From ‘the Data Guy’ to CMO and back again!!!

From ‘the Data Guy’ to CMO and back again!!!

By: Lee Pinnington, Strategy and Transformation Director of The CLV Group

With a first role from University, classic Marketer with Unilever, you’d be forgiven for thinking that my story would be one of product launches, NPD and classic branding but no, my career quickly saw me become ‘the Data Guy’ – and I’m so glad it did !

The background as ‘the Data Guy’ has been the foundation that has allowed me to progress to CMO at some of the most successful Customer and Data Driven Brands in the UK, delivering commercial success, and showcasing an adaptability of approach across a number of prominent, differing verticals in the process.

And now, I am privileged, and excited, to say I work with what I believe, and are fast building the reputation to be, the most unique and effective Management Consultant in the arena of driving Commercial value through Customer First Strategies in Sports, Entertainment & Media, The CLV Group.  

A consultancy driving real innovation in the pioneering use of customer data to unlock and deliver commercial results across the Marketing functions and beyond. Truly impacting the whole breadth of the P&L for organisations across the sports & entertainment sector.

Working in the role of Global Strategy and Customer Transformation Director, it is extremely rewarding to be working with some of the biggest brands in the world, helping them master the art of the possible in the arena of commercial and strategic transformation through data.  Being part of a truly innovative and practical focused solutions consultancy who just ‘get it’ and have allowed me to take that first step on to the ‘other side’ following a long and successful career ‘client side’

After that first role at Unilever, and working with 3rd party data I must have quickly realised my passion was for 1st party data! Moving into the early days of working in the direct insurance business, from there, to the launch of the first Sainsburys Reward Card during the heady days of the supermarket customer revolution, ‘the data guy’ as was my affectionate title. It was this upbringing that created the foundation to me fast becoming ‘one of the UK’s first Data CMO’s’– data was no longer the focus of the analytics and finance teams it has become the bedrock of developing a commercial, customer centric culture, ‘a must’ for the modern day Marketing department.   

Data has become the beating pulse to drive the agenda for all of today’s most successful organisations. It was a skill set that was the differentiator in the ingredients; influencing all areas of the Marketing Mix, from customer strategies through to all areas of effective media planning.  As the scope of the role of the CMO has increased, such has become the leverage and the impact of Customer data into all areas where there is the opportunity to create commercial value.

Working with massively data rich businesses, taking them on their first steps of the journey to becoming data driven and then navigating the exciting pathway and cultural challenge to reach the ultimate destination of the customer centric business.  

Organisations with the customer at the heart and soul in all areas of the business and everything that Tesco stood for back in 1995, the pioneers in the development of the supermarket shopper revolution.  From the zeitgeist that was created out of the clubcard, it is great to see the fire continues to burn strong, and commercial value through data and customer centricity, remains the utopia for today’s most effective business.  In the process, these organisations became the standouts and darlings of the stock exchange and the financial markets; these businesses had a story to tell because of their ability to effectively monetise data, whilst also balancing “can” vs “should”.

This is the path I have worn across a whole series of brands such as Iceland, with their ‘ahead of its time’ home delivery business. Pioneering how the insight from this area drove the data driven strategy of its hugely successful brand repositioning. The GUS Home Shopping Group, which took the Argos business to new levels.   Allowing me to harness a knowledge base from the UK catalogue industry, such was its reputation as thought leaders in data driven marketing.  With Matalan, creating arguably one of the strongest most effective customer driven omni-channel ecosystems in UK retail and in turn, creating one of the largest and most successful customer loyalty programmes.  And most recently, in the sportswear and fitness sector, witnessing first-hand the astounding customer centric transformation of the Nike business whilst working with the Intersport Fitness First Group, and being part of the revolution happening in that vertical.   The sectors may be different but the strategies and the opportunities are the same.

How can we use data to supercharge our Business and create true Customer Centric Transformation?

It is this ethos that is staying with me as I move from client side to the position at The CLV Group – all that has changed is keep reminding myself it is no longer ‘our business’ but the simple reminder it’s ‘your business’.   

That said, the relationship The CLV Group has with its client base is no different – it’s been great to see that passion in action so nothing will change on that front.

So my story has been one of ‘the Data Guy’ to becoming one of the first ‘data driven CMO Guy’ and now my journey is taking me into ‘the Consultant Guy’ – a ‘Pathfinder’ to help organisations on this journey melding together the art and the science of data and marketing.  Working with an organisation with a belief system as close to mine that I have known. Despite my times having worked with most of the top management consultants in this field, they are a business who I can genuinely say I wish were around as I have traversed my own customer transformation journeys. 

From my experience, you always need that outside help and ‘neutral’ ‘best in class thinking’ to ensure you are not too insular in your strategies to enable successful data-driven customer centric transformation.

 What has stayed with me along the way is the fact I will always be a ‘data guy’ – it’s just great that in today’s marketplace the relevance of this journey has never been stronger and I always come back to the fantastic quote by Jack Welch which always brings it home to me:

“There are only two sources of competitive advantage: the ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition and the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition.”  

Data is at the heart of this strategic evolution. This belief is ingrained into everyone at  CLV; our focus, our experience and our passion to make it happen for our clients. This is what has put us in such good stead with organisations across the globe.   And it is this reputation which is powering our focus and pioneering approach into the world of Sports Entertainment Media and their fandoms but that’s a story for another day; showcasing the work we are doing and opportunities for growth in that sector.

So back to me, the ‘Data Guy’ who became ‘CMO Guy’ – not only has it been the bedrock of success in my career, it’s fantastic that I am coming full circle and supporting the supercharging of our clients’ businesses through this use of data.  The hat may have changed but the principles and the success in the process are the same and I am really looking forward to delivering it on this side of the fence with The CLV Group.