Leadership through the eyes of the millennial
The Emerson Group’s Matt Poli spoke with a panel of millennials, rising stars in their respective fields, to explore what makes millennials tick.
Much has been written about millennials. But what’s really on their minds? How can marketers and retailers appeal to their preferences? To help get a better look, The Emerson Group’s VP marketing, Matt Poli, gathered a panel of rising young stars in their respective fields to explore what makes millennials tick.
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“There are many perceptions,” Poli said. “Our objective is to look through the lens of millennials.”
The panel — which included Bethany Edwards, the co-founder and CEO of LIA Diagnostics; Jason Loomis, director of paid media at VaynerMedia; Stephanie Ramirez, senior manager of social media for FLAMA, a division of Univision that targets Hispanic millennials; and Anne Cashman, a brand manager at Johnson & Johnson/McNeil Consumer Healthcare — explored how millennials are setting themselves apart from previous generations, and what motivates them.
“We haven’t seen as dynamic an environment as we see today,” Poli said, noting that there are no longer characteristics specific to a drug store or a discount store. Prescriptions can be procured at a discount store and a sandwich at a drug store. “And you can use your phone to dial up whatever you want from Amazon and have it waiting before you get home. We are competing for the consumer’s attention,” he said.
That’s why understanding the consumer is more important than ever. Looking across multiple generations and ethnic groups, it is important to take note of the briskly growing Hispanic population, which is pegged to hit 58 million in the next five to 10 years.
But millennials have become the largest demographic in the United States, some 77 million strong. These new shoppers are directing how products go to market today. “Thirty-second TV spots on primetime are no longer the norm,” Poli said. “You have to capture their attention.”
Working for a larger company, J&J’s Cashman said her firm must strike the proper balance to manage its multi-generational workforce. “The opportunity came up to better connect the generations, and we piloted a program of mentors and mentees,” she said. The goal was to uncover better ways to communicate across the organization. “What I got out of it was that my organization is listening, and we rolled out a program to reach all levels so everyone’s voice can be heard.”
Speaking for the media side, Loomis pulled back the curtain on reasons why VaynerMedia is one of the fastest-growing marketing firms in the business. CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, Loomis explained, considers himself the head human resources employee. “He hires people on talent and culture, and if you have both, he is going to find a role where you will over-index,” Loomis said. Investment in talent comes right from the top, and employees are treated as partners who share the vision. “He meets with every new hire that comes through the door to make sure they are connected and invested,” Loomis said.
A strong example of the “cause-driven” purpose that fuels many millennial professionals, Edward’s company, LIA Diagnostics, is working to bring an eco-friendly, flushable pregnancy test to market. “This is something my team and I are creating because it must exist in this world,” she said.
Zeroing in on Hispanic millennials, Ramirez talked about what Univision is doing to reach a younger audience. “We know the younger audience isn’t speaking Spanish,” she said. While they may at home, at school and in other settings, they don’t in school or in social life, and that differs from the Univision model.
“We are a startup at Univision — a small team within a big organization. We are creating content for millennials by millennials. We are [like] a rebellious child. We don’t listen to the rules,” she said. Univision has allowed the FLAMA team to forge its own path and, based on the results, the strategy appears to be working.
The importance of taking a chance was once again underscored when J&J’s Cashman talked about a risky move of her own, when she jumped from the company’s steady skin care business to the McNeil Consumer Healthcare divison, at a time when the company was facing some serious challenges when several of its leading brands, including Tylenol and others, were forced to temporarily exit the market. Among the key reasons she decided to take the dive was the respect she had for those who were working to help McNeil rebuild. “I felt I had a greater purpose and the challenge to be part of a bigger cause,” she said. “It helped me become who I want to be as a leader.
Why disruption isn’t always a bad thing
CPG executives discussed the best way to fight off disruption during at a panel discussion moderated by Dan Mack, executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, at the Future Leaders Summit.
One of the biggest challenges facing companies in the last several years has been the near-constant rate of business disruption. Changing consumer attitudes and delivery methods are upending countless industry sectors and businesses. A recent panel discussion of CPG executives — including Ansell VP marketing North America Carol Carrozza, Paris Presents chief customer officer Bob Wiltz, GSK Consumer Health Care chief customer officer Dennis Curran and Blistex VP U.S. and Canada Kevin Brunory — outlined how their companies are adapting to the new normal of constant change and upheaval.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
“Every five to seven years, industries get flipped,” explained moderator Dan Mack, founder and executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, setting the table for the discussion. “You have to be really good at facing challenges; you have to love reinventing yourself.”
For Ansell, since its target audience tends to shift every several years, the company is constantly spurred to innovate in the categories they compete in. “I deal with so much of this [because] every five to seven years my customer ages out, so I constantly have to reinvent and rethink,” Carrozza said.
According to Carrozza, the changing CPG landscape allows not just for new solutions, but also creates the opportunity to reinvent and retry programs and initiatives that may have been unsuccessful in the past, as technology and con sumer attitudes change. “One of the things that I’ve discovered … is that what didn’t work 15 years ago may work today,” she said. Carrozza pointed to Ansell’s recent launch of an e-commerce site for its condom business, which previously hadn’t taken off, given that most purchases in the space were what she called “distress purchases,” made at the last minute in a brick-and-mortar store. Now, though, e-commerce has been “magnificently successful” for the brand, she said.
One of the key ways companies can stay ahead of disruption — as their competitors fall behind — is by anticipating future shopper attitudes and needs.
“We’re actually spending a lot of time thinking about what 2025 looks like from a portfolio perspective, where we should be playing, any of the emerging trends,” GSK’s Curran said. “We’re [testing a lot of] different technologies to figure out how we can better [engage] with consumers, and we’re trying to fast-track them.”
Besides the consumer-facing parts of an organization, Curran noted that looking to the future also means changing the way that organizations develop talent internally.
“As I look at the organization and think about talent in the future, for a sales organization, I think the days of just being a good sales person are over,” Curran said. “I would tell you becoming a general manager and having an understanding of all the functions — and a somewhat deep understanding, not to be the expert, but to understand what makes them tick — is really important. The other element is collaboration, not just across your internal organization, but how we’re partnering with our retail partners.”
Growing amid constant disruption also can mean understanding what is working with current practices and building on that, while also building a new generation of talent that contributes to a business’ ability to adapt by fostering growth among employees who show promise.
“When I think about disruption, … the first challenge is ‘What do I believe is my competitive advantage?’” said Paris Presents’ Wiltz. “I break that down and ask ‘What’s rare, valuable, sustainable [and] can’t easily be replicated?’”
According to Wiltz, that typically boils down to two factors — technology and people. “On the people side, [you have to ask yourself,] ‘Who are my high potentials?’ First I want to align with their career plans. … The second thing is to make sure that I’m investing in them, surrounding them with other high potentials and always make myself available to them.”
And though much of the discussion revolved around how to avoid disruption, Blistex’s Brunory said that his company is embracing it and looking to bring its own bit of “positive disruption.”
“Any time you’re asking someone to do something they’re not used to doing, … it’s disruptive. … Disruption [is] really not a bad word,” he said. According to Brunory, Blistex spends a lot of time trying to make positive disruption happen. “You’ve got to find a way to build positive disruption so that it creates momentum that you can use to build new best practices. As we create new ways to do things and we solve issues together, we seek ways within a business planning cycle — quietly on our own and then with our partners — to find a way to ask ‘What’s the next area of momentum for our categories and for our business relationships?’ Positive disruption is what fuels the innovation that makes growth happen.”
Can your company pass the EQ test?
CPG executives each discussed their companies’ efforts to recruit and develop high emotional intelligence during a panel discussion moderated by Dan Mack, executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, at the Future Leaders Summit.
For a sales and marketing team operating in the retail space to be truly successful today, team members need to have a high EQ — the emotional equivalent to IQ.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
That was the key takeaway from a panel discussion among leading CPG executives — including, Todd Hutsko, VP sales at Fleet Labs; Nick Rini, VP global sales at i-Health; Kevin Garvey, director of sales for the Target team at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare; and Andrew Archambault, chief customer officer at U.S. Nutrition-NBTY — about what their companies are doing both to recruit and develop high emotional intelligence in their organizations.
“The data is wildly telling. People who demonstrate high emotional intelligence have a 58% higher success rate in every job there is — high tech, medicine, everything. It’s that powerful,” noted Mack Elevation Forum executive director Dan Mack and co-host and moderator of the May 24 Future Leaders Summit.
“One of the things I look for in people to join our team, is how much they talk about their performance in terms of what they did with others versus how much they talk about what they know,” said U.S. Nutrition’s Archambault.
For Pfizer Consumer Healthcare’s Garvey, “it all comes back to interest and passion,” he said. “That’s when you link it all together, when you connect those basic business competencies that we all have with energizing someone [around] purpose, passion and interest.”
“The most important thing is someone who has a passion for continuous improvement,” added Fleet’s Hutsko. “Someone willing to listen, willing to ask questions, willing to not have the answers; someone who wants to be better, wants to do what it takes. What’s going to stop [my] team from being the best it can be? That’s me. What can I do to support them and help make them better? [EQ] is the multiplier. Twenty-five percent of your success comes from IQ, 75%[comes from] EQ.”
Turning the lens inward, Mack asked the panel the types of EQ-related leadership skills that they are trying to develop within themselves.
“We have a saying within the team: ‘Feedback is a gift — both good and bad,’” said i-Health’s Rini. “Real-time feedback is critically important. So not only praise what we do well, but more importantly, what is it that we need to work on. … That goes all the way up the organization; in our organization, rank doesn’t have a privilege.”
At Fleet, not only do titles and roles not carry any special privilege, the company has done away with conventional business titles altogether. “We don’t use roles in our organization, and that’s really important because now I’ve got five coaches on my leadership team instead of five direct reports,” Hutsko explained.
In fact for Fleet, EQ has become synonymous with company culture. “If you have high EQ and you’re not worried about a title, and you’re very focused with a purpose — everyone’s rowing in the same direction — EQ is just an abbreviation for good culture,” Hutsko said.
Archambault believes he was fortunate enough to have mentors who put him in a number of different roles early on in his career to help him “understand the things you don’t know,” have the freedom to fail and to learn from it.
“The other piece [is], you’ve got to be really comfortable putting people on your team who are very different from you,” he added. Borrowing a lesson from famed hockey coach Herb Brooks, who led the 1980 U.S. “Miracle” Olympic team to gold, “I’m not looking for the best ones, I’m looking for the right ones,” Archambault said.
According to Garvey, at Pfizer there are really three critical factors that help foster happiness and create work-life balance for people at the company.
“The first is my job — what I’m doing,” Garvey said. “Does it provide meaning for me or drive something creative in my soul? Meaning and creativity are main drivers for us. The second — and this plays even more so with millennials — it’s relationships, interconnectivity with people. We all have individual jobs, but we can’t do them alone. And the final thing is — and I’m passionate about this — that work is going to change; life is going to change, we’re all going to have different challenges that affect us. But it all comes back to an EQ skill — being able to choose your attitude.”