OHA Australia Wide – David Celm (OH ’94)

This year the OHA has launched OHA Australia Wide—an email circular profiling OHA members who live outside Melbourne.  In this edition, you can meet Daniel Celm (OH ’94)—a marketer, researcher, lecturer and teacher.

Daniel Celm: Marketer, researcher, lecturer and teacher

Years at Haileybury: 1988 to 1994

Current location: Brisbane

Other locations: Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

You may be familiar with his work, but are you familiar with him?  If you saw a promotion or advertisement for XXXX Beer in the early 2000s, the odds are, that OHA member Daniel Celm played a part in it.  Marketing one of Australia’s most iconic brands is just one thing Daniel has crammed into a career that’s spanned several disciplines and industries.  Like all Haileybury graduates of the mid-1990s, he’s still a long way from retirement!

Daniel started at the Keysborough Campus as a Year 6 student in 1988.  He remembers the opening of the Berwick Campus (now called Edrington) in 1989 and the resurfacing of the athletics track.  Daniel was particularly involved in drama and debating and was captain of both in his final year.  “I used to love the comedy sketch nights we put on through the drama department under Stuart Bell, we’d do adaptations of Australian comedy groups like the D-Generation as well as British comedians of the era, such as Fry & Laurie, Smith & Jones, and Rowan Atkinson/Richard Curtis.  I don’t think today’s students could get away with some of the lines we used back then.” Daniel says.

After Haileybury, Daniel studied at Monash University and was also a successful intervarsity debater, winning the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships. He ranked best speaker for the Championships and ranked in the top 5 speakers for the World Intervarsity Debating Championships.

Daniel then moved to Sydney to start what must be a dream job for many university students: a brand manager at brewer, Lion Nathan.  “I’d like to say that it was my boyhood fascination with TV ads that motivated me to work in marketing, and in some part, that would be true; but I was in my early 20s being offered a job with a very large beer company and it was pretty hard to resist.”  Daniel discovered that Lion Nathan had a strong focus on staff development, which helped him to go onwards and upwards.  This led him to becoming the Brand Marketing Manager for one of Australia’s most iconic beer brands, XXXX.

There’s not an Australian alive who hasn’t seen some form of marketing for XXXX.  Daniel’s fondest memory of marketing the brand was from early on in his career when his university days were still fresh in his memory.  “There was a niche campaign that we ran at university bars and pubs in Queensland for O-week” he says.  “It went gang-busters! The unofficial KPI that I set myself was that the patrons would want to win more of our merchandise and steal more of our point-of-sale items than that of any other brand… which they did.  Our sales teams were happy, our customers were happy, and I was happy that I could now re-characterise my own undergraduate experience as one long ethnographic research project designed to help me better understand my market!”

Daniel’s time at Lion Nathan was followed by several years at the global marketing research firm, AC Nielsen, where he was responsible for providing business solutions to a range of private and public-sector clients; based on insights from quantitative and qualitative research.  This included research into new product development, advertising, marketing, employee engagement and customer satisfaction.  The research experience at AC Nielsen motivated Daniel to head back to university, but this time as a lecturer in advertising, marketing and public relations for undergraduate and masters students at QUT.  Daniel was contemplating adding a PhD to his undergraduate and master’s degrees, when a friend contacted him about a role at the Brisbane City Council, which he thought might suit him.  “Well, he was right”, says Daniel.  “I spent several years working in the CEO’s Office of the Brisbane City Council as part of the corporate improvement and strategy team.  We were the fifth-largest government in Australia with a budget and population larger than Tasmania’s.  Our job was to make sure the organisation was operating as efficiently as possible.  It was a diverse and fascinating organisation.  I had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredibly passionate and effective people.”

You might be thinking “where next” for Daniel.  Well, it’s not far from where he started: an historic and renowned school.  No, not Haileybury, but if there was a Brisbane campus of Haileybury, it may well have been.  Daniel next became an economics teacher at Brisbane Grammar School, where he currently works.

Daniel has certainly done some very different things in his career to date.  You might be wondering what they have in common.  “I think the common thread is that I’m fascinated by human behaviour”, says Daniel.  “In all my different fields, I’ve spent a lot of time working on what makes people tick and how to nudge them in a particular direction (e.g. customers) or how to help organisations and individuals perform to their best.”

Several years on from marketing XXXX, Daniel can now reflect on why it’s been such a successful brand. “I’m not convinced that XXXX has fully broken down all the parochial Queensland associations, but some of the success of XXXX Gold as one of Australia’s biggest selling beers does offer insights to other brands talking to Australian consumers.  First of all, it had an early-mover advantage in an emerging category: mid-strength beer.  That gave it a strong functional offering, something important for any brand wanting to be more than just a flash in the pan success.  The halo effect it gained from the older XXXX Bitter saw it earn instant heritage, credibility and brand strength.  In many ways, it was a perfect brand extension.  Communication campaigns then beautifully summed up the emotional and social elements of the brand.  Where VB owned the idea of ‘reward for effort’ from its famous slogan that ‘a hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer’ (a hugely important factor in the beer market), XXXX Gold focused on a more relaxed sociable lifestyle.  This allowed the associations with Queensland (beaches, holidays, fishing trips etc.) to become a strength rather than a liability.”

Daniel says there were easily a dozen teachers at Haileybury who had a major influence on him.  Among them are current staff, Angelos Mavridis and Stewart Bell, who were in charge of drama and debating, plus Haileybury legend and economics teacher, Jim Brown, who Daniel has emulated in becoming an economics teacher at Brisbane Grammar School.  “No doubt many things from Haileybury helped me in my career”, Daniel says.  “For example, debating helped me to consider issues from multiple perspectives, to think rapidly and logically on my feet, as well as to refine my skills of public speaking and persuasion.  That said, I also had to ‘unlearn’ some things from debating once I started my career.  My natural instinct from debating was to always have an instant answer to any question, and to sound convincing when giving it, whether you had the facts at hand or not.  That’s not the way it should work in the real world when you’re briefing managers, clients or political representatives.  I learned the power of admitting when I didn’t have an answer and taking questions on notice.  I stress that point to my own students today.”

Haileybury also influenced the little things with Daniel.  “Another thing I gained from Haileybury was a firm handshake.  The Principal, Mr Aikman, wouldn’t let you shake his hand without a good firm grip.  I still hold that to this day and can’t stand a weak handshake!”

To finish off, the OHA asked Daniel if he could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be.  The answer wasn’t a huge surprise.  Think of an Australian who studied economics, revolutionised the Australian economy and set records for the speed at which he could down a beer – Yes, Bob Hawke.  “I would have loved to have met Bob Hawke.  I think you’d have some fascinating conversations on a range of topics across politics, economics and sport, plus he’d be good for a beer.”  Maybe even a XXXX?

In short …

  • Is there a film you’d recommend to anyone? Casablanca
  • What’s your favourite band?  You Am I.  For at least 20 years now they’ve been the iconic Australian indie rock legends.  I like Tim Rogers’ (front man of You Am I) solo stuff too.
  • Have you met anyone famous?  I met Mickey Mouse at Disneyland last year on holiday with my family.  At a logical level, I know the Mickey Mouse I met was just a person in a suit, but at the time there was this weird feeling that meeting Mickey Mouse is about as famous as it gets.

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