You remember Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Robert F. Kennedy and Gloria Steinem as advocates for social justice in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, some of America’s boldest activists for social change, LGBT rights and racial tolerance are brand names: Dove, Campbell’s Soup, Ben & Jerry’s, Chevrolet, Burger King, Under Armour and Target. At the foreground of brands and social change has been Minneapolis-based General Mills, whose “Gracie” Cheerios TV spot was a landmark for racial inclusion in marketing.
What follows are six brand marketing lessons based on our interview with former General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks (pictured at right, with author Maccabee at left). Make yourself a bowl of Cheerios, grab some Yoplait yogurt and prepare to be inspired:
1. Explore the underlying truth of your brand.
Mark Addicks’ Insight: “When diverse casting hits something that’s part of Americana—an iconic brand like Cheerios—that you hit a nerve. But there’s a ton of evidence that if you have interesting people telling your brand story, you’ll build more awareness and get more product trial. Your job as a marketer is to attract consumer attention by exploring an underlying truth, revealing how they can be a better person, a better mom. And those Cheerios ads did that very well.”
Addicks: “Yes, your ROI can definitely include sales. Look, short-term, every brand has to market their product day-to-day to get sales—that’s your coupons and sales promotions. But marketers also have to do things long-term to make sure their brand stays meaningful, relevant and in a consumer’s consideration set. You have to innovate with an eye five years out.”
“I argue you want to build brand relevancy for a coming generation. For example Under Armour, largely a male brand, started with a very low base with women consumers. That 28 percent sales lift with women from “I Will What I Want” featuring dancer Misty Copeland is a win-win.
3. Stand for something bigger than your brand.
Addicks: “Take a look at Always’ insightful ‘Like A Girl’ campaign. Mothers are one of the most interesting consumers groups, as they’re always talking about their daughters and the dynamics as those girls hit puberty. I’ve heard this before during our Yoplait work—mothers talk about when a girls’ confidence goes away and how they can’t get through to their daughters. So girls that age are vulnerable. By elevating up and saying the Always brand stands for something bigger than just the product—yes, it’s risky, but it was a breakthrough attention-getter for the brand.”
Addicks: “This is critical, because marketers today live in a transparent world. Your own employees will tell you whether what consumers see in your ad are not the reality that they as employees know. In fact, whenever you start a brand values campaign like Esurance, you should ask: how can we take what we’re doing with the brand externally and turn it into an inspirational thing for our employees? If you’re taking on a cause like breast cancer research—how do you start that with your employee base? That’s why the Dove campaign and Unilever ran into problems—people said wait a minute, you’re advocating for “Real Beauty” acceptance over here, and then you’re selling cosmetics over there, which is odd.”
5. Everything starts with the consumer.
Addicks “In the current political sphere, people don’t trust institutions. People feel they are on their own. That they’re just a number. And with the embrace of technology, we’ve lost a bit of our humanity. So consumers crave authenticity.”
Addicks: “You go back into the history of your brand. Everything old is new again in marketing; you just have to reinterpret it. At General Mills, what did we do to drive sales for Yoplait Greek yogurt? We did a “Pepsi Challenge” against Chobani!”
For the extended version of this interview, visit the MaccaPR blog for the two-part series of “Brand Values Q&A with Former General Mills CMO Mark Addicks” and “A CMO’s Insights For Your Brand to Save the World (Part 2).”
Guest contributor Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. Read the full article as it appears on BulldogReporter.com.