5 Learnings from my time in CPG

I often get asked about how my experience working in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry was. As that might suggest, I have since left the industry, but I want to share the learnings that I carry forward because I highly endorse the discipline and approach of CPG brand management. In my view, nothing serves as a better training ground for marketers just starting out on their career path than the meticulous training provided to them to run a brand in CPG.  While I am sure like anything the CPG model comes with its own imperfections there is much that can be said about the brand equity of brands like Pepsi, Maggi and Lays. So here are five learnings from my 7+ years of experience in CPG working on brands like Cadbury, Oreo, Dentyne, Toblerone, Halls, Lindt etc.: 

1. Consumer first mindset:  David Ogilvy had once famously said — “The consumer isn’t a moron… she’s your wife.” Consumer first mindset encapsulates that exact feeling, it is about letting the people using your brand / product guide your decisions.  At the core of every great brand are questions like the ones below that help lead us to creating a winning brand strategy:

“How can we serve our consumer better than anyone else?” 

“What consumer needs, motivation can we meet?”

2. Data is as good as the insights it provides: “Data, data everywhere but not a data that clicks” at the cost of butchering the famous lines by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the point that I am trying to make here is that Consumer-centricity isn’t truly actionable without data, but data is useless without insight.  The best marketers see truth and opportunity in data that others miss and leverage those insights to deliver results that build stronger consumer connection.

3. Emotional Connection is the code: Iconic brands are the ones that have cracked the emotional connection code. To truly connect with your consumers, you must be able to evoke emotions that connect with its consumers. Just like people can evoke certain emotions in others, brands should be able to do the same to its consumers. Think of emotions that Cadbury, Maggi, Kraft Dinner evoke in you. Those emotions form the fabric of the emotional code of these brands. The goal is to help the consumers of the brand to see the brand as a person with a unique story, character and personality. And just like in people personality and character are not built overnight – it’s takes consistency over time.

4. Consistency is key:  There is an adage in marketing that a brand must say it seven times before a message sticks with its consumer. But for that one message to stick all seven messages must maintain consistency. And everything (offline and online) you do sends a message out to the brand’s consumer. Message isn’t just an ad or a newsletter only. It’s the entire experience that a brand provides to its consumers. And consistency across all forms of experience ensure. Brand consistency that makes the brand recognizable and helps create a cohesive, unified, genuine brand identity.

5. General Manager attitude: To be a CPG marketer that positively contributes to the bottom line of the company, having a general manager approach is essential. The most successful CPG Marketers were those that manage profit and loss (P&L) effectively, take the panoramic measure of a business quickly, and combine analytical rigor with creative élan; and safeguard, stretch, and revitalize celebrated brands that fulfill their promise to consumers every day. Essentially, acting as the CEO of their brand.

I hope that my learnings are useful especially to someone who is considering joining CPG as a marketer after Business School. As always, if you have a question or want to connect over coffee (albeit virtually given the current climate ) feel free to connect with me on my socials.

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