An ex-law and finance graduate who turned down a role and career with a prestigious New Zealand law firm, Michael McRae has established himself as a strategic, creative and commercial marketer at DB Breweries. NZ Marketing sits down for a cold one with this Up & Comer for a wide-ranging interview.
Having spent 24 months on the DB Breweries Heineken Asia PacificGraduate programme across thier Auckland, Tokyo and Singapore offices since mid-2017, Michael McRae joined the companies marketing team as Brand Manager of Monteith’s in June 2019.
Since then he has lead key projects returning strong positive commercial results for the Monteith’s brand in the market. The TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards Young Marketer of the Year Finalist shares his impressions of the industry, the success he has seen at DB Breweries and what advice he has for his peers.
Law, really? How or why did you get into marketing?
Honestly? It was completely by accident. I interned at a couple of Investment and Law firms and had a law graduate role all lined up. I was all set to be a lawyer at a national commercial law firm. Then one day I stumbled across a recruitment talk at my university for The Heineken Company (DB’s parent company) because I saw they had free pizza at the talk. I went in, barefoot and skateboard in tow, and heard about this new Commercial Graduate position at Heineken. It sounded like the dream job – rotating through different Heineken Operating Companies in Asia Pacific for two years. I applied, and ultimately landed, what was a dream job. Lawyer no more you could say.
I did 18 months in Sales, and six months in Marketing across these offices, then joined the DB Marketing team as Brand Manager of Monteith’s in June 2019. Since then I’ve worked on numerous new product development projects, have managed key sponsorship properties including the Blackcaps, Crusaders and Coast to Coast, and have been involved in some amazing national marketing campaigns.
What’s kept you in the industry, what drives you?
I’ve found marketing requires more so than other functions I’ve found myself in, large amounts stakeholder-management and cross functional collaboration. The part I love most as a brand owner is that you are responsible for the end-to-end impact of your brand. You almost feel like a mini-General Manager within a huge machine.
And why DB Breweries?
Our brands and people. We have some of the most iconic international and local alcohol brands, and the people we have working daily to bring them to life are incredible. Something I particularly love about marketing at DB Breweries is the ability to tap into, and learn from, overseas markets and our colleagues from The Heineken Company in other countries. Being able to continue to learn from friends I made across Asia during my graduate program has been invaluable and something I don’t take for granted in my role.
Is there a specific project you’ve worked on that stands out for you?
Two projects stand out to me for different reasons: The launch of Golden Lager 12 pack and the Crusaders Merch Stand promotion.
The Golden Lager 12 pack was the first project I owned and managed through our innovation funnel. It filled a key gap in our Classics Range and successfully beat benchmark Rate of Sale targets within four weeks.
The Monteith’s Merch Stand activation with the Crusaders stands out for a different reason. As a born and bred Cantabrian I’m passionate about our local Super Rugby team. When they updated their logo last year, Monteith’s as a brand chose to stand beside them and run a Through-The-Line activation allowing fans to update any merchandise; new or old. The promotion got picked up by Sky TV, Stuff, Radio NZ, and we’ve continually had fans reach out from across the globe asking for us to help evolve their kit.
What are some of the biggest challenges you as a young marketer face?
I think it’s in the name “young”. Being young or junior in anything means that sometimes your ideas and opinions aren’t taken as seriously as they could be by those more experienced. That being said, it’s a great opportunity to bring people along a new journey or way of thinking. If you can earn their trust and support quickly, you can make more things happen early in your career in a way that’s likely different to before.
What advice do you have for other young marketers entering the industry?
Be open to learning and making mistakes, and grab any opportunity to prove your worth in the process. It’s human nature to not want to be bad at something, but I’ve found making mistakes is the quickest way to learn. When I first started, my manager said ‘you’re going to find out quickly whether you sink or swim’ – and I’m still here aren’t I? I had zero marketing background before this job, and believe me I have made more than my fair share of mistakes to get to this point.
Where do you see your career headed?
Well a couple of years ago I thought I was going to be a commercial lawyer, so who knows. The end goal is to be at the helm of an iconic brand-led New Zealand business, helping to create a business culture where people have fun, succeed, but most importantly look forward to working on the brands every day.
To read the profiles of all the winners from the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2020, get a copy of our Awards Issue, here.