The Marketing profile: Angus McIver of Morrisons

LONDON - According to Angus McIver, his Highland roots were the 'magic ingredient' that landed him the first board-level marketing job at Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons. 'Apparently being Scottish makes me more northern than southern,' says 43-year-old McIver, who grew up in Fort William.

The strength of insight and loyalty he showed during his tenure at former employer Prudential, coupled with his solid FMCG background, certainly helped to secure him the job. However, McIver claims the task of overseeing Morrisons' £450m rebrand had been all but completed by marketing services director Michael Bates by the time he joined the grocer in September.

McIver, as Group marketing and communications director, must take some credit for Morrisons' impressive Christmas trading figures. This year the retailer reported its highest growth since its £3bn takeover of Safeway in 2004, following an increase in adspend to £29m in the last quarter of 2007- nearly a third more than that of Asda and Sainsbury's for the same period.

Unlike its rivals, Morrisons does not have a customer loyalty scheme, although McIver says this has come under consideration following the recruitment of former Tesco customer insight director Nigel Dodds in November.

'I'm not convinced we need a loyalty programme,' McIver says, adding that Morrisons gets 60-80% of its customer data without expenditure. 'The Clubcard works for Tesco, but I'm not convinced by Sainsbury's Nectar scheme.'

Unlike those rivals, Morrisons has also avoided the convenience-store format. 'Morrisons' fresh food model could not operate on a smaller scale,' says McIver. 'A convenience concept is definitely not on the cards.'

Instead, he is focusing on Morrisons' environmental strategy. The retailer launched 'Today', its first consumer-facing corporate social responsibility programme, last month. Created by Billington Cartmell, it is intended to communicate the brand's ethical stance in a 'straight-talking, down-to-earth' way.

McIver joined Morrisons just weeks after Lance Batchelor became Tesco's UK marketing director. The two met early in their careers at Procter & Gamble, where McIver also met his wife, who still works for the company. 'I met Lance for lunch last week.' McIver says. 'We were half expecting the Office of Fair Trading to appear. I promise we weren't discussing price-fixing.'

McIver also spent 10 years at Pepsi-Co, where he rose from snacks marketing controller to vice-president of insight for Walkers.

'My favourite brand is Walkers,' he says. 'It tells a phenomenally consistent story and is true to its British roots.'

During his spell at PepsiCo, McIver spent three years in Budapest as central European marketing director. He left the company in 2003 after developing deep vein thrombosis following three consecutive long-haul flights. 'I loved the culture, but at a big international company like PepsiCo, I wasn't going to be able to escape the travel,' he says. 'I decided to take a job in either retail, financial services or telecoms, as those sectors had lots of UK opportunities. Prudential came up first.' He rose quickly through the ranks at the insurance company, rising to succeed Alison Wright as UK marketing director.

McIver moved from Berkshire to Yorkshire to take up his post at Morrisons. 'I definitely noticed the temperature change,' he says. Fortunately, the outdoorsy marketer isn't averse to the cold. He has walked up Mount Kilimanjaro, and skis in Switzerland, where he has a small cabin, every winter.

The next mountains McIver will be looking to conquer are the twin peaks of soaring raw-material costs and the consumer spending slowdown, though he seems as unruffled by these challenges as he was by being suddenly thrust into the spotlight on taking up his role at one of the UK's 'big four' supermarkets. 'The retail industry is constantly changing,' he says. 'Morrisons is an exciting place to be at the moment.'

Career history

  • 1986-1989 Assistant brand manager, Procter & Gamble Laundry & Cleaning
  • 1989-1993 Brand manager, Crest, Procter & Gamble Health & Beauty Care
  • 1993-1997 Snacks marketing controller, PepsiCo (Walkers)
  • 1997-2000 Central European marketing director, PepsiCo
  • 2000-2003 Vice president, insight, PepsiCo (Walkers)
  • 2003-2007 Director of brand and customer insight, rising to UK marketing director, Prudential
  • 2007-present Group marketing and communications director, Morrisons

 

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