In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to share experience, insights and advice with your peers so we can all learn from one another. With this in mind, we are having conversations with members across various sectors to understand how themselves and their teams have been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, what they have learned from it and how they continue helping their customers.

For this week’s instalment in the series we’ve chatted to Jill McCarron, International Marketing Director at FULFIL Nutrition.


MII: Hi Jill, can you tell us about how have you been adapting your marketing activities during the COVID-19 outbreak?

The COVID-19 outbreak is first and foremost a societal crisis, threatening lives and the wellbeing of our global community. It was important for us to put people first; our teams, our customers and our consumers. We decided we needed to do our bit to help out. After all, we’re in the business of fuelling the day -for workers on the front line of the pandemic, that’s all of a sudden taken on a much bigger meaning. To help support those people we donated bars to frontline workers across all markets.

Community has always been at the heart of the FULFIL brand and we have considered what our consumers most needed from us during this time and we adapted our communication and content plans to provide practical hints & tips to stay active and eat healthily in a fun and entertaining way.

With the COVID-19 crisis, we are facing an unprecedented event and multifaceted attack — a pandemic that forced nesting and economic erosion that may further change our daily routines. We engaged in a multi-faceted plan to unlock knowledge to fuel our continued growth. By mining our qualitative and quantitative data along with the wealth of insight provided by many of our partners such as The Community UK, Kantar, Nielsen, Zenith, Spark and MCCP, coupled with the knowledge gained from the MII Webinars, we were able to better understand consumer sentiment and unlock new insights to create engaging marketing communications to fuel our community of fans.


How have you been engaging with your team?

I believe that the resilience of brands is found in the resilience of teams and I am proud of how my team have shown such fortitude and commitment. When the crisis began, the safety and wellbeing of my team came first. We adapted our working arrangements to seamlessly to work remotely. We are all in disparate locations, so we feel that extra need to connect to make sure everyone feels motivated and supported. Building a communications programme to ensure efficient and effective communications was critical. We used technology to run weekly video Team Briefings to keep everyone informed on all aspects of the organisations approach to Covid 19 as well as individual and team check-ins to bring people together and keep us all in good spirits.


What have you learned from a marketing perspective from COVID 19?

Our lives have changed in ways that we could not have imagined, for example, working from home used to be a luxury, it then became a necessity which in turn had a knock-on effect on many of the traditional communication tools used for Impulse or On-The-Go brands. Social Media in this context plays an increasingly important role in the Marketing Mix to maintain consumer engagement during a time when our community needed us more than ever.

I have learned the importance of an omnichannel approach. The Covid 19 crisis accelerated trends that are already there, such as e-commerce. The shopping environment fundamentally shifted for many consumers, with the biggest challenge to Digital commerce will be the speed at which it can scale operations. Adapting sales and marketing efforts to ensure brands are front and centre in consumers minds and indeed virtual shopping baskets will be critically important for brands in the future.


How have your work practices changed? What will you do differently going forward?

The two biggest uncertainties associated with the crisis—the virus spread (and the associated health response) and the economic knock-on effects prompted us to plan scenarios concurrently rather than consecutively. You can identify, with confidence, the no-regret moves with which you should promptly progress, while creating a clear structure to use when working through options to handle a range of possible outcomes.

More than ever we need to manage the short-term implications in a measured way and provide long-term solutions to thrive in the new normal.


Has your brand purpose been challenged by COVID 19? How?

We are lucky to have an established consumer following for the brand over the past four years. We have built a community of people who are united and defined by their attitude and purpose to live life to the full every day. On the surface of it, Covid 19 did challenge this, but we found that our community still wanted to get the most out of their days, albeit in a new way. We maintained our focus on helping our community through entertaining video content, educational and interactive content as well as fun physical activity challenges. We were challenged to creatively demonstrate that on a daily basis.


What brands or businesses have you admired through this crisis?

Consumers today do not make any distinction between brands and companies that operate them. How companies behave and act during a crisis I believe is what you can expect of the brand too. The Irish Grocery retailers have done an incredible job throughout this crisis on all fronts introducing drastic new measures to keep employees and customers safe.

Irish Distillers makers of Jameson Whiskey -a brand that is close to my heart, also demonstrated great leadership when it announced it would provide large-scale quantities of alcohol gel to help the HSE meet demand.

This is time of unprecedented need for solidarity and organisations who truly live their purpose will reassure consumers of the authenticity of the brands they chose.