Profile: Everything but the kitchen sink

Sally Sidani, vice-president of European marketing for Remington and Russell Hobbs, has a lot on her plate. By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith.

Sally Sidani, vice-president of European marketing for Remington and Russell Hobbs
Sally Sidani, vice-president of European marketing for Remington and Russell Hobbs

Sally Sidani, the newly promoted vice-president of European marketing at Remington and Russell Hobbs, started her career trying to extract information from three-year-olds. 'You can ask them certain questions, but obviously they are not very articulate at that age,' she says.

That formed part of the NPD process when Sidani worked as an assistant brand manager at K'NEX, a toy company based in the US. Since then Sidani has swapped continents and age groups, progressing from working with toddlers to targeting, principally, young women.

Sidani joined Remington in 2003 as marketing manager for Europe, and has witnessed significant change in the brand's market position. 'When I started, the UK represented around 70% of the business and Europe about 30%; today it's flipped. The European business has grown quickly through our sales and marketing teams out in the regions,' she says.

Having risen quickly through the ranks, Sidani now finds herself in charge of European marketing for Remington as well as that of electricals company Russell Hobbs. The latter recently merged with Remington and includes diverse products such as Black & Decker power tools and George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat-reducing Grilling Machine. Recently, however, Sidani's focus has been on the development of a new global identity for the haircare products manufacturer.

Earlier this month, it rolled out an international campaign that used the line 'How the world gets ready'. Created by Addiction London, the work showed women using Remington's hairdryers and straighteners as they prepared for a night out. 'I don't think I've ever said "yes" to the first campaign or brand idea I've seen at pitch,' says Sidani. 'But (the Addiction ad has) got sustainability; it's got the legs to keep going. We don't want to be reinventing the wheel every year.'

The work was Addiction London's first for the brand, after winning the account from Albion in March. Recreating Remington's identity as a global brand meant a lot of work for Sidani and Addiction as they tried to merge Remington's differing personae in the US, Europe and Asia.

'In Europe, we've been developing Remington as a high-profile professional brand,' says Sidani. The company's UK campaigns, on the other hand, have had a far cheekier feel. The brand owner's previous slogan for men's grooming products was: 'It's what's on the outside that counts.' The ad told the story of two Spanish brothers - one who could see the importance of grooming and led a successful business and personal life, the other who opted not to shave off his extremely large moustache and lived with his mother.

Further differences abound in the US, where Remington is best known as a male-grooming brand. Here it is also associated with Victor Kiam, the late businessman who starred in Remington's ads in the 80s and uttered the immortal line: 'I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.' Kiam's legacy (he died in 2001) is one of the great stories of US advertising, but things inevitably move on.

Remington's latest, universal message aims to highlight its relationship with consumers. 'By evoking an emotional connection through our campaigns we can elevate our brand to the state it deserves - being part of people's everyday lives,' says Sidani.

In 2005, Remington was bought by Spectrum Brands, the portfolio of which spans batteries and insect repellent. In February, the brand owner merged with Russell Hobbs - and Sidani has had the more mundane world of kettles and toasters added to her remit as a result.

Despite being part of such a big group - Spectrum's revenue forecast for the current financial year is $3bn (£1.9bn) - Remington has maintained an independent identity, according to Sidani. 'We still have a small brand mentality. We work very autonomously on the Remington brand,' she says.

She adds that even after the merger with Russell Hobbs, all the brands owned by Spectrum have retained distinct marketing teams. 'Being part of a larger organisation means you have its investment, instead of being a standalone business,' she says. Working alongside battery brand Varta, for instance, allowed Remington to take advantage of its sales teams across Europe and achieve a previously unattainable level of distribution. 'There are a lot of growth opportunities to be had,' she says.

The next big push for the company is Christmas, and this year the market is looking a lot less gloomy than it did in 2009. Consumer spend picked up again over the summer, allowing Remington to get behind catwalk and high-street trends and start pushing its top products. Styling, in particular, is very much on the agenda for Sidani. 'I think consumers are getting into the mindset of "We're out of the recession, we can get ourselves back out there and have some fun", and they're using our products to do that,' she says.

Sidani's promotion from UK managing director for Remington in the UK to vice-president of European marketing for Remington and Russell Hobbs, takes her back to her marketing roots. Sidani welcomes the step but says that she is immensely proud of attaining the managing director role at the company.

The next challenge is to turn an ever-more complex company into one which retains the strong identity of individual brands. Although Sidani insists there are synergies between Russell Hobbs and Remington, it's difficult to see any. She nevertheless remains positive about the merger. 'There's a lot of synergy there - Russell Hobbs has kitchen appliances and Remington has personal care appliances - we're going to take the best of the businesses and join them together.'

Sidani also cites the benefits of social media. The company receives messages and feedback through emails, its Facebook page and responses on Twitter. 'We learn so much by reaching out to our consumers for advice, because those are the guys using our products,' she adds.

Indeed, the company views social media as an integral line of communication with its customers. 'It's about creating that chatter. It's a two-way dialogue,' explains Sidani.

With such diverse brands and ambitious plans, Sidani faces more of a challenge now than at any time in her career. Marketing multiple brands to a global audience could even be more demanding than running product ideas past toddlers. Thankfully, with the range of brands she has, there should also be an element of fun.

Inside work
1997-1999: Assistant brand manager, K'NEX
1999-2002: Brand manager, Hasbro
2002-2003: Senior brand manager, Hit Entertainment
2003-present: Marketing manager for Remington, Europe, rising to
vice-president of European marketing at Remington and Russell Hobbs
Outside work
Lives: London
Likes: Wakeboarding and running
Last holiday: Climbing Kilimanjaro
Favourite holiday destination: Vietnam.