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Interview: Gary Rapps Managing Director of Toucan

By Lee Porte  //  Tue 2nd September 2014
What was your first job?
I was a Brand Manager at a very traditional food importer called G.Costa & Co, working on everything from Swedish crispbread to tinned frogs legs, before it became part of the Associated British Foods empire and renamed AB World Foods.

How did you get into the marketing industry?

After several failed attempts to work in advertising, having studied Business at Leicester Poly, I applied for a marketing position that was being advertised in a graduate recruitment newspaper and the rest is history. I think I still might have a copy of it at home!

What is your favourite campaign?
As a child I was fixated by Unigate Dairy’s ‘Humphrey’ campaign which offered a range of fun branded items with your daily pinta, under the banner of ‘Watch out, there’s a Humphrey about’. We only had an Express milkman at the time but I would have done anything to change brands if there was a choice on the doorstep.

Marketing to marketers is tough indeed, what’s your secret?
It’s really all about understanding them in the first place. They are always under pressure to deliver, often time short, working on ever reducing budgets and keen to shine. Take these factors on board and you’ll get some cut through.

Which resource do you always turn to?
I am a massive Google fan and use it to help with everything from idea generation to business development, particularly the image search function of the site.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt?
Keep moving as a business! We stayed on one office site for nearly 18 years and when we decided to move location it transformed the company overnight. There was more internal buzz, more team interaction, more things to say to the outside world and, above all, more clients wanting to visit.

Best piece of career advice?
Network and network hard, particularly in the early years. You’ll certainly reap the benefits from a decent contacts list in later life, particularly as your peers will, like you, grow and develop in their own careers and areas of responsibility.

If you could work on any campaign, what would it be?
Probably something that would support a leading retailers association with a charity or good cause on a par with those historic books or computers for schools initiatives run by the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

What piece of technology can’t you live without?
For me it has to be the National Rail Enquiries App. I spend a lot of time on trains and find it invaluable when checking if the rail network is on my side each day.

With the wide range of activities you undertake across shopper, consumer and trade marketing, where do you feel that your biggest growth areas will be moving forwards?
Shopper marketing is certainly a key area for us at present as we look to combine our 23 years of experience in this area with a continued program of investment in new staff and technology.

How do you feel new developing technologies will impact on the world of shopper marketing?
Personalisation has seen major advancements, especially in the world of packaging, as has face recognition technology and consumer insight from loyalty card data. As brands put these together and it will not be long before we start to see messages along the whole path to purchase that are as different for Tom and Dick as they are for Harry.

What is you prediction for changes within marketing over the next three years?
I think we will start to revert back to far more local level marketing activity instead of the big national campaigns of old. The rise in bespoke retailer activity has fuelled interest in smaller, regional solutions and I can certainly see this gathering pace.

What is your favourite pub?
The Green Dragon near Dartmouth, Devon always works for me. It’s over 300 years old and the ceiling hasn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in all that time.

Lager or real ale?
Can I say cider instead? I can justify the apples as one of my five a day!

Who would play you in a movie?
Despite the picture I have recently been experimenting with growing a goatee and seem to have inherited Paul Hollywood as a new nickname, so probably him until I next shave.

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