Julian now heads up the Les Mills’ Global Marketing B2C team. Annie caught up with him to see how his latest move is going and to find out a bit more about the man himself.
We’ve known you for a long time. You were an integral part of Richards.Partners’ as a partner. How hard was it to make the move from the close knit team back to a global brand like Les Mills International?
It was a big decision, Richards Partners was a really successful strategic agency and we had set up Chrysalis as a Design Thinking offering that enabled me to learn a whole different set of skills working with businesses across innovation projects. Les Mills International has a vision that just resonated with me though and it felt like the right timing to move into a new challenge.
You were six years at Orca as their Marketing Director prior to Richards.Partners, how does working on a brand like Orca compare to Les Mills International?
There are a lot of parallels – a kiwi business exporting its IP to the world. Les Mills International feels like re-joining Orca 10 years later. It has similar entrepreneurial traits and has a fantastic can-do culture. At Les Mills International we’re in 100+ countries and have 17,500 clubs globally who use our programs to help their members get fit and feel great.
That’s actually some pretty fine pedigree. Orca, Richards.Partners, Les Mills International. They’re all New Zealand businesses that have been leaders in their game. That must make it pretty easy to get out of bed on a week day morning, knowing you’re involved in leading the development of great companies!
I’ve always tried to find companies I love working for and that are making a difference. At Orca we were all 20 somethings learning as we were going and we had a culture where we were making mistakes but learning quickly and growing fast. Richards Partners was a season of learning best practise and immersing myself with highly talented, smart people and learning from agencies like IDEO, SY Partners and Frost. And I feel I can now apply both of those experiences to Les Mills International.
Looking back at your time with Brian and the team at Richards.Partners, is there a project that stood out for you, one that that personified what Richards.Partners did for clients?
We had many high points, growing brands like Earthwise, Haworth and Steinlager Pure; developing fresh thinking for ACC and Waikato University. I think the stand out project was working with Antarctica New Zealand to develop the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute. Our project raised awareness on the potential to unlock many of the planets environmental secrets by researching Antarctica collectively as a scientific community. We developed an award winning identity and design system and were able to bring about real change for the client to raise money for the project.
Describe the functions of your job, your new role in one sentence!
Uncovering consumer and market insights to develop new Les Mills creative communications that grow global markets.
Coming from a business that drove innovation to another hugely innovative company, are there new things you are working on for Les Mills that we can expect to see in the near future?
We have an extremely high vitality index at Les Mills International releasing new versions of our product brands every quarter. We’re pioneers in immersive fitness and have a world beating product The Trip which you have to ride to feel the experience – it’s like cycling in a virtual world. So it’s about constant innovation and I’m really enjoying the freedom to create in the environment.
What are your drivers and motivators?
Collaboration, creativity. I’ve always wanted to be part of New Zealand businesses growing in International markets. We have resourceful, creative people in New Zealand so I’ve always enjoyed being part of a team that is truly world class.
What advice have you for the next generation of strategic leaders in the NZ market?
Stay curious. Have an open mind and constantly look for inspiration. Listen to all genres of music, go to art galleries, turn up at sports and cultural events, travel, get outdoors and draw your ideas.
In your opinion, what are the important issues facing strategists and marketers today?
It’s more important than ever for strategists to be close to the market and test out and evolve ideas. Strategy and marketing execution are far more closely aligned now and play off each other.
Who are you when you’re not Julian Smith, Global Marketing Director B2C of Les Mills!?
A Dad to four beautiful children – Aurelia, Leonardo, Milan and Rafael.
Rumour has it, back in the day, you were a DJ Fact or fallacy? If fact, where would we have expected to have seen you in action?
Classic – yes I still have Technics 1210 Mark 2’s and a Vestax mixer (good gear). Over the 10 years I DJ’d, I played a bit in town but mostly I was` a resident in my room, I think my mother was almost brought to tears once when I was learning to beat juggle Method Man’s M.E.T.H.O.D Man.
So then, which Les Mills classes are you regularly signed up to? And do you stand in the front, middle or back?!
I’ve really been enjoying GRIT recently, it’s a great class for someone with a sporting background. So I’m mostly front row in GRIT classes. BodyPump is the world’s biggest weight based workout for a reason, so I make sure to add that to my program at least once a week and I’m not getting any younger so I’ve found BodyBalance has been awesome to improve my flexibility and mobility.