#Loeries2017: Marketing Leadership and Innovation Award 2017 goes to KFC's Mike Middleton
Mike Middleton on stage accepting his award.
Gallo Images/Alistair Nicoll
Middleton joined Unilever in 1996, followed by SABMiller in 2004, then Cadbury in 2006, after which he became the marketing director responsible for managing the European Biscuits Portfolio at Mondelez Europe before returning to join KFC Africa.
I interviewed Middleton to find out why he returned to South Africa, and what receiving this prestigious accolade means to him and for KFC.
Thank you. I must admit that I’m very honoured and humbled in receiving this award. There are so many great marketers in South Africa, so it’s extra special that I’ve been recognised as marketer of the year.
My specific areas of expertise are brand strategy and positioning, being customer-centric, having an ability to identify an excellent creative idea and building healthy relationships with my agency partners.
The part of my career that I love the most is the creative process. I love working with creative minds. I find them eccentric, off beat, flambouyant whilst being stimulating, engaging and energising. I could happily live in a creative agency. In fact if I was going to be buried I would choose to buried in a creative agency.
I love South Africa. It’s such a diverse, interesting and passionate country. Everyone has an opinion about everything and isn’t scared to express it. I’d rather live in our chaos than in grey monotony. Also, South Africa is a world in one and there aren’t many countries where you get to market to so many diversely different consumer groups across all income levels. It’s a marketing utopia.
Ogilvy is an amazing agency. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with them for the duration of my career across the various brands that I’ve worked on. The KFC/Ogilvy partnership goes back probably 45 years and is based on mutual respect and healthy tension. We both want the best creative to connect with consumers and keep KFC relevant and constantly push each other to achieve just this.
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In many respects it's the same; putting consumers first and unlocking insights that ensure a long lasting love affair between brand and consumer. The big difference is that the quick service restaurant business is faster paced. You have direct access to stores and feedback is instant, so you don’t wait a couple of months to determine whether a new product launch or consumer promotion is working; you will know within two or three weeks and can amend your plans accordingly. You also don’t have two listing periods in the year that you are constantly working towards, so it is far more agile and in the moment, which keeps you on your toes!
By immersing ourselves in our consumers' world and understanding how best to connect with them, we’ve moved away from a 'push' strategy of bombarding them with messages hoping that if they hear a message often enough it will make them behave the way we want them to, to a 'pull' strategy where they choose to engage with us because we are interesting, relevant and distinctive.
I’m so lucky to have worked with such amazing people over the years, in both the creative agencies that I’ve worked with and the companies I’ve worked for, that have played a huge role in mentoring and developing me to become the marketer that I am today. I am eternally indebted to all these people for teaching me all that I know and for having a lot of patience along the way.