Nestlé CMO: ‘We never dissociate marketing from sales’

Global CMO Aude Gandon explains how Nestlé is ensuring its marketing function is set up to meet new challenges in ecommerce, data and sustainability.  

Like any number of businesses over the last year, Nestlé, the food company behind brands including KitKat, San Pellegrino and Cheerios, saw its ecommerce sales soar as lockdowns around the world kept physical shops closed.

In fact, by the end of 2020 almost a third (30%) of Nestlé’s sales were online, a level of ecommerce the brand hadn’t expected to reach until 2025.

According to Aude Gandon, who joined Nestlé in July 2020 as its first global CMO, the business’s ability to meet that accelerated demand was in part a function of the “very close relationship” between marketing and sales.

For Nestlé, the global sales operation and global marketing operation fall under one team and organisation, she said during the Festival of Marketing: Fast Forward last week (10 June).

“That really helps us to be able to accelerate when we need to,” she added.

The relationship between marketing and sales within brands is typically characterised by a healthy tension, with the latter pushing to drive conversion in the short term while marketers look to build brand equity in the long term.Why there is ‘no excuse for misalignment’ between marketing and sales

In 2018, EE’s then managing director of marketing, Max Taylor, claimed his close working relationship with the business’s managing director of channels and trading, Ettienne Brandt, was crucial in helping the business to navigate tougher economic conditions.

The pair told Marketing Week they asked to have the same objectives to ensure they were aligned on what is right for the customer, the staff and also how best to hit the commercial priorities of the business.

Other businesses to have experimented with bringing sales and marketing together include Pizza Hut, Thomson Holidays and TUI. For the most part, however, businesses tend to treat them as separate teams with separate objectives.

However, at Nestlé, Gandon worked with the business’s global sales lead on writing the brand’s plans and ambitions from a marketing perspective.

“We never dissociate marketing from sales,” she said.

Tools and training across data and sustainability

Gandon also advocated the importance of providing marketers with the right processes and tools to support them through changes and evolutions in the marketplace. Nestlé invests “a lot” into capability building and training, she said.

“Sometimes there’s a feeling of lagging behind. A good marketer is a marketer who is always willing to continue to learn and to evolve,” Gandon added.

“The practice is evolving constantly because the world is evolving around us and marketing teams are the window to the world for companies, so it’s very important to keep this curiosity and this openness to evolve.”

On adapting to the death of the third-party cookie and evolving Nestlé’s data practices, Gandon said she has put together a new vision and roadmap since joining the business on how to accelerate the marketing team’s capabilities with first- and second-party data.

At one point there was so much focus on digital that sometimes we forgot the fundamentals of marketing.

Aude Gandon, Nestlé

“We need the right tools and the right infrastructure to be able to meet the challenge of the acceleration of first-party data acquisition and the usage of this first-party data,” she said.

Gandon said Nestlé is also working with agency partners and platforms such as Google and Facebook to ensure it has the right set up to enable marketers around the world to gather, access and use data. Meanwhile, the business is continuing to develop and scale up partnerships to ensure it has access to the second-party data it needs.

On sustainability, Nestlé runs regular training so every employee can understand what it means to tackle the various challenges, such as plastic and packaging, and how to “read the numbers”, Gandon said.

Marketing teams are the window to the world for companies, so it’s very important to keep this curiosity and this openness to evolve.

Aude Gandon, Nestlé

“It’s especially important today because there’s some greenwashing, so we want to make sure everyone in the company really understands what it means to become carbon neutral and what the different ways to go about it are.”

Making a concerted effort to become a sustainable business and bringing all employees into that conversation will be essential in retaining and recruiting talent in future, she added.

“Everybody wants to be part of the transformation, so its key to retain talent and its key to attract talent. Especially the younger generation, the millennials and Gen Z. That’s going to be key component of how they’re going to make a choice to choose a company,” she said.

Get the basics right

Asked whether marketing was likely to become more central to businesses in future, Gandon replied “absolutely”, adding, “I think marketing is really at the core”.

“It’s sales, it’s data, which have an impact on everything,” she said. “If you have the right data you can inform your production line, for example, because you can very quickly understand what products your consumers are more interested in. It can have an impact on what your factory is going to produce more or less of.”

However, with the shift towards digital, Gandon said she had felt in the past like the fundamentals of marketing had been “forgotten”.

“At one point there was so much focus on digital that sometimes we forgot the fundamentals of marketing. Understanding your brand, having a very clear strategy, understanding who your consumer is, understanding your category and your competition. Get the basics right,” she advised.