Simplifiers Interview: Stephen Lambert, Head of Brand Marketing, McLaren Automotive

Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview marketing leaders and founders of brands that have performed well in the Global Brand Simplicity Index. In this Simplifiers interview, I speak with Stephen Lambert, Head of Brand Marketing at McLaren Automotive

MM: What does your brand stand for and how does it deliver on that promise every day?

SL: We put the driver at the center of the action—not just in the car, but also in the ethos of our company. McLaren is the pioneering super car company. Beyond that, we articulate ourselves as delivering the thrill of the drive in everything we do.

MM: You talked about putting the driver at the center of the action. What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise?

SL: I’m a big advocate of keeping things ridiculously simple. I believe in the beautiful basics. The way we maintain this at McLaren is by making the McLaren experience seamless for our drivers. We invest in technology designed to make things just work.

MM: What do you do to create simple experiences?

SL: We aim to be elite but not elitist. For example, at auto show stands, if a member of the public wants to come on our stand, they can come on in. If a child wants to sit in one of our cars, they’re welcome. We’re one of few brands that make super cars that let people sit in them at shows. But it’s worth it to us because it keeps our brand invitational.

MM: What challenges have you faced in creating simple customer experiences?

SL: As consumers, we’ve all become very immediate in our demands. At McLaren, we want every experience we deliver to be pristine. So balancing both responsiveness and quality is a struggle that many in our space are currently navigating.

MM: How do you strive to conquer complexity in your organization?

SL: One thing we make an effort to do is step back, look at the big picture and always consider whether the repercussions of our initiatives will move our end goal forward.

This means not focusing on short-term fixes, but getting your foundations and processes right, especially having clear roles, responsibilities and signoffs. Otherwise, you may be doing lots of short-term things that all seem very good but by the time you’re done, you’ve lost sight of the consumer.

MM: What benefits has your company experienced from simplicity?

SL: We do an exceptionally good job of selling to a community of what I’d call “petrol heads.” In fact, we’ve managed to scale the market. But when you look at our commercial ambitions, we won’t achieve them by selling to just that segment. An emphasis on simplicity has allowed us to understand the marketplace and the nuances of each customer type. It has forced us to identify which segments we’d like to focus on. With this clarity, we’ve been able to make more informed, precise and clear growth plans.

MM: Talk about yourself as a leader—how do you lead as a simplifier?

SL: I emphasize using the customer journey as a compass when making decisions. If you don’t understand the customer experience, then as a marketer you’re often creating something just academic—it may be beautiful, but is it helping the customer?

I believe in taking the “show biz” out of marketing and expending energy on ensuring the customer experience with the brand is seamless.

MM: Have you had any experience as a consumer recently that made you think, wow that was simple—they’ve got it?

SL: I recently bought a BMW for my wife, and was extremely impressed by the personalized experience. Usually when buying a car you can go onto the website and download a brochure or enter your information, but I wanted to email the dealer and ask my specific queries. The BMW experience was powerful. They didn’t force me to fit into their process. The learning here is to appreciate that people have different pathways to purchase, and brands must be accommodating.

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MM: What do CEOs need to do to operationalize simplicity?

SL: I think CEOs have incredibly hard jobs, and that the great ones are both visionaries and excellent executors. They must establish with absolute clarity and in the simplest terms possible what the company’s ambitions are for the short and long term, and what people’s roles are in achieving those goals.

MM: What are the indicators that simplicity is driving your business?

SL: Simplicity has been a means of achieving proper alignment, which has contributed massively to the success of our recently launched car.

Oftentimes, when an automotive brand launches a new car, the retailers will be the last ones to know, when the retailers are usually the customer’s first point of contact. Before our recent launch we had a conference where we brought all the retailers from around the world to have a brand training on the company’s vision and the role they individually play in advancing our business goals.

This contributed massively to our recent launch; pre-orders exceeded expectations and the press coverage has been tremendous. Our message was simple enough to break through the clutter. This isn’t rocket science marketing, it’s making sure that everybody who interfaces with the customer has the knowledge they need. The metric is overall alignment and clarity of message.

This interview with Stephen Lambert, Head of Brand Marketing at McLaren Automotive, was conducted, edited and condensed by Margaret Molloy. This is one in an ongoing Simplifiers series. Watch for others in the coming weeks.

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: mmolloy@siegelgale.com

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy and Instagram:@MargaretMMolloy

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