Les Mills is a global fitness brand and Amy Smith is their European Marketing Director. We talk purpose, brand management and learning from your mistakes.
Amy is the Regional Marketing Director at Les Mills, the global leader in group fitness. She is responsible for leading the European marketing strategy and driving business performance across the region for consumer, Instructor and B2B audiences. Being part of a brand that’s on a mission to create a fitter planet, Amy is able to combine her love of fitness and travel in order to make a real difference to people’s health and wellness.
In this episode we discuss:
- What / who Les Mills is and the company background
- The focus on creating and evolving the perfect Les Mills product
- How has the business model evolved due to Covid
- Moving to a Direct to Consumer model while still supporting their instructors
- Brand management in a product business
- Brand purpose and what that means at Les Mills
- Focusing on brand purpose and what that means for a New Zealand company
- Equality, diversity and inclusion at Les Mills
- How a fitness company handles a shift in body images and body shape
- Managing a global brand across Europe
- A TOPTIP about brand purpose and how to use it properly.
- Working in active cosmetics at L’Oreal (don’t worry, Amy explains what an active cosmetic is!)
- Starting out at P&G and the lessons from that great organisation
- Is B2B marketing any different from B2B – 40 mins
- A live streaming disaster and learning lessons from mistakes
- The importance of training and being part of The Marketing Academy
- The key role that mentors can play in career development
How To Fail with Elizabeth Day
Other Stuff we talked about on the Podcast
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Amy is passionate about people in every sense. With a team based across Europe, coaching and navigating them through the pandemic to emerge stronger than ever has been crucial and one of the most rewarding points of her career to date. During her time at Les Mills she also became a certified Les Mills GRIT coach to truly get in the shoes (trainers) of the Instructors.
Prior to joining Les Mills, Amy was Group Product Manager at L’Oréal. While at L’Oréal she delivered 3 successive years of double-digit growth on French pharmacy brand, Vichy, and won a L’Oréal international digital award for Best Integrated Marketing Campaign.
Amy began her career at Procter & Gamble where she led the DTC and eCRM programme across a diverse portfolio of brands, include Gillette, Pampers & Fairy. She then became Senior ABM for Oral-B, one of P&G’s billion-dollar brands.
Outside of work, Amy loves all things sport, adventure and travel. Currently training for a Triathlon (and trying to embrace the chilly lido temperature) and dreaming of getting back on a plane and exploring more of the world.
Find Amy on LinkedIn.
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Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
Amy, welcome to the strategy sessions.
Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here.
The pleasure is all mine. Thank you very much for this. So I’m really excited to have you on. Let’s start by explaining for those people who don’t know what is Les Mills where you would get.
So Les knows we are a great fitness company with the world leaders in great fitness. People may recognise our programmes more than Les Mills as a whole body, body, combat body balance. But yeah, we started in New Zealand, our founders in New Zealand in the 60s. So Les Mills himself, he is a full time Olympian for New Zealand and he set up a chain of gyms in the 60s and grew within New Zealand over the coming decades. But alongside that, as the son was coming back from the US, he was on an athletic scholarship at UCLA.
He’d worked in the music industry, so he’d managed a rock band. And he came back after this explosion of aerobics in the US and came back and sort of combine the two worlds of fitness and alongside performance. So he brought dancers and actors alongside elite athletes and came back and created this sort of revolution of of great fitness in New Zealand. And then over the years that’s been distributed globally and we’re now in twenty twenty one thousand gyms across the world and one hundred and fifty thousand instructors teaching the programme.
So the lesson those programmes created every three months and that then gets distributed through to our instructors who are just kind of shining stars of the brand, and then that gets taught in classes and gyms around around the world.
So one of the reasons not that you could probably tell from this video and being injured and in lockdown for a number of months is that I’m a bit of a lace mills fan of some of the World Cups and some of the classes. And really the work that goes into developing those classes is obviously a key part of what you do, because there’s something different comes on quite a lot. And most of it’s helpful when you’re in the class, but actually quite enjoyable when you look back at it afterwards.
So the product, the end product is really core to what you do. And I think that’s key. That’s the same everywhere. But you’re effectively, constantly developing new products on a three month cycle. But what was it, six million workouts per week that people do?
Yeah. Yes. We’ve got over just over 20 programmes now, and that’s sort of constant innovation is just part of the DNA of the brands. And there’s the great fit team based over in New Zealand, which are just the absolute experts in secret sauce behind the brand. So Jackie Phillips wife heads up that team, and that’s the team that create the programmes and they are constantly looking at and sort of listening to new music, thousands of tracks every every cycle.
They’re looking at the trends, the innovations, what’s happening in the industry, and then creating and evolving the programmes. Obviously, each programme has its own kind of core and foundation and what it means to stay true to. But they are constantly evolving alongside developing new products that go into a bit of an incubator and a bit of a lab over New Zealand. So the gym over in New Zealand has all of the kind of innovation coming through and different trials happening.
But the Great Fit team then work alongside our research team, which all of the programmes are rigorously tested and scientifically backed. And again, that’s a really important part of of the brand. So bring to life that expertise and sort of constant innovation is something we just hold really true, true to the brand.
There’s a link in the show, notes to the full history of Les Mills as a company. And there’s some great videos in there as well. I would definitely say go and watch it, if only to see how much of a massive unit Leslie Mills was when he competed in the Olympics. The man was enormous, right? You just look at it. Is that real? If is huge. And he still involved in the business today. It’s still a family run and family owned, isn’t it?
Yeah, an absolute, absolute legend. So, yes, Les son, Phillip is executive director. And so and the whole family still still family owned and run, which is really inspiring to work with a family that has grown this brand over 50 years and still. So they are steering the ship and creating the magic that comes out. So it’s amazing to to work for for them and a company that has that history and what a history it is. So please do go and read the history of the Brundidge.
There’s the quite open and honest about things that have gone really wrong, about things that went right about some of the disasters that nearly hit the company. We could probably do a two hour podcast just on the history, but I don’t want to get into that rabbit hole. I want to to look at some of the marketing challenges that you faced and we saw during the Olympics recording this podcast. But it’s the other major event of the last few years that I’m going to jump into now.
And I’m sorry to you and I’m sorry to everyone, but it’s time for the covid Claxon book, covid. You know that some industries got whacked harder with covid than other industries. Right. And Les Mills was sort of the instructors were really key. Your model was heavily leaning on gyms and instructors delivering classes, group classes in person. All of that stopped quite abruptly everywhere around the world. Really quickly, what happened at Les Mills? What was that moment when you woke up one morning and went, Oh, shit.
Tell us about the last few years.
Erm, yeah, as you said by the fitness industry was massively impacted, gyms closed off as well, then instructors lost their livelihood. They can teach. So like on the one side there was all of this absolute disaster happening at the same time as health and fitness never being so important and almost like a massive boom and people entering the category for the first time and actually starting their journey for the first time. So it kind of had these two dynamics.
But that moment where gyms closed and, you know, it just sort of overnight almost the world changes. We all know that. It’s really interesting looking back. And I think many countries probably can resonate with this, but just the way that I was just so in awe of kind of the way. The whole team kind of came together and knew that we had to do things differently, turn things on a head and be able to kind of focus on the things that we’re going to make the biggest difference.
So I guess our club partners to the gym, our instructors, as I said, they were our absolute priority kind of going into lockdown. Like, how do we sort of I’m going to use the P word pivot our motto to them, sorry, how we support them to kind of get through this pandemic. So a big thing was around providing solutions for instructors to be able to teach for clubs to be able to connect with members while we were in lockdown, obviously with gyms closed like that, looked at live streaming like that at home solutions.
So let’s build on demand product which contain a second. We had an affiliate and partnership available for clubs pre pre covered, but when it hit, we extended that to all of our partners. We had a 60 day free trial that club partners could offer their members free at home free isolation to be able to kind of stay connected to the club. And Laszlo’s OnDemand went from being in 10 countries over to over 100. So kind of that sort of flipped to ask how do we facilitate that at home and stay connected to to the gym?
So the other element was around our instructors. I said there’s one hundred forty thousand over over the globe and they are the most passionate, inspiring people you’ll ever meet. And heartbreaking to see them kind of going through the last 18 months with Jim Close’s. So, again, looking at how we could support with live streaming options, we flipped all of our education, which is always being in person flipflops online in a matter of weeks, which probably would have taken a couple of years and just to, again, stay connected and provide some support or inspirational connexion during that time.
And I can probably assume those conversations going on internally over the last few years about maybe could we move some of our education online with probably a good bit of pushback, but with good reason from lots of people. Could we teach instructors in person? They need to get the feel of it. They need to know. There must have been a lot of that sort of discussion going on over a number of years. But then all of a sudden it was like, no, we have to do this.
Was that how it went from maybe to we do it, we don’t exist yet.
So we had some of our education products were partly online or could could be chosen to do an online, but nothing like the scale of everything that, you know, over the last 18 months. And so, yeah, it was that we don’t have another another option. Even the assessment of how four instructors, once they’ve gone through their training, they then submit a class of them teaching. And that’s then goes for assessment. Obviously, I went any classes.
It wasn’t the James one. Again, how do you assess kind of overview and, you know, and it’s just, again, a complete shift overnight. But as again, a of probably brands of faces, it has just accelerated things that maybe were in the working, but it’s gone from kind of two years to two days or two weeks. And then, as I said, that was the kind of going into lockdown, like how do we sort of keep instructors and clubs supported and connected to their to their members.
But obviously the at home products grew massively, and that was both through clubs being able to provide it to members. But then just that direct to consumer model just kind of exploded in the first six months, about eight hundred percent increase year in year the at home equipment or got an equipment side of the business, which again, people were just really keen to invest in their at home sets up. So both of those just kind of shot through the roof last year.
And again, having to rally around a platform that previously was supporting 10 countries to then one hundred and how you invest in that and evolve that as quickly as possible to to get that support system. That was just amazing to watch really as a company.
So that builds on demand. What do you do, Elmwood internally or AL-AMOUDI?
Everyone loves an acronym, but Laszlo’s on most meals on demand was over that mode back.
There you go. That was already there. So it’s already there and working. And you know, even just from a technical point of view, when you when you have something built for X amount of users in X number of countries, when that number goes through the roof, just the technical challenge alone is ridiculous. Never mind the customer support challenge and the huge like 800 percent increase in what how does it how do you cope? How do you scale for that in terms of the number of.
You need during a pandemic. How does that work out?
I mean, the team that turn this around is incredible, primarily that based over in New Zealand. And again, it’s what you kind of mentioned earlier, this we just had to do it. And so you just have to rally around it and get the investment and the people in the centre to make it happen. I mean, there was such an opportunity to provide that. Connexion that a no fitness solution for people at home while everybody was in of miserable place and then locked out.
So, you know, we really just, you know, to get the kind of infrastructure there to to make it happen.
So let’s talk about this from a sort of a purist marketing perspective then and a brand management appeal. So Les Mills is a brand has been there for a long time. But in many ways, I think and correct me if I’m wrong, not being used hugely in a public facing way. You know, the public come to great classes of body pomp and yes, the Les Mills brand is there, but it’s more the class, the buy into it often.
In many cases, the instructor who isn’t an employee is the public face of your brand. So then during lockdown and you’ve gone direct to consumer Les Mills, OnDemand becomes the parent brand that you’re asking people to buy into to to access your content. How does that work from a brand perspective? And have you had to do any fleet footed dancing to make that happen? Or what were the discussions like in House about that?
Yeah, and it’s been many, many discussions and but kind of again, over the area, it’s not just over the years, so it’s not just since covered with Muslim demand. It had been around for five years. You know, the discussions have happened. But I think with that shift in business model, previously, we were 90 percent B2B model with a kind of very ingredient brand and a focus for the last 30 years. But now with Lesotho’s on demand and that direct to consumer model, we really need to accelerate our consumer brand strategy and that and that side of the business to ensure that the kind of the whole sort of the whole brand grows.
But I think it’s not one or the other. We we know that our individual programme brands are so important both to our club partners, both to the people who attend the classes to instructors. But each of them got their own brand identity and got their own history. But it’s not one or the other. So we need to have that strong masterbrand in order to to grow and kind of succeed in this new business world and dynamic. But then we will continue to focus and balance and grow the individual programme brands.
That’s right. That right for them, because it is certainly what I’ve worked on projects about going direct to consumer data. See, one of the big internal discussions and the big challenges is the pushback from the existing distribution network so products can be sold online via retailers. Or you could have in some place like franchise partners or whatever. It’s different depending on each business. But you actually could model once you start going direct to consumers, the the distribution partner often gets a little bit touchy about that sort of.
We’ve been doing this with you for years, how come you’re now cutting us out and going around this way? Your business model isn’t about that, is it? With the new push, it’s about actually still committing to gyms and instructors and still building that while also opening up a new market there?
Yeah, totally. And I think there is that we’ve definitely had that conversation, especially with with instructors. And again, like I said, just such a critical part of the brand and so loyal and in that they’re kind of often the main focus of our conversations of the instructors have to kind of support. But they never on home dynamic. It is you know, we have lots of discussions with instructors over is it taking away from the live experience? Is it you know, is it going to damage the kind of in club element?
But interestingly, even before 85 percent of people had an at home fitness regime selection workout option, as well as a gym membership. So there is or has always been that dynamic. And we know that since covid that flexibility and workout where you want, when you want is just going to continue. So being able to have the at home plus the club will continue to be important. And also we know that the on demand is bringing new people into their category.
So what we’ve seen over the last year, a lot of the people coming into the platform, unutilised models and new to group exercise and then people, once they’ve tried it, they felt confident. Then they’re excited to try a class. I think about just over 60 percent of people who don’t have a gym membership. Once they’ve tried to run the class, they want to then go and try and live classes bringing people into the club. I think, you know, people who might not have experienced group fitness before you’re in the gym and you think you look for this kind of peek through the door, think what are they doing in there?
I’m not sure I’m ready to kind of step into that space. So it’s really helping bridge that gap for people who may not have taken that step previously.
And I think so. Innovation is is core in terms of the class workout. You mentioned business model innovation. It’s key. And I think if we just talk about the sector broadly and some of the challenges that that Les Mills faces within not challenges opportunities, let’s put it that way. But, you know, you’ve got people like Pellington and others and sort of kashiram competitors coming in. At one end, you’ve got this move to the joik season maybe certainly in the UK coming at different places.
You’ve got different classes coming out. There was also a lovely bit on the website about how market research was telling them that a younger audience wasn’t really bought into the body classes and things like that, which then led to Garet being developed as a sort of more intense class. So I think what I took from looking at all these different things was that standing still and just staying where you are is not an option. That’s the quickest way to kill the business, isn’t it?
You’ve got to keep pushing forward. So how does all of that kind of affect the day to day activity of what you do and what everybody does within miles of that constant push for innovation?
Yeah, I think, you know, the competition that you mentioned is just such an important has always been important, but if you look at the last 18 months, you’ve not, like you mentioned, your weight loss and you’ve also got the Big Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. They’re coming into the fitness category for the first time in a big way. And so there’s this kind of competing dynamics from all angles. But that’s really exciting. And we kind of welcome the competition and sort of bring it on because.
Innovating and kind of pushing to the next level is, again, just being part of the brand and what Jackie and Philip have done over the last 50 years is, again, constantly innovate and now their children die there. Their allies are taking that kind of next stage of the of the brand and journey. And Les heads up the innovation and the new programmes, one being Gret, which you mentioned, which is our hit programme, and then the trip, which I don’t know whether you’ve ever done it, but it’s an immersive cycling world, which is just incredible.
Again, every few months there’s a new world to explore and just just kind of takes you, expose you to another world, another place while you’re working outside and the team over in New Zealand, they are constantly trialling new formats. There’s a couple of DJs in the office to try new formats as the gym down the road that kind of starts incubating these new programmes. And yet, as you said, if you don’t innovate, if you’re standing still, then you’re not going to you’re going to survive.
No, really. And it’s I think one of the things that gives you that strong platform for innovation and strong platform for growth is the brand history and the brand heritage. But I think it’s more than that. It’s what the brand stands for, isn’t it? It’s know lots of brands have got a great history, but don’t work out how to make it relevant and use it now. And for Les Mills, what that can mean in terms of diversity, equality and inclusion is really strong and it comes all the way through the company DNA.
Tell us about how that works for the organisation and how that looks to the public, really in terms from our brand purpose. Yeah, yeah. Ah, it’s all brand purpose is for fit upon which I remember when I was applying for this for the role of Asmus, I just remember thinking, wow, I couldn’t think of a better brand purpose for me personally to work for, but from a brand point of view and come to a point of view, it is absolutely ingrained in everything we do.
And that has been the case for the last 50 years. And so the family, you know, ah, that was why the company was born out of it. They’re all from an athletic background as an Olympian. And so for a fifth planet is is part of everything we’ve done for the last 50 years. But it’s not just from a health point of view, but it is from a greener and fairer point of view. And that’s just then comes across everything that we do from a sustainability point of view.
And then, as you mentioned, diversity and inclusion and how that has just been a key part of the brand over the years. So, yeah, you can kind of really feel it as soon as you come into the fold and working that is across everything that we do and then externally as a brand and what we’re trying to grow and innovate for, for a fitter planet, it goes across everything. That was actually a large part of the partnership we’ve got with UNICEF that was born out of a fitter planet.
So we had a joint initiative called Work Out for Water. So, you know, for a fitter planet, being able to work out, to fundraise, to then build wealth and provide water for communities is just again. Very real to the brand and very important for everybody at the company, which is a very easy, easy job to get out of bed for.
I also like this bit on the on the website as well about how and very particularly to New Zealand, about the use of Maori culture and how that would only be done in an authentic way, which is my Maori friends always hate the way I say the word Maori. So apologies to any people listening to really sorry I get it right. But, you know, certainly in New Zealand, with the heritage of the place that really important, that they’re not just sort of piggybacking sometimes on Maori culture, which I think has been a problem sometimes in New Zealand’s history.
Yeah. And I think what what we’ve what’s happened over the last 18 months is actually really shown us we’ve taken a look at ourselves as a brand is lots of people have after Black Lives Matter movement and protest that we then looked, again, really hard at ourselves. And although they can be tossed around for that has always been part of the brand. It did just it gave us an opportunity to relook at everything we do and including the Maori connexion and cultural appropriation.
And interestingly, one of the kind of outcomes of us having those discussions and a lot of hard discussions and really looking at ourselves is that we know actually we felt we haven’t always got it right, that cultural appropriation and how we connected to the Maori heritage, history and culture. One example of that is our values. Previously, where one tribe be brave and change the world, and we’ve actually changed one tribe to unite it because of the connotations that tribe has, and that was a massive shift in that one tribe has been part of the brand for a long time, but it just wasn’t right.
And we want we were we were being wanted and brave. We had to change. It wasn’t appropriate to have that anymore. And so now we’re having better conversations. We’re learning a lot and how we should have and celebrate that connexion and heritage.
So one last thing on diversity and inclusion. I think there’s been a subtle shift in the last few years, certainly in the fitness industry, but in wider society about body shape and body image. So the fitness industry has long been about the the instructors been sort of perfect specimens that at the front of the room. And you’re like, wow, if I do this class, I’ll get that body type of subtle mental imagery. But there’s been a change recently, and that’s something that’s flowed through what you do, at least mills as well.
Yeah, definitely, and I think, again, the last couple of days and as you said, it’s it’s really come out, especially the last year in terms of that representation is absolutely key. And I think the fitness industry as a whole absolutely must be part of that and a massive voice in that we are there. We exist to help people live healthier lives. And that goes across all representation, diversity and that and that includes body image. I think our latest campaign with Reebok, which is embracing a different that really speaks to that, I think as an industry as a whole, as a long way to go.
But I think having the conversations and being committed to making that change and ensuring that we’re inclusive and representative of everyone who is working out and is part of that is really important.
Brilliant stuff, brilliant. Well, look, I want to talk a bit more about you specifically as well now not so within the Les Mills universe at first and then looking back into the deep and distant past. But as regional marketing director for Europe, what does there today look like, even if at the minute it still means you’re not leaving your house a huge amount?
I’m well, excited that we’ve started leaving the house and going back inside, kind of easing back into the office, which I’m loving and very exciting. But yeah, for me, as I mentioned, our head office and kind of our brand was born out of New Zealand. And so I have a lot of kind of odd hour calls without my being but being connected to our head office, which is where the programmes are created. And we’ve got a huge team out there.
So staying connected to that team is is really important. And actually it’s really an interesting kind of outcome or good outcome of the last 18 months is how we work with connected to our marketing team over in New Zealand, where a lot more connected. So we have a Europe pod which says team over New Zealand, and then the team started around in Europe. So, yeah, kind of staying connected to the team over there. UK and Germany are the biggest markets, I like to say, spending a lot of time with the teams in both of those markets.
You know, still virtually sadly, I cannot wait to hop on a plane as soon as possible. But then we are super connected to like all of the different teams that we’re working with. So for me s team to have customer experience, team operations team and we’re working together across all of the different audiences and kind of focus areas. So a large part of that is still and will always remain to our partners. Our instructors say at the moment a big focus for us is about getting life fitness back.
And we see life fitness is the absolute pinnacle of getting clubs and instructors back into studios, teaching look at future events. But then on the other side, excitingly, you know, we’re looking at corporate wellness and how that impacts companies and the solutions that we can bring to have a healthier workforce. And so I think many people might say this on your podcast about. No, actually, they said the same. And it’s a pretty eclectic mix. But yeah, I love it.
Yeah, really. One of the interesting bits, because, you know, when you’re managing a brand out of New Zealand, which is it’s fair to say there’s not many global brands going to come from New Zealand, is it? Is it there’s a couple, but not very many. So managing a brand of New Zealand, but across different territories and you know, your regional marketing director for Europe. But as anyone in the UK knows, you don’t have to hop too far across Europe to get very different cultures and different ways of working and ways of living.
And it changes pretty quickly. Germany, Germany and the UK. There’s a lot of differences as well. So, you know, how does that does that keep it interesting, you know, trying to find the consistency between the brand in those countries, but also working with those regional differences?
Yeah, and I love that. That is, again, one of the draws that brought me to to Les Mills in terms of the being. My first role was a global role and this is the regional role. But I love that diversity and change. But then we got the same purpose in each market and bringing it back for if it’s a planet. But again, the different stages of where each market is and, you know, the penetration that we’ve got, you know, varies massively between the region and I look after.
So then again, it just is completely different stages of that journey and growing the brand, which does bring, you know, its challenges, but actually variety and excitement each day and how we learn from each other. And that’s, again, been a big thing coming out of lock. And this is how we share and collaborate and connect for the European business previously with individual markets. And it was only March last year. So kind of on the cusp of covid, we actually then for this region started to learn and build more efficiencies.
But while kind of keeping and celebrating the differences and the needs per market.
So I’m going to hijack something that you said there. And I’m going to sing the top theme tune in a moment, because I think in all the podcasts of Doom, there’s one lesson which actually you just said that you probably think you wanted to just say, but is probably the number one lesson. And it drives me when I hear companies talk about brand purpose or missions and things like that, and I’m like, what is yours? Or we don’t know.
Nobody can remember it. We can’t use it. And what you said mean it’s a lot different in different countries, in different stages of development, and you just shrug your shoulders and we’ve got the same purpose. That is how you use branding purposes. We’re all doing the same thing. So I’m going to do the top, top, top tip theme tune. And I just want you to shrug your shoulders again and. Yeah, we’ve got the same purpose, if that’s OK.
So, look, it’s time to go to Opti IP, to Opti IP, we’ve got the same purpose.
Honestly, if you listen to the podcast and you just want to take one thing away from this, from any of the podcast, listen to make it this. This is it. Have a brand purpose. Have a mission and use it. Don’t have a paragraph of oh my God, you need councils. Councils. Mission statements are always something like to be the number one borough for people to live in and work in and do this and do that like no one cares.
Nobody cares for fed upon it. We’ve got the same mission. That’s what we do. I honestly at this this is the show that so everything else is rubbish and this is it, this is the best bit.
So I think you would come in at some point as a surprise. And I love it if you took me by surprise. I was just like you said, that was like they got to sing that, you know, when so many companies I’ve consulted at many companies and like, so what’s the most emotional a brand purpose in the show? You it. And then you ask people in the room and you go up. So do you live? This is this what does this feel like, what you do on a daily basis?
And people I know, we just kind of we’re here at a conference once a year and then we just go and get on with what we do in. Sets up. What a waste of effort would waste the time to waste that direction. So to hear the Les Mills, it’s there, but not just there and written on a wall in the head office, it’s used and it’s what connects everybody on a daily basis is just brought joy to my heart on this slightly overcast morning.
Yeah, I couldn’t I, I couldn’t say it better myself, but it is absolutely ingrained in everything we do, which is just a joy as a but as a just as a person. It’s really great.
Amy, you’ve made my day, you’ve made by yourself. So let’s look. But let’s leave Les Mills and there’s nothing else we can tell you about Les Mills. So let’s jump back a step. So before Les Mills, you worked at L’Oreal. That was a step before. Yeah. So what did you do it L’Oreal. And what were they the things you learnt? There was a huge, huge brand that probably had massive culture. Everybody knows L’Oreal, even if you’ve never bought a product.
And yes, I worked in stores, got four main divisions. I worked in the active cosmetics division, which was an absolute dream. It’s in the UK. It’s the smallest of the divisions. And we had an amazing M.D. who really instilled a very entrepreneurial like Belfast of culture. Let’s go for it. And the brands when I was I was there were a real exciting period of growth. There was lots of opportunity that French pharmacy skincare kind of revolution was sort of just coming in.
And so I worked in active cosmetics the the four years I was at L’Oreal and the for the uneducated cosmetic buyer, that’s me. What would be an active cosmetic, if that’s the kind of that’s the name for the department and the brands within that are the more heavily based scientific brands? They’ve got a heritage in the French pharmacy and they worked for ABC, two biggest brands that and that. What may come back to that?
Yeah, very much the same.
I am I am kind of scientific knowledge and kind of back to my science. I really have to kind of come out like it was the research again and the science that goes into the products that Laurel is as immense and kind of really getting into the box. And it’s going. But that was one of the things that made it so. Yeah, I suppose that was one of the kind of key takeaways from Lorello around that. It’s cold, sensitive to a meeting at and around.
But that kind of deep understanding of the products and the category and the kind of what makes it super unique and the science that goes into those products, I think is when I take out all kinds of memory of Laurel, is just the the flair and innovation is kind of how I always describe it. And again, coming into active cosmetics and the division that it was very it felt very innovative and creative. And we were able to develop locally driven campaigns.
And, you know, it kind of really go out on a bit of a limb versus maybe the the rest of Europe because it was such a different category. So, yeah, that that creativity and innovation sort of stuff really sort of honed in at L’Oreal.
And another sector that has huge competition is a massive sector in terms of the financial impact of it. But competitors internally, often within the organisation, externally from different companies, you really got to kind of cut your teeth and go really hard at what happened to you. It’s a really fascinating sector that we probably should talk about in more depth another time. But just tell us a little bit about that. I want to cut through. I don’t mean that was a nasty but was in the brand world is cutthroat in that sector, isn’t it?
Yeah, totally. And I think companies out there have done amazing to kind of bill. You know, they’ve got so many brands and as you said, competing brands. And, you know, there is that the balance of ensuring that you’re going driving the separate brands. But learning is as a whole company for the you know, the total, total brand and growth of the business is an interesting balance. I think any company has in that room.
And in many ways, you had a good grounding in learning how a big company manages lots of different brands under one umbrella. Because you started your career, Panji, which sort of. Well known as having lots of different brands in the same space and things like that. So what did you learn of that you kind of took to L’Oreal and what lessons did you learn there anyway?
Yes, I was at p.g for three 1/2 years and incredible place to start my career. And I suppose the brand fundamentals and the training that you get when you’re doing and and the IBM system, brand management and training and just the appreciation of a brand and the kind of fundamentals of marketing is what will always stick with me forever from PNG. And it’s an absolute machine in terms of that structure and process and rigour. And again, that was another thing that I took from campaigning.
And it was interesting when I was making the move from Panji to Laurel and very different companies, and I remember thinking, wow, I don’t think I could get two different experiences, all companies. And then when I come to Lesbos are like, oh, nothing is nothing compared to this. Just like, yeah. Moving categories. You know, I to be going to just, you know, at the time, you know, there’s a lot of differences between in a good way between Panji and L’Oreal, but gave me a really good.
Experience and kind of eclectic mix from the team.
Yeah, and, you know, it’s interesting that you’ve sort of you had the consumer to consumer product and then you went B2B. But now obviously direct to consumer is a big thing. So you must find there’s often a lot made about B2B marketers, be B2C or vice versa. I always think it’s a little bit overcooked, that type of approach that a lot of it you just stop using different bits at different times, but a lot of it broadly the same, isn’t it?
Yeah. I mean, I hope that’s not the case because that is just a mix of my role that is both B2B and say so. But yeah, I agree. I think it’s it’s not as different as people. People position us.
Well, you weren’t happening. And we know from previous episodes in season one, we’ve done well on that Alcazar. But things move fast and stuff can go wrong. We also know because you said that you had an entrepreneurial M.D. who said, look, move faster, break things and see what happens. So you must, over the last couple of years, have made some tremendous cockups that would make either good stories or really great learning. Experience is probably the latter.
So tell us about something that went wrong and what you picked up from that.
Yeah, well, I’m actually a really recent example, actually, because I know it’s it’s right in the in a still in the kind of rural stages. But yeah, we recently had a livestream event that we were putting on and launching to celebrate the kind of back to the industry was opening and also a showcase around how best to live streaming and the opportunity that it can create. And kind of the best set up and rehearsal day and tech set up absolutely perfect.
Friday night, left feeling absolutely. Pump got in on Saturday morning for the event’s. And everything had gone gone wrong and we were all flying for an hour and a half before the before we could get up and running from the start time, and it was just like that, I was like, oh, God, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. But then, I mean, I laugh about it now. The time it was crazy, an hour and a half, but then what we have taken from it.
So celebrate the failures and the but what we did take from it is like, again, we had to think fast. We had to get out. We had about ten different scenarios that went into that. Right. If we were back on online by ten, we’re going to do this. If we’re not back online by ten thirty, we’re going to do this like how we communicate to our audiences who are kind of waiting patiently to see the body from class and then just the kind of learnings that we took from it.
And then actually we had a similar event in Germany a couple of weeks after which then we were able to literally be like, you know, this is everything that we’ve taken from this event and this is how we’ll kind of change it. So it was a real kind of opportunity to celebrate these bills didn’t go right and as the plan. But this is how we dealt with it and kind of celebrate that and then go into this next event with. Right.
This is what we’re taking forward and need to change.
It makes me feel better that one of the early podcasts I did the first 15 minutes of the interview without pressing record. And like this morning, I forgot to put the lights on before we started. So, you know, things go wrong. So as long as you learn from them, things can get better. So wonderful. Speaking of things getting better, I’ve got just a couple more questions for you before I let you go. So the first one is about training.
You mentioned the training you got, Panji. And I know you can have consistent professional development can be important. So what sort of training are you doing at the moment? Are you looking at doing some sort of building in your career?
And yes, I’m at the moment, I’ve been very fortunate to get a place on the marketing academy, so I thank you. So we are just in the start of nine months. So we kicked off in June with the boot camp. And at the moment we’re going through our mentoring and coaching sessions and then there’s a lot of online learning opportunities as well.
I’m not I’m not jealous. I’m not even slightly. No, not slightly.
Yeah. I can’t even I have also been very fortunate to to to be on the marketing heavyweight. Just the exposure, your connexion to other people on the programme and the speakers and the mentors is just incredible. Everyone’s done with the programme is is immense.
And if you don’t know the market in Academy, you probably not in a sort of a senior role or on your way to a senior role. Google it. Have a look at the programme and you’ll just be like, I just want to get on that. And if you use that to guide your career, if a goal in your career is to get on the market and encourage me to go, it would be good job. You won’t be going far to go and have a look at the amazing stuff.
Amazing. I’ve just finished the written mini MBA in marketing and he talks at the end about the marketing academy as well as a good next step to go to him one day. Maybe so. And any other trading that you’ve done on that, you thought it was a really important stepping stone on the way?
I think I’ve been really fortunate in my career. As you said, Pantene and L’Oreal, the the one training that you receive is immense. And then Les Mills, again, really the culture of development and learning and ongoing development is again is ingrained. And so some of the leadership courses that I’ve done at Les Mills have been the best I’ve ever, ever attended. And again, it’s just amazing people in the business that are like, I love a mentoring session or one on one coaching.
And there’s a few people in the company that I regularly pick their brains in. I have a session on just kind of help me through whatever it is I’m working on. So I do love that kind of personal connexion. And if anybody is in that career and maybe doesn’t have the opportunity to go out and find a mentor or anyone that you can bounce stuff off with, because that has been probably the biggest learning for me or development for me is that connexion and learning what makes me tick.
And that’s sort of being one of the fundamentals of just come out of that leadership training and that mentoring and coaching is, you know, really understanding. He was a leader and what your role is and kind of you as a person and how that impacts everything you do day to day in and out of work. So, yeah, I’ve been very fortunate to be in brands and companies that absolutely kind of relish and and really prioritise development. But again, kind of finding that what makes what works for you is is really important up to another great top tip in there.
But we’re running out of time to do the things, Jim. But just if you run companies or if you manage teams, invest in them, for goodness sake, it just drives me bonkers. I don’t understand why so many companies would cost money to do that. Yes. Anyway, anyway, we’re running out of time. So I’ve got two more quick questions for you on the subject of learning. What books do you read or blogs or podcasts you listen to other than this one, obviously, to stay on this one.
Absolutely. Thank you very much. Where do you go for your marketing information?
Well, when I when you sent me this question, I was actually like, what other things? I’ve enjoyed the most, I suppose. And not and podcasts is absolutely been the main thing. Like I said, speaking in connexion to people is how I learnt that the best podcast has been brilliant. In the absence of that, you know, face to face time and that there’s a broader podcast. But to that I just love one. How to Fail, like Elizabeth Day.
And I love her podcast just because I love the ethos of learning from mistakes and failures and how that makes you a stronger person and kind of how that guides you for the future. And then just the guess that she has a just say I love that one. And actually that gives me enough. I love that external inspirational. Just something to kind of take me out of my world and give me a bit of a different perspective. The other podcasts that I really got into over the last year is the high performance podcast with Dave Humphrey.
And he’s, I think, what you can learn for athletes and amazing sports people and take that into business. I love that because I think, you know, you can’t learn from kind of more dedicated and sort of people who go through massive highs and lows that you can as athletes and sports people. And you said that’s where the Olympics is another.
Yeah, I’m a I’m a northerner, a rugby league fan. And they had shown first time I came across that podcast, our show and went on, who’s not England coach? And I don’t know if you’ve heard that one or other ones system doing the BBC. An amazing back is just a working class lad from Wigan who left home one day at about 14 because he thought his dad was going to beat him to death and because he’d done something particularly nasty.
And his dad said about him and he left home that day, walked out with only his trousers on because his shirt had been ripped off him. And he’s now the England Rugby League. And it’s an image. And he talks about it openly and candidly. Ridiculous, amazing, heartwarming tearjerking story delivered in the thickest Wigan accent you will ever be just like, wow. So if you do this, I just love that in terms of like learning and being inspired from other people’s stories and backgrounds and where they how they’ve got to where they are.
I’ve got to say, it’s a great product. It’s not just sports people on there, but, you know, it’s kind of world class performance. So it’s just, again, amazing spectrum and great conversation, really stuff.
I have taken too much of your time, if I can. One last question, which is one question. Are you expecting me to ask that? I haven’t, Joel. I thought we were going to dig into a little bit more around the fitness competitors. So whether that was an apple or a personal kind of what’s happening in their say. But, you know, we went off in many directions that were, well, wonderful and good discussions. It was, yeah, I’m going to say this peloton just don’t understand it.
Why you’d want to spend three times as much an exercise bike on a monthly subscription when you can get medals or in other products. And I just don’t get on other than so you can go to a peloton is the only way I can see anybody that wants it. You can’t say that I can, but I honestly just do not understand it. But I’m not going to put you on the spot and say, do you agree with me on that?
I mean, thank you very much for your time. I absolutely love this discussion. It has been wonderful. Thank you note. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.