“Skip the marketing plan and implement agile marketing.”

Innovation, communication and marketing are starting to merge more and more, according to Peter Bäckström. After ten years in the startup world, he became H&M’s first innovation recruit and today works with product development at Bontouch.

Rikard Hegelund Avatar

CMO & Founder


4 min read

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Peter Bäckström’s career began at Tradedoubler in the mid-2000s and continued as marketing manager at Rebtel, which offered an early solution for calling internationally and sending money via mobile.

– I started working in the startup sector before it was even a concept. At the time, they were called young IT companies. The whole culture around digital companies came later, says Peter Bäckström.

After ten years at startups, his career journey moved to Hennes & Mauritz, which had just started investing in innovation and created its first innovation team.

– One lesson from working with innovation is that you have to communicate and anchor a lot during the journey of changing things, says Peter Bäckström. Much more than you first imagine; otherwise, you rarely succeed.

How do you do it effectively?

– You need to tell a story that puts the change in context and takes the participants on a journey with future opportunities linked to the change. So innovation work has a lot in common with what is called storytelling, which is perhaps not so strange, really.

Another challenge Peter Bäckström highlights is that subcultures in teams working with innovation and new offers can easily form.

– You often find yourself moving away from something, and this can happen within your own company, says Peter Bäckström. It is easy to become a bunch of cool people who do not want to identify with the rest of the business. This is unfortunate because that is precisely who you are there for to start with.

What are your three tips for a new CMO?

– To be successful in a rapidly changing world, it is increasingly about hypotheses and minimum viable tests. Marketing is becoming more like innovation and development processes which need to be more exploratory and done in smaller steps. When something works, you can scale it up. However, spend the absolute minimum amount of money and time validating your hypotheses. 

Peter Bäckström believes this also affects the planning horizon you should have within the marketing team.

– Skip the annual plan and work quarterly instead. Remind yourself that big budgets are not an end in themselves and that the job is to get the most out of the money at all times.

Today, Peter Bäckström works at the product development company Bontouch, which builds apps and digital services for large Swedish and international customers.

– We offer a “Startup-as-a-Service” model and work with leading companies in several industries that need to develop new offers and services efficiently. It is a super exciting task to implement startup methodology in larger organizations.

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How do you think marketing departments of the future will be organized? 

– What is being talked about a lot in the digital world today is “product-led growth”, of which Slack and Zoom are good examples. I generally believe that marketing and product development must get closer to each other and actively cooperate. Just think of the effect Tesla’s unique “ludicrous mode” has had on its marketing communications. A good app can fulfill exactly the same function for another company.

In-house vs external partners?

– Not everyone can be Oatly and offer super creative challenges for large in-house teams. You need to identify which areas you can build an attractive environment for employees that will attract talent. In addition, you need to critically assess whether you can offer breadth and career opportunities in all areas. Any strategic competencies you have a continuous requirement for need to be in-house, but in most cases, the solution will be that it is better to use partners.

Writer: Teuta Alija, CMO at Klingit

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