From Big to Boutique: Q&A with Craig Morris September 2018

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Craig Morris, former long-serving marketer at Russell Investments, has dived into a new challenge, as the inaugural head of marketing solutions at financial comms agency Honner. He tells Industry Moves about his plans for the role, the joys of working for a boutique, and where he sees the future of marketing in the post-royal commission "age of distrust".

What do you think you are going to enjoy most about working for a boutique company, after working for one of the world’s largest fund managers?

The big appeal of a boutique agency like Honner is the variety of clients and ability to work on multiple premium brands. Honner is also seeing demand from clients in areas such as fintech, blockchain and the cryptocurrency space – which adds to the variety.

In terms of a large fund manager, I won’t miss all the 5am/6am conference calls with my US colleagues every week. Another big difference I can tell immediately is that the agency environment work ethic is very focused on client work (large firms spend too much time in unproductive internal meetings!).

What are your goals for the first 12-months?
  1. Shift the perception of Honner from ‘traditional’ PR agency to an integrated marketing and communications provider: The skills and services on offer at Honner have expanded exponentially in the last few years with the addition of content creation, digital, social and specialist PR expertise for ASX-listed companies. A key part of my role is to further extend that offering and continue to reinforce the depth and breadth of capabilities at the agency.

  2. Provide marketing solution to existing and new clients: In this environment many clients want fully integrated strategies and programs that can demonstrate a clear ROI for the business. This expansion into marketing will see the agency also providing demand creation programs, customer intelligence programs, customer experience programs and sales enablement programs for clients. The aim is for these services to complement and build on our current communications work for clients.

"It is always fascinating to watch the changing nature of marketing as it shifts from being intrusive to providing real value."

In what way do you feel that the Royal Commission will change the way that companies in the finance industry market themselves?

This is the age of distrust. The Royal Commission continues to expose a complete disconnect between the high level governance of organisations and the ongoing business practices towards real people (customers).

I think boards & executives will look for ways to gain a greater level of transparency into the true journey of their customers. You will start to see Chief Customer Officer positions being created in many firms (advocating on behalf of the customers). Financial services firms will develop more robust customer journey maps to clearly identify customer pain points, along with maximising the moments of delight – and look at how to strategically respond to these real customer experiences. This should not be hard - but many financial services firms are still not currently ‘wired’ to think about customers first.

At a branding level I think you’ll see many financial services attempt to position their brands as more authentic. Most will probably fail as this needs to be much broader than just marketing. To be successful and genuine it needs to evolve the very fabric and culture of the firm. At a brand level the proposition needs to creatively executed with emotional intelligence.

Smart financial services firm will invest heavily on quality content strategies to truly engage customers. But the content space is crowded – so you’d better make sure it is providing real value and is well packaged. The site ‘Society Of Grownups’ and ‘The Blue Room’ (from Bupa) are good examples of this direction.

"This is the age of distrust. The Royal Commission continues to expose a complete disconnect between the high level governance of organisations and the ongoing business practices towards real people (customers)."

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in the upper Hunter Valley trapping rabbits, building rafts, swimming in the river and getting bored. So I had an idyllic lifestyle as a kid - no iPhones or Fortnite to kill the creativity.

Editor's note: Fortnite is an online battle game. You probably already knew that but we had to look it up.

Do you have an industry mentor or someone who has greatly influenced your career?

My wife. She is my mentor and coach! One of the most positive and encouraging people I know. In terms of a marketing mentor – I consume a lot of education material via blogs, podcasts, emails every day. It is always fascinating to watch the changing nature of marketing as it shifts from being intrusive to providing real value.

If you could give advice to your 21 year-old self, what would it be?

‘Keep learning and travelling as much as possible’. To remain energised with your career and in life you need to be proud of what you’ve experienced (not focused on what you plan to do in the future when you retire).

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