26 50

CMO50 2021 #26-50: Emily Dowling

  • Name Emily Dowling
  • Title Marketing director
  • Company Mars Pet Nutrition Australia
  • Commenced role April 2018 (joined January 2004)
  • Reporting Line General manager
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 29 staff, 7 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2020 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Setting up Mars Pet Nutrition Australia’s own ‘Advance’ pet food direct-to-consumer (DTC) store has certainly been a first for marketing director, Emily Dowling. The decision to place DTC within marketing rather than sales is also a first for the FMCG business. For Dowling, it’s a reflection on how valued marketing is within the business.

    “It’s been incredible to step into the shoes of a retailer,” she comments. “We’re so much closer to our consumers, and it’s given us a better understanding of how we can solve business challenges for our traditional retail partners.”

    DTC has its foundations in the decided shift towards digital defined within Mars Pet Nutrition’s 2025 vision. As part of this shift, Dowling’s team expanded in January to include digital natives with experience developing and executing data-driven brand communications.

    “These five newly created roles provided additional resource to partner with the sales team to meet the needs of B2B customers and create best-in-class POS displays and activities, winning with the shopper in-store and on-screen through perfect execution,” Dowling says.

    In April 2021, a digital marketing team was then created, reporting to Dowling. The newly created D-Store resources sit under a single, dedicated digital-focused team of six.

    “This will allow us to accelerate our performance in D2C, ecommerce and evolve our brand investments from ‘scale efficiency’ communications to ‘personalised effectiveness’,” she continues.

    “Our team is deeply embedded in the mindset of pet ownership and has a specialised understanding of the pet parent journey, from consideration to conversion, that will maximise the efficacy of every single communication point. Our Advance online store, our first venture into D2C, focuses on solving tension points for our influential customers including breeders, animal rescues and training facilities to deliver unique value that a retailer can’t offer.”

    Innovative marketing

    Alongside digital capability, sustainability is a significant priority for the Mars Pet Nutrition Australia business and one Dowling is keen to champion.

    “Marketing’s unique contribution towards the world we want tomorrow is based on the deeply rooted belief that the power and reach of our brands can make a meaningful and measurable difference on the world in which they’re enjoyed,” she says. “We are moving from ads that talk about change, to ads that actually effect change.”

    A standout example of this was the DINE brand response to the rapid decline of coral reefs. The DINE Hope Reef coral reef restoration program saw the brand build a reef to spell out the word ‘hope’. Dowling says the initiative was about signalling to the world that change can happen within this lifetime.

    The DINE Hope Reef launched in May 2021 with a first-of-its-kind YouTube Channel, and advertising revenue was donated to The Nature Conservancy to support reef restoration initiatives.

    “We celebrated this with sustainability minded cat owners via public relations, data acquisition, events and in-store presence,” Dowling says.

    In addition, DINE towers, aisle fins, shelf stripping and wobblers could be found in Woolworths and Metcash stores nationally, while QR codes led consumers to information about Mars’ journey towards 100 per cent sustainably sourced fish. Consumers were also given chance to win a trip to reef restoration site on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Most excitingly for Dowling was commissioning HOPE murals in Bondi with iconic Sydney artist, Mulga, and in Fitzroy from Ellen Porteus. Overall results include consumer reach of 6 million, 148 pieces of media coverage generated and more than 23,000 views across the YouTube video.

    “This 10-year campaign will continue to create new reef restoration sites around the world, with new ways to engage consumers along the journey,” Dowling says.

    Business smarts

    Another way Mars is striving to show its environmental stripes is by becoming a founding partner of the Lion’s Share fund. This initiative asks advertisers who feature animals in their creative to commit 0.5 per cent of their media spending to help improve wildlife conservation and animal welfare worldwide.

    The Lion’s Share Fund is backed by the UNDP and is an Australian born idea. The goal is to raise over $100 million annually.

    “I was deeply inspired by Christopher Nelius and Rob Galluzzo’s vision and was honoured to be appointed a Mars Global Guardian for the Lion’s Share, directly partnering with United Nations to engage new partners and bring the fund to life with our brands,” Dowling says.

    Though established as a B2B campaign, Dowling is now working with the Lion’s Share team as well as a retail partner on a consumer-level promotion under the theme, ‘Animals Supporting Animals’.

    “As a Petcare business, making a better world for animals is core to who we are, but my role is to help inspire the unexpected businesses to see their essential role in taking up the fight for wildlife,” Dowling says. “The best part, as I said at the Australian launch of the Lion’s Share in June this year, is that consumers are already demanding this action from us – the least we can do is give it to them.”

    Data-driven approach

    Such consumer appetite for environmental change can also be seen in growing demand for fresh, convenient and natural pet food products. Dowling notes 52 per cent of consumers believe fewer ingredients is more healthful for their pet.

    To serve this need, Mars launched the Crave brand exclusively into Australian grocery in 2020. This super-premium ancestral diet cat and dog food delivers real meat as the first ingredient, high protein and grain-free recipes designed to satisfy ‘the animal inside’.

    The launch strategy needed to build awareness, credibility and consumer education to drive strong, sustained sales, Dowling says. Alongside mass communication, the FMCG created an AI-powered ‘Ancestry Tool’, providing lineage mapping based on canine and feline genetics to determine what animal pet owners’ pets descended from. This then served up recommendations align to their individual pets’ needs.

    Dowling says the tool reinforced Crave as the expert in ancestral nutrition while providing a personalised experience for users. At time of submission, the brand had delivered above average repeat purchase rates and demonstrated shopper incrementality and trade-up.

    More widely, Dowling has been piloting a first party data project giving the team new-found ability to differentiate between pet lovers and pet owners.

    “This will ensure our advertising is tailored towards the people that matter to our business,” she says.

    Commercial acumen

    Across the established 20-strong pet brand portfolio, Dowling has also been working to rebuild consideration and reverse declining sales of Mars’ dog care and treats sub-category offering, Schmackos.

    After eight years off air, her team commissioned a new series of three iconic ‘Dogs go wacko for Schmackos’ advertisements using an Academy Award nominated agency and the original voice of Dorothy herself.

    The creative hit the mark. Schmackos is now in RSV growth across all-time metrics and has been upgraded to prime shelf placement in Coles and Woolworths. Testing revealed the advertisement drove sales uplift for both the brand and category, contributing to well above average category growth across the total pet food category.

    “This has had a flow on effect for our newest entrant to the Dog C&T category, the launch of Greenies Dog Dental Treats into grocery,” Dowling says.

    After six months in market, Greenies has surpassed two established competitors in terms of share and is expected to continue to climb as Mars diversifies the range.

    “Though we anticipated cannibalisation from the expansion, Greenies instead experienced a 19 per cent uplift in specialty sales as we maintained our strong recommendation program with veterinarians and retailers,” Dowling says.

    People and capability

    As she champions the shift towards digital, changes to media approach and external sustainability efforts, Dowling is well aware of her responsibilities as a people leader.

    “Our team culture is high touch, with a focus on connection and support, and I’m proud of the way my team brings their best selves to work each day, for themselves and for their colleagues,” she says.

    With the learnings from operating during the Covid-19 crisis, Dowling is passionate about protecting flexibility earned over the past 18 months.

    “While we had flirted with the concept previously, Covid-19 was the trigger that shook up our conceptions of remote working, entirely for the better,” she explains. “We’ve learnt that by granting team members the freedom and trust to get the work done, you get great results. I’m excited this opens the door to more inclusive hiring and retention, especially for working families.”

    Refining the process with sales for deploying new products to key B2B customers/retailers has been another positive outcome Dowling points to.

    “The deployment forum has evolved to better meet the complex needs of our internal functions, managing competing interests between long-term innovation mapping and presenting guaranteed solutions for sales toolkits,” she says.

    “In my CMO50 submission last year, I said our ultimate measure of success will be the Trade Attitude Survey results. Pleasingly, Mars gained a position in the ranking from 14 to 13 in the Household and Pet category, with strong feedback from Coles and Woolworths that they can see our focus on delivering collaboratively planned initiatives, with trust and relationships growing.”

    Share this article