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CMO50 2022 #26-50: Ben Hill

  • Name Ben Hill
  • Title Marketing director
  • Company Mars Wrigley Australia
  • Commenced role February 2020
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 30 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2021 ranking 17
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Slashing Mars Wrigley Australia’s innovation plan and driving a fewer, bigger, better mentality was a big call for marketing director, Ben Hill, to make. But demonstrating such bravery is paying dividends.

    “We are getting better results from our core programs and freeing up our supply chains to better deliver our customer needs,” he says.

    Incredibly challenging times for supply chains triggered Hill’s organisation-wide approach and has seen him make tough calls on long-standing innovation platforms in order to create greater focus across the FMCG.

    “While our business has been enjoying good top-line performance on the back of our core brands, we knew we needed to put in place some interventions for our bottom line. This was exceptionally important to also allow us to continue to invest strongly in our brands and people,” he says.

    Work centred around enhancing innovation and strategic portfolio management scorecards to place greater emphasis on incrementality and margin accretion of innovation realised. This has led to increasing the incremental value of innovation by 98 per cent in two years.

    Portfolio simplification was another part of the picture, and Hill has ensured low-performing products have been removed, adding significant value to the bottom line while freeing up spend for growth engine brands. Inefficiencies in factories caused by historic marketing decisions as well as making changes to the portfolio to unlock greater output from technologies proved another milestone. Mars has also moved from two in five to one in 10 key projects being on a compressed timeline.

    “This has been vital to free up manufacturing resources crucial to maintaining high levels of supply during these incredibly tough times on logistics networks both domestically and internationally,” Hill says.

    “By removing a significant amount of work adding complexity, I have been able to create space for our operations and factory teams to build a plan to get us back to pre-pandemic customer service levels and factory efficiencies. This approach has also allowed us to be clearer on our big bets. We now have a sufficient innovation pipeline out to 2026, underpinned by a technology roadmap owned across R&D, supply and marketing.”

    Innovative marketing

    Hill is clearly not afraid of thinking differently. Such recalibration has been happening externally too. In 2022, Mars Wrigley launched a new purpose for M&M’s globally, with Australia being a leading market. The brand is on a mission to ensure the fun it creates in the world helps everyone feel included.

    “The way we are approaching this in Australia is by creating and fostering entertainment that breaks down barriers so that more people feel included,” Hill explains.

    For M&M’s, the result was ‘Comedy Spotlight’, a campaign designed to shine a light on rising diverse and underrepresented comedy stars “the algorithms of social media overlook”, Hill says. The campaign is heading into year two of a five-year communication plan and will continue to grow.

    “We have developed a platform helping everyone discover a more diverse selection of comedy to enjoy while also providing talent with the exposure they need to rise out of the shadows, gain more followers and grow their own communities,” he says.

    Off the back of this new campaign, M&M’s has achieved 15.1 per cent growth year to date and grown market share, becoming the number one brand in bitesize chocolate and delivering the highest sales number for the brand ever.

    “As important is how we have begun to live the new brand purpose and connected to our global ambition for all ‘FUNkind’,” Hill adds.

    On Maltesers, the emphasis on inclusivity was achieved by focusing on maternal mental health with Mamatribe. For the Skittles range, it’s been a partnership on Pride with Minus18. “These are the new beginnings for three of our largest brands and are already having a real impact on the communities we are partnering with,” Hill says.

    “They are also delivering best-in-class growth in sales for our brands. We know this will only continue to strengthen and I’m very proud of our work to shift the dial on our brands becoming even more meaningful to the consumers of today.”

    Data-driven maturity

    From a data perspective, progress is also afoot. In 2022, Mars Wrigley Australia partnered with an external software partner to better predict future ROI on marketing investments.

    “By linking this with our internal patented software on how to allocate spend across categories and brands, we are already seeing significant improvements in our marcomms performance, with the ability to constantly adjust our campaigns in real-time and see flow through outcomes,” Hill explains. “For an FMCG business, this is an industry leading approach and is allowing us to re-invest into our brands. As a result, we are hitting sufficiency of spend on our core brands for the first time.”

    For Hill, data is the safety net for success, and he agrees marketers need to be data-led and empirical in approach for long-term success.

    “Having said that, gut is also a data point and more often than not it’s what gives you the lightning bolt marketing moments data simply can’t predict,” he says. “I always use data to stop me making dumb decisions but trust the gut to make great ones.”

    Customer-led thinking

    Mars has a global vision for the treats and snacks mega-category and provides guidance on how to grow the category at a macro level, Hill continues.

    “The challenge with this, like all global category strategies, is being flexible and agile enough to allow for local nuances including unique sub-categories, customer landscape and competitive dynamics,” he says. “To enable this, I determined we needed to invest in some local consumer research and work with external experts to create an even more impactful plan to share with our key customers in Australia.”

    Having now completed this work and begun to utilise it internally and externally, the FMCG has experienced accelerated category growth in key segments throughout 2022, even accounting for smoothing of Covid sales impacts.

    “We are being chosen as a key strategic partner by our customers to drive major category growth initiatives in the confectionery aisles and at front of store,” Hill says.

    Another outcome is a more harmonised innovation, activation and communication plan linking back consistently to drivers of growth Mars has aligned with customers, he says. All this led the Australian category team to global award recognising the updated category vision as best-in-class within Mars globally.

    Leadership impact

    Through all this, Hill has worked to develop capability and engagement across the function. He’s formed a new marketing leadership team to align capability to business strategy and ensure associates are working on what they do best to unlock business impact.

    “I also oversaw investment into our team to identify and then better leverage their individual strengths rather than always focusing on development areas,” Hill says. “I saw an opportunity to redefine our team purpose and identity as part of the business. In partnership with the marketing leadership team, we defined six behaviours we use to benchmark our team’s progress.”

    These are consumer-led always; people, planet and profit in harmony; integrity at the heart of all that we do; bravery; advocate and ensuring marketing is using its voice to influence broader business decisions; and being digitally capable.

    “Throughout the year, we asked our agency partners and internal stakeholders to feedback on these behaviours, and we embedded the feedback into our team engagement planning,” Hill says. “This people-first approach has reflected in not only our business results but also our team Gallup score, which saw an increase in team engagement from the 61st percentile to the 86th percentile and a positive shift in the ‘team purpose’ question from 3.4 to 4.5.

    “The turnaround now sees marketing as the leading function from an engagement perspective.”            

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