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Pritesh is the Managing Director of Accenture Song.
In this episode we discuss:
- Who Accenture Song are and what they do
- Managing the rebrand from Accenture Interactive to Accenture Song
- Streamlining dozens of companies under the new brand
- Managing the human implications of a rebrand
- The benefits of merging data and creativity
- The new brand of CMOs and how they need to be literate in both data and creativity
- The challenges of working around client silos to launch new work
- Knowing when you have enough data
- Marketing being “more than just the wrapping paper, but about what’s inside the box too”
- Challenges for marketers coming into a recession
- Running a creative agency with an IT background
- The lessons from Gillette and P&G at the start of his career
- Building diverse teams and new thinking
- What Alex Ferguson taught Pritesh about leadership
- Managing mental health
Pritesh has spent 20 years working in the digital space and has been involved in some of Accenture’s biggest digital transformations in the UK and Europe.
He joined Accenture Digital back in 2014 when it was first set up to develop the company’s experience technologies. Following Accenture’s restructure in March 2020, Pritesh was appointed to lead Accenture Interactive in the UK, now Accenture Song.
Pritesh is passionate about initiatives which champion Diversity and Inclusion and Mental Health issues in the workplace and has implemented multiple programmes which address these areas. His personal hero is Alex Ferguson and he draws on his management style in his current role.
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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.
So my guest today on the Strategy Sessions podcast is Pritesh Gadhia from Accenture Song Pritesh. How are you doing?
I’m good, thank you. Thank you for having me here. Yeah, I’m doing really well. It’s great to have the option.
Thank you for your time. I imagine Managing Director is a big title, so you must be fairly busy. So to be able to carve out an hour of your schedule, I’m really grateful for. Do you want to tell people who are listening a little bit more about Accenture Song? It’s a relatively new name in the market or a rebrand into the market. So you want to explain kind of what the company is and what your role is within the company?
Yeah, absolutely. And I often describe Accenture song as accenture’s best kept a secret. We were formed, we used to be called Accenture Interactive is the first point to note. We now stand at about just over 10 people built from 14 different brands. The majority of Accenture Song is actually formed through acquisition, not through homegrown Accenture individuals. And really Accenture Song, which was previously Accenture Interactive, it was created because the old agency models we felt were not really fit for purpose. Communications models that relied on paid media interrupting people’s eyes are being replaced by brands looking just to be more relevant and not needing to push themselves so much and not needing to sell. Some people don’t perhaps really need that much where once you look to a product, we’re now moving towards really understanding our customers and being what I call lifecentric. So it fits with the new I call it the third way, occupying the ground between agency networks and global consulting firms. Just a new way to grow and transform businesses, bringing together a host of capabilities and functions from across the creative to the data, through to the design to the technology, In some ways, it’s creating an industry, one there is nobody else really lie it with the creativity and brand strategy in its sold to, I guess, deliver technology that scales to address some of current problems.
We made the decision to rebrand ourselves to Accentuate Song last year. We were doing very well as an organisation, but we felt building on that sort of longstanding culture of the different parts and breeds of the companies that had come together and the culture of Accenture’s habit to change, we wanted something that could bring those brands together universally, that was enduring, had a connection to craft, innovation, inspiration, technical prowess. But also at the heart of it was about imagination, about ideas, about things that really stick. And so Song… Accenture Song really reflects those many dimensions and layers, what we’re about and what we try to accomplish for our for our people. And it’s, you know, it’s a really important and really exciting step for us globally. We’ve all together over 40 acquisitions that we did quite over the last decade to really create something, as I said, that synergizes sort of design, marketing technology to really drive new thinking.
I think there’s something really interesting about the rebrand is that the bit you see on the front end is all the opinion pieces being written about whether people like it, whether they don’t like it, whether it was a good idea, whether it was a bad idea. But I think the really interesting thing for me with the rebrand, especially the way you tackled it Is that bringing all those other brands under the umbrella of one name. Accenture Song. And almost the human element in that of all those people who have sort of moved from working for a semi independent agency or an agency with a different name. All becoming part of this one thing and the people element behind there. That must be the real job to do in the Rebrand. And the real success story of the Rebrand is how all that lands and how all that then starts to grow as one agency.
Yeah. And for those people that followed Accenture Interactive, they’ll know that when we acquired the likes of Karma Roma Field in the UK or Roth Quo in Ireland, we didn’t immediately to expand the brand, right? Because these are people, these things mean something to them, right, these identities. And we wanted to focus on making them feel part of what was then accentually attractive, what it meant and how we could succeed. And then over time, I’m sure when David took the role two years ago, he wanted to do this and thought about doing this and taking the role. But we do it very, very carefully and we still continue to focus on our people, about making sure that they are parts of the journey of what Accentuous Song is going to be. We don’t have all the answers. If we had all the answers, if somebody had all the answers. And we’re doing this already, right? So this is a journey together positively. The people have been amazing and excited by being within something new and different and also standing on the shoulders of what is the biggest global consulting firm in the world. So we know we can still do brilliant craft and design, but we know we can deliver that now with real purpose and real intention that can actually make a difference.
This is not just now about the advertising or brilliant design, all of which is important, but about how it makes consumers lives, customers lives easier.
The phrase I’ve seen when I’ve been doing my bits of research for this is “more than just an agency”. And I think you’ve started to touch on that already. Between bringing together of creativity and data and analytics and digital transformations, I think in some instances as well. Is this, as you said, the new future of agencies? Do you see this leading another agency networks thinking like we now have to catch up and bridge that gap yeah.
There is a lot of interest out there around who we are and what we stand for and a concern for the competition, for sure. I mean, because this represents Accenture Song represents sort of an evolution post pandemic, right, in a new world order where how you connect and engage with customers has to change. And if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to put technology, data and creativity at the heart of every business problem. The old models, the old answers don’t work. So we believe we’ve created something that can really sit at the core of how you drive greater growth and greater relevance for brands that are more appealing and sustainable for their consumers, because we have all the component parts.
And what sort of steps are you taking as an organisation to do that? Because I know anyone who listening, who has worked with some great creatives in the past and all that great creatives sometimes have a reputation for being relatively prickly when challenged and the data community maybe also shares that reputation. So how do you bring together sort of two quite different skill sets? But actually we all know that when you get them together and they do it right, the power is there to take everything on a level. But again, from a people level, what are you doing to be able to bring those two skills together and help them work in a more productive way for your clients?
I think it’s a fascinating question, one of the most interesting and challenging parts of my job. And as you rightly point out, we have so much diverse talent, we often think about diversity in the sense that we all read about, right? We don’t. Conclusion, diversity. This is diversity talent. But the power comes from that collective. The power comes from the constellation of those individual stars, right? And they let me clear the hell brilliant. We got some of the best talent, probably globally in an Accenture Song, which, as you say, is challenging because they have points of view and strong points of view. We’ve always been an inclusive organisation, regardless of where people have come from. And, you know, without going into specifics on data, our attrition at the craziest one is extraordinary high, in fact, all levels in Accentuous on because people are starting to really embrace it. It comes down to nothing more than making sure we are doing the right type of work or problem solving for our clients. Nobody, me particularly, doesn’t sit within an Accenture song saying, as a creative, you’re no longer going to do the best brand work or advertising work of course you are.
Or the best design work. But what we want to do is make that more accessible and make the value or the meaning and purpose of that brand narrative that you put together in front of consumers so more people see it, feel it and believe it. This is no longer about what I call the wrapping paper. But this is about what’s inside the box or the product, right, and putting it in the hands. And as soon as our teams start to feel it, touch it, see it and know the scale of the difference they can make, they love it. So if you combine that opportunity for doing big scale stuff, if you like, we’re still being able to do brilliant craft, you’re achieving the best of both worlds. And that’s why they enjoy it so much. That’s always hard, but that’s why they enjoy so much.
I suppose nothing that’s easy is ever really all that great.
So if it’s difficult, you know that the challenge is there and you’re heading in the right direction.
I love that phrase. It’s not just about the wrapping paper, it’s what’s inside the box. And marketing, marketing departments, marketing teams for years have been known as the colouring in department and whatever. But there is an issue that I suppose organisations, big organisations, operate in silos a lot of the time for very good reasons. Silos are seen as being always negative, but there are good reasons why organisations have this department looking after this and another department doing other things. But when you start talking about doing those big projects and transformations, bringing purpose to it and what’s inside the box, not just the wrapping paper, that must be a challenge for your clients as well, to be able to get out of the silos that they’re working to bring the right people to the party. Are you seeing that organisations are ready to have this type of approach now? Or is it still you’re having to work with your clients as well as internally to be able to deliver these things?
Andy, it’s not missed anybody’s attention that things have changed and things have changed remarkably over the last few years. I mean, I can’t remember ever reading about or seeing such a level of quick pace change for consumer. Right. Ever in my career, certainly. And because customers are out there going, sorry, my life is changing faster than ever, how are you going to help me now? How are you going to stay relevant? Companies have spent so long worrying about their bottom line, about their profit and their sales and their revenue, they need to start thinking about the individual and what they’re doing for the consumer. And so every organisation is starting to feel that. And we did some analysis and found that 64% of companies, 64% wish they could respond faster to consumers changing needs. Right. And 95%, Andy, executives think they don’t understand or can’t change fast enough. Right. And when you think that’s customers, when you think who is the heart of the customer and what the company stands for, it’s marketing. Right. And it’s about the brand and it’s about what you stand for and how you become more relevant. Right? Yes. You gotta have great products, you gotta go have services, but you’ve got to be able to deliver them in a way that are meaningful customers.
So we’re seeing it, we’re seeing companies want to and address that change and be more life centric. But it is incredibly hard. You know, the individual, as you say, the individual silos within organisations mean when you want to address a problem to a problem around customer, when you’re trying to be customer focused or life century, you’ve got to be able to bring all those bits together, otherwise it’s always disjointed. Do you think about the number of organisations you deal with? All the services you buy from organisations, whether it’s insurance, banking, telecommunications, one interaction point tends to be almost completely different to the other. Yeah. Or you see an advert or you see some brand marketing and you’ll go, okay, that’s great. But then you go to interact with it and the product doesn’t fit the message.
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And customers are, you know, it’s a paradox. Customers are now much more fickle than they ever were and they have much more choice and they want it at the point of need in the way that suits them. And every individual only this is the problem. Every individual is different in a different stage of life. Right. You know, you may be working from home or doing the strategy work you do. I’m on the road quite a lot. Joe probably has a different lifestyle, a different set of needs. You’ve got parents, single moms, grandfathers. Everybody has a different perspective on what’s important to them now.
Do you think as well? I hate the word disruption. It’s one of those words that has been hammered to pieces and now it’s almost meaningless. But I’ll stick with it anyway for the purposes of the story and the question. But when you see kind of disruptive things happening in the industry, they’re often driven by maybe newer, smaller businesses. And I’ll give you an example of Bloom and Wild, the flower delivery company who kind of gate crashed into an industry. But one of the things they were the pioneers of, I think they called it the thoughtful marketing movement, was being able to opt out of a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, those type of anniversary marketing emails, because they can be quite upsetting to people who’ve maybe recently lost a relative. Now, they could do that because they were small, the sole problem, and they fixed it. Bigger organisations, some of which are still trying to catch up four or five years after Bloom and Wild launched. That because the technology doesn’t allow them to do it. And these are the sorts of tangled webs of companies, the bigger ones who you’re working with, are they ready to face this challenge?
Is that where they are at the minute and trying to plot their way through this? Is that the sort of the things you see at the moment.
So it is without doubt that the smaller, more disruptive companies have gained share in certain industries, right? And we look at financial services and the neo banks, right? I mean, they’ve done an incredible job and have great technology at the heart of it. And that’s true in other industries, which makes it very hard for your traditional brands to grow and compete. And so their challenge is, how do I address that disruption and how do I can lean and deliver innovation quicker? And that’s a lot of what they’re struggling with, which is how do I become more relevant to my consumers and who’s going to help me stitch the pieces together? But it can be done. It’s also about creating white space within an existing brand. So, Livity Global, you may have heard of the big sort of the big communications company. You know, we’re working with them on renewable energy venture called Egg, right, offering a subscription based service for home charging of vehicles where you can almost buy it, buy it on tap, low upfront cost, maintenance costs included. But tapping into their massive expertise of being able to deliver subscription stuff and making it easier for consumers, knowing they’re going to a brand that is well known and ultimately can be trusted.
So it can be done. And that’s just one example of larger, well established brands starting to adapt to be more agile, data driven, consumer life, century focused. And it’s happening. But that’s why it’s difficult on the.
Issue of being data driven. Data can be a blessing as well as a curse, right? Can’t sit for organisations in terms of two things. One, knowing when you have enough data to make a decision, I think, can be really difficult in a world now where we are potentially drowning in data. And two, knowing that your data is accurate when the large companies, the Googles and the methods of this world are effectively marking their own homework when it comes to the data. Now, I’m not going to ask you to comment on that particularly, but knowing what sort of tests are you applying when you’re working with companies to say, how do you know when you’ve got enough data? How have we tested the accuracy of this before we start using it to make big decisions?
And, you know, you’re right, because the data can be a betting and a curse, right? And you do have to be cautious, because you do have to think about seeing people beyond static, one dimensional and think about the human aspects of the individual and what the company is trying to do for individual in the lifestyle and circumstances they’re out. So we always support a data driven view with user research, heuristic analysis, and really try and bring the intent there so that they are being more relevant and really think about not what’s the data selling them, but what’s the unmet need there to address the consumer. A lot of talk goes on about data and data lakes and this and that, but many organisations have struggled, many still have lots of data puddles, right. Lots of data puddles rather than data leaks. Right. They don’t really have a joined up new and consumer, not as much as they would like. And so part of the challenge is making us, helping us support them and thinking about insight that we can gain from what they’re doing today. And obviously you touched today, we won’t go deep into it because I’m by no means an expert.
When you think about the cookie, that’s future as well. Right. There’s less data available, all the less of the type that they might be using today. Right. And actually, you think about what happens in times of recession. People drive into performance marketing, but other than understand the output, what performance market is doing or the base language they use is incorrect. Right. So you do have to be very cautious around the data and that’s why a bit more holistic view, I think, is important to understand and get to know your consumer and have a real, profound understanding of them.
Regular listeners will know that I occasionally raise an eyebrow at performance marketing. I love it. I think it does wonderful stuff. I’m not entirely convinced. I love talking to performance marketers who will tell you that marketing only existed for 15 years when they started doing their thing. Right. Which is one of the reasons I get a bit Sneary about performance marketing. But we both know that as the recession is coming, or is perhaps here, depending on which data you look at, a lot of companies are going to double down on performance marketing, possibly to the expense of further up the funnel stuff, brand marketing or anything else. What’s your take on that? Is that a good thing to be doing? Should companies be having that wider view? How bad is it going to get, do you think, before people start to realise there’s maybe more than that?
Yeah. My sense is that unless they’re set up incredibly well to react to the outcomes they see. Which I think is harder than it sounds. And have confidence in that. That through a recession. What you’ve got to try and do yes. You’ve got to drive traffic. Perhaps you have got to do that in a way that includes performance marketing. But you’ve got to maintain the longevity of your brand and understand your consumer and the way it’s changing. Right. And I know the performance marketing always does that. Right. And we always see this recession performance marketing obstacle didn’t really drive anything else, not knowing that’s enough in the brand. So it’s all about balance. Right. It is all about balance and making sure that what you stand for is not trying to get more share of wallets from people who haven’t got any, but be a destination for people to see as someone who cares about them as individuals.
Recently, as we’re recording this in late October recently, the CEO of Asos has said that he thinks they should have maybe invested more in brand marketing over the last couple of years, where they’ve been heavily performance marketing focused. I think he also touches on other problems within the business that have caused their loss at the moment. But one of the things he highlighted was that there’s been a rising cost of customer acquisition, which is something that almost everyone on the podcast has talked about over the last number of months and years, really declining ad inventory and increasing costs on that. Is that sort of something that your performance marketing teams are fighting with at the moment as well?
I think it comes outside of the remax of performance marketing. I think the issue is we’re ending a period of time where we have what I call a crisis of relevance. Brands are no longer losing relevance. Focusing on the performance side of it, rather than the brand side of it, is where it starts to become a mistake. They need to rebuild the connection of what their products and services mean for their consumer and really unpack that, as I talked about before, in terms of every customer, even a base is of a different type and a different hill, not the same. Performance marketing rules are going to work, right. We know that. Right. And so you’ve got to really think about it in a much more customer centric way, or life centric way, to be able to drive where you’re going to grow and be more appealing in that way, which means really understanding them, really thinking about how you’re driving value and really making experience of your brand across every single touch point much more powerful. Price, of course, is important in the recession, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not just always all about price.
If you want to maintain the relevance of your brand through all types of consumers, right, you often don’t want the ones. You do want as many customers as you can, of course, but necessarily keep targeting the same ones that have a low wallet price or basket size. You want the breadth of them.
Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned the crisis of relevance and it’s kind of weaved its way through the whole interview there with them. The research that backed it up, I think, is a great piece to go and have a look at. I’ll maybe put a link to it in the show notes if you want to know how to do market research. A huge amount of quality research got into that and then followed a quant. So let me get that right. A huge amount of quantum research got into it, followed up with some great qual stuff and focus groups and adding colour to it. I referred to it as black and white in colour, and when you put the two together, you get much more rich insights. So, firstly, if you’re looking for how to do research, go have a look at the methodology behind this. It’s fantastic, but this has been a great piece of research. That is one of a number of things that Accentuate Song are doing this year in terms of understanding the market. How well has it been received in the market, this research?
Really well, actually. When you go and talk to clients about being more relevant, life centric, really thinking about how you’re going to put it, in the words of growth, through being more relevant. Right. Because there’s an issue with us needing to be more life centric and understanding them. And 97% of the execs thought that they were falling short and then talking about the challenges in terms of bringing these different elements of the organisation together, broadening your understanding of the consumer, etc, etc. As it says in the playbook, they sit down and they go, that makes so much sense. How right. And actually, we can help. But a lot of it is down to them changing how they work as organisations and bringing their component parts together. This really is a C suite level conversation and a C suite level intervention to really drive a new way of growth.
If you were looking at things that levers that you can pull to drive growth over the next few years. And we know there’s some sort of if not a recession or slowdown. We’re probably a recession coming. So this is always a folly sort of direction. But I’m going to ask you anyway. In terms of your crystal ball. What trends and innovations and things do you see coming over the next couple of years? So we know, we’ve talked about Asus and a lot of other fast fashion brands are under pressure direct to consumer. Brands like Eve have just been through a real turbulent time and some high street names are struggling. Where do you see the big opportunities over the next year or two?
My sense is that organisations will double down in getting more out of what their brands stand for and delivering on the value of their brands. Right. There will be some reinvention of new products and services, for sure, and some investment on some investment in innovation in particular. I think an area that has really not taken off in the way I think people thought it would do is business to business, you know, b to Ecommerce, if you like, particularly in the areas of financial services and in the areas of the sort of software and platforms type of stuff the Google salesforce, etc for. And I think that’s a big area of growth. I think we will see larger organisations. I use the example of Liberty Global and Egg investing in new ways to really meet needs of consumers they hadn’t realised they needed to do. So the Unmet needs, whether it’s around sustainability or around how do I bring if you’re a financial organisation or an insurance company, how do I bring my services together? In much more of a cohesive way that I’m easier to do business with. Right. I’m stitched at the heart of when they become a teenager, right.
Through to a university student. Right. So they would be a sort of a couple of areas that I would see growing. But, you know, the competition isn’t going anywhere, right. The likes of Amazon, Google, et cetera. So they’ve got to stay on the front foot, they’ve got to stay on their toes.
And do you think marketing budgets will come under pressure in the next few years as well?
They always do. I think the Bellwether report, and I’ll probably misquote the numbers, so I won’t say that I think the thing is slight pressure and reduction. Right. And the role of the marketer of the CMO is to really be at front and centre of what does it mean to deliver value of a brand? As you jokingly said, the colouring department, we all know, actually, they could be and should be at the heart of customers. And they will need to have an understanding of not just brand and marketing, but technology, data, their business, and how they can be the new individuals that can drive the stitching and the different component paths of what life or customer could mean when interacting with their particular brand.
Absolutely. I often describe marketing as the voice of customer in the organisation and if we can be the advocates for that and be the ones who lead on that, whether it’s technology change or whatever that is, but be the one to bring the voice of the person who uses our service into the room, that’s the way to do it. And it’s difficult to do. The bigger the organisation, the harder it is. But it’s absolutely essential for our future success and prosperity.
It is. And I think we’ll see a new breed of markets here as a result right. Which would be good for everyone.
Yeah. And I think the new breed of markets here, I suspect, from my own sort of experience over the last few years, is much more comfortable talking about the different arms of the role, data and creativity together, rather than being one or the other. And get a feeling from some of the people I’ve interviewed, met and worked with over the years that is becoming much more the norm skill set, really, in the role.
Yeah. It has to be. For them to succeed, they have to be very multi hated, more so than they have ever been, as you said, around understanding much more than just brandon.
While we’re talking about multi hated and different skill sets and being familiar with data, just to talk about you a little bit, you’ve got an interesting background on a route in here. So your LinkedIn profile tells me that you started with an It degree in Manchester.
How Does an IT degree plot a course all the way through to heading up one of the world’s biggest agencies? How does that happen? What are the steps along the way?
It’s a great question. I often sit there myself and smile. This is incredible. Really grateful for having been able to do this for the last two years already. So when I finished my degree, I had a vision of wanting to work for a company like Anderson Consulting, which was, at the time…
There you go! Retro, yeah.
And so there I was at Accenture, being part of an organisation that really solved complex delivery problems using technology. And I almost fell into the world of digital by luck when I started doing work on websites the likes of Sainsburys, Tesco, all quite a few of the major high street brands. And from there really developed an understanding and a passion for how to creatively, how to creatively deploy technologies. So in the earlier days of digital technology, it’s all about agile product ownership, right? It was doing a different way of delivery and so hard. What I was passionate about was applying creativity in a way to deliver technology. And then that led to me being part of Accenture Digital. I then ran Accenture Digital in the UK for a few years and as the creative agency started to come together with technology at their heart, creatively Led technology, they wanted somebody that could fit that mould, could leverage the incredible creative talent around them. Because I’m not a creative brand person, but I knew Accenture and I knew technology and I knew how to solve scaled complex problems for clients. So what I try and do is bring the best of traditional Accenture, the Accenture your mum and dad knew together with the new Accenture, and create that sort of special energy.
That’s how it happened. I’ve had great fun, have an amazing team, we do great work and may continue, but, yeah, I’m a very unusual breed of individual to be doing this role. But I think that’s the reason perhaps I’ve been able to drive the scale of change, because I bring the discipline of a non creative to a creative world and I think it needs both.
Scrolling back on your CV as well. I spotted you down a couple of years at Proctor and Gamble as well. I could well do a whole podcast one day just interviewing people who have worked at PNG because I find it fascinating the way that they tackle problems. I’ve had maybe three, possibly four ex P&G people on anyway, it doesn’t matter a number of them, right? And it’s a really interesting and different way to a lot of companies to tackle. Did you have a few good years there? Were the things that you learned at P&G that were like eye opening and then you brought through into the rest of your career, or were you there just too briefly?
No, it was really interesting. I was actually P&G, but I was actually part of Gillette, the best a man could get at the time. And you talk about the power of a brand at the time, right? Well, right, that doesn’t work anymore, but at the time it did and I had an amazing job and probably one of the best bosses, one of the few best bosses around my career. And I led the Data Analytics Warehouse programme, which is putting data at the heart of how you sold some of your biggest and best products. It was an incredible role all around Europe and that’s where I cut my teeth. I wanted to do complex delivery at scale, right, with creativity and data at the heart of it and building data warehouses, style schemes, writing code. It was a brilliant experience.
I’m just trying to get my head around the scale of what Gillette is. It’s a phenomenal business, right? And from a marketing perspective, I think is their marketing used to anyway, be to target young shavers just as sort of young lads were coming into Shaving age with free trials and various bits and bobs and capturing them in magazines, FHM magazine and things like that when I were a lady. But even just the scale of the organisation and distribution and how all those things come together, it must have been a hell of a learning curve.
It was brilliant, but it always had the brand at the heart and how the brand would fit with what was understood to be the consumer at the time. And it was a very similar mould of consumer right at the time. You just think about it if you think about the adverts, right, and they add it down to a team and it’s used to research, but the quality of its product as well was second to none. I wouldn’t say an easy job at all, but they had all the right ingredients at the time and they did incredibly well out of it. It was a brilliant experience. It was a really well run global organisation, had great management team and very data and tech driven, I would say very ahead of its time, actually. Very ahead of its time.
And you can see that for all these sort of direct to consumer upstarts that have come into Gillette’s category at various points, to disrupt it and take market share in direction. Z if you look at the facts, it’s still miles bigger than anybody else in that category. Not even close. Not even close, no.
It’s great fun.
So as a leader, you’re coming through, you’ve worked in a couple of different places, you got into Accenture, progressed through and done a number of different roles. But as you get to be sort of leadership positions in the company, how do you stay relevant and how do you stay across everything that’s happening in the world, changes that go on in the world, that you need to be aware of to stay relevant to your organisation.
I mean, there’s always the traditional ways of the daily podcasts, et cetera, but I find the most useful way is talking to my clients, by understanding about the challenges they’re facing and even people like you. And just the sense of the questions tells me we’re not that far off for focusing on the right areas, right. As a company, we’re just talking to clients and then debating them with my team or with other parts of Accenture to say, okay, what are you hearing? What are the problems the clients are facing that you’re hearing? And how are they dealing with this massive disruption? How are they feeling about it? And what’s the sense you pick up on the market? Is it slowing down? Is it pausing? It’s just being attuned to that and then also mixing that with my own things I have to do or want to do to keep myself safe, right? Whether it’s a sport or not.
Switching off is a really underrated skill, isn’t it? To be able to stay focused and stay afresh. It’s being able to turn off sometimes and just take something else in.
I think I learned that the hard way, right. As many of my colleagues will know, I’m a big advocate for people’s mental health, because if you don’t know about it, you can’t deal with it, right? And if you haven’t got the courage to talk about it, people don’t know. So it’s not that easy, right? I’ve had tough times. As many as people who know me will know. So I learned the hard way that taking time out, talking to people, having the courage to go, I don’t feel great, or It’s okay not to be okay. And that brilliant term is fine. It’s not, we should know it’s okay. And also having the coach asked for help. Andy, I did a CNBC webcast or podcast recently where they asked me about leadership lessons and one of the big ones was having the courage to ask for help. I still remember very clearly to this day two very significant examples where I put my hand up and go, I need help. And you and I both know, and Joe knows this one, nobody gets fired for asking for help. Right?
It’s interesting. The word that gets used a lot is brave and Zed al Qaeda, who is the chief marketing officer at Channel Four, also Procter and Gamble and also previous guest on the podcast, wrote a LinkedIn post maybe five, six months ago where it wasn’t a LinkedIn post. So he wrote a piece in Campaign Magazine about how he has lived with depression for 1015 years and how he has managed that and found a natural home in Channel Four, which allows him to talk openly about that in a way that he maybe hasn’t been able to in other organisations. And people said underneath their boss, this is brave of years to say these things now, it is brave, but I think the journey we’re going on as a country and as business communities, that 1520 years ago it was a problem to talk about mental health issues. Now we’re in a position where people are saying, this is brave and brilliant and I think in 20 years time, hopefully, it’ll just be normalised. It’ll just be like, of course you talk about that. And is that the sort of journey you see companies going on at the minute where it is just becoming normalised to say, look, I’m having problems here, we need help, I need help.
And it’s not too dissimilar to all the controversy around backlife matters, we need to move it from a moment to something that becomes normalised or a movement. It’s okay to talk about mental health, it’s not demonised, it’s not glamorised, it’s normalised. Right. And it becomes part of what everybody feels comfortable mentioning. You’re right. It was so stigmatised in the day. Right. And yeah. And even growing up with the challenges I had around my parents, right? You never go to school and talk about what you were experiencing in a thousand years in those days, right. But today people are just so much more willing to hear you, to see you and to support you through the journey you go through. And I think it’s so important and why it’s important and incumbent leaders to talk about is if they don’t hear from other people, as you say, being brave enough to talk about it, then they won’t talk about it. And you’re right, when you’re a certain level of organisation, it is a brave thing to do, because you don’t want people to think this individual isn’t strong enough or isn’t cut out for this company, et cetera, et cetera.
You know, we have these, you know, our own internal biases towards how we speak, how we will be perceived, that we need to remember always to.
My old man, my dad is from the Caribbean, so migrant family coming over to the UK and on the windrush generation. And it’s interesting that I feel like it’s taking longer for this movement to talk about mental health to land with my dad and people of his generation. And especially migrant generations. Where I think the challenges that they faced growing up in the UK in the 70s almost made them feel like they had to be bulletproof. They had to have this thick skin against everything and admitting weakness was a problem. And you never let a crack in your armour, ever. And seeing it now as he’s in his sixty s and in his late sixty s and starting to open up and go, actually, no, it is a challenge sometimes. It’s a really interesting thing to see and it’s that migrant community mindset, I think they just had to be tough when they came over to try and get through.
I think that’s so true. Culture has so much of a part to play in it. I’m a first generation immigrant, right. And we were very growing up in a white area, very closed off, very insular, didn’t talk about anything outside the little family box. Nobody had any awareness. And that was just kind of how you lived. Right. And nobody thought it was okay. If one of your parents is going to promise to go out there and ask for help or tell other family members, no, you don’t do that, it’s going to go like this, this and this. And thankfully, those norms are changing now and every generation and every culture is saying, I’m seeing it and therefore I can support it and feel it.
Brilliant. It’s definitely a good thing. Absolutely, yes. As we’re coming towards the end of the interview. We kind of touched on how do you stay relevant. But I am interested in asking about if there’s any books that you found really influential or that you’re reading at the minute that you think would be useful for other people to have a read of or dive into and see if they can find some benefit from that too.
I thought about that as one of the things you might ask and, you know, there’s so many out there, but the life is changing so fast. If you asked me two years ago, I would have gone back to the old back catalogue and stuff, everybody’s reading. I find the easiest way now is to listen to podcasts from people like yourself, listen to people who are in the industry and current. There are a few books because I’m a big fan of Sir Alex Ferguson. His book on leadership lessons, I think, was invaluable in terms of really simple advice of managing high performance teams. But I’ll be honest, there’s no stand out for me that is relevant today. That’s why I think the current dynamic is so strange. We are rewriting the books now, Andy.
Now, I don’t want to put any of your leadership team, I don’t want to get them worrying, but I am going to ask a follow up question about Alex Ferguson’s book on leadership. I haven’t read it, but there’s a story I’ve heard, maybe on another podcast, maybe elsewhere, is that one of the ways he stayed fresh and relevant and kept moving as a guy who was there years and years and years, was that every couple of years he got rid of his assistance and brought in a whole new set of assistance. So a new assistant manager came through every couple of years. And if you look, if you go back through the history of United, he did sort of refresh them because they brought in, you thinking, challenge them in different ways. So, as I say, if your leadership teams listening, I’m not suggesting that you start pushing them all out elsewhere, but is that something that is really useful, sort of new voices coming into the room as a leader and hearing different perspectives to try and challenge you again and to keep you moving forward.
So I think it’s a wonderful question. So, first of all, the reason for that was twofold. One, yes, a bit of a refresh, but two, because he was such a brilliant leader, his assistance became so, so attractive in the marketplace. A lot of them are better, right, to take Sarah’s lessons elsewhere. And they didn’t all succeed, of course. But the second thing, I think the worst thing you can do is surround yourself with people that always agree with your opinion, and sometimes that can happen and it’s therefore important to shake it up. And so Alex as well, he always used to change his team, as you know, right. To shake up the style of play, to shake up the personalities, to just ensure that there was a different, if you like what I’m about, with a different creative vibe being generated. Right. So I think it is always important to look at the makeup of your teams. And my teams know, I look at it quite regularly to give people opportunity, because you grow in a role that’s brilliant. What Accenture does is then give you another, more challenging role to go and do. So I’m not from a creative background, but I’m running this agency right.
Because they have the confidence in saying what you bring is different. I don’t need the same, I need different, but I need it to be done in the right way. And so I do think it’s important to look at those things as a leader.
Yeah, brilliant. You’re absolutely right that training people and challenging them so that they become high performers themselves does lead to people moving on. And that should be celebrated, it shouldn’t be a concern, we should be celebrating that. And it gives a chance for a new voice to come in.
Now, I always wrap the podcast with the same question. It’s an open question which can take us in any direction, but what one question do you usually get asked that I haven’t asked you today?
You’ve asked me most things. Right. To be honest, what is the one question you didn’t ask me? About my hobbies. But we touched on them all. Actually. I touched on the hobbies. I touched. On Accentuous Song What’s my leadership lessons? I’ll be honest, I don’t think there was because I think we covered so much ground, Andy. It was such a great discussion. As a result, there wasn’t a topic you didn’t cover that I normally get.
Picked up on what I’m taking from that, which is the clip I think I’ll use in promotion. Is that pertussis? I think you’ve just said I’m a great podcast host. I think that’s what you’ve just said. So we’ll use those words, or something similar, anyway.
But you are a wonderful podcast the host and I really enjoyed the conversation.
Andy, now that he’s definitely going on my LinkedIn bio.
Pritesh, thank you very much for your time. It’s been wonderful to find out a bit more about Extension Song, a bit more about you and to really kind of get in under the skin of what’s going to come in the next couple of years. So thank you for your time, it’s been amazing.