What does a Head of Brand Marketing at Coca-Cola Hellenic do?
Working with a fabulous bunch of talented people, cross-functionally in our business and externally across a network of agencies, suppliers and customers. Essentially everything I do is centred around solving a business challenge or problem with a clear set of actions that form the Plan. Overall my Team is responsible for delivering sustainable profitable growth for our brands on the island of Ireland. We develop strategies and campaigns with the goal of reaching the hearts and minds of consumers and engaging in a positive and relevant way. It is easier to stay in peoples’ heads if you reach their hearts. In addition to creating an emotional connection with our brands my role involves creating a strategic vision, building unique positioning, a sustainable competitive advantage, an innovation pipeline and digital development.
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
My real door opener into FMCG was a move to Client Account Management in Nielsen. It helped me to develop a thorough understanding of the drivers of business success, gave great exposure to a wide range of blue-chip companies and well-known household brand names like Cadbury, Heineken, Denny and Dairygold and led to a number of roles in Kraft Foods Ireland and Coca-Cola Hellenic. International project experience has taken me to interesting places as far away as Australia, Russia, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Switzerland or closer to home in the UK, France, Germany and Vienna.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Keeping a brand front of mind with a meaningful point of difference in this competitive noisy world we live in. People lead busy and complex lives, so we have an increasingly small window of opportunity to draw people’s attention to our brand or our latest campaign. To have any cut-through, we need to be really clear about what we want people to recall and what attributes or information we want them to associate with our brand. When a brand has made it to household name status, it is so important to maintain the popularity and reputation of that brand, but this is not an easy job. Even a great brand needs investment and care if it is going to retain its relevance and vitality. As marketers, we’re all here to drive sustainable growth for our business, so brands leading in innovation and disrupting the conventional ways of doing business tend to win. In today’s world, we know that to sustain future growth, brands need to be seen to improve the life of a consumer in a relevant way. Therefore, a brand’s share of voice should be prioritised just as much as its market share. It is also vital to ensure spending is being used effectively. For example, if a brand campaign is not driving awareness, search, and social commentary better than its competition, then the first step is to find out why. If a brand is already salient, then alternative growth strategies could be considered in order to decide what activities will maintain relevancy and growth.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Listening and observing with curiosity is incredibly important! It all starts with understanding the why, then moves to building the strategic plans based on the how. Storytelling, inspiring and engaging your audience is essential. You need to be able to capture, interpret and apply consumer, shopper and customer and market insights to brand communications, positioning and decision making. Excellent commercial and financial acumen definitely helps with business cases as does developing and maintaining strong relationships and clearly communicating on many levels. As a leader you need to build your team of talent by being visionary, creative, persuasive and foster innovation while keeping highly motivated, results driven and exceptional at time and resources management and planning. Continuous professional development and keeping knowledge refreshed is important. I always recommend strengthening skills over time with ongoing training.
Describe a typical working day.
The beauty about Marketing as a career is that a typical day does not really exist. The variety is fabulous. One day I could be discussing TV copy or a packaging design brief with my Creative Director, sampling a range of flavour formulations with my team for a new concept or meeting with one of our Rugby Sponsorship partners to discuss event activation. Yes, there are routines set up for weekly, monthly and quarterly business performance review meetings. We tend to work on a constantly rolling business planning cycle. Currently we are in the Long-Range Strategic Planning phase focussing on 2025 and the longer term. We will then move into annual business planning for the next 3-5 years and specifically focus on fleshing out plans for 2020. We all know it is important to switch off from it all and recharge in order to be our best. To clear my head in the mornings I’ve started meditation which is really helping. To unwind in the evenings, I’ll meet friends for a long walk, a good film or a large glass of wine!
What do you love most about your role?
Having a real passion for developing iconic leading brands, I love working with them along with my team. As we own our own brands I am lucky that allows the creative freedom to shape the strategic vision of our brands and the direction of the business, to create strong, memorable and consistent brands that stand out from the crowd, impact hearts as well as minds and ultimately drive business success in terms of sustainable growth.
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
People who shine, stand out in a positive way and have made a real difference. Those who have made something of their lives, despite all odds and those who have turned around a crisis into an opportunity can blow me away. Inspiration is everywhere - from the words of my favorite writer to those of a global leader or a colleague in the office. You just need to open your eyes. In the strangest of places thoughts on how to develop a new concept, improve a process, create a more effective team, or a marketing opportunity may strike. I get inspiration from finding humanity and often the most simple things can inspire the most. As a little girl I remember my folks teaching me about integrity, perseverance and your personal best. One Summer I recall being upset for what I saw as a failure of being last in the Community Games swimming race. However, my parents pointed out that I had achieved third place out of the entire Community, that I would be getting a medal (albeit bronze) for this achievement and that I must always strive to beat this personal best next time round. It is important to surround yourself with people who inspire you. I’m lucky in that I’ve grown up in a very close family with two super smart sisters. Sometimes I find it helps to talk to others to get ideas about what gets their creativity juices flowing. I look at past and current colleagues and industry peers and find inspiration in what they have achieved. At Coca-Cola we always say it is the amazing group of talented people we work with. We raise the bar and aim for Best in Class in everything we do. On the global stage reading the work of leaders, online blogs, books, quotes and simple poetry by Rumi are great for inspiration. Studying successful people definitely helps spark creativity. Recently I read a short little blog by Jacob Share ‘Inspired by People’. It outlines how everyone has people that have inspired them to do something better, higher, faster or simply to do something. Another source I look to is Mindvalley a company focused on “unleashing the full potential of humanity”.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Today’s fast paced world means we are constantly learning, evolving, experiencing and embracing change. My current path is focused on being more agile and developing a growth mindset of never failing but always learning. I want my next step to lead to a role with greater responsibility in terms of team and deliverables. I’d like to broaden my remit to cover a greater business responsibility, territory (Europe/Global) or budget. In the meantime, I’m in the midst of a Digital Selling Diploma. As Marketers traverse a whole new host of technologies, in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR) technology, we need to be clear on our branding to work out how to translate our offering to these new platforms and ultimately achieve business growth online.