Special Report Tama Marketer of the Year: And the finalists are…Sark tried and true gets results

Adrian SarkVice-president marketingHershey CanadaRather than worship at the shrine of a Tom Peters, Faith Popcorn, or guru of the moment, former Procter & Gambler Adrian Sark quotes chapter and verse from the book of p&g, the original visionaries and authors of...

Adrian Sark

Vice-president marketing

Hershey Canada

Rather than worship at the shrine of a Tom Peters, Faith Popcorn, or guru of the moment, former Procter & Gambler Adrian Sark quotes chapter and verse from the book of p&g, the original visionaries and authors of the old testament of marketing:

‘I learned my craft there, and enjoyed it thoroughly,’ Sark says. ‘It made me who I am.’

Arch-conservative? Rigid reactionary/ Pious 3Rs, 4Ps, old-school, yester-marketer? Not if you can read numbers.

Sark has moved also-ran Hershey into a clear share lead across the chocolate bar, boxed chocolate and total confectionery market.

He has spearheaded the hottest chocolate bar launch in Canadian history (Peanut Butter Oh Henry!), and made constant improvements to Hershey’s products, marketing and corporate growth for five years now.

‘So far, we haven’t hit the ceiling,’ Sark says in a tone that suggests he hasn’t even located the ceiling yet.

Sark does not credit some Holy Grail strategy for all this success. Just unglamorous hard work. The basics.

‘Doing everything that [marketing consultant and writer John] Dalla Costa says isn’t working anymore,’ he says.

Realistically, Sark is a marketer who can change the bath water, and still hang on to the baby. He can embrace new ideas, as long as they don’t require abandoning the fundamentals.

One current trend that drives him crazy is the shortsighted ‘global marketing equation,’ particularly with regard to Canada.

Sark traces it to the investment community’s productivity demands that lead to replacing senior staff with juniors too inexperienced to handle the real heat.

‘When that doesn’t work, they take the marketing back into head office [the u.s., or wherever], which, inevitably, works even worse,’ he says.

‘If they’re simply gearing up to manufacture house [store] brands, maybe it doesn’t matter.’

All this Sark can say, he realizes, from the relative safety of a confectioner with 65,000 points of sale, not dependent on 2,000 supermarkets.

He can be a lot more focussed on the consumer than those ‘up to their backsides in alligators.’

Sark is also in the unique position of working for a company with voting shares controlled by a trust for a school for disadvantaged children.

Much more sympathetic than a pack of Gordon Gekkos.

Perhaps Sark’s most important basic is this: making sure the marketing plans precede the company’s business plan.

So that the marketing goals are dictated by reality and the possible.

‘Any idiot can take last year’s revenue and add 5% to it,’ Sark says.

In the Hershey choir, Adrian Sark wants to ‘make sure everyone is singing from the same songsheet.’