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Going Beyond Convention with Weetabix's Gareth Turner

Brand Insight 39 Add to collection

True to form, Gareth offers an insightful read on why going beyond convention is fundamental to progress, his admiration for Paddy Power and the importance of creating an atmosphere of high support and trust if you want to deliver bolder, braver work

Going Beyond Convention with Weetabix's Gareth Turner

“Going beyond convention” is Space's regular interview feature where it shines a spotlight on those marketers who are championing creativity that stands out and gets talked about.

In each interview, Space poses three simple questions to uncover what it means to challenge the status quo and why it’s so important for brands, which brands do the marketing community admire for taking this approach and what advice the guest interviewee would give to fellow marketers ambitious to go beyond convention.

Space's second guest is Gareth Turner, head of marketing – at Weetabix.

Gareth is an experienced global FMCG marketing and commercial leader with a proven successful track record in developing brands, teams, and individuals.

Currently Head of Marketing at Weetabix, he has previously held senior brand roles at both Heineken UK and Arla Foods.

A long-time collaborator with Space (we bought a horse together during his time on John Smith’s!), Gareth regularly writes about brands and marketing on Linked In and in his “Sporadic Brand Ramblings” newsletter.


Q> What does “going beyond convention” mean to you and is it important to Weetabix? 

Gareth> There is a lot to be said for convention in marketing. It is what gives us the process, rigor, and confidence to develop brand strategy and plans that deliver our business objectives. Convention tells me that increasing penetration is the way to grow my brand. It tells me that a combination of long-term equity driving communication and shorter term, sales driving activity in the rough ratio of 60:40 is optimal.

But convention is there to be broken too, right? If we didn’t break convention, we’d still be using outside privies, riding horses to the shops and sitting in tin baths every Sunday night (whether we needed to or not). Without moving beyond convention, we’d never progress. 

So, for me, “going beyond convention” is about progress. Challenging the “way things are done around here” to improve performance. It’s not about recklessly breaking rules in a scattergun way.  It’s about taking a calculated risk with a specific objective in mind. 

Space encouraged me to do this when I worked with them on John Smith’s. We knew our drinkers loved horse racing and wanted to put them closer to the action. So we bought a racehorse and called him Smithy the Horse, of course. The campaign was more successful than the horse. A 569% sales boost in Tesco and over 2000% uplift in Asda.

More recently, going beyond convention has been important to us in the Weetabix marketing team. We’ve been pushing each other to deliver bolder, braver work because we believe it’s more effective. Brave marketing is important to me for a few reasons, not least my professional vanity – I want to work on work that I’m proud to have on my cv. I also want to work on work that works, that is effective and efficient, that has cut through. You don’t do that by meekly finding the least offensive or a beige consensus. It takes vision, bravery, and resilience to put your head above the parapet, and let people take pot shots at you. Drumming gorillas don’t appear without someone being brave along the way. 

Pushing beyond convention and making yourself vulnerable to the possibility of making a mistake is how we grow. 

Q> What other brand(s) do you admire for “going beyond convention”? 

Gareth> An obvious choice, but Paddy Power are the high water mark for me. They’ve pushed bravery to the limit which would be beyond most brands, but resonates with their target audience.  

More traditional brands that push convention in a more conservative way should also be admired. As a marketer I can appreciate that the internal sign off conversations there are likely to be harder than at a place like Paddy Power. An example of that is the Adidas work that’s the talk of the industry at the time of writing. 

I’m not commenting on cryptocurrency, but OMFG what about the Coinbase QR code Super Bowl ad. It defies almost every element of convention when assessing an ad: 

  • Is it well branded? Nope 
  • Is it easily understood? Errrrr, no. 
  • Is it attention grabbing? Hell, yeah. 

But has it been successful? D’ya think so? Hats off to them. 

Q> What advice would you give fellow marketers ambitious to “go beyond convention”? 

Gareth> The key to going beyond convention and delivering bolder ideas is to create a safe environment for these ideas to be shared. Whether this is within your department or with your agency partners.  It is every marketer’s job to make the brave feel less brave. 

There are three pieces of advice I would give to marketers looking to go beyond convention. 

Create an atmosphere of high support and trust. It’s important to know that you’re not going to be hung out to dry if your bold decision doesn’t work. That someone has got your back. At Weetabix we talk about “autopsy without blame” which allows us to share success and failure with equal gusto. I’ve been on the receiving end of this, and it is empowering.

Adopt a “yes, if…” approach to ideas rather than “no, because…” Yes , if… opens possibilities. It’s a foundation of great improvised comedy – you never see a participant refuse to open the front door in the ideal party guest game. And a personal example – for a while I ran a supper club in my dining room – it sounded like fun when I had heard about them, so I just did it despite the many reasons not to. And do you know what, it was fun. Consider how demoralising is it to hear “No, that won’t work because…” It takes resilience to pull yourself back from there, and that energy is more useful being spent on something more productive. “No, because…” sucks the joy and momentum from an idea. How much more energising is it to hear “yes, if…”?  “Yes, that could work if we can get it listed in all retailers” offers encouragement and a coaching opportunity.

Consider the worst-case scenario. Often, it’s not as daunting as you might think. Once you’ve quantified the potential downside you can decide if the boldness and potential upside outweighs the risk. And put plans in place to mitigate that risk.

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Genres: People

Space, Fri, 04 Mar 2022 17:48:14 GMT