interview with Mark Sandys

Global Head of Beer, Baileys, Smirnoff & Captain Morgan, Diageo

Mark Sandys has worked at Diageo for 23 years, beginning as a graduate trainee. During his career with the company he has gained a wealth of experience across both emerging and developed markets. Mark is speaking at our upcoming event ‘Innovating the creative process at speed’ so we tracked him down for a quick interview:


What’s your golden rule?

My golden rule is to always start with the truth – and how to make it better. This means always having a real picture of how people feel about your brand and the category – by using great data, by reading what people are saying on twitter and Instagram, by speaking to our sales people on the front line. It also requires a clear vision for the future and a road map of how to go from today’s reality to the future

Who has been your biggest influence?

Marketing Society President, and former Diageo CMO, Syl Saller. I worked for Syl in one capacity or another for nearly 20 years and she is an amazing leader, coach and marketer. I have learnt an enormous amount from her throughout my working life

What is your most hated business expression?

“Take it offline” which often translates to “We will never talk about this again!”

How can marketers be braver?

Bravery comes from values and ambition. On Guinness we have a belief that goes all the way back to our founder, Arthur Guinness, which we describe as ‘OGCD’. This means we will always do things in a way that ‘Only Guinness Can Do’. In our past this has led us to sell black beer when the rest of the world was selling ale, to create the world’s second most widely read book (the Guinness book of records), to build the first skyscraper in Europe (where my office is). Today it remains as a challenge and a benchmark for all of our marketers to ensure that our work is truly distinctive and memorable. It has led to some of the most creative and effective comms in the world

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

Eight years into my career at Diageo in London I had the option to take on another role in GB, or to move overseas. My initial instinct was to remain in London in a comfort zone that I knew well, but I ultimately decided to go overseas and ended up in living in Ireland, then Russia, and then went on to Singapore, with four young kids in tow. It felt like a risk, but it allowed me to take on roles that really stretched me, brought me new experiences and also was an amazing life adventure. It’s made me a more rounded marketer, and led to some unforgettable experiences for my family.

Which leader do you admire most and why?

Jurgen Klopp – a passionate and highly engaging leader, with a strong sense of values but also with a strategy that wins

What’s your favourite word?

Well it has to be ‘Guinness’

Tell us a secret?

We have 9 pets at home including a celebrity dog – we are homing a guide dog puppy while she is being trained and she has regularly appeared on TV here in Ireland where we live. She is regularly recognised by people when we are out and about