Breakfast with a CEO

Honesty, Change and AI:

What we can all learn from Greg Jackson, Octopus Energy Founder and CEO

We’re at a crossroads in marketing. 

New technologies are once again disrupting long-standing foundations for brands and agencies while lasting economic headwinds such as the cost of living crisis and challenging world events are deeply affecting us all—changing the attitudes and habits of consumers and colleagues in the process. 

The pace and fury of our world leave many of us wondering how to lead meaningfully and walk the delicate line between doing business and doing good. This, for marketers, means balancing between value and values, profit and purpose.

At the latest Marketing Society breakfast, Greg Jackson, CEO and Founder of Octopus Energy, offered inspiring thoughts on where we can all start: honesty. Honesty with ourselves and everyone around us—team, customers, and partners.

 “As humans, we navigate a multitude of life's challenges simultaneously. The pandemic has prompted a greater degree of honesty in our lives, ultimately enabling us to be more authentic with employees and customers. This honesty is the key to building transparent and trustworthy businesses.” 

His reflections align with MediaLink’s Marketer’s Forecast ‘24 (TMF24) findings, which honed in on the importance of trust in leadership. It found that nearly 80% of respondents said they trust their company’s leaders to get the business to its future destination—rising from 65% in 2022 and 71% in 2021.

The pandemic opened up more honest and transparent dialogues between people and businesses, which led to genuine connections, a fertile ground for companies to build growth and success. 

However, it’s interesting that according to TMF24, 45% of marketing leaders think their company has compromised core values to enable short-term wins—an 80% increase from 2022, when only 25% of marketers agreed.

This trend emphasises the importance of understanding that change requires action—and from honesty and genuine conversations come growing demand and expectation for visible and buyable change.

It was refreshing to hear Greg address the paradox of wanting to create a tech-supercharged green business and operating in the energy industry, which comes with many environmental implications. He detailed how Octopus Energy invests in energy pumps as one of many ways to address environmental concerns and drive innovation for the whole sector.

Luckily for us, change has never been made easier.

Technology changes what is possible for brands. It shapes the marketing as much as the product. And there is palpable optimism and excitement based on accessibility to technology and data and the incredible opportunities they bring for marketers. 

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, is on a course to change everything. And it is forcing businesses to look at their technology and data strategy through a new lens. The human lens.

This is very much in line with what Greg shared on how Octopus Energy uses AI. As call volumes doubled during the pandemic, Octopus Energy utilised AI technology to address customer inquiries efficiently, with almost half of customer replies generated by AI. This enhanced customer service and freed up human resources for more tailored, personalised interactions. 

To see the true size of an opportunity, we need to understand how it works. Which is why, according to TMF24, although 84% already have experimented with AI, over half of marketing leaders are keen to understand this fast-developing technology better. 

Now is a unique moment in time. Speaking at The Marketing Society Annual conference, Martha Lane Fox rightly said: “Today is the slowest day of our lives.” How we work, socialise, and shop is changing, and that change will only keep accelerating. 

Marketing leaders who lean into the demand for honesty and change and leverage technology as the exceptional accelerator it can be, have a unique opportunity to spark the shifts people crave and businesses need.

The pace of change is quickening, but there is opportunity for greater meaning and connection for those that can keep up. 

Want to learn more about the forces shaping the marketing world? The Marketer’s Forecast 2024 has the stats and insights marketing leaders need to navigate the next twelve months successfully. Download the report here.

By Claire Charruau, VP Marketing & Communications, MediaLink


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