Dianne Ashton-Smith: Red Stripe's standard-bearer for corporate branding excellence
Dianne Ashton-Smith

"I always wanted to work for Red Stripe. As someone deeply passionate about community-building and entrepreneurship, I have long been drawn to Red Stripe's innovative spirit and resolute dedication to its customers, consumers, and community. It's a brand that has always stood out to me as a symbol of quality, authenticity, and community," Dianne Ashton-Smith asserted as she recalled the start of her journey at Red Stripe.

Ashton-Smith is recognised as the custodian of Red Stripe's external image and a champion of the iconic brand's legacy. After 15 years of unwavering service to the "World's Coolest Beer Company", Red Stripe has honoured her contributions to the company and saluted her personal legacy – one of excellence.

It was a delight to sit with Ashton-Smith to reflect on her incredible journey as one of the faces of Red Stripe and what drives her to continue pushing the limits despite over 25 years in the communications game.

"My career started in academia, then on to stints in radio and hospitality, all focusing on communications. Then one day I got a call from Red Stripe to interview for the role of brand PR [public relations] manager," she shared. "I didn't get the role, but the experience was so positive that when they reached out to me some months later for the role of communications manager, I accepted without hesitation. It was a new position that combined internal communications, corporate PR and CSR, which I am passionate about, so I knew it was perfect for me."

Red Stripe Head of Corporate Affairs Dianne Ashton-Smith receives a 15-year long service award from Red Stripe's Managing Director Luis Prata at the recently held Heineken Boldly Chic dinner and awards ceremony.

Anyone who has ever worked with Ashton-Smith knows that the energy and excitement she brings to each new execution are unmatched. Sharing her approach to keeping things fresh, she noted, "I treat every day like it's different because no two projects are the same. Each comes with its own challenges and opportunities, and I think that is what keeps me going. The responsibility I hold as the custodian of the Red Stripe brand remains at the forefront of my mind. I came into Red Stripe aware of its strong legacy, and I have an opportunity to help sustain that. So even though projects may share similar elements, and the knowledge gained may be applicable across the board, I still look at each new project as a chance to innovate."

Ashton-Smith shared the elements of her background that helped to keep her driven yet grounded her entire life.

"I grew up as a PK – a pastor's kid, so I'm very rooted in Christian principles, my North Star. I was also always involved in the creative arts, singing in school choirs and glee clubs, participating in the JCDC [Jamaica Cultural Development Commission] schools' competitions in dance, drama, and music, while studying piano and sitting Royal School of Music exams throughout my entire academic life. Studying music creates a certain amount of discipline because becoming proficient requires a combination of talent, hard work, and dedication; you must commit fully. The values, passion, and discipline I developed while doing the arts in my youth continue to guide me in my work and life today."

When asked about the highlights of her Red Stripe journey, Ashton-Smith noted that her role as a director at Red Stripe's philanthropic arm, the Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) Foundation, ranks close to the top of the list. While managing Red Stripe's CSR portfolio, Ashton-Smith played an essential role in building out Learning for Life, a national skills training programme and other initiatives.

"When I started at Red Stripe, they had just launched Learning for Life; it was just in its infancy. At the time, it wasn't even fully funded, so we had to implement innovative programmes to make us eligible for seed funding," she recalled. "It has been one of my greatest experiences to play a leading role in the programme's development, and I am proud to say that, to date, we have impacted the lives of nearly 30,000 Jamaicans. One of my most treasured moments was the graduation we executed at the National Stadium with 4,000 Learning for Life graduates. I am also particularly proud of my role in Project Grow, our initiative to increase cassava cultivation for beer production."

In the face of a professional world increasingly defined by employee turnarounds every couple of years, Ashton-Smith broke down what it meant to stay the course with one employer.

"This is my longest continuous tenure with any one organisation, and I have remained simply because Red Stripe is a great place to work. I can list so many factors contributing to my longevity, such as job satisfaction, career opportunities, company culture, compensation and benefits, alignment with personal values, executive support and leadership, all of which are true about what I have personally experienced at Red Stripe.

"Red Stripe has given me countless opportunities for professional growth and development; beyond that, there is a strong focus on health and wellness. In fact, through the annual health checks grounded in our value of care for people, I was diagnosed with Graves' disease, allowing me to effectively manage it and live a normal life.

"While at Red Stripe, I have also had some incredible experiences representing the brand on the world stage and taking on new and expanded roles. The lessons I have learnt during my tenure have been invaluable and have contributed in no small part to my longevity; the criticality and value of having a strong work ethic; the power of interdependence, willingness to learn, adaptability and resilience in a dynamic environment; and above all, having a positive attitude."

In March, Ashton-Smith received one of Red Stripe's coveted long-service awards at the Heineken Boldly Chic awards ceremony hosted at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay. Looking back on her journey with the company, Ashton-Smith explained the personal significance of being honoured by Red Stripe.

"Being on that stage was a proud moment for me and one I never thought would come during my earlier years. When I first started at Red Stripe it was very different from my previous work experiences. I remember stepping out of the office one day to call my mother to say I don't know if I can do this, and she encouraged me to see it through. My mother has always been my biggest cheerleader and motivator, so when I stepped on that stage in March to receive my award, I knew that was also her award for the support she has given me over the years. My journey has taught me that even though you will experience difficulties, what matters at the end of the day is resilience, bouncing back, identifying the lessons learnt, and using these insights to create your own legacy."

"When I eventually leave Red Stripe, my legacy ought to be creating an optimal business environment where our commercial freedoms are protected and our jobs are defended. I also want to ensure that our sustainable community development initiatives foster a sense of belonging and connectedness that allows individuals to thrive and grow personally and professionally. Creating a legacy through community development requires a deep commitment to the people and places we serve. It means being willing to listen, learn, and adapt to our communities' ever-changing needs and working tirelessly to ensure everyone has the resources and support they need to thrive. And it means recognising that the true measure of our success is not in the individual achievements but in the positive impact we have on the lives of those around us."

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