With BrewDog’s Sarah Warman
Sarah Warman is the VP of brand strategy for BrewDog, Scotland’s largest independent brewery. Since launching in 2007, BrewDog has disrupted the beer industry. As the number one craft brewery in the UK, sales grew by 78% in 2017 with their daring and ambitious marketing campaigns having rocked the market.
Having started her career in PR, Sarah talks through her transition into marketing and working for a solo brand.
How do you feel to be named in Campaign Magazines’ power 100 marketers’?
I never planned to study marketing when I was at school; it’s not something that kids are told about so much. When I was at college, it was actually my pottery teacher who said I was better at talking about things than drawing. From that, I ended up studying marketing at university which has got me to where I am today. It’s been a fun journey and something that I never expected to be part of.
How long have you worked in the industry?
So I started out working in fashion events straight out of university while also doing some bar work at the same time. I then got a job in a PR agency; I worked there for a couple of years, with BrewDog being one of my accounts, before I moved in-house with BrewDog in 2013. I’ve had around eight years experience in marketing since graduating.
What made you move away into marketing and strategy?
I really enjoyed my time in PR, I loved the environment and the people, and I love the way that PR is all about storytelling for brands. It’s a really important part of marketing, and it’s definitely something that I’m close to now. However, I found that working across a number of brand accounts, I had to know a lot which meant that I ended up knowing very little about a lot. I wanted to be able to specialise. Since joining BrewDog I’ve been able to broaden my horizons in terms of learning more about different marketing channels and getting involved in various bits and pieces from above-the- line, advertising through to social media, PR, merchandising and everything else.
How important do you think internships are?
I found internships to be valuable, but I was also exceptionally lucky because I was able to stay with family and friends during those times as they only paid travel. I think the marketing industry needs to make internships more accessible for people that don’t have that privilege. As someone that is now recruiting, I do look for people that have experience, but it’s tough to expect someone to have experience if they can't necessarily support themselves through that time. Paying for interns is something that we do at BrewDog. I absolutely think the industry needs to do a lot more to make sure interns are adequately compensated.
Do you think there is something to be said for sticking and evolving within a company?
It’s helped me working at BrewDog for such a long time to be able to learn and grow with the business. Taking the opportunity to learn, I’ve been able to trial different marketing tactics alongside helping to develop the brand from something that was relatively small in 2013 to a decent size now in 2018. I think there is definitely something to be said for hopping around a little bit and gaining that experience, but I’ve been fortunate to work at a company that has been growing very fast over that period, so there’s been a huge step-change in terms of what we do and how we do it. For me, it’s been really valuable because of the nature of the company I work for.
What would you say are the top three characteristics that make a good marketer?
Firstly tenacity, you have to want to go out and get something and be able to fight for it as well. The second one is courage, having the ability to stand up for what you believe in and the other one is creativity. Whatever element of marketing you work in you still have to be creative. You can’t just claim to be a data nerd because you probably are very creative, you’re creative with numbers. Identifying your creativity is a really important part of it.
How important is it to grow as a business without losing a brand’s voice? How has your marketing brand grown alongside the businesses?
The tone is massively important to any brand because if you don’t know what your attitudes are to things and you don’t know what your political stance is, then you can’t expect a community to buy into that either. Making sure you have a tone and an aesthetic that people can understand is very important for any brand.
What would you say are the most important aspects of a marketers CV?
When I’m looking at CVs, I’m always looking for personality. I struggle with CVs that fail to sell the candidate because all they do is explain in black and white the experience they’ve had which, a lot of the time, is very comparable to anyone else on the list. Making sure that you shine through as a person is so important. I’m more likely to prioritise those candidates with less experience because it feels like they care and they’ve got the opportunity to shine and thrive. I also think that if you can’t sell yourself to me, then you sure as hell can’t sell a brand.