Mike Barry | The Innovator 25


The Innovator 25: Mike Barry

Director of sustainable business (Plan A), Marks and Spencer


Corporate Purpose

"Every product, every employee, every message, every customer interaction is telling the story of your business, what it stands for, what it does, how it does it."
Barry’s long-term vision has turned Marks & Spencer into the global benchmark for corporate sustainability, demonstrating how a major company can effectively marry purpose and profits. The Plan A initiative has transformed M&S but Barry is now focused on taking his message to the industry at large. “You must change the system you operate in,” he notes. “We have to reach out and change our sector and contribute to the changes in society and economy.”

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Seeing every part of the business as marketing. Every product, every employee, every message, every customer interaction is telling the story of your business, what it stands for, what it does, how it does it.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
More innovative than other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Social media & online marketing.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

How do you define innovation?
The ability to re-define what you and others do with pace and authority. Supported by an organizational culture that is instinctively restless and creative, always looking for a new way to satisfy customer need and aspiration. And delivered in a way that creates shared value for all - for customers, employees, shareholders, communities and planet.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
NASA's Global Selfie for Earth Day made everyone feel part of a bigger whole and yet still distinct individuals.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Being part of the team that developed Plan A (because there is no Plan B for the one planet we have) a systemic 100 point sustainability plan that seeks to balance the needs of our business (customers/employees/shareholders) with those of planet and people. Three months working flat out through 17 iterations of the plan with the single minded determination to re-define retail.

Who is your mentor and why?
I don't have a single mentor but there are loads of people who've taught me a lot about myself and about to strive to reach your potential. Parents, a first teacher, Tom and Nick at my first job (WRc) then Stuart, Marc, Flic, Paul and Krishan at M&S right through to Susan and three wonderful children at home.  All make direct observations about doing things better but all act as a mirror too where things don't need to be said but you know you need to change

How do you get inspired?
Through a simple career goal — to change a 1000 companies for the better and a job (delivering Plan A at M&S) that has the potential to inspire this levelo of change. Through a simple life goal — to be the best father I can and see three children be happy and prosper.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Be customer centric - there are lots of new technologies floating around but what do they do for the customer that's better than today's approach  Work on the edge of traditional economic silos - can a food retailer and a pharmaceutical company create a wellbeing business together?  Have a vision but also a practical plan to get there  Be persistent but in a way that includes and doesn't exclude those around you.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
Tough question - may be innovation will be 'placeless' in the future, floating in the cloud! But for now lets agree human proximity sparks the best ideas. It's difficult to argue with the creative power of Silicon Valley and the sheer number of successful innovations and companies. But I'm interested in how innovation will serve the needs of all - business, planet and people. Vancouver, Munich, Copenhagen all score well but I'm going to vote for old London town with its vibrant mix of business and NGO innovation.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
In the coutryside, dusk - There is no better time to run as day transitions, the air freshens, colours change    In the city, dawn - watching it wake up and have a good stretch before the hordes hit and the thermometer starts to climb!