One-on-One Interview with Kevin Roberts, at NZ House, 24 April 2019

This very entertaining event was held in NZ House' penthouse which has an outstanding view of London; some attendees were on the balcony outside taking pictures and admiring views of London's landmarks like The Shard and the London Eye. A variety of delicious canapés were served on wooden chopsticks (nice touch!) and there was a tasting of a New Zealand gin called Cadrona which is soon to be introduced in the UK. The latter was served as a cocktail with apple juice and a cinnamon stick, which I believe appealed to many of the 80 attendees from KEA, NZ Trade and Enterprise and the Marketors. There was also excellent Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from Yealands Wine located in the Awatere Valley in New Zealand. Being curious, I asked the lady serving the wines about the Valley, which I hear is especially suitable for viticulture due to the windy climate and rugged terrain which makes for hardy vines, thus adding a minerality so needed for Yealand's well regarded Sauvignon Blancs.

All this food and drink set us up nicely for what was to follow, the One-on-One Interview with Kevin Roberts by our very own Middle Warden, John Farrell. The Master Marketor, Andrew Cross, introduced Kevin as a highly experienced marketer having worked in retail, automotive to food & beverage and advertising industries i.e. from Mary Quant to Gillette, Pepsi, Toyota and Lion Nathan as well as having been the CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi. Lauren Bartlett, of NZ Trade and Enterprise then made a brief introduction from KEA/NZ T&E's perspective.

Having begun as a Brand Manager at 17, Kevin now offers consultancy on commerce, media and sport. He has also just joined the Board of Wigan Athletic as of the second week of April 2019. Quizzed on whether he sees himself as from the UK or as a New Zealander (he has homes in the UK, New York and in New Zealand), it became clear that his heart is in New Zealand, although he is Lancaster born.

Kevin regaled us with stories from his distinguished career in answer to John's questions about brand building, the role of marketers and leaders, while sharing his views on these subjects. Infinitely entertaining, while he was the CEO of Pepsi-Cola Canada, during a presentation around the introduction of NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] which was about free trade and how it would be good for Canada, Kevin actually had a Coke vending machine brought onto the stage to make a statement about 'killing' off Pepsi's rival, Coca-Cola. He took out a machine gun (with rubber bullets) and blasted away at the machine on LiveTV. The Canadian PM, Brian Mulroney, was present at the time and did not flinch. It was an instant marketing success taking Pepsi past Coke.

Building brands: In his view, Mary Quant is very good at building brands as Mary set the trends and trusted instinct and intuition. Amazingly, there was no product testing at Mary Quant for its cosmetics. A fantastic success was its tagline ' make-up to make love in'! While, P&G, in his opinion, is the best brand builder, as it combined art and science.

Role of Marketers: However, Kevin believes that the role of marketers today is to 'create a movement'; rather than building brands. According to Kevin:

"Ideas are the currency of our time"

Creativity: However, there is a lack of marketer representation on Boards as Kevin feels that that there is a lack of trust in creativity on Boards. He also believes that ROI should be regarded as Return on Involvement. He posed the question on how this type of Return could be measured?

Leadership: Kevin, who teaches Leadership at Lancaster University and Oxford University, repeated Drucker's views that Management is about 'doing things right', while Leadership is about 'doing the right thing'. He believes that there is no place for the old command & control, largely male and leader-follower type leadership style as practised in P&G and Pepsi. Kevin believes that the role of leaders today is:

"To inspire everyone to be the best they can be, in pursuit of the company's objectives"

Certainly no HR manual, nor 360 degree feedback. There are 3 things a leader should do today; which is give people Responsibility, opportunities to Learn and Recognition for their efforts. Being 'happy bunnies', they would be 35% more productive.

It is about moving from 'get things done' to make things happen' and to create other leaders. Finally, a leader needs a vision, not necessarily a vision statement. Kevin mentioned Martin Luther King's famous statement: 'I have a dream'; which is what is needed.

Kevin believes in ABC which stands for Ambition, (Self-) Belief and Courage. Although he does not believe he has developed anyone, he has inspired many, including CEOs in NZ.

Lovemarks: In his 2005 book, he introduced the concept of Lovemarks. What is considered important for brands is trust and brands are built on respect, while Lovemarks is about emotional connectivity. Lovemarks create 'loyalty beyond reason', beyond attribute, etc. For example, Toyota is known for its 'Quality, Durability, Reliability' and is respected for these attributes. The Toyota CEO asked Kevin to change Toyota from being the most respected car in the world to the most loved. This resulted in the Prius. Lovemarks are built on both respect and love.

Biggest failure of his career: Tom Peters told him to 'Fail fast, Learn fast, Fix fast'. In fact, Kevin is to give 20 minute TED talks in Auckland and Christchurch soon on failures and how to fix them. In answer to John's probing about Kevin's exit from the Publicis group which John thought was quite 'colourful',  Kevin stated he had no regrets, only that he wished he had expressed himself differently. In any case, in his conversation with Shimon Perez about leadership, Shimon had said that 'a career without controversy is not a career at all'.

Peak Performance:  '64 shots' ...

Kevin talked about three kinds of change which is 'Disruptive, Transformational and Incremental'.

Predictions: He has made 10 predictions in the NZ Rugby Monthly for 20 years. Kevin has written a book called Sisomo — which is about sight, sound and motion, about screen-agers and about being mobile and how marketers should take advantage of this.

Finally, for a start-up, how to build a successful brand today? :

Kevin said to start with a:

  • Purpose on a page and then, the
  • Dream, Beliefs and Focus.
  • Market from Day 1, and
  • Raise 5x what you think you need.

It became clear that Kevin's views are based on his understanding of millennials and their aspirations. They are not looking to move up the corporate ladder. Millenials want 'connectivity, creativity and collaboration', as well as visionary leaders who inspire and brands they can love.

The Master, Andrew Cross, then thanked the Events Team, Court Assistant, Carole Seawert and Des Clark-Noble (Event Director) for organising the event.

The evening continued with drinks and canapés, well up to 10pm.

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The Worshipful Company of Marketors is a City Livery Company. Members of the Company are on the way to achieving, or have achieved, mastery and excellence within the Marketing profession.