Profile: Cool customer - Adrian Toomey, brand manager, Carte D'Or

While he's a man who describes himself as "irritatingly reasonable", Adrian Toomey, brand manager for Unilever ice cream brand Carte D'Or, is not scared to challenge himself - whether that means throwing himself into working in France or being the opening act at a Mexican wedding.

If anything, his description betrays a pragmatism rather than a lack of ambition. "I'm driven by the desire for a complete understanding of my consumers. I am interested in the psychology of what motivates people and then finding a way with my brand to make them feel the way they want to feel. I get most of my motivation from working with consumers that I don't have much in common with - putting yourself in someone else's shoes is a challenge."

For 28-year-old Toomey, then, that means stepping into the shoes of the ladies of middle England. His core social group are 40-plus ABC1 females, which he describes as "balanced, considered and loyal" people who appreciate "a premium product but treat ice cream as a simple pleasure".

He's happy with their loyalty, but his short-term goal is to drive uptake of a new variant - Greek yoghurt and honey - while his long-term aim is to tempt consumers to try more variants. To kick this off, he has lined up a two-pronged experiential drive with agency RPM, targeting 400,000 punters across the country.

The first part sees a luxury bar-style exhibition stand touring BBC shows such as Good Food and Gardener's World. "The sampling bar is at one end with recipe cards including money-off vouchers on it, and we'll have staff talking up the brand," says Toomey. There's also a free prize draw offering Greek holidays to drive data capture. "We're looking towards attitudinal questions rather than just demographics so we can target our direct mail later in the year. DM is a great way of talking to our consumers rather than just using the blunt tool that is TV. Television is great for getting to a mass audience, but experiential, DM and all our relationship marketing is where we are headed." The second pillar is built around the brand's headline sponsorship of the Summer Proms. These are 19 open-air concerts held at English Heritage and National Trust venues from July to September, featuring the likes of Jools Holland. "As well as national publicity, it provides another great opportunity to sample," says Toomey. "More than 150,000 people will be exposed to it."

Asked if it's a confident move to put so much focus below the line and Toomey returns to his faith in consumer understanding. "It's about knowing your market and how they consume media. Classic FMCG is to bang a proportion of your budget on TV, do some other bits and pieces and call it 360-degree marketing. In terms of building the brand, doing something on the consumers' terms is more powerful."

His conviction is impressive but perhaps not surprising given his first step in marketing. This saw Toomey leave college as a French and Business graduate determined to put his language skills to the test. "I thought I could speak French pretty well, but the business environment was a steep learning curve. I learnt how to assert myself and make my opinions valued.

I was marketing France's biggest cheese brands and while it's a stereotype, I soon realised how passionate the French are about cheese, and therefore how passionate all consumers are about what, on the surface, are ordinary, everyday things."

It's clear this insight has provided a solid base for Toomey as he continues to forge a closer bond with consumers. Carte D'Or has increased value sales by 25 per cent since 2003, and Toomey has his work cut out in maintaining that growth, but he thinks his strategy is spot on. "We've seen fantastic growth and I put that down to our work with customers face to face, and I want to continue that."

QUESTIONNAIRE

Describe yourself in three words: Irritatingly reasonable, approachable, relaxed

If I won the lottery I'd buy the Big Brother brand and never let it be broadcast ever again

Favourite brand: Guinness - iconic, history, global brand with route strength

Most embarrassing moment: I was travelling with my girlfriend in Mexico. Walking along the beach we accidentally gatecrashed a wedding. As a punishment, I had to do the first dance with the bride and groom - a full-on fiesta in front of everybody.

CURRICULUM VITAE
2005-present: Brand manager, Carte D'Or
2003-2005: Graduate marketing trainee, Unilever Ice Cream & Frozen Food
2002-2003 Market research assistant, Bongrain (Paris)

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