Interview with Greg Smith

Head of Marketing, Scottish Seafish

Tell us about yourself. How did you end up in your current role?

I made the switch from agency to client-side in 2017 after a decade as an account handler, with a move into domestic energy. I learned a lot in my first 18 months on the ‘other side’, and quickly realised that in order to survive the corporate world, you really need to believe in the product you’re selling. I struggled with gas and electricity, because it’s ultimately the same thing, regardless of who’s selling it – there’s almost no differentiation. And don’t get me started on the crumbling grid, smart meters or outrageous ‘standard variable tariffs’.

Then I got a wee nudge from someone who was aware of my moral struggles, and heard Seafish were looking for a Head of Marketing. My first thought was, ‘public sector? No thanks.’ Then I realised my feelings were based on some weird, inherited bias from my past – not the way I actually felt. Not only that, but Seafish was offering close contact with a product and industry that I truly believe in, and one that’s very close to my heart; fish! I read the 2018-2021 Corporate Plan, outlining the organisation’s plan for the future, and I was hooked (sorry, not sorry). 

The rest is history.

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

Amazon really floats my boat. Yes, they’re a monolith, and quite a boring choice for a brand marketeer to pick. So what!? They’re smashing it – globally and consistently. And they’re actually bigger/better than a brand; they’re a way of life. By mid-2019, I'd spend nearly £10,000 with them. So they must be doing something right.

When it comes to marketing comms, I’m actually more conscious of brands right now that are getting it horribly wrong. And not just in terms of campaigns, but from a brand identity and value perspective. Virgin Atlantic, Wetherspoon’s and JD Sports really got to me in the early days of Covid-19, with the ways in which they were treating their own staff. Some of the hollow ‘support’ messages the blue-chips hoisted up their social media flagpoles during the BLM movement also really pissed me off – I’m looking at you, Nike/Adidas...

Sorry, that was a little negative - #becausecorona

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry?

I have three that always come to mind:

As a total fanboy, Mark F**king Ritson is a hero of mine. He says what others won’t/don’t, and I really like some of his terminology (‘arsehats’ is a personal favourite).

Coach, digi-entrepreneur and downright awesome author, Kim Scott, inspired me to be more radically candid in my approach to managing, leading and generally dealing with people.

Simon Sinek has taught me more about how to approach problems (and take a good look at myself), than anyone else I know. Sad but true.

The one campaign you are most proud of during your time with your organisation?

I spent my first 18 months at Seafish studying our existing consumer campaign activity, calling out what was/wasn’t working, and then building a new, more accountable and effective marketing strategy – which our stakeholders could own and lead with us.

It has resulted in the birth of a new 20-year consumer initiative called ‘Love Seafood’, which we’re launching with our agency partners in October this year. We’re doing something I genuinely believe will positively shift a generational decline in seafood consumption, by driving ‘an enjoyment of fish’ across the nation.

In terms of strategy, structure and long-term potential, it far outweighs any campaign I’ve ever worked on. The true proof will be in the results pudding though, so keep watching this space.

What's on the horizon for you?

Professionally – I’m two years into my Seafish role, at the helm of a 20-year strategy, and thoroughly enjoying the challenges that come with it. Working for good people really helps, as does managing a great team. And I’d like to keep giving back to both those causes, by developing my leadership style and approach. I work with a talented group of people, who are far better at this marketing stuff than I am. So, being able to develop little bits of them, and help shape their careers for the future, is the real gift that keeps on giving. It’s my WHY.

Personally – I’m lucky to share life with a beautiful finance, a bright-eyed wee girl and a very smelly (but incredibly loving) dog. They also occasionally humour me, so I can bake bread, tend to my garden and drink nice whisky. That’s my horizon and my future, and I love it.

Greg is taking part in the Creative Challenge Client v Agencies event at this year's Amplify Virtual Festival.

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