The last thing I wanted to do was quit for fear of being fired, but it’s hard to keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground if you’re walking on egg shells. First stop would be to get five minutes with Jerry, Joanne’s boss and the husband of her tennis partner, who also happened to be an Italian fashion model. I knew better than to complain or to ‘report’ anybody, so my request was simply for a new opportunity within the Division. I was politely telling him to get me the fuck out of this situation! Remaining calm, I sincerely explained how much I loved working here and I didn’t want to leave, and asked desperately if there was any place else I could go – even for just a little while. His response was equally sincere, and told me straight out, “Mikel, you should stay right where you are, doing just what you’re doing. I don’t really see you doing anything else here.” And with that, and my tail between my legs, I thanked him for his sage advice as I slithered past Joanne’s office to my own, which was just next door.
Robert was visiting from Geneva and had occupied one of the designated Visitors offices behind reception. From the lobby I could see that he was in, and not on the phone for a change, in fact, he seemed quite relaxed in his Firmenich polo shirt and cuffed khakis with polished loafers, rummaging through his leather briefcase. “Got a minute, Robert?,” I knocked on the glass. After explaining the situation, as delicately as I did for Jerry, Robert suggested, “Mikel, have you considered going over to the Flavors Division?” - “You can do that?,” bewildered at the idea and the speed at which he came up with it. “Not only can you do it, the Company encourages it. Wish it was more popular actually,” he told me, but I couldn’t really hear him, as my head had just exploded right there in the doorway.
The first call I made was to the first person I had met in Flavors, Gary Ragone, who was no longer running Beverages, but had just started a sub-segment little group that was focused entirely on the potential of flavors for the Alcohol market, where today, EVERYthing is flavored, but in 2004 it took some convincing. Gary’s business unit, as small as it was, was at capacity, but he did tell me that there was an opportunity opening up in Beverage Marketing, and that he would connect me with the new head of the Beverage Segment for North America, Gary Smith. He had been with the company for ages, and was once the flat-mate of Steven's when he had first relocated to Geneva. With a full head of silvering hair, blue eyes, and a runner’s body in a tailored suit, Gary, whose given first name is Charles, had a rather sexy Yorkshire accent that seemed to come from the side of his mouth, and also just so happened to have a very attractive open position for a North American Marketing Mgr. to work exclusively on the company’s largest beverage client – the one whose headquarters are based in Atlanta, Georgia, but, for the sake of anonymity, I’ll just refer to them here as Big Red.
When it came right down to it, Gary had to choose between me and one other, internal candidate. The idea that I could even make the switch, from Perfumery to Flavors, was made entirely possible by Marc, who had insisted I stop being creative and learn to be a regular marketeer. Fact of the matter is, all I did was apply my unique creative marketing skills and latest Trenz work to a specific category in order to create something conceptual and forward thinking, rather than slide-after-slide of white-space opportunities, market segment analysis, and pointless pie-charts. This was one of my convincing arguments to Gary in helping him to make his decision. Apparently, my competition was a technical person, so I tried to lighten his quandary by telling him, “You can teach the technical piece to a creative, but it’ll take a whole lot longer, if at all, to teach the creative piece to a technical.” The clincher was my wine journal, which by then was nearly full of tasting notes, drawings, labels, and my original CorkPrints™, all of which impressed and proved to Gary that I could really smell AND taste. In addition, it was quite clear, that Big Red didn’t need traditional marketing content from their suppliers, or from anybody for that matter. What they needed was innovative flavor inspiration. They needed creative marketing delivered to them by a true believer, and when it came to Big Red, I wasn’t just a believer, I was truly a brand evangelist.