Steven Woodgate

Windows Phone Marketing Manager at Microsoft

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director


creativebrief: How has your career path led you to marketing the Microsoft Windows Phone?

Steven Woodgate: My career started out at Iceland. Not the country unfortunately, but at the food store and it was a valuable lesson of how to work and how to lead people from an early age – straight after sixth form I took a year out as my dad was suffering from leukaemia, I worked full time and was promoted through the ranks quite quickly. Managing 30-odd people and co-ordinating all of that was a valuable lesson early on.

With my dad getting better, I headed to university to study Journalism and I fulfilled my teenage aspirations of becoming a sports journalist (covered non-league football around the Wessex region). It wasn’t until six months in I decided I needed a job with more purpose, ambition and accountability. So I buggered off travelling in 2011 and subsequently jumped to the ‘Dark Side’ on my return and achieved a distinction in my Public Relations MA in 2012, with a dissertation timely titled ‘Tweeters, Twits or Twats’; becoming a bit of a social media nerd in the meantime.

During the end of my MA course, I became Avery Dennison’s first-ever Digital Marketer in the UK and was responsible for writing SEO copy for Amazon. Although it was a good learning to kick off my digital experience, I wanted bigger. I saw someone well-known in the social media world tweet about a job offering and tweeted him back and got a job at a digital agency called 33 Digital.

The next thing I knew I was being interviewed for a job at Microsoft and got the Social Media Community Manager role looking after commercial channels. It was a fantastic position and for anyone who wants to understand customers, get into social. It’s amazing the impact you can have internally too.

After 20 months in that role, I moved on to be the Windows Phone Marketing Manager, covering ATL advertising. It is a much broader communications role, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. I have also been lucky enough to be a part of the Marketing Academy for the previous year and it has helped my maturity in my role ten-fold.


creativebrief: Why did you choose a career in marketing?

Steven Woodgate: I didn’t. It was accidentally stumbled upon, but it was the career I perhaps should have taken. I’ve always wanted to work in communications; journalism, PR, social etc – but marketing, it appears, in modern time, has brought lots of communication channels together to change the way we see business. And that’s where my passion is: communications. From marketing to customer services to PR, everything relates back to one focal point: engagement. If you understand ‘engagement’ then all communication channels can work together to drive the correct business outcome.

So it may not just be a career in ‘marketing’ anymore, but I’m definitely keen for a career in communications.


creativebrief: What do you think makes a successful career in marketing?

Steven Woodgate: Knowing digital and social straight off the bat did me wonders and add a PR creative thinking mind to the mix, it has provided me with a view quite different to many of peers – it just proves to me that you need many different minds working together to build healthy tension to come up with the best ideas to achieve the best business outcomes.

I can’t necessarily say what makes a ‘successful’ career in marketing, as I do not think I’m a success, yet. Although I must insist that hard work, being focused and being humble at every opportunity will help you make bigger strides. One of the mentors at the Marketing Academy spoke to me about ‘trajectory’, and because I entered the industry slightly later than the majority, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m behind everyone. Life experiences, ranging from my dad’s cancer to travelling down under for 4 months, have given me a bigger sense of maturity and humility, as well as seeing the positives and opportunities. You also need to create your own luck. I spent countless work experience hours (unpaid) writing, interviewing, and learning but kept my money topped up working at Iceland on weekends all through university. I was able to get my step in the door, but you do that by creating opportunities.

When I joined Microsoft, I had a very good manager who got and embraced my personality quickly. She not only helped me grow my personality to have a positive influence on others, but was able to give me a platform to perform to my optimum best and she would ‘rope me’ back in if I was getting ahead of myself. She knew the business, and she knew how to get the best out of me from the off. Having a successful career means having those people who believe in you for what you are. They see opportunity, and hopefully, potential.


creativebrief: And who is a great example of this?

Steven Woodgate: There are far too many names to name here in the communications world. However, with the countless of Marketing Academy mentors I have met, humility is one trait that sticks out.

creativebrief: What do you think are the main challenges facing marketers today?

Steven Woodgate: The biggest challenge will be the nature of transparency and the learning of how digital really works, and I mean how it really works. More people need to understand how to use data properly, how to understand how customer journey is developing and not to forget how important ‘traditional media’ is and the impact it can have. More needs to be done to challenge the communication industry all-up. It is ripe for some real big disruption.

creativebrief: How do you keep up with the constant stream of innovation in marketing comms?

Steven Woodgate: As a big Twitter nerd, I tend to follow those who are ‘in the know’ and with only being in the world of ‘real work’ (post-uni) three years, those who I have learned from the most are the people that I am consistently learning from still.

Innovation comes in many forms and working for a company like Microsoft certainly helps you to see what is possible when it comes to tech. I speak regularly with ‘Internet of Things’ and developer guys, as they are always on the button when it comes to new and exciting stuff.

In terms of developing ideas and coming up with new concepts, I would recommend reading widely. I read the Guardian (for my sins) every day on the train into London – not word for word – to get a good overall of the world we live in. You never know what you may read and where ideas come from. But forcing yourself to read things that you’re not accustomed to helping your broader thinking.

Working in a social media job previously has certainly helped as well as I still often browse Twitter every 30 minutes or so. It’s a powerful medium and it’s the research tool that you have never paid for.


creativebrief: How does this impact your relationship with agencies?

Steven Woodgate: Sometimes I feel agencies are scared of me as I can be quite hyperactive as I love feeding of ideas. When it comes to ideation and responses to brief, discussions are much better than pitches. Everyone needs to buy into the success of the campaign and I feel you really need to have a real two-way conversation. Having a real roundtable as opposed to a broadcast pitch does wonders to tackle the main questions in the brief.

By being approachable and understanding, I’ve built good relationships with all my agencies and before long they really get to know you and know what type of activities or ideas you would really appreciate. By being honest and, at times, (trying to be) funny, they really see the value of what you are looking to achieve. The worst case scenario would be if it were an ‘us and them’ conversation – they are my colleagues and building healthy tension with the business goal in mind will always results in the correct outcomes. Relationships shouldn’t be perfect but there should always be a decent level of healthy tension to get ideas sparking.

creativebrief: How do you know if you’re getting the best from your agencies?

Steven Woodgate: There’s only one real way to answer this: relationships. There is nothing stronger than having good, open relationships with your agencies. There needs to be an element of trust and respect, and despite being the guy who likes to come up with ideas and concepts, it’s vital that you don’t impose yourself on brainstorms and takeover. You need to appreciate that ideas come from anywhere and where an agency really thrives is when they are empowered to do so. Constantly challenge, but build up that healthy tension in a good way.

As I mentioned before, having a two-way communicative model in place helps everyone. It opens itself up for that healthy tension and I don’t mind if my agencies say “Shut up, Woody!” if they think my ideas are rubbish or I’m going off track (something I can do). It wouldn’t be possible if the relationship was not there in the first place. Challenge each other, and if a clash of ideas continue, get down the pub and it would soon be sorted.


creativebrief: Of your recent work, what makes you particularly proud and why?

Steven Woodgate: Phone is such a challenging market place – I mean seriously challenging. Everyone has their preferences and own habits, so the work I’m really proud of at the moment was Microsoft Lumia/Clean Bandit/Shazam collaboration surrounding the Brits. This was not an easy project – spanning six markets – and the end product was stunning. How the beginning looked and how it ended up was in stark contrast. Not in terms of how good it was, but in terms of what was achieved and how many brilliant people came together to really work on a concept that turned out to be better than ever imagined. Relationships played a key factor here and how everyone worked together, and seeing it from end-to-end was something that made me very proud and was probably one of my finer working experiences.

creativebrief: How do you think marketers can raise the profile of marketing within their organisations?

Steven Woodgate: Be confident and build relationships. Use your initiative and find – and get inspired by – good people around you. By sitting next door to a WordPress expert, I learnt bits and pieces about coding. By having a friend who works in the motorsport PR industry, I understood how that works. By having a boss who was arguably as hyper and ‘chatty’ as I am, it allowed me to not shy away. You get inspired by those around and I look forward to going into work and to see what fresh challenges Mondays bring.

And by building good relationships, it has enabled me to be more educated and more experienced, therefore it has put me in a better place to raise my profile in the industry and in a huge company like Microsoft. The Marketing Academy certainly helped as getting on it was bloody difficult and it’s became a good conversation starter as I’m quite active on social and quite active in sharing my learning to the rest of colleagues.


creativebrief: Do you see yourself as a generalist or a specialist, does it matter?

Steven Woodgate: I do not want to be a specialist. My dad, who was from a very working class background, could turn his hand to anything and I became very jealous. I wanted to emulate him, however I do not have the DIY skills to copy his success. Where I can copy it though is to adapt that philosophy to the career journey I am on. My dad demonstrated from when I was quite young that hard work will pay dividends and having that desire, that will to learn, will take you places where you wouldn’t dream of. If you asked me five years ago if I would be working at Microsoft, ran a marathon in under 4 hours, be a member of the Marketing Academy, or being interviewed with you lot, I would have laughed. Not because I lacked self-belief, but because I didn’t have the focus to know what I wanted to be. I have learnt to adapt and say “yes” to opportunities that have felt right.

Now I absolutely love the job I’m in and what I am doing. As many of the mentors of Marketing Academy said to me, culture is everything and I’m at a place where the culture suits me perfectly.


creativebrief partner the Marketing Academy is a non-profit organisation which provides a unique forum for industry leaders, marketing gurus, entrepreneurs and inspirational people volunteer their time to inspire, develop and coach the next generation of future leaders. The Marketing Academy gift a maximum of 30 ‘Scholarships’ each year to the fastest rising stars in the marketing, advertising and communications industries. A team of high profile mentors and coaches develop these stars through a process of mentoring, coaching, networking and personalised learning. 86 mentors, 30 Coaches, 20 Judges, 36 companies and an owl called Merlin all provide their time, resources and knowledge to assist in shaping the minds of our future leaders. Furthermore as a vital part of their curriculum all Scholars volunteer at least one day per year through our Donate28 initiative to work with charities who need bright young marketing minds. For a full list of the individuals involved, see the Sherilyn Shackell interview.