Dale’s Disciple – No bad hair days for Louise

Things could have gone wildly different for Louise Forbes: her early career in marketing was heavily body-oriented (from Vosene to Canesten). But then she found the fast-moving mobile business …

Only rarely does childhood ambition become adult reality – but it happened for Louise Forbes: Head of Marketing at BenQ Mobile and she couldn’t be happier.

“It was looking at creative marketing ideas that first really got my attention when I was at school in Basingstoke and I hadn’t then formed an attachment to any industry,” Forbes recalls. “I took a degree in Business Studies, majoring in Marketing, at Bournemouth University and on a work placement year worked for Wella. I went back to the company on graduation as an Assistant Brand Manager.

“It was a great start. The hair care business is female focused and glamorous: I don’t think I would have been quite so enthusiastic about toilet cleaner. The brand I cut my teeth on though was Vosene, which has been around for generations. I would guess that almost everyone can remember its coal tar smell. My challenge was to reposition it as a family brand.”

Forbes was tempted, briefly, to move from Wella by Bayer. “When I left Wella my colleagues didn’t embarrass me with references to small game hunting and fortunately didn’t present me with a fine toothcomb. I had thought that I would be working on Alka Seltzer but was less than enthralled to be switched to Canesten. Creative marketing and a heavy regulatory discipline don’t really mix well.”

Forbes returned to Wella in 2001 as Senior Brand Manager of Vivality. Subsequently, as Category Marketing Manager for Shockwaves, she updated the 80s leading hair gel for a new generation. Silvikrin was also part of her portfolio – and, yes, she blatantly ignored Private Eye’s vision of the excitable Queen Bee woman columnist, Sylvie Krin.

On moving to Siemens she brought a different creative approach, based on segmenting the market a discipline learned at Wella. “The mobile business moves fast, changes quickly and really does make FMCG seem slow.”

“I believe that segmenting the market and targeting specific consumer groups with compelling propositions is the way forward in mobile”.

“For example, with the CL75 Poppy, we targeted women: a handset for women, marketed by women. It worked – the 2005 Christmas quarter was hugely successful with the campaign driving strong demand. Equally important subsets such as young male football supporters could respond just as well to a tailored approach. Now, of course, since BenQ acquired Siemens’ mobile division, we are concentrating on our current combined branding launch.”

Apart from university years, Forbes has always lived near Reading. “I met my husband, Rob, who is in PR, at university and every moment that I’m not on duty I’m enjoying family time. Our three-year-old keeps us busy. So does taming the lunar landscape that will one day be the garden of our new house. I see reruns of The Good Life and reckon I will wear out more green wellies than Felicity Kendall.”

By the time the garden is finished she’ll be ready to help her daughter manage a pony. “I was horse-mad when I was a teenager. I had a pony called Sparkle and took part in eventing and cross-country trials competing once with Keith Chegwin.

“Our current livestock, however, consists mostly of cats. We have two Tonkinese – half Burmese, half Siamese – and they are beautiful creatures. Plus there’s my husbands prize-winning koi carp and the odd deer that eat our plants at 3am in the morning.
“Unlike some pedigree cat owners, we don’t coop them up. They take their chances like moggies and are probably half way through their nine lives. We do bring a flavour of work into our home because we have named them Kotler and Grunig after our favourite marketing and PR gurus.”

Her parents have a property in the Loire valley, which is visited as often as possible. “Quite simply, we are Francophiles.” Another escape route is reading, “But little more than sex and shopping. Helen Fielding, for example.”

A major influence has been Dale Carnegie. “I went on an extended course, read the books – and discovered that it works. I suppose it highlights basic truths but does so in a way that does have a positive, permanent influence.”

So far she hasn’t been too positive about being a passenger on Rob’s motorbike. . “This is the year. As soon as I get my designer leathers, I’ll take the plunge.”

Personal File
In a different life … I’d be a Dale Carnegie trainer to inspire others.
I’m waiting … For the moment my daughter swaps her rocking horse for a real one.
My badge of courage … Earned when I first sit on the pillion of Rob’s sports bike.
I’m glad I’m not … Bridget Jones.
Animal crackers Is there anything more beautiful than a pedigree cat?
I’d rather forget … Being Brand Manager for Canesten.