Marketing Excellence

By The Drum, Administrator

April 7, 2005 | 20 min read

David White, Edrington Group

David White

When David White was appointed global brand controller of The Famous Grouse last June, he was no stranger to the international drinks market. In fact at parent company The Edrington Group, alone, White had already proved his worth, with the successful relaunch of the company’s Highland Park brand already under his belt.

A graduate of the University of Manchester, White had long been tempted by the business world. After a spell in Ireland, White joined global drinks company Brown Forman, working on international brand names Southern Comfort and Jack Daniel’s. In the following five years White held several positions with the company, always working on the Jack Daniel’s brand, and relocating for a time to the US before returning to London, where he commanded a £40m budget to market Jack Daniel’s internationally.

“It was a pretty good job,” White states. “But I was travelling three weeks out of four and doing the London commute, and I felt it was time for a lifestyle change.”

In September 2003 White made the move North to become global marketing controller of Highland Park, the Edrington-owned whisky brand. Traditionally overshadowed by fellow Edrington brand The Macallan, White’s job was to reinvigorate the Highland Park brand.

“In 2004 the biggest achievement for me was the rebranding of Highland Park,” he states. “People commented that, for the first time ever, Highland Park was given the same share of voice as the other two brands. We really cut through with the brand. The brand’s positioning is all about battling the elements. We’d gone up to Orkney with our agency team and realised that it’s not about nice sunsets and relaxing in a big armchair by an open fire up there; you go there, and you can hardly stand up because of the weather. We took that premise and we brought it to life as well. We very much wanted to push the idea that Highland Park is worth working at.

Following his success on Highland Park, White was promoted to global brand controller for The Famous Grouse last June.

“I’ve learnt an awful lot in my various roles, going right back to Smurfit, where I got a rounded education as a whole,” said White. “I got a lot of international experience, and I learnt a lot about consistency and authenticity from Jack Daniel’s, which is one of the biggest brands in the world. It’s not about coming on to a brand and changing everything, moulding the brand around your personality. It’s very much about The Famous Grouse as a brand, not David White as a person.”

Now responsible for all aspects of marketing for The Famous Grouse across the world, White has his work cut out for him. Though the drink is the most popular whisky in Scotland, its appeal reaches far further than the Scottish border, and in different countries appeals to different markets. White explained: “One of the biggest challenges as a global marketer is that target customers vary from market to market. In the UK the core target market is the 30- to 40-year-old, brown-spirit drinker, who does tend to be male. In Portugal we’re very successful, and relatively successful in Spain as well. In Spain the drinkers tend to be late 20s. It’s seen as a very trendy drink over there.

“In the US our average consumer is 55 and enjoys a nip of whisky at home, at night. We are trying to take the brand a little younger there, 40+ would be ideal. What we’re not doing in the UK is positioning the drink at the 18 to 35 age group. That’s not saying that it won’t be moving there in ten years time, but it’s never a good idea to just scrap an established market and start from scratch.”

In the UK the brand has put into practice a programme called ‘Passport to Success’, which involves inviting key individuals from the UK and overseas to the company’s The Famous Grouse Experience visitor centre in Crieff, Perthshire. Once there the visitors are given a guided tour of the visitor centre and surrounding area, including the Glenturret Distillery, as well as being shown different ways to mix and drink The Famous Grouse. On the consumer front, the brand has also sponsored the Scottish national rugby team, putting it squarely in front of its core target market.

The immediate future, however, will see a raft of marketing activity from The Famous Grouse. Over the next three months the company, through London-based Abbott Mead Vickers and Glasgow-based BD Network, is to be rolling out an extensive consumer-focussed marketing campaign.

Philip Hogg

Buying a new home is a journey. In fact, studies have shown that it is one of the most stressful journeys a person will undertake during their lifetime. It is also a journey that, Miller Homes marketing director, Philip Hogg now understands implicitly after spending the last five years researching and analysing how new house buyers make it through the journey, from reserving their new house to battling to get their sofa through their new front door.

When Hogg joined the UK’s tenth biggest housebuilder as marketing director in 1999 the company had no central marketing function as such. It had management teams in each of its eight regions that pretty much did their own thing in terms of marketing their products. Inevitably, this usually meant printing a glossy brochure for a new development, slapping a Miller Homes logo on it somewhere, and hoping a few press ads would pull in the crowds.

With no direct experience of the housebuilder sector, Hogg initially struggled to get his head around his first challenge, how to go about branding new homes. Having worked with more easily branded products during his marketing career, which had seen him marketing products for companies such as Redland Roof Tiles, Pilkington, Homelux and Harrison Drape, he soon discovered that the housebuilder market was a whole different kettle of fish.

Hogg said: “The problem in this industry is that a house is the biggest purchase a person will make in their life and the housebuilder brand rarely has an impact on the buying decision. People buy a house because of its location, price, size and style. I had to get my head around the fact that houses are unlike any other product category.

“I had to accept the things that I could have no effect on, such as a houses location, price, size and so on, and focus on the things that I could have some effect on. Our homes are individually designed and styled for a particular area, so our proposition could not be that every Miller home would have a particular thing in it. I could not say that every Miller home will be in the best location because for some people they may not be. I could not say we have the best specifications as someone somewhere may have better. All the strategic marketing routes I looked at could not be legitimately claimed for Miller, which frustrated our agencies as they wanted a proposition on which to build a campaign.”

After much soul searching, Hogg had his eureka moment when after research he discovered the one area in which he could make Miller Homes the market leader, customer care.

“This industry has a bad reputation for customer care, so I did some research and found that the buying process is really a rollercoaster ride for people with lots of ups and downs, highs and lows. I wanted to understand that journey so that we could improve it for people. We recruited 35 customers and each of them kept a comprehensive diary of the buying process. They were contacted each week by a researcher to find out what had happened as part of the buying process during that week, and how they felt about it.”

After analysing the results, Hogg developed a map of the house-buying process and all of the high and low points, going from the high of reserving a property to the low point of organising lawyers and surveys and so on. We found from this that people love their new homes once they get them, but the journey towards that final goal was not great. We now understood that process so we have changed it.”

Essentially, what Hogg and his team of three marketers in Edinburgh have done by dramatically improving communications with customers during the average 152-day buying process is that they have recruited a new team of hundreds of brand ambassadors for Miller Homes – its customers.

By understanding when customers may feel low during the process Hogg can now hit them with a targeted mailing to keep them passionately involved and excited about the build process all the way through. This even takes the form of e-mails and mobile phone text messages that tell those customers who have signed up to, which enables customers to track the progress of their new home and is a first among builders internationally, when an important part of the build process has been completed.

“Imagine if you are at work and you get a text message to say the roof of your new house has just been put on. The first thing a person does is tell the people around them. It creates excitement and gets people talking about Miller Homes, so hopefully if someone is thinking about a new home Miller will be front of mind.”

Other mailings include a chill-out CD, which is received by customers once the odious legal papers are all signed and out of the way, and at the very beginning of the 152-day buying cycle a pack of pre-paid postcards is sent to customers, so that they can give regular feedback on how they feel the process is going.

While Hogg says that many of the more traditional managers at Miller Homes were not taken at first by sharing such a high level of information with customers to keep them in the loop, the results have been dramatic.

Research now shows that customer referrals are up to 83.6 per cent for 2004, a figure that is 20 per cent higher than prior to Hogg’s marketing campaign. It is also almost 30 per cent higher than the minimum accepted industry standard of 55 per cent, put in place by the government.

In fact, so confident is Hogg by the quality of the customer care system now in place that Miller Homes is to become the first housebuilder in the UK to publish the results of its customer care research in its twice-yearly customer magazine, Spaces.

It is fair to say that Hogg has revolutionised marketing at Miller Homes, by seeing the company as a retailer as opposed to a construction company. In the future he says that the website will be developed further to meet the desires of customers, which could ultimately see virtual tours of their houses introduced. He is also considering the introduction of a CRM scheme that will keep customers loyal throughout their house-buying life through the launch of a guaranteed part-exchange scheme.

However, Hogg has now embarked on the second wave of his research, which sees 80 customers giving daily feedback on how their buying process is going for them. With three ring binders full of data back already, Hogg knows he still has much to do at Miller Homes. His ultimate aim is to get satisfaction levels up to 95 per cent, a target he sees as being achievable in the coming years.

Tim Seager

Scottish Courage manages some of the most enviable drinks brands in the UK. There are few creative teams in Britain, nay, the world, that would not leap through hoops to work with drinks clients that include Foster’s, Strongbow, John Smith’s, Kronenbourg, Miller or Beck’s.

So, when it came to the appointment of a new marketing director – just over a year ago – to oversee these brands, it was important that the right replacement was found to further strengthen Scottish Courage’s marketing nous.

Tim Seager was identified as the right man for the role.

Seager joined Scottish Courage as marketing director in January 2004, bringing with him over 14 years’ international marketing experience.

Having started his career with Procter & Gamble, in 1988, as an assistant brand manager, he worked his way up the ranks, holding various European marketing roles in the UK, Germany and, latterly, as marketing director of P&G’s French operation.

Today, Seager is a hard man to track down. He has just returned from a fleeting visit to Australia – a business trip.

At Scottish Courage’s Staines office, we finally track him down – although he has to phone us back once he has secured a quite spot to chat. (It seems, after a few days out the country, everyone wants a piece of him.)

After 14 months in the role, “and counting,” (and not forgetting a very recent 21,000 mile round-trip) Seager is still buzzing with enthusiasm.

He is enjoying his new role, a role that “benefits from the freedom of a very long leash.”

When John Dunsmore, chairman and managing director at Scottish Courage, appointed Seager, he said that “his appointment would strengthen the company’s drive to become a brands-led, consumer-focussed business,” a mindset that Seager has been quick to employ.

“The amount of freedom that I’ve been given has been very rewarding. And I’ve been given the chance to really deliver the brief that I signed up to deliver,” said Seager. “It’s been nice to get the trust of the company to go ahead and help turn Scottish Courage into a classic blue-chip company.”

Seager has been instrumental in pushing forward a number of new marketing initiatives since his appointment, with innovation lying at the heart of the process.

Said Seager: “If you look at the level of changes that have been undertaken in the last six months, clearly innovation has been one of the driving factors. The introduction of Foster’s Chilled and Kronenbourg Blanc have been very important to us. And there is more in the pipeline.

“The price of winning in a very competitive market is innovation. Meaningful innovation. And regularly, too. It needs to be meaningful, though; the key to brand innovation stems from understanding the consumer.

“We have some fantastic brands, but we have to know exactly what we want these brands to mean to consumers. You need to know what consumers want, how your brands cater for that need, and how you can better that further.”

Scottish Courage has undertaken a number of big changes in its marketing departments since Seager’s arrival. The marketing teams have been brought together – with 64 per cent of the marketing department changing their role in the last year.

Seager also talks proudly of a wide-reaching training programme, which has seen staff in the marketing teams receive over two weeks of training in the last year.

But the structure of Scottish Courage’s marketing department is not the only change that Seager has played a part in. Last year the government initiated an investigation into the result of advertising alcohol and Britain’s growing binge-drinking culture.

Proposals for the new legislation introduced, by Ofcom, at the start of the year could have wide-scale implications for the drinks industry. At the time, the proposed regulations were rumoured to be fierce. However, Seager says that he, and his colleagues in the drinks industry, have worked with the regulators to come to an agreed, rational outcome.

“We were asked to be involved in the changes being made to the regulation of alcohol marketing. We have been very proactive in these changes - it is in all of our interests.

“As an industry we had to ensure that the interpretation of the guidelines was sensible.

“Although advertising as a mass medium is a very important part of the communications mix, the most fundamental aspect of marketing is talking to customers in the most appealing way. We have been heavily involved in sports sponsorship, for example.

“We have to be very clear who we want to talk to and what we want to say. Hopefully you will see a strong, positive evolution.”

Despite looking to different avenues for communication, Scottish Courage has been gaining many plaudits for its recent advertising campaigns. None more so than John Smith’s, which has picked up top prizes at all the major awards. Yet Seager says that, while winning awards for advertising is rewarding, making a difference to the bottom line is crucial.

“We have implemented a number of very successful campaigns recently, but I think the way that you measure the success of a campaign is very revealing for a business.

“Following our campaigns we noticed a huge growth in the brand while the market was down seven per cent. That is the only reward that we need.”

So, what is the secret to a successful campaign? “If you know exactly what it is that you want,” said Seager, “then you have got a very good chance of getting it. Not in a creative sense, but in an overall business sense. The secret of a successful campaign, is the freedom of a very tight brief.”

Scottish Young Marketer of the Year nominations

Charlotte Weatherall, Marketing & PR Manager

The Westin Turnberry Resort

Career to date:

2000-2001 – Starwood Hotels & Resorts 18 month graduate management trainee programme ‘Vita Futura’ at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh.

2002 & 2003 Marketing Executive at Turnberry.

2004 to date Marketing & PR Manager at Turnberry.

Biggest marketing achievement to date:

Creating a useable customer database for the resort with strategic seasonal direct marketing campaigns, the most successful of which generated over £380k of resort revenue.

Professional role model:

Michael Wale, SVP, Director of Operations, Northern Europe, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. A true gentleman who remembers every Starwood associate he meets by name and always recognises individuals achievements and successes.

Ambition in marketing: To lead a team of marketers creating successful, innovative and memorable marketing campaigns. To always have fresh, new ideas and the enthusiasm to deliver them with a smile on my face.

David Craik, Brand Manager, s1

Career to date:

Pro Tattie Picker in the Heilans, followed by Marketing Exec positions at API Software and SMG Newspapers. I've been one half of the two-man s1 marketing team since we started out in 2000.

Biggest marketing achievement to date:

We've achieved at lot at s1; market dominance, a healthy profit and bunch of awards. But the highlight so far for me was walking down a busy Sauchiehall Street one Saturday night, just after the pubs emptied, as the whole street erupted into a chorus of “Ho Lavvyhied...”

Professional role model:

I really don't have one, better to do your own thing I think.

Ambition in marketing:

Bra(nd) Manager, Agent Provocateur.

Fraser Bedwell, Community Marketing Manager

Scottish Rugby

Career to date:

I started as an intern with the Scottish Claymores and stayed there for seven years, spending the two as Marketing Director. I joined Scottish Rugby last June.

Biggest marketing achievement to date:

Before joining Scottish Rugby I would say that World Bowl XI in Glasgow was my biggest achievement. Although the Claymores missed out we still achieved a crowd of almost 30,000 for match featuring two German teams. It was even more pleasing that over 90% of the crowd was from Scotland. It looks as though we are going to emulate that with this year’s Heineken Cup Final on Sunday 22nd May – it’s the fastest selling final ever and well on the way to a sell out.

Professional role model:

It’s difficult to single out one person because I have also been fortunate to work with some very talented marketers both at the NFL and at Scottish Rugby. The exposure I had to American sports marketing through the NFL was invaluable and Scottish Rugby boasts an exceptionally strong marketing team from a wide range of backgrounds. Guys like Will Wilson, Rob Claridge, Steve Livingstone and Ali Russell have all been great mentors to me over the years.

Ambition in marketing:

Despite of the challenges that Scottish Rugby faces in the next year, there is a lot of reasons to be enthusiastic about the future. To be a part of the growth of the game is really exciting and we are already having successes – interest levels continue to rise despite the recent on and off-field troubles. Beyond that, I love being involved in sport and continuing to drive increased interest and participation will be my driving force for the foreseeable future.

Sera Holland, Partner

Material Marketing & Communications

Career to date:

Started as a press officer at music PR and management company Coalition working on a variety of music artists and events, went on to work at Slice PR with similar clients and then moved to KLP Entertainment in London working on brand experience events. Working on the Tennent’s account saw me move to Scotland and from there Spence and I set up Material.

Professional role model:

I’ve always admired and been inspired by strong characters in their fields who are passionate, innovative and unafraid to push boundaries. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people like Bob Geldof, Vivienne Westwood and Kirsty Wark.

Ambition in marketing:

Continue to grow Material as well as we have in our first 2 years, deliver excellence for our clients on events which contribute to a modern Scotland and of course, have some fun in the process.

Andrew Jack, Brand Manager:

San Miguel / Beck’s / Baltika

Scottish Courage

Career to date:

1997: Management Honours Degree from University of St. Andrews

2001: Joined Scottish Courage on a marketing graduate training program

2003: Assistant Brand Manager on Fosters

2004: Brand Manager for San Miguel / Beck's / Baltika

Biggest marketing achievement to date:

Taking the plans and strategies for San Miguel repositioning and developing and implementing across the marketing mix.

Professional role model:

Simon Cowell. A man that can make millions out of others peoples questionable talent, and by sticking to his “brand” positioning and never shifting.

Ambition in marketing:

To launch and nurture a campaign that is iconic, famous and historically memorable in its own right. For example, “Beanz meanz Heinz” or “Guinness is good for you”. Or make as much money as Simon Cowell.


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