Andrew Birkic has no trouble remembering the day of his first interview for a role with the Ford Motor Company of Australia.
“I think I got there an hour early,” said Birkic CMO. “I went to Broadmeadows and sat in my car, took out my notes and read. And I still remember the day I started, 27 years on, and it really made me smile. ”
Since then, Birkic has held many different roles in marketing, sales and management with iconic auto markers, both in Australia and internationally, starting with his first job as a marketing analyst in the Ford Falcon line. Through each role, he has learned the essential skills needed to conduct business in a fast-changing industry – skills he now put to good use, leading a team of 2,500 automotive experts as Ford president and CEO for Australia and New Zealand.
“The job teaches you the basics of business, and you have an appreciation of how the pieces come together,” says Birkic. “That’s what Ford did – teach you skills, and build your ‘wheelbase’, to use automotive terms.
“And this allows you to shift to a general management focus because you have built this repertoire of leadership skills and behaviors.”
Build a marketing impression
While Birkic was initially trained in finance, it was an opportunity to work with a brand so respected that he was first applying for sales and marketing roles. Many of his later roles were also in marketing, including the latter as chief global product marketer for the Ford Ranger and Everest lines. During that time, he traveled the world to see how customers use these vehicles, including visiting soybean farmers in Brazil.
“There is no substitute for getting dirt under the nails and getting out and seeing how the customer uses the vehicle, and talking to the dealer,” Birkic said. “It is a global role. I am the link between the market and the engineers – I am the voice of the customer. ”
Another favorite role is as Ford zone manager for Brisbane, where he works closely with local dealers.
“It’s my favorite job, because you’re a little like your own boss,” said Birkic. “The dealers are amazing, and your staff is amazing – they are coal-facing people, and you learn a lot from them about how they work in society and how they work with customers. It is a very important part of my career. ”
Working at Ford has also taught Birkic a great deal about branding, and about what brand trust means to a company whose most loyal fans have a deep connection with the brand.
“They are people who have tattoos and belts, and that is an incredible position we have,” Birkic said. “And we have some iconic vehicles, whether it’s Mustang or F-Series in the US, and now it’s brand new [Mustang] Mach-E.
“Cars are a very emotional brand, so from a marketer’s point of view that’s a good thing. And everyone has a story – about their first and last car, which brand they liked, what you drove, what you wanted to drive. That’s a good story. ”
However, the role is not without challenges. While Birkic was stationed overseas at a time when Ford Australia was shutting down local manufacturing, the echoes were profound.
“This is important for certain consumers and not as important as others,” said Birkic. “What consumers are looking for is high value and attractive products, as well as practicality. They are very important attributes that we cannot forget, and in the end consumers decide because they are the ones who invested in the product. ”
Now he finds himself directing the organization through a series of consumer-driven changes, from increasing interest in electric vehicles to changing perspectives on car ownership. That, in turn, led Birkic to ask some fundamental questions in the business.
“How do we make your life easy?” Birkic asked. “I don’t think so [the future] is going to be about ‘pure vehicles’. This will be data and analytics. This will be how easy I can fix my vehicle. It will be much more than ‘how much I love cars’.
“Consumer expectations are very high for their product and service needs, and it is also a very messy market in terms of reaching consumers. We work with our advertising agency partners to ensure that we provide relevant and meaningful information that also has a bit of fun and cuts and grabs attention. ”
Having a varied career history gives Birkic the different perspective he needs to face these emerging challenges. He believes this kind of career path will suit any marketer with general management ambitions.
“Ultimately, you have to be prepared to take some chances, and ask questions,” said Birkic. “You need to be prepared to make some mistakes. It is part of the process.
“Stretching yourself and taking a few opportunities along the way is very rewarding. I like to keep changing myself. It’s important that you don’t get static and you look around other industries and see new information, and that will help you become a better marketer or general manager. ”
That philosophy has also seen Birkic take on a role he thought might not have suited him at the time, but which allowed him to grow.
“I consider myself very honored and honored to hold this position,” said Birkic. “That’s what happens sometimes. it’s an amazing company, has a great culture, and I love what we do and the fact that we make things and make people smile. ”
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