Innovation is a Probiotic Lollipop: Wisdom from Dean Foods & Yum! Brands

Last week’s back-to-back Brand Innovators summits in Dallas underscored the richness of the area, both in terms of brands that are present in that region and the smart, sophisticated marketers who call The Big D home. The Probiotic Pops (below) were merely an appetizer–the main course was a dizzying two-day discussion of data, speed, innovation and inspiration.

Last week’s back-to-back Brand Innovators summits in Dallas underscored the richness of the area, both in terms of brands that are present in that region and the smart, sophisticated marketers who call The Big D home. The Probiotic Pops (below) were merely an appetizer–the main course was a dizzying two-day discussion of data, speed, innovation and inspiration.

Fast food giants Yum! Brands operates more than 40,000 restaurants, including the Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut chains. Our Thursday event at their Plano HQ gave special attention to how brands can effectively market to future generations. The Friday deep dive at Dean Foods–owners of TruMoo, Friendly’s and many more brands and the largest dairy company in the United States–focused on how to drive innovation. A staggering lineup of household American brand names took part over the two days: Hilton, Pizza Hut, T-Mobile, KFC, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo, Mary Kay and more.

The pace was swift but these were a few things that stuck with us long after the dust settled and the crowd dispersed.

Data-Driven Marketing is the Future

From regulatory constraints to building 1st-party warehouses to leveraging it to personalize and engage, data was front and center in the discussions.

Heath Hammett (below), VP-Consumer Acquisition & Analytics for Pizza Hut, was pleased to share how his brand has been cascading dashboards throughout the organization, enabling stakeholders to make better, more well-informed decisions. “We used to prioritize marketing efforts from a national viewpoint. Now we are really digging in on the local level, all the way down to individual stores.”

Fauzia Haq, Senior Director of Marketing for PepsiCo, told the audience about Pepsi/Frito-Lay’s cross-portfolio loyalty program “PepCoin.” Haq said the initiative was born after they gathered first-party data revealing 80% of market baskets with beverages do not contain snacks. The program has seen the brand build a direct relationship with their customers, personalize experiences and foster some real brand loyalty.

Speed is the New King

Our events have always had an exciting element of “where are we now” in a particular marketing moment. With that in mind, Dean Foods Sr. Director, Marketing & Innovation Sindhura Polasanapalli (below left) wins our award for being both quotable and spot-on.

  • On the CPG landscape (but obviously applicable in other industries): ”It used to be big companies eating small ones. Now it’s the fast eating the slow.”
  • And then veering into Zen riddle territory: “The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

Another insightful take on the importance of speed came from Sheryl Adkins-Green, Chief Marketing Officer of Mary Kay. “In today’s fast-changing, highly competitive world,” she said, “standing still is the same thing as moving backwards.”

Innovation Is a Probiotic Lollipop

The BI event at Dean Foods focused squarely on innovation. Two Dean Foods leaders–Polasanapalli and VP-Innovation, Private Brands Growth & Strategy Kevin Kollock–gave a broad-strokes keynote while attendees enjoyed Dean Foods Innovation Immersion Experience. What does innovation look like at Dean Foods? Two great examples were probiotic popsicles and smooth cottage cheese.

To innovate, you must take risks. Or as Frito-Lay/PepsiCo Senior Director of Marketing Katie Ceclan said: “There’s a misconception that bigger brands who drive massive profits shouldn’t take risks in the marketing space.” She proudly asserted that Frito-Lay is “flipping that script.”

Another really cool narrative that emerged: innovation isn’t just about new products but also redefining and transforming purpose. Speaking of which…

Inspiration & Courage Still Have their Place

There was a counterweight to all the data talk in Dallas. It coalesced around inspiration and purpose. This terrific quote from Mary Kay’s Adkins-Green (below) about brand’s standing for something sums it up well: “Courage has genius, magic and power in it.”

Michelle Froah, SVP Global Marketing Strategy & Sciences at MetLife, urged marketers to look at the big picture. “The consumer engages with you in total and not just by individual product silo. Look to build collections to bridge the journey they are already on.” On purpose, she said: “There’s a lot of power in a company having a strong brand purpose but what’s most important is having a brand promise that you can make to your customers.”

One last keynote that put purpose at the heart: Katie Ceclan spoke about Frito-Lay/PepsiCo’s partnership with Operation Smile. The Lay’s Smiles Campaign, which debuted in 2018, contributed $1 million and helped provide more than 4,000 smile surgeries for kids around the world. The brand deftly tied the charitable work into the community-focused goal of “spreading smiles” while building brand love.

We’ll leave that you on that positive note. Already looking forward to our next Dallas visit.

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