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Mary Portas: "Inspiration comes from tangential encounters with remarkable people"

The broadcaster and founder of Portas the Retail Agency shares her business and life learnings.

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Never underestimate the power of branding. It has a massive impact on society, and where brands are powerful, they affect people’s choices and how they live their lives. They can have a huge impact; the ­positive influence they have on educating and informing can truly open eyes to opportunities. Some of the smaller start-ups, such as TOMS, or even Innocent’s rise, show that through positive messaging and brilliant branding, you can make waves across the globe.

Be mindful. We have a duty as marketers to make sure that the messages we leverage for brands are in line with our own ethical and responsible position. Once you are in the public eye you have to be aware that anything you do has a knock-on effect. This goes for brands, but also for people. It’s not about being careful, it is really thinking about what you are doing. Am I behaving well? Is this good practice for me, my family, the people who work for me and the people who ­listen to me?

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. I’ve borrowed this from Mark Twain (and I also always carry a notebook...).

Inspiration comes from tangential encounters with remarkable people. We’re designing the layout of my ­agency’s new home at the moment. We haven’t got Pixar’s budget, but we’re trying to follow its practice of "engineered serendipity" – making sure the layout forces our people to bump into each other at points around the office, rather than working in their skillset silos. Great ideas happen by chance.

Never underestimate the word "good". If you do really good work, with really good people, you will get really good results.

We need to be more curious. At the heart of life is having an inquisitive nature. I always get the ­biggest kick from the next thing I am doing, the next thing I’m learning. Whether it’s finding a solution to one of my client’s problems or immersing myself in culture, doing something new and pushing boundaries is a course to contentment.

And the future of marketing? Well, brands are here to stay. We’ll never move away from our love of brands. Maybe from the brash and the bold, but the consumer and public want stuff that they connect to. It makes them feel alive.

When people do good work you should reward them. I remember I left Harvey Nichols because they wanted to tie me in to a five-year share option. But I’d already done the work, I’d already rebranded it and I remember thinking, "share the cake now".

Just keep going. I often get asked why I’m continuing to fight for what I care about. I find myself ­saying I won’t put any more on my plate, but then I do. I can’t help it. It’s just a natural thing and I was ­either born that way or something happened to me. When the proverbial shit hits the fan, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to keep soldiering on.

Oh, and if you need help getting up in the morning, have a baby. Or an agency.

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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