Magazine article Marketing

Last Tango in Chelmsford

Magazine article Marketing

Last Tango in Chelmsford

Article excerpt

You know when you've been Tango'd. And last week it appeared Britvic's marketing director Steve Kay had been, when he abruptly walked out of the company's Chelmsford HQ. The official line was that he'd completed the job he was brought in to do.

Everyone can agree that Kay's record during his three years in the top Britvic post was a successful one. Tango has become a 90s brand icon and its strategy has won a place in marketing text books by turning an advertising campaign into a cult experience.

But it is wrong to assume that Kay's reign at Britvic has been entirely flawless.

The 42-year-old Yorkshireman has many admirers. Those who have worked for him praise his hands-off management style, his intelligence and his quick-thinking creativity. But Kay has detractors too. They say that he fits the old saying 'You can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can't tell him much'.

Indeed Kay himself says the Tango turnaround is not entirely his doing. The brand's change from lacklustre fizzy pop to madcap British icon was in fact started by Tony Hillyer, who is now fighting for Littlewoods Pools against the National Lottery. Kay's job had been to take Tango further.

Some say he has not gone far enough. Detractors say that although Tango's sales have undoubtedly grown over the past three years - from 150 million litres in 1994, to 199 million in 1995, to a projected 260 million in 1996 - so has the investment behind it. In 1994, the firm spent [pounds]10m on the brand, in 1995, [pounds]12m. This year it is spending [pounds]17m and over [pounds]124m will be invested over the next five years.

"Tango has grown, but maybe it should be questioned whether it has grown enough to justify the investment behind it," says one observer. They also say that Tango has been allowed to dominate the Britvic portfolio, putting other brands, such as Robinsons, in the shade.

Kay has also promoted himself along with the Tango brand. He is a man who enjoys the spotlight and has featured in two ad campaigns. In the summer of 1994, just a year into the job, he starred in ads for the launch of Still Tango. He told a primetime TV audience to report any sightings of the drink, insisting it had nothing to do with Britvic.

Thirty thousand viewers rang the hotline and the Britvic launch was widely reported. …

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