CMO Recap: PepsiCo, RB, & Lunna on Brand and Business Model Pivots in the Face of Crisis | The Garage Group

CMO Recap: PepsiCo, RB, & Lunna on Brand and Business Model Pivots in the Face of Crisis

On January 28th, Jason Hauer, Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer here at The Garage Group, chatted with our global community of battle-tested leaders from PepsiCo, RB, and Lunna to gain insight into how they are leading their organizations through an ever-evolving landscape:

We took a deep dive into all things related to shifting consumer and shopper landscapes, the role of brands during times of crisis, and leading teams through business model pivots and accelerations while trying to stand out in inundated markets. In addition, we discussed the importance of developing and maintaining empathy for oneself, for clients, and for team members as an essential part of lasting strategies.

Take a look at some of the key highlights below:

Leveraging Digital in New Ways to Reach Consumers 

“The presentation of multi-packs, it’s something so simple as that. How do I pick my favorites and put them in a box? And all of the sudden, we talked about that for years, but this year, because e-comm grew so much, we realized that there was now an opportunity. People were at home and they needed some entertainment. It became something of a movement. Don’t think about this, just do it.

…And linking to some of those points around relationships with brands. I think because we’ve been home more, we’ve had more time to immerse ourselves, whether that’s on social media or in other virtual connections. I know personally I’ve interacted more with smaller brands, because I’m scrolling through my Instagram and I’m trying to help out small companies. We do a lot of work for entrepreneurs, particularly female founders, with the mindset of, “We need to help these small companies keep the doors open and the lights on,” and the personal engagement I think has been really meaningful. 

I think that’s really exciting, as we talk of personalization, that relationship with brands and being different, having a different way to communicate with brands and with your consumer and the ability to do that, even if you’re a huge brand, like a Lays or SunChips.” – Ciara Dilley, Vice President of Transform Brands, PepsiCo

Winning Over the Consumer with Empathy & Personalization 

“We’re experiencing requests, very clear requests, for a higher degree of personalization. And I think it’s probably led to the times that we’re going through. I think people are looking for the day that they will be able to pamper themselves again, to go on a small, long weekend break or whatever. And this goes in many respects. Everybody’s getting empathy, so everybody says now, ‘Give me something that is common. But that layer, that last layer of your product, I want it to be for me. I want it to be for my needs. I want it to be tailored for whatever I require.’

So the market now wants that flexibility. If you structure the architecture of the product offering, in our case through software, you can get that 80% commonality with only 20% of adaptability. That makes sense. And it’s proving to be fundamental for us.” – Victor Ruiz, Co-Founder & CEO, Lunna

Understanding the Role of Your Brand in Uncertain Times

“I think it was really interesting in the beginning. I remember being home and suddenly you saw all these heartfelt commercials about being in it together and every brand had a point of view. And you reflect, ‘Do I need to have a point of view?,’ ‘When is it right for a brand to have a point of view?,’ ‘What do the consumers want from these brands?,’ ‘What’s our role in this world?’

So it became a bit esoteric in a way of what our role is as brands. Is it more than just product? And I think we’ve shifted away from some of that, from hearing brand messaging on that, unless it’s super relevant, but it certainly was very prevalent in the beginning.” – Rachel Sexton, Innovation & Strategy Director, Vitamins Minerals and Supplements, RB

Streamlining Brand Purpose to Stay Relevant 

“…One of the things we set up this year was an online snacking shop called, and basically that enables consumers to buy their favorite Frito-Lay Pepsi products straight from us. And because the interaction and the personalization was huge in terms of what consumers were looking for, we added things at Christmas, like sweaters from Frito and Cheetos. Just to add a little bit of joy and humor into what has become, for many of us, a very dull routine at times.

I mean, that’s all we can promise as our brands. We don’t promise to save the world. But we do know that we can add a little bit of joy into a challenging year for consumers. And some of those were nice ways of bringing it together. And finally, I think we have pivoted and been more agile than we ever have been in our company’s history.” – Ciara Dilley, Vice President of Transform Brands, PepsiCo

Accelerating Product Launches in a Rapidly Growing Market

“What we realized, and what the market realized very fast was, ‘Hey, we’re not training with the right form factor. We are training with little phones, we’re training with iPads, with televisions, but there is no correction in the move.’ So initially we went from, ‘Let’s wait and see’ to, ‘We’re more expensive than an impulse app in which I pay a few dollars every month for and I get no further commitment’ to, ‘Okay, now we have to invest in a smart mirror or any other at-home device to keep the health of the family.’ And that for us dictated very much the brand positioning in the sense that we needed to be for a family.

…The market now is asking the right questions that we want to hear, and the mentality has drifted in that sense.” – Victor Ruiz, Co-Founder & CEO, Lunna

Pivoting Seasonal Brands to Everyday Brands

“What we’ve seen is a real desire to take care of health and wellness, and the tie of immunity to that health and wellness, all year round. And historically, Airborne really wasn’t that brand that they turned to for those occasions. But those occasions significantly increased with Airborne as a brand they trust. It was a real moment in time for us, where we already were thinking about ‘How do we make Airborne more everyday?’

…’How do we create more accessible solutions that are enjoyable to take every day? That are fun to take every day?’ And we really pivoted more into what we call the everyday health and wellness set, and offerings with ingredients that consumers were looking for and demanding, like zinc and vitamin D. So we accelerated our pipeline to make sure that we were creating products that would address consumers’ everyday needs with the ingredients that they were actively looking for during these times.” – Rachel Sexton, Innovation & Strategy Director, Vitamins Minerals and Supplements, RB

Harnessing Empathy as an Essential Part of Lasting Strategies

“I think the theme of empathy and how leaders can show up with more empathy has been simmering there for a while. But my goodness, as you said Rachel, this year more than ever, I think it has been needed. And I actually think it’s helped leaders to be more vulnerable and go, ‘Empathy is a really, really important part of leadership.’ I would argue it’s the most important part because I see with my team, the more empathetic I am, the more in touch I am with what’s going on in their real lives or in their jobs, the more they feel valued, the harder they work and the better work that they do.

The hope for me is that sense of as human beings, how do we look after ourselves and how do we look after the world? And as business leaders, how do we harness our resources to make a longer lasting difference? That’s been huge, particularly even in the last few months, I’ve seen it grow and grow in our organization.” – Ciara Dilley, Vice President of Transform Brands, PepsiCo

Fostering Courageous Leadership by Resisting Burnout

“I definitely realized that I had to start to block out times for me or for my family. And I needed to share that with my team. I’m very open with my team when I say, ‘No meetings before 9:00 AM. I’m not doing them.’

And because this is my workout time or drop the kids off time or have breakfast with the kids time. My four to five is homework time because I have two boys who don’t like to do homework. So somebody has to watch what they’re asked. And I put it openly in my schedule and I think that helps us register with the empathy of people seeing, ‘Well, if she’s doing that, then I can do that.’

The mental stress is stronger than it ever was. So the need for that downtime is more important than ever. So no weekend emails, no work connections. And they sound so basic, don’t they? But I think, as leaders, doing those have been big pivots for a lot of us. And even more importantly, openly sharing them.” – Ciara Dilley, Vice President of Transform Brands, PepsiCo

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