Stephen Plunkett

Advertising manager, Ikea Canada Burlington, Ont.Stephen Plunkett graduated from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. in 1982 with a bachelor of arts in economics and business.That year, Plunkett joined the b.c. office of Andre's Wines as a sales representative.In 1983, he...

Advertising manager, Ikea Canada Burlington, Ont.

Stephen Plunkett graduated from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. in 1982 with a bachelor of arts in economics and business.

That year, Plunkett joined the b.c. office of Andre’s Wines as a sales representative.

In 1983, he transferred to its head office in Winona, Ont. and took on the job of marketing co-ordinator, responsible for market analysis and research.

Two years later, he was promoted to marketing manager for the Prairies, with responsibilities in new product development.

In 1987, Toronto’s Sante Fe Beverages, which makes wine and beer coolers and is owned by Molson Breweries, hired Plunkett as its marketing manager.

While there, he launched Sante Fe’s highly successful beer-based cooler, Durango Cooler.

In 1989, Plunkett took on his current position as advertising manager at Ikea Canada, which was then located in Richmond, b.c. but has since moved to Burlington.

- Launched Durango, Sante Fe Beverages’ highly successful beer-based cooler.

- Has been instrumental in the respositioning of Ikea over the past three years from a narrowly defined retailer known for inexpensive furniture to a retailer offering a wide range of furnishings.

We asked:

Q. Are you a believer in marketing by science or intuition?

A. ‘Both play a role, but intuition will take the lead – particularly in categories where buying decision relies on emotion.’

Q. Was there a significant turning point in your career?

A. ‘During my first year after graduating, when I joined the marketing department of Andre’s Wines.’

Q. What is your favorite marketing campaign (not including campaigns with which you have been involved)?

A. ‘ddb’s first Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ campaign.’

Q. What is your favorite ad (not including ads with which you have been involved)?

A. ‘Currently, the Kit Kat spot.’

Q. What do you do in your spare time?

A. ‘Cycling in the summer; skiing during the winter.’

Q. What is the most recent book you’ve read?

A. ‘Made in America, by Sam Walton.’

Creative/strategic sense

‘Stephen’s very good at explaining to the agency what Ikea is all about, but he has no pretensions to being a creative guy.’

‘He is very analytical and methodical and precise. I think he has a hard time trusting his intuitions.’

‘Ikea is known for its innovative creative, and Stephen certainly took up the torch after he arrived on the job.’

‘Stephen was someone who would often dive for the details of a creative idea before thinking about the larger picture. The creative team would then have to pull him back and make him look at the larger picture.’

‘Stephen is one of those people who has a good feel for creative. He has good business sense, but he also has a lot of feel.’

Management skills

‘His style – the way he walks, the way he talks – is all very West Coast, very laid-back. But his approach to doing business is very intense.’

‘He’ll ask you a question in a very casual way and then you’ll look up and realize the eyes are going right through you.’

‘One of the best things about him as a client is you can argue with him and change his mind.’

He drives an aging Volvo with a ski rack on top. What does that tell you?’

Business sense

‘He’s very aware of the market. The other day he was able to tell us the price of light bulbs at Aikenhead’s [Home Improvement Warehouse.] He’s also a real nut for collecting jazz records.’

‘Stephen has this ability to become the brand. Now that he’s with Ikea, he’s thoughtful and intelligent, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously, just like the Ikea brand.’

Next issue: Barry Bousfield, manager of advertising and sales promotion, Black & Decker Canada.