Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Engineering the Future

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Engineering the Future

Article excerpt

Adam Rostom, international marketing director at Dyson, has a fine balancing act to maintain with his brand. Interview by Alex Brownsell.

To step into Dyson's London showroom-cum-PR hub is to stumble into something akin to a modern sculpture exhibition. Strange metallic objects emerge from the floor, lining the room like a multicoloured mechanised army. No one seems more put off by the scene than the brand's international marketing director, Adam Rostom.

A self-confessed 'geek' with a PhD in biochemistry from Oxford, Rostom feels far more comfortable among the bustle of the 350 engineers working in Dyson's research and development facility in Malmesbury, Wiltshire Yet, for someone who clearly feels ill at ease with marketing cliches, the 34-year-old wields a CV that most in the industry would envy.

Rostom began his career as a graduate trainee at Unilever, working on brands such as Knorr, before jumping ship in 2003 to a, then little- known, soft-drinks brand by the name of Innocent. He spent three years there as marketing manager while the company went from strength to strength, then left for Dyson.

Rising rapidly from his first role as UK marketing director, Rostom now oversees all international marketing, communications and digital activity. Yet he is remarkably dismissive of his part in maintaining a successful brand. 'We are only as good as our last product, and we'd never trade off our name - the pressure is always on us to come up with better machines,' he insists.

Overturning convention

Most marketers will enjoy a close relationship with, or even oversee, their brand's research and development department. Innovations are based upon months, if not years, of market research, all with the aim of discovering that one customer insight that may drive a commercial return.

For Rostom, the situation is different.

He stands on the sidelines as the Dyson technicians reinvent mundane objects such as vacuum cleaners and hand-driers, before handing him the task of taking the product to market.

However, Rostom insists this is a good way to operate. 'Other companies are more predictable and you get lots of products that are similar, whereas our approach allows us to create challenging new products that are genuinely interesting,' he says. 'We look at problems with products and find solutions; my main role is to make sure what we are developing is commercial.'

Another unusual aspect of his job is that traditional marketing and advertising take a back seat to PR. This has always been the case, thanks to the high profile of company founder Sir James Dyson. Rostom is unapologetic in his assertion that 'PR is the backbone of everything we do', and helps maintain a high level of brand awareness between product launches.

'We have a great story, and PR amplifies that to the world,' he says. 'With marketing, we can't be on TV all the time running campaigns all year round. Rather, it needs to drive spikes of awareness.'

With awareness of Dyson so comprehensive, one of the biggest changes Rostom has implemented is stopping the brand talking about itself, in favour of talking more directly about its range. 'When I got to the company there was a lot of brand advertising going on,' he says. 'But if everyone at a party knows who you are, to go around and reintroduce yourself is probably wasteful.'

From a marketing perspective, Rostom's main focus has been to explain the benefits and functions of Dyson's latest innovations, including its regularly updated vacuum cleaner range, Air Blade hand-driers and most recent launch, the Air Multiplier bladeless fan. …

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