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Socially conscious marketers, customer experience and the future of FMCG Marketing

by Kieran Coen

Graphic with teal background and red Kelloggs logo
Head shot of Tamara Howe

Specialist FMCG/Consumer marketing recruitment consultant, Kieran Coen, sat down with Tamara Howe, Marketing Director for Kellogg’s ANZ, to discuss everything from health and social conscious marketing, to attracting marketing talent to FMCG and what the future holds for FMCG marketers. 


How does Kellogg’s attract health and social conscious marketers wanting to find greater meaning at work and contribute to the bigger picture?

If I break those two down, we’ll start with health; absolutely part of our vision at Kellogg’s is around wanting to create food and experiences for consumers that help their families to flourish and thrive.

Take Be Natural as one example; its positioning is about Plant Power and plant-based protein, which then touches social consciousness as plant protein is a more sustainable protein source. And we're always looking at opportunities for more sustainable sources of protein, like pea protein. We've even had some interesting conversations about insect protein, which arguably is not a plant, however potentially has a more sustainable impact than your more typical animal sources of protein.

It's funny how things come full circle; if you go back to when Mr. Kellogg invented the company, he invented the cornflake as he believed people were eating too much meat in their diets and suffering illnesses as a result. And it’s interesting that veganism, vegetarianism, flexitarianism are big trends; everything's cyclical, including the resurgence of people including more grains in the diet. Not only is there a health benefit from plant-based eating, but also a sustainability impact.

I think another big opportunity we have in our business is our move to more sustainable packaging. We’re doing a lot of work around this area at the moment, we need people to help us to make that transition, so I think there's a lot of opportunities for marketers to come in and have a big impact.

There’s a lot of buzz around digital marketing and consumer/customer experience, how do you see these concepts integrating with marketing?

I think the interesting point about both of those things is they shouldn't really be separated from integrated marketing. You start with your strategy or the experience that you're trying to create for the consumer. What are the touch points that make that happen? Digital would be a component of that; it should never be considered as a sort of siloed, separate piece and I think even as we get into e-commerce, it needs to be part of the full plan. You still may drive consumers into the funnel through TV, which is still the best way to reach people and nudge them into the funnel. Then you might convert them through e-commerce, which then becomes a digital landscape, a digital ecosystem. But it still works within a complete experience that we're trying to create for consumers of the complete path to purchase if you like. I think it all works together.

We’re seeing more traditional FMCG marketing roles, particularly those purely focused on grocery, becoming less attractive to marketers than other industries. What do you think FMCG companies need to do to attract and retain the best talent?

While I understand that sentiment, I think we have a tremendous opportunity to be part of the next reinvention of FMCG. In my opinion, I still think it's the best place to learn the discipline of marketing because we have been doing it for so long. The FMCG marketers almost invented marketing; they’ve been around for over 100 years, and for good reason; they constantly reinvent themselves. It would be interesting to see if a lot of these start-ups would be around in 100 years, like Proctor & Gamble, or Unilever, or Kellogg’s. I think we forget that a little bit, in terms of these businesses that have stood the test of time for good reason when a lot of others have come and gone.

At the same time, I think we need humility and a hunger to learn, to constantly have learning agility around how we need to reinvent, what's our next reinvention. What we can learn from start-ups is agility; how do we get more speed to market? How do we have a learning mindset? How do we have more entrepreneurial spirit in everything that we do?

And then what we can combine that with is our discipline, which is a strength that we have. The fact that we have a lot of assets at our disposal also allows us to make those great ideas work. We're called fast moving consumer goods, but we can be slow moving consumer goods now in comparison to some of these more start-up businesses; that’s what makes FMCG exciting now - this challenge to constantly learn and adapt to be as fast or faster than the start-ups.

Finally, the path to purchase is rapidly changing – particularly in “the Age of Alexa” as HBR recently coined it. We will need to shift the focus of our marketing to consumers and AI platforms – seeking to influence platforms – brands will need to shape their offers and innovation strategies around getting AI assistants to showcase their products.  So, lots of opportunity to continue to reinvent our marketing approach and test and learn our way through it to build this new muscle.

What do you think aspiring Marketing Managers or Directors should be doing to upscale and future-proof their careers?

I'm a big proponent of getting out of Australia; we're becoming such a global economy now, and I think Australia is small. You get a much better perspective if you work outside of Australia; it really rounds out your perspective, your experience, your network, your skill set, and your capability.

In my experience, it seems that there is less willingness now for people to go overseas and get that experience. I don't understand why. I think it's a huge career propeller. If you look at the leadership team here, most people have had experience working overseas. Plus, it's a wonderful experience for your family as well. I had my daughter overseas. And I think it's just wonderful for them to experience different cultures.

Marketing as a discipline is becoming a lot more science-based, in a very good way, so that’s becoming a great skillset. We've always talked about marketing being an art and a science, but I think it's starting to tip more towards science. Behavioural economics, neuroscience, data analytics, and using advanced analytics to predict things are all fantastic tools. Creativity and amazing storytelling will also always be part of a marketer’s toolkit. However, I think the science only makes us smarter, more effective, and more able to measure the value that we add to the business.

Commerciality is also huge. Gone are the days of marketers who just focus on things like brand health, which I’m not saying isn’t important, it is, as our assets for the business which enable long-term advantage, however, it’s not the language of the boardroom. Talking about revenue targets, growth targets, contributing to the strategy, being part of running the business, is really what marketing should focus on. I definitely prescribe to marketing being about the P&L, as an ‘and’ to nurturing brand health.

We see the tenure marketing leaders and CMOs getting shorter and shorter in more results-driven organisational environments. How critical do you think the Head of Marketing or CMO role is within organisations to drive business development?

It's critical because at the end of the day marketing should be helping drive growth for the business. If we're not doing that, then we aren’t doing our job to the best of our ability. We should be catalysts for growth, innovation, great ideas that nudge people into the funnel and convert people through the funnel; that's the core of what we should be doing.

What do you think will have the greatest impact on FMCG marketers in the next 10 years?

I think two key things:

  1. Advanced Analytics – leveraging machine learning to predict outcomes.  Still so much opportunity to pool our many sources of data, understand the insight (through machine learning that can read subtle patterns objectively) and leverage to better inform many aspects of the business.
  2. Changing Path to Purchase as I referred to earlier.  Marketing to AI platforms.

Tamara Howe has been Marketing Director at Kellogg’s since 2015 and previously spent time working with Kellogg’s in the USA.


To talk about FMCG/Consumer marketing recruitment in Sydney, please contact Kieran Coen on 02 8024 7110 or kieranc@sixdegreesexecutive.com.au