Vikram Bawa, Vice President, Marketing, McCain Foods Canada, described how his company embarked on a journey to rebrand itself and continues to position itself as an industry leader in his presentation to Argyle’s CMO membership at the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum in Toronto on Sept. 27. In his keynote presentation, “Re-Positioning a Brand Leader – Preparing for Future Growth,” Bawa highlighted some of the steps his company has taken to remain relevant in a highly competitive global marketplace.
According to Bawa, McCain has dominated the potatoes category for years. As McCain began its mission to rebrand, the company discovered its customers felt strongly about its products.
“There was a strong relationship that consumers have with potatoes,” Bawa said. “[We were] able to decode the relationship that our consumers had with potatoes.”
To better understand why consumers were interested in its products, McCain used applied anthropology, i.e. the use of anthropological data to evaluate and solve problems.
By doing so, McCain was better equipped to find out how customers felt about its products and understand why customers may choose McCain products over other brands’ offerings.
“Applied anthropology is a really future-forward way of looking at behavior,” Bawa stated. “It really allows us to understand the consumer behavior that normal research does not articulate very well.”
Furthermore, McCain understood that customer data was readily available, and this information could be used to identify and address customer trends.
On the other hand, McCain lacked the data analysis expertise to mine large customer data sets effectively.
“How do we make our products and potatoes a lot more interesting and more relevant to our consumers? … In order to do that, we really needed to shift the paradigm.”
As such, McCain needed to revamp the way it collected and evaluated customer data to obtain actionable customer insights that could drive the company forward.
“What we didn’t realize is that there is a deep-rooted relationship that consumers have with the potatoes,” Bawa said. “How do we make our products and potatoes a lot more interesting and more relevant to our consumers? … In order to do that, we really needed to shift the paradigm.”
To accomplish this goal, Bawa said his company focused on leveraging its consumers as food experts and emphasizing simplicity in its day-to-day marketing efforts.
Today, “foodies” remain prominent around the globe, and these food experts usually are happy to share their thoughts and feelings about different foods.
Bawa said McCain was able to engage these foodies and learn from them, and as a result, implement meaningful business improvements.
In addition, embracing simplicity proved to be exceedingly valuable for McCain.
“We all are looking to simplify our lives. And as far as our foods are concerned, we’re looking for simple ingredients,” Bawa pointed out. “There was a way for us to start bringing this idea to life in a very significant way.”
Understanding food lifestyles also played an important role in McCain’s rebranding efforts.
In fact, Bawa noted McCain was able to position fries as a snack food – something that helped the company foster long-lasting partnerships with a wide array of consumers.
“Our relationship with food has changed and evolved quite dramatically,” he said. “The whole notion of ‘snackification’ has grown. … There was a big opportunity for us to use fries as part of that relationship and that consumption habit.”
Taking a proactive approach to reinvent a brand and how customers feel about a brand may prove to be difficult.
Fortunately, marketers who conduct ample research and devote the necessary time and resources to connect with consumers may be better equipped to engage consumers and obtain actionable insights from them.
“We’ve really embarked on a journey that focuses on how can we really evolve our brand to be more relevant to today’s consumer.”
At McCain, the company recognized that it needed to revamp its image to engage its consumers.
Thanks to its proactive approach to market research and its commitment to innovation, the company was able to understand the competitive landscape and revamp its brand image successfully.
“We needed to change how consumers saw McCain, and especially our brand,” Bawa stated. “We’ve really embarked on a journey that focuses on how can we really evolve our brand to be more relevant to today’s consumer.”
The ability to transform a company into an industry-leading brand requires patience and hard work. However, marketers who focus on using all of the resources at their disposal may be able to help a business reinvent itself quickly.
Engaging consumers is key for marketers who want to help a business become an industry leader. If a company is committed to its clientele, this business will invest time and resources into market research. And with sufficient customer data, a company could identify customer behaviors and trends and boast the customer insights needed to engage its customers for years to come.
Vikram Bawa is currently the Vice President of Marketing at McCain Foods Canada, whom he joined in March 2014. Previously he was the Global Marketing Director in the Food Strategic Business Unit of Nestle S.A based in Switzerland for the last 3+ years. Prior to Switzerland he was based in Canada with Nestle as the Marketing Leader for the Frozen Meals Division.
Vikram has a global orientation, growing up in India and working in several countries which include Canada, USA, Philippines, Switzerland and India. His experience includes Brand Marketing, Advertising and Sales both at a market level and Global. He has worked for key FMCG companies like Colgate Palmolive, Wrigley, Nestle, Bata and McCann.