Woolworths announces abrupt departure of chief marketing officer Tony Phillips

Tony PhillipsWoolworths chief marketer Tony Phillips is leaving the company with immediate effect as new MD of food and liquor Brad Banducci looks to move away from a purely  price-driven marketing strategy.

The former Coles executive has been in the role for only 15 months.

He becomes the latest CMO to leave the company after only a short time in the role.

Phillips’ sudden departure comes soon after the company was castigated on social media for a marketing campaign which linked the brand to Anzac war heroes although there is no suggestion that was the catalyst for his exit.

Woolworths withdrew the social campaign after intervention from the veteran affairs minister Senator Michael Ronaldson.

Woolworths said in a statement: “Tony Philips will leave Woolworths today. We are proud of the work Tony has done in the past 12 months, including the reintroduction of the iconic Fresh Food People brand and the introduction of Cheap Cheap which has improved our price perception in the market.

“We are undertaking a strategic review of our marketing functions and our brand direction as we refocus on getting our customers to put Woolworths first every time they shop.

“Woolworths will commence a search for a replacement. In the interim, Andrew Hicks, currently Head of Marketing for Woolworths Liquor Group, will act in the role.”

Phillips joined Woolworths early last year from Coles where he spent seven years as general manager, marketing communications, general manager sponsorships and events and general manager.

He oversaw a hugely protracted media agency pitch at Woolworths – lasting more than six months – which drew sharp criticism from the industry.

Carat was eventually retained by the supermarket.

Phillips was instrumental in taking Woolworths down a price-drive marketing path as he did battle with his former employer.

However, while far from abandoning the price message, Banducci is keen to put a greater emphasis on the customer experience, leaving the two senior executives ad odds as to the future direction of the company.

Woolworths last week announced it will cut 400 non customer facing jobs by the first half of the 2016 financial year as it looks to fund improvements to the customer experience and to pay for the continuing price war.

Phillips departure however is unrelated to those jobs cuts.


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