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Patrick Barwise: Becoming A Marketing Leader

patrick barwise interviewProfessor Patrick Barwise is an expert on marketing and media, specialising in customer-focused strategy and execution, marketing leadership, brands, advertising, media, and broadcasting policy. His last book, The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, co-authored with former McKinsey partner Thomas Barta, was published by McGraw-Hill in September 2016. Patrick Barwise is an experienced expert witness in international commercial, competition and tax cases and an advisory board member and an early-stage investor in several online start-ups. He has held visiting posts in media and communications at Oxford University and the London School of Economics and is also a former chairman of Which?, the UK’s leading consumer organisation. Patrick Barwise joined London Business School in 1976 after an early career at IBM. Enjoy our interview with Patrick Barwise.

Tell us a little about your book ‘The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader’…

The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader is based on the largest ever study of what drives senior marketers’ business impact and career success. We analysed detailed data on 1,200 senior marketers and 360-degree data on over 7,400 other marketing and non-marketing leaders). What we found was that things like gender and market (eg B2B vs B2C) and even personality weren’t that important. Functional skills and the company itself (eg does the CEO really “get” customer focus?) were more important. But by far the biggest driver was marketers’ leadership skills. These are the “12 Powers”. They fall into four groups: mobilise your boss, your peers, your team and yourself. The things you need to do to increase your impact and success as a marketer are all pretty concrete and practical, like focusing on big things that matter to the company, walking the halls to spend more time with your non-marketing colleagues, building a team with the specific skills mix for your particular brand strategy, and knowing your stuff not only about the customers and competitors, but also your own company’s products and operations. The big underlying lesson is that leading marketing isn’t the same as doing marketing – and it’s even more important. The good news is that, because personality had only limited impact, most competent marketers have it within themselves to be excellent marketing leaders – if they follow the evidence-based guidelines in the book.

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What one piece of advice would you give a small business owner looking to market their business?

My one piece of advice for a small business owner: when thinking about your product/service, focus on what matters most to most potential customers, rather than obsessing about what makes your offer different from the competition. If you have one or two additional relevant features, that’s nice, but it’s no substitutes for being “simply better” on the basics. The only twist is that, when it comes to communications(as opposed to the product/service itself), you do need to stand out from the crowd to create buzz and cut through (This is the argument of Simply Better, my 2004 book with Sean Meehan, which won the American Marketing Association’s annual book prize).

What’s the best book on marketing you’ve ever read? What lessons did you take away from it?

I don’t have a “best ever” marketing book, but a very good one I read recently is the System 1 Group’s System 1: Unlocking Profitable Growth, an excellent introduction to the application of behavioural science to marketing, especially how and why marketing communications should aim to create positive emotions.

Do you have a favourite marketing campaign in recent years? What was it and why does it stick in the memory?

A bit obvious, I’m afraid, but I loved JL’s Monty the Penguin, a great example of emotional advertising based on System 1 planning.

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What advice would you give a business owner who is stepping into the world of social media for the first time?

Think of social media for customer insight and CRM, not just advertising. (Sean Meehan and I wrote an article on this in the December 2010 Harvard Business Review, “The one thing you must get right when building a brand”).

In three words; describe the future of marketing.

Complicated but fun.

To learn more about Patrick Barwise, be sure to visit his website.