Marketing Leader Steve Monk Shares His Career Insights


As part of our Industry Experts series we caught up with Marketing Leader Steve Monk to get his insight into what makes a successful marketeer and what career advice he had for people in the industry. Steve has over 20 years experience in Marketing, he was the General Manager for Pladis Global’s £260m Savoury and Healthier Business, Marketing Director for Pernod Ricard Gulf and Vietnam, and Global Marketing Manager for Pernod Ricard’s leading Scotch brands. He has driven some of the fastest growing brands in their categories and managed brands such as Jacob’s, Mini Cheddars, Chivas, The Glenlivet, Royal Salute Scotch Whisky, Absolut, Jameson, BirdsEye, Strongbow, and San Miguel.

  1. If you could go back and give yourself some advice when starting your career what would it be?

My advice to a younger self would be to ‘hold things more lightly’.  As a younger marketer with responsibility for one major project, or one brand, I’ve fallen into the trap of being really passionate but wedded to a particular path – a brand positioning, a campaign idea, or a piece of NPD.  Now having gained a wider perspective working across a portfolio, and in general management, I can see that it’s important to be open to a variety of viewpoints and potential solutions.  Marketing is never black and white and so it’s important to be open to the pros and cons of different ways forward, but to move swiftly and decisively to get behind one course of action rather than to indulge in endless debate.

  1. Over your career what has been the role you have learnt the most from?

The greatest learning experience for me was becoming Marketing Director for Pernod Ricard Vietnam, based in Ho Chi Minh City and responsible for the markets leading wines and spirits business in an amazing and fast developing country of over 95 million people.  I learned to recognise and adapt to completely different cultural norms and expectations, and entirely different business practices.  As the first expat director in the business, my task was to build new marketing capabilities, implement new brand strategies across our portfolio, and to identify and resolve poor working practices that were not compatible with our company’s ethics.  I can honestly say that this was the hardest I’d ever worked, but that there was no other place in the world that I’d rather have been!

  1. What guiding premise do you come back to that helps you when making difficult decisions?

Do what’s right for your consumers, act with integrity to those around you and be responsible to society.

  1. In your opinion what are the 3 key aspects an individual must have to be successful in marketing?

1).  The ability to empathise with others, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – both colleagues and consumers.   A frequent failing of marketers is that they have a bias in marketing to themselves and people like them versus really understanding a target audience.

2).  Resilience is essential.  Often the environment will shift around you, both within your company and in the market e.g. company strategy and priorities, restructures, changes in budgets, competitor actions.  More than any other function, you will need to adapt and to positively manage ambiguity.

3). Have the courage of your convictions.  As a marketer you must be willing to ‘put your head on the block’ frequently to advocate a new campaign, NPD, a new strategy, and to be judged upon their results.  It’s not for the faint hearted!

  1. Which path do you think a marketeer could learn the most from? Progressing through a blue chip organisation or a challenger brand?

I believe the key for any marketeer is to ensure that you receive world class training, and to be empowered to own meaningful projects that make a real difference.  Some blue chips may offer the training and not the experience, for a challenger the reverse may be the case.  It’s important to really delve deeply at interview to understand the reality of what the role will offer.  It’s critical to gain both, if not in the same role, then at least across a combination of roles in the first 5 years of a marketing career.  The days of progressing up the ladder only within one large blue chip are over, and I would recommend marketers gain experience within both styles of business.

  1. How important is having a clear vision of your future career path?

It’s important to have a guiding star, a view as to where you want to get to over the next 5 years, and to choose roles that move you towards your goal.  But I’ve never been one to sketch out my long term career or aspirations on a piece of paper and to be fixated on this as aspirations evolve over time, and you need to be open to opportunities.  As the saying goes, ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket, just get on it!’

  1. What advice would you give someone who is unsure of what their next career step should be?

Think about where you want to be in 5 years and whether this career step will move you in that direction.  But as well as being the right strategic move, consider whether it make your heart beat faster? I’m fortunate to be able to say that I’ve enjoyed every week of my 20+ year career and believe in the adage ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.

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