Q&A with Rod Gillies

Tell us a little about yourself – how did you get into the world of Innovation and Brand development?

When I joined Heineken UK back in 2007, I got roped into a Foster’s draught beer innovation project because of my background in pubs and bars. I loved the process and set my heart on eventually working in that area of the business. An opportunity came up to move into the innovation team and I was lucky enough to get the job. I’ve been working in innovation ever since.

You worked at Heineken for over 9 years, what was your favourite part during your time there and why?

Being able to work across a wide portfolio of brands at a really interesting time for the beer and cider categories. We spent a lot of time on consumer and category insight to ensure we developed ideas which were more likely to succeed. They didn’t always succeed – that’s the nature of innovation – but spending so much time with consumers was fascinating, and gave our ideas a better chance of working.

Any advice you would give your 18 year old self?

Relax. In general, things work out.

What’s on the horizon for Whyte and Mackay this year?

The business is delivering brilliant work on our existing brands like The Dalmore, Jura, Shackleton, and Whyte & Mackay itself. But my biggest focus is on the launch of three new brands – Fettercairn Single Malt, The Woodsman whisky, and Wildcat Gin. It’s been a lot of work to get them ready, but effective launches take just as much work again. And whilst we’re getting them out the door, we’ve already started on new projects for 2019 and beyond.

We hear you are fascinated by board game design…any favourites?

I love thinking about how good board games work, about how they balance out luck and skill, and how they’re structured to “manage” player experience. But it’s more fun to vilify bad games rather than picking out favourites. Monopoly, for example, is a really badly designed game. There are very few strategic options, it’s overly reliant on luck, it’s impossible to recover through skill once you start to lose, and the “endgame” drags on far too long. It’s just an awful game – people should stop playing it.