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In conversation with…Peter Markey

We were lucky to get hold of Pete recently. As CMO at Boots UK, he is busy but somehow found time to tell us about his favourite brands, his best advice, his first job.

Here’s his story.

What was your first-ever job?

I had my first ever job was when I was at school, working at a Swedish-themed café called “The Norseman” in Bath. It was a family owned business and I got to work with some amazing people. It was also opposite a music shop and in one of the best cities in the UK

After I finished university, I started working at a call centre for British Gas on the customer service team. I helped customers calling about their energy bills and meter readings and it was great to get first hand customer service experience. I owe British Gas and the people I met so much – so much of my career came from working with the incredible people I met there and it truly kicked started my career.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with / go for a drink with?

I find Steven Bartlett very interesting as a CEO and leader. I love his podcast and what he does – he always comes across as extremely grounded and has great insights into what succeeding in business today looks like. He also has some incredible guests on his podcast including Rory Sutherland, an industry hero of mine

Because of my love for 80s music, I would also love to meet the biggest stars from that time. The band Tears for Fears, for example, who are from West Country too. It would be great to meet them and hear about their inspiration and the background to their iconic songs including “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Shout.”

Highlight of your career (so far?)

I can think of so many.  In my time working for Boots – a brand and job I love – has given me amazing opportunities to work on wonderful campaigns. A definite highlight was last year’s Christmas campaign “Joy For All”. Not only did we get great returns on our investment (£4 for every pound spent) , we also got lots of positive consumer sentiment and positive feedback from our Boots team members. It’s magical to see work like this land so well.

Nature or nurture?

I would have to go with nurture. The people you surround yourself with can have a big influence on your life. When I look back on my life, I realise that it’s those who encouraged and invested in me who made me who I am today. I am hugely grateful to those who helped me and feel a big responsibility to now do that to others. Whatever your background, I believe you should be given a shot. It’s the level of support that can make a real difference.

Best advice you ever heard or received?

Early on in my career, I wasn’t very assertive. When I was a Marketing Analyst at British Gas, I was wearing myself out trying to please lots of people, and by not saying no. The best advice I was given was knowing when to say ‘no’. I think its key to understand that you can still say ‘no’ and win people over, and build relationships. I even went on an assertiveness course as part of this role to learn how to say no in an authentic way. This really helped me shape my own style for challenging and being assertive each day.

What talent do you yearn for?

I would love to be more musical. I love music. If I wasn’t in this job I’d probably be a radio DJ. I did it in the past when I was at University in Southampton and would love to do it again at some point. I get excited everytime I am in a radio studio,

What is your favourite brand and why?

One that I have worked on before and that I absolutely love is TSB Bank. It’s a great brand because financial services is hard to crack as a marketer – all the offerings are so similar. TSB is great because it is a bank trying to genuinely be different, thinking in terms of community, rather than in a corporate way. Its historic DNA is community focused – and I admire that immensely.

What book do you most recommend to others?

In my spare time, I do improvised comedy. One book that I read to prepare has proved very helpful both personally and professionally. It’s called ‘The art of making shit up’ by Norm Laviolette. It’s a practical book that helps you think more freely in the moment, and it helps you be creative at work. An all-round great read.

What last impressed you at work?

We recently launched something for the Nr 7 brand that helps you repaid skin damage called “Future Renew”. It really impressed me that it took 15 years to develop and that several departments at Boots were part of that journey. That sense of collaboration across two divisions of the company was fantastic to see.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn? What failure did you learn the most from?

Early on in my career at British Gas, I joined a project at the AA related to golf and golf club membership schemes. It didn’t go to plan. It was hard working on a project that failed when I was so junior. It made me thankful that I had made enough connections at British Gas for them to give me other opportunities. The most important thing someone said to me at the time was “it’s your role that has been made redundant, not you”. It helped me not take things too personally. And it taught me to prioritise networking too.

What do you want to do when you retire?

I can never see myself stopping – I want to live a very active life. My dad became a tour guide when he retired and travelled the world. That’s a constant inspiration for me. I want to keep adding to the marketing industry. I would also like to do proper acting and would love to do a play, as well as community radio. I’d essentially dedicate myself to my hobbies and the things I love doing but don’t have time to do today.

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