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ALUMNI FEATURE: Rowan Leibbrandt | Truman & Orange

Rowan studied Marketing & Advertising Communications with us in 2002. He took his expertise into blue-chip alcohol companies, and after 15 years of experience in commercial & marketing roles, he decided to start his own premium drinks company ‘Truman & Orange’. Now Rowan travels the world in search of boutique, interesting and high-quality liquor brands to introduce to the local market.

Give us your elevator pitch… who are you, what do you do, what gets you outta bed every day?

Hi, I’m Rowan Leibbrandt: failed chemist, enthusiastic entrepreneur, and the most optimistic guy you’re ever likely to meet. I’m a founding partner in a drinks company with outsized ambitions and what some might say are delusions of considerable grandeur. We have a vision that feels big and significant, and it gets me out of bed every day. Coffee also helps.

When someone says “Red & Yellow” what are your immediate thoughts, memories or feelings?

R&Y was part of a sliding door that helped me change course and put me on track for the marketing-related fields that I ended up in. I arrived at R&Y having studied chemistry (to be fair study is a strong word for my UCT Chem experience but let’s roll with it) and it helped me avoid a career in a lab coat with sexy plastic glasses. The overriding sense of my year there was having found the thing that I was meant to do. The other lasting memory was of my less intelligent creative colleagues not being able to see the genius in some of my clearly awesome ideas.

Tell us about your most memorable experience at Red & Yellow on campus? Preferably good.

Class parties. All of them, every mid-week, booze-fuelled beautiful one of them.

You’ve been invited to answer these questions because you’re in the Red & Yellow “alumni hall of fame”, tell our readers how important it is to have a digital marketing qualification these days and describe the types of career paths it can unlock?

Great question, we operate in the increasingly legislated drinks space (remember what happened to the cigarette guys) and we compete against some of the most successful brands in the world with enormous budgets and digital allows us to somewhat level the playing field. But if I’m honest we haven’t figured out if the critical digital space should act as an extension of our traditional marketing approach or if it has its own entirely new set of rules. Maybe it’s a bit of both. In any event, the industry is still learning, and the field is changing so quickly, that having a qualification that has forced you to think deeply about these hard questions and to have an opinion can only be a good thing as it becomes the primary consumer connection point.

Please complete this open-ended sentence: “Red & Yellow taught me…”

My marketing instinct has always been to break things down to their fundamentals. Marketing and advertising have magic in them but that should come at the end, and the beginning piece – the insight – I always think needs to be highly logical. R&Y helped teach me an approach, a systematic logic, that I use to underpin any consumer thinking we do.

Creativity, insight, unique perspective and intelligent comment aren’t taught, so don’t wait to ‘’learn’’ them. They’re the combination of hard work and curiosity, both of which are decisions rather than innate qualities we have or don’t have.

If you use a large enough funnel, sometimes…just sometimes…you can down 3 beers in a minute.

Catch his Lunchtime Lecture on Wednesday 19 February.

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