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I’ve always loved creativity and design for change.” Sitting down with Global Marketing Director James Marshall in one of K2 UK’s cosy booths, it is immediately clear to me that this isn’t just a pretty soundbite. Everything about James is creative – from his sketchbook and roll-up pencil case to his novelty socks and Where’s Wally? Vans. And as for design for change, James’ was the imagination and ambition behind K2’s new offices – engaging spaces which boost culture and brand engagement. 

Emerging from Buckinghamshire University with a degree in Product Design, James’ first job saw him working for Canadian furniture manufacturer Teknion. During his first review, his Manager asked him where he saw himself in five years. James’ response: “I’ll be doing your job. 

And so it did, in fact, transpire. After a successful 3 stint in said role, during which he developed an interest in the communication of design, James moved on to a fit-out business and a 3D visualisation role. As the digitalisation industry really began to take off, James decided to venture into the rich yet treacherous waters of self-employment and set up his own design agency, Dhub. Dhub specialised in various digital service offerings including communication, user experience, website build, graphic design and app development. James ran the agency for eleven years, choosing to sell it at the end of that period because he was hungry to stretch his legs and try his hand at something different. 

Porsche reception with racing cars

The world being a very small place, the agency was bought by one of its clients. Said client required marketing support: James agreed to provide this support and so slid seamlessly into his next role. This role saw him assist in setting up businesses in London and Sydney, commuting between both on a fortnightly basis. After three years, James was ready to bid adieu to his nightmarish commute; he accepted a new role as Creative Director at FSL Group (Part of Maris LLP), a large interior design and office refurbishment company. His mission was to build a creative team to support the new, high-level clients that FSL Group anticipated attracting as they turned their focus to design, communication and brand. Those clients came in the form of McClaren, Royal Caribbean, Manchester United and Porsche – to name just a few – clients who were won as a result of the workspace-oriented brand evaluation that James and his team carried out.

Royal Caribbean office with planting

Whilst he was at FSL Group, James and his team pitched to design and deliver K255: this was the point at which James met Nick. The pair hit it off from the get-go. Nick loved James’ fearless creativity and commitment to really getting under the skin of a brand. James won the K2 contract because of the thoroughness of his research into the company – for example, he proposed that all structural elements of the new office be positioned at a twelve-degree angle in order to mirror the lean of the K2 logo. As regards James’ perception of Nick and K2, he admired Nick’s grit and ambition, and was bowled over by the novelty of a business that actually put its money where its mouth is, embracing failure and supporting individuals who want to learn and grow. During the months after the opening of K255, James and Nick stayed in touch. And lucky they did, because when Nick needed a new Global Marketing Director, he knew exactly who to call. 

As part of his role, James is tasked with turning K2 into a global brand. “We are already well on our way to achieving this,” James states. “The first thing that we had to do was acknowledge that we couldn’t be UK-centric. Having done that, we are now taking what has worked so well in the UK and replicating/adapting it in other countries. We are giving each country its own voice, or rather, we are providing them with the dedicated marketing support that they need to ensure their voice is heard. 

And what of the bane of any marketeer’s existence, the pretty pictures problem? James smiles and shrugs, but there’s a glint of steel in his eyes as he answers me. “The perception that Marketing exists to make stuff look pretty is probably never going to go away. It’s the status quo. But the really clever people – and this is relevant to all industries – don’t try to change the status quo; rather they embrace it and use it to their advantage. Apple is the classic example. They saw that something can be functional and pretty at the same time, and they used this understanding to give themselves an edge over their competitors. At the end of the day, all it was was gloss. But it was that gloss, that shine, which caught the eye and enabled Apple to make a killing. 

To round off our conversation, I asked James how he would describe himself in three words. “Not myself,” he responded immediately. “I’m nothing without the team, so it makes no sense to scrabble around trying to find three words to describe just myself. Three words to describe the Marketing Team, though, that’s an easy one: Hungry for more.