In a new report sponsored by Salesforce, Marketing Week has shortlisted the UK’s top 100 most effective marketers. 

To help judge the candidates, the London-based publication also called upon some of the marketing industry’s most illustrious names. Among them, our very own Ashling Kearns, vice-president of marketing for the UK and Ireland.

But what makes a top 100 marketer? What drives their successes, and what common characteristics do they share? 



Here are four common traits we noticed, and how they translated into marketing success.

1. They embrace simplicity

As judge Suki Thompson – founder of Bunker Gin, Oystercatchers, Haystack and Let’s Reset – says, “there’s so much noise”. Marketers have access to more data and more techniques than ever before, but without focus, that can lead to confusion. 

“One of the challenges for marketers now is that there’s so much they can do,” Thompson continues. “When I look at a lot of marketing directors, they’re trying to do far too much.” In the face of possible distractions, today’s best marketers benefit from simplicity. 

For top 100 marketer Steve Challouma, marketing director at Birds Eye, this simple, back-to-basics approach has helped turn a 6% sales decline into a 2% increase. By focusing on the brand’s traditional hero products and tapping into its history as a childhood staple, he has successfully reignited nostalgic fondness for the Birds Eye name. 

Of course, consumer attitudes to the food industry have changed since its heyday in the 1970s and 80s. Challouma recognises this, choosing to position Birds Eye as both a source of simple, nutritious food and a vocal opponent to global food wastage. 


2. They challenge perceptions

Social attitudes evolve, new innovations emerge, and familiarity turns to contempt. Even the biggest brands are vulnerable to sudden, unexpected change. The smartest marketers know this and take it in their stride, relishing the opportunity to challenge perceptions and shift the market in their favour.

In the Top 100, Sophie Castell’s campaign work as the director of relationships at RNIB is a prime example of perceptions being challenged and, in turn, fortunes being reversed.  

Upon joining the sight loss charity in 2017, it was evident that a marketing refresh was needed to counter a significant dip in donations. The first thing Castell did was give the brand more of a sense of humour, to challenge the public’s perception of RNIB as a worthy but old-fashioned organisation. 

Coupled with public-facing marketing lines like ‘Glaucoma didn’t stop me going to the gym. The bar on the way did”, she also challenged the charity and its supporters from the inside to ‘See Differently’. 

This shift in both business strategy and public perception meant the charity ended 2017/18 financial year with an operating surplus of £6.3m, versus a deficit of £12.6m the year before. Donations also grew by 4.5% to £32.3m.


3. They value data – and empathy

As customer expectations shift away from products and towards intelligent, personalised experiences, marketers in every industry have had to rethink how they connect and apply customer data. And thanks to innovations such as AI-powered automation and data analytics, many marketers are now able to exceed customer expectations. 

For John Bernard, EMEA marketing director at the diabetes management company Dexcom, data plays a critical role in his marketing strategy. As well as making informed decisions as he combines search, CRM and website development, as well as traditional PR, advertising and events, it enables him to demonstrate ROI. As a result, he’s able to grow awareness of Dexcom, hoping complete his ‘mission’ of helping the 1 in 11 people globally who have diabetes. 

And so far, it’s working. Bernard explains: “We get two or three letters every week from people who say they love Dexcom and it has saved their child’s life.”


4. They promote innovation

Innovation is critical to consistent growth, especially during periods of financial challenge and rapid technological advancement. But for marketing innovation to have a business-wide impact, the best marketers need to align it with the company’s overall goals – enabling both collaboration and brand engagement.

At Ford, director of marketing communications Anthony Ireson reinforced the brand’s playful public image through an irreverent series of R&D projects. These include a self-braking shopping trolley used to demonstrate Ford’s Pre-Collison Assist technology, and a noise-cancelling dog kennel to illustrate its Active Noise Control system. 

But turning somewhat dry vehicle features into high-profile spectacles isn’t Ireson’s only achievement. He also ensures his teams in every market worldwide have the autonomy and technology they need to create locally relevant campaigns, encouraging a business-wide approach to innovation and collaboration.


Get to know the top 100

From B2B trailblazers to retail renegades and high-flying travel leaders, discover how the UK’s top 100 most effective marketers are changing perceptions, driving innovation and accelerating brand growth. Read the list, meet the judges and check the methodology on the Marketing Week webiste


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