“As a young trainee, I was lucky to help manage a RM100 million detergent brand”

By Delani Philips

We talk to the bubbly straightshooter Tiffany Tang, Marketing Director for Health & Hygiene at Reckitt Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

She says, “I didn’t start in marketing, I started in sales. I was a marketing HR graduate but unfortunately, I entered the workforce during the 1998 financial crisis when it was tough finding work.”

Tiffany eventually managed to get into a management training programme at Colgate Palmolive despite stiff competition.

“There were only three trainee positions available but there were almost 800 applicants.”

Grounding in sales 

“I learned a lot of tricks of the trade from mixing with the salesmen, and I saw how they built long term relationships with their customers. They’re very down to earth and I learned early on how to stay humble and how to interact with people at all levels of an organisation.”

“A lot of people think marketing is just pitching to consumers, but a good marketing plan has to integrate sales as well to be truly effective.”

Tiffany later transferred to the marketing department where she helped manage a RM100 million detergent brand.

“It was a heavy responsibility for me, and being the youngest management trainee I was also given a lot of drudge work to do. I think that any situation, even if it’s not very glamourous, can be an opportunity to learn. I was fortunate to have seniors who were willing to teach me. Staying humble and having a desire to learn is key.”

Culture fit 

In 2003 Tiffany moved to Reckitt where she has remained, apart from a period between 2014 and 2016 working for GSK, Wipro and SC Johnson.

“I love the culture at Reckitt, it is less hierarchical than other companies and everyone in the organisation knows each other. It has the most cohesive sales, marketing and finance teams.”

“I spent time with the sales team so we could get to know each other better. Having a trusting relationship is key especially with the sales team. It makes it easier to work together to achieve the targets I set, but at the same time they can come to me to ask for advice or to discuss their ideas.”

She also stressed the importance of developing good relationships at the higher levels, “We challenge each other at meetings, we disagree and argue but in the end we can agree to disagree if something isn’t aligned with the overall strategy. We can have conflict but it’s healthy conflict, as we focus on issues and results.”

“Even the best of friends have arguments but if the relationship is strong and you have trust, there can be resolution. In the leadership team, we’re not really seen as Marketing Director or Sales Director. We’re a group and we support each other.”

“My Sales Director may point out something I’ve overlooked as Marketing Director, or he may ask for help solving something with the sales team. I sometimes argue with the Finance Director but they remain supportive.”

The Dettol challenge

Tiffany shares, “I had been doing very well as a marketing manager handling various healthcare brands, so my boss decided to put me in charge of Dettol, which at the time was declining badly. I was working with a channel head who was rather aggressive and we didn’t see eye to eye. It was the toughest six months of my life.

There were a lot of issues with the brand that needed fixing which we had to identify and work on together. We argued non-stop but as I said, it was healthy conflict. We ended up building a strong relationship based on objectivity, being fair and focusing on issues and results.”

“Dettol was declining by 15% in the first half of the year, and by the second half it was growing by 35% which was a big achievement. Today, that former colleague is a good friend and if he needs help, he calls me and if I need help, I can call him.”

The results were a source of pride for Tiffany.

Tiffany’s success with Dettol has won Gold at the Putra Brand Awards for six years running. The brand also won Effie Silver for Gaviscon and another PR award for Durex.

“These wins mean a lot to me because this is my third time managing Dettol. It’s a big brand in different segments of a highly competitive market and not easy to manage.”

Tiffany Tang won CMO of the Year at the prestigious Malaysian CMO Awards 2023 for Best In Non-Food FMCG Marketing.

This article is excerpted from the coffee table book Who’s Who In The Malaysian Marketing Landscape – a ready reference to the leaders who are making a transformative difference in the industry. Available at https://marketingmagazine.com.my/shop/books/cmo-coffee-table-book/

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