We are in a state of constant change and the concept of transformation in business has become a concept that needs to be treated as an ongoing event rather than a moment in time. As a result, the speed of the business clock has changed forever and the need to create the right infrastructure to enable a business to effectively engage and connect with its customers is critical. To do this, leading organizations are rethinking the intersection of knowledge and strategy to drive a business forward. The idea is that the concept of democratizing the use of information will enable brands to make better decisions internally as an organization in ways that lead to better outcomes for their customers.
For my latest column, I wanted to speak with someone on the cutting edge of transformation and growth fueled by new approaches to consumer insights and strategy. Carlos Zepeda is SVP Consumer Connections, Insights and Strategy at Moët Hennessy USA. With leading marketing roles at leading brands such as Pepsi and Havaianas and Belvedere, he is a best-in-class marketing and transformational visionary. Here’s a recap of our conversation:
Billie Howard: Glad to have you back. You were recently promoted to SVP Consumer Connections, Insights + Strategy. Congratulations! This is a vital role that every organization should consider creating, as all three of these things need to work hand in hand. Tell me your thoughts on this statement and your vision for your new position?
Carlos Zepeda: It’s great to be back, thank you for having me. It’s hard to separate these elements when thinking about driving both consumer understanding and business growth. While intuitively one feeds the other, consumer connections are actually the feedback loop in strategy. The vision of this multidisciplinary team is to serve as a strategic partner to Moët Hennessy USA to drive value growth and create capabilities that make us more consumer-centric, more flexible and forward-thinking. Similar to an open innovation model, knowledge, inputs and resources exist throughout the ecosystem and the flow can occur in many different ways. This is how we approach working with cross-functional teams with two operating systems, one focused on day-to-day intelligence and business needs, and another “longer corridor” focused on strategic development.
Howard: Every organization must approach change and transformation as an ongoing event today. What are your thoughts on how to lead the team into new spaces and places to better evolve to keep up with consumer preferences and demand?
Zepeda: The external environment changes faster than we realize and that is why internal transformation is so important. The goal is to continue to build a system that allows us to evolve in a more proactive way by identifying opportunities versus being reactive. Working with my talented team, we focus on creating different ways to innovate, learn and take action that will positively impact the business in more immediate ways.
We will try to achieve this through a multitude of avenues, from understanding the dynamics of specific categories, to assessing the emotional impact we create as we aim to build positive experiences in the ‘memory bank’. On the other hand, in times where marketing investments are under a lot of pressure to deliver short-term results, we’re constantly thinking of ways to balance those investments to also increase brand desirability. For emerging brands, the impact of “point-of-choice” brand discovery, virtual or physical, is becoming increasingly important.
Howard: You’ve always been a data-driven marketer, driven by key insights that drive business strategy versus data alone. Can you share an example of a critical insight you discovered this year that will help you reshape your GTM strategy in 2024?
Zepeda: After conducting a study to understand the impact of specific language that resonates with luxury wine and spirits consumers, some of the themes that have emerged in the wake of the pandemic remain. including joy, companionship, moments to share, etc. The way the nuance has evolved is that consumers are now not only more open to, but expect, simplicity in the way we interact with them.
The proliferation of short-form content has only accentuated this, and the branding opportunity needs to be reimagined in multiple ways, not just in highly immersive, long-form storytelling, but also in smaller, smaller formats. This is similar to what is happening in education where microlearning has become a way to increase engagement and openness through a focused outcome in a short period of time.
Howard: You and I always talk about the power of democratizing information that enables marketing teams to make better decisions that lead to better outcomes for consumers. Can you talk me through the best practices for this type of thinking and applying it to an organization?
Zepeda: The democratization of knowledge is an ongoing journey. We’ve focused on self-service analytics where the business can access tools to explore data, discover insights, make business decisions and measure performance against specific metrics. Complementary to self-service, it is a shared service layer where different teams can access expert knowledge, collective intelligence, data analytics and strategies to help address a specific business challenge or opportunity. Finally, it is to implement new ways to increase inspiration and cultural relevance at scale across the organization and beyond as we continue this journey with this newly formed team. The central idea about the democratization of knowledge and insights is to empower teams to make better decisions that create better experiences for our colleagues, customers and drive better business results.