MARKETING MIX: PROFILE; Truth or dare: Richard Bowden-Doyle * deputy md * Thomson Tours

Richard Bowden-Doyle is a happy man. Thomson’s decision to ‘Tell it like it is’ has hit home with the punters, securing the tour operator a market-leading 30% of the million and a half sales on summer 1997 holidays sold so far.

Richard Bowden-Doyle is a happy man. Thomson’s decision to ‘Tell it like

it is’ has hit home with the punters, securing the tour operator a

market-leading 30% of the million and a half sales on summer 1997

holidays sold so far.



This novel marketing strategy saw Thomson benefit from a blaze of

publicity around the concept of a tour operator being honest about the

holidays it sells.



Earlier this month, Bowden-Doyle also reaped his personal reward, in the

form of a promotion from marketing director to deputy managing director.

His new post includes management of the core beach holiday products in

Thomson’s portfolio and a seat on the Thomson board. It establishes the

fresh-faced 36-year-old as one of the travel industry’s rising stars.



Bowden-Doyle, who cut his marketing teeth at Cadbury, admits to now

being addicted to the highly competitive environment in the travel

industry.



‘I couldn’t go back to FMCG after this,’ he says, ‘the pace and the

aggressive nature of the competition is part of the buzz.’



Especially as Bowden-Doyle still has one more competitive weapon up his

sleeve, in which the truth might hurt the opposition.



As a result of Thomson’s decision to publish the results of its customer

survey, Bowden-Doyle has some sizzling information on some hotels which

Thomson recently dropped from its brochure, but which are still used by

the competition.



These were hotels that just didn’t make the grade and received some very

poor responses from holidaymakers. ‘Were we to make that information

available it would be competitively very powerful,’ he says, ‘but we’re

still working through the implications.’



If the company decides not to go ahead, you sense it will not be Bowden-

Doyle who has lost his nerve.



‘When Richard fixes his eyes on the prize, he doesn’t get deflected from

it,’ says Andrew Robertson, managing director of Abbott Mead Vickers,

who has worked with him in the past. ‘It makes him good fun to work

with.’



His nerve has already been tested this year. Thomson’s main rivals

Airtours and First Choice surprised the industry with their decision to

launch their summer 1997 brochures in July. Thomson, which had planned

its launch for August 1, surprisingly chose not to follow suit.



‘We stuck to our guns,’ says Bowden-Doyle. ‘It is deeply uncomfortable

to know that your major competitors are out there selling holidays and

you are not making yours available.’



Bowden-Doyle comes across as a man who likes to speak his mind. His

childhood in Lancashire has given him the cliched northern frankness.

Those who know him remark on his straightforward personality, and he

appears unhindered by false modesty when he talks of his decision to

accept his job at Thomson.



‘The decision was a no-brainer. The marketing director’s job here just

has to be the best job in travel. The only downside was coming back down

south, but it didn’t take me too long to make up my mind.’



Bowden-Doyle’s career began in market research, but his first brand

manager role came in 1985 when he joined Cadbury, working on seasonal

products and creme eggs. Despite a minor blip on his record when he

signed off an order for a quarter of a million promotional egg cups the

day before the Edwina Curry egg scandal, he graduated to group product

manager. From Cadbury he moved into the travel industry via Lunn Poly,

the Thomson-owned retail travel agent.



Now confirmed as a travel industry stalwart, he laughs uneasily at my

idea of the Bowden-Doyle family - he has two children, a two-year-old

and a toddler of ten months - as active users of Thomson’s Superfamilies

brochure.



He admits that he chooses Thomson holidays but they would usually be the

best of the bunch, other times he opts out of brochure booking and

privately might hire a cottage in France.



‘My wife and I are going on a Thomson holiday to the Caribbean next

month,’ he says, ‘but it’s a bit like working at Cadbury, you get sick

of chocolate.’



It’s probably unusual for a marketing director to confess that he

doesn’t always opt for his own product. But as Bowden-Doyle has found

out, telling the truth can be a healthy approach.



BIOGRAPHY



1983-1985 Market research executive, British Market Research Bureau

1985-1987 Market research executive/market research manager, Gillette

1987-1990 Senior product manager/group product manager, Cadbury

1990-1994 Marketing manager/head of business development/marketing

director, Lunn Poly

1994-present Marketing director, then deputy managing director, Thomson

Tour Operations