From bicycles in boardrooms, to believing in yourself

Bicycles in boardrooms

On Wednesday 2nd May we had lessons in being brave from Bo Jakubenko of Treasury Wine Estates and Barnaby Dawe from Just Eat.

We crowded into the orange seats at the Charlotte Street Hotel cinema room for a brave discussion, hosted by chief executive, Gemma Greaves. As bravery is a hot topic on the IBM marketing team’s agenda, we had a great turnout for the event. And, personally being brave was something I had recently embraced during my recent assignment to China.

Gemma got to the nitty gritty with some carefully thought through questions; why is it important to be braver in our industry? What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? How can you encourage your teams to be braver? If you could edit your past, what would you change? Advice for future marketing leaders? Funniest and weirdest moments? (to which Barnaby shared a story about riding into a boardroom on a bike, with a plastic turkey, I’ll leave you to imagine that one yourself).

Data vs. creativity; what’s the balance?

This was a key topic on the agenda, how can you get the right balance of data-driven insights in marketing whilst maintaining an engaging creative message AND taking into consideration that gut feeling of what will really work? Barnaby’s recommendation was a 70/30 approach, to be noticed you have to be engaging and clever, a formula which can be achieved through both data and creativity.

Meanwhile, Bo commented that actually, with so many data points influencing marketing teams to make a “logical” decision, are we losing that gut feeling we might have around creativity?

Gemma’s final wrap point was great, being brave is when the data says no, but your gut says yes!

Let’s talk about risk

A key theme here, rearing its head in several contexts, firstly - risk adversity: As Just Eat has recently become a FTSE 100 company, Barnaby empathised with other large organisations around the governance and processes required to meet the needs of the shareholders.

That aside though he stressed the importance of maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of the organisation and putting the brand and customers at the heart of everything they do. 

Secondly, risk assessments; Bo shared her thoughts on balancing bravery and recklessness. As a leader who is encouraging bravery, you have to be willing to take the risk too. Risk assess the impact and consequences, are you willing to be the face of that and represent your team? Don’t go into a ‘brave’ situation unprepared for what could happen. 

Finally, taking risks – for Just Eat, the biggest risk was sponsoring last year’s X Factor (you may remember the chef factor?). Pitching it to the board was a tough gig, as we know there’s not always a clear ROI on sponsorship like that. In positive news they saw the value in sales and brand uplift, but for such a big financial investment that was a risk they didn’t know would pay off. 

Being brave with your wellbeing

With mental health and wellbeing as a hot topic on everyone’s minds, and especially for the Marketing Society, Gemma asked both panellists what they thought:

  • Sensitivity towards your team; everyone is fighting their own battle
  • Time is key; having time to yourself, taking a break on holiday to recharge is so important
  • Have perspective; we work in marketing, not saving people’s lives, so it’s important to yes assess the impact but also keep things in perspective compared to those bigger things in life.

What about advice for future leaders out there?

What was great about the ending of the session was the complementary comments from Bo and Barnaby. Bo who is early on in her career and was very candid about her current learning curve, both on the marketing leaders programme, living abroad and managing a team for the first team, whereas Barnaby had some additional experiences from his longer career to share and inspire the audience with.

My favourite comments are:

  • Believe in yourself; it might be tough and challenging but believe in the art of the possible
  • Put your hand up; say yes to opportunities that enable you to learn new things and meet new people
  • Use your initiative; spot opportunities to get involved, talk to the right people and get known within your organisation
  • Set some goals; Bo shared her goals plan, using the Olympics as a four-year goal period in which to achieve something
  • Be helpful; helping others out with their work allows you to learn and get exposure to others, especially at the beginning of your career, top tips from Barnaby.

Barnaby and Bo won the 2017 Marketing Leader and Young Marketing Leader award respectively. Their Under the Spotlight session gave us the perfect balance of expertise, experience and learning shared in a brave environment.


Sarah Warsaw, digital advertising, IBM Corporate Advertising, UK