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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Natalie Sarich-Dayton

  • Name Natalie Sarich-Dayton
  • Title Director sales and marketing
  • Company Brownes Dairy
  • Commenced role November 2017
  • Reporting Line Managing director and CEO Brownes Food
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 48 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2019 ranking 16
  • Related

    Brand Post

    One of the hardest decisions the Brownes Dairy marketing team had to make during the first COVID lockdown in March was responding to consumer panic buying. “When we found out our customer service team were fielding calls that lids were ‘popping off’ in freezers, we knew we had to play our part in ensuring that the most basic, necessary product of fresh milk was available,” Sarich-Dayton explained.

    Marketing effectiveness

    At the start of the initial COVID lockdowns in March 2020, Sarich-Dayton led the launch of the Brownes Dairy MILKO model. “The idea was that we would deliver fresh milk to your door so you don’t have to leave home,” she said.

    “We were one of the first companies in Western Australia, and maybe even Australia, to launch an online home delivery service during COVID lockdown. We were brave (and scared) enough to deliver at a time when no one else would. At the time, it was extremely important to us that the Brownes MILKO was seen as a community service and not to be competing against our retail partners,” she said.

    The Brownes MILKO service was delivered by 45x full-time employees from Brownes Dairy’s sales, marketing and product development teams. During COVID lockdown, the majority of the team was either delivering to homes or providing back-up support to the MILKO team. All 45 employees continue to provide the MILKO service to West Australians.

    “Providing this service direct to consumers has transformed how my marketing team think about customer service and how to connect with our consumers,” noted Sarich-Dayton.

    “The expressions of love and gratitude we received at the time of launching MILKO were enough to make you cry. We were gifted face masks, hand sanitiser, beer, flowers, pot plants, chocolates, lemons and lots of drawings and notes,” she said.

    And the team was able to derive media value from both earned and shared media - predominantly done through the success of PR amplification on TV, radio and social media. “Our engagement on Facebook was also incredible, breaking all internal records and was achieved almost entirely organically,” she said.

    Influencing change

    The overall business strategy is a bit dry, and hardly gets the average employees heart racing. “I’m a very visual person and I recognise that ‘strategy on a page’ needs to be simplified and digestible to gain the most traction with employees. I decided to launch the SMPD (Sales, Marketing and Product Development) operating framework on a milk carton that now sits on the desk of every employee in my team.

    “I also called out ‘Digital Transformation’ in the 2020 version of the operating framework as a core strategic pillar for future business growth. My objective was to use digital technology to unlock new revenue streams including exploring home delivery. To be honest, I thought we were doing a reasonable job in the digital space - embarrassingly, I now realise we had so far to go. With the launch of Brownes MILKO, I’m now excited at the prospect of our business pivoting and embracing this new revenue stream,” Sarich-Dayton said.

    Data-led marketing

    The Brownes MILKO platform has been a game changer in allowing it to collect meaningful data on its consumers. “While we purchase third-party scan data and conduct our own quantitative brand tracker, none of these platforms give us direct access to the individual consumer. The MILKO platform has allowed us to see, for the first time, basket data for individual households,” said Sarich-Dayton.

    Unlike the Flybuys and Everyday Rewards program, the people who analyse the data at Brownes are also the people that deliver to the door of our consumers. “For me, this highlights the power of the data and insights we are collecting at Brownes,” she said.

    The MILKO data has also allowed it to segment its customers and tailor communications that are meaningful to them. “We have switched on ‘back to school’ specials for families on our yoghurt pouches, and are constantly able to target lapsed users with offers,” she said.

    “Recently, we partnered with European Foods (owner of the largest cheese cathedral in the Southern hemisphere) to host a VIP launch event for our new cheddar cheese range. We invited VIP MILKO customers to the event where free cheese and champagne were flowing - over 300 people attended the night.”

    CX capability

    Another important pillar of its operating framework is to ensure the brand is ‘Our Customers’ Most Valued Dairy Supplier’. This includes delivering a world-class, dairy expertise, sales and customer service model. “Before MILKO, most of our staff had never been exposed the full customer experience - from customer order to picking to delivery,” noted Sarich-Dayton.

    “I have made it mandatory for every employee in my team to be rostered on MILKO. I have used MILKO as a learning platform to help employees experience and understand the customer experience with Brownes Dairy and ensured that they are aware of how important every MILKO order is to the brand and business.”

    “When we launched MILKO, there were many picking errors. We would see over 5 per cent in credits each day. This was due to recklessness in picking orders, breakages in delivery and just an attitude that someone else can clean their mess with a credit. Early on, I made it clear that if product was forgotten/not picked properly, they must return to HQ to collect the stock or drive to the nearest store to purchase the missing product for delivery. Only exceptional circumstances, like breakages, were allowed for a credit. We have less than 0.5% in credits as a result.”

    “The understanding my team have gained around the customer journey has grown incredibly and they are able to assist customers in a knowledgeable and helpful way that means our customer service model is second to none,” she said. MILKO has also impacted packaging innovation, customer service messaging and KPI development to name a few others. All 48 employees continue to provide the MILKO service to West Australians. We are scheduled on a delivery shift every two weeks to ensure we remain close to our customers.

    Commercial acumen

    Back in 2014, Brownes briefed its agency partners to come up with an idea for a disruptive white milk campaign. At the time, it was presented with two very different routes, including ‘Bring Back the Milko’, an online home delivery service that delivers the old fashioned ‘milkman’ model using modern digital platforms.

    “While we loved this idea, the cost to create a bespoke online ordering platform was a large commitment and we felt the risk of failure was too high at the time. However, our appetite to ‘Bring back the Milko’ never wavered. COVID-19 lockdown encouraged us to try out the minimum viable product to understand the appetite for such a delivery system,” explained Sarich-Dayton.

    COVID-19 innovation

    During the first wave of COVID lockdown in Perth, it was important Brownes Dairy was talking to its consumers, but spending $1 million on TV advertising when sales and profits were plummeting was not possible. I was also looking at potential job losses in my team.

    “Since the day I started at Brownes Dairy, reviving the old fashioned milkman model for modern times was always a dream of mine. ‘Home Delivery’ was on the Operating Framework, but I genuinely didn’t think we could afford it or would get to it in 2020,” Sarich-Dayton said.

    “So when COVID hit, we had to do something. Customers were scared to leave their homes, fresh milk was empty on supermarket shelves, and we were not talking to our customers. I knew it was now or never to launch MILKO,” she said.

    The initial brief to the team was to build a ‘quick and dirty’ home delivery model. Within seven days, they built the MILKO model from scratch. “We planned for one man and one van on day one. But it exploded. At its peak, we had 10 trucks delivering across the Perth Metropolitan area to over 1500 homes a week.”

    “We were ‘first responders’ as COVID unfolded in WA. We started with a core range of seven products and delivered the next day. We implemented COVID safe practices to ensure our staff and the customers were safe. Social media was our best friend as people liked and shared MILKO posts with excitement. We launched #basketsoutforbrownes to encourage people to leave their laundry baskets on the door step for their delivery.”

    Overnight, Brownes Dairy, a 134-year-old company, became an online retailer and home delivery service. MILKO is on track to be a $1 million retail business in 2020. “We have created a new revenue and marketing stream which is fully incremental to our existing business,” she said.

    Cross-functional collaboration

    One of the objectives of MILKO was to keep all staff in employment despite the COVID shutdown. We knew employment could be affected – especially the field sales team and the marketing activation team who needed to be in the community to do their jobs.

    “The first level of collaboration that was needed to get right was across my immediate team,” Sarich-Dayton said. Managing the health and wellbeing of the team that worked 20-hour days for seven days straight to launch the platform was the first level of complexity. “I gave these individuals time in lieu for the added hours worked and enforced the break soon after launch to revive their mental wellbeing,” she noted.

    The next hurdle was coordinating the sales, marketing and product development team to drive trucks and deliver to people’s homes. “Most people had never driven a truck before,” she noted. “I also had to makes sure all COVID safety precautions were implemented and followed to ensure staff were safe at all times. As is my management style, I lead by example – that meant I rostered myself to drive and deliver product. I led by example with all safety precautions implemented, including mask wearing and social distancing when with the team. Every team member, including myself, was rostered weekly to drive during COVID lockdown.”

    “MILKO creates an incredibly positive spirit among my team and removes departmental walls. It’s also a great way to integrate and induct new team members quickly. The second level of collaboration I needed to manage delicately was from the CEO and other leadership team members, IT, finance, security, safety, and HR departments. Too much involvement and the red tape would have stopped us from launching in time, not enough involvement meant I put the whole company at risk if something went wrong.”

    Looking towards the next couple of years, Sarich-Dayton recognises digital transformation in the organisation can’t rest with the marketing department alone. “I’ve recently completed the INSEAD Leading Digital Marketing Strategy virtual programme alongside our CEO. A great leap together that ensures we are more holistic in our approach to customer centricity at Brownes Dairy and embracing agility when structuring our business,” she said.

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