Gama spoke to Oliver Perez, Marketing Director, Danone Portugal.
What are your day to day activities as Marketing Director?
As Marketing Director, my personal objective – and that of my department – is to oversee profitable growth for our company.
In order to structure our work, we split our brands into two areas. Firstly, international brands, where our focus is on the implementation of promotional activities and innovation, managing the media mix etc., and, secondly, local brands, which goes all the way from defining the strategy to implementing it locally.
The concept of strategy is very important, but increasingly it is the implementation of that strategy which is key in order to achieve good results.
Looking in a bit more detail at my day-to-day activities, these tend to be very intense due to the nature of our business operations. I have regular meetings about innovation, co-ordination of the sales and marketing functions, sales results etc. where we review and discuss the strategy for each one of our brands. This is always undertaken with an analytical approach which allows us to accurately assess our results and helps us to define the strategy for each of our brands over the short, medium and long term. In summary, it is a continuous and intense but very productive cycle that allows us to react to any market eventuality in an agile fashion.
What key trends do you expect to shape food and drink innovation in 2014?
In order to understand trends we have to stop and look at the profile and behaviour of today’s consumer. By doing so we can identify that many people across the world do not have good eating habits, something which is particularly the case in Portugal where more than half of the population is overweight. In the past few years this has led to an increasing preoccupation with adopting healthy lifestyles.
This situation has lent itself to a clear trend towards the adoption of – or intention to adopt – healthier lifestyles, principally through better eating habits and more physical exercise. As far as diet is concerned, the focus is not so much on messages about functional benefits but more on good nutrition and wellbeing. In this area there is a proportion of the population that is willing to pay a premium for products which deliver obvious health benefits. However this should not mean we ignore a need for more reasonably-priced options among consumers who, even if they might want to, do not have the spending power to access such premium products.
These healthier options – whether at the premium or mass-market level – have been growing in recent times and could reach their peak over the next few years.
What should manufacturers do to be successful in the current economic climate?
First of all, they should maintain their focus on the consumer and the shopper. This should never be forgotten.
Secondly – and without losing sight of this previous point – they should aim to simplify through innovation. Innovation is central to a brand’s success, particularly in the current climate, and the key thing is to focus on the “big fish”. In a situation such as we are in now, the best thing is to pick your battles and focus. You might get the impression that you are missing out on opportunities, but, by focusing, the contrary is true: you are maximising your opportunities in the most strategically important areas.
Thirdly, focusing on the needs of the consumer in terms of value for money. Price without value is not sustainable, and nor is value without price. You have to build brands with a value / price equation that is adapted to your target market.
Which markets (countries) or consumer groups currently offer the greatest growth opportunities for FMCG companies?
In general, the situation in Europe is very difficult, given on one hand the economic context and on the other hand the maturity of many categories.
The Asian market is expanding, however, and offers enormous growth potential for FMCG brands and companies that are able to adapt their products to the needs of local cultures.
Despite the difficulties in Europe, there are still opportunities out there, particularly among certain demographic groups. In my opinion there are two of these which are key: seniors, who have high spending power but fewer responsibilities than families with children, and teenagers and young people, who also have high spending power and are particularly receptive to innovative products which offer the right value equation.
How do companies best achieve growth in developed or saturated markets?
Through continuous innovation and renewal. But in a focused way – doing a few things well. It’s about surprising consumers, being fearless, and trusting in what we believe as a company.
Very often, traditions or an excessive fear of failure can lead us to take a conservative approach. But this is a mistake. Obviously you have to listen to and understand consumers, but you also have to surprise them, and to do that you need to take risks and be disruptive.
From a marketing perspective, how is the way companies are looking to reach and engage with consumers changing? How can a brand successfully resonate with consumers?
What we can say is that it is through the great diversity of modern media – TV, radio, digital media, social media, mobile media – that we can reach and connect with the consumer. But this is just the means. What really fosters that engagement and interaction with the consumer is the power we have to create a series of dialogues between the consumer and brands that are relevant to them.
In the past, the approach was clear. You would identify a need in a target market and develop a solution by means of a product. It was a simple message of needs and solutions, very much focused on the benefits of the product.These days that isn’t enough.
Take an example: how long can two friends talk about a product with a “0%” claim? An hour? A day? A week? It seems to me there would be only so much they could say.
Nowadays the focus is much more about going beyond the tangible characteristics of a product – it’s about building a brand by having a dialogue and forming a relationship with the consumer based around their areas of interest. Understand the interest areas of your target market and maintain that series of dialogues where they are relevant, in order for your brand to get a return on the investment in those relationships.
The use of constant and consistent emotional language makes all the difference, especially when supported by a good media mix. This allows you to interact ever more closely with our target audience .