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Think like a CSO (with Dom Boyd)

Dom Boyd

Mintel’s ‘Think like a CSO’ offers something all-too-rare in today’s #instaculture: an opportunity for the speaker to distill battle-hardened lessons that have stood the test of time from what they’ve learnt from personal experience and watching the very best operators in the business.

Plus it offers an opportunity for the audience to glimpse behind the curtain and see how the minds of top strategists work in practice, warts-and-all.

What’s so wonderful about the forum this provides is that it’s not just useful, but deeply personal. Just like life, the most powerful lessons are the bits that don’t go so well - the near-misses, occasional blunders and outright disasters.

In that spirit, I split the session into 3 chunks: my personal philosophy; practical tools & tips; and a personal #fail of a real pitch we’d lost and reasons why.

While slidedeck gives a ‘Top 10’ lessons (especially useful for practical tools and tips), there were really three central themes that emerged.


Great CSO’s understand clients don’t usually just want ads or an app, they’re seeking transformation in the shape of a piece of thinking which unlocks a problem in a fresh way.

For me this means thinking like a brand entrepreneur, having real clarity on defining the big problem and what it takes to really solve it. A problem that unlocks new commercial opportunity and provides a road map to mobilise an organisation.


‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’ goes the maxim. And this has never been more relevant than in today’s fast-changing environment where consumer behaviours and adoption of new platforms evolve profoundly every day. This has huge implications.

First, those who adapt, fastest win. So strategists need to be agile doers, not just smart thinkers.

Second so it’s vital to quickly find – and test – hypotheses. So don’t try to be right – follow your intuition and explore & test at pace, and refine your argument as new data come to light.

Third, in the ‘always on’ engagement economy brands are competing for relevance with popular culture. A simple way of stacking the odds in your favour is to start by getting truly fresh stimulus. Don’t just do traditional research but speak to extreme audiences, ask the ‘wrong’ questions, in unusual settings or situations such as conflict groups. That way you’ll find insights with real emotional heat.


In a ever-more-complex marketing world, keeping things simple has never been more valued. So don’t be clever, be compelling. This comes in the form of three different skills:

  • Distilling your argument into its purest essence (‘the elevator pitch’). This gives your argument focus.

  • Presenting it with unbreakable logic. This gives your argument credibility

  • And then making the important bits really memorable (not powerpoint!). This gives your argument emotional velocity that crescendos at the bit that matters: the work.

So, there you go. Hopefully some good food for thought if your couldn’t make it.

Of course, nothing beats being there in person, and judging by the feedback so far the series is acquiring something of a ‘must-go’ status so do go if you get the chance.

See you there


APG Think like a CSO in association with Mintel

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