An interview with Laura Stürmer,
Brand Manager at Kimberly Clark
In our fourth interview series chat, we explore why marketers should be excited about ChatGPT (if you haven't tried it, you need to), where Laura Stürmer believes marketers struggle to invest to see long-term investments and the role a dynamic environment plays in creativity.
1. Introduce yourself and tell me a little bit more about your role.
I am responsible for managing Huggies in Canada. My responsibilities include creating and executing the brand operating plan and all commercial programs as well as managing the delivery of annual business objectives.
2. Describe how you feel marketing has changed over the past year.
It is not news that consumers have an abundance of brands they can pick from. However, with the recession and inflation, they are being more selective with their spending. When buying they are achieving a couple of things: they are selecting the best products to solve their pain point, choosing brands that have a purpose aligned with what they believe, and aiming to experience a better state of mind after consuming the brand.
With so many brands to choose from, every step in the consumer journey counts and can either lead to repurchasing or leaving the brand forever. You can have the best product but if your communication strategy fails and you make a mistake, in a few hours you can face backlash on social media. If your customer service team is slow to respond or does not solve their issues, you risk losing loyal customers.
The past year taught us that every step on the consumer journey matters and this requires marketers to have a holistic view, work with multiple teams and be more agile in the face of dynamic environments.
3. In what ways do you feel teams have changed over the past year? How do you ensure collaboration and connection with your team and amongst your organization?
To face this highly competitive and very dynamic environment, teams have become more agile. We have seen more organizations implementing new ways of working. They do this either by formally implementing methodologies like Scrum or by approaching things differently, taking more risks, and doing more tests and learning.
As well, culture has never been so important as it is today and managers need to ensure they're aligned with the same values in order to succeed.
4. From your POV, what are some of the biggest challenges senior marketers face today?
Digital channels continue to outgrow the spending versus traditional channels and with this comes better capabilities to measure the efforts, which is great. But on the other side, the focus on measurement and results tends to pressure marketing departments to prioritize higher ROI initiatives. Those tend to be more bottom-funnel initiatives that can have a great impact on short-term sales however, to build long-term brands you still need a balance of mid to top-funnel media tactics which tend to have a lower ROI. Successful brands are those who make smart decisions, they optimize investments based on ROI but also take into consideration the long-term strategy and the role of awareness tactics.
5. What are 3 tips you have to get fresh ideas out of brainstorms and avoid stale thinking?
FIRST: Challenge yourself and your team to continuously learn
Any professional field today has become extremely dynamic with constant innovation in the tools, methodologies, or ways of thinking. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to go back to school every year, but making sure knowledge is shared within your team through meetings, seminars, store visits or reading suggestions is critical for getting fresh ideas. It’s a way to constantly “exercise” your brain to learn what’s new out there.
SECOND: Have diversified teams in the discussion
Different areas and backgrounds allow members to bring their unique perspectives and help build new ideas.
THIRD: Allow everyone to ask “why.”
You can have a great diverse team with knowledge, but if they are not empowered to challenge current ideas and ask "why," stale thinking will be unavoidable.
6. How important do you feel creativity is as a soft skill?
In a dynamic environment, no matter if you work in Marketing or any other area, creativity is extremely important. It is the ability to look at the current process and propose an improvement. It allows you to think about a problem and come up with different solutions. Different levels of creativity are required depending on what you do, but even in more entry-level and administrative work, I still see creativity as an important skill because it allows you to challenge the status quo and propose improvements
7. What do you feel is most difficult for organizations and why:
a. Identifying and prioritizing problems to solve
b. Generating and selecting top ideas/initiatives to pursue
c. Actioning on ideas
It depends on the size and stage of the company. I have worked in large companies that faced challenges in acting on ideas. They were able to identify the problems and even generate ideas, but hierarchy, the level of approvals and the risk-averse culture prevented action (at least in a timely way). I have also had the experience of working with smaller startups and I noticed that their challenge was often identifying and prioritizing the problems to solve. At the beginning stage of growth, there are many processes to be built and the teams are still fairly small and often struggle to focus and prioritize what the main problem to address is.
8. What are you excited most about for 2023?
I am passionate about technology and new tools. We have experienced the implementation of chatbots and artificial intelligence across lots of areas in the past few years. Recently, I have been using ChatGPT and other trained conversational AI models and I am beyond impressed with their capabilities. I am curious about how these new technologies will continue to be deployed to disrupt marketing in the short term. They can help us optimize campaign investment, write content marketing pieces, or even handle consumer inquiries and social media discussions.
Here at The Garden, we couldn't agree more with Stürmer's snapshot of the industry. Some of the concepts she talks about – from consumer journeys to challenging teams to continuously asking "why" – inspired our brand new training program ThinkShop. This program offers ways for marketers to upskill their teams and a toolkit for idea generation. Feel free to reach out to ask any questions and let us know if you'd be interested in being featured in our next interview.