View from the Top: Richard Robinson, Oystercatchers

Richard Robinson is a Managing Partner of new MCA member Oystercatchers. Before working in Consultancy, Richard held leading Marketing roles with both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. He is resident Brand Expert for Channel 5 News.

What motivated you to join the MCA?

The MCA membership badge quite simply gives our clients further confidence in our ability to help them to grow their businesses. As a consultancy, it’s essential that clients can look to an industry figurehead recognised for integrity and innovation, consider the credential and trust it. The rigour of the MCA application process along with the calibre of MCA members made our decision a no brainer.  

You attended the MCA’s Annual Debate on ‘Our Digital Future’.  How do you feel digital is impacting business?

Digital is becoming, in fact, has become second nature and completely implicit in our lives. My two young daughters, for example, love Lego. For anyone over a certain age, and that includes me, their relationship with Lego will be anchored in plastic building blocks. My daughters, however, seamlessly migrate from building with Lego to playing Lego games on Nintendo DS or iPad.  They have no concept that there is a difference; in their minds they are playing one single Lego game. Meanwhile, my 80 year old mother happily shops on -line and chats with family and friends on Skype. With this new cross-generational digital mindset, it’s clear that business needs to change. And that is happening. We are seeing marketing models change and Chief Marketing Officers taking on the role of Chief Innovation Officer as business connects with the omni-channel customer  who now researches, learns and purchases on-line and off.

How do your clients view the role of marketing communications in their Board strategies?

Absolutely essential – marketing drives sales. Importantly, the Board views the Chief Marketing Officer as the voice of the customer in the Boardroom. In today’s transparent, knowledge-sharing world,  the customer is king and at the centre of every business. The CMO enables the Board to understand and appreciate how the company is adding value to their customers’ lives because, ultimately, the customer will decide whether business succeeds or fails in the future.

You are often invited to do media commentary as a ‘brand expert’. What advice would give management consultants looking to further their personal brand?

When I worked for Coca –Cola the company used an interesting phrase: 'The only brand you will ever manage is yourself'. This has always stayed with me as a philosophy because personal reputation helps build partnerships of trust. What’s more, as our digital age open sources every aspect of our lives, reputation awareness is more important than ever before.

If you are ambitious and seeking to reach the top, rightly or wrongly, you have to consider your media profile. Leadership today is public and everything we say and do is catalogued online. My advice would be to consider the opportunities, do your research, rehearse and learn how to talk to the media and their audiences. Be prepared to use your knowledge across live, topical issues. Channel 5 has asked me to comment on the impact of retirement on brand Beckham; the business future of One Direction’s global fragrance launch and the reasons behind Maria Sharapova’s decision to unveil a high sugar range of sweets. Personally, I’ve always kept firm that my views are those of a branding professional – I’m not there to comment on showbiz.

Do you feel consultants should be using social media for their own personal branding?

My take is that it’s a personal decision.  If you choose to adopt Twitter, accept the fact that anything you post will be viewed by potential and current clients. Before writing a tweet, I ask myself: ‘If I were sitting down for dinner with people I didn’t know would I be willing to share this?’  Social media is a clever channel – it gives a flavour of who you are – and at the end of the day people want to work with people they like and trust. When you’re building business partnerships, I think this is important.

You had first-hand experience of crisis management in your role as Head of Adult & Family Marketing at McDonald’s during the release of the film ‘Super Size Me’. What did you learn from this experience? 

It was the most stressful period of my career but I now look back and realise how lucky I was to be working with such a great team of people. Together we were clear and focused on how marketing could positively support this iconic business. 60,000 employees and 1,250 restaurants in the UK were relying on marketing to lead them out of the situation.

What did we learn? The importance of staying true to the values of a successful business.  We realised that we that we had lost sight of the fundamentals of McDonald’s. Ultimately the business is all  about the food –  what the customer wanted most from McDonald’s was a company that confidently sold high quality, great tasting food with total transparency about  where it came from and what it consisted of. We returned to the fundamentals that had made McDonald’s great and enabled customers to rebuild their trust with the brand.

It made me realise too that message management is 24/7. If a journalist wants to write about your brand and business, better to be on the end of the phone than not.  If you have a planned approach and speak authentically as one voice, your messages are mostly likely to be trusted.

What upcoming projects is Oystercatchers focusing on in the next year?

We’ll be building on this year’s success which has seen us expand into Asia Pacific. We will be accelerating the development of our Marketing Excellence Training Academy which we’re delighted to see deliver strong results for Sainsbury’s and SSE, amongst others.  At present, we are working with some of the UK’s largest retailers, banks and car manufacturers to support their critical strategic need to identify the right marketing model and future proof their business for the next ten years. As the world continues to change, we see the demand for this kind of strategic consultancy growing strongly for 2015.


Oystercatchers is one of the leading management consultancies specialising in marketing. Founded in 2008, and now based in London and Hong Kong, Oystercatchers helps clients to accelerate marketing performance with a range of consultancy services. Its consultants are industry experts who offer valuable insights to clients.