A Fountaine of youth for Philips

A Fountaine of youth for Philips

Bringing a young, fresh feel to Philips is one of Caroline Fountaine’s top goals as the company’s new marketing face for its consumer buisness.

Fountaine became marketing manager for this sector at Philips last month and is keen to challenge perceptions of the well-established brand.

“To bring a more vibrant look to Philips is definitely one of my goals – to make it cool, more dynamic and youthful.”

Her first week in the new job gave Fountaine a chance to do just this, when she hosted a product launch with a hip and funky flavour featuring breakdancers, models and stuntmen.

On the day, Philips launched a variety of products it has never offered before – a revamped peripherals line-up, iPod accessories it acquired from DLO, crystal-encrusted MP3 players and its new amBX gaming range.

These categories are also a testament to the brand’s new direction, says Fountaine. “It was the first time we had such a wide range. Normally it is just a TV launch – now we’ve got the whole shebang.”

Philips is in the midst of a major transition, Fountaine says. “We’re going from being known as a television company to having such a broad range of products.”

But entering new markets brings challenges. “We now have to position ourselves as a PC peripherals company and a player in the gaming market. That is no easy feat. We have a really strong brand in New Zealand, but when you launch into a new category you still have to earn your place.”

Many resellers however are excited that Philips is taking on the likes of Microsoft and Logitech in the PC peripherals space, says Fountaine. “For so long it it has been dominated by two players. To have a third big player stepping in and saying we are going to have a complete offering is exciting.”

Helping Phillips come out of its shell and promote how innovative it is, is another of Fountaine’s priorities. “I want us to be more open about the fact that we are leaders in technology. Philips has always been quite conservative about splashing it out there that we invent all these technologies.”

A big task for Fountaine will also be to help Philips position itself as a lifestyle, rather than a technology, company. “We no longer consider ourselves a technology company – we are very much a lifestyle and healthcare company.”

Nevertheless, Fountaine still needs to grasp technology. “The products we talk about are driven by technology. I have to understand the technology and the trends in the market, as much if not more than my team.”

This does not mean being a “total techhead”, however. “I don’t think to be a successful marketer in the electronics industry, you’ve got to know every intricate detail of a television. However, you have to understand where the market is heading, what technologies are going to be important and how that affects the rest of your range.”

Learning about technology after joining Philips fresh from university in 2003 as a marketing assistant, has been exciting for Fountaine, who finds it much more interesting than the cosmetics she sold while a student.

And as a female, Fountaine knows not to underestimate the power of women in technology purchases. “Research has shown that the woman is the decision maker – the man would want to 42-inch LCD but it will be the lady who would decide which one they get. Even if the female may not be that interested in the specs or makeup of the product, they are still interested in technology and they love gadgets.”

However, making products for women involves much more than wrapping it in pink plastic – design, style and functionality all appeal to women, says Fountaine. She does predict more designer and “blinged” products, such as Philips’ Active-Crystals range of MP3 players and headphones, decorated with Swarovski crystals, to hit the shelves.

“Electronics should be fun and appealing to women.”

Although too modest to say how old she is, Fountaine does admit she is probably one of the youngest marketing managers in the industry. “The opportunities for people who are good at what they do and have passion are great,” she says.

Her age and holding a B Com in marketing and management, and an Honours degree in marketing, are sure to help Fountaine fulfil her aspirations of reaching a senior management position, or starting her own business. “With a few more years’ experience, I will probably be in a good position to start something, but still have enough energy to put into it.”

Away from the office, Fountaine is “quite serious” about tennis, plays netball, enjoys skiing and loves travelling.

And course, she is mad about gadgets. “We have three LCDs and home theatre systems at home.”

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