Taylors of Harrogate, Marketing Director: ‘The Core Tenets Of Marketing Have Remained Constant For Decades’

Little Grey Cells In Depth sits down with Dom Dwight, Marketing Director at Taylors of Harrogate and best-selling Yorkshire Tea. Dom recounts his career path, unpacks the origins of the Yorkshire Tea call to arms “Let’s have a proper brew” and explains how social media helped his brands find their unique voice.

Orinally published: September 28, 2023

Little Grey Cells (LGC): Dom, what I’ve been able to learn about you is that you read English at Leeds, then you were a journalist: you edited the Leeds Guide. Then you joined Taylors of Harrogate around 10 years ago. I’d love to dig into your journey from University to heading up marketing at Taylors of Harrogate – which of course includes overseeing the iconic and market-leading Yorkshire Tea brand.

Dom Dwight (DD): I grew up in Bromley. It became pretty evident during my late teens that English Literature was my speciality and the right thing for me to go on and study. As a teenager, I definitely had an interest in advertising. But at university, I was more interested in music. I became a drummer in a band. We never had intentions of taking over the world and being millionaires, I just wanted to be able to make a living by being a musician. That was my creative outlet. 

When we all graduated, we were living in Leeds and we had a couple of years of sort of playing everywhere and anywhere in the city. The rest of my bandmates decided that they wanted to move to London, where they might potentially get signed. That crucial point coincided with the moment where I was deciding, actually, I don’t think that I want to do this. I’d met a girl I was serious about and I was happy to stay in Yorkshire. 

So we parted company very amicably. It was with no bitterness that I then watched them get signed about three months later – and they had a blast. 

But life in Leeds was lovely. The key thing that happened is that I was suddenly lacking in any kind of creative outlet. I started writing for a local magazine – The Leeds Guide – and quite quickly discovered that I really loved it. And they seemed to like what I wrote for them. 

Just as I was asking if there are any roles there, somebody was leaving the magazine, and I joined their editorial team. I was with them for about six or seven years. This was the mid noughties and during that period, I discovered I had a particular passion for writing about food and drink – as a result I was interviewing and profiling chefs, bar owners, mixologists – a world that I still find fascinating. 

This period saw the rise of Google and increased internet usage: old business models, including a lot of regional publishing, were being decimated. Regional magazines, like the one I worked for, very much depended on small local businesses, choosing to advertise with a local print publication – and these local businesses were all drifting towards the internet. 

There was a sense that it was the end of an era. So I did what a lot of journalists did and started to diversify. I immersed myself in copywriting. And with the internet ever-expanding, there was an awful lot of digital copywriting to be done. 

Then there was another bit of serendipity. As a result of writing for the Leeds Guide magazine, local company: Bettys and Taylors were very much on my radar. For those who may not know, Bettys is a small group of café/tea rooms – like a Yorkshire version of London’s Fortnum and Mason. 

I had clocked that they were great at sending press releases, lovely images and occasionally lovely cakes to our editorial office. In 2008, I noticed a role was going at Bettys, and I got talking to the HR director who actually steered me away from the role I’d applied for. Instead she suggested: “there’s a role we haven’t advertised yet but we think you might be a good fit for it”. 

It was for an internal in-house creative copywriter and I followed her lead because it was an opportunity to continue writing about food and drink, only working for a bigger company. I knew I wouldn’t feel like a cog in a massive machine because it’s a family owned business. The more I looked into the family that owned the business, the more I absolutely loved the principles that they stood for. 

Also in 2008, Twitter started to take off in the UK. As a journalist, I’d learned to work at 100 miles a minute. Joining this family business, I felt the pace was a lot slower than I was used to. I found that I got jobs done relatively quickly and had the capacity to look at other things.

I started exploring Twitter really before it caught on. And I found an awful lot of people talking about tea generally, but particularly about YorkshireTea. Back then, Twitter appeared to be dominated by people on the west coast of America. My guess is there were quite a few British expats. 

Imagine the scene: a talented designer from Sheffield, gets the job of a lifetime working in California. But every now and then he misses home. Next they start talking to another British ex-pat on Twitter about how they miss tea. That’s the kind of conversation I discovered.

Back then, I had a very trusting boss who let me set up Yorkshire Tea on Twitter. Yorkshire Tea has now been active on Twitter for 15 years. I know there’s a lot more to Yorkshire Tea’s marketing success than just Twitter: but I think Twitter was where we learned how we were being talked about, where we practised getting involved in the conversation, and where I think we started to develop a tone of voice for Yorkshire Tea, which is now the tone of voice for the brand.

On X (formerly Twitter), since 2008, Yorkshire Tea found its voice.

Parallel to that, I was employed as the in-house copywriter and social media was expanding and rapidly becoming a core component of digital marketing. We quickly discovered that actually if we’re trying to stimulate conversation on social media… we could feed in PR, events, and experiences. So my remit grew. 

Gradually, I got more involved in all forms of communications, including the advertising. We were learning how to combine our tone of voice from our ‘above the line’ campaigns and the tone of voice we had developed on social media, and how to align the kind of strategic thinking behind our advertising and our social media presence. 

Next in 2016, there was an opportunity to step into the marketing director role, which I took. I’ve worked for the business for 15 years and the truth is: the company’s changed a lot. It’s grown really fast. For the first 8 years, I never had the same role for more than a year or two at a time. Having said that, I’ve been in the marketing director role for eight years. In marketing that’s an unusual amount of stability for a senior marketer. 

It’s been fun because there’s more to the business than simply Yorkshire Tea – but Yorkshire tea is our star. It is the engine that drives the business and it has been on a real roll. When I took the role in 2016, we were just behind Tetley, hoping one day that we could maybe overtake them to become number two, but also thinking that that might be a little bit ambitious. 

We did that within a couple of years of launching our “Where Everything’s Done Proper” campaign. Then a couple of years ago, we overtook PG Tips to become number one in the UK. And we’ve been gradually increasing our lead in the last couple of years. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.

LGC: It is a very, very impressive story. I want to take you back to a film I found on YouTube, a film for Taylors called: “The Ultimate Cup of Coffee” – starring your good self on your quest to make the best cup of coffee. It’s brilliant, and brimming with enthusiasm at each exotic destination. For those who haven’t seen it – you go all over the globe collecting the elements that make the perfect cup of coffee.  I’d love to know at what point you made this film in your career journey?

DD: As I mentioned, we went through a phase of trying to build a connection between the slightly chaotic but often quite successful world of our ‘below the line’ activities – our social media and our PR – and our sort of overarching brand strategy and brand communications. 

At the time when we filmed that coffee video, we had started to work out a way to do that for Yorkshire Tea. Our other big brand in the UK is Taylors of Harrogate coffee – roasted ground coffee. The context of that brand is different: the brand is slightly less famous in a crowded category, where other brands are all very active – and yet no one brand particularly dominates, because the category itself is dominated by supermarket own labels. 

It presented us with a conundrum: how do you develop a brand personality? How do you develop a tone of voice for Taylors. We felt that Taylors had been a bit ‘overly humble’ and careful and safe. It was time for the Taylors brand to try and be a bit braver. We launched a Taylors TV campaign that was pretty bonkers, because it was very abstract. And around that whole bold, creative ad campaign, we wanted to make sure that we had activity to match that  was exciting. 

LGC: Can you remind me of the ad campaign to give context?

DD: We referred to it as ‘Cosmos’. It was produced by the late Frank Budgen – an amazing producer, with the agency at the time: BMB. The campaign was extraordinary in terms of its visual impact. 

But we went a couple of steps too far. It was visually incredible. But it just didn’t really do the job of saying, who we were, what we make, or why we are different. The question: ‘Why are we worth paying more for?’ – that was left to the imagination and I think it shot over the heads of the audience. It certainly created a stir – a lot of people responded to the ad, but it was like a huge explosion in the sky – that then fizzled out. 

LGC: And so your’ best cup of coffee’ film balanced that?

DD: It was one of a number of PR initiatives that we executed at the time to create more of a stir around Taylors coffee. We recognised that if you want to make content and you want it to be successful in a medium like YouTube, then you have to kind of flip quite a lot of the conventional ways of thinking about a brand communicating: you have to build content around the kind of thing that truly engages your audience. 

On occasions like these, branding has to be subtle, nuanced, or just careful. The idea was to capture the story of us setting out to create the world’s best cup of coffee by going to the place in the world that would have the best coffee beans at one moment in time, which at the time was Kenya – based on the season. 

Then we took the beans to a high altitude position (at Aiguille du Midi – the top of the French Alps) using a prototype digital roaster that was this portable thing that I had in my backpack. We roasted the beans near there.

Dom Dwight on location filming in the alps.

It was a ridiculous experience: the day we did the reconnaissance in the mountains, it was beautiful: clear blue sky. Yeah. The following morning, when we returned to film the actual roasting –  was just completely mist covered. We might as well have been on the ground for all the views that we managed to capture.

Then we went to a place in Finland to get the purest water. And for the final touch, we went all the way to Watford to get the best milk in the world which was sourced from an organic farm owned by the Society of Krishna Consciousness, just outside the M25. The cows live on land bequeathed by George Harrison from The Beatles. They’re often referred to as ‘the happiest cows in the world’ – so we got ‘the happiest milk’. 

Then we made the coffee and we took it out and around and let people try it. The point of the film was to be self-deprecating. The joke was that we went to all that effort – and actually, you’d be just as well off buying a pack of Taylors coffee off the shelf in a supermarket.

We had a bunch of different video ideas. I didn’t vote for that one, I voted for something else. But that route was chosen. Originally, it was going to be starring somebody else who had to pull out at the last minute. I was more than happy to step in. 

It’s an interesting film, because it captures a time in our communications journey – when we were still trying to figure out our approach. How do you make use of the way that content is consumed and shared on the internet. We’ve got a better handle on it now – and that includes knowing when not to engage – because it might not be an area that we’re able to excel in. We’ve learned about the kind of content that works.

LGC: I would argue that Yorkshire Tea has carved a niche in advertising with some of the most endearing and amusing, ‘north-of-England-centric’ advertising ever created. Did this all stem from those early days on Twitter?

DD: That was certainly a really key moment. But I’m always really keen to stress that, I don’t know that you could have just replicated this with a new brand. And therefore, I owe an enormous debt to the folks that came up with the idea for Yorkshire Tea in 1977. And to the people who then carefully built that brand, over 30 years. 

At the point that I entered the story, we were still in the zone where the major opportunity for Yorkshire Tea was to gain better distribution and be more physically available up and down the country. When I joined, we were starting to achieve full distribution for Yorkshire Tea: my challenge was that the brand was quite ‘under communicated’. 

Yorkshire Tea had done advertising in the past, but they lent into the nostalgia – the more traditional element of the brand. When I joined in 2008, we were beginning to experiment with a more modern take on the world and a more contemporary tone of voice, but our first couple of attempts in that direction didn’t really land. 

We did a campaign with the comedian John Shuttleworth. The insight was that in Yorkshire, ‘tea time’ is important. It did a great job of helping us kind of grow in confidence about how and when to be funny, and all those kinds of things. The issue we had is that a lot of the creative work in advertising is produced by young people based in London, who’ve got a certain sense of humour: they’ve seen lots of attempts at blending creativity and humour before and they want to go to another level of ‘‘meta-humour’ or irony. 

To them, the ‘straightforward’, can often feel dull and uninspiring – but for the average TV viewer, that level of ‘meta’ and irony doesn’t always land. Our mistake was that John Shuttleworth wasn’t – at that time – universally recognised. Many didn’t understand that he was a comedian playing a character, and they thought that he was a caricature that we’d invented to take the mickey out of Yorkshire. 

We started to really get things right with our campaign where we sent our tea van “Little Urn” to America. That’s when we landed on the line, ‘let’s have a proper brew’. The word ‘let’s’ was crucial because it turned our positioning into a call out to all tea drinkers: it was very inclusive and welcoming. 

Of equal value was the word ‘brew‘ – it was our way of trying to not use a word like “cuppa” – like PG and Tetley would often use. Finally the word ‘proper’: we felt good about the word proper. But I don’t think any of us really understood what we had landed on. 

That word ‘proper’ would go on to unlock communications for Yorkshire Tea for the next decade. We knew people liked Yorkshire Tea because of its strength. We also knew that not everybody equates strong tea with quality tea. The challenge was to say something about strength and quality. We didn’t want to get lost in some boring functional description. And we found that ‘proper’ just worked. 

LGC: If you had to choose one, which campaign in the series has been the most fun to make?

DD: That’s a good question. Well, I’m very attached to the last seven or eight years of advertising, because that’s been under my tenure as marketing director. I’ve loved working with our partner agency Lucky Generals, because they get the brand on an instinctive level. 

I personally think advertising could do with more humour. It often is a bit too earnest and a bit too focused on either performance or emotion. It appears that the only emotion advertisers are allowed is the kind that breaks people’s hearts. I think it’d be lovely if advertising could just make people smile, make people laugh.

Yorkshire Tea’s ‘Little Urn’ arrives in Las Vegas, USA.

LGC: Have you seen Orlando Wood’s, recent book: “Lemon. How the advertising brain turned sour”? In it, Orlando – who is System1 agency’s resident advertising effectiveness expert – has got all the statistics and data to show that actually you’re absolutely on the money. There’s a seam to mine of fun memorable adverts that connect with people. They tend to land really well.

DD: I’ve spoken to the guys from System1 before about what we’re doing and it’s lovely to get that reassurance that our thinking is aligned. It’s hard to pick a favourite – but if I had to, I think I’m going to have to pick the Sean Bean ad, just because it has performed so well – even better than we could have expected. 

Also – it was a lot of fun to shoot. My favourite memory with Sean was that there were a couple of lines in the script that were ad-libbed on the day. We were trying to come at it from a slightly different angle – and the writers came up with a couple of extra lines. 

When Sean delivered the words, like the rest of his performance, he was very bombastic. There was this one line where Sean says: “we make proper brews, brews that bring a tear to your eye and warmth to your soul”. Just then Sean’s voice cracks with emotion. It was a ‘hairs on the back of my neck’ moment: that was Sean turning it up to 11. It massively contributed to the success and effectiveness of the advert. 

Although it would be remiss of me not to mention again the “Little Urn” campaign when we took our Yorkshire Tea van to the USA. That was a real turning point for us, because it was a bold thing for us to do. Though the ad was still quite restrained – in terms of its tone of voice – we actually did it, we actually shipped our Yorkshire Tea van to America. And then we had a team of people, including staff from the Taylors office, driving around America while they were being filmed.

LGC: Just brilliant. I’ve got to mention your recent “Pack Your Bags” campaign. I think it’s genius. It could almost have been written by the BBC comedy team behind Kurupt FM. The music is really en pointe – and then the lyrics are so tight. I sent the full version to several friends, none of whom were in marketing, saying: “check this out”. (which I very rarely do these days with an advert). It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good comedy song from a brand. 

DD: What’s funny is when you’re talking to me about favourite adverts, I probably wouldn’t even have thought to include “Pack your bags”, because I guess internally we adopt the mindset of ‘try not to think of it as an advert – instead try to think of it as content’. 

We seem to have slipped into this zone where we can produce clearly branded content that could easily be described as an advert because it’s promoting the brand. The way it’s received it doesn’t feel like an advert. It feels like we have made some content. And we’re not trying to hide the fact that our brand is involved, and doesn’t put the audience off.

The whole idea behind it was about taking Yorkshire Tea on holiday with you. So we decided to have fun with this strangely British behaviour. 

LGC: Science versus art: with scientific data driven marketing at one end of the spectrum and genius, creative ideas at the other, where do you lean? Or how do you get the best balance?

DD: If I’m being really honest about myself, I’m most comfortable at the creative end. That doesn’t mean I can’t think scientifically, I just think it’s if I’ve got a comfort zone, it’s more down that end. I think we’ve had ups and downs at Taylors as we’ve been growing up, because we’ve grown quite fast. We’ve had to put systems in place rather rapidly, and sometimes you feel like those systems may have suffocated what was wonderful. To get the best results, my goal would be to make sure that you’re as well informed as possible. But don’t be railroaded by information: you still want to have space where you can use human creativity: if you’re shooting for a niche, you need to be able to use human ingenuity and imagination to figure out how best to go about it. 

It’s an ongoing challenge: if you feel like you’re taking a big risk, there can sometimes be a drive to keep checking and testing – and checking and testing – until you’ve got all of the data validating that what you’re going to do is absolutely guaranteed. By which point you may have missed the boat. If you put something out into the world, you want it to be confident. 

There’s something wonderful when you’re able to kind of work with enough data to reassure you that you’re not totally wasting your time and instead you’re consciously taking a known risk.

LGC: When, if ever, is it acceptable to use AI and marketing? Or should it always be a human?

DD: I am quite relaxed about the idea that we will be able to use AI to accelerate the slightly drier aspects of the job. If you are a business that has customer service chatbots, and there is an opportunity to make your chatbots cleverer and quicker. That’s great. You could have a seamless transition if things get more complicated and a customer needs to speak to a human. I think that’s a really straightforward piece. 

For creative work, what I’m realising is that with current options – like ChatGPT and mid journey –  I don’t really believe that they would ever be so good that they could replace human creatives. I think they are able to speed up parts of the creative process. In writing, for example, I often find it a lot easier to edit something somebody else has written and build that into something else, than I might find the job of just looking at a blank page and writing from scratch. 

With something like ChatGPT you can get it to generate your first wave of options, knowing that those first wave of options are probably going to be dreadful. But you can edit those options. Those initial words fall into one of 2 camps – “so pleased, we’ve got all the dross out the way those are the ideas we’re not going to go with” or they become the sort of foundation that you can then edit and tweak and turn the words into something that’s got real human flair.

Actor Sean Bean delivered ‘raw emotion’ in a call to action for Yorkshire Tea.

LGC: What have you learned in your career journey that enables you to get the best out of your marketing teams?

DD: You want everybody to care about doing a good job, so that they are passionate, and they give it their all – and at the same you want to ensure that there’s enough space for people to feel relaxed, to enjoy what they do and to enjoy working with each other. 

I work hard to get the balance between caring about doing our best work, but also caring about each other – and having a good time while we do it. It has been fundamental to our team’s success. And it’s not just the marketing team: across the whole business, there’s this belief that we are doing a good thing: we’re on our Yorkshire Tea mission – and it’s a good one. 

When this approach leads to success, it creates the kind of wave of pride that fuels people to do that all over again. The key thing for us is that we extend this to our agency partners. So we’ve worked with Good Stuff, our media agency, for 12 years now. And we’ve been with our advertising agency, Lucky Generals for nearly eight. Two long partnerships. 

I think one of the reasons why these relationships have stood the test of time is not just the quality of the work that we’ve done together, but the fact that all involved have put time and effort into building really authentic relationships. Sometimes work can be challenging, but there’s a mutual respect that stems from being passionate about trying to do the best possible work. That focus on the quality of relationships – whether it’s between people in the team or between business and agency: I think that’s a major part of our success.

LGC: Speaking broadly, there seems to have been a drive towards what I think marketer Professor Mark Ritson calls’ tactification’ over the last 10 to 15 years: where businesses leap straight to dispensing tactics akimbo – without getting their research and strategy ducks in a row. Why do you think this is? And what message would you have to marketers who leapfrog research and strategy?

DD: There are times when reaching for research can become an unhelpful sort of addiction. So this is back to the science versus art debate. Sometimes you need to recognise when you’ve got enough data to act. I’m more concerned when the strategy part is skipped. 

One of the problems I see with a lot of marketing is ‘short-term-ism’. There’s a place for that kind of performance activity, but it really needs to be part of longer term thinking. I recognise that I’m quite unusual – as marketing directors go – because of the length of time I’ve been doing the job. The average tenure of a marketing director or CMO is less than three years. 

In only 3 years, your role is more like being a politician – you’re basically constantly campaigning rather than doing the job. The average CMO comes in, spends their first year seeing out work that’s already in the pipeline. In year two, they deliver the thing they pitched in their interview for the job. Then year three, they spend much of that time looking for their next gig. 

One of the reasons why we’re seeing the kind of ‘tactification’ that you mention, is that everybody is in a short-term mindset. And they’re too focused on trying to get something that makes their CV look good this year. Whereas they should be considering the long game.

LGC: The politics of marketing in bigger businesses: have you any tips on how to navigate the choppy waters of big business organisations: for example, where a considered marketing plan gets pushed back from the C-suite or ‘upstairs’?

DD: It’s one of the biggest challenges for me. When unexpected financial calamities hit us, like the mini-budget we had under Liz Triss and Kwasi Kwateng – it wiped a lot of value off the pound, which had a knock on effect for a business like ours, that has to buy a lot of commodities in dollars. 

Overnight, we had severe budget challenges. My beautifully built marketing strategy, plans and budget came under real pressure. What got me through that was putting the time and the effort into making sure that my peers in our leadership team understood not just what we were doing, but why we were doing it. what we’re doing in the marketing side of things. 

I’ve been trying to encourage the Taylors team not to think of it as if I’m defending ‘my marketing budget’ – instead it should be seen as ‘our marketing budget’, and that this is their marketing activity, as much as it’s mine. 

I’m in a fortunate position where, when these things come under scrutiny, I can point to a decade of doing it right. And that effort has paid back with great results. Never stop tracking, data and research – even though Yorkshire tea has been getting it right for quite a long time, we still need to measure and show proof of concept – because you never know what might be around the corner. 

If you suddenly face economic challenges, then being able to use data to conclusively demonstrate the value of your marketing activity is great evidence to have in your back pocket when times get tough: make sure you’ve got the evidence. 

I also think that Chief Marketing Officers and Marketing Directors would do well to apply the same level of empathy that they have for their customers – the empathy that has made them into a great marketer – to the C-suite, and your peer directors. Think: what is it they need to hear? What are they worried about? How can you communicate in terms where you are speaking the CFO’s language?

Unforgettable: 2023’s ‘Pack Yer Bags’ Yorkshire Tea’s Ibiza-centric campaign.

LGC: How do you go about balancing the need for longer term brand building and more short term sales activation, lead campaigns?

DD: I think we’re doing it well at the moment, but it isn’t a case of you crack it – and then it’s sorted. It’s something that requires constant readjustment. I like to make the point when we’re talking about the long and the short, that it’s about the overall marketing mix as well. So it’s not just about comms, you know, it’s as much about our promotional guidelines, and how we flex those.

What I feel that we’ve been getting right, is ensuring that through the line, there’s a real integration of strategy. When we’re working on our big ‘above the line’ pieces of communications there has to be a clear link between the point that we’re making there, and a much smaller tactical thing that you might see in a supermarket aisle or on an ecommerce website. 

It’s also fine for the smaller tactical stuff to be cooked up at short notice and adapted because you know that stuff can work within quite a small time-frame. It’s ok because you’ve allowed the space for it to do so, and made sure that it’s integrated with a bigger long term strategy. – I’ve made that sound a lot neater and easier than it really is. But that’s the intention.

LGC: In a world of ever changing marketing, what challenges are Taylors facing in 2023-2024?

DD: In the world of hot beverages, our main heartland of standard black tea continues to be in decline, because Brits are gradually drinking less and less tea. We’ve got the challenge of working out how to keep current tea drinkers drinking tea, and how to make tea more relevant – particularly to younger people. In coffee, we’ve got a different problem: the coffee market is growing, but coffee is full of lots of quite active competition. 

Thinking outside of those specific markets, it does look like the next few years are set to carry on being financially tough. I do worry about this: what has been referred to as the K shaped recovery. And the fact that increasingly we’re becoming a country of haves and have nots. 

In this hard financial environment, if you want your brand to have universal appeal – how on earth do you do that? How on earth do you be a likeable and realistic brand choice for everyone,  especially those who are properly counting their pennies each time they shop. 

If I can zoom out even further for a moment: I think some of the debate around environmental policy recently has demonstrated what a tough time we’re going to have delivering Net Zero. Business will do a lot of the heavy lifting to get the UK to Net Zero – but it is going to be a big challenge. Sadly, at the moment, I’m not seeing many encouraging signs that there’s the political will to drive towards it. 

And yet: it’s absolutely vital. If you can’t see that it’s vital now, I don’t know what would convince you. In another five years’ time, I think we’ll all be thinking: “Good God, we should have done this a decade ago”. 

LGC: How important is storytelling when maximising your customers’ engagement with a campaign?

DD: Part of producing entertaining and engaging ads is to feel like they have a narrative arc to them.The basic principles of good storytelling are key to all of Yorkshire Tea’s communications. I hope that when people look at our best work, they see that the ads have this ‘sense of place’. That there is a scene being enacted – but it feels like this scene fits into a broader story of a place where all these things happen.

LGC: Creative agencies rail against time and resources spent working on pitches to win accounts. Sounds like you’ve been working with the same agency for a while, but is there a realistic, fair alternative to a pitch process?

DD: It is unusual that we haven’t run that many pitches and I do massively sympathise with this sentiment, because pitching is such a time and energy suck for agencies. It seems such a shame for all that energy to go into trying to win new clients especially when you know that if the same time was going into producing award-winning famous work for existing clients, then that might potentially be just as good a way to win new business. 

My experience of our last pitch was that looking back on it, I think the chemistry sessions were really where we actually decided. And then the following phases of the pitch confirmed our decision. I wonder if there’s something about CMOs confidently picking an agency based on the calibre of the work they’ve already produced for others, and then considering is there a strong sense of affinity here? As opposed to: “Can you do a load of work for free? And then I’ll decide if I like it”.

LGC: If there’s one thing you’ve learned about marketing, it is?

DD: We don’t always need to chase after the new. As marketeers, we are really susceptible to taking something quite obvious and human – and then building a load of pseudoscience around it and revealing it to ourselves as if it’s a ‘brand new learning’. The core tenets of marketing have remained constant for decades. We all could do with keeping grounded and just remembering the basics.

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