An interview with Mark Beasley: Chairman of the MMA

10 October 2017

Mark Beasley first entered the world of marketing as a client-side graduate trainee, working in food, fashion and retail, before moving to the agency world, gaining an MBA en route. The marketing agency that he co-founded was acquired by WPP and after a few years working for them, he ‘went plural’, working as a management consultant and business school lecturer.   

In 2013, he co-founded the MMA, a UK-based organisation that aims to address the age myopia of the marketing world. The MMA runs the Mature Marketing Summit, Europe’s leading event for all interested in the subject of marketing and older consumers, now in its fourth year.

Ahead of this year’s Summit we took the opportunity to put Mark under the spotlight and ask him ten questions - designed to reveal his professional acumen and personal likes.

Q. You have over thirty years’ experience in marketing. What’s your favourite part of working in this industry and what first attracted you to it?

A. I enjoy meeting and working with the wide variety of people that I come into contact with, as clients, colleagues and service suppliers. Many have become good friends over the years. My favourite part is finding effective, elegant and creative solutions to business problems. I was first attracted to marketing because it seemed infinitely preferable to the tedium of being a sales rep, which is what my graduate trainee job became.

Q. What inspired you to create the Mature Marketing Association?

A.  Two things. First, the fact that business, marketing and agencies have continued to struggle with how best to address our ageing population, if at all. Yet it’s important for all involved - business and consumer - that this market failure is addressed. Secondly, there is a disparate group of people interested in the subject - academics, agencies, businesses, consultants, and so on - who rarely talk and who would be more effective if they collaborated.

Q. What is the biggest challenge that you have faced during your professional career and how did you overcome it?

A. The changing nature of business – especially, globalisation and technology - meant that there was a danger of becoming irrelevant. To address this, I started reading a lot of business books and decided to take a year out to do an MBA.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start a career in marketing?

A.  Three things. First, get a marketing-related qualification of some sort. Second, talk with as many people working in marketing as you can. And third, do some sort of marketing work that you can talk about to prospective employers - there are plenty of charities and small businesses that might welcome your ‘pro bono’ help!

Q. What are the most significant changes that you have seen in the marketing industry over the past five years?

A. The three most significant changes have been technology, technology and technology. It is now all pervasive and completely intertwined with marketing. The risk for me is that strategic thinking and creativity are also taken over by technology, without anyone noticing. Or perhaps they already have been. 

Q.  What do you believe is the key to effectively reaching the mature market?

A.  There can be no generalisations or silver bullets, given the size, complexity and diversity of any large group of people.  The most effective route is often to think beyond age and generation as a means of profiling and segmentation. Consumers buy things for all sorts of reasons - like needs and perceived benefits - and rarely because of their age.  The secret is often to remove age-related barriers (physical and psychological) right across the business -including the incorrect assumptions and thinking of many people in that business.

Q. Why do you think that the mature market is often undervalued and neglected within the marketing industry?

A.  There are three main reasons.  First, marketing is rooted in the past, when the population profile was younger and housewives with children were the dominant audience. The population has aged but marketing is still playing catch-up. Second, the culture of business generally and marketing and agencies in particular is one of youth and cool. Creativity and energy are important values that are (wrongly in my opinion) associated with young people. And third, for whatever reason, most people working in marketing are relatively young compared with the total working population and have a rather naive and blinkered view of age, ageing and older people. Very few people over 50 work in marketing, which tells its own story.

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom?

A.  In my first job, the marketing director told me to stop trying to be liked and start trying to be respected.  Since then, my constant worry has been that I am somewhere between the two! 

Q. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three items would you bring and why?

A.  A guitar, a pen and some paper.  I will have the time and solitude to write the novel and the album that the world has been waiting for.

Q, If a movie was made about your life, who would you like to play you and why?

A. A younger version of Clint Eastwood. He says little, is respected by men and women, and is never slow to hit the bad guys.