Marketing People - Kieran Holohan, Marketing director, Saint-Gobain Ireland
With a global turnover of €39bn, and 180,000 employees, including 700 on the island of Ireland, French building materials firm Saint-Gobain is a key player in the construction sector.
It has four manufacturing plants here, the oldest of which, Gyproc, has been manufacturing plasterboard for 85 years. Marketing director Kieran Holohan outlines some of his challenges to John McGee.
Describe your role
I lead a team of 14 people focused on the development of the Gyproc and Isover brands, working across communications, digital, new product development, testing, training, event management and technical support. It's a very diverse and experienced team, from marketing, to digital specialists, to building physics engineers.
What challenges do you face?
The construction industry is quite traditional with tried-and-tested methods and a proven approach taken from prior buildings, which means introducing new systems and products can take a number of years to bed in. We invest heavily in research and testing to make sure all new systems are well road-tested and that we have the necessary evidence to show they work. The needs of the various customer segments are also very different. For example, the information and format that an architect needs is very different to a plasterer, a builder's merchant and a homeowner, so we have to work very hard on segmenting our messages.
How competitive is the marketplace?
The brands I'm responsible for, Gyproc and Isover, have well-established market positions. But pressure on building costs means value engineering is the norm, and to compete we demonstrate that our systems perform to the highest standard with robust evidence. We provide the best technical support with over 40 people in our commercial team.
How would you describe the challenges the sector faces?
The industry continues to grow and there's been a steady improvement since 2013, although it's still very concentrated in urban areas and new residential activity is nowhere near where it needs to be. The biggest challenge is the lack of experienced trade skills. Today's legislation is far more onerous, which is positive. But we are lacking the trade skills to raise the bar. There was a dramatic fall-off in apprenticeships during the recession and this needs to be addressed. There is huge growth potential within the industry and we need to show young people that the construction industry can offer a promising and enjoyable career. An initiative we are most proud of is our technical academy. We opened the first academy in 2010 and the second in 2014, and in the last four years alone we have trained over 5,000 trades and construction professionals for free. There has been a lack of training opportunities for those in the industry and we are doing our bit to help plug that gap.
Sunday Indo Business