CMO interview: 5 learnings from Nestle on modern marketing and communications

Nestle’s Australian director, marketing and communications, Therese Kallie, talks about the brand's long-term relevance as it celebrates 150 years as a brand, and how marketing has changed

Therese Kaillie
Therese Kaillie

Learning 3: Investing in health and wellness

A longer-term ambition since 2000 has been to transform the Nestle product portfolio to take better advantage of modern nutrition, health and wellness knowledge. This has seen the group getting rid of products that don’t deliver at the right level and looking at healthier options in each stream. It’s the reason why the Willy Wonka chocolate brand, for example, has been discontinued.

On the road to talk about health and wellness
On the road to talk about health and wellness

Kaillie notes the Health Science company, formed in 2011, is streaming ahead, and points to Nestle’s cutting-edge scientific work around the impact of nutrition in the first 18 years of life on lifetime health. But areas such as confectionary are harder and there are different parameters.

Take Allens, Nestle’s 125-year-old iconic Australian brand. “As a brand in renovation, it’s about understanding how much sugar is too much, how we reduce the sugar and keep the taste profile, how we educate on portion sizes,” Kaillie said.

“It’s about taking a position of responsible pleasure. We have to make sure we are responsible while making it the tastiest and healthiest product possible.”

Transparency and authenticity are vital in this long-term process, Kaillie continues. “As knowledge becomes more important and people know more about impact of sugar, we have to tackle that,” she says. “You need to be ahead of your consumer to be responsible.”

Consumer needs must also be front and centre. “We have to value what the consumer values,” Kaillie says. “They want healthy families, a good life, good beverages. How do we achieve that for them and satisfy those needs?”

Learning 4: Capitalising on data insight

Vital to this process is understanding the user. Kaillie claims the biggest change for Nestle marketers over the last three years is the way it goes about insight mining.

“We can collect as much data as we like, but the Devil is in the detail,” she says. “We have to go beyond data. Data shows trending and where things are at, but need more.”

We have to value what the consumer values

One of Nestle’s big investments is a landscape study, called Compass, that provides a heat map on consumer trends.

“It’s category agnostic, so what we do is follow consumers on their journey, then interrogate this based on where they are moving,” she explains. “For example, that could be moving into different needs state, such as needing more of a weapon versus something that’s more natural or authentic. Then we use our categories to understand, and we do a lot of immersions.

“We need to look beyond the numbers and ask why and where is it going to.”

According to Kaillie, it’s not enough to know the person who bought Nescafe also bought two Kit Kats and was an 18-year-old girl. “One might be a monthly purchase, another is a daily impulse motivated by something else. I need both those need states, as that’s the way we need to craft brands to meet those needs. We can’t be everything to everyone.”

Learning 5: Building ideas agility

This also requires Nestle’s marketing team to be more responsive and agile, and Kaillie says the introduction of a digital accelerator team, insourced from an agency, was a key step forward. “We can do things quickly, through prototyping, and we have social media running from that hub, which is in the middle of our consumer engagement centre,” she says.

But it’s not just about monitoring, it’s about actively seeking insights, too. One successful initiative has been the Kit Kat studio trial. In six weeks, and for the brand’s 80th birthday, Nestle created a pop-up shop that allowed consumers to make their own Kit Kat based on 17 premium ingredients. More than 25,000 units were sold in Sydney during the four weeks.

Inside the Kit Kat Studio pop-up
Inside the Kit Kat Studio pop-up

“The fantastic thing was that did more for us than any TV advertising by bringing on consumers who ordered their own Kit Kats, and who waited while they baked,” Kaillie says.

Another priority is better tapping into insights generated through Nestle’s professional business for restaurants and hotels to inform branded product lines.

“What we need to do is use the intelligence we gain there to bring to our brand products,” Kaillie says. “Consumers are often trying things out of home that lead to what they buy and make in home. So we need to stay more connected across those two businesses. If there is growth in Asian foods, for instance, we need to look at that offering and how to best serve it up.”

It’s clear marketing as a discipline has grown in complexity and mastering that complexity is key to understanding where consumers are going, and making sure Nestle has products and services to suit, Kaillie says. This is going to change business models and ways of innovation, she adds.

So it’s not surprising Kaillie sees the ability to turn consumer data and insight into business information as a vital skill for marketing today.

“It’s how we become much more consumer centric and the thing we use to motivate going forward,” she says. “But you can’t just listen to everything the consumer tells you as they are future blind.

“And you can’t simply by led by data, especially when you’re in FMCG. What we do know is that we don’t know what we don’t know.”

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