Let’s Start the Interview:
The Worlds Times: Please introduce yourself and your journey until you joined Territory Influence.
Rafael Schwarz: with pleasure – I was born in Vienna/Austria more than 40 years ago as the oldest of 4 kids. After a master study in international business in Austria and Germany, I started my professional career with Procter & Gamble Austria in Brand Management. I went on to serve for more than 15 years in local and global marketing and sales leadership roles in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the UK for leading FMCG companies such as P&G, Reckitt, Mars and Henkel. At Henkel I had the pleasure of running some word-of-mouth and nano influencer marketing campaigns with Territory and was really impressed by the agencies creativity, professionalism, and relentless focus on delivering measureable campaign results. It was therefore an easy decision to join Territory Influence when the agency founders approached me in 2013 with an offer to join their leadership team as General Manager for the DACH region. The agency has grown tremendously the years prior and the founders wanted to bring in a senior FMCG executive so they could focus on further international expansion.
The Worlds Times: Give us one word that describes you the best.
Rafael Schwarz: “Semper Ardens” – OK it is two words, but it is latin and means “always burning”. Whatever my role or company I worked for, I always gave it my everything and always acted in the best interest of the company I represented. I simply could not get up in the morning and go to the office, without being passionate about my work and fully committed to my role.
The Worlds Times: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome during the journey of your leadership?
Rafael Schwarz: I had to overcome many challenges during my career, whether being the first marketer switching to a key account management role at Reckitt, managing a product recall during my first month as Marketing Director at Mars, or changing the entire organization structure at Territory Influence. Leading 40 plus team members in marketing and business development fully remote from one day to the other in 2020 was another big challenge. Ultimately I believe that it is those challenges that turn us into better leaders by learning from the mistakes we do and listening carefully to the feedback of our peers, bosses and team members.
The Worlds Times: What are the key values which helped you to overcome these roadblocks/challenges in your career?
Rafael Schwarz: I strongly believe in teamwork and open communication – nobody can solve major challenges alone, especially once you are in more senior leadership positions. Envisioning, enabling and empowering my teams to do their job and come up with creative ideas and solutions have always served me well. What I do expect from my team is passion, commitment and a willingness to constantly learn.
The Worlds Times: What was the path you took to get to where you are today?
Rafael Schwarz: Personally – I always believed in building bridges and gaining experience and knowledge across different industries and product categories, across functions (sales, finance, marketing, R&D), different countries, within local and international roles and across clients and agencies. I had to leave my comfort zone many times to grow as a business executive and to be able to arrive where I am today – leading all our marketing, sales and business development teams and activities across Europe.
It is no co-incidence that I am leading an agency that also believes in building bridges between brands and consumers, between online & offline media, between e-commerce and traditional retail, between media & creative, between strategy and campaign.
The Worlds Times: That sounds really interesting – can you tell us more about TERRITORY Influence and where the agency comes from?
Rafael Schwarz: the agency was founded back in 2005 in Munich/Germany and initially focused on offline word-of-mouth marketing. At that time it was called TRND and helped predominantly FMCG (mostly food & beverage, beauty & cosmetics, laundry & homecare, health & OTC) and CPG (mostly consumer electronics, fashion & entertainment) marketers to make word of mouth plannable, scaleable and measureable. Based on the success of its unique processes, team expertise and proprietory technology it quickly expanded across Europe. Some international FMCG companies realized the power of offline and online advocacy and asked us to develop MarTech solutions that would enable us upgrade clients CRM programs into communities of brand ambassadors. In 2015 we joined the Bertelsmann group and significantly expanded our service portfolio, adding paid macro/star creators to our existing portfolio of unpaid nano/micro influencers. In 2018 we became part of the TERRITORY group, a consolidation of various marketing units and agencies of Bertelsmann and changed our company name to TERRITORY Influence. Today we are supporting thousands of brands across Europe holistically with social media strategies, community management and influencer marketing.
The Worlds Times: What are your objectives for the future?
Rafael Schwarz: Our objective is to become the leading social media & influence marketing agency for brands and retailers in Europe by constantly delivering measureable business impact through connecting brands with influential people and creating highly engaging content.
The Worlds Times: What do you feel is the biggest strength of TERRITORY INFLUENCE right now?
Rafael Schwarz: We are the only agency helping consumer brands with any kind of influence marketing service (strategic consulting, international toolkits, influencer vetting, campaign management, social analytics & technology) for all types of influencers (nano – micro – macro – star), across countries in Europe and NA and across all channels – offline (word of mouth) or online (e-commerce, website, social media: tiktok, facebook, instagram, youtube, pinterest, twitch, etc). We are focused on developing the best solutions for advertisers by working channel agnostic, with the largest verified pool of more than 5 Mio influencers in Europe and by validating the impact of our programs and campaigns through 3rd party measurement partners.
The Worlds Times: What do you value most about TERRITORY INFLUENCE vision?
Rafael Schwarz: Our vision is to „Humanize Marketing” and in the VUCA world we currently live in, I believe we all value a bit more humanity. I mean technology is great and data is the new oil for marketing, but it is still people who develop the best advertising, it is still people who find creative solutions to business challenges, and we rely today even more on employees, customers, key opinion leaders, brand ambassadors and business partners to get anything done.
The Worlds Times: Tell us about a TERRITORY INFLUENCE project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
Rafael Schwarz: At the beginning of the Covid pandemic back in 2020, our biggest beauty client asked us if we could support them with a BIG campaign in the US. At that time we have not yet conducted any project in North America and were severely hampered by the lockdowns across our offices in Europe and potential partners in the US. However our teams found solutions for every challenge, spend endless nights on the phone with creators at the US West Coast and developed one of the most amazing campaigns in the history of Territory Influence. We ultimately activated 191 influencers who created 314 Instagram stories, 314 Instagram posts and 7 Youtube videos, generating more than 4.5 Mio organic online impressions at an all-time high engagement rate of 14%.
The Worlds Times: You are supporting many big international advertisers, such as BMW, P&G or Nestlé. What benefits do you offer these clients in this competitive world?
Rafael Schwarz: We realized that international companies such as BMW, L’Oreal, Carrefour, S.Oliver, Bacardi, Samsung or GSK, are all looking for strategic partners that can manage all their influence marketing needs across multiple countries or entire regions. This is saving marketers tons of time, creates synergies and ensures that global brands are presented in a holistic way across markets. We can help these companies at a HQ level with international strategies & toolkits, but also support their local marketing teams with campaigns and programs tailored to local market needs thanks to our international footprint, native experts and local market connections and creator relationships.
The Worlds Times: What are the strategies of your company and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
Rafael Schwarz: Territory Influence delivers measureable business impact through social media and influence marketing programs, campaigns and solutions. We are 100% focusses on delivering the best value and best campaign outcome for the marketers we work for. Hence we have not partnered with meta or google and we do not represent individual creators, but objectively recommend the best solutions for the brands we have the privilege to work for.
The Worlds Times: Can you tell us something about upcoming products or new services you are developing?
Rafael Schwarz: Territory is continuously investing into the knowledge & expertise of our 1.000 plus marketing experts, but also in innovative tools & technologies to deliver better services for our clients. At the moment we are for example upgrading our martech tools to better measure in real-time the performance of influencer content (impressions, engagement, interaction), and evaluate use cases for ChatGPT and other AI tools that support content creation. We are also exploring tools that help us become more efficient so we can better cope with the inflationary environment we all live in.
The Worlds Times: How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Rafael Schwarz: There are endless opportunities for Territory Influence to grow both horizontally by adding new clients and new industries, as well as vertically by adding new services and solutions. With people shifting their media consumption towards social, brands will continue shifting marketing budgets to social media and influence marketing. Thanks to our expertise, proprietary technology and the largest pool of validated influencers and creators in Europe we are perfectly positioned to support any client and deliver measurable results. The challenging economic environment might also create opportunities to accelerate our organic growth through partnerships and acquisitions. Thanks to the financial backup of Bertelsmann we are confident to lead this agency consolidation process across Europe. I feel very honored to be part of the international leadership board at Territory Influence and excited to capture these opportunities together with my excellent team of directors and team members.
Connect with Rafael Schwarz on Linkedin