CMO50 2022 #25: Seb Brandt

  • Name Seb Brandt
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Ingham's Group
  • Commenced role April 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 27 staff, 6 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    As a global and local brand marketer, Ingham’s offered Seb Brandt the opportunity to learn a new category (poultry) and new sector (agriculture). It’s a long way from positions previously held with Red Bull and PepsiCo.

    “As a lecturer and tutor at UNSW in innovation and marketing, I saw the opportunity to one day create a case study in transformation of an entire function of Ingham’s. I did not realise we would have the ability to impact the total company transformation while garnering this,” he says.

    Joining a fully reimagined executive team made Ingham’s the perfect home for Brandt in early 2019. “The brief was Ingham’s required a total marketing and consumer transformation. I was attracted by the opportunity to rebuild and revive a once famous brand and business,” he says.

    Yet with no useable data, nor an insights or brand function, Brandt knew the job would require him to rapidly increase capability within the team.

    “Using my functional skills and creating a vision for the company to get behind, I leaned on my softer skills of persuasiveness and empathy for the past but with a clear eye on the future to lead the marketing transformation,” he comments.

    Business smarts

    A major pillar was connection between external brand and business purpose. With a new CEO in April 2021 came a desire to tie the consumer brand to Ingham’s company brand. Brandt led the executive leadership team on a journey to demonstrate why it was important to connect ‘Always Good’ to company purpose in a highly commoditised and tight budget category.

    “Working with key agencies and leading internal brainstorms, we arrived at the conclusion Ingham’s should be ‘Always Good’ and our purpose as a company was to create ‘Deliciously good food in the best way’,” he explains. “Having embedded the brand’s revival, the role for innovation and brand building became much clearer. As a team, we agreed to go from a B2B order-taking business to a consumer needs-driven business.”

    Listening to consumers’ met and unmet needs, coupled with data and insights to deeply understand behaviours, led the team to identify areas of future growth based on these need states, or what Ingham’s calls ‘demand spaces’. This, in turn, informed one of three company growth pillars, which was shared with investors and titled ‘Create the New’. Brandt admits the words hadn’t been used in investor presentations for many years.

    Innovative marketing

    Despite reaching its 103rd birthday in 2021, the Ingham’s brand was struggling with poor brand health, a lack of innovation, an outdated brand proposition and declining sales. It also hadn’t been in mainstream communications since 2005.

    “Before me lay the perfect opportunity to rebuild and steer the brand on the right path again,” Brandt says.

    A multi-pronged strategy for customers and consumers ensued through what Brandt describes as an enticing, engaging brief for the team and agencies, Bohemia Group and We Are Sprout.

    “Using brand health metrics, qualitative groups, customer insights, employee feedback and Quantium data set, we identified brand relevance [salience] and the biggest problem to solve,” he says.

    Enter the unique, ownable and defendable proposition around ‘always good’. “It’s a line encapsulating our values, what drives us, as well as who and how we want to be as we move forward,” Brandt says.

    Brand packaging was overhauled, a 60-second film was created to tell our story, and the notion of ‘Always Good’ became company’s driving force, leading to the renewed brand purpose.

    “We also created a series of two-minute films to convey our claims; invested in a food truck to drive visibility and spent heavily with in-store media to bring the proposition to life and proudly share it with our audience,” Brandt says.

    Data-driven maturity

    In September 2021, another opportunity was identified to re-energise and rebirth the Ingham’s brand for consumers via the freezer aisle, a $300m category.

    “It was a stale segment growing at 10 per cent post-Covid but with little innovation, a flat shelf presence and no breakthrough ideas,” Brandt explains. “Our consumer need-state analysis identified key growth drivers of innovation, shelf presence, navigation and communication as unlocks.”

    To drill into the opportunity, Ingham’s employed Quantium data from Woolworths, internal BI, sales and profitability data, plus a ‘smart shopper’ on-the-ground tool which identified ongoing out of stock products. This led the team to identify 400g boxes as simply too small for most families.

    “We determined what really creates value for consumers and what does not. We went on a journey to understand the history and what drives aisle penetration. This included using Conjoint quant research to reset the category pack and price architecture to unlock value and get consumers to pay more for frozen poultry,” Brandt says. “This also included a relentless focus on growing shelf space and improving shelf presence.

    “Using data and insights around frozen poultry consumption and with a promise to improve company and customer margin, we then approached our customers with an entire category story, inclusive of proposed shelf sets, and under the ‘Always Good’ banner.”

    Several new SKUs were ranged and a raft of supporting advertising is now supporting these in-store.

    Customer-led thinking

    A new approach to innovation was another milestone. After year one of testing and learning, Brandt realised the business needed to run at two speeds: Everyday customer-led innovation; and breakthrough/branded consumer and data-led innovation.

    “I split the insights, brand management and project management teams in two, appointing a general manager of branded and breakthrough innovation,” he says. “We implemented our ‘demand space’ work, quantitative and qualitative, to identify growth areas as well as the use of conjointly re-pack/price architecture. We created a brand health assessment portal and held hackathons with key suppliers, which helped develop our pipeline.”

    Supporting this is a raft of team investment. Project managers have been sent on Australian Institute of Management courses, and 50 per cent of the marketing team undertook the Mark Ritson Mini MBA. There’s also an emphasis on only hiring talent further enabling the team to grow.

    Another facet of performance is working relationships with key agencies, offering them the opportunity to train and upskill Inghams teams.

    “These key actions have led to breakthrough innovations for the brand, all of which have scored rockstar status in bases testing and are performing well in the market,” Brandt says. “Our capability has gone from being a support to the sales team to leading the front end of a consumer and demand lead business in FY22 and beyond.”

    With a change in NZ leadership, Brandt’s team is now assisting to build the capability of the small but hungry Ingham’s team across the Tasman.

    Leadership impact

    There’s no doubt the transformation program is helping re-energise teams. “Seeing their work up in lights has driven a renewed sense of engagement and has also enabled us to attract two new, world-class brand builders and innovator talents,” Brandt says.

    “In fact, helping us build, retain, maintain and grow people and ideas in a somewhat ‘unsexy’ category is a driving force behind this nomination. This cultural focus has allowed us to grow the teams’ capability, with a clear focus on consumer and shopper insights, breakthrough innovation and brand building. Having moved from norming to performing, we’ve shifted to partner with coach and team effectiveness leader, Andrew May, to focus on the mental and physical wellbeing of the team.”

    With stronger brand comes the earned “right to play” despite tough trading conditions, Brandt says. “This has enabled us to remain a key and leading supplier with Woolworths, KFC and McDonalds,” he adds.

    “In partnership with sales, we are now the growth engine of Inghams versus a path to clear excess meat. Lastly, investors and analysts have begun to ask questions about capital spend and probe our ability to drive margin up via branded, breakthrough innovation. We lead investor discussion with our ‘demand spaces’, innovation abilities and the rebirth of the Ingham’s brand.”

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