Brand Champion – the Q&A series: Simon Demery

Brand champion – the Q&A series: Simon Demery Pictured: Simon Demery, general sales manager for Swizzels in Ireland

Brand champion – the Q&A series: Simon Demery
Pictured: Simon Demery, general sales manager for Swizzels in Ireland

Simon Demery is the general sales manager for Swizzels in Ireland where he is responsible for all aspects of the business with particular focus on the sales and marketing function in Ireland. He works closely with agents and customers to plan at least six to eight months in advance for key sales periods such as Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and key summer activity. Swizzels Matlow was established in 1928 and started as a market stall in Hackney, London. Today, the factory in New Mills now produces more than 14 tons of chew sweets, 40,000 bags of Rainbow Drops and nearly 300,000 Double Lollies every day with 24-hour production. Swizzels has been in operation in Dublin for at least 30 years, and have continued to deliver growth throughout this period.

How important is a marketing strategy now to a brand – more or less so than before?

I think brands having a marketing strategy is as, if not more, important than ever before. Nowadays, consumers have more choice, and brands need to listen and respond to their rapidly evolving needs more than ever. In a crowded market place especially, brands need to be able to stand out and differentiate themselves from competitors. What differentiates us from our competitors is the fact that we offer a combination of individually wrapped products, much-loved brands, and variety. We’re constantly innovating, and we’ve recently extended into the gum market with the introduction of Squashies, which sees household favourites such as Drumstick, Double Lollies, Love Hearts and Refreshers transformed into a soft range. Our ranges are ideal for Halloween as the individual wrapped sweets and lollies are suited to both trick or treating or parties.

How has marketing/advertising changed in general over the last 10 or so years and is this a bad or a good thing?

Without a doubt, digital marketing and social media have had a profound impact on marketing and advertising to the modern consumer as the two are inextricably linked. Ten years ago, we were just getting our heads around it; now we are consumed by it. Brands have scope to be more creative and targeted in their communications, although the immediacy of online communication means there is greater emphasis on the need to safeguard a brand’s reputation online. How brands adapt and move forward in a rapidly evolving digital landscape is the real challenge – however for brands like Swizzels, we find social media a great way to engage with our target audience. Our social media following now stands at almost 100,000 likes on Facebook and over 10,000 followers on Twitter. Our limited edition One Direction Love Hearts really helped us to boost our social media following as One Direction fans are already so active online. We use it not only as a way to engage with fans of the brand but also as a research tool to get to know and understand our target audience.

What campaigns have you admired in recent times – any one of them really stand out for you?

Coca-Cola’s recent ‘Share a Coke’ campaign stands out for me as an example of how a brand has adapted to the changing lifestyles of its consumers and involving them in that process. There is a definite shift in the way people interact with one another, and it seems more people are connecting online now rather than in real life. Coke tapped into that and encouraged people to connect with the brand and one another online by putting its consumers front and centre and inviting them to ‘Share a Coke’ with a personalised can or bottle. The campaign worked so well because it was based upon the easiest principle in marketing – involving the consumer. They were given a sense of ownership of the brand, especially when they came across a bottle or can with their name on it in the cold fridge in their local shop. At Swizzels, we have been selling personalised Love Heart mini rolls as wedding favours and gifts for many years, and it is interesting to see Coca-Cola doing personalistation on a much larger scale.

In terms of your own brand, what marketing strategies will you be adopting for the rest of this year and beyond?

As we approach our busiest periods in Halloween and Christmas, 2014 has already been a big year for the iconic Swizzels Love Hearts as it celebrated its 60th anniversary. The brand was launched in 1954, and we sell 1.75 billion Love Hearts a year. Love Hearts have always been popular with our consumers and now especially with One Direction fans since we released limited 1D Love Hearts earlier this year. We run a lot of tactical campaigns, which remind people that they love our nostalgic treats. We also anticipate that the on-pack promotion on Bumper Bag, Lots of Lollies and Chew Crew will be popular with consumers who will be keen to collect for a Limited Editions Swizzels house tin.

What would be your own marketing philosophy?

Speak the language of your audience – say it as it is and minimise the jargon!

Who are some of the up-and-coming brand strategists we should pay attention to?

There are many, of course, and some that make the biggest noise are often the ones most full of hot air. There are Carolina Correa from Belgium, Lauren Hazel in the U.K., who refers to herself as The Story Brand Strategist, and then there is Desislava Dobreva, The Branding Queen, from Bulgaria. All European. All female. All brilliant.