Attracting and retaining talent is a hot subject in today’s market. Employers are keener than ever to find out how they can adapt and lead today’s millennium. Gianluca di Tondo, Senior Global Brand Director for the Heineken® Brand explores how ‘they need to see you not only as the boss, but a mentor. You need to keep getting excited, you need to fuel their passion, and they need to see the passion in you.’ Gianluca is self-motivated and entrepreneurial with an edge in global marketing, managing partnerships, motivating teams and getting things done.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Gianluca speak about his thoughts on leadership, goals, and what it’s like to be a part of one of the most well-known brands globally.
Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the career success podcast. Today we will be joined by Gianluca di Tondo, the Senior Global Brand Director for the Heineken® Brand. Gianluca is a versatile executive with 19 years of experience in Heineken, the global leader in the Premium Segment, a Market leader in Europe and with a solid number two position in the other Regions. Gianluca is an energetic, natural leader who believes in the power of the right team, builds on people’s strengths, and stimulates them to create value beyond their own expectations. He is passionate about brands, quality and creating a positive contribution to society. He has been described as self-motivated and entrepreneurial with an edge in global marketing, managing partnerships, motivating teams and getting things done, welcome Gianluca. Gianluca: Thank you very much and thank you for having meLauren: So Let’s start off with the topic of a leadership, leadership is a key part of your current position, how do you define yourself as a leader?Gianluca: Yea it’s ,... it’s a interesting because last year The Heineken company setup specific training for the top management together with Harvard University and the one of the point was defining our leadership style, and after the session we conclude together that my leadership style is what they call “Transformational” because I’m all goal oriented, I’m results driven, I’m participative but also decisive. And the two last points are critical in a Dutch company and in the Dutch society, you know the Dutch society is very egalitarian in pure principal they would like every time to finish a meeting with everyone agreed of what to do, and as you can imagine this is unlikely to happened. So you need to be good in listening to everyone, you need to be good in letting everyone leave with the feeling that he has been heard and his point had been taken into account, but then you need also be good in taking your own decision because at the end of the day it is your call. So balancing of this two elements are very important and the also according Harvard business, what you know makes a leader more effective because he listening to people, he empower them but in the end of the day he also willing to take his call, even if someone will be disappointed with that.Lauren: Sure, as well, I mean I’m sure that you’ve heard from your employees over the past years the feedback culture is going with many people what I looking for today and companies have brought this initiated to the forefront, where giving feedback as day to day activity. What is the best feedback that you’ve ever been giving and why?Gianluca: You know that’s funny because it is a feedback I didn’t receive from my direct boss. I received it directly from our CEO, two years ago there was a big change so our CMO left the company, and I was reporting into him and honestly, I think he was one of the best marketers we have ever had in the Heineken company, so I had a meeting with the CEO and he said, you know this is happening, and Heineken this is the biggest brand we have, and marketing sits at the core what we are doing for the brand. But I believe that any, literally he said to me something that I’ve never forget. I believe you don’t need anyone that will tell you how to fly and where to go, you’re very good in doing this yourself, so we fully trust you and you’re going to be even more independent moving forward in doing your job on the Heineken brand. And that was a great feedback because he was really you know, I love my independence and I love to be responsible for my own course of action, so the fact that the CEO of the company was giving me this trust, was very, very important for me. It was huge driver.Lauren: Alright great, and as well, I know that a setting goals is key part of a very successful career and at the end of your career, if you’ve accomplished all of your goals, where when you be, or what would you have achieved?Gianluca: Yeah, I think two things, first of all I would love to stay my whole career in the same company. I love Heineken, I’ve been growing in the company and it is part of who I am also as a person, so that is something that would really love to achieved. And second, working for so many times on the Heineken brand, the Heineken brand is a brand is a huge legacy, now here in the Heineken in Amsterdam, we had the Heineken museum, in which we acknowledge all the key moments in the history of the brand. Yeah, I would love to be someone that would have been remembered to be able to reach one of this big, you know step change or turning point of the brand. In terms of performance but also in terms of consumer perception today we are talking a lot about purpose for brand, and we are working hard to make the purpose for the Heineken brand resonating more with the consumer. I would really love to be remembered as the guy who did it. Lauren: Sure yeah, I mean bringing up the topic of the Heineken brand. What it is like to work on one of the most well-known brands globally and is it possible now to move to a better brand? Gianluca: It’s very hard. So, coming from, from the second part of the question, it’s very hard for me to think something that it’s better than what I’m doing, because it’s really, it’s combining you know the freedom to operate with the brand that is one of the most important brands in the world, and as a marketer this is really something that is priceless but also with the ability to really manage the business basically in most of the markets in the world. So really feeling that the diversity of the different business background and landscape, so it would be difficult for me to think of something better. On the other side, working on Heineken is privilege and is a pleasure because for me, as I say in my company, this is job in which it would be very hard for you to get bored because everyday something new happened, every year you start from you know white pages and you need to rewrite everything again, and you need to adapt yourself to the changes that keep on happening, especially in this period in time it’s so fascinating, it is so rich that it is powerful driver motivation in itself.Lauren: Sure, I mean looking at the FMCG industry or maybe even alcoholic beverages industry, what you’ve seen are the biggest changes in the past five years?Gianluca: I think they are related to the same dynamic. I think the biggest change is in our consumer, the race of the so-called millennials, change a bit and shift the paradigm between, you know, brand and consumer. We know that these guys are driven by different motivation compared to the previous generation, and together with them there was equally what we call a digital revolution. So, everything became digital and for the first time you have a media that is not only is a media, but also content provider, so for marketer, we had to adapt ourselves, especially the beer business that is quite, you know, traditionally driven. We do business in most of the markets through distributors, and this guy takes a bit of time to adapt themselves to the changes, and so for this guy if you do, or don’t do “TV” is a big news. But we know that for our consumer audience today, you know, TV is not any more critical. So, you need to find a new way to reach them in any case. You also to need find a way to not to spoil your relationship with your distributors, so that is very interesting. And also because this, this new target audience changes super quickly. So, what is trendy yesterday, is not going to be trendy tomorrow, so it’s not that once that you crack what you believe is way to engage with them it’s done. No no, you need to be always, you know, be at the edge, because you know tomorrow there going to be a different challenge, tomorrow there going to be different channels are going rise, you need to be very quick in mastering all these changes. Lauren: Yeah, I was speaking with one of our previous podcast guests, Stijn Demeersseman who’s the general manager of commercial operation in the UK for L’oreal. He was saying the effect that bloggers and vloggers have had on brands, would you say they have had the same effect on the Heineken brand?Gianluca: Yeah, of course because you know for especially in a family owned company with the brand that has the same name of the family, and the company, as you can imagine controlling the brand is very high on my agenda. But we are living today in a moment which you cannot control everything because consumer wants, they want to create content on your brand. Bloggers are going to talk about your brands so you are not in control any longer. You need to find a way that you give the right information and the right motivation to do things that are correct for the brand but you cannot manage them and this is something that you need to deal with. Lauren: Sure, yeah. I was attending IGD Big Debate last year in London and Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos, a Professor at the University College in London, discussed how important the experience is to shopper and that the experience drives choice. I’m sure you’ve heard all or maybe have seen M&M store in London and New York, do you see the concept growing?Gianluca: Yeah, I must say that experience marketing sits at the core of what we do as the brand since a long time. We have been expressing this as I would say as part of sponsorship program, no. Because we are not the kind of brand that sponsor a platform just to get our name associated with the big platform, like all with UEFA champions league, or just to put the Heineken banner in the pitch board. We want to create the consumer experience related to this platform. So, sometimes I say, if you are the owner of one of these incredible property, we are a bit annoying as a partner, because we want to do things related to your property. We want to create consumer engagement, we want to create, you know, a reference word in which the consumer can emerge themselves. That it’s combination between our brand, that point of view that the brand has on your platform, and your own platform. So, we’ve been working on experience marketing since a long time, of course now, we are translating this to the point of sales in different ways. So we, a in some markets, we have branded stores, and maybe one or two flagship stores in which you can really emerge yourself in the Heineken world. Of course, in Amsterdam we have Heineken experience that it’s far the best one that we have, and we have over 1 million visitors per year, so quite a big success. It is the 4th biggest tourist attraction in the city so, and the other three are you know, Vangogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank house, so big a big attraction. So, this is very, very important for us. It also how to move it from just one single big piece of activation to every day store, how you can make yourself a bit more interactive with the consumer. How you can make the experience of drinking Heineken in a bar more interesting for the consumer. I think this is the next step, moving from one single concept, to explode this in all the touch point you usually have with your consumer or your shoppers. Lauren: Okay, so lastly looking a bit talent management, what do you think on the new skill that manager would have to be able to adapt and lead today’s millennium?Gianluca: You know, I think at the end of the day, at the core, of the way you can manage this guy is to inspire them. They need to see you not only as the boss, but a mentor. You need to keep on getting excited, you need to fuel their passion, and they need to see the passion in you. At least I see with the new generation of the people joining my team, they’re really looking at me as someone that first, and foremost is passionate of what he does. I say many times, it’s very hard to draw a line between my jobs and my life because are they so much interconnected, and you become a role model because you deeply believe in what you’re doing. It’s very hard that you can take a joke or cheat this guy, if you’re not really passionate and you simply play the character, they are going to find it out, and this is going to play the other way around. So, this is why I say inspiring them is the key thing. Lauren: For Gianluca thank you so much for join us today! Gianluca: It was pleasure, Thank you!Lauren: And thank you for all listeners for joining us today on the career success podcast!