The Marketing Society Awards 2004: Marketer of the year


Mixing social responsibility with profitability has never been an easy task, but for Sylvie Barr, Cafedirect's head of marketing, it's a challenge she has met head-on.

A fair trade company selling tea, coffee and cocoa, Cafedirect has evolved into the sixth-biggest coffee brand in the UK, with turnover of more than £10m. The firm's sales are growing at 33% a year, bucking the annual market decline of 1%-2%.

Barr has been central to this growth. She has achieved success for Cafedirect despite working with a budget that is tiny compared with the spend of the company's multinational competitors.

With a ruthless approach to delivering return on marketing investment, she has ensured that financial constraints have not hindered the brand's progress.

Her continuing mission is clear-cut: to overcome perceptions that fair trade is synonymous with poor-quality products at a low price, while taking the Cafedirect brand to an ever-widening audience.

Over the past three years, Barr has succeeded in shifting brand perceptions of Cafedirect's product range from charitable niche to premium mainstream, proving that there is scope for brands to be socially-oriented as well as highly commercial.

In driving this change, Barr has understood that having a broad range of products is vital. As a result, Cafedirect embarked on a raft of brand launches during 2003.

Building on its premium instant coffee and core brand 5065, the company introduced espresso and decaffeinated products to the market in March, then rolled out the UK's first 100% fair trade drinking chocolate in June.

Barr's philosophy for these launches has been to focus on reassuring consumers about the quality of the products while communicating the benefits of the company's business model.

In trying to close this knowledge gap, she oversaw an innovative live show entitled The Lift, based on the feeling of 'uplift' gained by drinking 5065 instant coffee.

Barr has also worked hard to target the young consumers who are critical to the mainstream adoption of Cafedirect.

The success of Barr's strategies has led to an increase in her budget.

The current annual marketing spend of £2m is set to double in the coming months after Cafedirect raised extra funds through a share issue.

Perhaps there is no greater indication of the strides that the Cafedirect brand has taken than the recent decision by market rival Nescafe to enter the fair trade market in a bid to reverse a decline in sales.

By voting Barr Marketer of the Year, readers of Marketing are showing their respect for a woman who, in the face of a tough business challenge, has succeeded in creating and evolving a major consumer brand.

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