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Managing Marketing: The Role of Diversity, Data, Degrees and Food Trends in FMCG Marketing

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Senior Consultant, David Angell. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Katie Saunders is the GM of Marketing at Simplot Australia. Katie and David discuss her strong commercial past and how that has helped her in marketing (as well as how it could help to improve marketing degrees); the power of retailers and how food retail is adapting to modern times; plus the present and future food, consumer and data trends that are helping to shape Simplot’s approach to consumers both traditional and new.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Transcription:

David:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast, where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

My name is David Angell, and today, I’m sitting down with Katie Saunders, General Manager of Marketing at Simplot Australia. And Katie’s been at Simplot for over seven years, prior to which she was with Heinz and Lion. So, a grocery FMCG person through and through. So, welcome Katie, and thanks very much for joining us.

Katie:

Thanks for having me, David.

David:

No worries. Now, let’s talk first off about role diversity, because having just said that you’re an FMCG person through and through, you might’ve noticed I didn’t actually say FMCG marketer through and through, and that’s because during your career, you’ve actually held a diverse range of product and category leadership roles as well as marketing.

So, I’m really interested in that to understand what the overlaps between those roles have been, and the diversity, how has the diversity of your own experience helped you in marketing particularly?

Katie:

Yeah, so that is a true statement. I have had a very diverse career. I did start out in traditional classical brand management with my first role being an assistant brand manager. And I worked on Razzamatazz actually, Razzamatazz Hosiery, a fantastic product. And it is one of my most favourite brands that I’ve ever worked on.

So, I was lucky enough to really have quite a classical trajectory from an assistant brand manager, brand manager, worked my way through what brand management was and it wasn’t until I got to Lion, and I worked on a terrific category, the juice category there. And it was a category that was, and I understand still is, very challenged from a profit point of view.

You know, it was really hard, the produce ─ from the raw material through to manufacturing in Australia, to selling it in a value-added way, was really difficult. And so, I was part of the project team at the time that looked at shutting one of our manufacturing sites. And as a marketer being on that team, I had no idea what my role would be.

And I started to quickly understand more around the impact marketing was having on the P&L. You know, our investment strategies, understanding … and this sounds really obvious probably to most people that are going to listen to this, but when you’re a young marketer coming up, I had no idea of the impact that my decisions had on the factory and definitely from a P&L perspective.

In fact, back then, you really didn’t look much below the first profit level of the P&L. So, to understand anything at EBIT, just wasn’t on the radar. So, things like the number of bottles we were sending down the line and the stopping and the changing of all of that.

And so, I went to the factory, of course, which I had been in many times, and I started to really understand the impact we were having from that commercial lens. And I became quite passionate about it. I was really curious but it was a part of the job that I’d never really been exposed to, and understanding the ins and outs of the factory, but not just how the product’s made, but the financial impact it was having.

And so, from there, I actually was fortunate enough to move into a much more commercial role from that really great experience. I was 12 months on that project team. And again, working with many more finance-based people. And so, from there, I worked in a much more commercial role as I ended up in a GM role, working on Golden Circle.

So, taking those learnings, that understanding of the P&L, and what it takes to shape it and improve it. And then I was lucky enough to be appointed into a General Manager role of a really challenged business at the time in Golden Circle. Golden Circle, terrific brand, an awesome company and had lots of great brand equity. Consumers loved the brand, trusted the brand, but we couldn’t afford to move on.

We had factories that were kind of empty, we had formats that were archaic, traditional in canning in plastic and consumers were looking for more, but we couldn’t afford to. Our infrastructure was all laid out from the sixties. And so, it wasn’t right for us.

And so, I was able to take my commercial experience that I’d had over previous years from those line days, right through into my General Manager role in Golden Circle, to really help shape with my marketing lens and my commercial lens, a complete turnaround with a really brilliant team of thinkers. But that diversity of understanding through and through from supply chain through to consumer really helped us make some big differences.

So, we tidied up the factory. We took out all the unnecessarys,  we tied it up and then we started to really put our foot down on generating demand. So, by doing that, we had a big brand growth spurt, which was fantastic for the Golden Circle brand. And we started to fill our factory, but it was by understanding intimately those levers around the panel that I feel like marketers don’t always get privy to.

So, that diversity from a manufacturing lens, finance lens, and understanding my consumers so well, I think that was great grounding to help me to get to where I am today.

David:

Yeah, I mean that’s really fascinating. You’ve given yourself … well, you were given through those roles, a complete extra gear based on what you’re saying. And being able to be a marketer who is able to act organisationally and think organisationally doesn’t always exist. And it also interests me, taking a step back even before your career, your degree is in marketing, right?

Katie:

Yeah, that’s right.

Do you think marketers should be taught this more? Are they being taught it enough?

Katie:

Yeah. So, I don’t believe … I’ve been in the job now for quite a while, in the industry.

So, I’m thinking back quite a while.

David:

You’re an experienced individual, so we’re not talking a while back that you might’ve done your degree, but obviously, people are still doing marketing degrees today. When you see new junior marketers coming through, do you see this-

Katie:

Such a fabulous question because we have a graduate program here at Simplot and I think about the graduates we’re bringing on, they’re so bright, really clever, young up and coming individuals. And the future does look great with these potentials that I see coming through the ranks.

But I do think their understanding of what we do is really, really rudimentary. And should they be doing much more time spent in an organisation like ours? I don’t know. I think that’s probably something that I would encourage more. But yeah, I don’t think the courses ─ and it’s all about brand management, that’s it. I don’t think it’s a backend. It’s not the commercialisation, what it takes to win. I don’t think that’s as prevalent.

So, I definitely think that’s still a very big gap. I mean, I have to say, my course did not set me up at all well. When I did commerce and marketing specialisation, it was about the four Ps. That was it.

David:

Yeah. So, I mean, there’s two different ways of looking at it. Evolution is one way. I mean the four Ps, again, you’re an experienced individual that was a while back. But even then, I don’t see … and I’ve worked with young marketers sometimes. I don’t see that level of … they are in a bit of a purist bubble.

So, yeah, it’s interesting to take a source, but I mean, that set you up clearly for what you’re doing right now. Talk to us a bit about your role at the moment and the challenges and opportunities that you have, here, at Simplot.

Katie:

Yes. So, I’ve been at Simplot now for about seven years and just a fabulous organisation. Can’t speak highly enough of it. We have some of the best brands in consumer land. We’ve got very, very strong brands like Birds Eye, of course, we’ve got John West, Agile, we’ve got Leggo’s ─ well-known household names; been around for decades, stood the test of time. And here they are, still Australia’s favourites in their categories.

So, now, we have a very different challenge, I guess. We’ve got brands that have carried themselves for a long time. Lots of clever people building them over time, but the brand equity, the awareness of these brands is still strong. But now, we’re coming up against a very formidable force. We’ve got plenty of startups that are chewing at our heels.

We’ve got our customer brands that are continuing to grow and definitely with under 35s, there’s a real appetite for customer brands which is a good thing. The competition’s great. But I think our brands, our big brands, very mature, well-known brands need to keep evolving.

And so, as a marketing group, it’s constantly looking at, well, which way do we pivot? Do we try and become a startup? No. Do we learn from startups? Yes. Do we understand the opportunities and the roles of our customer brands? Yes, we do. But I think, try not to be something we’re not.

And keeping our brands fresh, consumers still love our brands, but keeping them fresh is important and relevant. I mean, keeping their place in our hearts and minds, it’s just something we’ve got to keep working on. So far, we’re doing a good job.

We’ve got an unbelievable product offering that’s predominantly Australian-grown or made in Australia. We’re very, very fortunate with the raw ingredients that go into our product ranges or we source from some of the best places around the world. So, we know the quality that we bring is strong. We’ve got an excellent product offering.

And so, therefore, our brands continue to thrive while the quality remains relevant and something that consumers continue to seek. So, good team, good company, and great brands. It’s kind of where we are now.

David:

Well, you’ve segued into something I was going to ask you about that later on. So, I’m now being forced to ad-lib. So, bear with me whilst I stumble.

But I mean, just expanding on that a bit because that’s some really interesting commentary about your brands, where they are, where they could be, and your consumers and the love that they have. I guess there are some broader challenges around food trends more generally.

I mean, I’m going to back up what you just said ─ I’ve worked with Simplot a number of times before, and to me, you’re operating a broad portfolio of high-quality products (both ambient and frozen) but there have been some trends towards cooking from scratch, towards local provenance and buy fresh.

How do you assess those challenges from a marketing point of view and where are you pivoting? Maybe expand a bit on where are you pivoting to move forward?

Katie:

Yeah, the real pivot point actually is in telling the story. I think we’ve got such wonderful stories to tell, and re-igniting those stories with consumers because a lot of our brand lovers of the past, they’re still with us, but what’s our new stories to tell with the new generations and what matters to them now, and that’s different to our older consumers.

So, connecting at a different level, letting them know, “Did you know that our Birds Eye ranges are grown right here in Tasmania and produced for you in Tasmania. And the quality of fresh versus frozen and how that stacks up, and how that mitigates waste,” for example. We’ve got such great sustainability stories to tell.

So, those factors matter to the younger generations. They matter to all of us, but particularly our younger generation. So, I think it’s reigniting those stories because as our portfolio, you mentioned, it is a broad portfolio, but it’s really well-placed.

It’s really well placed on a nutrition level, on an Australian-grown level, on quality, I think on sustainability. So, I think we are ticking a lot of boxes to future-proofing ourselves. However, it’s the stories, telling it in a way that matters. And I think we’ve got a job to do on that.

And from a provenance perspective, we’ve got such great stories to tell; Leggo’s, and the rich history that we’ve got across our brands ─ the provenance of the fact that we grow our tomatoes, obviously in the Riverina area, we’re producing our beautiful Leggo’s products right there. That’s a great provenance story in itself.

You know, so I do think we’ve got these wonderful stories to tell. We just haven’t … it’s time to retell them.

David:

Do you feel the pressure of balance between keeping your loyal base and retelling those stories? Because I guess thinking about it logically if you go completely through the line, those stories could start in one place, but end up literally by changing your packaging, for example, or changing the look and feel, or other elements that are quite visceral to your traditional bags. How strongly do you feel that pressure of balance?

Katie:

Well, we’ve got lost in that lots of times. And my personal experience, projects I’ve worked on, projects I’ve led, I’ve got lost in the moment; in the short term or the short-sightedness of a challenge. And often, forgetting the true brand codes or the DNA of the brand. And so, you’ll pivot and before you know it, you stand back and you look at your product range and you go, wow, you’re not talking to me at all. It’s very disjointed, it’s not the one story and poor consumer, what are they thinking of me right now?

So, I think it’s around always coming back to your brand proposition, your brand codes or DNA (some people call it), but understanding that and not deviating from that. Because otherwise, you’ve got multiple messages coming through and you’re trying to be everything to everyone.

And as big a brands as we have, that is one of the biggest risks that I think marketers face is when you’re trying to protect yourself from a startup, protect yourself from customer brands, protect yourself from the competitor next door ─ be true to yourself. Be true to your own brand because otherwise, you will end up in a bit of a dog’s breakfast, won’t you?

David:

Act like the lady you are, I guess, yeah, absolutely. Let’s change gears a bit and drill down a bit into marcomms and advertising.

The industry for want of a better term, has been talking for a long time about the death of the cookie that has been affected by the changes that Google and Apple and others are making, and it’s changing the way the internet works. And this is already having a real impact on advertising.

The role of first-party data is going to become more important. But I’m conscious that in your category when you’re operating through retailers, extensive or valuable first-party consumer data might be harder for you to come by than for some other categories.

How do you deal with that? I mean, am I correct in that assumption, and how are you dealing with that?

Katie:

Yeah, look, you are absolutely correct. We have an insane amount of data or access to an insane amount of data here. We invest heavily in shopper data and we’re very, very fortunate with the richness of the data that we have access to, but we do not have consumer data. So, we have to go out and seek that. And of course, it’s expensive.

So, we look at other avenues. So for example, shopper data, what are shoppers doing out there in the retail world. We use that as a an enabler to make decisions on what’s the best way to get through to our consumers. We do a lot of research tracking with consumers, panel data, for example, but it’s not that timely. It’s not …

David:

I know, it’s challenging.

Katie:

We’re not as fortunate as some of the other industries out there that do have that timely immediacy of what their consumer’s decisions are and what they’re thinking and feeling, but we have other ways to connect.

So, we use our social media platforms to understand consumer sentiment. We track that, we understand. It’s difficult in our industry. We do other things though to try and get really in-depth. As an example, we might go and spend time with consumers as they shop through to in-home. So, every year as a marketing group, we try and do something like that, just to get much closer to the consumer and remember who they are.

I do think that we talk about me-search, but often, I do find myself guiding some of our younger marketers who are new to the industry, wanting to make changes to product offerings or ranges in line with what they like.

David:

Of course, that’s such a common-

And agencies as well, very, very common. The consumer can be completely different of course.

Katie:

Yeah, that’s right. So, just staying really close and keeping them front and centre. It’s just the timeliness of it. That’s a real gap for us.

David:

Yeah, there’s no easy fix to it. Is there? I mean, you have mentioned some of the other things you do more granularly to track … you’re using econometric modelling for example, or mimics at least to try and-

Katie:

But it’s not a media.

But it’s not a media, there’s still a lag, I guess.

Katie:

As I said, we’ve got really rich data. It’s just the timeliness. So, even with econometric modelling, we get that a couple of times a year, consumer panels a couple of times a year. It’s not like today. So, the sentiment data we do get is only from socials. And it’s only if we try and engage that way, we may get some feedback in an immediate way, but the scale is small.

David:

Do you think these changes are going to affect the way you advertise in terms of investment into channels and-

Katie:

Look, we’re changing now anyway. I think the world’s changing and what we’ve just seen through the last two years, or almost two years now, consumers are engaging with media differently. This multi-screens approach has just never been more prevalent, and their ability for them to skip you has never been easier.

So, yeah, we’ve got to find new ways to engage. Finally, we’re talking a lot about QR codes here and I remember two years ago, our agency bringing us an opportunity for QR codes technology. And we were like, “It’s so old, no one uses QR codes. It’s 25-year-old technology.” Here we are. What’s old is new.

David:

All relying on QR codes, yeah.

Katie:

And every generation in Australia knows how to use them now because you have to. 70 plus, 80 plus they have to know how to use it. So, we are really re-assessing the older technologies ─ technologies which have become a way of life today, but also being ready for what’s the next level, because what we think is 10 years out is probably ready next year, you know.

David:

You’re absolutely right. I think that’s a very common theme. The sense that COVID for want of a better term, the last two years has just accelerated the requirement for digital transformation in business.

Katie:

David:

That’s putting pressure on … and that’s a challenge for everyone, but a massive opportunity as well, I guess. And I don’t think you can kick the can down the road on it because you’re going to get lost pretty quickly.

Katie:

Yeah. And I think too, this expertise of where that all lived, that was sitting with our media partners for so long. We know, everyone’s getting access to this and understanding it. And so, there’s a real desire to move fast. So, throughout our organisation, everyone’s constantly got a … oh, would you consider this? Why don’t you do that? Or my mum was using this.

So, it’s kind of now that everyone has access to data, we can all get it. So, knowing how to connect with our consumers in a compelling way, when they’re ready to engage with us ─ I think our agencies are going to really need to be on to that fast and adapt. We know the power of media at the moment because we do track it.

So, econometric modelling continues to tell us where to spend, where are the most impactful, what mediums to use, where our best dollar was spent. But that’s moving fast. The feedback we got from econometric modelling this year is so different to last year, which was so different to the year before. So, it is evolving quickly.

David:

So, let’s keep that in mind and talk about a related topic. And particularly, in the context of the last two years, actually; the one constant with all this change that we’ve just been talking about. The one constant that you need to deal with is the retailers, and particularly the big two retailers.

And this dynamic between retail and marketing, in my own career, I’ve had some experience, not anywhere near yours ─ but some experience in the sector. I’ve worked with Kraft and Mondelez, and General Mills and a couple of others. And when I was on the agency side, working with them, whilst we were able to run some interesting campaigns and strategies, one of the abiding dynamics was the power of the retailers to dictate sometimes just the approach, the budget.

If you want ranging, you need to put X amount of dollars on TV and that’s it. And they had a very simplistic view … or in-store, of course, was the other big channel.

Has this evolved over time? Are they more willing to listen to some of the nuances we’ve just been talking about?

Katie:

So, the answer to that is absolutely it’s evolved. I think I’ve seen this big shift in my career from what was a very consumer-centric world; brands led the charge. And there was an outright rejection at the time of customer brands. And so, you needed brands to win. And what our customers have quickly worked out is they have a brand too, and their brands are really powerful and consumers love their brands.

And so, I think it’s understanding the power of brands collectively and the way that we work together. I think as FMCG organisations across Australia, we have also identified how important (and it sounds obvious) ─ but how important our customer is to us. Because we can’t win without our customers and the customer normally, commonly, couldn’t win without their suppliers, of course. So, it’s how do you work together for the same goal. And I think that is the era we’re in today.

David:

This is good because I remember it being quite adversarial. And well, I’m going back 10 years, right? But, yeah.

Katie:

Yeah, no, it has been. I don’t know if it’s power balance or it’s our customer becoming a lot more sophisticated and data’s helped them with that. Their brand strength has helped them with that, but it’s also meant to Australian manufacturers, you know, what step up, don’t be complacent. And make sure your brands need to be on those shelves. Not just because they can, they need to be on those shelves, the shopper demands it.

So, I think that that shift in power meant we had to step up. And so, here we are now, I think we’re in a different era, and the era now of that working together but not being complacent. That is the one thing that I think either customer or supplier, neither of us can be complacent because there is a competitor around the corner. There is someone willing to take your spot.

So, it’s complacency that I think is kind of the catalyst that those that have been complacent have become weaker and obviously, lost their place.

David:

How has COVID affected things from a retail perspective? Clearly, with grocery retailers, people stripping the shelves and those businesses being pretty much the only thing open for weeks at a time, has that power dynamic changed at all? How conscious have they been with that strength over the last couple of years?

Katie:

I genuinely do think our retailers have used the footprint that they have and the role that they play in society, they’ve used it for good. I really do. And I think just as a consumer myself, seeing what the retailers were able to achieve and the sense of standardisation or process that they introduced from QR codes to limits on products to other people, we all saw that ─ I saw the two working together.

So, from a consumer perspective, I really welcomed the way that our retailers stood up and responded. I think the level of communication to their suppliers was excellent. But equally, they were tough on their suppliers. They needed to be because they were feeding Australians at the time. But I think it was making sure that we knew the enormity of the issue and that we responded.

So, I think as a corporation, I think we did an excellent job. I’m really proud of what the team were able to achieve. We’re dealing with raw materials here, so with the surge that was going on, you can’t just grow, I don’t know, more broccoli tomorrow.

So, I think the way that the team responded here was excellent. But it was those lines of communication. Again, it comes back to that collaboration between the two. So, I think the communication was excellent. Everybody knowing their role, taking out that role and responding to make sure that Australians were able to keep their pantries full was excellent.

And interesting too, what happened in that period of time, all these product ranges that consumers had forgotten about; canned vegetables.

David:

That’s right, suddenly, people were-

Katie:

Were out of control. We were seeing people just absolutely cleaning out the shelves of canned vegetables. And on social media, the ignition of recipes used around canned corn or beetroot or chickpeas was phenomenal.

So, it was a really … if I could take a positive out of the situation, it really ignited a love for these great products that have been kind of hibernating for many decades. So, there was a great value that came out of retail as well.

David:

And I really agree with you, those comments about retailers and how they’ve dealt with it. Because of the enormity of their footprint across Australia, everything from the front of house technology that they had to install through to the massive complexities with supply chain and demand, and distribution in-house, but also all their staff who essentially became front-line workers of a kind.

I mean, public-facing, open all hours during the pandemic. And so, I mean, there must’ve been massive complexity behind that as well, keeping them all safe.

Katie:

Yeah, I was really impressed. I think they’ve done a fabulous job. And I think the industry as a whole or food industry as a whole adapted, really adapted. And I think some industries that … we saw it in the foodservice sector, obviously was closed for across many states for long periods of time. And they adapted to a delivery space, or in some cases, they adapted to be like a retailer themselves.

So, we saw some of our foodservice customers adapt and shift into more retailing and where consumers could go direct to buy products from them. Fabulous, fabulous.

So, I think the sector in itself adapted, showed great agility. But also, some of those shifts you might argue might be with us forever now.

David:

Yeah, how much will that become a permanent trend? And look, change is good.

Katie:

Online sales, I think many households have moved to that and just realised how fabulous that is.

David:

Yes, and the retailers will have to step up as a result. Okay, that’s great. I’m conscious of time actually because we’re coming up to half and hour.

But let’s talk about a couple of topics quickly that I ask all of my guests at the moment. First off, being the role of agencies. Let’s talk a bit about that because we met originally through agencies. And you’ve talked about this a bit already, but there’s never been a bigger point of shift for agencies right now, the complexity that they’re facing as well as their clients.

Do you think they’re doing enough to evolve to the changing needs of marketers? And I’m talking broadly here, not about your agency specifically. But what have you seen as great coming out of agencies and what really needs to still evolve, do you think?

Katie:

Yes, so I think agencies have shifted now, but I think it was a chicken and egg scenario. Supply the client-side. Our briefs were very traditional and I guess assumed traditional outcomes like TV, mainstream, and the appetite for taking the risk was probably low.

And so, when I talk about taking risks, things like TikTok, I was like, “Oh, I don’t think we should do that, a bit risky.” Whereas now, that’s what most people were doing during the lockdown.

But I think why I talk like that is because it’s almost given our agency permission to be a lot more adaptive, a lot more creative. Look in territories to engage with consumers that we’ve not looked before, or they may have looked, but the client has said, “Oh, that’s just too risky for us. We’re not going to go there. Or we don’t have the appetite.”

I think the data is there that helps us to track. So, these test and learning opportunities, we’ve got the data to say that worked, that didn’t, so that’s fabulous. But the appetite from the client-side is definitely there. We know that we’ve got to adapt with our consumers and our agencies, they’re the experts.

So, I think the appetite is there. I’m just going to encourage them to get there ahead of us. So, use all the data that you have and understand how you can shift us as a client. I think our appetite has definitely changed. And I’m not just talking about us simply, I’m talking about the industry. And when we look at our competitors and we just look at FMCG players across the board, predominantly there is kind of a standard way to communicate.

And I think it’s time to change it. It was two years ago. But it has been slowly building before that. So, now, I’m giving agencies permission to go harder, faster. And that’s where I think when we went into lockdown the very first time, and a lot of clients were pulling funds ─ the data tells us it was a great time to probably double down. But that voice probably could have come maybe stronger through agencies as another example.

David:

Yeah. I’m thinking about restructuring that question for my next interview because you’re absolutely right to talk about it. It is a double-edged sword and it’s a two-way street, of course, two analogies there.

But the evolution of organisations has to happen inline or even before the evolution of agencies. Certainly, they try sometimes with greater success than others. I mean, an organisation at Simplot, I mean, clearly there are things you can do in marketing, but then presumably, things like corporate compliance and regulation and legal.

And at some point, those guys have to be involved, I would imagine getting… when you say shifts at Simplot, are you talking organisationally to an appetite for change of this nature or does it not really register and it’s very much a marketing thing?

Katie:

No, absolutely. I think marketing’s pretty integrated at the senior level at Simplot. I think I’m saying just generally across the industry, is where the appetite is changing. At Simplot alone, I mean, these brands we have, they’re big brands. So, we are very … not cautious with them, but we protect them. And our role as marketers is to actually keep them strong and protect them. They’re big, very important assets.

Just like we do with big factories and the rest of our asset base, they are really important. And our brands are at the end of the day, what sets us apart from our competitors. So, we do have to look after them. So, in big organisations, I guess that can drive behaviour, which can be a risk-averse way of working.

And so, for now, not unique to Simplot, but I do think that we probably have been safe in a lot of our choices. Again, as an industry, I think the power of what’s shifting in the media platforms available to us, is that you can still play well, but just do it in … we’ve just got so many more choices.

And so, there’s an option to take risks. I think there’s a different appetite appearing because of the accessibility of different media channels … all of us are seeing it. As I’m saying, it’s so prevalent now. So, I think there’s more of an appetite.

David:

And look, driven, as we’ve been saying throughout for the last two years, particularly ─ what do you think about the future? If you think two, three years … we’ve had two years of pronounced change. I mean, we’re sitting in your beautiful, massive office here. Pretty much the only two people here.

Katie:

Yeah, empty.

That change hasn’t finished yet. We don’t know what’s going to happen with this virus. But looking forward, what should a CMO like yourself be doing do you think? What are the big buckets that you’ve got to watch out for?

Katie:

Technology’s the number one driver of change right now.

David:

MarTech, you mean?

Katie:

Yes, it is coming fast and furious. And I’ve sat through so many forums to try and get a grip on it. I can’t keep up with what’s available to us, what’s shifting quickly, consumers accessibility … consumers are just so fast-paced right now. And so, how do I lead the team to keep our brands fresh in front of mind where they want to be. I think that is one of my biggest challenges. Agencies need to support me on that.

The simplicity, as I was saying, even just AI as an example, consumer spending to step outside their house. So, how does AI in their home play a role? For example, they either through shopping or understanding standability for a product or whatever it might be ─ small, small example, but I think just the way we engage with the product is changing.

The way we engage with media is changing. But it’s just so rapid now, it’s just so rapid. So, I think you’re going to have to be ready to be agile. Keep data-driven. That’s my number one goal. I’m just going to look at the data all the time and be guided by the data.

Marketing instinct’s always going to play a role. I have to say, I can’t help it. Maybe that’s because I’m old school, I have still great instinctive strength that I use. But the data it’s got to be your best friend.

David:

But I think added to that, something you said earlier on at the start about being true to yourself strategically and true to behaving-

Katie:

To your brand, because one of the challenges is with all of this complexity, you can almost get sort of-

Katie:

Overwhelmed with the amount of choice there. So, keeping the strategic focus and not deviating from that, whilst being agile at the same time, I guess, is something to balance.

Katie:

We’re doing a lot of that now. It’s really interesting. We’re taking some of our brands and we’re splitting more purposefully. Regardless of what econometric modelling has guided us with, we’re doing more tests and learns in different new spaces. And then econometric modelling will tell us whether that was useful or not.

But we are deliberately playing in spaces that we’ve not before. But I have to say the brand and the proposition and the messaging are still true to the brand, but the way we engage with these is kind of a bit more challenging compared to traditional standards.

So, we are doing things differently, but I do think yeah, no, scattergun, no scattergun. That doesn’t work for anybody. So, it’s not about just throwing caution to the wind. It’s got to be purposeful.

David:

It’s got to be purposeful. That’s a good place to stop. Let’s be purposeful.

One last question before I go; if you were to leave Simplot tomorrow, what’s your dream brand to work on?

Katie:

Oh my God, I have so many.

You don’t have to answer.

Katie:

So, I’ve always had a love affair with Nike always. Since I was at uni and that was my dream job. I think I’m way too past it to ever land a job there, but I just think the product proposition, the innovation, where Nike lives in hearts and minds; my heart, my mind, I think Nike is just a phenomenal formidable brand.

David:

Well, I have to say for the record, for any journalist listening, Katie Saunders is not leaving Simplot, has no plans to leave Simplot, is very committed to Simplot. But Nike is great too.

Thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

Katie:

You’re welcome. Thanks very much. Let’s see what you can get from that.

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

This content was originally published here.

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