Episode #4 – In this episode, Abby discusses the soft skill of Conviction with Graze CEO Anthony Fletcher. We love that Anthony is one of those ‘gold dust’ CEOs that has risen up the ranks from a marketing background and understands the benefits to lead business growth (preach!). Anthony shares his experience about using conviction and leadership skills to get others on-board, plus the need for marketers to speak up with conviction to be the voice of the consumer within the organisation.
Resources/brands mentioned in this podcast:
Sponsored by Labyrinth Marketing
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
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This podcast is brought to you by Labyrinth Marketing. So hello and welcome to the Whole Marketer podcast
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Todays. Guest is Anthony Fletcher the CEO of Graze. Today’s topic we’re going to focus on is a soft skill its conviction. The reason I think it’s important actually, Anthony and I were chatting a few weeks ago and I was talking about how much I love the Graze brand for the bravery it has to identify market opportunities. So in this case unhealthy snacking and leveraging its strengths in direct fulfilment and coupling that to build the grace proposition.
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And Anthony said to me actually is it bravery or is it conviction which made me think yes perhaps it is conviction the ability to build strong belief for opinion which empowers those that you lead around you. So today’s podcast topic is conviction. I’ll just give you some background to Anthony before we start. So Anthony is the CEO of Graze and over the last 10 years he’s risen through the ranks from head of marketing to CEO and previously spent time doing and product development roles throughout Innocent.
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So Anthony welcomes the Whole Marketer podcast. Great to be here. Tell me have a look at your profile looks that you studied chemistry to begin with what pulled you into the world of marketing.
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Well I was a rubbish scientist and I had so much self-doubt. You have to be so meticulous the dopamine hits do not come along every day in the same way as in consumer goods. I mean actually I started off Innocent Drinks and I started off in manufacturing. So my first few jobs were in supply chain.
Which I suppose is invaluable.
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Given today’s climate.
I think I loved my time in manufacturing but the most useful thing was moving from manufacturing to marketing because I realized the wall was just completely different and a different team. They look at things completely differently and I think it was a real moment for me and oh my gosh even within a relatively small organization how differently people look at the world.
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So was that the lure how people look at the world differently within the marketing function.
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No I think the reason I love at marketing I think it’s where the action is. I think so much of the value in consumer goods businesses is built by the marketing team. They hold most of the big strategic levers which separates success from failure.
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I couldn’t agree more leading that commercial agenda
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So what would you say has been your career highlights or low lights today?
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Well I think I think a couple of highlights you know kind of going back eleven years Graze really pioneered direct consumer and I absolutely love it.
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When I came across it for the first time because it was just so data rich. Did this scientific background but I also maybe this unfulfilled itch that marketing has the answers that can’t quite explain the answers to anybody. And suddenly I was in this environment where I could marshal huge amounts of data to get to the truth and to kind of prove you know marketing’s case on a whole variety of subjects.
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So I think that sort of journey into data and be kind of early days of direct consumer before it became this bigger and more defined thing you know what. We were exciting.
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And I think that’s the thing that when we were chatting previously that I love so much about the Graze brand is that you’ve obviously identified a market opportunity and you took your strengths are weaknesses in direct fulfilment or DTC and absolutely went for it with with bravery and conviction.
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And you know we can often spend lots of time as you say data rich and mining that get the insights but often a lot of organizations I’ve seen sit on that for quite some time don’t necessarily take that one step forward for mankind if you like to do something with it. And that’s one thing that I’ve noticed that Graze does.
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You know whether that’s we’ve identified opportunity in other global markets let’s put a distribution center there before you know is the first step of conviction if you will to go after that opportunity. How have you seen that played out within the wider organization.
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I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s a couple of barriers
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To sort of this data led way of thinking you know in a business one have you got the infrastructure? Can you take all your data and centralize it or is it scattered around in you know difficult to access places you know maybe it’s people have left the business maybe only one person in the business can run the query that’s kind of what stops the democratization of data but just the bigger problem is you know how interested are people in you know seeing that data and understanding it in the first place. You know people can become quite wedded to a certain way of doing business or a certain brand of marketing that they’ve grown up with.
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That’s really true because I think a lot of what I found when client size a lot of insight functions called them this insight function but really they’re the continuous data function. You know they’re tracking what’s already happened or the performance not necessarily what’s coming next. And you know actually mining that data to find the why why why why. To get to the true insight that actually people then can leverage. And as you said earlier actually then telling the story of what’s that is across the wider organization so they can do something with it.
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You know I think you you you you appreciating skillfully so I think this this podcast is all about. Which is I truly believe organizations to succeed especially consumer good ones. You know marketing is absolutely critical but marketing has to lead to succeed. And know data is just one of kind of many ways I think can build that conviction you know and allow them to lead the organization.
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So tell me more about that then. Anthony conviction what does it mean to you?
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So you know I think to lead you need to demonstrate to others conviction in your ideas and you know conviction can be everything from to explain something very clearly to you know how you can put some emotion into something especially if it’s a brand story or a you know brand vision sort of rally rally people behind the organization. So I think it goes for everything from kind of clarity of communication you know through to kind of much discussed areas such as purpose and kind of you know it’s exciting people about you know going the extra mile to do to create something special.
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Why do you think it’s so important to marketers possess this skill?
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Because you know I believe as I say that they they hold a lot of the skills and the levers which lead to long term success for business. You know I you know I’ve been a CEO for a while and I know all the other functions and what concerns them long term success is going to come from the marketing function.
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That’s music to my ears.
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The problem I think we face is a bit of a crisis where marketers don’t necessarily know this or you know face certain barriers in terms of achieving that.
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They’re not there yet. The orientation of the business isn’t necessarily customer led and so they’re almost waiting for another function without sales or product or R&D to come up with a product and then their role is to communicate that whereas actually if you take the broad remit that marketing is which is to identify that market opportunity see look at the long term commercial growth leverage the insight build the proposition and then communicate it. Then you can really use the full breadth of skills that marketers need to have. And I think you know a kind of a challenge I think with marketing
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Is how they explain that to other people. It’s kind of a marvellous and exciting and important discipline but my god it is loaded with jargon and the jargon constantly seems to be shifting year on year office and so kind of explain similar ideas. It is no surprise sometimes they struggle to get a CFO’s on board.
And what would you say the key thing is getting that CFO on board?
I think it kind of goes back to the you know these kind of basics and sales which is the key is to understand
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The different people in an organization and help them understand and and kind of explain. Kind of what marketing can do and how you want to set it up
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And what it’s going to feel and look like and what it’s not going to feel and look like. I think that that is where a lot is going going wrong at the moment the wrong expectations of the marketing function or as you said sometimes.
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Badged as a very tactical function you know there to make a pretty package at the end but also to throw away phrases such as that over the years.
I think see see and feel is what you just said that a second ago is something I just want to focus on for a second because I think if you want to align the organization you really need to allow the board and everybody else to see and feel it. What role do you think convection has in bringing that to life?
Well I think what you find in many organizations is things are not clear cut and what I’m not advocating for a second there is a difficult balance is you know kind of conviction means you don’t listen
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Or you don’t consider the weaknesses of your arguments or the uncertainty. But often I found sooner or later you’ve got to make a decision and you’ve got to go for it and it’s helpful I think when you do that to be very clear that this is what you believe and where you’re going.
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And as I said injecting some emotionality especially if it’s around the consumer and circling them or you know creating a better world is like it’s got all sorts of people on side.
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And what’s it like being a CEO that grew up in marketing because as you know there’s only a small handful that I can see today. So tell me from the wise what’s it what’s the benefits?
I mean the the benefit is
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You know kind of you want to have excellent products, you want to be orientated around your consumer, you want to have the right culture around communication you understand the short medium and the long term and you know kind of how marketing can definitely place that medium and long term peace. So I think there’s there’s so many things.
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To like in marketing and I think it is so critical especially if you want to be a CEO as it is a tenure of more than a couple of years. You
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You know if you’re focused on building an organization over 2/3/5 years there’s gonna be you’ve got to be getting all of these things right.
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So just thinking back to the skill and on conviction. How would you say it presents itself when it’s done well and also when it’s done badly.
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Yeah it’s interesting that sometimes
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you know I think marketing can be quite analytical and they can stand in front of a whole organization and present some slides showing market research know we ran focus groups and we want to talk to the consumer and they said this you know if they’re saying something like you know they want less sugar in their food or it’s you know coming down making their kids move why not stand up and instead talk about this consumer and the struggle they’re facing and how you really think that Graze should go and solve this problem. So I see a huge difference between the way of delivering the two messages and I think that’s a time for analytical and balanced debate.
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And there’s a time for you know setting out something that more fire and purpose and saying personally how you believe in it and how important you think it is to our consumers.
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And you’re really representing them. So almost that conviction comes from the heart of that marketer who’s communicating that.
I think that there’s a sort of a blurry line.
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Know where does conviction set in those you know live within leadership. You know I think part of leadership is about pointing about where you want to go what is important sounds not important and why but also being able to say it in a way that convinces other people that this is true.
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So be clear being analytical and setting out maybe your facts. But as I said also you know put some fire into it. Talk about the importance to you as an individual of this thing. Certainly, I’d be surprised in certain boardroom confrontations but when I’ve gone back to my personal convictions or really talked about how the consumer is going to feel about something.
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How that’s actually won a few quite difficult arguments over the years. Yeah, almost take it out of the numbers and take it too you know from us for them heart to heart.
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And you know some of those debates. You know what I’ve done in my mind it’s taken the moral high ground on the side of the consumer. And I think people do recognize and respond to that.
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And even at times in mind for us if you have to go through a significant hardship for trade-offs.
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And it’s interesting you say that because one of the things that I’m writing about at the moment is the importance of market is actually acting as the voice of the consumer. Would you say that’s a key skill that you want to see need to see have in your organization.
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I mean bluntly no one else is going to be going to do it.
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I mean they’re all caught up in quite different day to day challenges. No no I think the entire organization has an advantage around a consumer orientation. And you know it’s quite amazing where insights can come from occasionally you know they don’t all have to come from marketing just like all the ideas out there from marketing. But you know marketing is not going to stick up for the consumer or not have those hard debates about how the business wants to represent them and serve them.
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I think the consumer is immediately at a disadvantage.
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Awesome. So what top tips would you give to today’s marketer? The marketing of the future that is leading that commercial agenda.
I would think about outside of the marketing team you know the people you work with and have you stepped back and considered you know what do they know and don’t know what they think and don’t think
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You know how can you explain to them you know what you’re trying to do or what’s important to the consumer. How can you convince them and get them onside. I think what I’ve realized is so much inaction and inertia in a business can come just because people don’t understand or people don’t agree. You know if they’re fired up and they want to achieve that goal then they can do some pretty extraordinary things and kind of work around the process and come up with innovative solutions. But if you haven’t pointed the way and been clear and where you’re going if you haven’t overcome the barriers which do exist as you know people’s personalities and how they look at the world you know that’s I think where you can get stuck in a bit of a torpor.
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That’s a really interesting point. There’s three things that you mentioned there. So one around pointed in the right directions having clarity on where you want to get to and appreciating them so obviously their different ways in which they think and feel I guess personalities and values.
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And then the other point about firing them up and let’s explore that a bit more. What do you do internally to help kind of fire people up to
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Give them that conviction to believe the same and drive forward?
Having tried various different things as you’ve got to do very personally and then you’ve got you’ve got to get big scale and neither of you need both. So if you’re organizations of a reasonable size. You know kind of when you have that podium How are you going to use it.
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What exactly are you going to say. How are you going to sell it. How do you use a visionary language or
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something with a bit more storytelling in it. It’s kind of really you know if you know wake people up and make them pay attention. But at the same time I think there’s something about the 1 to 1 or the small groups as I said oh you know what do you think about this subject. Do you you know you really up for it. Do you believe in it or
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Not being scared by the naysayers. Oh you know I hear you’ve got some different views on this. You know tell me if you’re really interested in understanding your kind of point of view. It’s it’s taken me quite a long time in my career to realize this. I think it’s because I didn’t start as a scientist so I had a great believer in data of the truth but there is in business a large element of sales and the sales isn’t always you know selling to your customers. It’s selling to your peers and to shareholders. And working out how to get that result.
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I think that’s a really great piece of advice actually not being afraid of of those that are opposing it actually asking them why and how they’re feeling. So you can actually listen fully to what they’re saying. I think it allows them to feel heard. But I guess it also allows you to get the insight if you will on on what you need to do to drive the change internally as well. Would you say that’s the biggest challenge that you face as a CEO.
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No I think it’s a huge challenge. And I think the the people don’t think this is a big challenge probably are not sensitive enough to know is the whole organization on your side. Are there other beliefs and have you created that alignment. I’ve seen issues drag on for years and I think what you’ve got to be is very sensitive to when those are happening and how you to say work with those individuals and diffuse them and you know change your own views if it’s necessary or realize that there’s an element to which you’re not explaining this clearly.
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It’s come with time for me is by being more sensitized to a lack of alignment or a lack of belief. You’re in a better place to diagnose it and solve it.
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That’s a really great piece of advice that that almost balanced view of the conviction and beliefs so that others have it. But that also being able to see and feel when others aren’t coming on you coming with you on that journey and how you can listen and learn. I think that’s absolutely fantastic. I wish I saw a lot more of that in my early career.
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I think this is definitely anyone who sits on boards or wants to sit on the board or an executive team. A lot of this stuff is not verbal either. Got to really pay attention to the body language. Yeah. Yeah exactly. I mean I’ve come out of certain executive meetings. You know some people say well that went really well I
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you know I double check whether you really believe that because you know you maybe spoke for the whole meeting didn’t really invite much debate and you know engagement was pretty low.
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See on their face they weren’t convinced but.
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Yeah it went really well for you but everybody else.
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So I think you have being good at this and you know especially with shareholders that just asking the question What’s on your mind. Have you got a concern. How do you do that without raising the temperature or make it into a confrontation. How would you do it in a spirit of curiosity.
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But you know what you want is want to know what’s going on in their heads because if they don’t agree you won’t have a conversation.
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Yeah definitely. That’s absolutely fantastic piece of advice. So Anthony throughout your career you as a marketeer and then having led marketing teams and now leading the whole organization if you had a wish list when recruiting a marketer what would be on it?
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I think it’s an interesting question if you’re a marketer are do you do go for breadth and really learn about this kind of sprawling subject or you know specialize a little more I think you’d be mad not to understand the basics and the 101 and want to come back to the way is if I don’t understand your understanding I think you’ve got to be a good general manager as well and a good leader. So I think there’s both functional expertise which you need to have but also very strong management skills and as I said I think the difference of marketing is a higher requirement for leadership.
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Earlier in your career in many other functions.
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Yeah definitely definitely and I guess the support and drive to want to learn more about that as well as opposed to just it happening to you. I suppose it’s the having the hunger of going actually I know I’m going to have to be a leader a lot earlier in my career. What are the skills that that entails. What kind of leader do I want to be I suppose having that clarity or what that looks like.
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So so useful thank you so much Anthony for your time. If he wants to finish today’s podcast off with one piece of advice for marketers what would it be.
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Keep learning what is one of those consistent criticisms I hear of marketers they describe is oh they’re old school you know and certain people don’t move with the times and the wonderful thing about marketing is you know it is it is always evolving really embrace that. Yeah keeping fresh. Thank you so much for your time today.
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