John Bernard Inspirational Marketing Leader of the Year

Interview with John Bernard

Marketing Society Scotland Inspirational Marketing Leader of the Year

We interviewed the Marketing Society Scotland's Inspirational Marketing Leader of the Year and EMEA Marketing Director for Dexcom, John Bernard. 

John Bernard is a multi-award winning marketer, start-up advisor and the EMEA Marketing Director for Dexcom, the San Diego-based medical devices manufacturer. John is a leading marketer who has had a transformational and worldwide impact on companies and their customers in the technology sector, using that expertise in running Dexcom EMEA’s marketing team today. 

Previously, John was the Global Marketing Director at Mozilla, leading strategy and Go-to-Market for the Firefox Brand. Prior to this silicon-valley experience, John was also in senior global marketing roles in the mobile industry with manufacturers Sony Ericsson, Siemens and LG Mobile, raising awareness and driving market share through launching multiple mobile phones and services worldwide through targeted advertising, promotional campaigns, sponsorship, PR and retail activities. 

John is credited with creating the LG Mobile brand in Europe; pioneered the first digital-physical outdoor media in the UK and set the template for integrated mobile phone launches that are commonplace today. 

In 2013, John achieved the 'Marketer of the Year' award from ‘Marketing Week’ magazine. In July 2018, he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate (Hon DUniv) for ‘Services to the Marketing Industry’ from the University of Huddersfield and in June the same year, won a Cannes LIONS Gold. Recently, John was recognised as the 2019 ‘Inspirational Marketer of the Year’ by the Marketing Society.

John is a spokesperson within the mobile, marketing, and healthcare industry.  

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to be recognised for marketing achievements, including winning a Cannes Gold LIONS last year for work at Dexcom and more recently being awarded the ‘Inspirational Leader of the Year’ from the Marketing Society in June of this year. 

In addition, being conferred an Honorary Doctorate for ‘Services to Marketing’ in 2018, in recognition of a career encompassing marketing strategy, planning, and execution, was a real milestone and hugely humbling.  

How do you think the quality of the UK's Marketing Industry compares globally?

Having run multiple global marketing teams over the last decade, I am in a good position to compare and contrast geographical work within mobile, healthcare and tech.

As a result, I can comment that the UK compares well, on many fronts. Firstly, the UK ad spend grew in 2018 to £23.6b, of a £600b spend globally, which is an amazing feat with the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. 

In addition, the UK industry is second only to China in terms of % ad spend on digital, which highlights the speed in which we’re embracing innovation. The US leads the way in terms of the importance and recognition of marketing, especially with representation at Board level. 

More senior marketers need to be representing in the UK. But the UK leads with championing the consumer, for example initiatives around privacy, such as GDPR. 

What brands are you most impressed by at the moment? Any campaigns which have particularly caught your eye?

Brands who follow a Brave agenda. Nike’s ‘Dream Bigger’ is a campaign I wish I had made. It’s transformed a message to buy a product into an emotional connection to a brand. 

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry?

People who, or platforms that continue to drive the importance of Marketing as a discipline. 

I visited The Museum of Brands in London recently, and it was like a museum of marketing, showing the importance of consumer-needs, USPs, knowing your customers, effective communications and the importance of planning. On display were all the successful Brands who stood the test of time, it was an inspirational few hours. 

I am also inspired by those who produce ground-breaking creative such as film-makers Ridley Scott and James Cameron, particularly as they encompass technology and risk-taking into their craft.  

Tell us about your favourite ad campaign, social campaign or commercial. Why does it stand out for you?

The 1993 Dunlop tyres ‘Tested for the Unexpected’ campaign featuring the ‘Venus in Furs’ Velvet Underground soundtrack is a favourite. This convinced me I wanted to pursue a career in marketing. Honourable mention for the Guinness ‘Pure Genius’ adverts from the 1980s. Memorable commercials that people remember today. 

You’ve got more than 20 years’ experience in marketing. What’s been the steepest learning curve you’ve experienced from your time in the industry so far?

Without a doubt my first year as a Marketing Graduate Trainee. After finishing a marketing degree, full of theory from Philip Kotler and fresh from learning SWOTs and PESTs, the practical side of marketing was a huge learning curve. 

Discovering the dynamic with agencies, the skill of creating a marketing plan, consumer research, developing Insight, weaving together the disciplines of PR, sponsorship, advertising…..all encompassed within a budgetary framework….was fast and hard. 

How has the industry changed since you first started out?

Has an industry changed as much as marketing over the last 25 years? There are many changes:

  1. Technology has changed buyer behaviour. There are more platforms for the Consumer to purchase a product and more channels for Marketers to target the Consumer. 
  2. We’re more ROI driven as marketers, but this is no bad thing. Metrics prove the value of marketing in growing market share, company revenue, and brand value. 
  3. The differentiation between strategy and execution is, unfortunately, blurring. 

What did you specialise in uni/college and how has your education influenced your current work?

I did a degree in marketing at the University of Huddersfield - one of the first universities to offer a pure marketing degree - which strengthened my resolve to seek a career in the industry.

Why did you join Dexcom?

I was both happy and settled in my last role running global marketing at Mozilla, but the opportunity to build a brand across Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, from scratch, in a start-up environment for a product that is both life-saving and life-giving, was too appealing.