Heineken UK head of marketing: Trends happen in minutes, not years

Cindy Tervoort shares some of the lessons and experiences from her marketing career.

Find your passion

Life is just too short to spend 60 hours a week on something you don’t like. Much better to find out quickly what drives you and where you get your energy from. I have always worked in FMCG and, at a certain point in my career, wondered if I should start my own business.

In our spare time from busy day jobs, my husband and I set up an online fashion brand for socks, Dr Finkelbaum, with colourful designs from young fashion talent.

We drew inspiration from the insight that even the smallest things in life, such as socks, can have an impact. We donated all our profits to a charity and, although quite successful, we sold the business after a year.

This was a great toe in the water for entrepreneurship, but I quickly realised that I would miss my colleagues and the buzz of a big organisation, where I could make a bigger impact. That said, I continue to ask myself regularly, am I still passionately enjoying what I do?

Brands with a view

We now live in a world with an abundance of choice. Trends happen in minutes, not years, and everybody has an audience.

In this world, greater trust is placed on the opinion of communities and friends than institutions or brands.

People are fed up with brands that just want to land their own message. They want to identify with brands that they feel are worthy of an invitation into their world. A clearly articulated point of view, expressed creatively and through great storytelling, is critical.

The key questions are: what do you stand for and what are you actually giving to people?

We have strong brands that appeal to people. Our flagship Heineken beer strives to inspire people with our "Open your world" campaign arc – a call to stretch beyond known boundaries, explore the world and opinions around you and truly experience life.

At the same time, we have clear points of view that we express through the campaign. There is no benefit from drinking too much and you should never drink when you drive. It’s not perfect yet but we are exploring, learning and reinventing ourselves constantly in order to progress. 

Aim high

I worked for an American company for a decade with a genuine passion and drive for growth. If there is one thing I learned there, it is to aim high.

It’s better to set yourself an unreasonable task and don’t fully get there than comfortably hit targets all the time. You will achieve more and it will keep you sharp, creative and hungry. And it’s much more fun.

Focus on teams

The best times in my career were when I worked in an ambitious, high-performing and fun team, so creating that is my number-one priority.

We are only as good as our teams’ achievements. So investing in talent, understanding what makes individuals tick and aligning to the company’s objectives should be first on any manager’s agenda.

It’s interesting in this context to define "team". Is my focus on my team of direct reports or on the company’s leadership team with my peers?

My current boss gave me some good advice: "You could spend most time building your own team, but spending time on developing strong relationships with your peers, challenging each other to all become better, is at least as important."

A focus on teams and people is not only important but makes your working day much nicer. 

Drive diversity

I have been surrounded by strong women throughout my life. My mum is an amazing role model who raised two kids by herself while doing her masters and a full-time job, working her way up to finance director of the eight teaching hospitals in the Netherlands.

Most of my female friends combine a good career with a family, and my first two bosses were strong, authentic and very inspiring women.

I want all women to create or benefit from the same life chances as men, which is sadly still not always the case.

The best teams I have been part of were diverse in many ways and I have always worked passionately to drive diversity in general.

My sincere hope is that, one day, I can be a role model for my daughter and to the people around me.

Cindy Tervoort joined Heineken as marketing director from PepsiCo, where she was head of marketing, cereals, for western Europe and Africa. She worked at PepsiCo for ten years and, before that, held various marketing and sales roles at Unilever.

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