Passion drives VW marketer

By Gill South

Award-winning national manager says her interest is in influencing people, at work and in the marketplace.

Denise Goodwin. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Denise Goodwin. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Executive high-flyers are driven by many things other than money, it seems.

For award-winning Volkswagen marketing manager Denise Goodwin, for instance, her interest is in influencing people - those she works with and the market at large.

Goodwin last year won the Supreme Marketing Award at the TVNZ Marketing Awards, having taken the brand to being perceived as a desirable automotive option for the local market, rather than expensive and European.

When Goodwin became national marketing manager for New Zealand at VW more than three years ago, the car's branding was heavily influenced by a European-centric, one-size-fits-all marketing strategy.

Seeing this as a major obstacle to local sales growth, she convinced headquarters in Germany to invest heavily, for the first time, in a strategy tailored to the New Zealand market.

Goodwin, who has also worked at Subaru, changed VW's media model by ramping up the TV exposure, backing it up with digital, and was instrumental in developing a brand that connected New Zealanders with VW on an emotional level.

Goodwin, who says she's one of few women in the industry, has had several mentors and "influencers' over the years who have helped in her career and her career decisions.

One of her first big influencers was Scott Wallace at DDB, who she works with today. VW is a client of DDB's.

"He's been there from the moment I started," she says.

Her first job after graduating in marketing at AUT and travelling in Japan was with publisher INL, now Fairfax. Working in a small marketing office with Gail Fowler and Mike Blake, they looked after the Sunday Star Times, TV Guide and NZ Truth.

"There was such a wealth of learning, so many different perspectives. They were a huge influence - they really mentored me for three years.

"The variety was huge from events, to working with suppliers, the agencies, on sponsorship, it was a huge generalist," she says.

Then came the opportunity to work at Subaru, her first car business.

"I thought I'd like to work in the car industry, it was where I thought you had good brands."

Subaru's Legacy Outback was a firm favourite with New Zealand families. Goodwin worked in a small team led by the current managing director, Wallis Dumper. "I was taught more about having a strong marketing business, how that influences the bottom line directly and about knowing when to use your instinct," she says. Goodwin became national marketing manager at Subaru and left in 2005.

She relished her time at Subaru. "The power of the brand was so strong, it felt part of something very special. We were such a team, having relationships with Japan and Australia, all working toward a goal."

But after five years she needed a new challenge. "I personally wanted to make my own name, I knew I had so much to offer. I always have this desire to make a difference when I get up in the morning,"

Goodwin then had a stint at Ferrit, the doomed Amazon-style online retail business set up by Telecom. She started a couple of months after the launch as retail marketing manager.

She has no regrets about her time there. "I went there because it was a ground-breaking digital space in online shopping.

"They were such talented people - I have been really lucky with the amount of talent that I've been able to be exposed to." The chief executive was was Ralph Brougham and Peter Wogan was head of marketing.

An offer followed to be national marketing manager at Turners Auctions. It was a stark contrast to Ferrit, "steeped in NZ history."

The opportunity was to centralise the marketing. Each branch had been doing it separately. "It was very rewarding to work there."

Taking the marketing under her control from the branches had its challenges. "You have to be very truthful, good at influencing."

Although the high flyer feels she has more to do at VW, she has some ideas for the longer term. She has been thinking quite a lot about doing an MBA, although she is weighing up the time it would take to do that.

"Work-life balance is very important," says Goodwin, who likes to run in her spare time. While at Subaru she was nominated to go to Mt Eliza Business School, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Goodwin says she has not felt disadvantaged being a woman in a man's world. "I've always been so lucky and people have been appreciative of my strengths."

Her former Subaru boss, Wallis Dumper, recommended her to Richard Giltrap, the managing director of European Motor Distributors which owns the distribution rights for VW in New Zealand.

Giltrap has been a mentor. "He's a very smart, entrepreneurial man" who understands the importance of marketing, Goodwin says.

Her ultimate aim is to be in the strategy side of a business, to be a consultant or a professional director. "That's my passion, developing and influencing people is very important.

"As a director I'd be helping businesses evolve, steering them in the right direction, bringing the right people together."

She'd also like to be involved in helping with technology start ups.

Meanwhile her heart remains with VW for now.

"I will be there as long as I make a difference.

"I would love to do a secondment with them."

She'd like to spend time with VW UK and get a perspective of the business there and gain some insights. A managing director position is something she aspires to at some stage.

- NZ Herald

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