Blackmores chief marketing and innovation officer on leading the growth agenda

Experienced FMCG marketer, Joanne Smith, talks about the new role and remit as Blackmores instigates action off the back of a strategic brand review

Blackmores’ first chief marketing and innovation officer has her sights set on reframing marketing as the company’s growth engine as the ASX-listed vitamins giant charts a new global course.  

Speaking to CMO just weeks into her new role at Blackmores, Joanne Smith said the position is a significant shift for the business and reflective of wider changes occurring in the company’s strategic direction. The c-level title sees Smith not only gain the global marketing remit but also product innovation, reporting directly to the CEO.

“This is a reimagining of both marketing and product as key to delivering positive growth outcomes for the business,” she said. “This is about focusing marketing and product innovation teams on delivering that growth agenda.”

Smith’s appointment comes four months after Blackmores chief marketing officer, Tami Cunningham, left after a two-and-a-half year stint. She’s since taken on a director of marketing role across consumer health at Johnson & Johnson.

Joanne SmithCredit: Blackmores
Joanne Smith


Smith’s appointment also comes a month after Blackmores’ management team led by recently installed CEO, Alastair Symington, detailed an increased focus on customer experience as key to realising its ambitions following a strategic review of the business.

In its recent first-half financial year earnings, Blackmores noted outcomes of a strategic review, which supply the key growth strategy pillars Smith will now pursue. These include a big investment into China with creation of a China-based innovation centre; consumer-led product innovation oriented around core consumer segments, one of which is Chinese career women; and driving growth in the Australian business particularly through practitioner brand, BioCeuticals.

The company also indicated plans to divest non-core brands, seek out partnerships and simply the offerings. In addition, the strategic review identified the need to build a world-class organisation, a priority which Smith said will see her building and realigning capability across marketing and product innovation teams.

“Part of that is helping to reframe the role of marketing as a growth engine for the business, from start to finish,” she told CMO. “It’s also about the ability to build strong commercial outcomes across both teams, as well as building a culture of creativity and a growth mindset. The foundations are so strong in the business, particularly when looking at our people and capability and the strength of our brand.

“Our brand was grounded in consumer trust and purpose, and these are very strong foundations to build upon.”

Smith also noted some differences across global markets in terms of brand maturity and scope to navigate.

“Australia is very strong in terms of brand, so we want to replicate that in other markets in terms of those strengths,” she said.  

On the flip side, there will cases like the China innovation centre where global lead markets will spearhead marketing for Australia.

“We have a strong team in Australia, a great team in China, and teams across other markets. It’s more about how to work together, making sure we capitalise on insights at a local market level, think globally from the start of the project and build on that capability,” Smith said.

In terms of why she was attracted to the position, Smith again highlighted the ability to put marketing and product development firmly together.

“Getting to lead that is an incredible opportunity. I could see there is good growth potential and great brands here,” she said, adding a heritage in premium product performance, customer understanding and purpose-led thinking lay at the heart of the Blackmores group.

Smith’s extensive marketing and brand career includes 14 years at Unilever, six of which were based in Australia followed by eight working in a global role based in New York mainly on the Dove brand. This was during the transition to globally-led brand development, and saw Smith becomes the first global marketing director for Dove. She then moved to Singapore, working at Johnson & Johnson in a regional role in skincare categories.

“I hadn’t had that feet-on-the-ground opportunity in Asia previously,” she said. “Spending those eight years in Singapore was very valuable from that perspective.”

Upon returning to Australia, Smith joined DuluxGroup, a new category, with a remit to help take the local Selleys brand global. She agreed all these experiences will be useful to the task now at hand at Blackmores. In addition, she highlighted her belief in the importance of diversity of thought and experience, being curious, and listening to both customers and people, in markets, and bringing it all together.

“I’m really excited about this role, I see so much potential. It’s one that allows us to show value back to the business and makes marketing tangible,” she added. “It makes it more rewarding for people to see these tangible outcomes in the context of growth. It’s most rewarding when reframing marketing through that lens.”

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