As Brand Manager (Europe) for the online travel and leisure retailer lastminute.com covering the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany and also a travel lover, Helen Saul admits she is always on the go, selling the optimistic dream of the ideal holiday escape for people whatever the negativity they are facing in their real lives.
Tipped by The Drum marketing website as ‘one of the world’s top 50 most exciting new brand marketers in 2019’, Saul finds herself dipping on a daily basis into much that her Lancaster degree in Management and French taught her. One day she could be in lastminute.com’s London creative agency planning the year's brand campaigns, whilst the next she is visiting the Paris office presenting campaigns in French. It’s all about building bridges and negotiation.
“I never sit still, “ she laughs. “The thing about my job wherever I am is that it’s all about bringing people together from different countries and markets, making sure that they execute the campaigns on target and that our product really works for the customer.”
Even in an age of austerity and uncertainty, she says that feedback indicates that people put holidays high on their priority lists, whatever the cultural differences about what that means in practice from country to country.
Brought up in Bury, in Lancashire, Saul already knew she wanted a career in marketing whilst at school. She picked Lancaster because of its Euro BBA double degree, but changed to Management and French after her first year because she wanted the opportunity to spend a year in industry in France rather than at a university. She was happy from the start at Lancaster. In Cartmel College she made lasting friendships from day one with the eight people on her corridor, but she also had two additional sets of friends from the French and Management departments.
The two different elements have helped propel her career forwards fast, she says: “The most powerful element of my studies was undoubtedly my year abroad. It was integral. You learn so much by applying for your placement and finding accommodation. I did not speak French well at first and I encountered some challenges when I arrived. All these things help you to develop more self reliance and confidence.” She came back speaking fluently in French, having worked in a French environment for a year on two placements - a travel software company in Antibes called Amadeus managing marketing performance budgets and organising training academies, and a Paris market research company called Harris Interactive where she worked 100% of the time in French.
“It’s not just about speaking,” she elaborates.”If you can say that you have worked in another country you are seen as a person with the ability to adopt different styles of working, so that when you meet challenges you will be calmer under pressure.”
In addition to modules covering French, management and consulting, marketing, accounting and finance and operations management, she also participated in practical teamwork modules, including one working with a local business called Reading Bee magazine on a consultancy basis, developing an E-shop for the Indian Market.
Whilst her internships during her Lancaster days were not in the area of marketing in which she has specialised, they gave her the experience to go straight into a marketing graduate scheme with the BGL group (best known for comparethemarket.com). This included a placement for the price comparison website lesfurets.com working in the French market. This was where her linguistic abilities came into play, and again in her first role at lastminute.com, which focused on France.
Saul is accumulating awards, including as one of Social Media Week’s Rising Stars in Brand Leadership. She sees them as providing her with recognition in a very talented field of young business professionals and also as providing her with invaluable introductions to a group of fellow high fliers.
Her new year resolution is to visit a new country every month. At the time of writing she had recently returned from Buenos Aires: “I love travel, so I know that I am in the right industry,” she says. “There’s a lot of negativity about, but our brand message is about getting people to enjoy their lives and to do what they want to make them happy.”
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