Oscar Martin, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Turicum Gin
In the last few years, anyone with an affinity for good drinks simply has to have experienced Turicum Gin. Lifestyle magazines praise its taste, trendy bars transform the spirit into new cocktails and hardly a single public event is held without the Turicum team diligently pouring out the drinks. This unbelievable market presence and diverse international awards might at times make you forget that the Zurich-based gin company is run by a small – but highly-motivated – team of just four people. One of these is Oscar Martin – as Co-Founder and Head of Marketing, he has played a significant role in the company’s success.
“When I look back, the only thing I regret is that I didn’t start to realise my ideas much earlier.”
After all, Oliver has more than enough ideas. He always knew that one day he wanted to develop his own product. Likewise, he also realised early on that he wanted to work in advertising and marketing. He has always been fascinated by the visual, tactile aspect of new products; he never changed the channel when the adverts came on the television, instead, he would study the spots and think about how he would have done it better. In spite of this, there were a few detours on the path towards becoming a co-founder and marketing director:
“After an apprenticeship to become a draughtsman in structural engineering, I started studying Business Information Technology, but I had to leave university after one and a half years. It just wasn’t the right thing for me. I worked all kinds of part-time jobs just to keep my head above water, until I suddenly realised that I wanted to do something more with my life. I did a degree in Business Management and then I found a job with an advertising agency.”
He clearly had a natural talent for his work as Events and Promotions Officer and it didn’t take long until he became Deputy Managing Director. However, in the long term, he knew that he wouldn’t be happy just working for someone else. When asked if he wanted to get on board with a new software company where he could build up his own marketing department, he leapt at the chance. In next to no time, he set up an internal agency and learned how to develop a brand from nothing at all. That’s when he realised that it was time to create his own product. Not a software product, not a service, but something that you could actually hold in your hand. Preferably a lifestyle product.
“The idea for Turicum Gin was born in a club. I was employed as a DJ, Merlin, Oliver and Philip worked at the bar. We realised that we were all big gin enthusiasts and that the market was missing a real Zurich gin. So we worked on trying, testing and improving recipes and six months later the first bottles were being served at the bar.”
Partly because a difficult market entry had been predicted, Oscar kept his old job to start with. However, two full-time jobs and his passion for DJ-ing soon became too much for him. He decided to put all his eggs in one basket. The initial successes achieved with Turicum Gin were enough to pay the founders a modest wage. But since it was not possible to increase production rates infinitely – after all, they wanted to maintain a product that was handcrafted with love and closely linked to the local area – they knew they would have to come up with something new:
“At the moment, we’re working with a friend to develop a rhubarb lemonade and some other soft drinks. At the same time, we’re also building a small gin laboratory where groups of up to ten people can create their own gins in our lab.”
Oscar and his colleagues have already been making a name for themselves with another project: Die Apotheke – infused by Schweppes, a pop-up bar with 1920s decor that wowed the Zurich crowds last autumn.
“Die Apotheke was definitely an important springboard for us. It allowed us to put our gastronomic skills and ideas to the test.The response was overwhelming. Afterwards we received requests to write concepts, design logos and develop strategies, so we founded the agency Campbell & Jones two months ago and are already working on implementing our first project. Unfortunately I can’t give away too much at the moment. All I can say is that Zurich better get ready for an innovative, provocative gastronomy concept.”
If you talk to Oscar, you’ll quickly realise that you are talking to a highly creative, active maker. How does he come up with so many ideas?
“Lots of people like to escape to the countryside to think about things. I like to do the exact opposite – I have to be among people. Places where there’s lots going on, where it’s noisy, where fragrances intermingle and where all kinds of different people come together – that’s where I get my best ideas. Of course, music is also a great source of inspiration for me – it’s what drives me. But you also don’t always have to try and implement all your ideas immediately. I write a lot of them down in my notebooks and then dig them out again when the time is right.”
Obviously, splitting his time between distilling gin, delivering and marketing, developing products, working on catering concepts and DJ-ing can lead to long and tiring days for Oscar. But this lifestyle suits him and he feels best when there is lots going on.
“I am driven by the thousand projects that I want to accomplish. Unfortunately, I’ll never live long enough to turn all of my ideas into reality.” I’m 38 years old and still a long way away from where I want to be.”
So what has Oscar learned over the years? What advice does he have for young, creative makers?
“If you have an idea and a passion for something, be sure to ask other people for their opinion and be open to their advice – that’s really important. But if you’re convinced that your idea will work, then just keeping working on it and don’t let yourself be put off by the criticism of others.”
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