PROFILE: Big fish - CLAIRE STROUD HEAD OF MARKETING GOLDFISH

Claire Stroud has had a dream year. Twelve months after its launch, Goldfish, which is perhaps one of the most unlikely brand names ever launched, has become the fastest growing credit card on the market and is widely seen as a fish with a big future.

Claire Stroud has had a dream year. Twelve months after its launch,

Goldfish, which is perhaps one of the most unlikely brand names ever

launched, has become the fastest growing credit card on the market and

is widely seen as a fish with a big future.



As brand spokesman Billy Connolly says in the latest TV ad, Goldfish are

everywhere.



Stroud has been a key player in developing the Goldfish business, taking

on the role of head of marketing in January from Bruce Rayner, who acted

as consultant on the launch of the card.



In many respects, the growth of the brand is reflected in Stroud herself

as a marketer. She admits that until the Goldfish job came her way she

had had little opportunity to greatly influence the direction of any of

the brands she had worked on.



Now aged just 33, Stroud has been involved in taking an idea from

scratch and building it into one of the most recognisable brands in the

UK. With the financial backing of two major corporate entities, this is

the sort of brief most marketers would walk over hot coals for.



The Goldfish card, which is run by Goldbrand Developments, a

joint-venture company owned by British Gas holding company Centrica and

US-based credit card issuer HFC Bank, offers no-nonsense money saving

deals, such as savings on gas bills, BT calls, shopping at Asda or the

television licence, and currently has 500,000 members.



Its apparent success is emphasised by the fact that its owner, Centrica,

now has the confidence to say it is to copy Virgin’s brand extension

strategy and take the Goldfish name into non-financial services

markets.



Stroud did not get results by becoming a hard-nosed marketing mogul and

cracking the whip over a vast marketing team. She appears to have

remained human and, in conversation, is personable and almost

diffident.



But she clearly has a passion for her brand and an understanding of the

fact that a product will only succeed if its consumers are

satisfied.



These two qualities are reflected in her almost maternal feelings for

Goldfish and the fact that she often asks friends and family for advice

on future marketing ideas.



Originally from Teeside, she moved south after taking a degree at York

University and entered marketing with Swedish-owned Nobel Consumer

Goods, working on brands such as Silkience shampoos, Nulon handcream and

Apri skincare.



She gained her introduction to financial services by marketing store

cards for brands such as Kwik-Fit, Laura Ashley, Debenhams and Tandy

while at Burton Group Retail Financial Services. A three-year stint at

Midland Bank as head of card marketing gave Stroud experience of dealing

with the major card networks, Visa, MasterCard, Switch and the fledgling

Mondex electronic cash scheme.



Now standing in the Goldfish camp, Stroud is scathing of her rivals in

the credit card market. She appears to regard some of the major players

with something close to contempt - emotions which have been given

particular potency by her experience at Midland Bank, where she

encountered the proverbial glass ceiling and was frustrated by the lack

of influence enjoyed by marketers.



’I don’t think they (the banks) try hard enough. In ten years’ time they

are going to get a hell of a shock because there is a generation of

consumers coming through now who are far less loyal,’ she says. ’They

need to adapt to what the new type of consumer is demanding.



’Goldfish has gone from nothing to 73% brand awareness among consumers

in one year, and we are already being compared to Barclaycard and

NatWest, which proves we have reached a certain level of

perception.’



According to Stroud, Goldfish is a success because it has a fresh image

which is backed up by lots of fresh ideas. This, she says, is because

the marketing team, which numbers only 12, genuinely cares about its

fishy creation.



’The small team is a big reason for our success. People are more

positive about the product and can have more impact. If you have been

working in a big company for 20 years, there is less chance of making

much of a difference.



’To come from Midland, where you have little or no input into the brand

because it has become part of the environment, to go to Goldfish, where

you have a lot more freedom with the brand, is tremendously exciting,’

she says.



BIOGRAPHY

1986-1989

Product manager, Nobel Consumer Goods

1989-1993

Senior product manager, then marketing manager, The Burton Group Retail

Financial Services

1993-1996

Senior marketing manager, then head of card marketing, Midland Bank

1997-present

Head of marketing, Goldfish



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