Adam Brown is the Global Head of Marketing at GAM and a long-time supporter of Copylab. We recently enjoyed a wide-ranging chat, and covered a range of subjects including marketing technology, leading teams through tough times, content marketing, ROI, podcasts and guilty pleasures. I hope you enjoy it.
Q: What was your first job and how much did you earn?
A: My first job after university was back in 1998 with NatWest, working as a commercial loan approver. My first salary was £11,500. Not long after I joined, they closed the regional lending office, and I moved to Fidelity, working in the call centre at Kingswood. It was around the time of the internet bubble, and there were stalls in stations with customers filling in ISA forms on their way to their trains.
Q: So how did you get into investment marketing?
A: The back story is that my father was a finance director in the car industry. I remember him talking about how he got into that line of work, and he said the two things he found most interesting were people and money. I suppose that’s how asset management came into my head as a career option.
I worked in the call centre at Fidelity for a couple of years. We had six weeks of intensive schooling before we were allowed to speak to anyone. It gave you such a solid grounding, not just in the products but also how to articulate those products to different types of customer. Of course you have to be able to talk to the fabled “Mrs Miggins” with her one-off ISA, as well as really sophisticated investors. So you had to turn the complexity up or down.
After a couple of years talking to customers, I took up a role as a marketing executive, focusing on end investors. With Fidelity at that time, the marketing budget was massive, and we were doing a lot of old-school direct mailings in which customers could tear the coupon off, fill it in and send back to us. And we would run adverts in The Sunday Telegraph and literally hundreds of people would call in. We’d see a massive spike in call volumes; it’s nothing like that now of course.
Looking back, I was lucky to be pushed into marketing, though I always thought it seemed an interesting place to be. Sales never appealed to me with the “one to one” approach. What attracted me to marketing was the “one to many” idea.
Q: What’s your current role at GAM?
A: I’m now the global head of marketing at GAM. I’m responsible for all of the client-facing contact, including our websites and digital channels, channel marketing, campaigns, presentations, RFP, investment communications and events.
My day-to-day activity, more than anything else, involves working with the people in the marketing team. In fact, I’d say it’s the most important thing that any head of marketing does. You spend more of your life at work than anywhere else. So making sure people have got support, direction and motivation is really important. And given everything that’s happened in GAM in the last nine months, that’s more important than ever.
Just behind looking after the team, it’s also important for me to be the conduit out to the business. So I talk to salespeople an awful lot, as well as senior management, corporate communications and investor relations, which as a listed company is incredibly important for us.
I’m a huge believer in clear roles and responsibilities. When I started here in July 2017, I inherited a marketing team that was probably quite fractured, not just philosophically but also physically: we were in different buildings and on different floors. So, building a great leadership team was one of my first priorities and identifying the right people to help me lead the team of 45 people.
Q: What have been your biggest marketing successes in GAM so far?
A: Building a team that is coordinated, as efficient as possible, and facilitates the ability to achieve our marketing objectives.
For example, we’ve rolled out a new digital platform internally. We can now send out thousands of emails a month and monitor all of them. And in an incredibly challenging period of time, I’m really pleased that we’ve managed to keep the team engaged.
One of the things I focus on is the way we all communicate with the business. So I’ve got a marketing leadership team who sits down once a week for half an hour to share “all the things I’m doing that I think you should know”. We then have a much longer monthly meeting that covers various projects and campaigns. I’ve found over the years that this cadence of meetings works well as it gets people communicating.
And part my role is to trumpet our team’s successes and remind the business that we’re a centre of excellence. We aren’t just a production line; we’re adding value along the way. Whether people in the business want to come and talk to the presentation, RFP or digital teams, they’ll share best practice about how to get the message out most effectively. For me, it’s about creating a team that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.
Q: What’s your ambition for the GAM brand?
A: From a brand point of view, we want to build a brand that is distinctive and relevant to all our clients.
Being distinctive is very rare in our industry. For us, it’s a combination of things. It’s the product we’ve designed; it’s our process; and it’s also the articulation of those products, and how we try to help clients achieve their financial objectives. Becoming distinctive involves working with people right across the business and not giving a run-of-the-mill experience. We need to bring it alive for our clients and I believe we can add value for them.
As far as my team is concerned, I want all our content to be timely, relevant and engaging. If we can stick to those three areas, I’d be happy.
Q: What are you looking at next in terms of marketing technology?
A: The key thing is about actioning our sales funnel. When customers interact with our world, it creates a picture, and we have to be able to act on that.
One great thing about the digital world is data. But I would also say it’s probably one of the worst things. Reams of data in themselves aren’t very useful; what’s really important is actionable insight. And that’s where I want to be able to get to: being able to use data to produce actionable insights for the sales team that they can apply to their clients.
Q: Where do you get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of content?
A: I think it depends on the context: where you are in the world but also which channel you’re looking at. So if you were just in one country talking to one channel, you can probably make a very reasoned guess. But if you have a global footprint and clients in multiple channels, a lot depends on what you’re trying to achieve and that means you need a flexible approach.
Q: What’s the main industry challenge or opportunity you see coming?
A: I think in a disintermediated world, both the opportunity and the challenges is the same thing – demonstrating return on investment.
It comes back to that old maxim from US department store magnate John Wanamaker: “I know that half my advertising spending is wasted. I’m just not sure which half”. I want to reduce that unknown. Ideally, for every pound I spend, I want to be able to demonstrate its value, and that is the biggest challenge and opportunity for us as marketers.
I think that by really analysing our ROI, it will shine a light on lots of dark areas in the marketing landscape. For example, we might go to an event each year because the salesperson loves it. But does it actually demonstrate any return on investment? We can measure that now.
Meanwhile, on the content side of things, if we do a really in-depth piece with well-thought-out content, we can bring it to life in a variety of different ways. And it’s not just the campaign; it’s the long tail of blogs, social media posts and other micro-marketing pieces that give you the most bang for your buck.
I’m also increasingly convinced that there’s a place for hard copy again, if you can get it right. We all get hundreds of emails each day. But if you get just one old-fashioned direct mail piece, that will cut through the noise.
Q: What are you reading, watching or listening to at the moment?
A: I’m training for a marathon, so I’m listening to a lot of podcasts. I like the Tailenders cricket podcast. It’s brilliant because it’s funny and engaging, and all the things great content should be.
I have to say my guilty pleasure is Desert Island Discs. I love this series, in particular the interesting stories, whether they’re acclaimed neuroscientists, world-class musicians or famous sportspeople.
That’s what I find interesting and engaging about really good content. Yes, there can be some things that you’re familiar with, but you can also find content you’d never even thought about.