Batenborch International talks with Albert de Heer

Albert de Heer is Global Marketing Director at De Kuyper Royal Distillers

What makes De Kuyper so attractive as an employer?

With beverages being an essential part of the event sector, we really catch that “spirit”. Apart from our global presence and the fact that we have been distilling since 1695, we add a lot of fun ingredients to the mix. At our office, we have a great bar that reflects the products that we are selling, but we also have access to the distilleries, so we can literally see and taste “what’s cooking”. How many people are able to do that?

“I am a firm believer that marketing adds value. As a marketer, I add a touch of creativity. Being creative through marketing is one of the keys to a company's success.”

Albert de Heer

Which aspects of your job give you energy?

My biggest energy source is the fact that in advertising you create new concepts, convey strong messages and build brands. I also love helping others create ideas, whilst giving them enough freedom.

Did your management style change a lot during your career?

Talking about freedom, I had the tendency to give too much freedom to people joining the company. When I started, I was free to do my own thing, so I wanted to reciprocate that, assuming that everyone feels comfortable in such a situation.

Along the way I came to understand that this makes some people feel lost. So I adapted my management style by creating a safe environment where people feel free to act, but also are aware that they can ask for more guidance.

Did you make any mistakes along the way?

When I was working at Unilever, I almost ended up destroying my career (laughs). I was responsible for the launch of a sandwich called “broodje Unox” and we had the brilliant idea to order hundred thousand small ovens to heat up these hot dog-like snacks.

However, the price of these ovens was about €100 a piece, which exceeded our marketing budget for this activation. Luckily, during a moment of lucidity, we ended up changing our minds right before actually pressing the “order” button.

What challenges is the beverages industry currently facing?

The biggest challenge will always be to reach the consumers. If people don’t know you, the competition can easily replace you. At De Kuyper we already have some big B2C brands, like Dropshot, but we aim to reach that same level for our other brands that are more known on a B2B level.

Another challenge lays in the fact that anyone can launch a brand since there are almost no entry barriers anymore. That creates an environment where 7-8 new products are launched on the market on a daily basis. Of course some of these products will eventually fail, but they take up shelf space.

Non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks are definitely a third challenge. Since consumers tend to focus more on their health and millennials are drinking less, we have to ask ourselves whether we will adapt or stick to what we excel at.

Which (new) key marketing competencies will be crucial to succeed in the future?

While some people claim that marketing has become more complex because of the increase in channel usage and its more data-driven approach, I still vow for competencies like creativity (to add value), speed (to act quicker) and curiosity (to see what drives consumers).

What is your general piece of advice for young marketers?

“Life rewards action”: even if you feel like you have hit a wall, it is always better to take (thoughtful) action rather than stand still. Stop tweaking, go for it and learn from your mistakes.