Magazine article Marketing

Tesco Express

Magazine article Marketing

Tesco Express

Article excerpt

If 1996 has been a good year for Tesco then it has been an even better one for its marketing director Tim Mason, who last week picked up the title, Marketer of the Year.

He consolidated the success of his first year as marketing director by putting the finishing touches to a brace of new marketing initiatives: Clubcard Plus and Customer Assistants. And at 39, the youngest-ever board director, he was rewarded with a healthy slug of extra share options to boost his annual basic salary of [pounds]198,000.

Little wonder he is known as Tesco's blue-eyed boy. His climb up the corporate ladder at the nation's number-one supermarket chain has been with the blessing of outgoing chairman Lord MacLaurin and his successor Terry Leahy.

Like his patrons, Mason is a Tesco marketer who has an intimate knowledge of the operation and brand values of the retailer, which he joined more than 15 years ago as a product manager.

While some top executives at Tesco have fared less well since the handover of power from MacLaurin to Leahy, it appears that Mason has thrived. "He's an astute politician and knows exactly how the game is played," says one insider.

Mason was picked by Leahy to work in the commercial department before moving onto Tesco's management fast track. They have since forged a partnership that mirrors that of MacLaurin and his deputy of old, managing director David Malpas.

As so often in top supermarket chains, there are often two pairs of hands pulling the levers: the front man and the backstage fixer. Take Archie Norman and Allan Leighton at Asda, or David Sainsbury and Tom Vyner at Sainsbury's.

One insider says of Mason and Leahy: "They are a bit like beauty and the beast. Terry's very good at getting things done although he can be a bit abrasive. Tim is much better at presenting a corporate ideal."

When Tesco needs to present its human face to the world, Mason is wheeled out. Super smooth and better looking than most senior retailers, he spells out Tesco's customer-driven philosophy with a repose hitherto unseen in the world of marketing. But he can also be barbed about the competition.

"Customers realise that the person who does it first does it for customers, and the people who follow do it to neutralise competitive advantage," is a typical Mason bon mot. …

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