Luxury travel brand Mr & Mrs Smith recently appointed former Dixons Carphone marketer Julian Diment to the newly created role of chief growth officer. As the company’s chief executive tells The Drum, the move is indicative of a wider belief that ‘sales’ is no longer about “trying to flog things” while marketing can’t sit in a silo, free from commercial objectives.
The appointment follows a trend of recent years. Coco-Cola got rid of its chief marketing officer and created the same 'growth' role in March 2017 after seeing losses amount to more than $4bn in sales over a four year period. In the face of challenging conditions, it has also become a key role at the likes of Coty, Mondelez and Kellogg’s, while a report from Forrester predicted that more companies will do the same in the coming year.
But this isn’t a Hail Mary pass from Mr & Mrs Smith. In fact, the appointment comes on the back of one of its strongest ever periods of growth in its near 15-year existence.
The brand started life as a publisher of guidebooks, before morphing into the luxury holiday site it’s known as today. As such, the focus leading up to 2015 was to break even, which it managed. Since then, co-founder and chief executive Ed Orr said it has steadily increased profitability. Its revenue target for the key trading period from last December to January was growth of 30%. It beat that by some margin, up 45% year on year.
“We’re in a really good situation,” Orr said.
So why hire a chief growth officer? The answer, in short, is to maintain this unprecedented momentum.
The man leading the charge is Julian Diment. He began his advertising career at Saatchi & Saatchi before moving client side to oversee marketing at the Football Association, then Orange and Alfred Dunhill before becoming chief marketing officer at Carphone Warehouse. After its merger, he held the same role at the combined Dixons Carphone where he also set up a B2B division called Honeybee.
“[Diment] brings a wealth of experience into sales and marketing," Orr continued. "We’ve got a table of all the channels and touchpoints across CRM, digital marketing and brand marketing. We have something like 28 different ones. So, we’ve brought in someone in with the experience to manage all of that."
The newly combined role is also necessary given that Mr & Mrs Smith doesn’t approach 'sales' in the same way that another travel company might. It has one million opted-in members for its ‘travel club’; these are effectively people that might have booked a holiday through the platform.
Then there are its Silver and Gold members who pay an annual subscription fee for rewards such as a concierge to plan their holiday or benefits while they are abroad.
“A lot of people see a classic sales director as having a mindset of targets and hitting revenue objectives," Orr explained. "We believe that’s secondary. If we do a great job looking after members they will come back and [convert] friends. So, our sales team is first and foremost a 24 hours a day, 356 days a year service team – Smith24 – which not many other global travel companies have,”
“Sales isn’t about trying to flog things. It’s about trying to give them high quality advice and be there for them if there are any problems. So, the sales team is really a service team and then a marketing function more than anything else.”
Previously the structure at Mr & Mrs Smith saw a separate head of sales manage Smith24 and three different heads of marketing (CRM, digital and content/brand) all report into Orr. Diment will now sit above all three specialised marketers while overseeing Smith24.
“We can join up sales and support with CRM,” Orr said. “[Diment]’s priority is to perfect our member experience through all touch points – from app to website to offline expertise. That whole member experience is the priority. We’re in a good place but we want to be better. That’s the best marketing we can do.”
He’ll be doing this with a “healthy” 20% increase in marketing budget, though Orr is ready and willing to give him more should the investment reflect in a sales uplift.
The first quarter has already seen the launch of a marketing campaign focused on the importance of picking the right hotel. A campaign in the second quarter will see it partner with charity group Blue Marine for a push on its honeymoon packages and then in the third quarter its official 15th anniversary will see the brand look to retell the story of how it started, coinciding with the launch of another guidebook.