Overall winner: Andrew Barrett – Absolutely fabulous

Our overall Marketer of the Year has translated a novel fashion positioning for LG Canada into $1 billion in earnings and an ever-stronger association with customers' personal style

Andrew Barrett does not consider himself a fashionable guy. But strategy‘s overall Marketer of the Year and the driver behind LG’s participation in L’Oréal Fashion Week in Toronto in October, suddenly has a lot of fashionable friends – and it’s rubbing off. In a tailored dress shirt and new haircut, the VP marketing of LG Canada is the latest toast of the Canadian fashion scene, having pulled off what he calls his biggest challenge of 2008.

‘I was the visionary, and LG was the executive producer. We hired the caterers and the bands, we built this idea and then brought all of our partners in to produce it,’ he says, referring to LG Fashion Fusion, a glittering affair with three catwalk shows and a live performance from Maroon 5 in Nathan Phillips Square (carpeted to avoid all those stiletto injuries, natch). ‘We have traditionally had roles in other people’s events, we’ve sponsored things, we’ve run great PR and media events, but we’ve never taken on anything of this organizational complexity or financial commitment.’

Crucial to measuring the success of Fashion Fusion – the grandest in a string of fashion-related events for the brand’s mobile phone and consumer electronics divisions this fall – was the response from the fashion elite, which would solidify LG’s position as a style player. Says Barrett: ‘Being endorsed by the fashion industry in Canada as a brand that understands style is very important to our success.’

So far, response has been strong, with kudos from Toronto Star columnist David Livingstone and Fashion Design Council of Canada president Robin Kay. ‘What’s amazing about what Andrew and LG have done is the way they’ve streaked onto the scene,’ says FDCC chair Joseph Mimran, founder of Joe Fresh Style. ‘They’ve come on in an explosive manner, and it shows courage and forward thinking. The fact that they added Fashion Fusion was a bold step. It’s a great blend with their own brand and with the leadership position they’re trying to create in the consumer’s mind in Canada.’

The hoi polloi also joined in the fun, with 45,000 visits to lg.ca/fashion since September, 60,000 YouTube views of a six-week-long catwalk contest and hundreds of thousands of potential viewers through CTV, Fashion Television and Star! ‘There’s curiosity from many more people than I would have thought, in Fashion Week,’ says Barrett. ‘It’s definitely on trend, and it’s got great potential to expand.’

Of course, Barrett and his boss, Canadian president and CEO William Cho, spotted this opportunity a while ago, and developed a local positioning – ‘LG gives style-conscious Canadians the innovative technology and look that sets them apart’ – that has since been adopted as the global brand mantra in the form of ‘the perfect harmony of style and technology.’ And in January, Barrett received an LG Person of the Year award.

‘I was honoured to have been chosen, and I took it as a validation that what we were doing was right,’ he says. ‘So as we stepped into things like the fashion program and some of the bolder marketing programs we did this year, I could do that with confidence [because] the company thinks we’re doing the right thing. It validated everything that Canada’s doing.’

To say that Barrett doesn’t rest on his laurels might imply that he sits down at all. Since the start of the year, he has launched 12 phone models (including the Touch series) and a high-end range of HDTVs. He’s signed sponsorship deals with the Canadian National Snowboard team, the RBC Canadian Open, skins champ Stephen Ames, the last remaining Montreal Nascar event and the Ottawa Senators. He announced 2007 earnings of $1 billion, and made a $100,000 donation to Fashion Cares. He’s also taken on management of the 12-person mobile communications team, which handles all mobile phone sales.

Barrett has a reputation for fast campaign turnaround, often moving from vision to execution in weeks. ‘A lot of that is my personal style, which is why I’m so suited to the role I’m in now, because our corporation is also in a situation where we’re willing to make those quick decisions,’ he says. ‘I don’t have to get approval. There’s not a long bureaucratic process; there aren’t an immense number of stakeholders that have to get engaged.’

Over his career at P&G, Pillsbury and Molson – he joined LG two years ago from JWT, where he spent three years as chief integration officer – Barrett has gleaned valuable skills that have influenced his leadership style. When he joined Pillsbury in 1996, the company was in what Barrett terms ‘a desperate turnaround phase. We had to take the business from losing a ton of money to making a ton of money in a very short period of time.’ Then-president Brian Mirsky took a fast, decisive approach that has stuck with Barrett ever since. ‘It was much more entrepreneurial, roll up your shirt sleeves, sell the furniture if you had to, to hit the numbers.’ And he still works that way: ‘There’s no reason to procrastinate,’ he says. ‘The right, smart people will make the right decisions 80% of the time, and that’s good enough when you’re trying to move your business nimbly.’

Another secret to Barrett’s success is his lean marketing team, which he supplements with a small army of agencies – including AORs Y&R, High Road Communications, Publicis Modem and XMC – to handle implementation. It’s an approach he learned from another former boss. ‘[Then-CEO] Dan O’Neill did something quite bold at Molson,’ Barrett recalls. ‘He said, ‘I’m not going to burden you with huge staff and resources, because I want you to use 90% of your time being a brilliant marketer, not an administrator. We’re going to put large agency teams around you, so you can think in a big way and quickly get to decisive action.”

After swelling from nine to 16 in two years, LG’s marketing team has seen just one new addition in the past six months: senior marketing director Graham Robertson, who is leading marketing for consumer electronics, digital appliances, IT (notebooks) and commercial products and has taken management responsibility for over half the marketing staff. He enjoys the same autonomy that Barrett has from Cho.

The hire was a response to the ‘capacity restriction’ of Barrett’s hands-on leadership style. ‘I only have so many hours in the day, and so much driving I can do from the seat that I’m in,’ he says. ‘Now, as we get busier, my responsibilities expand quite dramatically; it’s harder to drive it from here. We’ve got to drive it from within, and that takes time.’

The success of the past few years has also identified some best practices, which has freed up time for planning. ‘We didn’t do a lot of marketing planning at LG when I began; we went campaign by campaign, 16 weeks [at a time],’ Barrett says. ‘We are now getting to the point where [we can] actually do proper marketing planning and write annual plans and align [marketing activities]. That helps, because I can give the guidance and input early and let people loose to fulfill that through the year, vs. every 16 weeks saying, ‘Now what?”

As the broad range of sponsorships suggests, LG is not putting all its poodles in the same couture purse. ‘Style is more than fashion, and I’ve got to try to hit them all,’ he says. ‘There’s another whole group of people [for whom] golf is a sport that exudes style. And snowboarding -an awful lot of what my kids define as their personal style is born out of the half-pipe. And in hockey, the premier sport of Canadians, the Ottawa Senators have been seen as one of the top image brands, so they’ve got a style and a success level [that is] another way for us to attach.’

Barrett is never one to shy away from sharing numbers – describing the $2 million spent on fashion programs and the $1-billion sales target reached earlier this year – and the fruits of his labours can be felt at retail as well.

‘We appreciate the fact that manufacturers such as LG are taking a stance that’s more than just simple features, it’s more about how the product fits into the customer’s taste and lifestyle,’ says Eric Park, director of merchandising at Burnaby, B.C.-based Future Shop. ‘The good thing about LG is that their style and fashion permeate through all their categories. Whether it’s cell phones, TVs, appliances, laptops or monitors, they are a very fashionable brand. So Mr. Barrett’s choice to support fashion makes sense.’

Marketing team size: 17

Years at LG: 2

First job in marketing: Brand assistant at P&G

Professional highlight of the past year: Fashion Week-related activities including the Dsquared event sponsorship, a phone launch event at the Carlie Wong fashion show, LG Fashion Fusion event with Maroon 5 concert and fashion shows

Marketing style: Gets to bold visions very quickly and can rally the right resources for almost immediate execution

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