With its chocolates and wafers, Manner is well-known both in Austria and far beyond its borders. In an interview, Albin Hahn, CFO of Manner Comp. AG, explains the recipe for success in marketing these culinary specialities.Mr Hahn, your work seems to really be to your taste. Is there a secret recipe for Manner’s long-lasting success?
There certainly is a secret recipe, made up of various ingredients. One is our attractive price-performance ratio, which remains a cornerstone of our company philosophy to this day. In addition, since the very beginning, we have put huge effort into the high quality of our products, which are produced exclusively in Austria. Despite this, we are characterised by not relying on premium prices. We are the largest Austrian confectionery producer who still produces the chocolate themselves, all the way from the cocoa bean. Most other manufacturers buy in the chocolate, but we have chosen to focus on quality and uniqueness – and our customers appreciate this. What makes Manner successful internationally?
Despite all our innovations and modernisations, we remain a traditional family business. This gives us a head start against the faceless corporations we compete with. We also have short decision-making processes and act flexibly on the market. Typical characteristics in this kind of structure are a passion for the company, products for our brands, our location and of course a passion for our staff.
At Manner, sustainable business management is more important than fast dividends. In this, it is important to have shareholders who understand that securing the company in the long term is the key. This also means that we avoid larger losses, thus offering a significantly higher level of security. The longer view we sometimes have to take is typical for a family business. If we decide to enter a new market, we can’t afford to leave it again when the first difficulties crop up, but instead have to find ways and means to stick it out on that market. This promotes creativity, both in marketing and in sales. I would also recommend this to investors who are looking to come to Austria. Corporate social responsibility is also part of the company’s DNA at family businesses like Manner. Our marketing department must act more creatively than our competitors in this aspect. However, our advertising budget is certainly not comparable with those of international corporations, although we are constantly compared to them on the market. For our marketing department, this means developing new methods, innovative products and different ways of looking at things. How does a company attract international attention when the marketing belt is being ever tightened?
Another cornerstone of our communication strategy is sponsoring ski jumping. We have been supporting a number of athletes in the sport, such as Andreas Kofler, since 2002. This makes our family company unique in the field of sponsoring too: our focus is on long-term partnerships which last even through longer barren spells. Of course, this makes us even more delighted when we have a perfect season. A family company faces natural limits when it comes to sponsoring, and despite our success, we suffer no delusions of grandeur – this, too, is an advantage of our company structure. This would be another tip for investors: When sponsoring, check the regional particularities and enter into such niches if the opportunity presents itself. This isn’t just better value financially, but promises more long-term success.
The connection to the country, the people and the culture must be authentic. That’s why we consciously pay attention to our brands and are authentic in our branding. Authenticity is especially important on the Austrian market. Messages therefore need to be in line with actions – otherwise consumers become irritated. However, it’s easy to score with quality and regional products. Our assessment is that ‘cheap’ ranges are not as popular in Austria as in other countries.In our view, authenticity in advertising and in general appearance is more important to the Austrians than in other markets. Austrians like to questions statements and products. Companies wanting to establish something new on the market must communicate sufficiently and clearly why Austrians need and should buy this particular product. But there are definitely points of be scored among Austrian consumers with origin and regional products.
The author completed his studies at Vienna University of Economics and Business. After earning his degree in Business Administration, he began his career at Unilever; firstly at Unifrost and then at Iglo. In Rotterdam he was Financial Director of Frozen Food Europe. After returning to Austria, he became Financial Director of Austria Frost. Since 2008, Albin Hahn has been Managing Director with responsibility for Finance and Human Resources.