Tom Holmes talks to Scott Morrison, Marketing Director of Diesel, Diesel Black Gold & 55DSL and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Scott joined Diesel in March 2008 from Activision where he was Marketing Director. Before that he was Head of Marketing Levi Strauss & Co for UK and Ireland and winner of the Campaign Media award for Integrated Marketing with Levi's 'Ones to Watch' in 2005.

Prior to moving to client side, Scott was Account Director on the Nike business at Wieden + Kennedy, he started his career in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi as a grad trainee in 1995.

Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison FRSA and Marketing Director of Diesel

TH: Scott, as Marketing Director at Diesel, what are your key responsibilities and priorities?

SM: There are always 2 key responsibilities with a role at such a fantastic brand.

Firstly, there’s brand guardianship. Starting with the consumer my challenge is to deliver clear, relevant and inspirational ways of bringing them close to the brand. Diesel consumers are really passionate about the brand; harnessing this is a great way of exciting and engaging our community. With that in mind, it’s key that everything I do whether it’s hiring an agency, making media choices, or negotiating retail and wholesale strategies have to have our brand and our consumer at the heart of the decision.

My other responsibility is to my team. Without them, my role would be impossible. I look to build a creative environment that enables people to deliver great ideas. Motivating, inspiring and leading them through clear direction, coaching and action is a key priority – they are fully receptive and we are a close unit.

 Diesel logo

TH: You have over 16 years experience in Advertising and Marketing working with and at companies including Nike, Diesel, Levi’s, Activision, Toyota, Carlsberg, Saatchi & Saatchi and Wieden & Kennedy, what have been the high points?

SM: I remember my first day at Saatchi and Saatchi – stepping into my first job was exciting and terrifying in equal measure but the ethos of ‘Nothing is Impossible’ has lived with me ever since and has pushed me to continually stretch both me and my team’s horizons.

I’ve launched a sport, been Will Smith’s hand double, run a World Cup campaign, relaunched Iggy Pop’s career, presented the first ad agency TV programme, been a TA officer for the day, celebrated the anniversaries of some of the world’s greatest brands and seen members of my team achieve outstanding things.

I have worked with some of the greatest people in adland as well as some of the most inspiring and creative brand builders in the world.

I still wake up in the morning with the same passion as I had when I stepped across the threshold at Saatchis.

Wieden+Kennedy Nike Levi's ActiVision, Saatchi & Saatchi Logos

TH: Along the way, have there been particular marketers who impressed and inspired you?

SM: I get inspired most by those people who can retain the passion for what they do whilst constantly evolving their understanding of the consumer and the business.

One person who does this brilliantly is Kevin Roberts – he changed Saatchi & Saatchi from an ad agency to an ideas agency and has been instrumental in making people understand the power of great brands through his Lovemarks thinking.

This is something that Renzo Rosso, Diesel’s founder and owner, sees the value of and the way that he has continually refreshed the Diesel brand to make it relevant is inspiring.

Kevin Roberts and Renzo Rosso 

TH: How did it feel to be recognised as one of the UK’s top 50 most influential Black people?

SM: In a word – incredible. The first time was Nelson Mandela’s visit to London for the unveiling of his statue and the following year the Prime Minister addressed us all. Being on a par with many people I have admired and been inspired by over the years was an unbelievable feeling. Especially for my mum!

Mentoring and role-modelling is an important part of my life and through the recognition I have been able to meet and look to inspire more young people particularly in inner city areas.

Portraits for successful living

Portraits for successful living

TH: What work have you done recently makes you particularly proud?

SM: The work we did for Diesel School of Island life last year was such an ambitious project that I was so proud of the team and their achievements in delivering something so complex so smoothly.

The idea was an extension of our Diesel Island campaign. We wanted to invite our Diesel community to learn the skills needed to become an islander with a view to going to the island itself.

Working with some key media partners (i-D and Dazed), amazing inspirers and creatives and some fantastic members of our network and stores across the country, we were able to put on over 50 events as diverse as mask making to island dancing to how to start a creative revolution with Goldie and a talk on survival from Howard Marks.

We had an amazing response from our community who all got involved in different ways.

We achieved a 4:1 ROI and won the Marketing initiative of the year at the Drapers awards last year. A fitting end to an incredible effort from all involved.


 Diesel School of Island Life

TH: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?

SM: The recession has changed behaviour forever. We are now seeing the full extent of this change. Particularly when you look at consumer expectations – they are so much higher, more vibrant and changeable than ever before; especially in fashion and retail.

Brands that embrace this challenge will flourish – Those that don’t will fail.

The main challenge in the retail sector is recognising that a seamless multichannel experience is now the norm. If customers don’t get this then they will simply go elsewhere. The service chain is so tight now that any weak link can be catastrophic in a way that it never was before. Someone’s had bad service, product quality not up to scratch or your ad campaign doesn’t resonate – expect them to broadcast it. In that respect, building true, 360 degree plans that cover product, PR, digital, store experience, campaign etc will be truly rewarding. Managing the mix to ensure that every part of the customer journey with your brand is seamless and interconnected is a fantastic challenge to have.

Diesel logo

TH: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

SM: Attention is often talked about as the new currency – as a nation, we have so much media and so many messages that brands get told that being disruptive is the way to get people’s attention. Lots of brands interpret this as shouting louder and louder until everyone in the room is shouting so loud that no one hears anything and can’t actually be bothered to listen anymore.

There’s a human tradition of story-telling – getting together at the appropriate time to tell each other important things that go on to form great memories, ways of thinking and traditions.

What we see is that the consumer loves stories, relevance and being actively listened to. They love to be involved with something – to feel part of the story. Not in a cheesy ‘be in the ad’ kind of way but in a ‘share your experience to build the story’ kind of way. That’s what we started with Diesel School of Island Life and have continued with our latest female campaign for Fit Your Attitude.

The media landscape needs to adapt to thinking about how to develop and nurture this side of human communication rather than adding more and more noise.

Scott Morrison

TH: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

SM: I prefer to buy great ideas. I don’t like to pigeonhole where they come from.

Integrated agencies can work too hard at showing you how a rubbish idea can work equally badly through every channel. Specialist agencies can give you a very specific bad idea.

Buy great ideas and then work out with your team and those you trust how best to execute it.

TH: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?

SM: Choosing the right agency relies on a whole host of influences. The most important one for me is chemistry. If the agency understands you, your brand and the vision then that’s more important because you feel that together you can create something amazing.

TH: What challenges do you face, managing day-to-day agency relationships?

SM: When I was agency side, a client told me that the time he had to spend with us amounted to about 10% of his total working life. 10%!

As a client, I now know that the reality is more like 5% – that is the challenge.

Agencies need direction – they need continual communication, feedback, understanding of the big picture and decisions to move forward. Treating and managing agencies as an extension of the team in every sense is a challenge that, when met, delivers the best work.

 Portraits for successful living

 Portraits for successful living

TH: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?

SM: Firstly, I challenge myself and the team to see if we believe we have the right resource given the challenges we face.

Then, we speak to our existing roster to see if they share our view and agree how best to proceed.

If we need additional resource then, if appropriate, we would look at adding to the roster.

TH: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

SM: I simply love great advertising and marketing.

I still have lots of contacts from my agency days many of whom are running their own agencies or at the top of networks. This means that I can have some very frank and open (if not subjective) conversations about what is happening in the market.

I am very active with the Marketing Society and various industry bodies and share thoughts, ideas and experiences with Marketing Directors of other brands.

TH: Which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?

SM: Agencies who are adapting their model to best reflect their clients’ specific business needs are hot.

I don’t mean simply setting up a division of account handlers to run their business or opening a shop in Hong Kong – I mean truly interrogating the client’s business issues and providing outstanding solutions that completely overhaul any traditional thinking whilst delivering great tangible results.

There are several ‘hot’ agencies out there who are doing this right now and, when I sit with them or share thinking with them, it is both inspiring and exciting. Most of all, it is brave.


TH: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?

SM: No

TH: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

SM: Everyone’s heard the mythical stories of agency pitches where they have used absolute theatre to make the point and then subsequently gone on to win the business. These are, I am sure, isolated and highly romanticised events that for every 1, there were 10 that failed miserably (I know, I have been there myself)

I think it is a real challenge to get new business but I would encourage agencies to think more about what makes them different and therefore how this translates to the pitch process. The ‘traditional’ approach typically ends with the ‘ta-daaah’ moment – here’s our work. However, I have seen more than a few pitches where the assumptions and understanding of our business have been even marginally wrong and therefore there are blank faces at the end of the pitch as everyone around the table comes to the slow realisation that this isn’t going to work.

I am always looking for the way an agency will work with us to get to the solution to the challenge. With that in mind, I am more interested in the people, the chemistry and the process than the fait accompli ‘here’s the work’ approach.

Be brave – I’d love an agency to come in and demonstrate their understanding of the issues – discuss and agree with us possible approaches – ask loads of questions, really get inside our heads and then propose a team, process and outcome that works for both of us. No pretence, no showbiz, just simply the best use of resource, passion and effort that ultimately get to brilliant thinking.

Agencies should also make the Client take responsibility for the joint outcome. After all, that is what the relationship will look like further down the line. Share YOUR expectations and intent on what you expect from a client (not just financially).

 Diesel Only the Brave

TH: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?

SM: No – for all the reasons above

TH: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

SM: Don’t present what you THINK I want to see. Credentials shouldn’t simply be a set of slides or a video that you dust off, edit or add to when you have a pitch. Sometimes they are the thing that people think of last because they’re ‘in the bag’. Glossy reels and previous work that doesn’t relate to me or my brand is wallpaper.

Talk through the process and the way you have got to great ideas – A 30 minute conversation beats any 5 minute video. Come with your understanding of our business and the opportunity and work together to see if that’s a true understanding.

Bring your most engaged and passionate people who can demonstrate why they want to work on the business – not the most senior (who aren’t seen again after the pitch) but those with the most credibility.

Just like consumers, clients are always asking ‘So What?’ from an agency. The answer to this lies in whether or not what is being shared is going to make a difference to the opportunity. If not, credentials become the reason to look elsewhere.

 Scott Morrison, Diesel and Tom Holmes, creativebrief

Scott Morrison, Marketing Director of Diesel with Tom Holmes, Founder & Chairman of creativebrief

TH: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?

SM: I am always pleasantly surprised by the amount of effort and passion smaller agencies will bring to presentations – they are often closer to our brand, do the research and manage to interconnect everything in a way that is sometimes lost in bigger agencies that are less nimble. It’s doubly impressive when they can then deliver what is agreed with tightly resourced teams.

TH: Thanks Scott!

JWT showcase their Diesel work and it’s effectiveness on creativebrief


 Marketing Society and RSA logos



Futurising logo

How to…The Diesel journey from idea to ad

Words: Lauren Hamblion / Image: Ben Nankivell

Diesel’s new advertising campaign titled ‘Be Stupid’ may seem a little odd but the concept behind it is pure genius. Diesel’s UK marketing director Scott Morrison gave us a fascinating insight into the processes that helped build this global campaign and why it has been so successful because as their campaign states “… smart has the brains, but stupid has the balls.”

The ‘be stupid’ campaign reflects the mind set behind Diesel as a brand – it’s all about risk taking. When the companies owner Renzo Rosso founded the brand 32 years ago he was mocked for selling jeans that looked as if they had already been worn. Today this is the brand's signature look and is favoured by style savvy people through out the world. 8 years ago Diesel was laughed at for talking about Global Warming, an issue that would soon become a matter of global concern and discussion. They were also one of the first brands to portray black people and black culture in a positive light as well as being one of the first to have an online shopping site. Diesel can never be accused of taking the ‘safe option’. As Morrison explained it is the way they do it differently that gives them the edge, often choosing creativity above security.

Morrison went on to discuss the important rules that need to be followed when creating a successful advertising campaign. He explained that it is important to come up with a clear brief in order to get a good out put. This brief must clearly define Diesels ‘brand DNA’ and what it stands for, but most importantly, must be clearly understood and interpreted by the consumer. Everything must then be evaluated to ensure that it fits with the brands DNA, so it does not loose its identity. You must never use short term measures – a lot of which was seen in the recession by desperate companies trying to claw back consumers – you need to have a clear idea of what your brand stands for. When you are looking for that signature marketing campaign it is important to buy the IDEA not the AD. Every campaign needs a concept that can be adapted and bought to life other than in print. For example, Diesel are hosting a ‘Be Stupid Cafe’ at this futurising event that expresses the brands message through its use of bizarre decoration such as tassled umbrellas, oversized teacakes, bunting and balloons. Everything about the Diesel is a brand is executed to perfection.

But how can a marketing campaign tap into the ‘global need’. Morrison explained that Diesel believe there is such a thing as a ‘Diesel consumer’ who are all based around a certain way of life, such as being brave, being individual and being risk takers. It doesn’t matter which country you live in or how old you are to tap into this mind set. Morrison explained it as “…stand for something or stand for nothing.”

The Diesel philosophy


The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.


About the Editor

Tom Holmes

Tom Holmes Founder & Chairman of creativebrief at Diesel (London) Ltd, 55 Argyle Street, London WC1H 8EE.

As Founder & Chairman, Tom launched creativebrief in 2002 with the intention of revolutionising agency search and selection. 

For many companies, marketing success depends largely on the quality of agencies and media partners a brand engages. However, finding the right ones can prove difficult and time consuming, as the marketplace is complex and constantly changing. is now the leading provider of agency intelligence to senior marketers and makes the marketing landscape more accessible, transparent and navigable, providing brands with the critical intelligence required to make accurate and informed decisions.

Tom's role now focuses on evangelising about creativebrief and raising the profile of the business across all our core audiences of leading brands, senior agency executives and government. A major part of this sees Tom drive our Market Leader Interview initiative which puts the spotlight on what it means to be a leader in marketing today.

Prior to creativebrief, Tom spent over 20 years working with some of the world’s leading agencies and brands in UK and internationally, including Account Management roles at WCRS and Saatchi & Saatchi, Board Director of The Lowe Group and Executive Vice President of Grey Worldwide.

Tom’s Linkedin profile

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