Success stories /
Success stories - Taras Bondarenko

Taras Bondarenko, brand-manager the headquarters of Imperial Tobacco (Bristol, Great Britain)

Taras, there is an opinion that marketing experts at our company get international positions easily. Does your experience prove this?

I do not agree with you. A specialist of any branch has to be very experienced to gain an international appointment. This means participation in international company projects and competitions with several stages within the company, as there are many colleagues from different countries who may apply for each position. I was responsible for a local brand; this meant that my participation in international projects was limited. My promotion started with a desire to change the daily routine completely. My aim to work in the central marketing function was ambitious enough then, if not even unattainable. I am very grateful to my ex-directors, Yana Yazovitska and Sasha Berger, the latter being a marketing director at that time. I told them about my intentions, and they began to involve me in international projects, they gave me a lot of advice. Of course, this required me to change my attitude towards my responsibilities and the development of personal skills. That is why I was ready to compete for a vacancy that opened in Group Marketing.             

Tell us about the brand for which you are responsible.

The P&S (Parker & Simpson) brand was created a year ago. I had a unique opportunity to be responsible for the creation of an international brand from the very beginning to the implementation of its image, package, communication and strategy. The main idea of the brand was not only to be cost-effective, but also to be attractive to consumers from the point of view of its image and the emotions it evokes. To achieve this, there is a premium line in the P&S portfolio to create a prestigious unique brand image and to launch it to a mass reasonable price segment. At present, the brand has a global development strategy and launch plan. The brand is already present in the markets of the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia as well as in Duty Free. We are soon going to launch it in Azerbaijan and Iraq, and next year, in another 20 countries.

What is the difference between the brand manager’s work on a particular market and work in the head office? 

In terms of the process of brand creation, the main principles are the same: to determine the consumer needs, evaluate the possibilities and potential, and then, the elaboration of a strategy, design and communication. But when you work at a global level, focus is put more on a strategy. Perhaps the main rule I have learnt is a synergy principle when a global strategy is combined with the knowledge of nuances of brand launch to a market. This makes it possible to achieve much better results.       

What was the most difficult aspect about living and working in another country?

The decision to work abroad was a conscious choice and that is why I had no illusions and was ready for difficulties. To be honest, initially the difficulties were mostly related to language and differences in business culture. But I tried not to consider this as a problem, but as a new experience and adventure.

People from different countries work in the head office. Is it hard to work in an international team?

Recently Group Marketing has changed up to 90% of its employees, many new people from both different markets of Imperial Tobacco and other non-tobacco companies work there. Each member has his/her own mentality, experience, but this is the main advantage of today’s team, we are able to generate new interesting ideas, find new daring and efficient ways of their realization. At the same time, you should keep in your mind one simple thing; listen to other people’s opinion and work as one team.    

Have you changed a lot since leaving your country?

It is hard to judge oneself, but as a professional I have definitely changed; the area of responsibility is much larger.  I try to systematize my previous superficial knowledge. With regard to the personal relationships, I have started to appreciate the relationships with close people and friends more.

How different the British way of life in comparison to the Ukrainian way of life?

The British way of life is like being on another planet, there are many things that are unclear to our mentality. For example, the relationship with government authorities. In Britain, most issues (taxes, insurance, service payments) can be solved by telephone or on the Internet. The procedure is very fast, and an operator calls you back and asks whether you are satisfied with the result. I have also been impressed by the British people’s attitude towards their history in its every manifestation. If it is a XV century house, its exterior architecture should remain untouched, without any plastic windows. Another very positive remark regarding the British drivers’ behavior on the roads; you do not even expect it, but they let you pass on a crossroad where in fact they do not have to let you cross..        

What places of interest have you visited in Great Britain?

Practically every weekend my family and I travel around the country. There are many places to visit in Great Britain, the main thing is not to be lazy. This summer we have managed to see well-known places, including Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, London, and we also visited the medieval castles of Wales. We have been on the shore of the English Channel several times and been to many museums. It is very interesting that to the British, a museum is a place where you can get a particular experience not only by looking at something. For example, in the Tank Museum, you can sit inside these huge bulky vehicles of World War I, and at weekends be a spectator of exciting shows in an open field. 

How has your family adapted to the new life?      

At the beginning, my wife had some problems because of a limited knowledge of the language, and I could not imagine how to drive when the steering wheel is on the right. My four-year old son understands that people around him speak another language and he is trying to learn it. My daughter is two years old, she just looks at the world with widely open eyes.

What would you like to say to your colleagues in Ukraine? 

I would wish that everyone remain optimistic and think positively and that their dreams come true. As trivial as it may sound, they do come true.