Kraft Heinz CMO: learn to do less and lead more

The dynamism of the market for consumer goods creates new challenges, but means the job of marketers is more exciting than ever before.

My biggest lesson in leadership

I remember it vividly – as vividly as the day it was first said to me more than 10 years ago.

The outstanding feedback I received was that a leader wins through people.

In the early stages of your career you win by what you personally do. But that change from being a "doer" to a "leader" is the most transformational part of your career progression.

As a leader, ironically, the more you do the less effective you can become as it’s not possible to do everything alone. The better you lead people and empower them, the more effective you become.

The most challenging issue I have faced and overcome

I have been lucky enough to have been involved in a number of brand turnarounds including Heinz in the last two years in the UK. My reflection on that experience is firstly, understanding how difficult it is to turn around a big brand and manage your expectations accordingly – turnarounds take time.

But secondly, do the proper analysis – of consumer trends, consumer insights, and brand equity – and formulate a really detailed plan on what are the things you need to unlock to succeed.

In the case of the Heinz brand there were a number of things. Understanding what were the barriers to the growth of our categories and jobs to be done, building marketing plans to address them both in terms of communications but also innovation.

There was also understanding what we needed to do to win in terms of physical availability: how do we build powerful ranges that retailers will love and will support in store with the right level of ranging, what is the right level of visibility and offering the right level of feature support to give consumers the opportunity to buy. And essentially that is the story of how we have turned Heinz around.

The big issues of the moment

There has never been a more dynamic environment than today. New brands are coming to market and millennial consumers are adopting them at a rate we have not seen before.

Similarly, the retail environment is hugely turbulent - witness the rise in discounters and the response from the big multiples.

This new dynamic has meant dramatic changes to ranges in store and to market shares in many categories, and big brands need to respond to drive similar dynamism. At Heinz, not only have we driven a turnaround in our brand, but also in the categories we operate in.

The soup category came back to a positive momentum in growth in the last season and for the first time in at least the last six years. The beans category is in growth and our sauces business is really motoring.

Cracking the start-up mentality

In this environment it is important for big business to crack the start-up mentality. It is much easier to be a start-up when you actually are on because the burden of expectation in terms of size of business in your first to second years is much lower, and equally the risk of focus does not materialize.

In a big business launching a start-up and launching a brand within your own business is much harder. I’m very proud of what we have been able to do for example on the Bull’s-Eye brand – an authentic American BBQ brand we’ve launched in the UK in the last six months. It has outstripped any other innovation in the category by multiples.

Channel environment change

For Heinz as a big brand, TV remains a critically effective channel. We can do ever more exciting things with the emergence of, for example, more data-driven and, ultimately, programmatic advertising on TV. At the same time, I am confident I will continue to increase my investment in digital and move towards a more data-driven approach.

We relaunched our infant brand this year and what was previously called Heinz for Baby is now called Heinz By Nature.

Not only have we been performing fantastically but our 100% digital marketing strategy –  talking directly to mums in highly targeted and relevant ways, linked to the development stage of their baby – is beginning to show real signs of success. That is hugely exciting and in years gone by was not available to marketers.

Marketers of the future

For anyone entering the industry, the excitement and opportunity of marketing today has never been higher. It is a market that is dynamic and changing. And the consumer is showing an appetite for trying new and diverse things like never before.

The old days of the one blanket ad for the whole market is long gone – it still plays a role in the marketing mix but targeted communication is growing and there has never been a more exciting time to come into the industry than today.

I truly believe that talking ever more directly, relevantly and engagingly to your consumers is the only way to succeed and with that comes huge opportunity for all marketers.

Steve Chantry is commercial director and chief marketing officer of Kraft Heinz UK & Ireland and a member of Campaign’s Power 100.

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