Sam Forrest got his first taste for business at the age of seven. Spending much of his time at his parents’ winery, Forrest quickly cottoned on to the fact that he could make a relatively easy buck giving visiting guests tours of the venue. The tourists would follow their waist-high guide and then, having been thoroughly impressed by his efforts, would drop a few dollars (US, of course) in his hand before moving onto their next destination.
“[This] foreshadowed my career in sales and marketing,” says Forrest, reflecting on what he believes was a catalyst for his various entrepreneurial adventures. Growing up with a family in the wine business meant that he quickly became accustomed to doing whatever job was required.
“Like all successful family businesses, you have to be prepared to pitch in and do whatever it takes to get the job done,” he says. “I have done everything from wine shop sales and trade events, to winery and vineyard work.”
These somewhat unconventional beginnings, which often involved carrying grapes, served as the foundation for what would turn into one of the country’s most promising marketing careers.
After graduating from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Forrest landed a sales role in the graduate programme at Frucor and made the move to Auckland. He only lasted four months in this role.
Quickly recognising his talent, the Frucor team promoted him to the role of territory sales manager. However, once again, there were bigger things on the horizon.
Only five months after accepting the role, he was up the ranks again and appointed the assistant brand manager on V Energy.
Giving Forrest so much responsibility for the energy drink was clearly an indication that Frucor, a company renowned for its positive work culture, had high hopes for him. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where an energy drink other than Red Bull is the dominant player, with V Energy holding a 60 percent share of the market. The brand has legions of Kiwi fans, some of which have even inked the V logo onto their skins.
Forrest didn’t visit a tattoo parlour to show his allegiance to the brand, but he did dedicate some long hours to the cause.
Over the course of a year and three months, Forrest introduced three new products—V Kaboom, V Gnarly and V Carnival—to the portfolio and each of these flew off the shelves. “I think my biggest achievement to date would have to be V Kaboom,” says Forrest. “Overall V Kaboom exceeded 112 percent of forecast for a traditionally tricky time for the business sales wise. It was 26 percent incremental for Frucor in a category that had significantly slowed in growth at the time … Overall, Kaboom was Frucor’s third biggest launch ever.”
V Kaboom was recognised for this success, being named recently as the Top NPD launch of 2014 at the New Zealand Association of Convenience Store Awards. Similarly, V Gnarly and V Carnival also proved popular among consumers, and their sales figures when combined with those of Kaboom consolidated V Energy’s position as a leader in the market.
Despite his early success, Forrest has maintained an admirable humility, which has led Frucor executives to refer to him as “the perfect culture fit” for the company.
Forrest also understands that his career is still in its infancy and that he still has a long way to go.
He counts 42 Below Founder Geoff Ross, Moa Beer founder Josh Scott, Villa Maria founder George Fistonich and Frucor chief executive Mark Callaghan as business people that he admires, but he reserves the greatest portion of his reverence for the first person he looked up to: John Forrest, the founder of Forrest Wines.
“Special shout out to my dad who is my biggest inspiration. He has been influential in leading the New Zealand wine industry forward in terms of innovation: from the NZ ScrewCap initiative to developing industry-leading ‘natural low-alcohol wines.’”
In collecting the award for the Rookie Marketer of the Year, Forrest has stepped into the limelight that other young marketers aspire to. And in providing advice to those who want to follow in his footsteps next year, he chooses a rather unconventional person to quote.
“In the words of Sean (P Diddy) Combs from his Cannes Lions interview: ‘If you ain’t giving people something they want, then get the hell out of their way.’ For me marketing should be about creating something people want, not making people want something. The future of marketing for brands, especially FMCG brands, is about deep consumer connection; through creating shared value with consumers, by having brands which are transparent and purposeful. I believe as a young marketer if you put that lens across everything you do in the next 12 months and work hard, you will be a finalist next year.”
And for Forrest, next year (and those to come) will no doubt bring about a host of new opportunities and challenges—especially since he was just recently appointed to the position of brand manager at Mountain Dew.
Rookie Marketer of the Year
Sam Forrest, Frucor
“Sam demonstrated a clear vision for the brand … He has taken the opportunities given to him and sees marketing as being about people and influencing stakeholders and creating a deep consumer connection. He has a high level of energy. In the end, the judges considered Sam’s focus on vision and bringing people on his journey to give him the edge over other candidates in being a leading marketer in the future.”
Alexandra Sides, ADInstruments; Damon Woolf, DB Breweries; Jordan Tran, AA Smartfuel; Nick Foster, Powershop; Rachel Langford, The Edge.