Lana Blair has been encouraged to view the world through the lens of business ever since she was a child, thanks to the guidance of her parents. Her dad, an entrepreneur, would often give her the task of coming up with a business idea for the day before school.
“[Dad] has always encouraged me to look at the world with an optimistic and business-minded viewpoint, so [my parents]have been a massive support in getting me to this stage.”
Perhaps it is this kind of thinking that caused Blair to swim, not sink, when she was chucked in the deep end at Lion, as a recent graduate from the University of Otago, with a double bachelor in marketing management, and neuroscience and psychology.
Blair first started a relationship with Lion when she was recruited for its graduate intake in October 2014, where graduates go through several rotations in different departments to gain a broad understanding of the business.
Normally, under the programme, a graduate would work under the wing of an experienced brand manager on interesting but low-risk and low-stress projects, but this wasn’t the case for Blair. Her second rotation was as assistant brand manager – projects, but due to two vacancies in two key brand manager roles, Blair suddenly had to step into much bigger shoes.
Not only was she required to cover two important brand manager roles, she was also pitched two critical projects at once, which would be an incredibly daunting task for any recent graduate with limited experience.
“I came on to support the Mac’s and Smirnoff brand managers on two big projects coming up for summer, but as it happens, both managers left for other opportunities,” she says.
“So, I was left to manage those two projects on my own for those two managers and it was my first few weeks and it was these massive projects … but I had the great support of the rest of the marketing team.”
On one project, Blair was responsible for the massive task of refreshing the face of Mac’s craft beer, changing the packaging, look and feel of the brand and launching new products including, Three Wolves, Green Beret and Mid Vicious, as well as Mac’s cider family.
Blair successfully turned a 20 percent decline to 14 percent growth after the campaign launched, with a $4.9 million increase in sales.
Blair also produced great results for Smirnoff’s ‘Pure Potential’ campaign when it came under her management.
“This was more of a brand positioning campaign, as the Smirnoff brand had lost some relevance with our target market and we needed to play in the digital space a bit more,” she says.
“The Pure Potential campaign was fully integrated among multiple touch points: above the line, experiential, digital, radio, PR and in-store.”
She says parts of the campaign were well recognised, most notably, Smirnoff’s ‘Instagram your Fridge’, where punters were encouraged to post a photo of the contents of their fridge on Instagram, and Smirnoff would send back a personalised recipe using the ingredients as inspiration to make a Smirnoff cocktail.
“It was one of the first Instagram campaigns in the world we were aware of that used the platform on a really personal level, which we know is really important for millennials … and that element of the campaign went really well.”
The campaign creative, by Special Group, was also pushed out in a series of posters featuring the bold, visual design of artfully arranged fresh, delicious-looking ingredients around ice-filled shot glasses and vodka bottles, with the underlying idea being that Smirnoff could see ‘pure potential’ in any ingredient.
Blair says the campaign has been recognised locally and internationally at different awards and managed to nab a Facebook Award this year for ‘Best Use of a Facebook Platform’.
“That was a really exciting piece of work because it was really innovative and with alcohol you have to be very careful with how you are communicating, so it required a lot of planning in terms of figuring out how to execute it,” she says. “But we got great results and our consumers loved it and it was great to do something that was kind of a first and a different piece of work in the marketplace.”
As a result of the campaign, Smirnoff’s sales grew 13 percent compared to the year before, which achieved almost twice the targeted seven percent growth. Total Smirnoff volume also increased by 19.5 percent. Smirnoff managed to bring in $25.50 for every $1 spent on the product and its brand imagery measure increased by 125 percent, exceeding a KPI of 20 percent.
Despite the sudden weight of responsibility, which Blair admits was challenging, she says she feels lucky she was able to have an opportunity like this so early in her burgeoning career.
“For me, it’s really confirmed my passion for marketing and I know that this is what I want to do long-term. Even though it’s busy and crazy, it doesn’t feel like work as I really enjoy what I’m doing,” she says.
“It’s very energising and you feel like you’re making a difference and when you’re doing something you really love, it motivates you and gives you a lot of drive.”
And Blair is showing no signs of slowing down. She says she has big aspirations for the future and would love to apply her passion for marketing, as well as her interest in neuroscience and psychology, to help her lead a marketing team.
“I think we are starting to learn more about neuroscience as its own discipline, we are learning so much more about how the brain works and how people think and make decisions,” she says. “And the more progress we have in that area, the more we can use that in our marketing to become more effective.”
So, she says, she’s always keeping up-to-date in that area to see how the discipline can be applied to marketing.
“I love the fast-paced environment of marketing. No two days are going to be the same and you will always have different problems you are trying to solve … It’s a really exciting time to be in marketing and I’m really excited to see what the future might bring.”
Blair’s passions for marketing and neuroscience have already carried her far at such an early stage in her career, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more from this rising star.