Interview with Jim Coates

Interview: Jim Coates

An experienced Marketing Director, Jim has now taken overall responsibility for Sales and Marketing at VELUX as Commercial Director. Earlier this year, Jim completed the Harvard business School Programme for Leadership Development (PLD), the longest of the HBS exec education programmes.

We're looking forward to hearing from Jim again a this year's Amplify Marketing Festival in Edinburgh on 24 August where he'll be joining the client team of or Pioneering Spirit Creative Challenge. 

From graduating with a BSc (hons) in Geography to studying Marketing at Harvard Business School, how did it all happen?

I graduated from Glasgow with a place on the Asda/Wal-Mart grad program. Asda was a great experience and during the three years as a grad I was moved to a different role and department every six months or so. It was difficult at times, but certainly helped to understand the business. This is where I found my passion for marketing, working within the brand team (which I did until I left Asda). Subsequently I joined the spirits industry with Whyte & Mackay - feeling that this was a great industry to develop my marketing skills.

Spirits was fantastic fun and excellent experience. By the time I left Whyte & Mackay I was working in a global role covering a number of brands. It was a very difficult decision to leave the company and such an interesting industry, but I wanted to pursue my ambition to become a marketing director and VELUX offered that opportunity. VELUX place a big emphasis on personal development and it was this that encouraged me to apply for a place at Harvard Business School. I was surprised and delighted to be accepted. Initially I completed the Strategic Marketing Management course and then applied the following year for the PLD.

VELUX, was founded in 1941 and has become such a well-known household brand. How have you approached your role within such an iconic company?

It was certainly a significant change from spirts but I found the change refreshing and stimulating. I would encourage more people to change industry, it’s a steep learning curve but you can bring the transferable skills you have built up and test yourself against new challenges.

The main challenge with VELUX was to try and move forward a 70+% market share. There are two key questions here, how do we grow the overall category and how do we maintain growth within a cyclical building industry.

A key part of my approach has been to encourage the team to think more about how they can leverage the available sources of data- to bring new insights to the surface, identifying fresh opportunities for growth. Another thing I have tried to do is to encourage the team to have more of a challenger brand mindset - looking for growth rather than framing our mission as share protection.

What are the MOST important considerations when selecting an agency to work with? Are you ever influenced by awards?

Awards are hard won and certainly a very good indicator of quality, so yes they are a consideration. In addition to this I also pay very close attention to the team you will be working with day to day - not just the “big guns” who might be wheeled out for a pitch! I have always found the chemistry & understanding between the client team and the agency team to be crucial. We use a mix of agencies from very local to international.

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

I think it would be the complete relaunch of all of our window products last year. 12 months of planning and involvement from the whole business culminated in a truly 5* launch! It was nerve wracking stuff but it was so satisfying to see the results and meet our business objectives.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry?

From a marketing perspective there is so much inspiring work and I love the relentless nature of our industry. There is always something to admire and be inspired by rather than perhaps placing one or two brands/figures on a pedestal. I think influencer led work is fascinating. One of the first really great pieces of influencer led marketing I remember seeing was the Macallan masters of photography.

I also find cause related marketing particularly interesting, public health advertising etc. When brands try and walk the tightrope of cause related marketing its always fascinating to watch. The Dove campaign for real beauty was arguably hypocritical but commercially it looked like a great success.


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