mitch and katie

Don't be boring, be brave!

What we can learn from 2019 Brave Awards' winners Mitch Oliver and Katie Laviolette

As Mars' Mitch Oliver put it, 'this current situation is shit'. Many of us are experiencing the challenges surrounding COVID-19 worldwide⁠—but with change comes the opportunity to grow and crucially, to lead in new and unexpected ways. 

So, who better to demonstrate that than our 2019 Bravest Marketing Leader of 2019, Mars’ Mitch Oliver and winner of our One to Watch award, Akzonobel’s Katie Laviolette.

Hosted by outgoing Chief Executive Gemma Greaves, this week's Under the Spotlight saw the duo share their experiences around marketing during this new normal and what drives them to succeed, as an established industry name and a rising star of tomorrow respectively. Here's what they had to share:

On what it meant to win Bravest Leader/One To Watch at our 2019 Awards

Mitch: It came at a critical time when my professional identity took a back seat. To win this award was a much-needed boost of confidence. In working life, you make lots of small decisions daily striving to do the right thing - to be recognised for that is special.
Katie: The process was an honour, let alone winning it. It made me realise that as you progress in your career, it gets harder to be braver and it’s helped me to put development top of mind. 

On what drives them

Mitch: My dad's ethos was 'work hard and you will be rewarded', and my mum's: 'be nice and kind'. This combination has been at the core of all my decisions. Do the best that you can and bring people up with you.
Katie: Natural curiosity - wanting to learn more, discover more, try new things. Competitiveness - with other brands, the industry but mainly myself. And the fear of regretting not pulling my all in when I had the chance. 

On their biggest takeaway from a successful campaign

Mitch (on the Maltesers Look on the Light Side campaign): 
In the space of diversity and inclusion, everyone has an element of themselves that feels misplaced and misunderstood. If you can connect with your stakeholders in telling those stories, it can make a real difference. 

You need passion underpinned with metrics and data to produce powerful marketing.

Katie (on the Dulux Colour of the Year campaign): 
Bring as many people from across the business onto the campaign and map out as many customer touchpoints as possible. Customer experience is what led to the campaign being so successful.

On personal progression

Mitch: You do your best work the third time: the first is for learning, the second improving and the third to be brave. Prioritise experience rather than progression; if you stay a bit longer in a role, sometimes it can propel your next career leap further.
Katie: Sometimes you can want things in a role but be restricted by the realms of current responsibilities. What can I do as an individual? Speak up about ideas but also find things you can do on a daily basis - networking, volunteering, etc. 

On leadership during and post COVID-19

Mitch: Leaders need to be gardeners. They plant the seeds and tend to them carefully in the beginning, replant them somewhere else if needs be but ultimately, they sit back and watch those seedlings flourish and grow.

Expertise is no hierarchical - the owner of the best knowledge isn’t the most senior. Allow younger voices to be heard.

Katie: Integrate. There's an influx of new technology, new ways to speak to customers and as a team, we need to be flexible, to wear more hats, to create a culture that can adapt quickly without huge ripple effects.

One important lesson for the future

Mitch: We have a business and moral responsibility to be brave, to do marketing that holds society to account. We are the voice of our businesses, we are choice architects - how do we lead and guide our consumers? 
Katie: COVID-19 has demonstrated everyone's ability to adapt and find a silver lining in times of uncertainty. We see it within our teams and the amazing things brands are doing to contribute during the crisis. I hope that kindness remains.