Tim Mason, Tesco’s director of corporate marketing, has made a major contribution to the company’s success over the past few years, but tends to avoid the limelight whenever possible.
Happier in the store than in the spotlight, he is credited by retail industry insiders with having an almost pathological dedication to the Tesco brand and to the idea that marketing is a team effort.
When he was appointed marketing director in succession to Terry Leahy, Marketing Week quoted a former Tesco marketer, who characterised him as “one of Leahy’s blue-eyed boys… Mason is not the classic sleazy retailer.”
There is an implication there that Mason would almost certainly take issue with. He is, after all, an experienced retailer: while he has had considerable success in the marketing role, he has also thoroughly enjoyed his experiences in other Tesco departments, including a three-year spell running 60 Tesco stores.
A graduate of Warwick University, where he read English and Philosophy, Mason’s early grounding in marketing came as a trainee at Unilever. He spent three years with Wall’s Meat, starting as a management trainee and finishing as a product manager, before crossing the great divide between manufacturer and retailer in 1982, when he joined Tesco.
Since then, Mason has progressed through the company hierarchy. Starting as a product manager for dry groceries, he became trading director for chilled short-life provisions and then a regional managing director for Tesco Stores in 1990. In that role he was in charge of over 60 outlets across the South-east.
In 1993 he was made marketing operations director for Tesco Stores and, in 1995, raised to the Tesco board as marketing director, succeeding Leahy upon the latter’s promotion to deputy managing director. In 1997 Mason’s job title changed to director of corporate marketing.
His responsibilities cover Tesco’s 30m annual advertising budget, national promotions, local marketing, mar ket research, the customer service department and property services (which covers store design, building and maintenance).
In the past, Mason has been known to criticise the grocery industry for being too eager to launch new products without proper research. And at a conference some years ago he announced categorically: “The heyday for big brand creation has passed.”
Now that he is in charge of one of the biggest brands to emerge in the past decade – and has the power to make or break other brands – one wonders whether he has changed his opinion.