Marketing Trends for Big Holding Companies, Part 2

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Marketing Trends for Big Holding Companies, Part 2

After extensive research, the research team could not find any indications that UPL, Comcast, Darden Restaurants, and the Swire Group have successfully or are currently streamlining their marketing teams, solutions, and efforts. Virgin has made significant investments in its in-house marketing department. While there is no indication that easyGroup has or is currently streamlining its marketing teams, solutions and efforts, the group's companies seem to have deviated from in-house marketing efforts to relying on marketing agencies.


  • Research into easyGroup's marketing strategy did not produce much information on the company's efforts. The research team looked at the company's website and news releases, but they do not provide any communications on its marketing strategies or hires. It does not publish annual reports since it is a "private investment vehicle" for Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
  • The research team began by analyzing individual subsidiaries in the hope that we would find connections or correlations that would inform on the company's overall marketing strategy/trends.
  • easyJet, the largest of easyGroup's franchises, is publicly-traded, and therefore publishes annual reports, and according to its 2019 annual report, it had a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as of fiscal 2019. But easyJet removed the CMO role in 2020, and restructured its board such that marketing, digital, customer, and insight reported to the Chief Commercial Officer. It was evident that easyJet operates independently from its sister companies in the EasyGroup family.
  • easyHotel, also a public company, reported in its 2019 annual report that it is making significant investments in digital marketing and CRM initiatives to improve returns for its targeted marketing efforts. It also mentioned that it hired experienced senior marketing managers, as well as incorporating leading marketing management systems. Like easyJet, easyGroup's Stelios does not have much control on easyHotel's daily operations, which are run by its board.
  • There is nothing further regarding the marketing strategies of the other companies in the group, or any marketing relationships among individual companies. As a last resort, the research team looked at historical information for easyGroup in an effort to piece together bits of available information from media resources in order to provide valuable insights.
  • In 2000, easyGroup was looking for a marketing agency to run's media account. However, a company executive stated that the company was unlikely to change its "tradition of using in-house creative." This indicates that the group was using in-house creatives at the time. A year later EasyRentacar hired three marketing agencies.
  • A 2007 article by Marketing Week reported that easyJet's advertising has been created in house until the hiring of Ogilvy Advertising in 2006. An industry expert said that easyJet needed better communications since its in house communications were disorganized.
  • Since then, easyGroup, and its subsidiaries, have hired several marketing agencies to run their media buying and planning. For example, Starcom was hired for easyProperty in 2014, and Make It Rain was recruited for easyCar (2013) and easyHotel (2015). More recently, SWC was hired in 2019 as easyGym's lead agency, and Buzzman and VCCP are the current marketing agencies for easyJet and easyGroup, respectively.
  • According to the easyGroup Brand Manual, its family consists on about 75 companies. It also states that all dealings between its companies are "on arms-length terms and payment has to be made for cross marketing opportunities."
  • Based on the above information, there is no indication that easyGroup has or is currently streamlining its marketing teams, solutions and efforts. Instead, the group's companies seem to have deviated from in-house marketing efforts to relying on marketing agencies.

Virgin Group

  • To provide insights into the Virgin Group's marketing trends, the research team began by establishing the relationship between the group and its network of companies.
  • According to the Virgin Group's website, it has 49 key companies in its portfolio. It also states that the principal activities of Virgin Group, through its Virgin Management team, are brand licensing and investment management. Looking at Virgin Management, the company does not currently have a senior marketing executive among its team of seven senior employees.
  • Although the Virgin Group's web pages and communications do not mention its involvement in the marketing activities of its companies, research showed that the group had a global Chief Brand Officer (CBO) from 2016 to October 2020. However, the group eliminated the CBO position.
  • The research team then searched through the public domain for any information from case study analyses, media resources, marketing-focused resources, and other relevant sources such as expert sentiments. The research team managed to find some useful insights from 2018 articles that provided a view into the group's marketing trends. Although they are older than the Wonder standard of 24 months, they are considered relevant since they are the only available insights from a time when the group involved itself in the marketing efforts of its companies, and they provided future plans.
  • According to one article, Virgin's then CBO was "embarking on group-wide review of its advertising output to 'raise the creative bar' across over 60 of its different brands." This was part of the CBO's efforts to understand how different Virgin brands interact or connect within their marketing and branding activities.
  • While acknowledging that the work of building the brands was the responsibility of the businesses' respective CMOs, she said that the group was looking for ways to deliver company-wide innovation and to improve the levels of creativity for its marketing content. Nevertheless, the review was unlikely to affect the roster of ad agencies that were already working with the group's brands, but they would be placed under closer scrutiny over the next few years.
  • Virgin has been making significant investments in its in-house marketing department, and although there were no plans (as yet) to fully inhouse its creative work, the CBO wanted to see "agencies evolve to be able to think more broadly about how they answer challenges that meet the business needs."
  • In a bid to promote greater synergy between its brands, the group consolidated the creative media accounts for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holiday under AMV BBDO in March 2018 in a three-year contract. Virgin Atlantic also expanded its in-house advertising team with the hiring of a "Head of Brand and Creative," as well as four other roles. Virgin Atlantic also did not have any intentions of cutting its relationship with agencies.
  • Both the Virgin Group and Virgin Atlantic were looking for ways to be more responsive to new trends such as digital marketing, since the group's CBO believed that marketing agencies were becoming too big and aloof to embrace new trends.


  • Despite searching thoroughly, there was no information on Comcast's marketing trends. Comcast only states on its annual reports that it incurs expenses associated with the promotion of programming on its cable and digital properties. Although the company provides its marketing spend by business segment, there is no further breakdown of its marketing strategies on its corporate communications, news releases, or web pages.
  • The research team also searched for any interviews with both its former and current Chief Communications Officers, as well as other senior executives, in the hope of finding useful insights. However, while some interviews could be found, none discussed the company's marketing trends. Additionally, the research team looked at the roles/job descriptions for the senior marketing executives for the group, as well as CMOs for specific brands, but none provided any indication that the company was streamlining its marketing activities.
  • Searching for any in-house marketing activities produced an in-house agency by Comcast's Xfinity and a marketing unit for the group's cable division, Comcast Cable, named Effectv. Further research, however, showed that they were both client-facing initiatives, i.e. meant for commercial purposes rather than contributing towards the group's internal marketing efforts.


  • UPL Limited is an Indian multinational corporation with multiple subsidiaries, including Decco and Advanta, among others. In the U.S., its companies also include Alta Seeds and Uniphos.
  • According to the company's global web pages, the global "Head of Business & Marketing Excellence" drives cross-company/company-wide strategic initiatives, business analytics, marketing intelligence, worldwide marketing communication, and the "implementation of agile processes and support tools across the organization." This means that the marketing efforts for the group's companies are controlled at the group corporate level.
  • The research team also searched for information on the marketing efforts/strategies by individual UPL brands in the hope that we would find correlations that would be indicative of the group's attempts to streamline its marketing teams, solutions and efforts. However, this strategy was fruitless since none of the group's key brands provides much on their marketing efforts, and there are no articles on the subject.
  • UPL's 2019 annual report reported that the company had over 225 subsidiaries globally as of March 2020, most of which are "marketing arms and their main activity is confined to marketing by servicing their local market with greater efficiency and ensuring timely availability of different products of the Company."
  • A 2020 article by BrandEquity reported that UPL tapped Interactive Avenues to be its digital agency. The partnership was meant to improve UPL's digital marketing and communications in rural India. Futureready Media is another marketing agency that is working with the group.

Darden Restaurants

  • Darden owns and operates eight restaurant brands. LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden are the group's largest enterprises, and the remaining five (Bahama Breeze, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Cheddar's Scratch, Eddie V’s, and Seasons 52) comprise its 'specialty division.' Together, the four subsidiaries account for over 1,800 restaurants globally.
  • In 2017, Darden appointed The Tombras Group as the U.S. "media agency of record" (AOR) for all five specialty division brands. Prior to that, in 2012, had appointed Neo@Ogilvy as the AOR for the specialty division.
  • When it comes to Darden's largest enterprises, advertisements for LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden are handled by GREY Advertising and McGarryBowen, respectively. Media buying and planning LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden is handled by Carat and Starcom, respectively.
  • Thus, Darden has streamlined the marketing efforts for its specialty division for at least nine years. According to the group's CEO, "relevant integrated marketing" remains among the winning strategies for the brands.
  • Darden's "Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer" is responsible for brand and corporate communications, as well as digital marketing. Research through the public domain did not produce any statements/sentiments by the top marketing executive, or other Darden executives, that would shed more light on the group's marketing trends. Reviewing individual brands also did not produce anything that could be used.

Swire Group

  • According to Swire's organizational chart, the main company is the John Swire & Sons Limited, which has six brands and over 60 smaller subsidiaries.
  • Swire Pacific is the group's direct subsidiary of John Swire & Sons Limited, and it encompasses Swire Properties, Cathay Pacific, and HAECO, among others.
  • Looking at the subsidiaries, the research team noticed that most had their own marketing leadership structures. For example, Swire Properties has a "Director, Marketing, Communications and Digital," while Cathay Pacific has a Director Customer, who manages corporate/brand communications, corporate affairs, loyalty programs, and marketing communications. Research through the public domain did not produce any statements/sentiments by the top marketing executives, or other Swirie executives, that would shed more light on the group's marketing trends.
  • Swire Properties recently rolled out a marketing campaign in 2020 that involved OOH strategies, as well as animations. Cathay Pacific launched a marketing campaign in 2019 that was created by agencies of the Publicis Groupe.
  • There is no indication that the Swire Group has made any attempts at streamlining its marketing teams, solutions, and efforts. Based on the two marketing examples, it is evident that the group's brands/companies run independent marketing campaigns.

Did this report spark your curiosity?