Reckitt Benckiser on its ‘challenging’ digital transformation journey

The FMCG giant admits it had “got stuck” in traditional touchpoints such as packaging and in-store point-of-sale, but a focus on analytics and getting agencies and team members to push the agenda has helped drive the business forward.

Successfully driving digital change comes down to providing data-driven evidence, developing great agency partnerships, and creating a shared ambition with both senior people and peers according to Reckitt Benckiser’s (RB) global director of design, user & brand experience, Stephanie Verschoor.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing this week, she discussed the sometimes “challenging” journey she has had driving digital transformation at the FMCG giant.

Vershoor has been at the company for 10 years and is responsible for design vision, brand and product experience, visual appearance and market proposition for RB’s brands including Dettol, Veet and Nurofen. She has been driving a more digital strategy but said it has been a difficult process to convince those inside RB to focus less on offline and more on digital brand experience.

She explained: “When people are good at what they do they are less keen to change. We were stuck in the traditional touchpoints – packing, product experience, in-store – and we knew that as a team if we wanted to drive growth and value we couldn’t stay there.

“Brand experience is internal and external and you need to have a lot of clarity and push. If you want to drive transformation on top of every day [plans] you need to find budget, time and partners who can do the thinking for you.”

For Vershoor this meant finding partners both inside and outside the company that were committed to change. On the agency front, that has meant working with partners that are “ahead of the curve”.

“You need to find agencies that are ahead of the curve and know more than you. If you try to do everything from within, the path to transformation will be incredibly slow,” she said. “You also have to be transparent about what you want. But if you have an agency that just talks about money all the time versus strategy it’s very annoying.”

Internally, Vershoor has focused on finding sponsors to push the transformation agenda. And that is both at senior level but also within the brand teams.

“When doing this kind of change you must make sure you find the people who are behind you. That is not just at board level but also to take your all team with you because you need them to be your ambassadors,” she said.

Another aspect that has been critical is proving the business case for digital transformation.

“A key breakthrough was when we could quantify the impact of brand experience and design. We could list exactly what are the key touchpoints that matter for the consumer, how are we investing in those, what is the ROI. When you have it on one slide you can see above-the-line isn’t even in the top five.”

The success of her team has led to RB installing design studios in its offices around the world. “These studios will help us. On the front line, you need to connect with the consumers and you can’t do that from an HQ because you’re in an ivory tower,” she concluded.

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