Tamara Howe, Marketing Director ANZ at Kellogg Company, joins host Mark Jones for The CMO Show LIVE to discuss balancing creativity and science in storytelling.
Kellogg’s intriguing Australian origin story dates back almost a century.
In 1924, an automatic packaging machinery specialist, Morris Raymer, was sent Down Under to install a corn flake machine in rented premises in Chippendale.
Corn Flakes® was a hit with the locals: a new plant was built in Botany four years later, and as they say, the rest is history.
Tamara Howe has worked for Kellogg’s for 16 years, and has spent the last four in her current role as Marketing Director of Australia & New Zealand.
Tamara reveals that one of the biggest misconceptions about the FMCG industry is that it’s the ‘old world’ with no opportunities for growth.
“All the marketing talent is now going to the tech companies. So, the Googles and the Facebooks etc. I sort of reject that because what I love about FMCG is we’re very disciplined and I think if you want to be a professional marketer and you love that, there’s no better place to learn the discipline,” she says.
With more choice in the market than ever before, Tamara says the power of storytelling is important for deriving an emotional response from your target audience, but brave new ideas need to be backed up by the necessary research.
Tamara recommends combining the best of both worlds – marketing science and emotive storytelling – to stay ahead in a constantly evolving market.
“Marketing should be… based on what works and how we can drive growth for the business. Whereas a lot of marketing is still plagued by myths and subjectivity,” she says.
“Data informs insight or contextual relevance, but then we need creativity to execute, and execute brilliantly with excellence.”
Tune into this special episode of The CMO Show LIVE to hear Tamara and Mark discuss the importance of striking the right balance between creativity and data, the role “bravery” plays in a marketer’s skill set, and how to stay relevant when times are changing.
- B&T | Remarkable marketers: Meet Kellogg’s Tamara Howe
- Mumbrella | Kellogg’s new CMO aims to lift share of snack food and extended breakfast
- CMO.com.au | Making marketing more relevant at Kellogg
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The CMO Show production team
Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: email@example.com.
Host: Mark Jones
Guest: Tamara Howe
Mark Jones: We don’t think about it very much, but myths, legends, and epics are all around us and they’re in us. They’re part of how we see the world. It’s the theme for this year’s World Storytelling Day. And as I thought about it, it struck me that actually what happens when we embody these myths, legends, and epics is it actually prompts us to be creatives. So as you’re thinking about creativity, what does that mean for you? How do you tell a creative story? And my suggestion to you is that it starts by being brave. Creativity is spelled B-R-A-V-E. What can you do that’s different to the people who came before you?
Mark Jones: Hello, friends. It’s Mark Jones with the CMO Show. Great to be back. And before I get into a little bit of a teaser to today’s story, I have some very exciting news to share. We have been nominated as a finalist in the Australian Podcast Awards for the marketing and business category. I’m super excited. It’s great to be among the top shows in Australia for podcasting and talking about this fantastic subject of marketing and story telling that we love so much. So thank you for being a listener and being part of our audience, dare I say fans. And it really does mean a lot to me and the team here at Filtered Media. So thank you so much.
Mark Jones: Now, on to today’s show. And this is a very special edition. I know everyone’s … I know every single episode is special, but this one is particularly special. The CMO Show live is an event we recorded at Filtered Media. And it was held to coincide with World Storytelling Day. And by live, we meant we had real people in the studio to talk and discuss this topic of the theme for World Storytelling Day, myths, legends, and epics. It’s a fantastic idea because it taps into these underlying storylines that feed through society and culture in our own lives. And my guest was Tamara Howe. She’s a marketing director for Australia New Zealand at Kellogg Company. You know Kellogg, right? You know them from corn flakes. You probably know them from Special K. What you may not know is that they also do Pringles, right? And I didn’t know that. And it’s no surprise that Pringles is one of their top brands because to quote what they say in the marketing stuff, once you pop, you can’t stop. See, I’ve been there. And I thought that was kind of fun.
Mark Jones: But actually on the subject of our conversation, I had a really good chat with Tamara about a whole range of issues in marketing from the role of FMCG and how we position that as professional marketers. It’s interesting that she actually thinks there’s no better place to learn the discipline of marketing than in FMCG. And she’s a little bit pushing back against this idea that if you’re gonna be a cool marketer, you should go to Google, and Facebook, et cetera. So if you like a bit of a defence of the best places to work. We also talked about myths, legends, and epics. The idea of whether or not creativity is gone or here to stay. Or what we’ve done with creativity versus data. I’m particularly just doing that data versus creativity conversation. And she’s got a really great perspective on how to actually get the right data so that when you’re being creative, it’s actually not a risk. It’s actually … We talk about being brave and all this kind of stuff. And she’s got a really great perspective on that. So I encourage you to have a listen.
Mark Jones: Many more great things that we spoke about. But let me go straight now to Tamara and a live recording of the CMO Show. I really hope you’ll enjoy it.
Mark Jones: Please again welcome Tamara Howe, head of marketing ANZ at Kellogg company.
Tamara Howe: Thank you.
Mark Jones: It’s our privilege to have you joining us and to talk about all things storytelling and creativity. But before we get into that, you’ve been there at Kellogg for four years, you told me, in your current role, head of marketing. And we were joking before that that’s actually about twice the tenure of your average head of marketing or CMO.
Tamara Howe: Yes.
Mark Jones: So, well done.
Tamara Howe: Thanks.
Mark Jones: How did you do it?
Tamara Howe: I survived. How did I do it? Well, I’ve been at Kellogg for a long time, nearly 16 years. And within those 16 years worked in the US for nearly six as well. So, I think I was able to establish a lot of good relationships and network and credibility. So, I think that really put me in good stead to step up into this role. And then when I stepped up into this role, I needed to really make sure very quickly that I had good relationships with my peer set and make sure that we were all gelling as a team rather than operating any kind of solo. So, that was sort of my keep focus and I think that’s what’s helped me to continue in this role.
Mark Jones: One of the biggest challenges in any multinational is those peer relationships. What makes Kellogg different?
Tamara Howe: Well, it’s funny, we were talking about this earlier. I do think we appointed up on a common agenda and we work well together as a team and we do try to help one another which you were indicating is unusual which I’m kind of saddened to hear because I think ultimately, we’re all more successful when we’re kind of working together. But what you say is true. I mean I have seen that even over the years where when you’re operating in a solo it’s just not going to last. It’s not going to get you the results you need. When I came into the role with some other new folks, we had a business in a bit of trouble. So, I think that kind of banded us together. Again, on a common objective to then solve that together. It was kind of a bit of a rallying cry for us that if we were going to turn this business around, we needed to work together.
Mark Jones: The old journo in me wants to know what was the crisis. What was the problem? Not letting that go.
Tamara Howe: I mean the business wasn’t growing. I mean it’s as boring as that, really. The business had been in decline. The category was in decline. So, we needed our business to get back to growth.
Mark Jones: I think we all know Kellogg’s. If you haven’t grown up with cornflakes there’s something wrong with you. Or in my case, as much Nutri-Grain as I could possibly get my hands on. What else do you do?
Tamara Howe: Pringles. A lot of people don’t know that we have Pringles.
Mark Jones: I did not.
Tamara Howe: We bought Pringles from Procter & Gamble … goodness, six, seven, eight years ago now, when I was living in the US. It’s now our biggest business globally. In Australia, it’s our second biggest business, Nutri-Grain’s biggest. Be Natural you may not know. Be Natural business we have. And then a lot of people don’t remember we have really great other businesses in our portfolio, like All-Bran, Guardian, a lot of cereals that actually have been doctor’s prescribed for their patients to make sure they’re getting enough fibre in their diet. Because we are typically remembered for things like Nutri-Grain and Coco Pops. But have something for everybody.
Mark Jones: That is very impressive. What is the thing that you’ve found most challenging about the category?
Tamara Howe: There’s a lot more choice now in all food categories. And there’s a lot of discussion around being disrupted. Convenience, for example, Deliveroo, Amazon entering the market. So, there’s a huge amount more choice now from a food perspective and then also how you get that food into your household. So, I think with that choice then comes some loss of maybe a bowl of cereal a week, for example, which then impacts our business. So, we need to make sure that we are consistently front of mind with all of that choice out there, so that we’re still getting chosen for that share of stomach.
Mark Jones: See, that’s a crack-up right there, share of stomach. About three dad jokes just went through my mind. I’m going to let them go. Tell me what is it you love about FMCG and the space that you’re in because for many people, and I’ve heard this before, it’s a very stressful environment.
Tamara Howe: Yeah. It’s interesting, we talk a lot about resilience, actually, because as you say, and particularly in our business, it’s a tough trading environment, and we call it “You need to ship everyday.” I think Facebook and Google claiming to ship code every day, we’re shipping boxes every day. And you can win all those, honestly, on a day. So, it is relentless in that regard. But I love it because I would be bored otherwise, and I love to constantly be challenged and to be on my toes. The thing I also love about FMCG, and I was talking about this with recruiters recently, a lot of people see FMCG as old, the old world. Which I kind of reject because of two reasons.
Mark Jones: In what sense?
Tamara Howe: Oh, all the marketing talented is now going to the tech companies. So, the Googles and the Facebooks et cetera. And I sort of reject that because what I love about FMCG, to your question, is we’re very disciplined and I think if want to be a really professional marketer and you love that, which I do, there’s no better place to learn the discipline. And we are professionals. So, the other thing that frustrates me is when you see all these people talking about marketing and they have no training, no education in it, haven’t worked in the business, and they call themselves pros, right? Which I find frustrating. A little bit. Mark Ritson talks a lot about it, too, which … good on him for doing that. So, I think FMCG, there’s no better place because it’s a very disciplined machine. The likes of Procter & Gamble invented product marketing, for example. And be part of the reinvention. Be part of how these companies and these brands consistently reinvent themselves for the future. Kellogg’s has been around for 110 years.
Mark Jones: That’s pretty remarkable.
Tamara Howe: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark Jones: I think it’s something about 40 to 50 years, I think, that’s the average life of a Fortune 100 company these days. It’s not long. So, that’s … I think IBM is another one that comes to mind. There’s not too many companies that actually go that long. GE et cetera.
Tamara Howe: That’s right, yeah.
Mark Jones: Well, to your point about the techs. Maybe you just need to launch an app or more apps.
Tamara Howe: Well, we have done it in the past. I will say, it’s not our core competency. We’d rather patent and wait for folks to do that.
Mark Jones: What’s the work that you’re the most proud of that you’ve done?
Tamara Howe: That’s hard. You’re asking me to pick between my children. I only have one child by the way. So, that makes things a bit easier. I think some of the work we’re probably most proud of is on Nutri-Grain because that’s a local jewel and really, the team has full autonomy on that brand in Australia. So, even though we are part of a global business, Australia is a lead market. We export work back to rest of the world which we’re also very proud of. And Nutri-Grain is one of our largest single brands in the Kellogg world. So, what I mean by that is it’s tenth share of the market which is very high within cereal because it’s highly fragmented. Most brands sort of sit more between two and a five share whereas Nutri-Grain kind of double that.
Tamara Howe: So, we’re very proud of Nutri-Grain and it’s the one we tend to win more awards and things for.
Mark Jones: Actually, you mentioned that, and I’ve always wondered … the cereal boxes, Nutri-Grain, all right? Incredibly good-looking men and women, sports people typically, I have a theory in publishing that a magazine’s front cover, is a mirror. You should be the mirror to your audience, right? So, when you pick up a magazine, typically, you should see the target audience on that cover. And I’ve wondered do you have the same sort of mindset when it comes to cereal boxes?
Tamara Howe: Interesting. Actually, I hadn’t thought about it that way at all.
Mark Jones: We’re kind of getting psychological here.
Tamara Howe: Funnily enough, we don’t put the iron men and women on the front of the pack. They’re only on the back. So, on the front of the pack is the big logo and the big food shot. In fact, I’m part of the advisory board on the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and we had them out yesterday, actually, talking to the business. And we were talking a lot about packaging, actually. And their science, it just shows a lot around make it as easy as possible to shop, and that colours and shapes are actually the thing that we look at when we’re shopping. And actually, that when we’re shopping we really don’t have a lot of focus and they kind of gave this great tip of using the thumbnail. So, when you’re reviewing packaging look at that kind of size to make sure that you can understand what the shopper is seeing.
Mark Jones: Is this a bit like cartoons? You should be able to see Bart Simpson in the shadow?
Tamara Howe: A little bit, yeah. You need to be able to make out what that is with that kind of frame of reference because the shopper is so distracted when they’re shopping. So, in all the text and all that sort of stuff on the front of the pack is just not seen. But faces are a good way. I mean from a shape point of view. A big smile. There’s a lot of nice behavioural economics behind that, because that makes people happy.
Mark Jones: Let’s dive into behavioural economics because it’s probably one of my favourite subjects at the moment. And this is the idea that our emotions are disproportionately influential compared to the … if you like, the rational part of our brain that looks for the most logical solution. So, how have you thought about that in the context of creating a great brand story?
Tamara Howe: Yeah. So, I’m also a bit of a nerd on behavioural economics. The reason why-
Mark Jones: I can see we’re going to be friends for a long time.
Tamara Howe: Why I’m a nerd on it is because it was just a huge unlock for me, as soon as I kind of discovered Danial Kahneman, not only in my professional career but also in my private life. Which is that … I think, again, when we go through university and even schooling, we learn very rationally to process information in a very logical fashion, right? And I went to a competitive high school, I then went to university, and that was the way I was trained. Behavioural economics teaches you that people don’t make decisions rationally. They’re intuitive and emotive. And usually we’re on complete autopilot. 95% of our decisions are made on autopilot because we just cannot process the amount of information that’s thrown at us constantly.
So, as soon as you kind of digest that, like our most decisions are intuitive and emotive, it really changes the way you think about things. And there’s a shift from your training, right? Which was you were trained to be logical and rational. And therefore, I need to persuade you as a consumer, right? Consumers are not paying attention. They’re not. They’re certainly not paying any attention to your rational, logical messages, right? Which often are paragraphs long when you’re looking at concepts and things. So, I think as soon as you get simple, intuitive, and emotive, it’s a huge unlock to being more effective.
Mark Jones: How do you weigh that up with the data science aspect of your role? Because I also know that you’re equally passionate about your scientific analysis of what consumers are doing and thinking and how they’re behaving.
Tamara Howe: Yes. Well, I love that because … again, I’m getting back to the discipline of marketing a little bit. Marketing should be a profession and it should be based on what works, right? And how we can drive growth for the business. Whereas a lot of what marketing is still plagued by is myths and subjectivity.
So, what I love about marketing science is that it brings empirically validated laws to the table. Which actually the finance director loves, right? Because you’re talking a language they understand and you’re giving marketing the rightful seat at the table to drive growth through empirically validated laws, right? Which is how finance works. Their numbers, A plus B equals C. We’re starting to be able to get to that place with marketing science which is again a huge unlock for us to get to sit at the table with the boardroom, with your finance directors, et cetera, et cetera.
I was in a meeting yesterday when the question is asked, “Do you have enough brand building?” Which is great, right? Because often that’s not the question that’s asked.
Mark Jones: As opposed to product building, like product campaigns or so forth?
Tamara Howe: Yeah, I mean, it’s up to us to decide how to spend that money in the most effective way, which again, we can use marketing science to help us unlock. But for me that’s a huge win because that means they have confidence in the marketing team’s ability to invest that money to drive the business. So, it’s a great conversation to be having.
Mark Jones: So, we’re in a world of 7,000 plus marketing technology vendors. We’ve got this marketing science conversation which has really been growing quite well in the last couple of years. And, of course, we hear about all the data that we now have access to. How distracting is that from a creativity perspective?
Tamara Howe: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s not an “or”, right? It’s a … and we love ors, we love, “It’s this or it’s that” and “It’s pendulum swinging”, and “This is dead”, and all that sort of stuff, good clickbait. It’s “and”, which is so boring. It’s “and”. So, I think the data informs insight or contextual relevance, for example, the data will inform. But then we need creativity to execute and execute brilliantly, with excellence. So, it absolutely is an “and”.
Mark Jones: Okay, so, let’s get back to my comment about being brave. How do you react to that?
Tamara Howe: I find that it’s a loaded word. And I find it can kind of get used to potentially try to drive work that we don’t confidence in, for whatever reason. Maybe to your point that’s because it’s new or it’s risky or whatever. I try to take as much risk out as possible. And absolutely we don’t want to do bland wallpaper work. We want to do work that breaks through, that people are proud of. I mean I just say, “It’s boring.” If it’s boring, we’re not doing it. And then that shortcuts the whole conversation. It’s boring.
At the same time I don’t want to put work out there because it costs a lot of money and time that we’re not confident in. Now, that’s not necessarily having to do reams of research. Which, yes, we have the investment or we have the ability to do, but we don’t do it all the time. Again, we know what works. So, if it’s well-branded and the message is clear and simple, that’ll work. And therefore, I don’t feel that it is necessarily brave. Because again, I think if we get back to the discipline of marketing then you don’t need to be calling out “That’s brave!”. I know that’s a little controversial and I hope that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to do great breakthrough at Kellogg because we do. And I think we have a lot of agency partners that help us with that and do really fantastic work for us.
Mark Jones: Have there been times when it was a first for you to try something and how would you’ve described that otherwise?
Tamara Howe: Absolutely. Absolutely, we’ve had some firsts. We launched a brand-new platform last year which we’ve just done a second chapter of recently.
Mark Jones: Platform, you mean as a campaign concept or-
Tamara Howe: Like a campaign platform, yeah. Called “Fibre Fit”, which is all that reframing fibre away from regularity to proactive gut health and all the science now that’s about the microbiome actually being the cornerstone of all health. It’s very, again, on trend and in the culture at the moment. That was completely new for us. It was new for the Kellogg world. But, again, we put discipline into it. And that’s now transferred over to other markets. So, we’ve now exported that work to other markets around the Kellogg world. And we’re really proud of that work.
Mark Jones: Congratulations. What percentage of your focus is spent on the research and the preparation that gives you that confidence?
Tamara Howe: What percent of my focus …
Mark Jones: I could be blunt and say what part of your … what percentage do you budget. But like it’s that sort of … because not everybody has great budgets for a lot of research and a lot of that important work that goes into validating your ideas.
Tamara Howe: Yeah. I mean, you can validate things cheaply, though, too. I mean, for example, we have an online … I’m going to get Pringles as an example. So, we have a very active Pringle community. And we actually annoyed some of them a couple years ago when we changed the food. And we then turned them into advocates because we contacted them directly and said, “We’d love you to be part of our community. We’re going to share new product ideas with you, going to share all sorts of things with you.” And now, they’re our biggest advocates. And that’s practically free.
Mark Jones: Where was my phone call? I didn’t get a call.
Tamara Howe: I’ll add you right after this. I mean that’s practically free, right? So, we’re talking to own community about what they love on Pringles. So, we just launched Mystery Flavour. Now, that’s great storytelling. It’s mystery. You don’t know what the flavour is. And we’re releasing new clues every week or so as to what the actual flavour is of the mystery Pringles flavour. And then you win a prize if you guess it correctly.
Mark Jones: So, this is basically market testing.
Tamara Howe: Yeah, exactly.
Mark Jones: Low-cost market testing.
Tamara Howe: I mean there are existing loyal users, so you have to remember they’re biased. So, there’s that. But you know that going in. And then if you want to get kind of a more broad sample size then you can use more traditional research. But they’re great, they’re fantastic. They’re also our critics as well, though, even though they’re loyal users.
Mark Jones: So, would your point be for brands on smaller budgets to look at creative ways of getting that customer feedback?
Tamara Howe: 100%. Again, I love the Ehrenberg-Bass teams, advised on this yesterday. You have to assume that many people actually are not reading. And the levels of functional illiteracy in these countries actually is scarily high. So, again, we’re all educated people, living in the Eastern suburbs or whatever and reading things. And that may not be how our consumers are operating. So, we’ve got to remind ourselves of that. Got to get out to other areas outside of our own bubbles.
Mark Jones: And read what?
Tamara Howe: Observe.
Mark Jones: Ah, just observe, okay.
Tamara Howe: Observe. Observe behaviour. Observe behaviour and see how other people operate.
Mark Jones: Yeah, I think that’s actually a nice zig way to another conversation I wanted to have with you around short term and long term perspectives on brand building. There’s an interesting example of Heinz and his short-termism that happened in the market place recently. How dangerous has it been for marketers to be so obsessed with short term thinking in their campaigns?
Tamara Howe: So, what’s been really interesting about what’s happened with Heinz … so, I don’t know if you guys have all seen that in the media. But essentially, they’ve had a really big fall in their stock price recently. I think it was nearly 30%. And essentially, a lot of the commentary around it was that you can’t cut your way to growth. So, when 3G bought Heinz, they went through a lot of crosscuttings. ZBB originated with 3G. That then influenced the whole industry. When the whole industry then kind of followed suit. And it worked for a little while in terms of then boosting growth margin through cost optimisation. Now, you should do that. If there’s wastage then you should do that anyway. Because it’s not efficient. But I think the focus was so much on that, that it then took focus away or unbalanced the focus if you like, from also driving top-line growth. And it, again, boring, it needs to be both. It needs to be balanced. And on end you can’t do one or the other. You need to do both.
So, I think that’s now caught up with Heinz. Which has been reflected in their stock price. That’s what the commentary and the media is. And it’s been, honestly, quite a sigh of relief for the rest of us. You know where we’ve been kind of-
Mark Jones: Why is that?
Tamara Howe: Well, because we’ve been battling this short-termism. Which is in the short term that’ll pay dividends but you get to a point where you’re cutting to the bone and you can’t cut any further or it’s going to have an impact. And you’re going to stop losing volume as a result of it. Because again, advertising works.
Mark Jones: So, what does that look like for you in terms of a long-term brand investment? How do you drive growth in the brand story?
Tamara Howe: So, two things again. We do show short-term results. So, we do literally get results very quickly. But the bigger impact is actually three X.
Mark Jones: Sorry, I’m going to ask a dumb question. What do you mean by that?
Tamara Howe: Three times what you’re seeing in the short term is the longer term impact. And research bodies will back that up. Which is that advertising doesn’t just work over a short-term period is an example. It actually works over a longer term period in terms of the payback of that advertising. Even in market mix modelling, which is why some people are not a fan of it, won’t potentially show you the full impact of your advertising because it’s still only measuring a short term. Period.
Mark Jones: Yeah. So, in other words you’re asking the question too early.
Tamara Howe: Yes. So, you’re going to get some of it. But you’re not going to get all of it.
Mark Jones: Right. And is this, getting back to our bean counters that we were beating up on before, who-
Tamara Howe: I was not beating up on it. They are our friends.
Mark Jones: Have we … it’s the quarterly psyche. I mean you work for a multinational. And some of my clients are multinationals. I know the quarterly psyche. It’s pervasive. So, what’s the risk as marketers, or maybe, how do you respond to that? Because you … it sounds to me like you’re saying, “We really have to be champions for the long-term brand growth and ostensibly pushing back against it.”
Tamara Howe: Well, I think I’m pretty lucky, actually. Our CEO, a new CEO, is about a year in, global CEO, actually completely believes in we need … and his strategy is called “deploy for growth”. So, he absolutely believes in building brands. And again, I think our MD, local in Australia, also believes in it… even our finance director believes in it. Again, I think this is where using marketing as a science really helps a lot because we can prove the impact of building brands. And they’re seeing that. Our penetration of our key brands are growing, our brand health metrics are growing, which is then our competitive advantage in the long term, to your point.
We are not in the business of private label. So, we are about branded product. Therefore, our brands are absolutely our long-term advantages. Why? We’ve been around for 110 years. Hopefully, another 110. So, I think everyone gets that. So, I do feel lucky. I think that’s why I’ve been at Kellogg for so long. It’s because that ethos runs through the organisation.
Mark Jones: And then, excuse the blatant book plug, but one of the things I write about is how our belief systems are fundamentally influential when it comes to those brand decisions. Which is again the behavioural economics story, right? One of the observations I’ve made is that we can become a little bit distracted by short-term behaviour change. You know, “Buy this thing today”, sales-driven or dollar-driven. But it doesn’t actually always produce a long-term change in behaviour. How have you approached that from a category perspective?
Tamara Howe: Yeah, that’s tricky. Because behaviour change is hard. And it takes time. And I guess you can … you just … really, all we want to do is try to make it that little bit easier for people to choose you. That’s really all you can do. So, it’s how you make yourself more mentally available. How do you make yourself more physically available? That’s really what you need to focus on. And then, hopefully, that’s an outcome.
Mark Jones: So, when you say “yourself”, do you mean yourself as the-
Tamara Howe: The brand, yes. So, we’ve got to get away from if I give people this rational message and persuade them, they’re going to do what I want. You’re kidding yourself.
Mark Jones: We’re going to get more emotional.
Tamara Howe: Absolutely.
Mark Jones: Right? So, what does that mean from a storytelling perspective? Because this is, for me, I think … you know these glorious emotional videos that are out there. Feel as girl, et cetera, right? So, are you inspired by those types of campaigns? Is that something you want to do? How do you imagine we do a better job of that type of storytelling?
Tamara Howe: Absolutely. I mean, they’re some fantastic work. We work, for example, with the IFL Women’s League, they’re our key sponsor of the league. And there are some amazing athletes in that league. We’re working with these athletes to also help support them because a lot of them have to have full-time jobs as well as compete as athletes. So, I still think women have a long way to go to get to equality with men in sport. And their stories are amazing. And we love to tell their stories. And they’re very emotional in terms of them as humans and what they have to go through to make a living and compete in sport and try to get to equality from a sporting perspective. We’ve been telling a lot of those stories with Special K, and the response has been phenomenal to people really engaging with those stories.
Mark Jones: And what I love about that example is you’ve got to have a good sense of the zeitgeist, the mood, right? Where are we at? And so, what are the risks associated with that? We’ve seen plenty of controversy. Nike, for example, where you think you’ve got it right and then maybe you kind of don’t or you’re just slightly off. And then people attack you for it.
Tamara Howe: I mean the Nike example is interesting. Again, if you’re going to cut through, you’re going to provoke people. So, I almost have a bit of a filter that you can’t make everyone happy. If you’re making everyone happy, you bottled down the consensus and we’re back to “It’s boring”. So it’s almost … if some people don’t like it that’s okay. Because then you’re breaking through and you’re getting spoken about again. And I think I saw some WARC data, saying World Advertising of Research something Council I think it is. And they said, even negative emotion is better than no emotion at all, in terms of driving effectiveness of content.
Mark Jones: I was taught that … you know, they say, “All PR is good PR, even if it’s bad PR” or something? And then being slapped metaphorically for saying that. Are you suggesting that it’s okay to upset people?
Tamara Howe: That’s a bit of … you’re drawing a bit of a bow there. I don’t know that it’s okay to upset people. But I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you have great provocative storytelling that’s going to break through, not everyone’s going to like it. Otherwise, you’re consensus building and you’re getting down to bland and boring.
Mark Jones: And actually, maybe to join you there, I got to say that nothing wrong with anger. If it’s the right type of anger for the right cause, right? So I think, again, pick your cause, pick your emotion well, and then drive it.
Mark Jones: How complex is it to process from a marketing perspective your health claims? So, if you’re making a claim in market place about a Star rating or fibre, gut health, et cetera … I mean I’ve had experience and also spoke to many other CMOs on this show about that. It’s not short nor cheap, right?
Tamara Howe: To get claims or communicate them or both?
Mark Jones: Actually, to get to market, right? So, maybe just give us a sense of what’s like.
Tamara Howe: Well, under legislation now, there is a very rigorous process you have to go to, to get to health claims, to your point. So, consumers can feel very confident that if there’s a claim on the front of the pack and it’s certainly from a large organisation that has a lot of integrity, they’re not going to be putting any false claims out there because it’s now a really highly legislated process. So, again, we have a lot of rigorous science that goes into substantiating our claims which is what we also have to submit. We have to submit that substantiation. And that does take some time and energy.
Mark Jones: The thing that I’ve wondered about, though, is that we’re a pretty cynical lot.
Tamara Howe: Yes, we are.
Mark Jones: And our belief fatigue is pretty high. So, the claims are correct because they have been approved et cetera. But what does it take to actually get people to believe the claims?
Tamara Howe: Yeah, great question. I mean this is where emotion comes in. Because again, it’s back to even this whole rational message and a lot of it’s not going to go in. I think if you can use the claim as the basis to drive some emotional storytelling of “What’s in it for me?” Which again, is a behavioural economic concept. “What’s in it for me?” Then it works well. The other thing is if you can use sort of easy shortcut symbols to make the shopping process easier then that’s going to help as well. And you could use that for claims. So, the example there on Sultana Bran, for example, as we say, “More fibre than two pieces of toast” when a lot of us are having toast for breakfast and they’re also now getting enough fibre in their diet. “Eat a bowl of Sultana Bran” and we have the symbol and it’s a pretty easy thing to pick up very quickly.
Mark Jones: In other words, a really powerful metaphor or simple, easy metaphor.
Tamara Howe: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark Jones: Well, let’s talk about the future before we wrap up. What is your perspective on how the cereal market’s going to change and how do you want to try to influence it?
Tamara Howe: Hm, how’s the cereal market going to change? So, I think, with the advent of convenience, that’s going to be a key driver. So, it feels like nobody wants to leave their homes anymore because everything’s getting delivered to them, with Amazon and Deliveroo and all that sort of thing. You just think, “Can’t you get a little bit stir-crazy, sitting in your house all the time?” So, you sort of wonder if there’s going to be a bit of a counter trend there. But convenience definitely continues to be a very organic trend and one we just see growing consistently. So, I think our business was built on really big boxes of cereal that you can buy for your large family and your large car et cetera. I think we’re looking a lot more at single serve, buying on the go, ready-made products that you can eat on the go. I think that’s going to be a key, a really key trend.
Mark Jones: And that must be kind of exciting because you could work with the product development teams, too, presumably, to be looking at what you’re learning from the marketplace?
Tamara Howe: Yeah.
Mark Jones: How much of an interest is that for you from a professional growth point of view?
Tamara Howe: Oh, I love it. I’ve always worked in innovation, my entire career. I’ve had roles where it’s been dedicated, where I just worked on innovation. And then I’ve had roles where it’s been blended as part of my role. And I love it. You know we’ll be having a meeting and we’ll start to eat some Pringles, we’ll eat some new Pringles, or we’ll be taste testing, what’s the next mystery flavour going to be, or new cereals or even noodles. We have a big noodle business in the region. So, it’s fun. It’s fun when you get to just try new products and create new products. It’s the really fun part of the job. Storytelling is really fun and then innovation is super fun.
Mark Jones: Excellent. Well, I’m really encouraged by your story. It’s great to hear your perspective on how you’ve been able to get the right mix of creativity and data. And all the best with your role and it’s been a real privilege to have you on the show. Would you please thank Tamara Howe?
Tamara Howe: Thank you.
Mark Jones: So there we go. A great conversation with Tamara and I wanted to pick up on one thing because it’s a bit of a hobby horse passion of mine is this idea of behavioural economics. And she talked about how she went to a competitive high school, and then university, and thought about the way she was trained in that context. And she says behavioural economics teaches you that people don’t make decisions rationally. Now I think we all kind of know this. We know that we’re not rational decision makers. But we really need to be remind of that in marketing. We need to be reminded that we are emotional creatures. And as Daniel Kahneman, who got a Nobel Prize for the behavioural economics theory, as he says, some 95% of our decisions are actually made on autopilot, or if you like, subconsciously and from a place of emotion.
Mark Jones: So really, my point is that we’ve got to understand that from a storytelling perspective, from a creativity perspective. So when we’ve got all our ducks in a row, we’ve got all our data sorted, and we know what our business strategy is, and we know what our marketing strategy is, then we gotta get creative. And we’ve actually gotta say how can we tap into those deep emotions? How can we make sure that we’re aligned with what people believe, what people think, and how they respond to the world around them? So great reminder. A great insight. And a good tip from Tamara on how to make sure that we are not forgetting about the importance of behavioural economics.
Mark Jones: So that is it for the show this time. Thank you so much. As always, like, comment, and subscribe. But also do the commenting thing. We’re on a bit of a tear at the moment. It’s fantastic to see the show rising through the iTunes charts. We always say it’s not about the numbers and the rankings, but sometimes it’s about the numbers and the rankings. And it’s really great to be well within the top 25. So again, thank you to you guys for all your support. We love the show. We love the insights and the guests we get. And we love the fact that you get a lot out of this programme. So thanks once again and we’ll see you next time.