This article is no longer listed, please search the site for up to date articles

  • Bio: Peter Harbour studied History and Politics at Warwick University. He joined Unilever in September 1999 on a graduate training scheme. Peter has worked across a number of brands over the nine years, seven of those were spent in the UK across both HPC and F

Peter Harbour

The prospect of a glamorous career in marketing prompted Peter Harbour into doing his research into the industry. A few hours at the local library and the drive to prove there are jobs out there for historians led him to Unilever, an international manufacturer of leading brands in foods, home care and personal care.

What is your current role and what does it involve?

There is nothing quite like working in a developing market with high growth and different cultures everywhere you turn. As a role this one is more diverse than anything I have done before and more business related.

Across the Middle East, markets are rapidly growing and Unilever, like its other FMCG counterparts are launching into new sectors and the pace is high. I look after the Dove Skin business in the Middle East which involves complete profit and loss (P&L) analysis. You get to know all the elements that make up your business.

  • What impact does importing your product from India have on the margin you make?
  • Do you make an advert in Arabic or English, if its Arabic, what dialect do you use? Is it traditional Arabic? Is it Lebanese dialect?
  • Do you focus your launch in the wholesale sector or the modern trade sector of the market?

You interact with Arabs, Asians, and Europeans through all aspects of the business and it is a sure fire way of learning to use your relationship skills to their optimum as well as understanding the different cultural values that people adopt.

Living in another country can be a lot of fun as well as making a difference to your job. I am based in Dubai and who would have thought that before you launch a product you need to do a special transit test for Arabia to ensure that your product can withstand the 50 degree plus temperatures that we experience in the summer.

Placements during my training

PG Tips Senior Brand Manager

As the Senior Brand Manager I led all marketing activities. At the beginning of 2005 PG Tips celebrated its 75th anniversary. I delivered a new TV advert to the market as well as overseeing a PR campaign that featured the world’s most expensive teabag ever made (£7,500 worth of diamond encrusted tea leaves). We featured in loads of newspapers and I had to spend a day on the phone giving radio interviews and even an interview to ITN News.

Recently I have overseen the Wallace and Gromit link up. The only bespoke TV advert featuring the tea drinking heroes globally as well as over a million Gromit mugs with a thermo changing nose in store. Chuck in a PR campaign that featured a Wallace and Gromit inspired readywhenUR kettle (a kettle that turns itself on when you text it) and you have a campaign that is varied and great fun to work on.

Vaseline Intensive Care Brand Manager

Just me on the brand, a chance to travel to and work with my European innovation team in Hamburg, Germany and the Global brand centre in New York. A brand that everybody in the company loved and a brand that everybody wanted to see do well.

I had autonomy, I was involved in a global advertising brief, worked on the packaging design for a new product and had a brilliant (mainly female) Skin Cleansing and Care team in Kingston that I worked with. I loved it.

As a brand manager you end up being very protective over your brand. Once you understand your target consumers and you begin to truly understand what your brand is capable of you start telling everybody about it. As a marketing team, the skin care team were always eager to tell everybody that would listen about our plans for the year and working in a team with such passion motivates you to achieve even more.

Customer Activation Manager – Safeway Customer team

Coming from a marketing role into this job was meant to give me three months of customer experience and maybe even get me out to see some Safeway Buyers face to face. As it turns out I decided to stay on a lot longer than that.

The experience of working in a customer team is a fantastic one. The camaraderie is first class, everybody helps each other out. I was able look after some huge brand launches within my retailer and build the relationship with the marketing team at Safeway.

You become the face of Unilever with that retailer and I became involved in working on merchandising reviews, establishing systems to launch products and working on the strategic role of our brands within Safeway. If I am honest, the experience of working in the Safeway customer team has better equipped me as a brand manager as I know what demands are placed on Customer teams and can help them to respond to those demands.

What attracted you to Unilever?

I picked up a few applications for companies with brands I liked. I thought there was no point in applying to something that I wasn’t interested in. When I was offered the job, I went down to Kingston and had a look around. They all seemed very relaxed and friendly. I made my decision to join and it felt right, there were no nerves or worry that I had made the wrong choice.

Has the reality matched your expectations?

Yes. Like everybody else I looked around me on my first day and thought that everybody else looked older, more experienced and more confident, but the fact is you honestly need to know little to nothing about marketing when you start. I have always felt like the responsibilities I was being given always pushed me but I never felt totally out of my depth.

The people are all very helpful and you will always find your feet. I know a few people that are very quirky, and work in a very different way and they have found their feet in Unilever. You are supported when you are a trainee and my line managers have all been fantastic at making sure I am ok.

What do you find most enjoyable, challenging or exciting about Marketing?

Responsibility. ‘Here Pete, have £500,000, here is the brief, go off and do it’. From the word go you are trusted.

If you get through the selection board people trust that you will do ok. I get to talk to people in almost every other function and often feel like the hub in a wheel. I love working with similarly minded people. Everyday is nearly always different.

What has been the high point of your time at Unilever so far?

Watching Pavarotti at Leeds Castle, a beautiful sunny evening, all that hard work for the first six months culminating in a fantastic night, all sponsored by Bertolli of course.

What kind of people are most likely to thrive in Marketing?

People who have drive and energy. People who are not afraid to present to anybody, talk to anybody and express opinions and views to anybody in the business

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give a friend considering joining this career?

Don’t think you are not good enough. Its not just about experience you may or may not have in marketing that gets you through the door, its how you do things, and what you have done. I always want good people not necessarily good marketers working with me. Marketing can be taught to anybody.

Any final comments?

Yes. I spent last year in South America, travelling. I had always wanted to go and had not travelled before or after university. By staying in touch with people at Unilever I was able to come back to the company. I came back from Brazil in December and started back in January. It is possible to take a sabbatical. You fit right back in. What you realise very quickly is that if you want something enough there is always a chance of getting it in Unilever.

Back to Top