Career Journey with Marketing Leaders – Episode 1 with Darryl Bowman

Welcome to the first edition of a brand-new mini blog series that will sit down with CMOs and Senior Marketing Leaders from the CMO & Marketing Director Forum.


Each publication will ask them five questions about their career journey to date, greatest campaign, biggest failure, challenges facing CMOs and the advantages they hope to take in 2023.


I’m pleased to start the series with Darryl Bowman, who has a wealth of Marketing experience, having worked for brands such as, Wonga, Babylon Health, Funding Circle and Cuvva.



Alex Marriner: Tell us a little about your marketing career and journey to where you are today.


Darryl Bowman: I have worked hard and taken pride in everything I have done, but I wouldn’t say I have ever had a pre-ordained route planned out. I started life in a communication consultancy which turned out to be a good decision as I learnt that telling stories in a way that gets people to like you is everything in marketing.


Since then, trying to walk in customers’ shoes and trying to show how the company I am in can meet their needs is the challenge I have enjoyed the most.


Having worked in the tech scene from a very early stage, data, analytics and performance have been my bread and butter, but I have also been lucky enough to have been exposed to many big brands. For me, there is no distinction between brand and performance.


As a CMO, we need to work out what muscle set to flex depending on the problem at hand. Moving across search, retail, fintech, B2B, B2C, and SaaS has given me an even greater perspective on universal aspects. And even if the jargon changes, so much is consistent.




AM: Tell us about a campaign that you’re proud of.


DB: Irrespective of what people think of Wonga, I am incredibly proud of how much traction the old people puppets (Wongies) had. It is so rare to have your advertising talked about, so to have occupied so many most recalled, enjoyed, talked about ad trackers for so long shows that being brave and a little bit quirky can really help with cutting through in a cluttered market.


When we first launched the ads, there were a few painful weeks where we were unsure if the approach was working, but sales kept growing and growing. There were so many storylines we could create, and they were brilliant for broadcast sponsorship (apart from maybe the Whitney Houston episode, which hopefully people realised was just a quirk of TV programming rather than purposeful).


By the time I left, Wonga had gone from nothing to having higher unprompted recall than all the major banks. It also makes me chuckle that we had different puppets in Poland, South Africa and Spain. The principle was always the same, straight-talking elderly puppets; however, their personalities were different depending on what culture they were from.




AM: What are the key challenges facing CMOs in 2023?


DB: It isn’t a new theme, but this year it seems companies are starting to realise that your marketing leader needs to be a hard-nosed commercial animal and know how to create brand love.


Many people’s careers have gone deep into either brand or performance. It is much harder to find people who truly understand both and how they interrelate.


Cookie policy changes are forcing marketers to look at better ways to measure marketing effectiveness. There are a lot of flawed or compromised solutions out there, so finding ‘the truth’ is getting harder and harder. Having said that, these challenges are forcing businesses to take a more analytical approach to find the answer, which, perversely, almost makes it easier to get to the ‘real’ truth that has been baffling marketeers forever.


Businesses that have been big spenders across broadcast and digital have grappled with this challenge for a long time, and the good news is once you embark on the right solution, typically, people discover a lot of activities they thought worked don’t and vice versa—presenting so much opportunity for growth and strategic realignment.


Everyone in the marketing team likes to mark their own homework. CMOs must find a balanced way of truly working out effectiveness across the business and joining everyone’s efforts towards a common goal.


AM: What are the most significant opportunities you hope to take advantage of this year?


DB: Cuvva is perfectly positioned to help as the cost of living encourages people to look at ways of economising their lives. People are now realising car ownership is very expensive, and sharing other people’s cars, which Cuvva facilitates, is a very sensible option.


Personally, I really enjoy advising businesses on the brand/performance conundrum, so doing this across an increasingly diverse range of industries always interests me.




AM: What has been your biggest marketing failure? And what were the key learns you gained from that experience?


DB: The only failure is a failure to try. Everything is learning, and if you are not trying things, you are not progressing.


I can’t count the number of things I have done that haven’t performed as hoped, but I have certainly learnt a lot. I expect anyone in my team to think like this too. For example, there is a price sport, and broadcast sponsorship will work, and there is a price it won’t (and most of the time, these two things are not aligned).


The premium rarely justifies the benefit of targeted broadcast; accepting wastage is often more cost-effective.


Tracking all major digital media owners is not a true representation of the impact of your spend. If you don’t appreciate this, you are flying half-blind. And businesses succeed when marketing is at the heart of how they work.