Tapping into culture

Johan Radojewski, VP Marketing Malibu.

Mastering digital transformation within an innovative company might seem like an easy task. But to stay relevant in a globalized market, while at the same time advocating Nordic values, you need to stay on top of more than just tech developments. We had a talk with Johan Radojewski, VP Marketing Malibu, about staying at the forefront while at the same time honoring your history.

In your corporate presentation it’s stated that “Johan is passionate about cultivating an environment where curiosity and courage can thrive, since he believes the best innovation comes from audacious risk-taking and teamwork.” What does this mean?

– The key here is to never stop being curious. In my opinion, you can have the best education money can buy, but when it comes to building an innovative business culture, curiosity is what keeps the wheels turning. And we’re all about innovations at TAC. Finding the next big thing and exploring new routes. So, we need to have a culture where people feel that they are being a little bit challenged to see things from new perspectives. The opposite of just sitting around waiting for directives on what to do. We distill insights, trends and impressions to invent new brands and develop our existing portfolio.

We live and work in a very fast-paced environment where new inventions constantly reshape how we interact with each other, how we communicate and how we do business. How do you work to stay on top of the latest trends that might influence your brands, especially given that you compete on a global market?

– You need to have several sources of input. You can read, google or consume popular culture. In our industry, the relevant insights might come from food trends or farming as well as music or lifestyle. So, having a diverse culture, with lots of entry points into different sources, is super important. Your own interests, as an employee, governn the way you are receptible to new impressions and new information. I, for instance, love food, drinks and travel. When you combine that with my interest in marketing and communication, you get a good sense of what I can bring to the company. And this goes for everyone who works at TAC. Curiosity and personal values surpass general knowledge. You can always learn as you go if you have the right mindset.

What’s been most challenging?

– I often try to dwell on the contrast between something being complicated or complex. Complexity is all around us. I mean, the world is a complex place, with society, technology, networking and an endless buffet of channels to choose from. But that doesn’t mean that things have become more complicated. Complexity is something that you can’t influence, but you surely don’t have to make things more complicated than they need to be. Take Spotify as an example: Why are they so successful? It’s not just because they have all music imaginable available. No, it’s because they are convenient. It’s so easy to find what you’re looking for. So, the user experience is what makes or breaks the case here. And the same is applicable to leadership or governance. You have to keep asking yourself how you can make things less complicated and more convenient. I think we sometimes have a tendency to overestimate technological shifts short term and underestimate their impact long term. And the same goes for the current pandemic. I’m pretty sure that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find that the world’s changed completely over-night, but in the long term, things will be different due to the learnings we’ve had to draw now.

You started at TAC some 8 years ago. It might not seem like such a long time, but in terms of technical developments it’s close to a lifetime. How has TAC transformed during your tenure?

– It’s a new company today. So much has happened over the last decade. Our interaction and dialogue with consumers and our different markets have improved immensely. We’ve become much more integrated into everything. And that has also meant that our work has had to adapt and that we, as a company, have had to put an effort into becoming more agile, and open to change, than before. As an example: back in 2012, you could spend 10 months developing a print ad and then you complemented that with an Out of Home campaign and possibly a TV commercial. That was it. Today, just the sheer volume of assets that you need to produce and the speed that you must keep is beyond comparison. And looking into my magic Chrystal ball, I foresee an even greater fragmentation. Things will get more complex with larger niche groups and special interests that we have to cater to. People want personalized experiences and products and, given the technological opportunities that we now have access to, I think that this will only increase. And that’s something we need to always be aware of and try to master in the best way we can.

Johan Radojewski, VP Marketing Malibu.

Is a forward-thinking approach and an aspiration for constant development required or are there still some old truths that always apply?

– One thing I’ve learned from our history is that the people working here are extremely proud of their craftmanship and they feel very passionate about the brands we produce here at TAC. And this is regardless of if you work in production, finance, marketing or any other function –in Åhus or in Stockholm. Take Absolut as an example, the current set-up and the great history are interlinked and essential for the brand. We stand and fall with our products, so it’s always a priority to have them as kick-ass as possible. One thing that has always been true is our quest for serving our consumers with the best “convivilaité” experience possible, whether that is a state-of-the-art vodka or an amazing event at a festival. Having the consumer value at the forefront has been and will be a constant mission but of course, the way we do it, and the tools we can apply will always evolve.

How do you think TAC’s Swedish heritage impacts the way you act when it comes to innovation?

– I think it is safe to say there’s a reason to talk about a Swedish innovation culture. I think innovation has been a cornerstone of the Swedish business society since its inception. Of course, in the early days with the big Swedish industrial companies, but that shifted overtime to more creative industries like the music industry – where swedes have been at the top of the charts since the dancing days of ABBA. And Swedish advertising agencies have done well in Cannes Lions and other international contest and companies like Volvo, IKEA and H&M have done great campaigns with global resonance. Today, Stockholm is seen as one of the most attractive places for the global start up community with many successful companies in for example Fintech, and more lately some really interesting companies popping up in the area of “impact entrepreneurship” with a mission of solving the world’s greatest challenges. So, I think the fact that TAC is placed in the middle of this, influences the way we think and challenge ourselves. And of course, Absolut is part of the amazing Swedish innovation DNA. And I’m pretty sure, that this type of creativity that seems to be fostered here in Sweden was one of the reasons as to why Pernod Ricard chose to make Stockholm the home for Malibu and Kahlua. To learn from all the great things Absolut has been doing over the years and tap into the creative culture of Sweden.

What motivates you?

–  I’ve always had a need for a creative outlet. I like to build things and to write and create. And my position at TAC really enables me to pursue this. We’re all about art and science, which I love. And I have a lot of freedom to create my own working conditions and that’s a huge motivational factor for me. And I like to be surrounded by likeminded people but with different backgrounds and perspectives – it really challenges your way of thinking so you feel that you never stand still.

From what I gather, you’re not old enough to base your leadership on experience alone, yet you’re not young enough to be truly digitally native. Which challenges does this offer you and how do you handle them?

– Well, this isn’t something I’ve given a lot of thought. It’s important to be attentive and responsive, both towards consumers and also internally. Be open and curious and try to not be biased or full of preconceptions to the best of your ability. The older you get, the more your experiences are cemented in your persona. So, it’s important to sometimes try to unlearn, to not get stuck in your old ways of thinking. And it’s of course also super important to surround yourself with people that constantly push you to  develop.

Johan Radojewski, VP Marketing Malibu. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

– TAC is an amazing workplace. For me, it’s an arena for all the things that interest me. It’s a way in and out to cultures and people. You really feel that you’re at the forefront of a lot that’s going on around the world every day. And that keeps me fresh.

As VP Marketing Malibu, you’re in charge of one of the more notable initiatives by the brand: the annual Malibu Games. How have you shifted focus this year, given the fact that there’s a pandemic limiting the usual set-up?

– We had to cancel all our plans and develop new ideas. Simple as that. So, we went back to the drawing board and started to back track our initial motivational factors for the Malibu games. Then we reconsidered how to utilize this in the current situation. The solution was to do a digital activation together with our influencers on how Malibu could help motivate their followers to have the best summer ever and how to connect digitally, when there are physical limitations. Malibu is all about bringing a bit of sunshine to our consumers, and this is a very good way of doing so through digital experiences.

Malibu is a brand with very strong ties to younger generations, to summer and to fun. How do you avoid being perceived as irresponsible?

– By being extra cautious and aware of that everything we do, say and communicate needs to be reflected on. We are responsible and we take responsibility for what we do, who we collaborate what age groups we communicate with. This is something that we never compromise with. Ever.

What would you have liked to work with if you hadn’t been with TAC?

– I’m a nature guy, so I think I’d be pretty happy working for the Sea Rescue Society. I love the archipelago, and everything related to boats and boating. The more time I can spend out on the islands and on the sea, the better I feel. It’s quite the opposite of what I do today, and I don’t know if I could do it for a living for the rest of my life, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.

Next time we’re talking to Anna Schreil, VP Productions. What would you like me to ask her?

– She’s at the very epicenter of so many of the ongoing debates on sustainability, health, environment and globalization, so I’d like to ask her how she works proactively to be at the forefront knowledge-wise?