Global Chief Marketing Officer Aude Gandon explains how Nestlé is ensuring its marketing function is ready to meet new e-commerce, data and sustainability challenges.

Like many other companies last year, Nestlé, the food company that creates brands such as KitKat, San Pellegrino and Cheerios, has seen an increase in e-commerce sales as physical stores around the world close.

In fact, by the end of 2020, nearly one-third (30 percent) of Nestlé’s sales were online, a level of e-commerce the brand didn’t expect to reach until 2025.

According to Aude Gandon, who joined Nestlé in July 2020 as its first global chief marketing officer, the company’s ability to meet accelerated demand is due in part to a “very close relationship” between marketing and sales.

At Nestlé, global sales and global marketing are within the same team and organization, she said during the Festival of Marketing: Fast Forward last week (June 10).

“It really helps us accelerate when we need to,” she added.

The relationship between marketing and sales at brands is usually characterized by a healthy tension, with the latter seeking to deliver conversions in the short term and marketers seeking to build brand equity in the long term.
Why there’s “no excuse for inconsistency” between marketing and sales

In 2018, then-EE managing director of marketing Max Taylor said his close working relationship with managing director of channels and commerce Etienne Brandt was crucial in helping the company survive the tougher economy.

The pair told Marketing Week that they were asked to set the same goals to make sure they agreed on what was right for the customer, the staff, and how best to implement the business’ commercial priorities.

Other companies that have experimented with combining sales and marketing include Pizza Hut, Thomson Holidays and TUI. In most cases, however, companies view them as separate teams with separate goals.

At Nestlé, however, Gandon worked with the head of global sales to map out the brand’s plans and ambitions from a marketing perspective.

“We never separate marketing from sales,” she said.

Data and sustainability tools and training

Gandon also stressed the importance of giving marketers the right processes and tools to support them as they change and evolve in the marketplace. Nestlé invests “a lot” in capacity development and training, she said.

Sometimes there’s a sense of lagging behind.” A good marketer is a marketer who is always willing to keep learning and evolving,” Gandon added.

“The practice is constantly evolving because the world around us is evolving, and marketing teams are a window into the world for companies, so it’s important to keep that curiosity and that openness to develop.”

Adapting to the death of third-party cookies and developing Nestlé’s data practices, Gandon said that since joining the business, she has developed a new vision and roadmap for how to accelerate the marketing team with first- and second-party data.

At one point, we got so focused on digital that we sometimes forgot about the basics of marketing

“We need the right tools and the right infrastructure to handle the challenge of getting first-party data and using that first-party data faster,” she said.

Gandon said Nestlé is also working with agency partners and platforms such as Google and Facebook to make sure it has what it needs to make sure marketers around the world can collect, receive and use data. At the same time, the company continues to develop and expand partnerships to ensure that it has access to the data it needs from second parties.

According to Gandon, Nestlé regularly conducts sustainability training so that every employee understands what it means to address various issues, such as plastic and packaging, and how to “read the numbers.”

Marketing teams are a window to the world for companies, so it’s important to keep that curiosity and openness to development.”

“It’s especially important today because there’s a certain ‘greenwashing,’ so we want to make sure everyone in the company really understands what it means to become carbon neutral and what the different paths to get there are.”

A concerted effort to make the company a sustainable business and to engage all employees in that conversation will go a long way toward retaining and attracting talent in the future, she said.

“Everyone wants to be part of the transformation, so retaining talent and attracting it is key. Especially the younger generation, millennials and Generation Z. That’s going to be a key component of how they make choices about a particular company,” she said.

Getting the basics right

When asked if marketing will play a more important role in business in the future, Gandon said “absolutely,” adding, “I think marketing is really the foundation.”

“It’s sales, it’s the data that impacts everything,” she said. “If you have the right data, for example, you can inform your production line because you can figure out very quickly what products your consumers are more interested in. That can make the difference between your factory producing more or less.”

However, with the move to digital, Gandon said she felt in the past that the basics of marketing had been “forgotten.”

“At one point there was so much focus on digital that sometimes we forgot the basics of marketing. Understanding your brand, a very clear strategy, understanding who your consumer is, understanding your category and your competitors. Do the basics,” she advises.

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