Michael Szymanczyk, exec VP-marketing and sales of Philip Morris USA since December 1994, is at this point the veteran, the man who has helped Philip Morris grow from the giant elephant in the cigarette industry to .*.*. well, a bigger elephant.
Ove Sorensen, exec VP-marketing at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is the newcomer, still having to prove himself and having to make major decisions very, very quickly.
For Mr. Szymanczyk, 47, the job is trying to maintain the spectacular growth of the last three years-a period that started with Philip Morris dropping the price of its premium brands and continued through such promotions as the Marlboro Adventure Team and the current Marlboro Unlimited. Philip Morris saw its share of cigarette industry shipments rise last year 1.3 points to 46.1% of the U.S. market, according to Jack Maxwell, an analyst with Wheat First Butcher Singer.
A `GROWTH COMPANY'
"We're a growth company. I've never seen a growth company continue to grow by taking its foot off the gas," Mr. Szymanczyk says.
Mr. Szymanczyk has focused on the interaction of sales and promotions more directly than on advertising itself, say PM observers.
Formerly Philip Morris USA's senior VP-sales, Mr. Szymanczyk sees the biggest change he's made as improving the execution of promotions from advertising through the program itself, to the sales force and finally the individual store.
"I think we have had a very effective marketing and sales plan in place for the past few years that continues to work well for us," says Mr. Szymanczyk. "We're working to improve what we're doing to optimize execution and evolve good, old ideas into new ones. Our planning processes have become more functionally integrated and we continue to get better at learning from what we've done and reflecting that learning in new ways."
Mr. Szymanczyk's success is Mr. Sorensen's woe. Part of Philip Morris growth has come out of RJR brands, and Mr. Sorensen's arrival in January from United Distillers puts him in line to lead the charge back.
PREMIUM BRANDS' PROBLEMS
It won't be an easy charge.
RJR's biggest premium brand, Winston, is falling, as is its menthol Salem. Only Camel among the marketer's major premium brands is growing, though discount Doral has done well.
Next year, RJR will likely launch major repositioning campaigns for both Winston and Salem. What those campaigns will be and what other initiatives will be tried are in the hands of Mr. Sorensen, a native of Denmark.
Ad agencies that have worked with him say Mr. Sorensen brings a global view to the question of what's ahead-in more than one way.
"He certainly understands that brands are perceptual, not just physical, things," says Mark Morrissey, exec VP-client services at Mezzina/Brown, New York, agency for Camel. "He's very disciplined and very good with process in looking at what is the quintessence of the proposition."
NEW PRODUCTS COMING?
Mr. Morrissey says Mr. Sorensen also has looked carefully not only at existing brands, but at the question of what kind of products may be missing from RJR's portfolio.
Mr. Sorensen, 54, says he sees his role as leading a marketing team that will try to define the cigarette market of the years ahead, and he drops hints of new products coming.
RJR's future requires it "becoming a strong No. 2 in the market with innovative products and innovative campaigns behind them," he says.
"Some of those innovative products might be new brands, some might be line extensions and some might be repositionings of our established brands.
"What I'd like to see this company perfect is world-class understanding of what our customers want in a cigarette-and then deliver that standard better and faster."