In the Marketer’s Chair with Pippa Dunn

16 Apr 2015|Added Value

Added Value’s ‘In the Marketer’s Chair’ series interviews the world’s top marketers about their lives, their careers, their successes, and most importantly their view on what it takes to drive transformational growth in business today.
Pippa Dunn is a keen traveller with an eye for photography, is the owner of, in her words, the “world’s most connected dog” and dreams of designing her own house. But the role we know her best in is Chief Marketing Officer of the UK’s largest mobile network, EE.

Bart Michels, Global CEO Added Value, recently chatted to Pippa as part of our filmed interview series ‘In the Marketer’s Chair’, to find out what her take is on the issues that are transforming the world of marketing and how she got to where she is today.

Pippa held senior positions at both NTL (now Virgin Media) and Orange before taking the bold step to create EE in a merger between Orange and T Mobile, a decision she counts as one of the proudest moments of her career to date. The creation of EE was a first for the UK mobile telecommunications sector, as Pippa and her team embarked on a year long journey to launch a 4G network. “We’re a country which has innovation and technology in its DNA, yet we were lagging behind as the UK was one of the last places in Europe to launch 4G. We wanted to create a whole new brand as well as build a totally new infrastructure for Britain.” A bold ambition but one that has successfully paid off.
Pippa advises that the key to success is to follow your gut when it comes to bold innovations: “people said ‘don’t do it’ – they were happy with Orange and T-Mobile just the way they were, but instead of just imbibing new meaning into those by bringing 4G we felt that there was an opportunity to really refresh the telecoms market by creating a new brand.”

Leading with confidence. The kind of confidence it took to create EE is a theme that runs through much of Pippa’s career and is testament to her leadership style. For Pippa, the one thing all great leaders have in common is confidence. “Reflective confidence or quiet confidence or steely confidence; to have that inner belief that you’re going to make some decisions and knowing that not all of those decisions are going to be right, but you take the lead and say ‘Right, come along, we’re going on this journey together’”. She truly lives and breathes this mind-set, promoting it throughout the organisation at all levels, “I’m not very hierarchical, I like to see the people who actually did the work stand up and share their ideas as they are the ones who really understand and know it. Those are the people who should be credited and recognised in terms of the work and shouldn’t be shielded by the more senior people in the room.”

Taking the theme of business leadership into the sphere of senior women, Pippa is (like our previous interviewee, Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo) also exasperated that globally only 14% of leaders at her level are women, which she calls a “fairly damning statistic”. Pippa has her own unique take on the issue, “I think it is true that women have to work harder and be better than some of their male counterparts, but personally I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked for and with some great people.” Pleasingly, she adds that she has “never found it an impediment being female.”

Building a relevant brand. With 7.7 million 4G customers (exceeding their 6m target), EE ranked as the UK’s number one network and hit the number one spot as the top 4G operator within the European market. It’s not surprising that BT have recently confirmed that they will be buying EE for £12.5 billion. “BT really valued our innovation and the brand that we’ve created. It’s a pretty exciting time for our business. Bringing together two of the biggest operators in the country we’ll be able to create some really exciting stuff for our consumers.”

Pippa praises the cultural relevance of the brand as a major factor in their success and popularity with Gen Z in particular. “Kids worship their mobile phones pretty much more than anything else in their entire universe. We provide them the connectivity into all of the things they love and partner with products and brands that are relevant to them, like the famous YouTube sensations Dan & Phil,” she enthuses. Pippa makes sure that the EE service is at the heart of all of their marketing activities from classic advertising to being part of Glastonbury festival, “because the one thing you need at a festival is to be able to recharge your phones” she says blatantly. EE provided great coverage in the fields, in the form of life size cows and offered everybody the chance to recharge their mobile phones, supporting people to stay connected.

Next Generation Marketing Talent. Pippa’s biggest tip to today’s young marketing talent is to “learn everything you can about digital, make your own app, create your own website, do your own vlog. Then learn how to promote it.”
She also urges marketing leaders to start thinking differently about new talent, as EE have done by employing 1000 apprentices to move around the business to spend time on the front line, in call centres, working on customer experience and in the marketing department. Taking another tack, Pippa employs as many maths graduates as she does arts grads, looking for “the ability for marketers to be analytical, to understand data and commercials, and to understand not just how to make an ad or do sponsorship or PR, but actually understand how you’re going to make money out of the products”.

Having led the team who created a disruptive brand within the mobile market – now worth £12.5 billion – how does Pippa want to be remembered when she looks back on her career? “As a decent human being, I think. No more complicated than that”.


Watch the interview in full:

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