CMO Files: Rich Wilson, CMO, Relative Insight

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'.

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'.

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Name:  Rich Wilson   

Organisation: Relative Insight

Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: London, United Kingdom


(1) Where were you born and raised?

Born in Hull when it was still part of Yorkshire (just!). Raised in Lincoln.

(2) What was your first job?

Sales assistant at the Virgin Games Centre in Lincoln while I was still at school. It was a fantastic introduction to how companies should work, and they made it a lot of fun. I can remember being in awe that the regional manager took us out for posh nosh before we’d even opened. Meeting Dominik Diamond was a highlight, for a games-obsessed teenager anyway!

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?

It wasn’t my product, but my team was helping build it – Ocado. It was the first time in working on dozens of ecommerce projects that marketing was the clear focus. Everything was about improving the consumer experience through to the checkout. I worked with some great marketing people there.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

The Incredible Hulk. The first one, not the recent exaggerated abomination.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

My kids, quickly followed by selling Ocado the contract to build its online store.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

I find myself making small mistakes all the time. In fact, if I’m not making mistakes occasionally, I worry I’m doing something wrong. My approach is to test, test, test and test some more. It’s only by doing this that you uncover useful innovation. If you’re not experiencing people saying, “stop!”, then you’re simply continuing with old formulas and failing to evolve.

That said, I once left a very strongly performing startup to work for a competitor which was at a much earlier stage. It quickly became clear that was a mistake – the grass was most definitely not as green as I thought!

(7) What is your greatest strength?

I have an astonishingly poor short-term memory, the benefit of which is that I deal with bad news and move on very quickly.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

I have a terrible short-term memory.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?  

In the early-stage tech sector people woefully underestimate the need and power of marketing, and in particular, good PR. It is ultra-important for every part of the business, right from the get-go. Investors hear about your firm and what do they do next? They Google the name for background. Potential clients hear about your firm and what do they do? Google the name. Job candidates Google, existing customers Google, even my Mum reads the press coverage we get! I’m not saying go and get a PR firm on retainer before you have a business plan, but at least make PR part of the plan. Don’t be scared of talking to a PR firm early – the good ones will give you valuable advice for free to get you going.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?

I find I say “BOOM!” a lot. It’s become a company thing too – we like celebrating good news!

Wordclouds make me squirm. What use do they have? What’s the analysis? Congratulations, you can count words. My six year old can do this!

(11) What makes you stressed?

When I see people making decisions without any evidence or data to back them up. Or worse, using wrong data. You see it in all walks of life, whether marketing, politics, even when talking to friends. Recent annoyances have included health trends such as vitamin pills or homeopathy, and a large financial brand that measured the success of an ad campaign based on vanity metrics from social. It’s not the number of people talking about a brand or trend that counts, it’s what they are saying. I read yet another blog post recently where the author was attempting to explain who was “winning the social media war” in the General Election by looking at vanity metrics such as likes, shares, and retweets. Really? Are you unaware that people love to share bad news?!

(12) What do you do to relax?

A game of squash with my best mate followed by a good bottle of red.

(13) What is your favourite song?

Probably “Open Up Your Door” by Richard Hawley if I’m relaxing. The whole of Archive One by Dave Clarke at all other times.

(14) Which book taught you most?


(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow?

Football. Two teams – Lincoln (who are abysmal) and Chelsea (who are going to be worthy champions yet again - eat that Liverpool).

(16) Which country would you like to work in?

I’d like to live and work in the US. I’ve travelled there for work many times, but I think it would be good to live there for a while, especially while my kids are young.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing?

Relative Insight. Have you heard of it? Awesome. You know why it’s awesome? They have a great idea, a great team and most importantly a great marketing plan. Those three things come together to create a perfect storm. You only have to look at firms like Apple to see how effective that approach is.

(18) What do you love most about your job?

The people. Our team, the clients and our business partners. It is the most fun I’ve ever had building a business.

(19) What is your favourite book?

I love books, they’re like real-life power-ups. Hard to pick a favourite. In non-fiction I read Hack Attack recently, which is Nick Davies’ write up of the hacking/Murdoch events. Fascinating and scary in equal measure. Also just finished Zero To One from Peter Thiel. Essential reading for any startup.

In fiction, anything by John Niven is worth reading.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

You clearly don’t have kids.