Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Looking for Loyalty

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Looking for Loyalty

Article excerpt

Graham Horner, loyalty director at Telegraph Media Group, believes rewards will strengthen its subscriber ties. Interview by John Reynolds.

Graham Horner's youthful looks belie his reputation as one of the most formidable troubleshooters in the world of direct marketing. He landed his current job as loyalty director at the Telegraph Media Group (TMG) after putting Coca-Cola's digital marketing operations on an even keel.

Nonetheless, Horner, smartly dressed and wearing fashionable Soho specs, is a nervous interviewee. He makes minimal eye contact and his slightly sharp response to a question about his age ('I am in my early thirties and not afraid of that.') points to a man who is keen to establish he has the credentials for a major marketing role at one of the UK's biggest newspaper groups.

Solid grounding

Horner's CV may not detail a particularly glamorous career to date, but it does reveal his aptitude for the minutiae of marketing and swift progress along his chosen path. After studying geography at Cambridge and then in Canada, he joined the graduate scheme at consumer insight agency Dunnhumby, where he developed his skills in areas such as data analytics.

'I had to decide if I wanted to pursue a career in academia or business when I left university. I decided I wanted to go into marketing and joined Dunnhumby,' he says. 'This gave me a good grounding in direct marketing, but I longed to complete the picture and wanted to get more involved in the comms side of things.'

A stint at Loyalty Management Group, which runs the Nectar scheme, introduced Horner to working with brands such as BP and Debenhams, and he quickly rose through the ranks. His former colleagues speak highly of his contribution to the company. For Horner's part, the 32-year-old points to his time as manager of the Nectar Home Mover Scheme, where he maintained a strong base among his target group of people who had recently moved house, as a highlight of his early career.

Horner's success marked him out and Coca-Cola hired him to head its loyalty scheme, a role that he says 'catapulted me into a new dimension'.

'This was an amazing opportunity. Coca-Cola was the first FMCG brand to launch a loyalty programme in the UK,' adds Horner. 'Coke realised that it needed to form deeper relations with its consumers and get away from just doing big TV campaigns.'

Coca-Cola's loyalty scheme, Coke Zone, allowed consumers to collect codes from packs and redeem points against them. It soon gained momentum and, by the time Horner left, it had attracted 1m users. He oversaw all aspects of the scheme, handling everything from website development, the rewards catalogue and call-centre management to the coding of the cans and bottles.

Customer loyalty schemes can be a tricky and expensive proposition, and many have foundered, often because they failed to secure sufficient buy-in from the brand's senior management. However, Horner had no such problems at Coke. 'The Coca-Cola people had the vision,' he says. 'They gave me breathing space and it took me two years to get the programme going'.

So why did he leave? 'The offer from The Telegraph was irresistible,' says Horner. 'At Coke the focus was more on digital, but at The Telegraph we have a more mature audience - time-rich, cash-rich and professional. The execution will be completely different.'

This sort of assertiveness is, arguably, exactly what TMG, which publishes The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, needs. The group's high subscriber base - 328,000 out of an overall circulation of 685,000 - is the envy of the industry, and rival News International is investing heavily in marketing in an attempt to lure these readers over to its Times and Sunday Times titles. …

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