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Walking in your Consumer's Shoes

Andy Gibson
Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Learning outcomes

  • The risk of marketeers painting an incorrect picture of their consumer
  • How to stay close to your consumer and their needs
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Executive Bio

Andy Gibson

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bacardi & Walgreens Boots Alliance

Andy began his career at Diageo in 1999 where he was primed in the Diageo Way of Brand Building and led various different spirit brands across different continents. In 2011, he joined Carlton United Breweries, the leading beer company in Australia, as Chief Marketing Officer where he led the revival of the VB brand. In 2013, Andy joined Bacardi as CMO where he managed the global brand portfolio including Bacardi, Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire generating revenue of over $4bn. In 2015, Andy joined Walgreens Boots Alliance, the $26bn revenue global pharmacy, where he led the Global Brands Portfolio.Read more

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Interview Transcript

What do you think is the biggest challenge for the large brand houses, today, in really understanding younger consumers. We’ve seen a shift in the generations; how do you stay on top of that shift, in the consumer base?

I don’t think that challenge is any different today than it was when I was a young marketeer. The biggest challenge we have is, we like to paint a picture of our consumers, just as we like to see them. Quite often, I see a target consumer understanding, that actually looks like the brand manager, that actually sounds like the brand manager. I did a piece of work in Spain, during the 2008 GFC and it was a brand that was targeting millennials. You read the target consumer understanding and they were going out to bars, they had nice little cars, they had the latest applications. They loved their jobs. This is at a time when Spain had a 55% millennial unemployment rate. I looked at the brand manager and said, that’s you.

So the biggest challenge is being honest. It’s truly walking in your consumer’s shoes, living their lives and continually being curious about how the world is moving and changing, for your consumer and being on top of that and being open to move with them, as opposed to defining what you think they are and what they should be.

How do you, personally, stay on top of that or drive humility in that understanding of your consumer, versus painting that picture?

There’s many techniques. Some of my favorite techniques, when I’m running a marketing team, every month, getting a minibus together and going, with cameras, with live questionnaires, and actually doing vox pops. Getting my marketing team to go out and interact with the consumers. Go out and be in their lives. Answering a set of distinct questions, which we’ve formulated beforehand, where we think there might be shifts, there might be things happening. Actually, interacting and learning live, learning really, while these consumers are living life.

You’ve got to be careful, because some consumers might be a little upset and might see that as a bit aggressive, so you’ve got to take protocol. But actually, any methodology where you can walk and live in your consumers lives, is the key. As you can tell, I’m not a young pup anymore, but I’m on a lot of feeds and streams, through my app, that aren’t my core interests and my core needs. I’m actually on feeds and streams that are my current consumer base’s feeds and streams and I’m watching and listening to what they’re up to, continually.

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