In this careers feature, Liz Foster asks the question, with the number of corporate marketing roles shrinking as you climb the ladder, where do all the brand managers go?


Martin Buggy, director, Karmer.

When and where did you work in marketing?

In the mid-1980s I worked in local government as the city tourism and marketing manager for six years. I then operated my own marketing and PR consultancy from 1991 to 2005. I was joined in 2000 by my now life and business partner, Melissa.

Highest marketing level reached?

Marketing manager.

What do you do now?

I own and globally distribute Australia’s own gold medal chai latte – Bondi Chai Latte.

Did you choose your path or did it choose you?

I fell back on my marketing/PR skills after being retrenched as the managing director of a Japanese firm which had big plans for new Australian tourism operations but became a victim of Japanese ‘bubble economy’ bursting. We then chose our chai latte career. We loved marketing, but were tired of exchanging our most valuable asset – time – just for a bit of lousy money. After discovering the ‘chai latte phenomenon’ in the US in 2000 while on holiday, we recognised that it would eventually arrive in Australia – and other countries – and began casually importing a US brand before developing and launching Bondi Chai Latte in 2005.

What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?

Seek first to understand, before seeking to be understood. Followed closely by trusting my intuition.

If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?

I never have exactly climbed the corporate ladder and can’t imagine that I ever would. One only has to look ahead, up the ladder, to see what would be in store for you!

What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?

Best parts of creating, managing and developing our own brand have been the positive response to the brand at every level in the food chain – from consumer to food critics to distributors. The worst part has been regularly having to choose which development/marketing idea to follow through on – so many things to do, so little time in which to do them!

What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?

In the words of one much wiser than I, “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff!)”

Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?

When we decided to build a business around our own brand of chai latte we didn’t want to jump out of the frying pan and into an inferno, so we laid out some required returns-on-investment… we wanted to travel; to live where we chose; to make good money; to have time to enjoy all the above, and to achieve something worthwhile.

Our product is now sold in many countries around the world – and we travel a lot (either vicariously over the internet or in aeroplanes). We moved to paradise (not telling you where – as The Eagles sing, “Call some place Paradise… kiss it good bye!”)

We outsource everything that requires skills which we don’t have (and don’t want to acquire) which gives us time. Business is doing very well for the right reasons – our niche is narrow, but very, very deep, and we feel content with our work so far and excited about what’s still ahead.

Am I satisfied with my new role?

Hell yes!