Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Global View, Local Focus

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Global View, Local Focus

Article excerpt

Stefan Gaa, group marketing director at Reckitt Benckiser, is revelling in the company's focused push for growth. Interview by John Reynolds.

The corporate headquarters of Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is characteristically unprepossessing, well-suited to its setting in the much-maligned Berkshire town of Slough. However, a cursory leaf through the promotional materials in its reception area - showcasing the company's 200-year heritage and 17 global power brands - quickly makes it clear that despite this apparently parochial setting, RB is a corporate leader with global reach, operating in more than 60 countries.

Heading up its marketing division is German-born Stefan Gaa. He has been tasked with extending the company's footprint and reaping the benefits of its recently merged healthcare and household goods marketing units.

Gaa was promoted to the group marketing director role earlier this year as part of a senior marketing restructure. The reshuffle also prompted Phil Thomas, formerly the marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser's household, personal care and healthcare business, and the top-ranked marketer in Marketing's Power 100 this year, to move to the position of global category director for global surface care.

Consolidated benefits

Having relocated to Slough from Hull, along with the 25-person healthcare division, Gaa now runs a 70-strong marketing department, and enthuses about the benefits of the newly merged marketing teams.

In particular, he is enjoying a new-found fluidity in the way it can operate; a unified voice to talk to retailers, the proximity to its agencies and the London talent pool and greater opportunities for career progression are also high on the list of positives he notes.

'The overall consolidation of the healthcare and household business did not come as a surprise,' says Gaa. 'It is the last RB business in the world to occupy the model, as historically we have done it in our other markets.'

His latest move is one of many in what has been something of an itinerant career. After giving up on his childhood dream of playing in a professional band ('I never really had the talent'), 42-year-old Gaa opted to study marketing and advertising at university in Germany.

His marketing life began at ERCO, an architectural lightening company, which counts the Louvre, British Museum and the Brandenburg Gate among its illustrious projects. Impatient to advance his career, Gaa moved on to Bolton Group, owner of adhesives brand UHU, where he worked for three years before joining RB in 2000.

In conversation, Gaa is a whirlwind of energy, fully versed in his subject matter, and has a propensity for banter - which, no doubt, plays well with his staff. Nonetheless, a decade at the FMCG manufacturer has fashioned him into a corporate man to the bone and he is keen to present the RB line at every opportunity.

Describing the benefits of its marketing structure, Gaa says: 'One important point is that RB has a very lean global function. We don't have an ivory tower and we keep the power in our local markets. The innovation still sits (there). This is where the RB function really works.'

Gaa's tub-thumping is not unwarranted. The company has a lot to shout about: RB's portfolio of 17 power brands spans household favourites like disinfectant Dettol, toilet cleaner Harpic, skincare brand Clearasil, Cillit Bang cleaning products, Nurofen analgesics and Air Wick air fresheners. The company's power brands now account for about 70% of group sales. …

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