Life after brand management: Leanne Sheraton
In this fortnightly feature, Liz Foster asks the question, with the number of corporate marketing roles shrinking as you climb the ladder, where do all the brand managers go?
Leanne Sheraton – founder and director of a-Ha! Marketing
When & where were did you work in marketing?
I started on a graduate program in marketing with Nestle in 1993 and was with the company for 9 years. I then left to join the dot com revolution with Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand in 2000 where I became marketing and sales director before moving to Qantas Holidays.
Highest marketing level reached?
General manager of marketing and business development for Qantas Holidays.
What do you do now?
I started my own strategic marketing agency called a-Ha! Marketing in 2007.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
A bit of a combination. There have been some times where I have been very lucky or simply in the right place at the right time; however, overall I would say I have played a very proactive role in career decisions involving changing industries and pursuing jobs whilst really enjoying what I do. The decision to start my own business was a function of having the confidence of being able to draw from diverse experiences and a track record across different industries and roles. Also, knowing that I can really make a difference to the businesses that I work with!
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
The ability to see the big picture – marketing works with every touch point inside an organisation and should represent (passionately) the perspective, wants and needs of the consumers and customers of the business. This, over time, has given me the ability to go into other organisations and help them see the bigger picture to reach their potential.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
I would not change a thing. I love where I am today, and I am also very grateful for the amazing experiences I have had along the way. I have had a great deal of fun in my career,and while not all of the experiences have been positive, they have all been incredible learning opportunities to help me be a better person, marketer and business manager.
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
The things I loved were working on brands that were household names, working with great team members (marketing attracts fun and dynamic people), working across different parts of the organisation and developing long term strategies and plans for the business. The down side of brand management was that your brand/portfolio was just one part of a bigger organisation and that often blanket decisions across the business impacted on your individual plans and strategy. This is just a part of being part of a bigger team and picture.
The thing I always found most challenging in marketing, was that the more senior roles I took on, the less actual time I was spending on marketing as more and more time was consumed by internal meetings, budget revisions, business cases, process improvements and human resources issues. This is something that I think all marketing directors struggle with and it is really important they are freed up to drive consumer led thinking in the business.
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
Firstly, try and get some blue chip brand/company experience (even if you have to accept a more junior role) as the processes, structure, disciplines and learnings these businesses have will stay with you for the rest of your career. Secondly, find business mentors that you respect and ask them for honest, constructive and actionable feedback so you can continue to develop and grow. And finally, but most importantly, never let yourself become so immersed in internal issues at the expense of focusing on the consumer/customer. The consumer and customer is marketing’s reason for being, and it is your job to passionately represent this group in all of your dealings and decisions.
Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?
Starting a-Ha! Marketing is the best decision I ever made. I get to run my own business while working with some of Australia’s best brands and marketers – life is very good!