Five themes from Under the Spotlight with David Wheldon

David Wheldon learnings

Provocative and insightful; David Wheldon, CMO Royal Bank of Scotland, shared his rich perspective on a broad range of subjects, powered by bolder marketing leadership as he was put Under The Spotlight - equally, everyone else in the room was encouraged to share their views.

Here are the highlights captured which stood out for me, at the end of almost two hours of spirited engagement (both on the couch and off it):

Brand idea

One of the earliest comments that had me hooked was a rather simple one - every business that ever started, across any category, was started around a brand idea.

While sometimes this idea may not have been overtly expressed, it is this idea that differentiates one brand from the other.

Of course, the brand that has a more powerful and compelling one, which wins amongst the sea of options.

A simple comment but one that I thought was immensely powerful.


Bold marketing

As we got started talking about what goes behind the birth of powerful brand ideas, we touched upon and explored another adjacent truth. Powerful brands are created by bold marketing. And bold marketing in turn is led by leaders who are passionate, imaginative and importantly, have the confidence to follow through with their convictions. These are leaders who challenge the status quo and walk new paths, take considered risks and who, if they fail, celebrate and learn from their failure. 


As the discussion explored various aspect of bold leadership, another key attribute that got picked on was that of “clarity”. Clarity of thought displayed by confident leaders – in both distilling and defining the core problem, and, outlining the approach for its remedy. Great leaders almost always break up large problems down to many smaller ones and tackle each one of them, specifically and individually. A successful marketing leader must be able to state the core problem and the remedy in 60 seconds. Simple.


But clarity is preceded by knowledge and experience and therefore David’s advice to all young marketers who endeavoured to become bold marketing leaders was focus on both education and instincts. Studying the craft of marketing, both the art and the science of it, and courageously following up on your instincts played a big part in both developing knowledge and experience. Clarity based on knowledge and backed by courage and instinct was a perfect combination to deliver impact – something that all bold marketing aspires to do!


And as this invigorating session approached its end, we discussed another simple but powerful truth: how successful brands are built by not just advocating its essence to audiences externally, but by the embodiment of the same values by all stakeholder on work on the brand internally. Every employee and brand partner must be a vivid representation of the brand’s core essence, almost like an ambassador all ecosystems.

The opportunity to interact with David was a privilege for marketers young and old. If anything, it was a session that showed the way to bolder marketing leadership, more than ever before.

By Karan Kumar, Head of Brand and Marketing, Fabindia