General Mills CMO Talks Growth, Sustainability

In today’s tough economy, when food companies are battling escalating ingredient costs, heavily scrutinized marketing practices and fluctuating stocks, General Mills is driving growth with a business model that includes marketing at its core.
Mark Addicks, CMO and svp of General Mills, revealed what those strategies were during a speech this morning at the Association of National Advertisers’ conference in Orlando, Fla. Addicks credited “leadership, scale and leverage” as the three factors fueling General Mill’s brand portfolio in an unstable food business.
“We believe that brands can nourish life, make them simpler and easier and healthier,” Addicks told an audience of approximately 1,200 attendees. “Why are we growing? We’re focused not just on growing our brands, but on outgrowing the category,” he said.
Leadership, Addicks said, calls for a focus on brand leadership. This involves knowing the brand’s “champion” or targeting consumer needs and streamlining current and future marketing initiatives to meet those needs.
As an example, Addicks related the case study of how General Mills refined its Fruit by the Foot brand after an ethnography exercise conducted with one such brand champion. While an off-camera voice interviewed a mom, her eight-year-old son Josh toyed with the drawstrings on his pants to see how far he could stretch the strings. (He got as far as the back of the ear and his kneecap.) The insight prompted General Mills to take action with a new campaign that showed kids and teens doing street tricks with the popular fruit snack (namely the “zig zag,” “wave” and “the zipper”).