Marketing is infamously known as a discipline without discipline. But a good marketer knows that successful marketing requires a balanced equation of creative insight, piercing data, and an innovative execution that captures and delights existing and new customers – there’s a lot of discipline in that.
While success has been found organically and by accident, a marketing strategy that creates cut-through impact time and time again focuses on brand saliency, awareness and establishing trusted relationships with customers by dynamically meeting their needs.
Understanding the ever-evolving needs of modern-day marketing, Kristin Viccars, Marketing Director and Company Director of Apex Tool Group in Sydney, Australia, uses art, science, and passion for delivering a commercial impact to bring success to his team and business.
Tools are in Kristin’s DNA. He grew up surrounded by builders, mechanical tradespeople and learned firsthand from his grandfather, a carpenter, and his dad, a telephone technician. Watching these skilled hands and minds turn nothing into something gave him a deep understanding of the world in which creatives like these live and an even deeper level of respect for the work they produce.
Kristin’s career has taken him for a ride – dabbling in personal training, serving as a flight crew while pursuing his pilot’s license, working on cruise liners, closing deals on the sales floor, and finally tumbling into marketing with an explosive creative force and will to make change. Each of these seemingly disparate positions built upon another, providing Kristin with a unique point of view on how to use personal connections and data to reach customers at scale.
A Non-Linear Journey
Learning didn’t always come easily for Kristin. Plagued with learning difficulties as a child, he was forced to find alternative learning methods outside of the classroom. He often turned to outlets like sports – specifically Rugby Union – and built things like bike ramps and jumps to experience the world around him and learn the importance of commitment and perseverance. He gleaned lessons of teamwork, leadership and camaraderie from sports, and it is there where he first started to understand what it takes to succeed.
Finding his way beyond school took even more creative outlets and a lot more trial and error – eight years of it, to be exact.
In 2012, Kristin settled into a Senior Sales Executive role, selling tools for a local Australian pro retailer. On the side, he was using his love of photography and videography to create surfing and snowboarding videos. Merely a hobby, Kristin fell in love with the process of taking an art form and crafting it into another, bringing a creative vision to life. He looked for ways to turn a passion into a career and took on his first marketing role as a digital content designer. In the decade since, Kristin has pushed himself to evolve, learn the industry best practices and remain on the cutting edge of marketing science. Through this dedication, Kristin rose the ranks, moving onto consultancy work, to marketing manager, to now the Marketing Director and Company Director, where he oversees major global brands like GEARWRENCH, Weller and Crescent with his multi-skilled high -performing marketing team for the Australian arm of Apex Tool Group’s business.
Kristin credits much of his success to the postgraduate degrees he earned later in life. He completed a design and marketing course and later built on this with an MBA, a diploma in business law, and Harvard Business School Online courses. These investments in academia skyrocketed his career, giving him essential theories and frameworks to thrive as a business leader. He expressed, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the incessant need to keep searching for what drives me and to be a lifelong student.”
Using A Science Driven Methodology
A good leader needs to be prepared to change their vision, take bold risks, be unapologetic about executing things differently, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s what Kristin did when he influenced Apex Tool Group’s Australian organization to become a marketing-led business with a genuine marketing orientation. “Having marketing orientation means you understand and value the consumer’s point of view and invite them into your organization,” Kristin explains. “As marketers, we’re poised to do this, but embedding a marketing orientation strategy across all functions in a business of our size is no easy feat; it requires hard work, support and for all stakeholders to be aligned.”
It took 18 months for Kristin to reorient and refocus the business supported by their new Managing Director Timothy Ohlback, but he eventually evolved a once very task and product-oriented approach into a consumer-driven and customer-focused strategy. He was able to make this shift through quantitative and qualitative focus groups that dug deep into the psychographics of trade and DIY users. These results were mined for customer makeup and market insights, which allowed Apex Tool Group to develop better category segmentation. As a result, the Australian business achieved record results and double-digit top and bottom-line growth year over year, even during a global pandemic.
Kristin truly believes that behind every great idea and decision is the data to support it – this being the science part of his art + science equation – and when it came to Apex Tool Group’s market reorientation, the data was right.
Kristin didn’t do this work all on his own. In addition to an incredible marketing team and external agencies, he also leaned on crucial software solutions to guide his work and decision-making. He uses Blis, a software solution that uses a consumer matrix and rich media to dynamically geotarget Apex Tool Group’s pro/trade audience on their cell phones. This Path-to-Purchase software then uses rich media and product call-to-actions to track if the targeted consumer visited Apex Tool Group’s customer’s stores. The software can understand and measure store conversions which helps Apex Tool Group demonstrate ROI for its primary demand, purchase facilitation and sales out conversions. It also further supports the overall brand campaigns and awareness. This data helps Apex Tool Group use an iterative process to optimize its marketing approach. “Our customers are impressed by the results and our use of dynamic technologies, so much so that it has become one of the many reasons that Apex Tool Group has secured significant product range and distribution, which has led to substantial market share increases,” Kristin noted. “Change is constant in the complex marketing and business world. Adopting a continual learning and evaluation approach is crucial, and technology can help you do that. The key is selecting the right technology for the job – one that achieves your strategic goals, supports your mission, and has strong ROI.”
Expected Shift in Tides
Kristin believes that the marketing industry will continue to move towards targeted personalization. Consumers are bombarded with advertising at every turn – on billboards, during the sponsored break in their podcast, in their social media newsfeed, lingering in their endless inbox, and during their favorite TV programming. It’s so pervasive that you hardly see it.
“When everything is for everyone, it’s easy to tune it out. But when a specific product is chosen for you, displayed to you in a place you want to see it and paired with messaging that resonates, now you notice. That’s personalization,” Kristin explains. Apex Tool Group has developed a data-led process that focuses on consumers’ pains and gains, understands their journey, and uses a consumer time-of-day matrix to communicate with them. This marketing approach helps Apex Tool Group connect with its target consumers and build a trusted relationship.
Kristin suggests, “Companies should be thinking about ways they, too, can bring personalization into their marketing mix, especially if the ‘yelling through a megaphone to anyone who will listen’ approach to ads hasn’t been working for them.”
Kristin hopes to create value for Apex Tool Group while progressing his leadership role and making impactful change. He has a strong desire to learn continuously and loves mentoring junior marketers, providing them with proper guidance to kickstart their marketing careers. He wants to help Apex Tool Group create mega brands known and loved by global end-users and deliver meaningful innovation to its customers that help them get the job done faster, easier, and smarter.
As for the marketing industry, Kristin feels that its losing many of its strategic jobs and responsibilities to other better-trained functions. To stop the industry bleeding, he suggests marketers pursue more formalized training. “Strategic planning for the business is one that is increasingly being eroded from the marketer’s toolbox. Marketers are now viewed more as communicators rather than strategists. To me, this is where formal education plays a vital role in retaining important corporate activities that marketers need to own for business success,” suggests Kristin.
The Guiding Spirit
Kristin advises aspiring marketers to “Just do it.” Sharing his thoughts on the famous slogan, he says, “Just do it was created by a marketer who truly understood Nike’s audience and how to invoke a passionate response from them. The slogan is a vehicle to communicate the brand’s meaning and bring its consumers into the organization. As a marketer, you’ll have a chance to take on creative challenges like that – finding ways to connect people to the brand you represent.”
Kristin considers marketing to be one of the best careers to explore innate creative license while having the opportunity to develop commercial and business acumen. “Growing a business or organization requires you to understand where, when and what levers you need to pull to create brand saliency. It takes time, risk-taking, heart and data mining to understand the nuances of those levers, but it’s well worth it,” Kristin concludes.
About Kristin Viccars and Apex Tool Group
Kristin Viccars joined ATG in 2017 as Marketing Manager Australasia and grew into the Marketing Director role, overseeing corporate governance, business strategy creation and execution, marketing strategy development and profit and loss transparency. Kristin is a recent graduate of the Emerging Leaders and was most recently recognized as one of Australia’s Top 50 CMOs.
Apex Tool Group is one of the largest manufacturers of professional hand and power tools in the world, serving the industrial, vehicle service and assembly, aerospace, electronics, construction and serious DIY markets. Its portfolio of innovative powerhouse brands includes SATA®, GEARWRENCH®, Crescent®, Cleco®, Weller®, and APEX®. It also manufactures select, premier private label mechanics tools.
ATG works collaboratively with distributors, retailers and large customers across the globe to make sure end-users have the tools they need to solve real-world problems. Its unique category management approach provides customers with end-user data, market research and voice of the customer insight, which helps drive inventory, display and promotion decisions.