In the second grade I discovered my passion for mathematics and then for a few years, almost during the entire school time, I had a very close relationship with mathematics, close to addiction. The few other skills were hidden behind my passion to win all the math contests, one by one. It was in the high school when my first failures on mathematics occurred, in the same time with transformation to maturity related storms, and then I became aware of another passion: writing. At the end of the high school my language teacher was begging me to continue with Letters University, to not lose my gift, but I was fully determined to go to Economics Academy, as it seemed to have more potential for the future. So I did that. I was admitted in the Finance-Banking section of Economics Academy in Bucharest – which was the star of that Academy at that time (students didn’t really crowd for marketing back then), but already in the 3rd year I kind of started to wonder why I was not as passionate about money circulation as my colleagues were.
Beginning of the road
I found the answer few years later, when, after a few insignificant jobs, in summer of 2000 and after an interview when I went out from my future Korean boss office banging the door, I was selected out of 200 candidates for a marketing assistant job in LG Electronics. I didn’t know anything about marketing, but somehow I managed to run my first TV campaign until the end of the year. And I think it was almost in the same period when I realized that this is what I want to do in the future. Then I enrolled myself to attend the courses of Communication and Public Relations Faculty, just newly created then within Political and Administrative Studies National School. And compared to Economics Academy, I really enjoyed those courses.
Media & retail
After LG Electronics, a special woman saw some potential in me and believed that I can do more at my 25 years old age, so she hired me on the first created direct sales job in Radio Contact. At the end of the year my sales were 140% vs goal. The woman name was Corina Salanti and she is not with us anylonger. Without her, most probably I wouldn’t be who I am today. After 1 year and a half working in radio, I switched to magazines and got my first marketing manager job in a publishing house called Publimedia. I was managing Playboy magazine as well, among others.
After a summer when I organized many parties and a full Playboy caravan on the Black Sea seaside (without any budget, only sponsorships and many, really many unpredictable things J), the same Corina who meanwhile left Radio Contact for Altex, gave me a call and asked me if I want to work again with her, to launch a new brand. It was Media Galaxy (electronics and home appliances local brand) and I said YES instantly. The launch of the new brand was accompanied by many stores openings, so in 2 years I opened around 20 stores altogether in the whole country, both MG and Altex. Owning a sort of “opening recipe”, together with my experience in retail and media, and maybe something from my personality and energy convinced IKEA to hire me in November 2005. I was 29 years old and the second youngest marketing manager in the whole IKEA world.
My journey in IKEA took more than 10 years, while I learnt a lot, I built teams, and I became a better professional. I had the chance to get many trainings, and to learn from mentors and trainers with international experience. I had the chance to be part of the team that changed the home furnishing market in Romania. I still remember the Romanians “fear” of white furniture and their intense “pursuit” for the cherry wood colour in 2006-2007. I saw how a new store opening can be civilized, without the need of police or ambulance intervention, and I think that was the moment when I realized that the way to treat people triggers the way they treat you back. Give them respect and they will answer the same way to you. I saw how print fell and digital rose, and I saw how marketing people start to “cluster”.
In 2014 we opened IKEA in Croatia, a market close to Romania and apparently similar, but with some differences, too. Almost in the same time, together with a team of enthusiast and passionate colleagues, we launched the local ecommerce platform in Romania. It was far from what we would have liked to be – an authentic MVP (minimum viable product) – but we knew that we need to do it, we believed in our project and the market need for that, and I think those were the ingredients that made it a huge success. For 1 year I observed “from inside” a pure organic growth of IKEA ecommerce, with a marketing budget close to 0, growth which was actually generated by the power of the brand. Yes, that invisible power of a brand which becomes a symbol of what people wish or aspire or want to associate themselves with.
So this year, after all these experiences, I have decided to continue to do what I like and I think I do best on my own, here in Romania. From my point of view, there is no marketing without branding, and branding is about substance, before form, or about essence, before appearance, and this is how BrandEssence was born.
You can see my official profile on Linkedin.