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A Day in the Life of... Mark Breen, Director at Safe Events & Cuckoo Events

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 10 May 2017
Updated: 09 May 2017

Mark Breen Safe Events Cuckoo Events

The Marketing Institute: What does the Director of an event management company do? 

Mark Breen: Everything. I’m in the office at 7am most mornings and those 2 hours before anyone else appears are my most productive. Whether I’m developing client proposals or vacuuming, it’s my favourite time of day. 

My business partner and I set up Cuckoo Events almost 5 years ago now. We’re very different people and complement one another well. 

I look after all the marketing elements of the business and dedicate a significant amount of time to it. I enjoy marketing something I love so much. 

MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role? 

M.B: I studied Business in UL and majored in Marketing. I did the MII Graduateship Case Study exam back in 2005 (I think!) and remember being one of a small number to get an A grade that year. I went on to do a Postgrad in PR & Event Management as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing along the way. 

I worked in media-buying briefly before moving on to work as an Events and Marketing Manager in a college and was then CEO of a staffing agency for marketing activations before setting up Cuckoo. 

I’m currently completing an MSc in Crowd Safety & Risk Analysis, which is my specialist area of operation in the event industry – crowd & event safety. 

I recently launched a new business, Safe Events, which is brand focusing solely in this area so am deep in the marketing and brand-recognition phase of marketing the new venture.

MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role? 

M.B: My biggest challenge is quantifying the ROI on the time I dedicate to developing our profile internationally through social & digital efforts. It’s a medium to long term game and I’m very comfortable playing it but if I had to quantify it to a line manager then I’d be struggling. Luckily, I don’t have to quantify it to anyone other than my business partner.

All our marketing activity is through social & digital except for a print ad we ran in the Irish Marketing Journal promoting our website. This is a little bit of marketing fun that’s been extremely effective for us. 

It’s become easier to quantify in the last 9 months as we’ve secured 2 significant event contracts, one directly through Twitter and the other directly through LinkedIn. With a cumulative value in triple figures, they are not insignificant to a small business like ours. 

I occasionally get the opportunity to speak or sit on panels about marketing / social / digital for business / small business and I always enjoy it. It’s very easy for me to talk about what we do and what works for us as I live it and breathe it every day. 

MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role? 

M.B: Trust in myself and my gut instinct and the understanding that, for us to continue to grow at the rate we are, I need to surround myself with amazing people are key. 

As a business-owner, belief in yourself and how you want to do things is paramount. I don’t need validation from a committee of people. I’m comfortable with making business decisions based on ‘I feel it’s the right way to go’. The freedom to do just that is one of the things I love most about running my own thing.

While I take lead on all our marketing efforts, I’m supported by our entire Team, from the creative & graphics people through to those adept at bursting my bubble. Sometimes my bubble needs bursting. I’ve had some marketing notions along the way, which probably wouldn’t have done what I needed them to do so I’ve been glad of the bubble-bursting at times. 

The business would be nowhere near as successful as it is, were it not for both our full-time and part-time Team members. We’re like a big family and are often just as dysfunctional, but it works for us. From a marketing perspective, our staff are like Brand Ambassadors for us. That’s extremely powerful.

MII: Describe a typical working day. 

M.B: No such thing exists in my professional life and that’s exactly why I enjoy it so much. 

My day can see me focusing on business development, doing client work for upcoming events, development of new marketing collateral, doing capacity calculations for a church for an event, liaising with local authorities to secure permission for things, addressing human resource/ staffing issues and everything in between. 

From a marketing perspective, EVERY day includes some marketing focus. Along with our web design agency, we’ve developed 2 amazing websites that support all that we do. The Cuckoo website is multiple award-winning as is our social & digital activity, both nationally and internationally. Both the Cuckoo site and our new Safe Events site have elements that we update on a regular (minimum weekly basis), as well as both featuring well-trafficked and busy blogs that we utilise and leverage considerably. 

Beyond that, every day involves time spent on our social media channels engaging with our community and developing and providing value everywhere we can. Whether that involves the scheduling of social updates that will be of interest to our audience, or producing Facebook Live events, we’re active every day. 

When you run your own business, 9 to 5 isn’t a thing. Most days are long and jam-packed. 

MII: What do you love most about your role? 

M.B: I love that I answer to nobody except my business partner, particularly with respect to marketing ourselves. He trusts me to market us in an effective way and, luckily, so far his trust has been well-placed. 

I enjoy that running my own business allows me to flex my marketing muscles. If I hadn’t been drawn into the world of events, I’d most definitely be working in a marketing role somewhere now. 

MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next? 

M.B: I still have work to do and things to achieve with Cuckoo and Safe Events that will keep me occupied for the next couple of years or so at least. 

I have a couple of other business ideas I’d like to take a run at. I really enjoy the challenge of starting something new and building it into something of value and standing. In doing so, the branding, voice, personality and general marketing of the business are the things I enjoy most. 

Any opportunity I have to build and market something I believe in in its earliest stages, I’ll be drawn to. 

MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role? 

M.B: Primarily, I get my professional inspiration from my parents. My mother is the most intelligent and insightful woman I’ve ever known and had life been a little different for her then she’d have built some amazing businesses. My father, for his part, was possessed of the most admirable work ethic I’ve ever known. He was ambitious but restrained and family always came first. 

In business specifically, I like how Niall McGarry at Maximum Media (, etc.) goes about his business. I also admire Jack Murray of and All Good Tales. He’s a fellow Ballinasloe man and I think he has a knack for connecting with people that serves him well in business. Melissa Curley of impresses me greatly too. I think her love for her business is second only to my own love for mine. 

There are a lot of truly inspirational business people running amazing small businesses in Ireland. 


You can read all the A Day in the Life features here.

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Fiona Dawson of Mars named as 2017 All Ireland Marketing Champion

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 04 May 2017
  • 90 finalists shortlisted across 18 categories
  • Sell out event for All Ireland Marketing awards on Thursday 11th May


Fiona Dawson MarsDublin, 4th May 2017: The Marketing Institute of Ireland has announced that Fiona Dawson of Mars is the recipient of the 2017 All Ireland Marketing Champion award.


Fiona is Global President of Mars Food, Drinks, and Multisales and is a member of the Mars Incorporated Leadership Team, which oversees sales in excess of $35 billion and 10 billion-dollar brands. Fiona has had a long career with Mars, having joined the company after graduating from Trinity College, and serving in a number of roles, including General Manager Mars Ireland, VP of Marketing for Europe and President of Mars Global Retail.


Mars Inc. has over 80,000 associates worldwide operating in 78 countries across six business segments: Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, and Symbioscience. Mars is one of the world’s largest foodmakers, and a leading exponent of responsible marketing.


The award will be presented on Thursday 11th May at the All Ireland Marketing Awards gala dinner in the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road (formerly Burlington Hotel). Almost 900 marketing professionals will gather to honour 90 shortlisted finalist companies, selected from among hundreds of entries, who are competing across 18 categories, making up what is the national showcase of Irish marketing achievement. The award winners will be announced on the night by RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson.


Speaking at the announcement of Fiona Dawson as the 2017 Marketing Champion award recipient, Marketing Institute chief executive Tom Trainor said: “This special award is designed to highlight the exceptional performance of a business leader who is a champion of professional marketing. Fiona is a fantastic ambassador for our profession on a global stage. Fiona’s incredible career trajectory with Mars is a great example for all Irish Marketing professionals in demonstrating what can be achieved.” 


Fiona Dawson, Global President of Mars Food, Drinks, and Multisales said: “At Mars, we are bound by five principles of quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom — established by the Mars family in 1947. I have been incredibly lucky to have had such a long and varied career within Mars, and am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the fantastic team who work with me.”


View All Ireland Marketing Awards Shortlist at



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The Re-Awakening of a Whiskey Icon: The Rise of Jameson in Ireland

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 04 May 2017
Updated: 04 May 2017

At our latest Marketing Breakfast on 26th April, Barry Fitzpatrick from Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard took us through the re-awakening of the Jameson brand in Ireland. He discussed how, over the past 5 years, he and his team have turned around brand performance by breaking category norms, re-positioned the brand, broken down barriers and recruited a wave of new consumers to an Irish Whiskey icon and the wider whiskey category.

To begin this disruptive journey, Barry’s team had to go back to the fundamentals: What are the objectives? Who is the Target? What is the compelling proposition? But first, let’s have a look at the challenges they had to overcome.

Although Irish whiskey has been growing worldwide, it only accounts for 7% of global whiskey sales. At home in Ireland, whiskey brands have to face a number of challenges too. One of them is baggage. Whiskey is seen as an old man drink, a symbol of old, rural Ireland. 

The team at Jameson isolated 3 main barriers causing volume and value decline:

  • whiskey is seen as a drink for old people
  • it is too much of a “serious” drink
  • it is perceived to have a harsh taste 

So how did the team at Jameson go about breaking down category barriers?
They started with the audience and decided to go after the 25-34 year-old men segment. From there, they came up with a new brand vision: “To become the mixed drink of choice in the active social need state”.

To achieve this vision, Jameson created a new signature serve, Jameson Ginger & Lime, and recruited key influencers for each phase of the journey, starting with bar tenders all the way to consumers. The Jameson Ginger & Lime campaign had to be present at every touch point with consistency, including bartender training, consumer sampling, POS, media etc.

The new brand vision was brought to life with The Jameson Experience, tying the brand to food, music and film to attract the target segment and shake off the “serious” image of whiskey. Rather than just sticking a sponsorship on events, the team wanted the consumer to really “feel” The Jameson Experience.  They came up with a set of Jameson Experience “ingredients” that had to characterise each event, including “social”, “unpretentious” and “inclusive”. A great example of this is the Jameson Film Club, a truly unique experience aimed at a tightly segmented audience.

And finally, the company needed to build advocacy from consumers. This was achieved in two steps:

  • Seeding & co-creating sharable, engaging and relevant storytelling
  • Listening, learning and rewarding advocates

The campaign was a resounding success with, among other results, 30k new 25-34 year old consumers recruited to the brand, brand advocacy up 54% and volume and value sales both delivering double digit growth. 


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Meet Ava, Ireland's First Facebook Messenger Chat Bot

Posted By Connector, 27 April 2017

Connector Chat Bot Ava
Have you met Connector’s newest team member and very own marketing innovation expert, Ava?

Have you met Ava? Dublin-based innovation studio, Connector just introduced their newest team member and very own marketing innovation expert, Ava. The Facebook Messenger chat bot launched on 23rd April and is the very first innovation of its kind to be developed and rolled out from Ireland.
How people are connecting with businesses through technology is constantly evolving. SMS, messaging, chat, and email, are once again prevalent consumer experiences. With 1.9 million Facebook Messenger users and 1.7 million WhatsApp users in Ireland, these two platforms have a higher percentage of users than any other messenger network in the country.
Launching their latest innovation, CEO of Connector, Connor Lynch today said: “I am delighted to introduce our fellow innovators and marketers to Ava - a fast and personal way to connect people to the resources and expertise that they need, whenever and wherever they need it.
“People love to communicate with one another using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Despite the development of more sophisticated tools, we seem to be satisfied with the logic, scale and immediacy of instant messaging.” said Connor Lynch. “We have passed through an era of apps and playful user interfaces, and have come right back around to the simpler and more direct user experience of chat.
“By employing a chat-first strategy, any organisation can drive sales, provide efficient customer service, enhance their brand experience and encourage loyalty from their customers.” continued Connor Lynch “With a mix of AI and human service, a smart organisation can enrich interactions with their audiences, so that they feel both familiar and welcome, while also delivering a great deal of value.”
Messaging statistics:

  • Ireland has 1.9 million Facebook Messenger users and 1.7 million WhatsApp users
  • 52 per cent of people prefer texting customer support over any other method of communication;
  • 100 per cent of smartphone users aged 18-29 use a text messaging function on their phones at least once a week;
  • The rate of opened and read SMS text messages is high at 98 per cent;
  • On average, it only takes 90 seconds for people to reply to a text message compared to 90 minutes for an email;
  • 97 per cent of smartphone owners report using their mobile device for text messaging.

To meet Ava, simply message her on the Connector Facebook page:


Connector is an award winning open innovation studio. They leverage a fearless approach to creativity, a culture of learning and a fast moving tech startup environment to design strategy, build digital products, engage influencers, and produce ‘real world’ experiences.
Some of Connector’s ideas build brand, grow market share and increase revenue, while others become business drivers within their own eco-system.
Connector clients include: Huawei, Sony, Just Eat, Benecol, Bord Bia, Allianz, RTÉ, amongst others.
For more information about Connector visit

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A Day in the Life of... Colin Culliton, CEO at TPI Group

Posted By The Marketing Institute, 26 April 2017
Updated: 21 April 2017

Colin Culliton

The Marketing Institute: What does a CEO at TPI do?

Colin Culliton: A good CEO should be focused on the overall strategy and direction of the business. The day-to-day running of TPI is handled by senior executives within each business function. I oversee and support these efforts, push hard to hit targets and work to ensure a collaborative culture is developed and maintained by the team. A CEO must have a laser sharp vision of the future direction of the company and be able to communicate the roadmap that will help the entire team navigate towards their goals and achieve company objectives.


MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

C.C: I started at the very bottom. I worked in a gaudy van selling Branded Tax Disk Holders to Motor Dealers around the country. In the 80’s, in the middle of a deep recession, car sales were low, so this was a hard sell! But I happened to do pretty well. I had studied Marketing in college and I really wanted to do something better that combined that interest with my commercial strengths. Two sales jobs later, in better businesses and with a bit of experience under my belt, I found myself at the tender age of 25, as the Owner Manager of a small printing start-up. My first job, while pretty crap, gave me ambition to do better, and to be better. With TPI, I had the opportunity to sell marketing solutions to a vast range of clients, it was perfect for me. I wouldn’t change anything of my humble beginnings. Hunger is the best sauce.


MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

C.C: We operate in a very fast moving environment. Customer requirements and needs are evolving all the time and we have to keep up with that, to keep relevant. The lines are blurring and we have to constantly change to offer a deeper, more dynamic marketing solutions menu. This business has seen dramatic change over the last 10 years. My biggest challenge has been to guide the team in these new directions, to change behaviours, to evolve the culture and maintain some of the values that have made The TPI Group a great company to do business with, and to work in. Change is hard, it’s unsettling, some days I think the only people who like change are babies with dirty nappies!


MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

C.C: At the risk of using a cliché, communication is vital. We have 136 people over 6 companies in our Group. Under pressure, they look to me for leadership and guidance. Energy and passion flow from the top down. I want everyone in this business to feel passionate about what we do and to live that through all customer interactions. Teams work hard when they are fighting for a cause they believe in. The key skills I’ve had to develop are leadership, communication and delegation. This last one has been most difficult, but if you want a business to thrive, there are times when you have to simply let go.


MII: Describe a typical working day.

C.C: I wake at 6.30am. I row. I shower. I shave. My working day starts off at about 7.30am when I check my emails as I eat Breakfast. Anything urgent is handled there and then, but mostly the stuff outstanding can wait until I’m in the office. The six MD’s are well able to handle most challenges. I have a 45-minute drive in from Enniskerry to Fonthill, which is a good time for Thinking. I normally get to the office by 8.30am and try to avoid any meetings until 10.00am. The first hour and a half is mainly reading and writing emails. Then a series of review meetings would normally kick-off with my managers. I try to have at least one outside or off-site meeting a day, sometimes a catch-up with a vital client, sometimes a NBD pitch, sometimes a visit to our off-site company Pluto, our experiential Business in Clonskeagh. At about 1pm I like to have my lunch break alone, at my desk or in a nearby pub, as it is a good time for me to shut up and re-group for the PM.  On a good day, I get to walk the offices and factory floor of Font House early PM. More often than not walk-ins and unplanned stuff has me running a little tight for time. I always try to finish the last couple of hours at my desk normally reading and writing emails. I head for home at around 6.30pm and get home in time for dinner with my wife and kids just after 7pm – this is my favourite time of day. I used to do a little work after dinner, but I decided I was unproductive when working too much, so I try to keep my mobile and laptop off in the evening time. I recommend everyone try this.


MII: What do you love most about your role?

C.C: I get a kick out of variety. I love being involved in so many different aspects of Marketing. We do consumer experiential campaigns, large scale event management, customer experience design, graphic design, print and even branded merchandise. Having different companies deliver solutions in different areas means you are involved in some of the most creative campaigns for some inspirational brands. When you have passionate customers and passionate, driven teams, you can’t help but get the buzz from it. 


MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

C.C: All things going well, I will do another 5 years at the helm here. Then I will step aside and let a younger person drive The TPI Group. I will never retire, it seems to be deadly for many busy people. I have a lot left to give and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with other up and coming businesses. I like people and I like business, so I could see myself trying my hand at executive coaching, speaking, teaching or maybe even starting another business, just to test myself! I’m not destined for, nor do I desire a quiet life. But that said, they say if you want to make God laugh make a plan.


MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

C.C: I love sport and I like passionate leaders. So, the likes of Brian Cody, Joe Schmidt and Jurgan Klopp are guys I see as authentic leaders that I admire. In business, Willie Walsh, of International Airlines Group, is an Irish guy who has faced adversity and still excelled over many years, in a very tough industry with some fierce competition. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I thank God I am not a Paddy working in Britain who runs three Airlines, all whom have to compete with Michael O’Leary and Ryanair!


You can read all the A Day in the Life features here.

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