Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Man of Science - Mark Horgan, Chief Executive, the Number

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Man of Science - Mark Horgan, Chief Executive, the Number

Article excerpt

Operators at directory enquiries service 118 118 are used to dealing with a wide range of accents, but they should listen out carefully for a broad Glaswegian one - it might turn out to be the company's chief executive, Mark Horgan, who frequently tests his own service.

One reason Horgan is so vigilant is that when he joined The Number from furniture retailer MFI last August, he was charged with adding value to 118 118's basic service - and he wants to make sure that his ideas are being put into practice.

Horgan is a classic marketer. After leaving Strathclyde University, where he studied applied physics, he was recruited by Nestle Rowntree for its management development programme, and later moved to the confectionery company's marketing department. He subsequently took positions at Mars and United Biscuits before joining MFI, where he rose to executive director.

Horgan, 39, believes there are many similarities between physics and marketing. 'A physicist likes to trial things to get results. As a marketer, you put stimuli into the marketplace and then measure how the consumer responds. In many respects it is a scientific process.'

Robin Wight, chairman of The Number's advertising agency WCRS, says Horgan is still very much a scientist at heart. 'He's the only physicist I've come across as a client; he has a very precise mind that can sift a lot of data and has developed a lot of fresh ideas.'

Like previous sectors Horgan has worked in, directory enquiries is highly competitive and he does not take kindly to rivals trying to gain the upper hand. A recent ad by Yell, which claimed it offered the best service, led The Number to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority that it was misleading; according to an Ofcom study, 118 118 came top for accuracy with 97%, while Yell trailed at 87% (Marketing, 5 April).

For 118 118's recent campaign, Horgan decided to revive the brand's moustachioed runners. The consistency of direction sets Horgan apart from many of his peers. He believes that change for its own sake and underestimating brand properties is a common error among marketers starting new roles. 'Think of some of the great slogans that have been lost; 'Mars a day helps you work rest and play' and 'Have a break, have a Kit Kat'. …

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