How to execute your Marketing Strategy?

Advanced Master in Creativity and Marketing, Class 2015

Two years ago, Jean-Pierre Baeyens (holder of Marketing Chair @ Solvay Business School) decided to launch a new advanced Masters in Creativity and Marketing. It would teach new approaches and techniques instead of classic demand-based methods. Jean-Pierre invited me to lead the module called ‘PERFORM — The Marketing Show’. I remembered asking him what was the thinking behind the title. He told me: “It is basically about marketing execution, making your strategy happen. But since this is a new course there is no benchmark; you can shape it however you want”.

A fantastic challenge! And terrifying at the same time!

How can marketing execution be learned in a classroom? After more than 20 years in marketing, I was convinced that execution is largely a real-life experience. Sure, we could talk about it all we liked, but only (near) real-life experience can actually build the skills. Anyway I set out to find out what the ideal toolkit would be for being a successful marketer with a long line of successful executions. After in-depth research and discussions with various thought-leaders, I came up with the following principles:


Marketing is an experience.

I am a customer-centricity advocate! I truly believe that the value chain should be turned around. In the past, companies were product-centric, all their commercial efforts pushing their brands onto customers. Today, it can’t work anymore. You need to start with the customer. It’s no longer about technology or features but about experience (the way customers interact with your brand).

Some thought leaders are saying:

Alain Thys: “From a distance, customer centricity is seductively simple. All you have to do is figure out what your customers need and re- organise your business so this can deliver it in a profitable and sustainable manner.”
Booz & Company: “What distinguishes customer-centric organizations from other companies that proclaim their customer focus? In short, they’ve moved beyond lip service and re-oriented their entire operating model around the customer, increasing customer satisfaction and their own profitability in the process.”
McKinsey & Co: The new logic starts with the individual end user. Instead of “What do we have and how can we sell it to you?” good business practices start by asking “Who are you?” “What do you need?” and “How can we help?”

In my course module, we work on customer journey mapping, emotional and rational needs, how brands are delivering rationally and emotionally across the journey and where they can be unique and create real competitive advantage. Yes, you need a product, price, packaging, … but what matters today is how people experience the brand and how you consistently deliver it across all touchpoints and channels.

Good academic stuff but does it really work? Long story short, it works. And with FUTURELAB, we have seen clients in teleco, FMCG, finance and automotive creating a real difference when they began to focus on Customer Experience.

Marketing is a discipline

Marketing is certainly one of the most disciplined activities you can choose to do. Why? Marketing departments are usually initiating, sponsoring and managing commercial projects from idea to launch. How can you do this if you are not disciplined? How can you manage projects if you don’t apply good Project Management principles and practices? As a marketer, you should be as passionate as engineers about process.

Marketers or Marketing Masters students are not usually equipped with the skills necessary for being good project managers. In my course module, we discuss Stage-Gate process, Check-list, Agile/Scrum methodologies and how to lead projects.

Marketing is also one of the most number-oriented departments in a company, sometimes even more so than Finance. Why? Because in large companies, Marketing provides all the revenue forecasts and is also in charge of a large budget. Again, among fresh marketing graduates you won’t find many number-oriented people. But if you want to succeed as a marketer, you should be as passionate as financial analysts about numbers.

Marketing is Collaboration

Most of the time, executions fail because of us. Because of our lack of leadership, emotional intelligence, poor communication with others, lack of political astuteness or persuasiveness we are jeopardizing more than 60% of our projects.

Jeroen de Flander, brilliantly detailed his thoughts on exactly what makes strategy execution fail. His insights apply 100% to Marketing projects.

So, in the course module, we are exploring our personality (MBTI), how we work with others, how to lead and what is corporate politics.

Marketing is Great not Good

I truly believe that improvements don’t come from an IDEA but from working with the existing reality, making it better and better. When I hire someone new, I usually ask them to work on a product that has already been launched and find out what can be improved. This has two benefits: the person will get used to the company’s processes and habits and he/she will quickly bring added-value to the business.

Our inspiration for the course are Japanese companies and their Kaizen principles. Great marketing executions are ultimately about permanent improvement.

Final words

So, EXPERIENCE + DISCIPLINE + COLLABORATION + GREAT form my toolkit for marketing execution. If you master those four topics, you’ll be leading the conversation.

Don’t hesitate to comment or share your toolkit recommendations. This is definitely work in progress for me and I am excited to move it to the next level.

Find more on Advance Master in Creativity and Marketing: link

Find more on Futurelab here: link

Read a case study on customer experience at ING here: link

Originally published at on January 27, 2015.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.