“Dougal is an exemplar of marketing. An exceptional leader who has taken marketing to the high table by redefining partnership marketing.”
Commenting on his leadership, Swift says his open door policy allows him to work closely with his team while also giving them personal responsibility to do work they are proud of.
“If you can show someone a really clear development plan and give them confidence you have their career at heart, they will be very loyal to both me as their manager and the organisation.”
But it’s not just his team that is developing, as he too is advancing his practice in response to industry shifts. Over the years, the depth of customer data companies can leverage has increased while new media has changed the way brands interact with customers.
“When I started in the 90s it was about big brand ads on the TV and traditional direct mail was the big thing,” he says.
“I’ve witnessed that migrate quickly to email and more recently, we’ve seen digital marketing channels replace TV. We’ve also seen reliance on agencies reduce significantly because a lot of the technology we used to have to go to agencies for, we can now do in-house.”
Swift says that in-house capability allows everything to move faster, however, he still takes a very considered approach to everything it takes to market. He says the team is continuously testing different elements of marketing pieces and from that, it refines its understanding of what works so it can iron out anything the members don’t like.
“It’s very easy to be reactive in an environment that you can market to people quickly, but we try to take a more strategic long-term view as to what we’re going to send.”
While the AA is responding to the shifting media climate, at the same time, the relationships consumers have with brands are also changing. The rise of social media means people now place a great faith in what their friends or acquaintances say, which in turn has seen the rise of influencer marketing.
However, Swift believes consumers are becoming aware of it and they’re much more cynical than they were two years ago. With this in mind, he hopes the AA’s authenticity will prove to be its strong suit.
“It’s something AA prides itself on,” he says. “We are a motoring club owned by members where all the value we make is ultimately delivered back to our members, not shareholders.”