Interview with Craig Inglis, Customer Director, John Lewis and Partners

Q&A with Craig Inglis
Craig Inglis

Craig started his career in 1992 as a marketing graduate trainee at Thomson Holidays, leading to a role as a Product Manager. Craig joined Virgin in 1997, where he rose to become Sales and Marketing Director of Virgin Trains. He joined John Lewis in March 2008, where as Marketing Director he presided over an overhaul of the retailer’s customer and marketing strategies, helping to drive market-beating performance over multiple years.

He is probably best known for the high profile campaigns he has been behind, including Always A Woman, The Long Wait and Monty's Christmas. The brand has gone from strength to strength under his tenure, winning numerous awards including the Marketing Society’s Brand of the Year in 2010 & 2011, the IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix in 2012 and Cannes Lions Grand Prix in 2013, 2015 & 2016. In September 2015, Craig was promoted to the main Board at John Lewis, becoming Customer Director and taking on responsibility for customer experience alongside his marketing, insight, CSR and Internal Comms responsibilities.

He will be joining us as our keynote at this year's St Andrew's Day Dinner on November 29 at Edinburgh's Sheraton Hotel. 

Hey Craig, you've been with John Lewis since 2008. What's the culture like within the company and how has it changed over the years?

Being part of the John Lewis Partnership means that all of us who work here own the business. The fact that we are Partners means we have a very distinctive culture driven by a strong belief in doing right by our customers. There's a lot in our culture that has rightly remained the same over my ten years in the business but the nature of how we do things has fundamentally changed. It's not long ago that our entire business was made up of shops that only opened from Tuesday to Saturday! Now 40% of our transactions take place online, mobile is our biggest channel and over half of our products are delivered to customers in some way. That has inevitably changed the make up of our Partners and has moved our culture from being one that revolved primarily around 'great shopkeeping' to one where our focus is on driving change, innovation, experimentation and agility. The secret is to do that whilst holding on to the things that both we and our customers hold dear and we know make the place special.

John Lewis has recently rebranded as John Lewis & Partners. The advert launched in September and you just have to look at your twitter feed to see the great response! The rebrand is said to take 5-10 years to roll out nationally. What are your main priorities and what part are you playing in the rebrand?

The identity change has been four years in the making and has involved many hundreds of our Partners. My role has been to lead the work across the business, ensuring that it is creatively strong and that it reflects the modern business that we are today. There are lots of priorities still to deliver but the biggest is ensuring that all of our Partners understand what it really means for them. We have created a new brand line 'For us, it's personal' that sums up what we stand for in relation to the service we give our customers. The identity change, as in itself, only has limited benefit - the real value is in it setting a clear expectation for what we expect of each other and there's no doubt that putting our Partners names above the door does just that.

Exciting times! What's the vibe in the JL marketing team just now?

We are excited and confident but with an underlying cautiousness. Excited and confident because of the wonderful array of work we're doing to reinvent our business. Cautious because the retail market is very tough and whilst we're doing everything we can to put our best foot forward, not everything is entirely within our control.

John Lewis is renowned for its compelling and emotionally led marketing. The Christmas adverts being the most notable. What's been your most favourite to work on and why?

That's like asking me to choose a favourite from my three kids! They've all been a labour of love in their own way but if I was pushed 'The Long Wait' from Christmas 2011 is the one that means the most to me personally because it was the first where I felt we'd really captured the true emotion of Christmas. 

Can you share any secret's on this years heart-melter?

No chance, that would ruin the surprise! I am quietly confident though...

When it comes to marketing in the retail industry, what brands are catching your eye right now?

There are great brands around the world doing inspiring things right now. Aesop is an Australian brand that I hold in very high regard for their single-mindedness and brand tone of voice. Hiut Denim are a Welsh jeans brand who are brilliant at storytelling, Sezane is a great up and coming French brand and I recently visited Le Bon Marche in Paris and was struck by the strength of conviction that flows through their marketing and customer proposition.

What do you do to relax?

Life is pretty full on most of the time. I've learned to accept that I actually love it that way and constantly fill my time with stuff rather than sitting quietly like I probably should. I'm at my happiest cooking for my family and friends and I also love the escape I feel when I'm running, playing golf or snowboarding. 


We are delighted to have Craig joining us at this year's St Andrew's Day Dinner on November 29. Tickets are available here