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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Darryn Wallace

  • Name Darryn Wallace
  • Title Marketing and innovation director
  • Company Lion Dairy & Drinks
  • Commenced role November 2016 (joined January 2016)
  • Reporting Line Divisional managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 37 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Manufacturing (FMCG)
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    The story of brand transformation for Lion Dairy & Drinks marketing and innovation director, Darren Wallace, began in late 2016. It was then the managing director of his business unit said to him: “This is the biggest smallest company I have worked for” and criticised the marketing team as “slow and unresponsive to the marketplace”.

    “These words have sat with me ever since as a driving force behind the change agenda for the marketing team and the brand portfolio,” Wallace says.

    Looking from the outside, the business loomed large and strong. Boasting of either first or second position in the majority of categories it participates in, Lion Dairy & Drinks was the market leader in chilled juice, yogurt, milk-based beverages and water ice while also having a strong position in branded white milk, culinary (cream) and long life / ambient juice. This had been achieved off the back of iconic heritage brands such as Dairy Farmers, Farmers Union, Yoplait, Daily Juice, Dare, Big M, Masters, Zooper Dooper and Prima.

    Yet that was partly the problem. “While famous with high-brand awareness and loyalty, each faced strong competition and marketplace pressure and over many years had begun to lose relevance and meaning within the categories they competed. Size and scale, great tasting and affordable, were no longer enough,” Wallace says.

    “Each brand needed to be loved and restored and in doing so reawakened in the eyes of consumers and trusted more by customers as brands that are vibrant and able to attract and retain new shoppers and consumers.”

    A mammoth brand rejuvenation program began. While by no means a finished, the organisation achieved a record 10 consecutive months of growth from June 2019 through to March 2020, only stymied by the COVID-19 crisis in April and May. By July, it was back to +5.5 per cent top-line growth. So just how did the FMCG giant get there?

    Innovative marketing

    The initial priority was Dare. The brand had achieved market leadership through a consistent communications strategy behind ‘A Dare Fix’ll Fix It’ and steady expansion from NSW to availability across Australia by 2015. Wallace says his team identified considerable opportunity to increase brand penetration and recruit younger adult consumers.

    The company began expanding the range to maintain modernity while also engaging with a younger market audience. From 2017-2020, this saw it grow into premium cold brew coffee, higher caffeine offers with triple expresso, new flavours across hazelnut, caramel, white mocha and a no added sugar variant.

    A more dynamic partnership with St Kilda Football club was also activated, linking the brand to the more relevant occasion of coaching moments. Lion entered into esports partnerships to reach a younger consumer, and embraced adjacencies through brand licensing with Peters and Arnott’s, including the Dare Maxibon and Arnott’s Dare Slice products.

    This year, Dare kicked off a new three-year partnership with RUOK, a purpose-led approach that saw its marketing acknowledge ‘A Dare Fix’ll may not always fix it’, Wallace says. The aim is to promote the benefits a conversation between family, friends or colleagues can have to support mental health and wellbeing.

    All of these activities have seen Dare grow by 5.2 per cent CAGR NSR (net sales revenue) from F17 – F19 and by 6.1 per cent in July 2020.

    This consumer-led approach has also been implemented with Farmers Union, Yoplait and Dairy Farmers, with a combination of advertising, media and product-based innovation. The result is each of the brands returning to growth.

    Data-driven approach

    Assisting Wallace and the team restore the brand portfolio’s growth profile were two significant usage and attitude studies: One focused on yogurt and the expanded adjacencies of nutritional snacks; the second was on non-alcoholic beverages focusing on dairy beverages and chilled juice alongside the adjacency of non-dairy beverages. More than 20,000 occasion were captured in total.

    “It was important these studies allowed us to identify and create an actionable segmentation of how consumers see the marketplace today, where and how our brands compete and equally where the incremental consumer opportunities exist,” Wallace explains.

    In the yoghurt segment, 12 consumption zones were identified, broken down by age, gender, location and occasion. An example of how this work translated into brand and portfolio actions was Farmers Union Greek Yogurt evolving its brand messaging from ‘Add a little culture’ to ‘make anything zing’, focused on how yoghurt could be used more extensively in cooking.  

    “This focus was to move from a product benefit campaign to more of an emotional campaign that had the versatility to talk to different occasions and roles the brand could play in people’s lifestyles across cooking to snacking,” Wallace says.

    An emerging behaviour of two breakfasts was another chance for the yoghurt brand to grow. The first breakfast represented a pre-exercise light breakfast, followed by a second breakfast post-exercise or as consumers started the regular day. In response, Farmers Union created the small impulse pouch format.

    “These are just two examples of many, allowing the marketing team to develop a clear understanding of how the category and in turn our brands participate in people’s daily lives and where the subsequent opportunities lie to open new avenues for growth,” Wallace says. “Through these insights, the team has been able to engage with major retailer partners in a more informed category neutral manner based on genuine consumer insights, resulting in new product ranging and activation opportunities implemented in the marketplace.”

    The program of work also led Wallace to recognise the combination of continued development of strong consumer insights combined with building strong personal mindset and focus are key to marketing innovation. “The ability for people to remove distractions, focus on what they can control and stay courageous and creative is a major area of development for us,” he adds.

    Customer-led thinking

    Purpose is another facet in how Lion Dairy & Drinks is working to build a more customer-led approach. The organisational purpose is to provide sustainable and enjoyable nutrition to help people live well. As part of this, the organisation developed a company-wide initiative called the Goodness Promise, which sees it committed to healthier products, reduced portion size and transparent labelling.

    Wallace says it’s since embarked on an accelerated program of either sugar reduction or introducing no-added sugar offerings across all brands. Since early 2019, 20 products have been launched including Dare No added sugar, Dairy Farmers Classic flavoured milk No added sugar, Farmers Union Iced Coffee No added sugar, and Yoplait petit miam pouch with No added sugar and prebiotics.

    “This undertaking has been significant and required enormous effort across the marketing, nutrition, R&D, manufacturing and procurement departments to produce high quality, great tasting products without sugar,” Wallace says. “Equally, it has required effort and focus from the sales organisation to sell in this level of innovation and new product development to customers across the country from major retailers through to smaller convenience and leisure outlets.”

    What’s more, the message and culture change represented by ‘Nutrition to live well’ has afforded the marketing and external affairs teams the ability build these messages internally and externally through key partnership such as those with the Dietician Connection of Australia, the Gut Foundation, Deakin and Monash University. Each sees it running critical health events or research studies to continue to improve nutritional understanding.

    COVID-19 change

    In addressing the COVID-19 crisis, meanwhile, Wallace points to a three-stage approach. The first was to assist in fortifying the business to best cope with uncertainty.

    “Cash flow is critical and with the forecast loss of upwards of 30 per cent of our trade due to the closure or slowdown of our food service and general retail business, we needed to ensure business resources where focused on adapting and meeting the dramatically changed needs of our customers,” Wallace says.

    During stage one, marketing postponed upwards of 50 per cent of product development, allowing the planning team to focus on demand management and customer service of the core range. Focus settle on two key priorities: Dare and Farmers Union Greek yogurt, meeting the in-home cooking need.

    Stage two was to reset marketing plans to meet the changing marketplace conditions. Ongoing advertising and media support and brand innovation and activation ensued. “We have developed a set of new products and brand activations to offer greater value to Australian families to meet the increasing food and beverage requirements and needs for in home consumption, purchased from supermarkets at more affordable prices,” Wallace says.

    Examples include new brand promotions and multi-serve or multi-pack offerings providing great quality and value for budget to mainstream families.

    The third stage of Wallace’s plan was reimagining the future portfolio and business and looking at how longer-terms trends could result in new behaviours, marketplace conditions and different actions from marketing. Wallace created a separate project team named ‘Project Dawn’ to access and validate future trends, likely impacts and appropriate actions.

    This cross-functional internal and external party effort has evolved from research agencies to customers, marketing services agencies and management consultants. The program of work started with five trends – the way we work, the way we eat, the way we shop, the health we seek and the value we seek – but moved to 400+ implications and business ideas to six key actionable themes.

    “The goal is to understand the macro trends facing society, engage and immerse internally and externally with these to come up with an action framework to enable future growth,” Wallace says. “It’s about how we foster faster action and agile learning, evolve our workplace practices, scale our ecommerce capability and participation, focus on local marketing and sales activations, accelerate health and bring valuable moments to people’s lives.”

    A fresh example Wallace references is the launch of a new Dairy Farmers brand campaign in August. The campaign covers a re-edited TV commercial driven by fast, agile learning insights, supported by radio campaigns with key local messages from four different farmers and farming regions and scaled with social media and strong shopper.

    It’s been a busy three-and-a-half years and Wallace says he’s witnessed amazing growth within the Lion Dairy & Drinks marketing team during this time.

    “The level of curiosity for knowledge and insights, passion for understanding and shaping their brand purpose and growth plan and bravery for creativity and distinctiveness has been phenomenal,” he concludes.

    “Whether facing business or competitor pressures, customer challenges, consumer changes or marketplace crisis like COVID-19, the team has shown a durable, resilient and can-do orientated and I could not be prouder of them and their evolution.”

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