Eva Ziegler has established herself as a business transformation specialist, having overhauled brands across sectors as far-ranging as cars and hotels, fizzy drinks and wedding dresses.
Each time, her goal is to make the business rethink its approach to marketing and put the consumer at the centre of everything.
This unwavering focus on customers is something she learnt early on in her career while working with consumer goods giants Procter & Gamble – her client while at Saatchi & Saatchi – and Coca-Cola.
The collaborative partnership approach between P&G and its agency taught her just how important a role marketing plays in driving business growth. It also made her realise she wanted to be part of the team developing the strategy rather just being responsible for bringing it to life, which inspired her move to Coke.
This training in “marketing 101” formed the foundation for the rest of her career, and she has taken this “customer-obsessed” consumer goods mentality to every subsequent role.
It was this experience that led to her first transformation role at Toyota, which was looking to shift its focus from engineering and the functional aspect of its cars to a much more consumer-focused position.
“It was a large-scale corporate transformation from a brand strategy perspective, so customer segmentation, positioning, analysis, competitive segmentation, visual identity development, the whole brand construct that ended up in the brand book was part of the remit,” she says.
I always look at what they are trying to achieve, what they stand for and the mission of the brand. I have to personally connect with that in order to make a difference.
Eva Ziegler, Pronovias
She also created a customer insights department for the first time, “not just a data crunching department but a team of people that can really generate insight that enhance the business discussion”, she says. She has since repeated this step at other businesses.
While at Toyota, Ziegler says she was given “mission after mission” on a yearly basis to transform different aspects of the business across different regions.
And that is another driving force of Ziegler’s career – the opportunity to work in different markets. She is originally from Austria but has worked all over the world, which has given a global perspective.
At Coke she was responsible for growing the brand across 21 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, while at Starwood Hotels & Resorts she launched its W and Le Méridien brands in China, India and other areas of Asia, as well as the Middle East and the US – experience she has found invaluable later roles. For example at wedding dress designer Pronovias, where she is now CMO, the US is a key growth opportunity.
Ziegler says she always searches for a business that fits her ideals, which is why she’s been able to work across such a wide variety of sectors.
“I have deeper reasons why I join companies and organisations,” she says. “I always look at what they are trying to achieve, what they stand for and the mission of the brand. I have to personally connect with that in order to make a difference.”
Learning marketing 101
Saatchi & Saatchi Austria, group account manager and media manager: 1993 – 1996
“I started at Saatchi & Saatchi working on Procter & Gamble. It was a great education on marketing 101 because P&G had a very specific way of dealing with agencies; it was almost an extension of the marketing team. It was a very collaborative way of working and we were made part of the business approach, so I understood from my time there how marketing can really drive the business.
“It was a great school to go through for the first three years of my career. From there I switched to the client side because I wanted to be part of setting the strategy rather than just being on the receiving end of it and bringing the strategy to life.”
Growing a brand in new regions
Coca-Cola, advertising and media manager East/Central Europe: 1996 – 1997
“At Coca-Cola, I had a regional job for the first time. I was responsible for the East and Central European region, an area Coca-Cola was building, so it was a job of developing an advertising and media function. We weren’t even in some of those markets like the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Romania; it was 21 markets of that part of the world in total.
“It was the fastest growing region of Coca-Cola then, so it was an exciting time. I learned from the best during my time at Coca-Cola. It is a very marketing and advertising driven company because the product is all about the marketing around it.”
Toyota Europe, various roles: 1998 – 2006
“Toyota was the first company that hired me to develop its consumer-centric business focus. The CEO at the time wanted to transform from an engineering-focused business model to a customer-focused model.
“I was in charge of introducing the Yaris from a marketing perspective. The brand never had a consumer insight department within the company, so for the first time we did customer segmentation, not only on demographics but on attributes, which at that time in the late 1990s for Toyota was a very transformational moment and part of the consumer-centric strategy.
“We had an understanding of who the core customer we wanted to target was and the marketing approach. For the first time we started to sell the product, not only on a rational level but on an emotional level too.”
Reimaging a brand from scratch
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, various roles: 2006 – 2013
“Starwood wanted to revolutionise the hotel industry and transform from being a very operationally led business where internally people said ‘we’re putting heads into beds’ into a consumer lifestyle brand.
“Le Méridien, which Starwood bought three months before I joined, was a brand that was beaten and battered before it was acquired. It was not in good shape so there was an opportunity for Starwood to make a difference.
“I learned what creativity and innovation can do for a business when it comes to setting the context for an engaging customer experience. I also learned about the importance of collaboration between marketing, brand management and operations to get things implemented. It was key.”
Defining the customer
C&A, brand and marketing director Europe: 2012 – 2015
“Value retailing is a very competitive business where you have players like Zara and the Inditex Group and H&M showcasing what you can do by having a very compelling brand positioning, but also bringing that to life across all customer touchpoints, from the store to the product to the people and the communications.
“It was clear that previously C&A had tried to be everything to everybody, but it ended up being nothing to nobody. We identified which consumers we wanted to target so we could be everything to a specific someone.
“From that, we did a huge quantitative customer survey, a customer segment was identified and then the whole company strategy was built around it, from product to store experience to marketing to people.”
Entering new territory
Fiskars, senior vice-president, English & Crystal Living Brands: 2016-2018
“Fiskars is known more for its hard goods like scissors, axes and functional tools, but it wanted to develop a lifestyle, interior division. It had just bought English heritage brands Wedgewood, Waterford, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert from a private equity firm and I was brought in at the beginning of that journey to work out who the customer was and what the brand story should be. All the fundamentals.
“I was part of the executive committee and in charge of the totality of the business except for sales – sales was a separate direct report to the CEO.”
Revolutionising an industry
Pronovias, CMO: 2018 –present
“Pronovias was bought by private equity in October last year and an interesting journey has started. We want to become the most consumer-centric brand and corporation in our sector.
“I am in charge of product development, reviewing our whole product portfolio and how the product becomes part of a bigger brand story. I’m also in charge of ecommerce, brand and marketing comms – so digital, brand and marketing – as well as customer experience, visual merchandise and the retail experience component.
“It’s a comprehensive remit but by having these elements integrated it allows for a 360-degree brand experience and ensures things are developed and delivered in a consistent manner.
“I am leading the digital transformation and the acceleration and expansion into the US market. We want to be the most consumer-centric bridal company in the digital age – that’s the goal.”
2018 – present
SVP English & Crystal Living brands (Wedgwood, Waterford, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert)
2016 – 2018
Global brand and marketing leader
Feb 2016 – Aug 2016 (6-month consultancy assignment)
Brand and Marketing Director Europe
2013 – 2017
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Senior vice-president, global brand leader for Le Méridien + W Hotels
2008 – 2013
Senior vice-president, global brand leader for Le Méridien
2006 – 2008
Head of the Toyota leading-edge European Brand Experience Center
Manager of corporate identity and brand management department
2001 – 2003
Manager below the line marketing – all models Europe
Strategic communication planner all Toyota models, Europe
DM and media manager Europe
Communication and media manager for the Yaris, Toyota Europe (21 countries) 1998 – 1998
Advertising and media manager East/Central Europe (21 countries)
1996 – 1997
Saatchi & Saatchi Austria
Group account manager and media manager
1993 – 1996