Why GSK has created a cross-functional team to ‘future-proof’ its brands

GSK Consumer Healthcare’s CMO Tamara Rogers believes there are “too many” siloes within organisations today, as she works on building collaborative and agile teams.

GSK Consumer Healthcare is on a mission to break down silos within its organisation, using a central cross-functional team to ensure its brands remain “future-proof” and connected to the business’s core purpose of improving human life.

Speaking during the Institute for Real Growth’s ‘Humanising Growth’ series today (3 December), GSK’s global CMO Tamara Rogers said brands in the pharmaceutical company’s portfolio collaborate with this team to ensure they deliver messages “with humanity”, and not “for humanity”.

“We have an internal agency team with real marketing experts that work with our brand teams whenever they want to do a refresh in ‘brand heart’,” said Rogers.

“When we want to modernise them [brands], that team comes in, works with the brand team, and helps make sure we’re continually future-proofing our brands. We’re very excited about this opportunity to infuse humanity into the brands and into the teams.”

Cold and flu brand Theraflu, which is marketed as Beechams in the UK, is one brand to go through major changes under this new team dynamic.
GSK unveils purpose-driven strategy as it moves away from functional messagingFormerly positioned as a medicine to help people “power through” when they feel ill, GSK recognised this message was “massively tone deaf” as the world entered lockdowns at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

The purpose of the brand therefore shifted towards fighting for a “flu safe world”, with additional work around inclusivity, Rogers said. The US-based Theraflu team created a $150,000 grant programme to help cover lost wages from 1,000 unpaid sick days during cold and flu season, for those people who do not get sick pay benefits from their employers.

“Each brand has taken the chance to step back and find their centre. Because you can’t have a purpose that doesn’t align to your brand values and the values of your target audience,” she said.

Too many silos

GSK’s chief marketing role has “expanded” over the years into one that aids in “joining dots and pulling teams together”, as there are “too many silos” within the business, Rogers added.

Each brand has taken the chance to step back and find their centre. Because you can’t have a purpose that doesn’t align to your brand values and the values of your target audience.

Tamara Rogers, GSK Consumer Healthcare

“One of our big learnings was that we’ve taken a step back. There are too many silos in organisations today, which was the design 10 to 20 years ago.

“Now it’s about collaborative teams, agile working, bringing in the right ingredients into the team at the moment that you need them. And so we’re now trying to think about how we can break down some of the silos and get the teams working together.”

The Voltaren design team has particularly benefitted from cross-functional working, Rogers said, which resulted in the brand winning multiple design awards for its ‘Easy To Open Cap’, which was designed to make the product more accessible to people suffering with joint pain.

The chief marketing officer explained that GSK’s marketing teams are now looking at customer experience from beginning to end, not just from the product and advertising angles, to yield greater customer satisfaction.

“We’re thinking more about how we are designing the experiences that a consumer has along their health journey, and where we then make sure we’re doubling down so that health journey helps them get to a better outcome,” she said.

“But it requires this cross-functional group to really come together, because experience is everything. From flipping open the cap of Voltaren and how you apply it, all the way through to buying it in-store and experiencing content online from Voltaren’s at-home exercise programme.”