Have I become the perfect beast?

Neil George, General manager NIVEA India

…Or do I still see the same ME that joined the firm many years ago? Those are questions that Neil George wants the readers of his book to ask themselves. He joined Beiersdorf in 2012 and became General Manager for Beiersdorf’s Management Unit India earlier this year. “Building the Perfect Beast – What Really Happens in Brand Management” is the title of his book – the world’s first brand management comic (available here).

In an interview, he speaks about its challenging development process, the reasons behind his own career choice and about how the book mirrors his working experience in the consumer goods industry.   

CN: Neil, you have worked on the book for 7 years. What drove you to start and complete this brand management comic?
NG: It started as an idea for a coffee table book to provide advice to people wanting to join the FMCG industry. About 45 minutes later, I realized I couldn’t write for nuts. This idea then took on a new dimension and eventually I decided to create the world’s first brand management comic.

Neil has early become a comic book fan.

Have you been a big comic book fan as a child or why did you choose to do it as a comic?
I was a huge fan of comics since I was about 5 years old. In fact, I used to love the fine details in some of the Asterix comics that inspired some of my large visuals.

And how much were your comic inspired by your professional life?
A lot. The book captures the life of five interns, their boss and colleagues in year one of joining a big multinational consumer goods company. Each chapter covers topics like media, research, R&D, advertising development, HR, the dynamics of sales vs. marketing etc. in the exciting world of consumer goods.

And how much were your comic inspired by your professional life?
And how much were your comic inspired by your professional life?
And how much were your comic inspired by your professional life?
And how much were your comic inspired by your professional life?

How did you manage both your job and developing the book at the same time?
I get up very early and spent a lot of time on the comic prior to work, on weekends and vacations. Moreover, there is a lot of free time during duty travel, e.g. while flying or staying in hotels. I always took special care that my comic never interfered into my professional or family life.  

I guess it wasn’t always easy. Where you ever close to giving up?
Oh, yes. After two years, my main illustrator disappeared and stopped responding to my calls and e-mails. Eight chapters of the original art were gone. I was massively upset but that just gave me the resolve to start from new.

After two years, Neil had to start from new with the book.

Starting from new is often hard but can lead to something better. If you could start your career from new, would you still go into FMCG marketing? 
I started my career in hotels and restaurants but after completing my marketing degree, I joined the FMCG world and never left again. I love it and I have made most of my friends and networks within this industry. Therefore, if I were to turn back time, I would do exactly the same thing.

Would you also again chose Beiersdorf?
Beiersdorf has been an excellent employer. I have worked in four of the biggest FMCG companies across multiple markets and I genuinely believe that Beiersdorf provides the best balance of performance and people orientation. It has a great family-oriented culture, an amazing pool of talent across functions and supports people with global careers, like in my case. 

You worked for Beiersdorf in Northern Europe, Dubai and – early this year – you have become General Manager NIVEA India. Which skills does such an international career in brand management require?
You need a combination of functional and soft skills, for instance communication, sales and finance know-how as well as consumer understanding and curiosity for new developments and trends.

The book covers daily topics from the FMCG industry.

And how can a brand manager avoid turning into a perfect beast in the corporate world?
By staying true to your values. Don’t do anything just to please your superiors. Be prayerful and spiritual. Get a mentor to bounce off ideas and to see your progress in a mirror.

Which character from your book mirrors your own values and personality the best?
Well, Don, the hero itself is built around my character. But Viktor from copy services also comes close.

Catarina Neumann

About the editor: Catarina Neumann

Since 2014, Catarina has been responsible for Beiersdorf's digital corporate presence, from social media and our corporate blog to the global corporate websites. As a communications strategist with a focus on digital, she also works on lots of buzzwords such as #digitalstorytelling, #influencerrelations and the #digitalization at Beiersdorf. Prior to that, she has been responsible since 2008 for various financial, HR and scientific communications topics as well as global brands PR.