that you’ve chosen to take and the impact that will have on your longer term career path. So so, yeah, be curious, be purposeful, be driven.


00:23:39:11 – 00:23:41:22

Thank you so much for your time today. Thank you.


00:23:42:08 – 00:23:51:05

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