The NOW Gen

Brand Strategy

Brands and Globalization: How to Conquer New Markets

In this episode, our host Francisco Serrano talked to Alexandre Ronsin. They discussed globalization, culture adaptation, and brand identity. Listen to hear their valuable insights.

Guest

Alexandre Ronsin

Transcript

Francisco Serrano (01:04)

Hello and welcome back again to the NOW Gen podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about how brands tackle globalization and how do they conquer new brands and new markets. And for that, I have a very special guest today. His name is Alexandre Ronsin. He is a well-seasoned executive with a lot of experience managing brands, not only in the Americas, he was head of Ferrero Mexico, of the Ferrero Rocher brand, and also in Luxemburg in Europe and also in the middle east market. So I think he has a lot to talk about this topic. And he’s now the head, the general manager of Korea and Japan for the Ferrero company. So welcome, Alex. Very glad to have you here today.

Alexandre Ronsin (02:03):

Glad to meet you, Francisco. It’s really a pleasure for me to be here today.

Francisco Serrano (02:07):

Oh, I’m very excited. We were talking offline about the importance of the markets right now, right. You know, brands not only in the food and beverage category are looking at making sure that their equity and their value proposition adapts to the different markets. Right. So, it’s gonna be interesting and gather your perspective because, you know, the Americas, Europe, Middle East is just one small place now, it’s interconnected, and things, you know, are going to be important to differentiate for brands if you want to conquer markets. But before we jump into that, I wanted to ask if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re at right now, where you’re coming from, so that people get to know you better Mr. Ronsin.

Alexandre Ronsin (03:07):

So to make a long story short. I started my career in Mexico, 14 years ago, with Ferrero. First managing a brand, as you were mentioning, I was in charge of Ferrero Rocher, the premium portfolio, and then I took over the Trade Marketing management department. I was in charge in 2012, and then after four years, I joined the headquarters in Luxembourg where I was in charge of commercial transformational projects, for the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. Then I took over, as the head of distributor management and commercial excellence for the Middle East, Africa, China, India, and Turkey. And I recently joined Korea and Japan market as a general manager since September 2021. So I’ve been traveling a bit across the globe seeing different, perspectives, but also a lot of commonalities between geographies. You know, now we believe that every country is unique and specific, but we see also as well that there are plenty of things that are extremely common now to see across countries, and generations, and it’s quite interesting. So you can see either something extremely different or extremely similar despite the culture, despite the – how can I say – despite the society, despite the industry, despite the retail landscape.

Francisco Serrano (04:47):

Yeah. And I mean, I will stop a moment and ask you, how does it feel to work for a brand such as important as Ferrero Rocher that, because personally, I love them. I just can’t eat just one of them. I have to have like one and two and three. And when I see the relationship that the brand has, I mean, I remember when I was growing up, Luis Miguel was there and who doesn’t love Luis Miguel. I mean, he’s just an icon. What’s your experience managing a premium market and, in different, with the different competition and everything is happening so fast, and you need to accomplish certain volume and certain, I know what is your experience working with that kind of brand?

Alexandre Ronsin (05:43):

Well, first of all, I think, there are a couple of industries that despite crisis, on a crisis will always be successful and food and beverage is one of them. This is also one luxury that we have in this industry. Then second, regarding products like our brand that are premium, high-quality standards. People are looking for that. And it’s not a trend that is new, it is something that has been there for ages. And, I’m sure will be there again in the future. Also, people are really looking for value for money, making sure they’re getting the best out of the money they are spending in the market. And thank God, we have brands that are extremely strong, extremely solid, and of high-quality standards. So it is always, at least in my experience, something much more valuable to do, and to manage. And the reason I’m always extremely grateful, you know, is to see how we are making people happy, and spending good moments with our family, or pampering themselves, or gifting, or celebrating, or rewarding people with our products.

Francisco Serrano (06:56):

Yes. And, and I see, I mean, I grew the, you know, the Western culture of you know, consumption and having that chocolate, is that different in where you’re at in the Eastern, you know, in the Eastern market.

Alexandre Ronsin (07:14):

What is probably different is the size of the consumption. If you talk about European markets, for example, you have an average consumption per capita which can vary from one to six kilos per year. Based on what I remember in Mexico, at the time, the consumption was kind of 100 – 150 grams, per capita. And in Asia, depending on the market can vary from 50 to 200, 300, or 500 grams. So what is really changing is the size of the consumption. What is common is the celebration in the sense that people like to celebrate, people like to give gifts to their family, to their relatives, to their friends. And this is the same. Now we have, here in Asia, lots of celebrations that are unique, like Chinese new year, lunar new year, Middleton festival in China, Chuseok in Korea. And then you have Christmas in Europe, you have Christmas in Mexico, you have Valentine’s, that is quite transversal across the board. Now it’s in the U.S, it’s in Mexico, it’s in Japan. And then you have Ramadan in the Middle East. So all of these celebrations are key moments where we are acting as a strong player because of the gifting positioning we have. So, I would say that what really changes is the size of the consumption and the everyday consumption, but what is the same across, it’s all the seasonalities. 

Francisco Serrano (08:54):

Yeah. So, so we see time and time again, the equity of the product is the same is just, you need to adapt it to the different markets and the different festivities.

Alexandre Ronsin (09:05):

The really tricky key point is you need to find the local insights that make your product relevant and to find a way to enter and leverage on these local insights, without forgetting where you come from, without forgetting the DNA of your brand, the heritage of your brand and making successful leveraging on one specific local insight, to be relevant. This is the key I have seen in many brands, not only ours, I can name a few that I’ve seen also here in Asia. Brands like Nike, Adidas, have developed certain shoes that are unique for the Asian market, because, in Asia, people are used to remove their shoes when they enter in their houses, in their offices. So to make it simpler and more convenient for them, they developed a shoe without back, so people can put it and remove it quite easily in a convenient way. 

Alexandre Ronsin (10:04):

So in order to really be relevant for the local consumer, they have developed this unique model know, so you see the different styles of adaptation to the market. So either you find brands that have understood a local insight and develop a product accordingly, or you find another set of brands not changing anything to the recipe or to their positioning, or trying to find a way to anchor their brand to a local insight. So either you go and you tailor at the maximum level, or you find brands that have really, that are consistent to their positioning and they don’t adapt so they don’t change anything to their brand or brand positioning to be relevant located.

Francisco Serrano (10:53):

And now that you’re talking about adapting the brand, I always had the top of mind that the art of the packaging or the communication in the Middle East and, you know, Asian markets are a little bit different than the Western side. So, I know that some brands like Nike, you were mentioning, or, or even Ferrero has their own brand equity and identity, has that been a problem to, you know, to that you see like, oh, what is this ad from Nike, or what is this ad from Heineken it’s completely different than in the U.S.? And how does a brand owner, like adapt to this type of changes, or is just the same?

Alexandre Ronsin (11:39):

Uh, again, I think it depends brand by brand. As I was mentioning, you will find brands that have dedicated communication leveraging on specific insight, but developing ad-hoc, strategic ad-hoc communication to the market, and some that, that stick to their own positioning, to their DNA, and just trying to find local relevance. Which is the same in the pack type, you know, you see, different for certain ones you see a very different type of packaging, for example, in the case of food you find also much bigger packs in the Middle East because of the size of the consumption. No, you see big, big pack whilst in Asia. You tend to find a very small case count for self-consumption or for small gifting. So what is changing also is considering the size of the consumption, and the size of the packaging as well.

Alexandre Ronsin (12:39):

What is really, I found in my experience, what is really standing out is the detail for quality on packaging. All the gifting in China, in Korea, in Japan. So a couple of markets that I have visited are really putting a lot of attention to detail and quality for the packaging, really outstanding. Now, compared to what we can see in other geographies, you see an attention to detail to make sure that the gift that you are giving is really the best. The way is wrapped, the way, the color that you are using all the detail you put into wrapping the pack is really a culture. You find shops which their job is just to wrap the gift for you, but not like the normal ones we can see in other geographies, it is really unique. It’s an art, it’s part of the tradition, so really brings the gifting moments to a superior level really. So it’s, this is quite funny and quite different, but it’s very anchored to the, to the local culture once again.

Francisco Serrano (14:02):

Wow. I, you know, for me, I mean, I’ve never had the experience of managing a brand in the Eastern market. Right. But I would imagine that when I go as a consumer, I see this offering and it’s not the same as we find in Europe, but that portion of sharing and gifting, I’ve never, I mean, wow, I’m impressed about that.

Alexandre Ronsin (14:32):

Well, what you see as well is different flavors, brands like…

Francisco Serrano (14:40):

Hershey’s, Kit Kat.

Alexandre Ronsin (14:43):

Oreo, Kit Kat. Kit Kat for example, in Japan, they have developed very unique and adapted portfolio to the market to be relevant locally. Uh, they have more than, I’m not sure, more than 30 flavors that you just see in Japan.

Francisco Serrano (14:59):

Wow.

Alexandre Ronsin (15:02):

And flavors like matcha.

Francisco Serrano (15:05):

Yeah, Matcha. I’d tried that one.

Alexandre Ronsin (15:07):

Green tea. So very unique and tailored to the market, than sticking to their regular recipe and go with their regular taste and printing. No. So again, it depends on the brand strategy. I think both ways are correct. Um, as long as they’re matching your end goal in the market, and as long as you can be relevant or how much you are ready to be locally relevant, once again, it’s really,  a company decision to go to this direction. I don’t think there is one magic recipe. I think it depends on, uh, it depends on the brand. It depends on the product DNA, depends on the strength of your brands, and it depends on your ambition in the market. So there is no magic recipe in my plan. It’s just, there is one recipe that is good for you. What is the recipe that is good for you? The good point is that there are plenty of identities, if you are willing to, to make really ad hoc bespoke portfolio, you can, it is valid. If you want to stick to your brand DNA and do not change anything it’s valid. This is the good part in the end.

Francisco Serrano (16:35):

Yes. It’s impressive. How, like you were saying, right. The global brand director or whatever for, you know, Nestle and Kit Kat, has to say no flavors for the U.S. market, never matcha, or yes, let’s try, you know, I’ve sometimes seen, Hershey’s with piña colada flavors and all that just as a gimmick, you know, in Times Square. But I don’t know if that really pushes it. And, but I see in the, in the Eastern markets, it’s different. Right. So, from your experience, what would you say? I know that there’s no shortcut, but what would you say to a brand that wants to engage, you know, the Middle Eastern market and the Eastern market, where you’re participating at the moment, and what are the biggest challenges that you see a brand from your perspective has in order to succeed in this market?

Alexandre Ronsin (17:42):

Well, I think, the first one is really to understand your consumer and your shopper. This is, to me, the first thing to really understand the consumer journey, the shopper journey, and say, what are the drivers and barriers to consumption, to try to find some sweet spots where you could enter quite easily, you know, for example, there are certain applications in Asia, like WhatsApp, uh, called Kakao. And Kakao is an application. It’s a mix of Uber, WhatsApp, and Google. So, it’s a mix. It’s a super, it’s a superb application. You can, uh, you can ask for a taxi, for a driver, you can text people, you can send gifts to people straight from the application, from the chat. So, for brands that are focusing on gifting, it’s the perfect match. Now, this application is focused on gifting as well when it comes to e-commerce.

Alexandre Ronsin (18:52):

It’s the perfect match. And this is the kind of sweet spot that I think you need to find initially to enter in a smooth way, understanding where your brand can fit into the consumer journey. And if there are any retailer platforms where, on which you could leverage to make the journey a bit easier for you, but once understanding the consumer, you need to understand how you can be locally relevant. Um, I can give you some, some examples now that certain brands are trying to leverage on traditional food products in certain geographies, in order to associate the moment of consumption of their product together with the local product, you know, instead of trying to impose one moment of consumption only for your brands or your product, one way to do, uh, to do it is be associating to high consumption product locally relevant with local taste and printing to associate this moment of consumption to your, to your product.

Alexandre Ronsin (20:08):

This could be another way to do it in a, I would say in a smooth way, but everything will depend as well on your capabilities. Which type of brand are you, are you a global FMCG? Are you a local brand with a unique cyber fair that you want to explore to other geographies? Again, the approach would be different. So I think, uh, as I was mentioning, there is no one magic recipe. That is just one thing that is coming across the board, which is to say, you need to understand the consumer deeply and understand what, how you can become relevant to this person. And this is to me the, really the key point, then whatever strategy will put in place, there are plenty, there is not one direction. Every direction would be valid. As long as you are clear on what you want to achieve when it comes to become relevant locally. Do you want to address season and to generate equity via entering into a very intimate moment, which is the moment of gifting or seasonality? This could be another strategy. You don’t necessarily need to go immediately to everyday consumption. To leverage on seasonality is also a very smart way  to become locally relevant and generate penetration in a very unique moment, very intimate, very deeply culturally anchored into the society. So this is also one of the possible angles that you can have when you want to become stronger in a market that is not your, your core geography.

Francisco Serrano (21:50):

And coming just want to explore a little bit more knowing your customer, right? Because this podcast it’s about, you know, the NOW Gen, the instant gratification type of thing, you know, and, and I wanted to ask if you see, um, how do you call it, uh, an influence in the market driven by this instant gratification, like, you know, in the Western, you have the checkouts of the convenience stores and you have the gums and the chocolates, and, you know, and then you go and buy, or, you know, in that moment that you say, let’s do it, let’s push the moment and try to do the impulse buying instead of, uh, a more thought out, oh, I’m gonna go and buy that flower, or I’m gonna go buy that shoe. How do you see the Eastern market?

Alexandre Ronsin (22:47):

The Eastern market where, uh, I would say like many of the geographies in the world where the impulse channel is growing. So impulse together with eCommerce are the winning channel at the minute. And based on the forecast of retail experts, this would be the trend of the future. So extreme convenience. So this is really one of the, the key driver we are seeing, again, not only in Asia, it is something that we see also in America, that the winning channels are the channels that are bringing extreme convenience. Not only because of the convenience but also because in certain countries, you see, um, a shrinkage of households compared to the past where both in the couple are sometimes working. They don’t have time to spend or the willingness to spend in a, in a hypermarket for example. 

Alexandre Ronsin (23:42):

So, that’s why all the convenience channels are becoming more and more relevant because it is convenient because I don’t need to enter in the hypermarket, because in, in the household, we are only two. We have, uh, less kids, or we have no kids. So, all of this is really having an impact on the retail landscape and on the winning channel at the minute. Of course, COVID has exacerbated a bit the trend of extreme convenience, not spending time, not having too much contact, and, let’s say, uh, having more social distancing between people. So then, I would say that COVID  has really accelerated the strain of extreme convenience and impulse purchase.

Francisco Serrano (24:28):

Yeah. In, in talking about the point of eCommerce, because eCommerce it’s related directly with, you know, impulse buying and with convenience, like you’re saying, and the NOW Gen want things now. Oh, I want Ferrero, oh, I didn’t order anything. Boom, boom, boom. Do you see, I mean, all over the world, eCommerce is just growing rapidly in more countries than, more geographies than others. Do you see that market growing at the same pace than the Western world?

Alexandre Ronsin (25:03):

Uh, the eCommerce channel is growing at a faster pace than Europe, than in Europe, for example, in most of the countries in Europe, I would say. There are extremely big platforms. Now you have Alibaba in China. Uh, you have, Coupang in Korea. That is the, let’s say the Korean, Amazon, extremely developed, uh, growing doubling, being the number one, or forecasted to be the number one in the retail industry in Korea. In the future would be the only online player being the number one in the market, which is probably the case already of Alibaba in China. So the number one, there are not anymore the traditional brick and mortar, they are now the eCommerce platform. And because they’re bringing in a very convenient way, uh, huge assortment, typically at the price that is quite attractive, uh, that is saving you time. Now, for example, platforms like Coupang in Korea, if you order before 11:00 PM, you are delivered the day after, before 7:00 AM.

Alexandre Ronsin (26:13):

So overnight delivery, and, uh, it’s not the, let’s say the most. It’s not the most extreme it’s already extremely good. It’s called the rocket delivery system. So you order by 10:00 PM, and 7:00 AM you have the goods outside. But in, in China there are certain platforms called the, uh, delivery intermediates where you can order, uh, without mentioning brands, you can order soft drinks together with a chocolate, and you are delivered in Shanghai in 30 minutes in your office. So, uh, uh, this is really, if you speak about instant gratification, we are talking about instant gratification.

Francisco Serrano (27:01):

Wow. That’s, that’s, that’s a very, and why is, is it because you have the culture and the humans to make that happen with discipline and make it executable at the right time? Or it’s because the power consumption of the market is such that companies have to develop that if not, they’re dead, you know, what, what do you think? It, it has more weight.

Alexandre Ronsin (27:28):

I think it, it’s a mix of, uh, of things. Now, on one side, people probably having less time, trying to optimize that time between office transportation or in big cities mainly, or like Mexico City, for example, people have less time and to move around, it takes time. If you take the car, if you take the subway takes a lot of time. So there is a need to optimize the time. Uh, but there is also a need of impulse purchase, of pampering myself in a certain moment of the day to get energy or to reward myself for something I did, but I have no time. So platforms have really found this sweet spot to fulfill this need. You know, don’t worry, you don’t need to go down and walk, uh, to the Seven 11 or to the family market, uh, to, to purchase some goods.

Alexandre Ronsin (28:26):

You just order in the platform and it will deliver it to you in 30 minutes. So it’s a mix of a shopper’s need together with a business opportunity. Now, the big question in, in this, uh, in this model is the sustainability, the profitability of this model for those platforms because the key point is the delivery cost. And this is really the point where platforms are fighting, are suffering, because this cost of being, uh so fast, so agile in delivering those goods in a very, very short period of time, create a lot of tension in the P&L of those, uh, of those companies.

Francisco Serrano (29:09):

Yeah. I would imagine, I would imagine at the end, it’s like, yeah, you did your job. Yeah. But it’s, you, we have numbers that are not exactly what we wanted…

Alexandre Ronsin (29:19):

At the minute. Those companies are looking for market again. So at the minute it is okay. Now it is really to gain market, to own the market, uh, and not focusing too much on the bottom line, but at a certain moment at the big question is will they be sustainable enough, to continue with this kind of service in the future? This is the big question mark, in my opinion.

Francisco Serrano (29:46):

Okay. So we’re coming to the close of the, of the interview, Alex. I wanted to ask you before we leave, from your perspective, if somebody’s listening on the other side and, what would be your one takeaway of this interview to make sure that, from your point of view, what are the, the most important thing that they can take out of this interview?

Alexandre Ronsin (30:15):

I think first of all is really to be, uh, to be open to new things. If you want to be internationally or locally relevant, you need to be open. You need to be pragmatic as well, uh, and less dogmatic. Um, because if not, you might face a lot of challenges. This is one thing. The second one is that you need to really, understand to who you are speaking with. You need, if you want to be successful, you need to be locally relevant. Do you have something unique to be locally relevant? This is the next question. Second question is, do you need to adapt? Or you can stick to your brand DNA, or product DNA, to be successful. This is another one. And last one is really that there is no one single magic recipe to be locally relevant and to be successful.

Alexandre Ronsin (31:06):

We have seen plenty of examples in different industries, of brands going to the extreme customization to be locally relevant. And some others that have stuck to their principle brand guidelines, brand framework, in order to be successful as well. So, again, there is no one magic recipe is not a matter of just adapting your brand to be successful, is what you want to achieve, and if your brand can do it without changing anything, or needs to make some changes to be locally relevant. This is, I think in my opinion, what, what I’ve seen and again, I’ve seen from extreme makeover of brands and products to same product across the board, same recipe, same position. So you see a bit of everything, in Asia, in the Middle East as well, of international brands, you see really a bit of all.

Alexandre Ronsin (32:01):

So clearly to me, there is no magic recipe. You just need to understand deeply the culture, the people. To understand after that, what would be the right strategy to become relevant to them. Uh, the last one will be around, uh, the channel perspective, as we were speaking, uh, some minutes ago. How the channels would be an enabler of your strategy, how you can reach your shoppers via deep channel strategy, uh, considering all the movements, the shift between offline to online and the blur difference between the two types, between on and off. Now, you cannot see anything because plenty of offline customers are becoming also online players. And some online players are also acquiring at some offline facilities. So it is becoming extremely blur. There is not anymore, nor this customer is an online player. This one is a pure offline, this is becoming less and less visible in certain geographies. And specifically it’s the case in Asia.

Francisco Serrano (33:10):

Wow. Yeah. Very interesting. What for me, it’s, it’s um, you know, how do you call it this puzzling is where do you draw the line between being, you know, strict to preserve that equity and being flexible, because those two things are now in everything, you know, in everything with the pandemic, you know, coming back to the office or not, you need to be flexible, because if not, then you’re gonna have problems in your house, you know, with your spouse or with your kids, you need to be flexible, but you cannot be just so flexible that you let it go. So, that is a challenge that I see that, that each brand should evaluate and, and, and have that customer journey and customize it as, as they will. So, yeah. Well, thank you for that, for that insight, Alex. So finally, this is the fun part of the interview, right? So, since you are an expert in global brands and how to adapt to different markets, tell us what would be your favorite global brand for breakfast since it’s right now, 8:22 AM there in Korea, right?

Alexandre Ronsin (34:33):

Uh, correct. Correct. It is clearly Nutella, I think there is no…

Francisco Serrano (34:39):

There is no, no match, right?

Alexandre Ronsin (34:42):

Uh, but I’m a bit biased because I’m French and I’ve been raised with this brand. So it’s part of our journey. Uh, uh, Nutella in France is as strong as is, uh, Coca-Cola in Mexico, for example, now, uh, this is the type of penetration and, uh, that a brand like Nutella has in, in France, for example, also clearly my breakfast is, uh, is with Nutella.

Francisco Serrano (35:07):

And with a banana, or just Nutella?

Alexandre Ronsin (35:10):

Up to you, banana, bread, milk, up to you.

Francisco Serrano (35:13):

Okay. Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you very much for your time. We have to close this one out. I know you’re very busy. Thank you. You have to start your day in Korea, but before we leave, is there anything else you would like to say to your audience, uh,  where they can reach you if they wanted to just, you know, send an email or contact you?

Alexandre Ronsin (35:37):

Uh, my profile on LinkedIn is updated, so I’m well connected as well, so don’t hesitate to reach me via LinkedIn profile.

Francisco Serrano (35:46):

Okay. Okay. Now, you know, if you want to reach Mr. Alexandre Ronsin, LinkedIn is the place to do it. Okay. Well, thank you so much, Alex, for being with us here today. And I thank you all for being part of this NOW Generation podcast. And remember if you want to learn more about what’s happening with the NOW Generation brands and how it’s impulsed buying being managed by professionals across the globe, please tune in the next podcast. Thank you.

Alexandre Ronsin (36:23):

Thank you.

The Multidisciplinary Approach in Business

In this episode we talk with Grace Guerra, Brand Manager at Implus about the importance of having knowledge in multiple areas of the business in order to create a succesfull strategy for any brand.

Guests

Grace Guerra

Transcript

Francisco Serrano (01:03):

Okay. Hello, Fransisco Serrano here, chief speed officer at one-to-one and host of the now gen podcast, where we talk about, uh, what’s happening with the now gen, uh, folks and, uh, uh, everything and anything in regards to what branding people are doing to live up to the expectations of the market, uh, accomplishments, insights, and how they manage to deal with this frenzy going on. And, uh, uh, I’m very excited today because we have Grace Guerra with us. Uh, Grace is a brand manager at impulse currently she’s in charge of the outdoor category, working with brands, such as Jack pracs, dry guy, stables, spore, Bella, and little Hottie, Keith. Uh, welcome. How are you Grace?

Grace Guerra (02:03):

Doing well. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Francisco Serrano (02:05):

No, we’re excited too. We were just discussing the, the wonderful weather that we’re living right now. And does that influence in any way your business?

Grace Guerra (02:16):

It does absolutely. Um, for, so a lot of our, my brands specifically are seasonal, so, um, we’re working right now, initiatives to make it a year long business, but, um, ha kind of how they originate originated is very seasonally driven. Um, so yak tracks and stable are more of our winter brands, their traction brands, basically, um, they’re devices that you would put on your shoes so that you can walk in the snow and the ice and you don’t slip. Um, stable actually started in Maine. Uh, so that was, uh, you know, kind of made in the USA for awhile. Things obviously change as you grow, but, um, that was a fun brand that we’re really kind of expanding right now. Actually there’s a big initiative going on. Um, and then sport Brella is our beach umbrella brand and, or I should say beach, sporting events, tailgating those kind of, um, places where you would see this word Burleigh, but most likely at the beach.

Um, and so, yeah, so we, we are very heavily reliant on the weather. Um, little hotties is a hand and warmer hand and toe warmer brand. Um, so to keep you warm, if you’re skiing or hiking during colder mornings, um, and then dry guy is, you know, essentially dryers to dry all of your gear. So you can put your shoes. If you were out, you know, for a run and you got wet, um, they slide right on and they can dry out your gear. Or if you’re a Fisher and you’re wearing waiters, you can put your waders on there and dry the inside of your waiters out. And then we have a couple of accessories that come with it. Um, for athletes, if you are a hockey player or a biker, um, you can put your helmet on there, there’s a helmet attachment. So lots of fun stuff.

Francisco Serrano (04:02):

Yes. I was looking at your, your, your brands and the website then. I mean, impressive how America is, is active in the outdoors. Right. And, and, and you guys are all over the place. You’re the leader of the, uh, from the pack, right? I guess.

Grace Guerra (04:20):

Yeah. In some of them we are absolutely. Yep. Um, lots of the really fun brands to work on. We have a lot of environments that we get to play in. Um, we’re global. So, you know, yesterday I had a meeting with our Australia team and they’re bringing in sport, Burleigh and Australia, which is really exciting. Um, and then, you know, we have partners obviously in Canada and then as well as in, uh, Europe and South Africa. Okay. Yeah.

Francisco Serrano (04:43):

Good. And I want to pick on the word fun, because you have mentioned that a couple of times I heard a little birdie told me that you worked on Disney and your past, so does that have to do with anything? I mean, I mean, where’s the Grace in the past, it’s evolved to the Grace now. Absolutely.

Grace Guerra (05:05):

Yeah. So Disney like has always been a part of my life. I think every child, it really is. Um, but I had a great opportunity when I was in college. Um, and I, uh, interviewed and got to go on what they call the Disney college program. And basically what you do is you take a semester of school, um, and you go and you intern at Walt Disney world. And so I took the semester, the spring semester of my sophomore year, uh, in 2012. And I moved down to Florida and, um, moved in with a group of five girls from all over the U S um, who I’m still friends with to this day. And I got to play and work at Disney world. Um, but it really set the precedence for kind of my career moving forward in the sense of what I knew I wanted and what I knew I deserved.

Um, I wanted to be passionate about my work and that was something that I felt every single day. I went to work at Disney. Um, and that’s what my peers had felt as well. They love they could have been doing, you know, one of the harder, maybe not as glamorous jobs. Um, but every day we took pride in our work and we had fun doing it. And so, um, that was really important to me that wherever I, wherever I saw my career going after that it was going to be centered and focused on enjoying it and having fun and, um, you know, picking each new day and seeing what I could do with it and mold it into, into what I needed it to be, to continue, you know, the business, but as well as just personal growth for me. So that’s where I used to work. Uh, I actually also did part-time at the Disney store and when I lived in Chicago, so I worked at Michigan avenues, Disney stores, um, main store for them. So they have kind of different levels. And the Chicago one on Michigan avenue was a big one. Um, and I absolutely adored it, loved it. It was so fun. I, you know, I worked my regular job, um, my branding job, and then got to go play and make magic, you know, at least once or twice a week, which was just a lot of blast for me.

Francisco Serrano (07:09):

Yes, uh, I mean, I’ve heard, you know, a lot of, uh, business, uh, talks and presentation that the whole deal about customer service and the guests philosophy of Disney, it applies from, you know, from the guy or the girl that is doing the, the animals or the there and all the way through, you know, the director of the theme park.

Grace Guerra (07:32):

Exactly, yeah. I mean, you see it throughout, it’s a story and they, and you tell a story in every single aspect, no matter where you are in the park, there’s, there’s some kind of story happening, whether you’re the story or whether you’re a part of the story. Um, and I’ve had have just taken that into, you know, into my work. Obviously, you know, I’m not working at Disney now, but you know, when I’m working on branding work, it’s all about creating a story and, and helping, um, you know, our consumers for the brands that I work on, go on adventures. And, and that’s why I really love working in the outdoor space and why it’s really important to me. Um, I’m passionate about it. It’s, it’s something I’ve, I’ve grown up, you know, coming from Michigan, you know, always out in the wilderness, you know, camping, hiking, all that stuff.

And so, um, it’s a joy to get, to kind of help build those stories for other people. Um, you know, for family younger families that are just starting to experience the outdoors and with COVID you saw a huge upswing in everyone, cause it was the only thing they could do was go outside. Um, and that was really interesting to watch. Uh, I saw it from two different aspects. Um, my previous work was at Coleman with the Coleman brand, so all the camping gear, um, and I was there for four and a half years and we really saw a major shift in, you know, outdoor experiences, the different generations that are experiencing it now, um, the passion behind it. And then now in my current role, um, which is more of an ex more accessories style brands, um, that kind of fit into those different adventures, but you know, it all comes back to creating stories with the ones you love and, and really embracing that. Um, no matter where you are.

Francisco Serrano (09:19):

How important is to really, uh, embrace the, something that just makes a difference in how you have perspective in life, even if it’s Disney or whatever, like you say, the college adventure, five different friends that you keep relationships with, and you’re taking that to your current job and you’re going to take it with you always. And, and, and, and you mentioned that you work in the outdoor space a lot. Are you an outdoorsy kind of person or, yeah.

Grace Guerra (09:49):

Yep. I am. So I grew up, um, as a girl scout, so I went all the way through, I have my bronze, silver and gold award, um, but that’s really where it started for me and my family. Um, I have three siblings and my parents, like we were camping. That was our vacation. Our vacation was packing up the car and going camping. And, um, my best memories are at the campground. Um, that’s where they start. They start out on the trail, they start out riding our bikes. Um, that’s where I’m most happy. And so it’s been really fun. Actually. I recently moved to California in March when I took on my new role. Um, and I guess just get to be outdoors every day and my dog loves it and I love it. You know, there’s tons of hiking there. Um, obviously we have the ocean, so I go to the ocean every single day.

Um, but I really am. It’s really important to me to give thanks to the outdoors. Um, it’s something that, you know, every morning when I’m out walking the dog, we walk to the ocean and we always greet the ocean and, and thank her for another beautiful day. And, um, you know, the other night we had the most beautiful sunset, um, and it’s just taking and I was on a run and I, and I stopped and I just stood there and I just like, watch the sunset because those moments are like, you just, you can’t let them go by when they’re right there and you can in grasp them and run with them, then, then you take it. And then this morning when I took my red eye flight in, um, I have to see the sun rise. And so, um, it was fun. You know, I haven’t seen the sun rise in awhile cause we get the sunsets on the west coast.

So I watched the sunrise and it was just like, you know, as exhausted as I was, it was just so beautiful, you know, to be home and see the sun rise. So the outdoors is a huge, huge piece of who I am. Um, and it’s why I wanted to stay in the outdoor industry, um, working on brands that we’re bettering it, that we’re challenging it, that we’re, um, you know, designing and innovating for, you know, more adventures with, with COVID. It really did change everything. And so now people are, there’s just a whole new group of people, generational cross-generational that are just like, they found a love for the outdoors that they might not have had before, because they didn’t have a choice. It was the only thing that they could do was to go for a walk, just to get out for a little bit.

Francisco Serrano (12:09):

You talking to one of them, Grace, I had to go out and explore the world. And I, now I have, you know, the backpack for the, the water, if I’m going on a two hour walk, if I go in a five-hour walk. So kind of amazing how that’s shifted, but coming back to, to you and, and your experience, uh, the COVID experience shifted to e-com tell me that you, uh, does impulse have, you know, a S a robust infrastructure in the e-com world, or you had to like push push little bit push.

Grace Guerra (12:54):

Yeah, it was definitely tough. Um, e-com moves fast and changes every day, no matter what, whether it’s a COVID year or not. And so staying on top of e-commerce and the trends and social, like anything that has to do with web and digital is moving and changing every single day. And so you’re never going to be like fully on top of it. So what are tactics that you can do to, you know, stay as aware as you possibly can, um, and really just taking the time to create that robust environment to move things faster. Um, it did, it took a lot for us to kind of, kind of to rethink everything you had to take a step back and be like, okay, we gotta get, um, better content. That was the biggest thing people were shopping online now. And if they can’t see every angle of the product that they’re buying on top of how it’s used, or if it’s something that involves set up and they need how to videos, because they don’t, you know, they don’t have any other way to learn how to set it up.

Um, we had to pivot and we had to act fast and get out there and create some content. Um, and with that came challenges because, you know, technically you’re not supposed to be with a lot of people. And so, um, it was a lot of, you know, the photographer at his house and his own, you know, home studio, shooting, shooting stuff for us and approving digitally. Um, and so it was just very difficult, but it, it made us realize that we can move quick. We can move a lot faster than, um, maybe we had been doing previously. And that I think is, is a huge asset to us, um, to know that we could unlock that capability and make things continue to keep working.

Francisco Serrano (14:41)

And has that rewarded you, uh, as far as, uh, number one knowledge and number two, the bottom line, you know, the, the thing, the sales on your brand?

Grace Guerra (14:54):

Yeah. I mean, we had for sport Barilla alone, it was a huge year. Um, the tough thing that, that I think every business is dealing with right now is getting product from, if your product is coming from China, it’s just really hard to get your products right now. Um, and so, you know, we’re selling out of products and we haven’t, we’re just hitting peak season. So like summer is just hitting for us. Um, and we’re already sold out of a lot of stuff. And so, you know, waiting on inventory to come back in so we can restock. Um, and so it’s just been, I think the last two years have been big learning years for us. It’ll be really interesting to see kind of how the market changes now that, um, we’re going somewhat back to normal. But, um, like I said, with people exploring more and getting outdoors more, they’re spending more, they’re excited try gear, they want to try gear.

Um, and so we just need to be prepared for that. And that’s something as a brand manager that my number one priority right now is making sure they have all of the answers to the questions that they might have when they’re shopping online or they’re shopping in store. Um, and that our content is supporting them through that journey, especially for newer people that are just coming into the category. Um, we want to make sure that, you know, it’s easy and fun for them, um, from start to finish from when they start researching for the product to when they’re out there on the adventure, using the product. Yeah. And I

Francisco Serrano (16:25):

Yeah. And I …Imagine with all the demand that you have, uh, advertising and reaching out to people, it’s, it’s, it’s a part of your marketing mix or leave it now because you don’t want to sell more than you don’t have in stock.

Grace Guerra (16:40):

Yeah, no, I mean, we aren’t constantly communicating with our consumers. Um, it’s one of my favorite parts of the job is, is hearing people and hearing their stories about what they like and what they don’t like, because that only makes us better. It makes our innovation stronger. Um, there was, you know, we had a couple of products that we were experiencing. There was like these weird pinch points and they were letting us know. And, you know, I think that’s important. We need to be going and seeing what the ratings are and what the reviews are, because then we can then turn around and just, you know, adjust the product so that it works better for, for them. Um, because at the end of the day, they’re at the heart of everything that we do, our consumers are at the heart of everything we do, and we serve them.

Um, and that, to me, you know, those reviews, um, both the good and the bad are just each one is a new learning experience. What do they like and why do they like it? And how can we, you know, extend that across all of our products or into our new products? Um, what don’t they like so that we can change it moving forward? Um, so those things are, those are important to, to step back and listen. Social’s always fun. I love connecting on social with, uh, our consumers because, you know, we get to see the pictures and we get to see the stories that they’re creating with their families. And, um, you know, yak tracks is a fun one for those that live in the snowy states and the IC states, um, and people that are training for marathons and half marathons. And the reason they can train is because they know that they can put their yak tracks on and they can get their, their training and their runs and, you know, in the winter months and things like that.

So it’s fun to see all that come together. Sport Brella is really fun right now. Um, it’s a small social presence. It’s a noose, it’s a, we just launched an Instagram not too long ago, so it’s growing. Um, but we’re getting lots of fun tags and photos and things like that. And we’re starting to explore giveaways and influencers. And, um, so there’s just been a big growing year for us, but it’s been a lot of fun because we’re, you know, we’re connecting with the end user and that’s, you can’t ask for anything more than that than just to hear from them and hear what they like and, and why they’re using the product and why they chose you.

Francisco Serrano (18:50):

I believe what you were saying. And, and I typically compare, uh, the relationship that you have with a brand, like what you have with a human being, right. You have to nurture that relationship. You have, you have to listen what the other person doesn’t don’t like about you, and you’re aware and have self-awareness and be able to change because that’s, that’s the biggest selling. One time that’s easy, but keep making them come back and back to that, make that connection in the competition is it’s fearless. I mean, it’s, it’s all over the place because now the boundaries, um, you know, say.

Grace Guerra (19:36):

There are none, the boundaries are gone.

Francisco Serrano (19:40):

Exactly. No. And, and how do you cope? Cause you were saying that you connect through social media, how do you call, do you have like, uh, uh, assist them because you say it’s constant change and it’s adapting and, and, and how do you cope with all those changes? And do you, do you like evaluate and change, uh, on a two week notice? Uh, how do you have a support team that says, well, now it’s not, well, oh, no, no, go orange.

Grace Guerra (20:12):

Yeah. Yeah. You definitely have to, um, you have to evaluate what is best for the business. So, um, you know, there might be a color out there that like isn’t selling well and, you know, we have to take a step back and like, why isn’t it selling well, um, you know, is there, is it just not a color that’s resonating well, um, and if that’s the case, then, you know, you, you kind of, you get to, I guess, kind of pick new colors and, and that’s always fun too, you know, and in doing the research and looking at the color and trends, reports that are coming out, um, but you know, it takes time and, and that’s not something you can just turn on and off and you still have inventory that you have to sell through. And, um, when it comes to launching a new color of, of say one of our umbrellas, um, there’s, MLQ, there’s minimum order quantities that you have to hit, you know, you can’t just place a small sample order for, you know, 500 and sell through those and just see how it does.

Um, maybe if you’re a smaller company, that’s, that’s an option. But when you’re, um, when you’re a bigger brand like ours, uh, you know, you’re working with large retailers that, you know, they, they need mass quantities. And so, um, it’s not just an on, off switch there. And so you’re working cross-functionally with sourcing with product development, with your product line managers, with the brand managers, um, with graphic design, like there’s so many people that you have to work with to make sure that it makes sense the business to either, you know, cut the skew or launch a new skew or a new product, I should say. Um, and that is another thing that I just really enjoy is like the versatility and brand marketing of working with experts in all these different fields. Um, you know, I own the brand, it’s my job and my duty to own the brand and what the brand stands for, but I would not be able to do my job without every single one of those other people and all those other departments.

Um, they are the true heroes of, of launching a product and it, and it really is a team effort to get something on shelf. And it’s the best feeling when you walk in a store and you get to see it, um, because you know, the amount of work and the amount of people that touched it to get it to where it is at that point. Um, but it is, you know, you’re, you’re constantly looking at what your competitors are doing. You’re looking, I’m a bit, I love learning on LinkedIn. I love, um, you know, like seeing what everyone is doing. I have a huge network on there. Um, it’s, to me, that’s one of my favorite social media is, and a lot of times my friends will kind of laugh at me like, you know, like why LinkedIn? And I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s just so many learning tools on there.

There’s so much free knowledge out there that you can access. Um, yeah. And, and it’s, you know, sometimes it’s like overwhelming and, you know, I’ll just be like, I just need one article today. Um, but even on like, you know, it’s, it’s crazy when I look at Instagram or tick-tock, and it’s like these little tips and tricks that people are like putting out there for free. And you’re like, oh my gosh, I never would’ve thought about that. You know? And then you go and you adjust and you test and learn and see how things go and that’s fun. And it’s, um, it’s what keeps the job fresh and new every single day. Cause there’s just something different that you can try. Um, you know, truly every single day, there’s something different.

Francisco Serrano (23:42):

It’s the sisal right. Not the steak necessarily. It’s brought up the every day. And I wanted to piggyback on what you were saying about being proud of your team, everybody that works with you to make magic happen. Right. So, but I want you to hop in the time sheet and tell me, uh, and tell us the now Gen podcast, which is your proudest moment professionally in your career up until now. Could you say, oh my God, Grace, I’m proud of you.

Grace Guerra (24:20):

Yeah. Um, I, it’s not necessarily, um, a moment that I, like, it’s not like a product I launched or anything like that. Um, I have been with my previous company for six and a half years. It’s where I started out of college. Um, I traveled, I met amazing people, mentors, friends to this day, um, that I’m still close with. And I think my proudest moment was deciding to take the leap and challenge myself. Cause I, I could, I felt myself getting into a comfort zone. Um, and I was like, okay, you know, I’ve been doing this for, for six and a half years. I’ve been on the same brand for four and a half years. Um, and I loved it. It was the hardest, most challenging decision I think I’ve ever faced professionally, uh, in my life was to take the chance to try something new.

Um, I stayed within marketing and I, I knew I wanted to stay in marketing and I knew that I wanted to stay in the outdoor business. And so it was really important that I wasn’t just gonna make a move to make a move. Um, and I took the time and I, um, the interview process really like enlightened me on, you know, my capabilities and really, truly like believing in myself and what I had to offer. Um, and so that to me was a huge, huge, proud moment, um, in my career professionally. The other thing I would say, um, my second I have to, I guess, um, my second one would be when I went and decided to go back and get my masters. Um, I decided to go back and get my master’s in 2019 and I graduated in a year and a half. So I graduated in 2012 in June of 2020.

So I didn’t get, I think it’s walk across the stage. Um, but you know, that challenge of working full-time and going to school full-time as well, you know, I’d work a full day and then I’d go to class six to nine. Um, getting my masters was a huge accomplishment. Uh, for me I have extremely high standards for myself. Um, and I wanted to graduate with like as close to a 4.0 that I could get. And I graduated with like a 3.8. And so, um, yeah, so that was just a huge, proud moment for me in my career. But, you know, the first one being deciding to really take a chance on myself and challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone and doing something somewhat new and then moving to a totally new state in the middle of COVID.

Francisco Serrano (27:04):

So I didn’t get, I think it’s walk across the stage. Um, but you know, that challenge of working full-time and going to school full-time as well, you know, I’d work a full day and then I’d go to class six to nine. Um, getting my masters was a huge accomplishment. Uh, for me I have extremely high standards for myself. Um, and I wanted to graduate with like as close to a 4.0 that I could get. And I graduated with like a 3.8. And so, um, yeah, so that was just a huge, proud moment for me in my career. But, you know, the first one being deciding to really take a chance on myself and challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone and doing something somewhat new and then moving to a totally new state in the middle of COVID. No, I mean, yeah,It takes a lot of guts to really say let’s just not worried about this pandemic and to work and learn and grow and keep the challenge of your e-comm life transformation, digital transformation with this new challenge that plays and then go and read and learn and take the tests. And whoa, that’s a kudos. Congrats on that really. And, uh, and so, uh, what, what is, if, if, uh, we’re coming close to, to our interview now and, and, uh, uh, are, you know, now gen podcasters, they want to know something that they can take away from this interview, from your experience they can, they can use to, you know, to live in this fast paced world. What would you say to them?

So I didn’t get, I think it’s walk across the stage. Um, but you know, that challenge of working full-time and going to school full-time as well, you know, I’d work a full day and then I’d go to class six to nine. Um, getting my masters was a huge accomplishment. Uh, for me I have extremely high standards for myself. Um, and I wanted to graduate with like as close to a 4.0 that I could get. And I graduated with like a 3.8. And so, um, yeah, so that was just a huge, proud moment for me in my career. But, you know, the first one being deciding to really take a chance on myself and challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone and doing something somewhat new and then moving to a totally new state in the middle of COVID. No, I mean, yeah,It takes a lot of guts to really say let’s just not worried about this pandemic and to work and learn and grow and keep the challenge of your e-comm life transformation, digital transformation with this new challenge that plays and then go and read and learn and take the tests. And whoa, that’s a kudos. Congrats on that really. And, uh, and so, uh, what, what is, if, if, uh, we’re coming close to, to our interview now and, and, uh, uh, are, you know, now gen podcasters, they want to know something that they can take away from this interview, from your experience they can, they can use to, you know, to live in this fast paced world. What would you say to them?

Grace Guerra (28:02):

Um, my advice that I give to anyone that I mentor or anyone that I get to work with is, um, take the time to build the relationships with people. Um, the people that I work with are my family they’ve become my family. And, um, yes, there’s a, it’s always important to be able to, you know, to separate work and home and whatnot, but, um, you most likely will spend more time with those people at work than some of the people that you spend time with at home and investing in them as just human beings and people, um, makes your work that much more enriching, and you’re not going to get along with everybody. Um, but the relationships that you build with the people that you work with, um, only make you a better person. And it’s because of the people that I work with, that I am where I am today.

Um, and their respect, their friendship is it means everything to me. Um, I hold it in high esteem, um, and I can’t express enough just how important relationship building is with, with your peers. Um, because it’s going to be what makes coming to work every single day, that much more fun, whether it be face-to-face or over a zoom call, um, take the moment, you know, schedule the extra five minutes just to catch up before a meeting. It doesn’t have to be, you know, get right down to it and, you know, into the business, you know, how are your kids doing? Or, oh, I heard you’re, uh, you started a new workout program, how’s it going? You know, or what’d you cook for dinner? Like anything, you know, just, just take the time to build that relationship, because that is what makes successful products. It’s what makes successful businesses and it’s what makes you a successful person. Hmm.

Francisco Serrano (29:54):

Great. Yeah. And I relate completely to that. So, uh, in the brand world, if you’re not building a relationship with your customers, with your peers, with the community, then you’re not, you’re not doing as well as you’re supposed to. So, uh, on that, thank you for, for that. Uh, okay. So we’re going to end the meeting, but before we do that, we’re going to go into segment favorite segment that we have right now. I asked you a very personal question is going to be three brands that you like of food, three brands that you like pet food.

Grace Guerra (30:47):

Yes. Okay. Okay.

Um, my goodness. Okay. My dog. So I have a, I have a dog. I also had a cat she’s running around here. She lives with my sister now, but, um, I, so I’ve grown up with pets my entire life, but I think too, the first one is BarkBox anything that comes in her bark box is just like the branding. I like, I would love to work for them. Their branding is unbelievable. It, I get excited when the BarkBox is coming, because it’s a different theme every month. Um, you know, this last one was a sleep away camp and she got a smore toy and she got, um, a little beaver in a, in an inner tube toy, but it comes with, you know, these, these treats that are in there that are also themed. And so I would say BarkBox is killing it. Um, love them for like treats for my dog.

Uh, the other one, I don’t know if it’s necessarily dog food and I can’t think, but chewy, anything on chewy has been there. Their e-commerce is just next level, next level. It’s so good. Um, and just the pride that they take in their work and, and making sure like, you know, the information on if your dog passed or when it’s your dog’s birthday or your pet, I should say, not your dog. I just think of my dog immediately. Um, and then the third one, I don’t know if I have a third one, those two are probably my top two. I will say one that has stuck with me. My entire life is K9 Advantix, which is like the flea and tick medicine for dogs. But to this day I have there, like, it was a commercial that ran when I was a kid, but I haven’t, I haven’t memorized and I’ve known it my entire life. And I’m like, if I can memorize your song from a commercial, like it did something right. Like

Francisco Serrano (32:55):

Yes, exactly. And then you have it with you, right. It’s like, you know, brand recognition, you know, and it’s the same quality, the same product, the same, you know, probably they change a little bit of the branding, but it’s just the typical nacelle. Okay. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that. Okay. So anything else you want to share with us before closing out?

Grace Guerra (33:18):

Um, I don’t think so. Thank you for having me. This was fun. I’ve never done anything like this. Um, this is a blast. It was an honor to be on here and, uh, I look forward to, you know, seeing and hearing everything else that you guys continue to do.

Francisco Serrano (33:32):

Yes, thank you so much. Yeah. Thank you for accepting the invitation and making room that you’re up, uh, uh, your home and everything. Thank you so much. Really. I appreciate

Francisco Serrano (33:44):

It. So, uh, okay.

So we’ve been talking to Grace Guerra, impulse, outdoor section, brand manager. If somebody from the audience is interested in reaching out to you where we’re can do that work and they can do so, do you have an email or an Instagram account or somewhere that you want them to redirect them?

Grace Guerra (34:02):

yeah, I would say if you want to connect, LinkedIn is the best place to find me. I’m very responsive. Shoot me a message. Um, I always will respond. I love hearing, learning, expanding my network. Um, it only makes us all better. So LinkedIn, I would say, would be the best place to find me. Um, and I think my, my email is in there. If not, um, once I get that message and you want to continue conversation, I’m happy to share that with you.

Francisco Serrano (34:31):

Okay, perfect. So LinkedIn is the place to meet, uh, or get to know and connect with grace. Garah. If you want to learn more about the most relevant power brands for the now, Jen stay tuned for the next episode. Thank you for staying with us.