Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m head of design at GSK and at GSK we define design very broadly – my team, with Marketing, create and design the consumer experience from end to end. This means I work on everything that you see, feel and touch. This can encompass the design of products, user experience, user interface, shopper in-store material and expert material that you might find in a dentist or for our healthcare professional. With the world of GSK brands, with my team we curate the visual and the brand experience and the world of the brands at GSK from Sensodyne to Panadol and Centrum to Tums.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Well, things do take a little bit longer. Like most people, I’m having to accommodate the difference between time talking on video calls compared with seeing colleagues in person. What would have been an incidental chat in the corridor, or a quick discussion in a meeting, has become a 45-minute video call. In general, 80% of what I do can easily be done from home, but for about 20% of things you just need to get together. Creativity and brand building are a team sport – if you only check-in infrequently things can go in the wrong direction for some time before you catch it where normally you would have collaborated together. Similarly, when you have an urgent problem that requires a ‘fire drill’ approach then you really need to be together and roll up your sleeves to fix it.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
One of the biggest difficulties of home-working is that the work is constantly with you and there is a danger you never leave work if your self-discipline isn’t good. Then it can quickly become very intense. To coin someone else’s phrase, my diary looks like Tetris – with so many different things trying to be slotted in.
So, you do need boundaries. I think you also need to assess when you do your best work and try and organise your day around that; it’s really difficult to jump from one task to another and the more that happens the more exhausted you feel. I’m in favour of anything that helps shape your world and we are trying new things like Mural to help us collaborate better together.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
The companies that have done the best are the ones that are genuine and not just trying to bolt on some form of empathy. I’m thinking of Volvo which has earned the right to talk about safety and protection because that’s been its brand position for years. Admiral Insurance did well with its £25 reimbursement to its drivers because lockdown had curtailed their driving.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
To be genuine and authentic. Make sure you’re thinking about the external agencies and individuals you work with and how you are supporting them, it’s hard to be a creative stuck in your bedroom in a third floor flat, when you are used to being out and feeling a seeing culture to help give you creative oxygen.
It is also a time when being flexible is paramount. To be aware and willing to jump on issues in an instant – not a week’s time. We are seeing the fast pace of change at large, with the news agenda swiftly moving from coronavirus to Black Lives Matter and we all need to be more agile.
Everyone is in a similar boat, needing to react quickly. We’ve all had plans that have been ditched as we’ve had to start again; there’s no point in being too precious about it. So, when planning now, make sure it allows you to easily change direction or message when needed – build in flexibility and hedge!
For more on how marketers are coping during the pandemic, visit our coronavirus hub page.