PROFILE: Meeting of Minds - Lord Saatchi, Co-Founder, Saatchinvest

Marketing, August 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

PROFILE: Meeting of Minds - Lord Saatchi, Co-Founder, Saatchinvest


Lord Saatchi is incommunicado. The 56-year-old peer is holidaying on a yacht in the South of France and he won't be disturbed. In any case, his office assures me, he hates giving interviews. It is about as polite but firm a rebuttal as any journalist can expect to receive.

With Parliament having risen for its long summer recess, and the running of seven-year-old M&C Saatchi in the now-veteran hands of joint chief executives Moray MacLennan and Nick Hurrell, Lord Saatchi might be forgiven for taking a break - a case of 'Saatchi isn't working'?

But it is unlikely to be a lengthy vacation. As David Kershaw, one of the agency's fellow founding partners, puts it: 'Maurice has a serious case of mental hyperactivity. His curiosity to solve problems is relentless.'

Now, that 'mental hyperactivity' is being channelled in a new direction.

Maurice, along with the other founders of M&C, is one of the brains behind Saatchinvest, a business that will take over under-performing brands and attempt to sprinkle magic dust over them.

The first candidates for this marketing alchemy are Complan, the meal replacement drink that has carved out a niche by not being aimed at slimmers, and Casilan, a supplement for body-builders. Food giant Heinz owns both products but you haven't heard much about them, have you? That's exactly the point.

Not that these brands don't have potential. It is impossible to imagine the Saatchis getting involved if there wasn't serious money to be made.

In many respects, Saatchinvest is a direct reflection of M&C's founding mantra, 'Brutal simplicity of thought'. Once the company has snapped up a brand, its team will devote significant resources toward revitalising and repositioning it with the aim of achieving top-line sales growth.

In a world where the focus of Unilever, Procter & Gamble and their FMCG rivals is on growth through a select cluster of 'power brands', there are myriad opportunities for nurturing orphaned products whose parents have pushed them out of the family nest. Brutally simple. Yet another Saatchi goldmine unwrapped.

But surely it is not that easy. After all, even Maurice and Charles do not have magic wands. So what is it that makes the brothers and their cohorts so confident that they can succeed? Time and again, unprompted, interviewees return to Maurice's elasticity of thought.

'He has a brilliant, brilliant mind. He has just the most fantastic grasp of the marketing communications world,' says Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications. 'He believes that brands are the key to everything, so I cannot think of anyone more likely to make under-performing brands bear fruit. …

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