John Veichmanis can lay claim to a rare distinction. Not only did he start his career at almost exactly the same time as the internet reached the masses, he has also worked entirely in online roles ever since.
From his beginnings as a university ‘internet co-ordinator’ in 1996, via stints at Apple, Skype and Expedia, through to his current position as CMO of luxury marketplace Farfetch, Veichmanis has seen online innovations come and go at some of the leading digital businesses of their time.
At Apple in particular, he describes a company that was in total control of its destiny thanks to a culture that generated a huge amount of excitement among its own staff, even though they often didn’t know what the next innovation was going to be.
“A consistent theme throughout my career has been agility and the pace of change. It was there from the very beginning,” says Veichmanis. He sees marketing today as a technology-driven discipline, so the fact he learned to code in his first job has proved constantly useful in solving the marketing problems that arise with rapid technological progress.
I had nothing to do with the invention of the iPhone, but to be part of the process – I’ll always look back on that with a huge amount of fondness.
“The role of technology within the brief of the CMO is now really important because the majority of CMOs are trying to figure out how to expand globally, operating in multiple markets across multiple channels,” he adds.
The global nature of his roles has also been a long-running theme, in his career to date. Veichmanis sees the twin tasks of responding to change while serving a worldwide audience consistently as the key challenge in business today. “How do you keep that momentum without either driving too much cost into the business or getting to a place where the complexity causes the business to slow down?”
At Farfetch now he has the taxing job of building equity in a luxury brand that has existed for only 10 years, but acts as a sales channel for those that have been around for hundreds. He says: “Our luxury positioning is built on the fact we’re working with the very best brands and boutiques, and it is their capabilities to spot new designers and products and curate their range that allows us to build a genuinely unique selling point.”
Building a website from scratch
University of Central Lancashire, internet co-ordinator (1995-1997)
“The university was looking for somebody to make its first ever website because it wanted to recruit international students. Even within academia in 1995, the majority of universities didn’t have a website. I was using a dial-up modem and was the only person in the office who had access.
“I taught myself the code and it was a great place to work in terms of people to learn from. I learned Pearl and HTML. From that I evolved the site in terms of looking at other stakeholders such as internal comms.
“I was only there for 18 months before I wanted a more commercial role, but we went from having nothing to publishing all of the syllabuses and course details automatically.”
Experiencing the variety of agencies
Poulters, head of PoulterNet (1999-2004)
“Poulters was quite a well known regional agency in Leeds and I set up the online division. It was really important in building my credentials in brand marketing and communications. It was the start of understanding the intersection between the creative arts and the creative process of building marketing campaigns with technology. It was the first place…