Aoife McDonald is Strategic Marketing Director for Europe and Russia at Kerry Group, the food, beverage and pharmaceutical giant headquartered in Ireland. Through her witness statement, she advises marketers how to approach brand-building and business strategy as one.
"In my time as a marketer, I’ve learnt that business strategy and marketing should never be divorced from one another. They’re one and the same. When building brand strategy, chief marketing officers (CMOs) should start by considering the wider priorities of the entire business. I always get worried when I hear about the marketing team working to a blueprint that isn’t tied to business objectives; it should all be tied together.
In the current climate, the harsh reality is organizations and budgets are getting leaner. So, if you have a marketing department that is working in their own micro-ecosystem and is failing to connect with the needs of the company it operates within, that team is going to struggle to build traction for their brand and deliver any long-term meaningful impact to the bottom line of their business.
Cross-functional approach to brand-building
At Kerry Foods, we use a marketing-led cross-functional approach to ensure brand and business work together for mutual benefit.
Our marketing department works with other functions like sales and data to refine our strategy, attending workshops until we have a laser-sharp focus on what our marketing execution will look like and how it will translate into long-term success for the brands in our portfolio.
At the end of the process, everyone has a crystal-clear vision of what the strategy entails, whether they’re director of procurement or head of research and development. Whatever team you work in, everyone is articulating the same strategy back to the marketing team and priorities are aligned.
I’ve worked in organizations where there isn’t this clarity of process and it only serves to make sure people get stuck in silos. Inevitably, this means different departments break off and do their own thing, and the needs of the company and customers aren’t met.
So my first piece of advice to CMOs is to structure their business in a way that allows for this cross-functional planning, which will lead to better outcomes for everyone.
Joined-up business strategy
A joined-up approach also makes it easier to secure marketing investment, so brand-building can continue in tough climates. We all know it’s the brands which hold their nerve, and retain their share of voice, in an economic downturn that emerge stronger than those who sit on the backburner. When marketers can show how their department has helped contribute to business outcomes, it’s powerful in terms of ensuring those crucial dollars continue to flow down the line.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers is demonstrating the value of their brand. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a big global brand, you should use attribution modeling and econometric modeling to demonstrate the commercial impact of what your marketing has delivered. It’s fantastic to have tools like that at your disposal, especially in today’s challenging landscape.
However, if you don’t have access to these, a simple first step is to set clear and measurable key performance indicators for every piece of activity you run. If you can’t measure something, don’t do it. With the digital tools available now you can measure most marketing activations, so there’s no excuse.
First and foremost though, marketers must focus on the insight at their fingertips and constantly tie themselves back to business objectives to inform the direction they are going in. For strategic planning to be effective, there must first be alignment at the top of the organization, which requires strong marketing leadership."
There's no doubt that long-term brand-building is an essential part of business strategy, but it's equally clear that the best way to approach this is through a cross-functional and joined up approach.
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